Text: Burton R. Pollin (and E. A. Poe), “Marginalia - part 16,” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: The Brevities (1985), pp. 395-416 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 395:]

INSTALLMENT XVI

Southern Literary Messenger

July 1849 XV, 414-16

MARGINALIA.

By Edgar A. Poe.

[33 items, nos. 257-289]

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Marginalia 257

The fishes described by Athenæus as αθανατοισι θεισι φυην και ειδος οιμοιαι, [sic] were, beyond doubt, a shoal of Preserved Fish, like the one who spoke up so boldly for President Tyler.

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Note: Poe’s source for this “learning” is H. B. Wallace, Stanley, 1.105 (also Literary Criticism, p. 265): “I met. . . a servant-boy, with two magnificent rock-fishes . . . more golden than gold. They were fishes like those described in Athenaeus, (plus the Greek phrase), ‘in shape and nature like the immortal gods.“’ Athenaeus of Naucratis in Egypt (ca. A. D. 200) in his only extant work, “The Learned Banquet,” (6.303) was quoting a poem on cookery by Archestratus of Gela, a contemporary of Aristotle, q.v. in Brandt, Parodorum apicorum graecorum et Archestrati reliquiae, Fragment 37, p. 158 (tr. by Charles B. Gulick, Works of Athenaeus (Loeb Library, 1927-41), 3.362.

Poe’s allusion is to a prominent banker of this name, which had traditionally been given to the boys of an old Portsmouth, Rhode Island family. Utterly without foundation was the story, widely told, of his having been found in a boat at sea (see DAB). P. Fish, a Jacksonian Democrat, joined the Whigs in 1837 in opposition to Van Buren, explaining Poe’s last comment.

It is of slight importance, perhaps, that there are several errors in [page 396:] the Greek phrase, only a few of which are owed directly to Wallace’s text (such as the rough breathing for the first word). The Loeb Library text is given here for comparison with what Poe transcribed or the compositor typeset:

αθανατοισι θεισι φυην και ειδος οιμοιαι

Marginalia 258

The eloquence of the Honorable G———— strikes me(a) as being of that class which, “si absit,” as Cicero says, speaking generally of eloquence in a philosopher, “non magnopere desideranda.”(b)

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strikes me) a. There is no clue as to the identity of the person thus designated. It is possible that Poe had in mind Henry Grattan (1746-1820), statesman and orator in Ireland. His speeches, collected by his son in 1822, would have been available to Poe.

desideranda) b. The Latin learning is straight out of H. B. Wallace, Stanley, 1.111 (Literary Criticisms, p. 272), but here “Landor” erred markedly, imitated verbatim by Poe. His text is this: “Dr. Gauden, . . . is con versation an advantage in dining, or not?” “Why, I think of it, what Cicero has said of eloquence in a philosopher,” replied the other: “’Si afferatur, non repudianda; si absit, non magnopere desideranda.“’ Unfortunately, Wallace’s memory here was hazy and he (and therefore Poe) composed his own Latin for the idea. In De Finibus bonorum et malorum (I, v) Cicero had Lucius Torquatus defend his “master” Epicurus. His friend replies: “I have no fault to find with his style. Not that I despise eloquence in a philosopher if he has it to offer, but I shall not greatly insist on it if he has it not.” The Latin reads: “Et tamen ego a philosopho, si afferat eloquentiam, non asperner, si non habeat, non admodum flagitem” (Loeb classics, tr. H. Rackham, Harvard, 1914, pp. 17-19). The two main verbs used by Cicero are much more choice than Wallace’s schoolboy Latin.

Marginalia 259

In saying that “grace will save any book and without it none can live long,” Horace Walpole had reference, I fancy, to that especial grace which managed to save so many books of his own — his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Note: For the source of Walpole’s statement in a letter, taken by Poe from H. B. Wallace, Stanley, 1.118, see M 209, where it is also used. [page 397:] Newly added is the ref. to the Archbishop of Canterbury, which is a pure Poe invention, corresponding to nothing in Walpole’s life or relationships.

Marginalia 260

Until we analyze a religion, or a philosophy, in respect of its inducements, independently of its rationality, we shall never be in condition to estimate that religion, or that philosophy, by the mere number of its adherents: unluckily,

“No Indian Prince has to his palace

More followers than a thief to the gallows.”

Note: This appears to be another in Poe’s strictures against the crowd or mob, as in MM 226, 227. His quotation from Samuel Butler’s Hudibras (Part II-1664) was earlier used at the end of “Letter to B——— ” (Intro. to Poems of 1831) which Poe reprinted in the 6/36 SLM, 2.501-2. It is correctly transcribed save for Butler’s “followers.”

Marginalia 261

In omitting to envelop our Gothic architecture in foliage, we omit, in fact, an essential point in the Gothic architecture itself. Of a Gothic church, especially, trees are as much a portion as the pointed arch. “Ubi tres, ecclesia,” says Tertullian; — but no doubt he meant that “ubi ecclesia, tres.”

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Note: Poe took this from H. B. Wallace, Stanley (1.116; also in Literary Criticisms, p. 277): “Under the empire three was pronounced a mob; which may be vindicated on Tertullian’s authority, ‘ubi tres, ecclesia est‘” (where there are three persons, there is a church. This is from De exhortatione castitatis, ch. 7). Poe drops the verb “est” and changes the italics to underscore his pun: “where there is a church, there are ‘tres“’ for “trees.” This depends on the much mooted question of the development of Gothic architecture. Many thought that the columns evolved from the eerie, impressive rows of vast tree trunks in the primeval forests. Bishop William Warburton (1698-1779) in his notes on Pope’s Epistles (1751) asserted that the Goths as conquerors of Spain, newly converted, ingeniously tried to make their churches resemble their remembered groves, with the aid of Saracen architects. Sir James Hall in An Essay on . . . Gothic Architecture (1813), ch. 2, pp. 21-28, tried to show the pointed style as borrowed from upright posts surrounded with osiers. In Essays [page 398:] on Gothic Architecture by T. Warton, J. Bentham, Grose, and Milner (London, 1800) the tree-grove origin is proposed along with the analogy of the tracery of the windows to tree foliage (pp. xix, 121-22; also Hall, p. 32). Most clearly can the latter be seen in Thomas Rickman’s Attempt to Discriminate the Styles . . . (London, 1819, 2d ed.), p. 42, which calls the window traceries “featherings or foliations.”

Marginalia 262

“If, in any point,” says Lord Bacon, “I have receded from what is commonly received, it hath been for the purpose of proceeding melius and not in aliud” — but the character assumed, in general, by modern “Reform” is, simply, that of Opposition.

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Note: From the para. in H. B. Wallace’s Stanley from which came the Latin alleged to be by St. Augustine for M 250, Poe took, almost verbatim, the ascribed words of Francis Bacon. Wallace, however, adds a long phrase which helps to furnish Poe with the idea if not the literal words for the rest of this short article. Wallace’s first sentence also is used by Poe to complete this article, and must have stimulated his writing M 267: “I have no fondness for this philosophic radicalism; this moral system which sets out with denying all that the world has accepted, and opposing all that the world has established.” Then, after the St. Augustine quotation, comes: “Bacon concludes his great work by repudiating all charge of wilful eccentricity and opposition: [then the sentence with ‘melius’ and ‘aliud’ followed by this phrase] a mind of amendment and proficience, and not of change and difference” (1.126). Wallace took liberties with Bacon’s text. In The Advancement and Proficiencie of Learning, in Sylva Sylvarum (9th ed., Part I, 1670; Part II, 1674) Bacon wrote: “In which work if I have any where receded from the opinion of the Ancients, I desire that Posterity would so judge of my intentions, as that this was done with a mind of further Progression, and Proficience in melius; and not out of a humour of Innovation, or Transmigration in aliud . . .” (Bk. 9, Vol. II, p. 321).

Poe’s liking Bacon’s statement is shown by his probably directing Griswold to use it as a title page motto for the third vol. of his Works (The Literati etc.), with a slight change (“If I have in any point”). As a second motto he adds an epigram about “truth” by “Lord Coke” whom he mentions in SP 29 and quotes in his Hawthorne rev. of 11/47 (H 13.143-44). [page 399:]

Marginalia 263

A strong argument for the religion of Christ is this — that offences against Charity are about the only ones which men on their death-beds can be made — not to understand — but to feel — as crime.

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Note: It is noteworthy that there are nine instances of “charity” and one of “charities” in nine different tales by Poe (see Word Index, p. 55 for loci), most indicating a recognition of moral obligation for the affluent and fortunate to extend regular charity.

Marginalia 264

That Demosthenes “turned out very badly,” appears, beyond dispute, from a passage in “Meker de vet. et rect. Pron. Ling. Gracræ,” where we read “Nec illi (Demostheni) turpe videbatur, optimis relictis magistris, ad canes se conferre, etc., etc.: — that is to say, Demosthenes was not ashamed to quit good society and “go to the dogs.”

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Note: Poe used this same learned allusion, from an unknown intermediary source, in M 46 (see notes c and d). For Poe’s general interest in Demosthenes see “Loss of Breath” (TOM 65 at n. 10 and 75n10; M 112; H 10.58; Pin 94).

Marginalia 265

When —— and —— pavoneggiarsi(a) about the celebrated personages whom they have “seen” in their travels, we shall not be far wrong in inferring that these celebrated personages were seen εκασ — as Pindar says he “saw” Archilochus, who died ages before the former was born.(b)

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pavoneggiarsi) a. Poe used this bit of “learning,” “to strut like a peacock,” first in the 8143 Graham’s rev. of Channing’s poems (H 11. 175), and finally in FS 9. He may have derived it from Edmond Malone’s note on Hamlet, 3.2.271-72 (“. . .and now reigns here / A very, very — pajock.): “Shakespeare means that the King struts about with a false pomp, to which he has no right. See Florio, 1598 — ‘Pauonneggiare. To iet vp and down fondly gazing vpon himselfe, as a peacocke cloth.“’ Luigi Berti, in his Italian translation of some of the Marginalia (Milan, 1949), p. 85, comments on Poe’s erroneously using the infinitive construction.

born) b. The Greek word means afar; the ref. is to Pindar, Pythia, 2.54. Poe has the same allusion in his 2/42 Graham’s rev. of Brainard’s [page 400:] poems (H 11.20) and in his 10150 SLM rev. of Headley’s Sacred Mountains (H 13.208). When the rev. of Headley’s book was reprinted by Griswold as one of the “new” “Literati” papers in 1850 the Greek for “afar” is printed as EXAS (this presumably being at Poe’s direction), with no accent or breathing marks. While there is sanction in classical Greek for accents on either syllable, a kappa is always required, not a chi, as in the M text (see “Typographical . . . Errors” in Intro.).

For Archilochus, see TOM 117n28 and H 13.167. Archilochus of Paros (714-676 B. C.) was a lyric poet noted for his lampoons.

Marginalia 266

To see distinctly the machinery — the wheels and pinions — of any work of Art is, unquestionably, of itself, a pleasure, but one which we are able to enjoy only just in proportion as we do not enjoy the legitimate effect designed by the artist: — and, in fact, it too often happens that to reflect analytically upon Art, is to reflect after the fashion of the mirrors in the temple of Smyrna, which represent the fairest images as deformed.

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Note: Poe’s concern over the role of analysis in creativity is expressed also in MM 118, 122 and many other texts. The mirrors in the temple of Smyrna are described by Pliny, Natural History, Bk. 23, 45 (9), but Poe took them from James Puckle, The Club, “Detractor” (1834 ed), p. 16: “Yet, alas! some can no more live a day without calumny and detraction, than Mithridates could without poison; but, like the lookingglasses in the temple of Smirna, represent the fairest and best-featured face exceeding ugly and deformed.” Poe used this also in his 1841 review of Wilmer’s satire (H 10. 194). Finding no sanction for “Smirna” in any lexicon or gazetteer, I have changed Poe’s copying of Puckle’s spelling. The word “pinions” in the first sentence means “small cogwheels.”

Marginalia 267

The modern reformist Philosophy which annihilates the individual by way of aiding the mass; and the late reformist Legislation, which prohibits pleasure with the view of advancing happiness, seem to be chips of that old block of a French feudal law which, to prevent young partridges from being disturbed, imposed penalties upon hoeing and weeding.

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Note: Poe had just expressed himself on Reform in M 262; here [page 401:] he seems to have in mind Blue Laws, perhaps local. The great pleasure and profit from partridge hunting in France is discussed by Baron Dunoyer de Noirmont, Histoire de la Chasse en France (Paris, 1868), 2.18283. But the French feudal law has not revealed itself to inquiry, perhaps because Poe misinterpreted some real restrictions: R. O. O’Connor, The Field Sports of France (London, 1847), explains the difficulty of approaching the partridge for direct shots, especially in the “follows of France during the after season, when the birds become perfectly unapproachable.” If the farmer ploughs up and harrows his land, right after the harvest, the birds become wild and “edgy” to the disadvantage of hunters (p. 154). It is the destruction of the “cover” that any such laws aim to interdict. The expression “a chip of the old block” is usually applied to the sire and son who are similar, as in William Rowley (1633), Milton (1642) and Edmund Burke (1781), all given by Burton Stevenson (p. 69).

Marginalia 268

I cannot help thinking that romance-writers, in general, might, now and then, find their account in taking a hint from the Chinese,(a) who, in spite of building their houses downwards, have still sense enough to begin their books at the end.(b)

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Chinese) a. The source of Poe’s notion of how the Chinese constructed their houses has not appeared, nor has it any validity. Perhaps a linguistic explanation for a Japanese term may shed some light on it. Edward S. Morse, Japanese Houses and Their Surroundings (Boston, 1886), p. 107: “In Japan the roof of a house is called yane . . . literally . . . houseroot. . . . A Korean friend has suggested . . . association: a tree without a root dies, and a house without a roof decays. He also told me that the Chinese character ne [cf. ya-ne] meant origin.”

at the end) b. The idea of planning a narrative backwards, from the dénouement to the first episode, is a cardinal principle in Poe’s literary theory, often expressed as in paras. 1 and 2 of “Philosophy of Composition” in 4/46 Graham’s (H 14.193). It was from Dickens that Poe received the ref. to William Godwin’s planning Caleb Williams thus, as described in the 1832 preface to his 1805 Fleetwood reprinted. (See ch. 7 on “Poe and Godwin” in DP, especially pp. 114-19.) See M 273 for the same idea. [page 402:]

Marginalia 269

Surely M——— cannot complain of the manner in which his book has been received; for the Public, in regard to it, has given him just such an assurance as Polyphemus pacified Ulysses with, while his companions were being eaten up before his eyes. “Your book, Mr. M———,” says the Public, “shall be — I pledge you my word — the very last that I devour.”

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Note: The unfinished name surely stands for Cornelius Mathews (1817-89), as it does in MM 270, 281, 286, FS 18, 31, 40 since the seven allusions are linked to Poe’s critical comments in reviews and sketches (see PD 61, starting with 11.5-6, for the other loci). Yet Poe’s attitude was not always contemptuous, as at first when he admired Arcturus, edited by Mathews and E. Duyckinck, in the 1840s when he felt part of the “Young American” movement led by Mathews, as well as when he hoped to profit from Mathews’ friendship with R. H. Horne and Elizabeth Barrett. His growing hostility to Mathews and his work in the last part of the decade is not completely explicable and has never been studied. See other MM listed above.

Poe is here citing Pope’s tr. of the Odyssey: “Noman shall be the last I will devour” (9.438). While disapproving of the epic form, Poe probably had a reasonable familiarity with Homer’s epics and mentions them in Pin 18, 43 and “Landscape Garden” (TOM 713n12).

Marginalia 270

In examining trivial details, we are apt to overlook essential generalities. Thus M ——— , in making a to-do about the “typographical mistakes” in his book, has permitted the printer to escape a scolding which he did richly deserve — a scolding for a “typographical mistake” of really vital importance — the mistake of having printed the book at all.

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Note: The first sentence has an echo of the central point of the solution in “Purloined Letter.” In his sketch of Thomas Dunn English in the 7/46 Godey’s (“Literati”) Poe turns a concern over such “blunders” into grounds for mockery (H 15.66), as here. The prefaces to his books do not show “M ——— ’s” “to-do” over the mistakes, but as a journalist with many editors as friends Cornelius Mathews, the undoubted subject, could easily have reprehended the printing (see M 269). [page 403:]

Marginalia 271

Mozart declared, on his death-bed, that he “began to see what may be done in music;”(a) and it is to be hoped that De Meyer and the rest of the spasmodists will, eventually, begin to understand what may not be done in this particular branch of the Fine Arts.(b)

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music) a. This comes from H. B. Wallace’s Stanley, 1.26 (see M 223): “When Mozart had finished his mortal career, and was just wavering on the brink of life, he is reported to have said to his attendants that he began to see what might be done in music.”

Arts) b. This material raises important issues about Poe’s sophisticated sense of musical and literary style and his apt language coinage. Poe is credited by the OED with the first use of “spasmodists,” followed by an 1854 Tait’s Magazine use: “The fine frenzies of the noble new school of Spasmodists.” The latter is a reference to the Spasmodic School of poetry satirized by Prof. W. E. Aytoun in a Blackwood article and in the parodic Firmilian: a Spasmodic Tragedy, both of 1854. The “school” included Sydney Dobell, Alexander Smith, and Philip James Bailey, q.v. in A Literary History of England (2nd ed.; N. Y.,1967), p. 1387 and OED. Poe may be anticipating the naming of the “school,” but clearly he refers to the style of performance of the concert pianist Leopold de (or von) Meyer (Baden, near Vienna, 1816; Leipzig, 1883). Known as the “Lion Pianist” because of his “mane and his assault on the keyboard” and as a “clown” in his shifting of the piano around the stage and his use of “thumbs only” at times as well as fists and elbows on the keys, he caused laughter and excitement in the unsophisticated American auditors, being the first of the famous visiting “artists” (1845), q.v. in Harold C. Schonberg, The Great Pianists . . . (N. Y., 1963), pp. 179-87. In 1847 he carried on a notorious war of newspaper articles and “cards” over his Erard grand pianos, cluttering up the Baltimore stage during the concert of Henri Herz, an elegant and tasteful pianist from France. Poe, certainly knowing all this, correctly designated him as a “spasmodist,” perhaps mindful of more conventional uses of “spasmodic” in the works of Carlyle and Dickens (see OED citations). (Note Poe’s deprecatory “spasmodically straining after effect” in M 116). De Meyer was “reviewed” in the BJ of 1845: 2.261, 277, 291.

Marginalia 272

Nicholas Ferrar, were he now living, would be not a little astonished to find thoroughly established here, by our Magazine poets, that very [page 404:] “perpetual chant” which he so unsuccessfully struggled to establish in the village of Little Gidding.

Note: Poe took this from H. B. Wallace, Stanley (1838): “It was the sublime intention of Nicholas Ferrar that a perpetual chant or solemn service of music should be established at Little Gidding, to be sustained by generation after generation, and continued to the end of time without the interruption of a moment” (1.47). Ferrar (1592-1637), English theologian, after his connection with the Virginia Company and activity in parliament, organized a small religious community at Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire, consisting largely of the families of his relatives and devoted to austere observances and much hymn-singing, especially by the “Psalm-Children” (see A. L. Maycock, Nicholas Ferrar, 1938, pp. 206, 214-16; and Peter Peckard, Life of . . . , 1852 reprint and abridgment of Memoirs of 1790, pp. 101, 112-13). Since the “Arminian Nunnery” (so called by Charles I) was dispersed by the parliamentary troops in 1646, Poe is indirectly correct in his “unsuccessfully.” Many of his reviews were of the magazine poets of his day.

Marginalia 273

In the tale proper — where there is no space for development of character or for great profusion and variety of incident — mere construction is, of course, far more imperatively demanded than in the novel. Defective plot, in this latter, may escape observation, but in the tale, never. Most of our tale-writers, however, neglect the distinction. They seem to begin their stories without knowing how they are to end; and their ends, generally, — like so many governments of Trinculo — appear to have forgotten their beginnings.

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Note: Poe had presented the idea of this article previously, especially in his 5/42 Graham’s rev. of Twice-Told Tales (H 11.108) and his 11/47 Godey’s rev. of the tales (H 13.153), wherein he speaks of the gifted tale-writer’s commitment to the single “preconceived effect.”

For Poe on the beginnings of tales see MM 33 and 268. Poe thought highly of this material, borrowed from Sarah T. Austin’s Fragments from German Prose Writers (N. Y., 1841), p. 21, section on Jean Paul’s Palin-genesien: “The persiflage of the French and of fashionable worldlings, which turns into ridicule the exceptions and yet abjures the rules, is like Trinculo’s government, — its latter end forgets its beginning.” This is probably inaccurate, for, as TOM explains for its use in “Mesmeric Revelation” (1041n6), in Tempest, 2.1.158: “The latter end of his common-wealth [page 405:] forgets the beginning,” is said by Antonio of Gonzalo’s description of his ideal state (2.1.148-69), echoing Montaigne’s praise of primitive society. On the other hand, “Duke Trinculo” becomes a much more important character in the version of the Tempest by Dryden and Davenant, to which Jean Paul may be referring. Poe used this ref. also in his “literati” sketch of Miss Sedgwick, in the 9/46 Godey’s (H 15. 110).

Marginalia 274

It has been well said of the French orator, Dupin, that “he spoke, as nobody else, the language of every body;” and thus his manner seems to be exactly conversed in that of the Frogpondian Euphuists, who, on account of the familiar tone in which they lisp their outré phrases, may be said to speak, as every body, the language of nobody — that is to say, a language emphatically their own.

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Note: Poe derived the quotation about Andre-Marie Jean Jacques Dupin (1783-1865), French politician of remarkably wide learning, from Robert M. Walsh’s Sketches of Living Characters of France, tr. from Loménie’s Galerie (see MM 244, 246). Poe’s sentence comes from the article on Dupin (p. 214) which uses “like” for his “as.” He borrowed the name and many characteristics of Dupin from Walsh’s book for “Murders in the Rue Morgue” (TOM 525) as well as other elements in his tales and sketches (see TOM 287nl, 417, 1123nl). Poe detested affected speech and elaborate, indirect expressions, which he scornfully termed “euphuism” (named after John Lyly’s two works) as in M 171. He thus regarded the style of Boston “literati,” especially those once connected with the Dial or contributing to it — Emerson, Charming, Fuller — despite marked differences. The geographical center of Boston, the Frog Pond on the Boston Common, given variant names, such as “Frogpondum” (TOM 1370), is used for derision. Poe objected markedly to New England speech patterns, as in M 146 para. 3.

Marginalia 275

The vox populi, so much talked about to so little purpose,(a) is, possibly, that very vox et preterea (sic) nihil which the countryman, in Catullus, mistook for a nightingale.(b)

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purpose) a. In the Latin form, “vox populi, vox dei,” the idea can be traced back only to Alcuin, “Epistle to Charlemagne, No. 127” [page 406:] (circa 800), although the idea can be found in Hesiod, Works and Days, 1. 764 (735 B. C.). By 920 William of Malmesbury was speaking of it as a proverb.

nightingale) b. The phrase is not in Catullus. Poe was probably following “Borealis” (i.e. James Waddell Alexander, 1804-59), “English Language in America” in the 1/36 SLM, 2.111: “The countryman’s nightingale in Catullus, vox et praeterea nihil.” The account is really from Plutarch, Apophthegmata Laconica, q.v. in King’s Classical and Foreign Quotations, No. 3116, and Prof. Bensley’s comment in Notes and Queries, 10th Series, 2.281 and 12th Series, 8.269. See also Politian (Menasha, Wisc., 1923), ed. TOM, p. 68, n. to VI, 1. 25.

Marginalia 276

It is folly to assert, as some at present are fond of asserting, that the Literature of any nation or age was ever injured by plain speaking on the part of the Critics.(a) As for American Letters, plain-speaking about them is, simply, the one thing needed. They are in a condition of absolute quagmire-a quagmire, to use the words of Victor Hugo, d‘où on ne pent se tirer par des periphrases — par des quemadmodums et des verumenimveros.(b)

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Critics) a. Poe had become notorious for “plain speaking” about the weaknesses of American works. His early rev. in the 4/36 SLM, on the poems of J. R. Drake and F. Halleck, had lengthily asserted the critic’s obligation and right to condemn “a stupid American book” (H 8.277). Even in the mid-40s, when he adhered to the party sponsoring native American literature, he sought to be candid and objective about its defects.

verumenimveros) b. This is one of the many borrowings from Victor Hugo, especially from Notre-Dame de Paris, that Poe acknowledged, although this too is not straightforward or correct, for Poe has translated back into French — and very bad French, at that — a passage from Frederic Shoberl’s tr., pirated in Philadelphia in 1834 (2 vols.) from the London, 1833 ed. (Bk. 4, ch. 4, 1.209), based on Hugo’s 1832 edition of Paris. In the first, 1831 Paris ed., the passage appears in Bk. 1, ch. 6. Hugo is writing about the penury of the student Jehan, Claude Frollo’s young brother; pointing to the scattered texts of Cicero and Seneca, Jehan exclaims: “0 consul Cicero! ce n‘est pas là une calamity dont on se tire avec des périphrases, des quemadmodum et des verum enim vero!” Shoberl translates thus: “O Consul Cicero! this is not a calamity from which one may extricate one’s self with periphrases, with quemadmodums and verumenimveros.” In his 2/42 Graham’s review of Cornelius Mathews’ Wakondah Poe first tried out his retranslation of this excerpt [page 407:] (H 8.26), save that in place of “quagmire” he uses “un malheur” (for Shoberl’s “a calamity”) and for the present-tense verb “pent” he uses the conditional form “pourrait.” Hugo’s “dont” has become “d‘ou” and the two Latin expressions have assumed a final “s” contrary to strict French usage, which expresses plurality solely through the plural definite article. Even Poe’s Latin is faulty, for the first word, meaning “how” or “in what manner” is preserved but the second, meaning “but truly” or “but indeed” is normally a phrase of three separate words, as in Hugo’s novel. (For full treatment of Poe’s borrowings from Hugo, see DP , chs. 1-2, pp. 1-37.)

Marginalia 277

I believe it is Montaigne who says — “People talk about thinking, but, for my part, I never begin to think until I sit down to write.” A better plan for him would have been, never to sit down to write until he had made an end of thinking.

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Note: The so-called quotation is the same as in M 150 except for his “begin to,” presumably inserted here in order to quip on planning to work through to the very end before executing the creative composition (see M 273).

Marginalia 278

There is an old German chronicle about Reynard the Fox, when crossed in love-about how he desired to turn hermit, but could find no spot in which he could be “thoroughly alone,” until he came upon the desolate fortress of Malapart.(a) He should have taken to reading the “American Drama” of ———. I fancy he would have found himself “thoroughly alone” in that.(b)

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Malapart) a. Poe’s seeming confusion about the origin and episodes in the beast tales of Reinhart Fuchs merely reflects the numberless accounts, the study of which was much stimulated by Jacob Grimm’s 1834 Berlin edition. Judged to be of German and/or Flemish origin, the French “branches” served to replace “goupil” with “renard”; invariably Malapart as Poe terms it is the “domain” or nearly impregnable fortress castle of the fox, the wily, devilishly clever hero, who dwells there with his wife and (usually) three children, not “thoroughly alone,” until besieged by the other outraged and gulled animals (especially Ysengrin, the wolf). But we find it spelled Malepart, Maupertuis, Maleperduys (in [page 408:] Caxton’s version) and Malpertuis, perhaps to be identified with a real domain near Vienne (town near Poitiers). Philologists trace it to “mal” (or bad) and “apertuis’ (or aperture), symbol of the entrance to the infernal regions, whereas in German versions we find “Übelloch” which translates into “evil opening” for the same idea. A major episode is Reynard’s seduction of Ysengrin into a monastery through the inviting food, but the love motive is not common to many of those seen. Poe’s version must come from very skimpy secondary sources. For a few relevant details see Léopold Sudre, Les sources du Roman de Rénard (1893); Reynard the Fox, Poem (in twelve cantos), E. W. Holloway, tr. (Dresden, 1852), Canto 12. St. 18, p. 80; Le Roman de Rénard, modern version of Léopold Charveau (Paris, 1924), 177-184; William Rose, ed. The Epic of the Beast (Edinburgh, 1924), pp. xx-xxix; and Les Aventures de Maître Renart, by A. Paulin (Paris, 1861), p. 320.

in that) b. In the 1850 printing of this article, numbered as 178, the blank is replaced with: “Witchcraft.” Surely this was a change made by Poe before his papers were given to Griswold. Poe now had great contempt for Cornelius Mathews (1817-89), who essayed almost every type of literature, although at first he admired him as editor of Arcturus with Duyckinck and tried to praise his allegorical romance Big Abel and the Little Manhattan in the 11/45 Godey’s rev. (H 13.73-78), ending with a ref. to its “Americanism.” This national element looms large also in Witchcraft; or, The Martyrs of Salem, a blank-verse tragedy produced in 1846 but not published until 1852 — Poe ignores this in his quip about reading it. The Oxford Companion comments: “enormously successful. . . even translated into French” (p. 534). In a letter of 1/4/48 Poe writes scornfully of Margaret Fuller: “She praised ‘Witchcraft’ because Mathews (who toadies her) wrote it” (Ostrom 355). For other Brevities on Mathews and their notes see MM 269, 270, 281, 286; FS 40, 46.

Marginalia 279

Alas! how many American critics neglect the happy suggestion of M. Timon — “que le ministre de L’Instruction Publique dolt lui-même savoir parler français.”

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Note: In the Livre des Orateurs, par Timon (Paris, 1838; 18th ed., 1860) Bk. 1, ch. 9, we find the source: “On exige généralement que le ministre de (Instruction publique sache parler français. On demande un pen plus au ministre de l‘Intérieur” (One generally requires the Minister of Education to know how to speak French. One demands a little more of the Minister of the Interior). “Timon” was Louis Marie de la Haye, Vicomte de Cormenin (1788-1868), eminent jurist and author [page 409:] of political pamphlets issued under his pseudonym. The above quip on knowing French is used by Poe as the conclusion to his rev. of Mathews’ Wakondah in the 2/42 Graham’s (H 11.25-38). Similar in tone and subject is FS 2.

Marginalia 280

I cannot tell how it happens, but, unless, now and then, in a case of portrait — painting, very few of our artists can justly be held guilty of the crime imputed by Apelles to Protogenes — that of “being too natural.”

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Note: Poe adapted this from Bulwer Lytton, Pelham, “Maxims” (No. 1), placed after ch. 44: “Nature is not to be copied, but to be exalted by art. Apelles blamed Protogenes for being too natural.” Perhaps also Poe derived something from H. B. Wallace, Stanley, 1.239, into which book he dipped so frequently for the Marginalia: “When Protogenes in his picture of a reposing Satyr had painted a partridge with so much skill that all Greece was in raptures with it, the self-denying painter wisely erased the picture of the bird, because it withdrew the attention from the principal figure.” The basic source for both was Pliny, Natural History, 25.36, which has already been cited for M 243 — very similar in basic theme. It is interesting that Poe should be given credit for his 1845 firstuse of “naturalism” with its new meaning, as applied to acting and to the arts and criticism, in his rev. of Mrs. Mowatt’s acting (see PD 31). In this context, however, it becomes honorific and favorable.

Marginalia 281

M———, as a matter of course, would rather be abused by the critics than not be noticed by them at all; but he is hardly to be blamed for growling a little, now and then, over their criticisms — just as a dog might do if pelted with bones.

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Note: Almost positively the author here designated is Cornelius Mathews (q.v. in MM 269-270). This identification is also that of Perry Miller, The Raven and the Whale (N. Y., 1956), p. 81.

Marginalia 282

To vilify a great man is the readiest way in which a little man can himself attain greatness. The Crab might never have become a Constellation [page 410:] but for the courage it evinced in nibbling Hercules on the heel.

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Note: Poe modified a trifle the myth which tells of Hercules’ second labor for King Eurystheus, namely, destroying the many-headed monster, the Hydra in the lake at Lerna in the Peloponessus. While the hero fought with the help of Iolas who cauterized the wound of each decapitation to prevent regrowth (of two heads), Hera sent a sea-crab to bite his heel, but this beast was soon dispatched and accorded a place in the constellations as Cancer, to lessen Hercules’ fame (q.v. in J. Lemprière, Classical Dictionary; also, Crowell’s Handbook of Classical Mythology, 1934; 1974 ed., citing the locus classicus as Hyginus, Poetica Astronomica, 2.23).

Poe’s spelling of “villify” has been changed to the modern spelling as having no sanction after the 18th century and no examples after the 17th in the OED.

Marginalia 283

Our “blues” are increasing in number at a great rate; and should be decimated, at the very least.(a) Have we no critic with nerve enough to hang a dozen or two of them, in terrorem?(b) He must use a silk cord, of course — as they do in Spain, with all grandees of the blue blood — of the “sangre azula(c) (sic).

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least) a. Despite Poe’s lifelong association with “literary women,” especially in New York, he frequently mocks “learned ladies” or “blue stocking women”; see his early satire of 11/38, eventually titled “How to Write a Blackwood Article” (by erudite scraps inserted into a narrative of horrible surprises), with its heroine Psyche Zenobia (“Suky Snobbs”), whose Philadelphia ladies’ club acronymically spells out “PRETTY BLUE BATCH” (TOM 337). “Blues” is a somewhat colloquial reference to “blue-stockings” or “blue-stockingers,” i.e. women having or affecting literary tastes, named from the group meeting at Mrs. Montague’s London house in the 1750’s, who substituted talk about literature for card games and who included, among the attending men of letters, Benjamin Stillingfleet dressed in blue-worsted stockings instead of formal blacksilk hose. That Poe meant “reduce by a tenth” for “decimate,” not “to a tenth,” is clear from his “dozen or two” in the second sentence. He would include strong-minded independent women, such as Mrs. Ellet and Margaret Fuller, under whose satirical picture in the BJ of 3/8/45 (1.153) he wrote “her ink” is “too blue.”

terrorem) b. This is an idiomatic expression meaning “for the sake of example,” i. e., producing fear through examples. [page 411:]

azula) c. The last two sentences of this article are a condensation of the last half of para. 2 of his rev. of William Channing’s poems, in the 8/43 Graham’s (H 11.175). Poe also, in para. of Letter I of Doings of Gotham, 5/1/44, speaks “of the true blood — of the blue blood — of the sangre azula” (an impossible form for the Spanish azul). This idea of the silk cord for executing nobles may be Poe’s adaptation of Voltaire’s Zadig, or the Book of Fate as follows: In ch. 8 (“Jealousy”) the king notes that the shoes of his Queen Astarte and Zadig are both blue and that other clothes are correspondingly yellow. Jealous, he resolves to have her poisoned and Zadig put to the bowstring — a “blue bowstring,” but both escape through the warning of a friendly dwarf. In ch. 18, “The Basilisk,” upon their meeting some time later, Astarte recapitulates the account-that the executioners were dispatched to the room of each. “Another officer went to thine with a bow-string of blue silk,” she says.

Marginalia 284

No doubt, the association of idea is somewhat singular — but I never can hear a crowd of people singing and gesticulating, all together, at an Italian opera, without fancying myself at Athens listening to that par ticular tragedy, by Sophocles, in which he introduces a full chorus of turkeys, who set about bewailing the death of Meleager.(a) It is noticeable in this connexion, by the way, that there is not a goose in the world who, in point of sagacity, would not feel itself insulted in being compared with a turkey. The French seem to feel this. In Paris, I am sure, no one would think of saying to Mr. F———, “What a goose you are!’ — “Quel dindon tu es!” would be the phrase employed as equivalent.(b)

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Meleager) a. As often, Poe shows either more learning or intuition about words than seems likely at first. Well known is the myth of Meleager, slayer of the great boar of Calydon and of his uncles as victims of his mother’s wrath, whose mourning sisters were changed by Diana out of pity into guinea fowls and removed to the island of Leros (Pliny, Natural History, 37.11.40). The turkey is called Meleagris gallopavo and the Guinea fowl Numida meleagris (of Africa). Poe must have known the North American origin of the first but, for the sake of his joke, prefers the mix-up. The Meleager of Sophocles “is a play rather conjectured to exist, from allusions to the story, than actually quoted,” says Sir George Young, giving a couplet about the hunting of the boar, referring to Dindorf’s Poetae Scenici Graeci (Oxford, 1851) in The Dramas of Sophocles (London: Dent, n.d.), p. 324 (see also Fragments of Sophocles [Cambridge U.P., 1912], No. 40). Usually Poe favors Italian opera, but especially for the arias (see H 10.94, 12.190). [page 412:]

equivalent) b. Poe is correct about the use of “dindon” or turkey for a fool or “goose” although he certainly forces the verbal comparison; his French sentence is acceptable and suggests that he has in mind Charles Fourier (1772-1837), the Utopian socialist whom he despised (see TOM 1293/7; FS 28; M 165; Eureka, H 16.294). He might also refer to Theodore Fay, the novelist, or Hiram Fuller, both prominent antagonists of Poe. For another play on words rooted in “goose” see M 256 and LST 4.

Marginalia 285

They have ascertained, in China, that the abdomen is the seat of the soul;(a) and the acute Greeks considered it a waste of words to employ more than a single term, θρενες, for the expression both of the mind and of the diaphragm.(b)

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soul) a. This entire article first appears as Poe’s insertion into his 12/1/32 tale “The Bargain Lost” which was renamed “Bon-Bon” (in 1835), the insertion appearing in the 4/19/45 BJ (1.243-47; reprint in TOM 97). Here the wording is slightly different, the idea essentially the same. There is no source known for the “soul in China” idea. A few relevant ideas that he may have read in encyclopedias or books of “curiosities” are given by modern commentators: E. C. Werner, History of the Religious Beliefs and Philosophical Opinions in China (London, 1927), p. 680, speaks of two souls, the “p‘o,” product of the sperm, and the “hun,” product after birth of the inhaled air; also of “yin” and “yang,” as embodying the same principles. W. A. P. Martin, The Chinese (N. Y., 1898), p. 112: Some Chinese regard the soul as a material substance, though of a more refined quality than the body. E. P. Hughes, Chinese Philosophy in Classical Times (London, 1942): In Chinese are no terms corresponding to soul, closest being “kuei shen” or animal and spiritual soul (p. 276) and the Taoists believe in two souls, the spiritual “hun” and the physical “p‘o” (p. 348).

diaphragm) b. Poe is correct that the “midriff or muscle which parts the heart and lungs . . . from the lower viscera” is given the name (actually commonly the plural form, “phrenes”) which is also assigned to “the heart or mind, as the seat of mental faculties, perception, thought” (Greek Lexicon of Liddell and Scott, 1983 ed.). In his wording he seems not to know that “diaphragm” is merely a derived form in Dorian dialect of “phren” or the same word, a form which later took over the physical aspect of the meaning. Important here is Poe’s insistence upon the “physical” or “material” nature of the soul. [page 413:]

Marginalia 286

Let us be charitable and account for M———’s repeated literary failures by the supposition that, like Lelius in the “Arcadia,” he wishes to evince his skill rather in missing than in hitting his mark.

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Note: This is taken from H. B. Wallace, Stanley (1.122; Literary Criticisms, p. 286). The character Dr. Gauden is discoursing of Warburton as a rival of Johnson: “Like Lelius in ‘The Arcadia,’ he showed more skill in missing than others did in hitting.” Wallace took this from Sir Philip Sidney, Arcadia, 2.21.4: “He showed more knowledge in missing than others did in hitting.” This, again, is a dart at Cornelius Mathews, as in MM 269, 270, 278, 281. For a good discussion of Mathews’ various types of “failures” see Perry Miller’s Raven and the Whale, pp. 79-103.

Marginalia 287

L———— is busy in attempting to prove that his Play was not fairly d——d — that it is only “scotched, not killed;”(a) but if the poor Play could speak from the tomb, I fancy it would sing with the Opera heroine:

“The flattering error cease to prove!

Oh, let me be deceased!”(b)

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killed) a. The origin of Poe’s witticism is Lady Macbeth’s statement, “We have scotched the snake, not kill‘d it” (Macbeth, 3.2.13), but Poe is probably following Bulwer Lytton’s use in Paul Clifford, ch. 35: “The Scotsman retired from the witness-box, ’scotched,’ perhaps, in reputation, but not ‘killed’ as to testimony.” (See Poe’s Macbeth quotation in his 4/1/41 letter [Ostrom 157].) Poe is applying it to James Lawson (1799-1880), who had come from Glasgow, to become an accountant and marine insurance executive, dabbling also in literature. In the 8/46 Godey’s is a “literati” sketch about him as a “Scotchman” but with “the welfare of American letters . . . at heart” and detailing his books as “Giordano, a Tragedy” performed at the Park “with no great success” and “Tales and Sketches by a Cosmopolite” (2 vols.) as “more popular” (H 15.83-84). In the Griswold papers was left a manuscript substitute for the sketch much harsher in general language, declaring the condemnation of the play (in 1828) to be “religiously deserved” and a tale in the collection, formerly praised as a “very clever imitation” — now “one non-execrable thing” (H 15.270). The play was published in 1830 by Elam Bliss (publisher of Poe’s Poems of 1831) and again in New Haven, 1859. Considering the altered tone of the two sketches and of M 287, we conclude that a breach between Lawson and Poe took place after 1846.

deceased) b. It is obvious that Poe is here citing Vincenzo Bellini’s [page 414:] opera, based on Romeo and Juliet, I Capuletti ed i Montecchi, but verifying the words is difficult, almost impossible, and yet important since there is the chance that Poe may have inserted his own wording for a vague memory of the script which he had heard or even for a more suitable quip about the play of Lawson. Bellini’s was not the first musical setting, for the plot was popular and known in another version than Shakespeare’s, that of Gerolamo Della Corte’s Storie di Verona, probably the basis for three musical versions: that of Bellini’s old teacher Nicolo Zingarelli (1796, at La Scala) with Giuseppe Foppa’s libretto; that of Nicola Vaccai (Milan, 1825) to a script by the well known litterateur and librettist Felice Romani (1788-1865), and finally Bellini’s (with its new name) employing Romani’s script, but with some changes in the last partwhich happens to be the context of Poe’s ref. (See Herbert Weinstock, Vincenzo Bellini, 1971, pp. 83, 85, 480, 520; and Michael Collins, Journal of Am. Musicological Society, 1982, 35.532-538, for these and other relevant details.) Both the earlier composers used a mezzo soprano for the role of Romeo, a tradition followed by Bellini; this introduces difficulties in locating exactly which character’s words Poe is giving in possibly his own English version. There is also the confusing circumstance that in the 19th century Vaccai’s final scene at the tomb was usually substituted for Bellini’s, and often the prima donna of the performance ruled on the matter (see Donal Henahan’s article on a Juilliard performance, in New York Times, 2/25/83). Unfortunately, in neither the English nor Italian does Poe’s excerpt seem to appear, literally, although there are clues to the context. Poe probably derived his knowledge of the opera first from Madame Merlin’s Memoirs . . . of Mme. Malibran, which Poe reviewed in the 5/40 BGM (10.91-96), mentioning her “tone” for “the words Sul mio sasso in the Capuletti” (2.123) as though he had himself heard her (an impossibility!) and later using the same passage from the book for the musical content in his tale “The Spectacles” (TOM 904; for a full account see my study in AL, 1965, 38.185-190). But the short excerpt in this article is not given in the book nor does it appear in any of the translations for the libretto of the day that I have traced, for the American performances of Bellim’s opera; e.g., that of the Boston, Eastburn’s Press ed., 1847, for the performances in that city; or those of Davidson’s Musical Libretto Books, of London, post-1850. One possibility has remained unprocurable — that of the “Operatic Library, no. 25” issued in New York, 1848, for performances in that year in the city. No music collection searched seems to have preserved a copy, in which may be found Poe’s excerpt, whether read by him or remembered from the script used for a performance that he may have heard. The closest passage in the Boston libretto is this: “J. Ah, poison. / R. I have drained it to the dregs — live, live my Juliet and sometimes come to weep upon my grave / J. Oh, holy powers, ere Romeo dies let Juliet be no more.” [page 415:] The second (i.e. London) script is this: “Live-oh, live, and sometimes come, I And with thy tears my tomb embalm. /J. Cruel Heaven! Before he dies, / Oh, my thread of life dissever /. . . . /R. Cease, oh, cease. Thy bitter wailing / Augments my dying agony.” The Italian (of Romeo — or possibly of Juliet in the alternate form) begins: “Vivi, ah vivi e vien talora sul mio sasso a lagrimar!” But nothing can be concluded save for Poe’s ingenuity in expressing his disapproval.

TOM compares M 287 with a passage in Politian in which Ugo tries to persuade San Ozzo of his own death (1923 ed., scene X, 11 ff. and notes, pp. 34, 75).

Marginalia 288

“What does a man learn by travelling?” demanded Doctor Johnson, one day, in a great rage — “What did Lord Charlemont learn in his travels, except that there was a snake in one of the pyramids of Egypt?”(a) but had Doctor Johnson lived in the days of the Silk Buckinghams, he would have seen that, so far from thinking anything of finding a snake in a pyramid, your traveller would take his oath, at a moment’s notice, of having found a pyramid in a snake.(b)

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Egypt) a. This is probably taken by Poe from Thomas Macaulay’s 9/31 Edinburgh Review article on John Wilson Croker’s new ed. of Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson (Essays, ed. 1843, 1.403), based in turn on Boswell, entry of 5/12/1778, q.v. in the ed. of George Birkbeck Hill (3.352 and cf. 449). Macaulay’s introduction contributes Poe’s “in a great rage”: “Of foreign travel and of history he spoke with the fierce and boisterous contempt of ignorance.” The rest is the same, but strikingly different in Malone’s ed., which is Birkbeck Hill’s basic text-proof of Poe’s entire dependence upon Macaulay.

snake) b. For Poe’s adverse view of James Silk Buckingham (1786-1855), author, lecturer, traveler, temperance pamphleteer, anti-abolitionist, who toured America 1837-40, see “Mummy” and “Mellonta Tauta” (TOM I197n11, 1306n8, and my study in Studies in Short Fiction, 1971, 8.627-31).

Marginalia 289

The next work of Carlyle will be entitled “Bow-Wow,”(a) and the title-page will have a motto from the opening chapter of the Koran: “There is no error in this Book.”(b) [page 416:]

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Bow-Wow) a. In the 6/18/44 Doings of Gotham, Letter 7, Poe writes of Grant, the “gossiping and twaddling author: the dogmatic bow-wow of this man is the most amusing thing imaginable.” The use of “bow wow” in a pejorative, figurative sense is surprisingly recent, the OED ascribing it to Scott (1832) and Irving (1849), making these early instances. As almost always, Poe uses every device to ridicule Thomas Carlyle, this being similar to that in M 255, q.v. for other loci.

Book) b. Poe changes, “There is no doubt in this book,” in Al Koran, ch. 2, “The Cow,” in Sale’s version. This is from “Maxim No. ix” at the end of Paul Clifford by Bulwer Lytton, used another time (see M 76 for first use and for details — in note a; also M 287 a).

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - BRP2B, 1985] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (Marginalia - part 16)