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Poe and Humor

(This page is under construction.)

Poe was inordinately fond of puns and silly names. The small town in "The Devil in the Belfry," obsessed with the great clock at its center, is named Vondervotteimittis (wonder what time it is). The fictional authors of Poe's Folo Club all have names such as that of Mr. Convolvulus Gondola. The group of lady writers in "How to Write a Blackwood Article" is the "Philadelphia Regular Exchange Tea, Total Young Belles Lettres Universal, Experimental, Bibliographical Association To Civilize Humanity" (P.R.E.T.T.Y. B.L.U.E. B.A.T.C.H.). The mummy in "Some Words with a Mummy" is Count Allamistakeo.

The essence of much of Poe's humor has been lost to us. His satires poke fun at excess. In this age, where a judicious sense of self-restraint has been thoroughly replaced by self-promotion and hyperbole, we cannot recognize the ridiculous and therefore cannot see the joke. To be fair, Poe's contemporaries did not always recognize it either.

As David Galloway notes, ". . . comedies, satires and hoaxes account for more than half his [Poe's] total output of short stories, and the last of them, 'X-ing a Paragrab,' appeared only a few months before the author's obscure death in 1849" (Galloway, p. 8).

If we do not recognize the humor in Poe's works, we cannot hope to understand his intentions -- we cannot, indeed, hope to understand Poe.

Poe's Humorous Poems

Poe's Tales of Humor

Tales of the Folio Club (1833):

We know that the Tales of the Folio Club encompassed eleven tales, although he later claimed that there were sixteen tales. Since the collection was never actually published, and Poe did not leave a table of contents for this collection, the precise tales it contained are the subject of some discussion. Nine of the tales have generally been accepted, while the remaining two are a matter of conjecture. Following each of the tales listed below is the name, in parentheses, of the fictious author from Poe's introduction.


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