Text: Various, “Marginalia,” Poe Newsletter­, April 1969, Vol. II, No. 2, 2:36-38


[page 36, column 2:]


This column is devoted to brief notes, comments, queries. We wish to provide here an outlet for such items as source notes which do not require the extended argument and proof that customarily attends them, and for items of very special or peculiar interest which otherwise might not appear. Contributions to this column should be one paragraph in form, not to exceed in length a page and a half of typescript, with all bibliographical citations enclosed in brackets.

Poe’s MS. Letter to Stella Lewis — Recently Located

The original manuscript letter of Poe to Mrs. Stella Lewis, June 21, 1848 [Ostrom, The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, Harvard University Press, 1948, and the reprint by Gordian Press, 1966, with a “Supplement,” corrections, and addenda), II, 372], heretofore unlocated, is presently in the British Museum [No. 31897 f 1]. It is a folded leaf with the letter on page 1; there is no salutation or cover. A notation on the verso of the manuscript reads: “Purchd of J. H. Ingram Esq / 12 Nov. 1881.” This manuscript letter must be the only one purchased by the British [page 37:] Museum from the three that Ingram offered to sell [Ostrom, The Letters, II, 519]. Poe’s year-date “48” has apparently been subjected to erasure, though it is still legible. Poe’s address is “Fordham,” not “New York,” as variously printed. With one exception the rest of the text conforms to the one printed in The Letters. The exception is interesting. The first four lines of the manuscript read:

I have been spending a couple of hours most pleasantly, my dear Stella Mrs Lewis, in reading and re-reading your “Child of the Sea”.

The manuscript suggests that Poe first wrote “my dear / Mrs Lewis”; then, seeing adequate space at the end of line two, crossed out “Mrs Lewis” and inserted “Stella” after “my dear.” Subsequently, an attempt was made, probably by Ingram, to erase not only “48” in the date but also “Stella” in the second line cited above. When Ingram printed the letter [Edgar Allan Poe, 1880, II, 219-220], he omitted both “48” and “my dear Stella / Mrs Lewis.”

John Ward Ostrom, Wittenberg University

Thomas Moore’s Influence on “Tamerlane”

Although Thomas Moore has long been accepted as an influence on several of Poe’s early poems, particularly “Al Aaraaf,” significant Moore influence has not been noted in “Tamerlane” (1827). Instead it has been assumed that Byron provided the only major literary influence on “Tamerlane.” Most critics, moreover, have been satisfied with the explanation that the love story in the poem is nothing more than a thinly veiled account of Poe’s love for Elmira Royster of Richmond, without any discernible antecedents. Killis Campbell [The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (New York, 1917/1962), p. 148] considered the love story a “fanciful” autobiographical “grafting” on the legend of the famous Tartar warrior. It is possible, however, to show that the original tree from which this fanciful love story cutting was made was very likely Moore’s tale “The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan” in Lalla Rookh. In the 1827 edition, Poe’s story of Tamerlane and his love (who are called in this early version Ada and Alexis) is similar to the tale of Azim and Zelica (names which are phonologically similar) in “The Veiled Prophet.” Both poems portray an idyllic romance in a sylvan setting, which is interrupted when warrior lovers leave their ladies for the battlefield. Both bereft ladies “wither” and die. In both poems are flashback descriptions of early happy love; in both poems, the couples wander in sylvan groves in the foothills of mountains near a river; in both poems, past joy is compared to the glories of the “summer sun.” Many similarities of mood and phrasing may be found, but perhaps the single most telling parallel is Poe’s choice of setting — one identical with that of Moore’s “Veiled Prophet.” Moore’s tale is set in the Belur Tag mountains in Tartary, which Moore also calls the “dark mountains” [1. 233]. Poe similarly describes the setting of “Tamerlane” as the Belur Taglays and as the “dark wild” [1. 233 — coincidentally the same line]. Moreover, both Moore and Poe append footnotes in which they annotate their descriptions of setting similarly. Poe had already read Lalla Rookh by the time he wrote “Al Aaraaf,” but it is also clear that Moore’s exotic fancies found their way into “Tamerlane ’ two years earlier.

Nancy Niblack Baxter, The Leelanau Schools

A Note on Poe and Pym in Melville’s Omoo

Is there a possibility that the character of John Jermin, the reckless chief mate of the whaleship Julia in Melville’s Omoo (1847), may have been based on Edgar Allan Poe and his novel Arthur Gordon Pym? The chapters in Omoo in which Jermin figures prominently are those involving the “mutiny” of the Julia’s crew. These coincide with the narrator’s arrival on board the whaleship in Chapter I and end with his removal to La Reine Blanche in Chapter XXVII. The number of references, many of them cryptic, to story telling and writing in these chapters, including what seem to be identifiable allusions to two well-known British novelists (Scott in Ch. VIII and Dickens in Ch. IX), leads me to believe that Melville used the Julia’s voyage to Tahiti to pay off a writer’s grudge to the charges of [column 2:] “romancing” which had greeted his earlier work, Typee (1846), and that, in so doing, he took literary pot shots at actual writers and attitudes towards writing that he had observed on the New York scene. That Poe could have been the model for the obstreperous and imaginative chief mate of the Julia is suggested initially by the fact that the name Jermin is almost identical with the word German. Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840) were criticized as being permeated with “Germanism and gloom.” Though Poe denied this charge, the identification nonetheless persisted. Secondly, Melville repeatedly dwells on Jermin’s predilection for alcohol which he is under the influence of at all times. In two instances Jermin’s intoxication is combined with possible puns on Poe’s name. Concerning the mate’s irregular navigational procedures (reminiscent of the motifs of erratic steering and drunkenness in Pym) , Melville writes: “Sometimes when rather flustered from his potations, he went staggering about the deck, instrument to eye, looking all over for the sun — a phenomenon which any sober observer might have seen right overhead” (Ch. XVII). The pun recurs in Chapter XXIII when Jermin, having unsuccessfully tried to dissuade the crew from going ashore “at last flew into a rage — much increased by the frequency of his potations — and with many imprecations, concluded by driving everybody out of the cabin.” Poe’s well-known penchant for attacking his enemies when intoxicated may be reflected in Jermin’s pugnaciousness. In Chapter IV the mate attacks the ship’s carpenter, “a man so excessively ugly that he went by the ironic appellation of ‘Beauty ’.” In his bout with Beauty Jermin is soundly trounced. This may be an ironic reference to Poe’s esthetic theories, such as those announced in “The Philosophy of Composition” (1846). Finally, the reappearance of Captain Guy from Poe’s Arthur Gordon Pym as the supposed commander of the Julia’s crew seems significant. Derided by the crew as “Cabin Boy” and “Paper Jack,” Captain Guy is described in Chapter II as “no more meant for the sea than a hairdresser.” By introducing this echo from Pym (another is the reference to Jermin’s old ship, the bark Jane — Captain Guy in Pym commands the Jane Guy) , Melville, I think, underlines the hoaxical factor in the Julia’s cruise which is reinforced by the essentially comic and incongruous tone of the narration. Chief hoaxer on board the Julia is Jermin who, in Chapter IX, for example, tells the crew that they are bound to a paradisiacal whaling ground where “the sea was alive with large whales so tame that all you had to do was to go up to them and kill them.” The tall-tale quality of the mate’s constant fabrications, compounded with the bizarre situation on board the whaler, suggests that Melville deliberately played up Poe’s penchant for hoaxing in the character of Jermin.

Iola S. Haverstick, Columbia University

Poe’s Raven, Faulkner’s Sparrow, and Another Window

Two recent notes have pointed out parallels between Poe and Faulkner. James Stronks [Poe Newsletter, I, 11] finds similarities between Poe’s image of Helen in a window-niche and Faulkner’s metaphorical descriptions of Emily in “A Rose for Emily.” Sister Mary Dominic Stevens [Poe Newsletter, I, 31] strengthens the case for Poe echoes in Faulkner by finding similar images in descriptions of Eula in The Hamlet. Though the emphasis of these two notes is upon the statue-like quality of Helen, in both of Faulkner’s works the image of Helen is associated with windows. In two other of Faulkner’s works situations associated with windows can also be paralleled in Poe. A brief paragraph of the Quentin section of The Sound and the Fury [1st ed., 1929, p. 97] very likely owes its conception and several of its details to “The Raven.” Despite the obvious differences in setting and situations, the opening pages of Quentin’s section and “The Raven” have a distinct similarity: in each the narrator (in his own way) has lost his lover and is dominated by the magnitude of his loss, and each narrator is visited by a bird. Attempting to escape the memory of Lenore, Poe’s narrator turns to books and looks forward to the passage of time (”Eagerly I wished the morrow”) as a means of returning to life. The raven — black and ominous, suggestive of the supernatural, of death, psychic immobility and spiritual annihilation — becomes in the poem a symbol of never-ending remembrance of Lenore, whose memory the narrator initially hopes to escape. Unlike [page 38:] Poe’s narrator, who wishes to return to the healing course of time, Quentin Compson is immersed in time, which to him is corrupting rather than healing, and wishes to escape it. The psychological states of the two protagonists being different, Faulkner thus sends to Quentin’s window a bird which in all respects is opposite to the raven. Arriving “across the sunlight,” rather than on “a midnight dreary,” the sparrow perches on “the window ledge” instead of entering through the window. Whereas the raven moves in a stately fashion, “with mien of lord or lady,” the sparrow “cocked his head” at Quentin. Its “eye was round and bright” It looked at Quentin first with one eye, then with the other, in contrast to the raven, whose “fiery eyes . . . . burned into [the narrator’s] bosom’s core”; and, after listening to the chimes complete the toll of eight o ’clock, it “flicked off the ledge and was gone.” Its movements are in all respects suggestive of life and vitality (its throat pumped “faster than any pulse”), even of time. It becomes a symbol of the world of life and time which Quentin wishes to escape, just as Poe’s raven is a symbol of the morbid remembrance which Lenore’s lover wishes initially to escape. The probability that Faulkner had “The Raven” in mind in this passage is supported by another reference to the same window in Absalom, Absalom! [Modern Library ed., p. 373]. Quentin and Shreve, their winter night’s rehearsal of the story of Thomas Sutpen and his family nearly at an end, are in the room that will figure later (in Faulkner’s chronology) in The Sound and the Fury. Quentin does not answer a question by Shreve about Miss Rosa’s motives in returning after three months to the old Sutpen mansion. His thoughts are fixed on the implications of Sutpen’s tragedy. His body is rigid, his “breathing hard but slow, his eyes wide open upon the window, thinking ‘Nevermore of peace. Nevermore of peace. Nevermore Nevermore Nevermore ’.” The windows of both Poe’s narrator and Quentin Compson are, in their different manners, the entrances to “nevermore.”

Robert H. Woodward, San Jose State College


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[S:1 - PSDR, 1969]