Text: Edgar Allan Poe (?), “[Article on Beet-Root],” Alexander's Weekly Messenger, vol. 3, no. 50, December 18, 1839, p. 2, col. 3


[page 2, column 3:]

A controversy has been going on of late in the columns of the Ledger, on the subject of the beet-root. The opponents are a Mr. T. M. (Which letters may possibly stand for Tugmutton, or Trismegistus) and Mr. James Pedder, a gentleman of sound sense and much practical knowledge, who is well acquainted with the subject which he discusses, having paid attention personally for many years to the whole system of beet-raising and beet-sugar making in France, and being at the same time an experienced sugar refiner. As might be expected Mr. P. has the battle all to himself, and makes sad exposure of his antagonist's ignorance. For our own parts we wonder at the good humor with which he has listened and replied to the rigamarole of Mr. T. M. We allude to the platitudes of this latter person now merely as an instance of the kind of opposition which all new suggestions or discoveries, however reasonable or valuable, have to contend with from that vulgar dunder-headed conceit which adheres, through thick and thin, to “the good old way,” and which so often calls itself by the name of “common sense” that it sometimes passes for such among people who should know better. Time was, when credulity, and a blind adoption of raw schemes, were the distinguished traits of the rabble; but the rapid march of invention has altered all this, and incredulity, and a dogged refusal to see or understand, are now more properly the popular features. The simple truths which science unfolds, day after day, are in fact, far stranger, apparently, than the wildest dreams in which imagination used to indulge of old.

When we spoke of new propositions and discoveries, we did not mean to insinuate that the cultivation of the beet-root was any thing very new, or even the manufacture of sugar therefrom. It is now an old story — at least it is old to every body but Mr. T. M. To this gentleman it appears novel and chimerical only because he views it through the darkened glass of his gross ignorance, or rather because he looks at it with eyes of an owl. France derives a very considerable revenue from an impolitic impost on the manufacture; and nearly all the sugar consumed in the country, is sugar of the beet-root. Her climate is not better adapted to the culture than our own; and our manufacturers are not less skilful than hers. What she has done, we can do — and, what is more we surely will do it, in spite of the whole race of the Tugmuttons.




This article was first attributed to Poe by T. O. Mabbott in Notes and Queries (London), CLXVII, December 15, 1934, p. 420, where the title of “Article on Beet-Root” was assigned, the original article having no title of any kind. It is also attributed to Poe by Clarence S. Brigham in Edgar Allan Poe's Contributions to Alexander's Weekly Messenger, 1943, pp. 18-19.

Clarence Brigham referred to what he thought was a unique copy of this issue of Alexander's Weekly Messenger as being in the collection of the Ohio State Archæological and Historical Library (see Brigham, 1943, p. 4). Sometime after 1943, this library became the Ohio State Historical Society. A correspondence with the Ohio Historical Society initiated by the Poe Society in 2008 indicated that it has no record of ever possessing any issues of Alexander's Weekly Messenger. It is possible that this copy might be the origin of the isolated issues of 1839 now at the American Antiquarian Society, in Worcester, MA, although Mabbott's 1934 article on “Article on Beet Root,” as well as his notes at the University of Iowa indicate that the copies of the Weekly Messenger at the Ohio State Historical Society represented a “file for 1839,” further suggesting that this was the file discovered about 1934 by Professor John Matthews Manly of the University of Chicago. Another copy of the December 18, 1839 issue, as well as a very nice run of the periodical, may be found in the New York State Library, in Albany, NY, from which a copy of the present article was kindly provided to the Poe Society for verification of this text. The set of Alexander's Weekly Messenger with Poe material in the Koester Collection at the University of Texas includes only issues from 1840.



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