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MARGINALIA 135

complete ; and for this reason in part, but chiefly on
account of the mere fortuitousness of that mental
and moral combination which shall unite in one per
son (if ever it shall) the Shellyan abandon and the
Tennysonian poetic sense, with the most profound
Art (based both in Instinct and Analysis) and the
sternest Will properly to blend and rigorously to
control all chiefly, I say, because such combina
tion of seeming antagonisms will be only a "happy
chance" the world has never yet seen the noblest
poem which, possibly, can be composed.

CXXXVI.

It is not proper, (to use a gentle word,) nor does
it seem courageous, to attack our foe by name in
spirit and in effect, so that all the world shall know
whom we mean, while we say to ourselves, "I have
not attacked this man by name in the eye, and
according to the letter, of the law" yet how often
are men who call themselves gentlemen, guilty of
this meanness ! We need reform at this point of our
Literary Morality: very sorely too, at another
the system of anonymous reviewing. Not one re
spectable word can be said in defence of this most
unfair this most despicable and cowardly practice.

CXXXVII.

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

CXXXVIIL

I hardly know how to account for the repeated
failures of John Neal as regards the construction of



136 EDGAR ALLAN POE

his works. His art is great and of a high character
but it is massive and undetailed. He seems to be
either deficient in a sense of completeness, or un
stable in temperament; so that he becomes wearied
with his work before getting it done. He always
begins well vigorously startlingly proceeds by
fits much at random now prosing, now gossiping,
now running away with his subject, now exciting
vivid interest; but his conclusions are sure to be
hurried and indistinct ; so that the reader, perceiving
a f alling-off where he expects a climax, is pained,
and, closing the book with dissatisfaction, is in no
mood to give the author credit for the vivid sensa
tions which have been aroused during the progress of
perusal. Of all literary foibles the most fatal, perhaps,
is that of defective climax. Nevertheless, I should
be inclined to rank John Neal first, or at all events
second, among our men of indisputable genius. Is it
or is it not a fact, that the air of a Democracy agrees
better with mere Talent than with Genius?

CXXXIX.

Among the moralists who keep themselves erect
by the perpetual swallowing of pokers, it is the fash
ion to decry the "fashionable" novels. These
works have their demerits ; but a vast influence which
they exert for an undeniable good, has never yet been
duly considered. Ingenues didicisse fideliter libros,
emollit mores nee sinit esse feros." Now, the fash
ionable novels are just the books which most do
circulate among the class unfashionable; and their
effect in softening the worst callosities in smoothing
the most disgusting asperities of vulgarism, is prodi
gious. With the herd, to admire and to attempt
imitation are the same thing. What if, in this case,



MARGINALIA

the manners imitated are frippery; better frippery
than brutality and, after all, there is little danger
that the intrinsic value of the sturdiest iron will be
impaired by a coating of even the most diaphanous
gilt.

CXL.

The ancients had at least lialf an idea that we
travelled on horseback to heaven. See a passage o
Passeri " de animcB transvectione " quoted by Cayius.
See, also, many old tombs.

CXLI.

It is said in Isaiah, respecting Idumea, that
"none shall pass through thee for ever and ever."
Dr. Keith here* insists, as usual, upon understand
ing the passage in its most strictly literal sense.
He attempts to prove that neither Burckhardt nor
Irby passed through the country merely penetrating
to Petra, and returning. And our Mr. John Stephens
entered Idumea with the deliberate design of putting
the question to test. He wished to see whether it
was meant that Idumea should not be passed through,
and "accordingly," says he, "I passed through it
from one end to the other." Here is error on all
sides. In the first place, he was not sufficiently
informed in the Ancient Geography to know that
the Idumea which he certainly did pass through,
is not the Idumea or Edom, intended in the proph
ecy the latter lying much farther eastward.
In the next place, whether he did or did not pass
through the true Idumea or whether anybody,
of late days, did or did not pass through it is a
point of no consequence either to the proof or to the

* "Literal Fulfilment of the Prophecies."



138 EDGAR ALLAN POE

disproof of the literal fulfilment of the Prophecies.
For it is quite a mistake on the part of Dr. Keith
his supposition that travelling through Idumea is
prohibited at all.

The words conceived to embrace the prohibition,
are found in Isaiah 34 : 10, and are Lenetsach net"
sachim ein over bah: literally Lenetsach, for an
eternity; netsachim, of eternities; ein, not; over,
moving about; bah, in it. That is to say; for an
eternity of eternities, (there shall) not (be any one)
moving a.bout in it not through it. The participle
over refers to one moving to and fro, or up and down,
and is the same term which is translated "current"
as an epithet of money, in Genesis 23 : 16. The
prophet means only that there shall be no mark
of life in the land no living being there no one
moving up and down in it. He refers merely to its
general abandonment and desolation.

In the same way we have received an erroneous
idea of the meaning of Ezekiel 35:7, where the same
region is mentioned. The common version runs:
"Thus will I make Mount Seir most desolate, and
cut off from it him that passeth out and him that
returneth," a sentence which Dr. Keith views as
he does the one from Isaiah; that is, he supposes it
to forbid any travelling in Idumea under penalty
of death; instancing Burckhardt s death shortly
after his return, as confirming this supposition, on
the ground that he died in consequence of the rash
attempt.

Now the words of Ezekiel are: Venathati eth-har
Seir leshimmanah ushemamah, vehichrati mimmennu
over vasal: literally Venathati, and I will give;
eth-har, the mountain; Seir, Seir; leshimmamah, fora
desolation ; ushemamah, and a desolation ; vehichrati,
and I will cut off; mimmennu, from it; over, him



MARGINALIA

that goeth; vasal, and him that returneth: and I
will give Mount Seir for an utter desolation, and I
will cut off from it him that passeth and repasseth
therein. The reference here is as in the preceding
passage : allusion is made to the inhabitants of the
land, as moving about in it, and actively employed
in the business of life. I am sustained in the trans
lation of over vasal by Gesenius S 5 vol. 2 p. 570,
Leo s Trans.: Compare also Zachariah 7 : 14 and 9: 8.
There is something analogous in the Hebrew Greek

phrase, at Acts, 9 I 28 KOCI i}* (Her* avrou funropcvoftfrGs /cat

>eKiropcvonevs > lepoixraXijju And he was with them in Jeru
salem, coming in and going out. The Latin versatus
est is precisely paraphrastic. The meaning is that
Saul, the new convert, was on intimate terms with
the true believers in Jerusalem; moving about among
them to and fro, or in and out.

CXLII.

The author of "Cromwell" does better as a writer
of ballads than of prose. He has fancy, and a fine
conception of rhythm. But his romantico-histories
have all the effervescence of his verse, without its
flavor. Nothing worse than his tone can be invented :
turgid sententiousness, involute, spasmodically
straining after effect. And to render matters
worse, he is as thorough an unistylist as Cardinal
Chigi, who boasted that he wrote with the same
pen for half a century.

CXLIII.

Our "blues" are increasing in number at a great
rate; and should be decimated, at the ry least.
Have we no critic with nerve enough to h a~j a dozen
or two of them, in terror em? He must use a



140 EDGAR ALLAN POE

silk-cord, of course as they do, in Spain, with all
grandees of the blue blood of the "sangre aaula."

CXLIV.

For all the rhetorician s rules

Teach nothing but to name the tools. HHDIBRAS,

What these oft-quoted lines go to show is, that a
falsity in verse will travel faster and endure longer
than a falsity in prose. The man who would sneer
or stare at a silly proposition nakedly put, will ad
mit that "there is a good deal in that" when "that"
is the point of an epigram shot into the ear. The
rhetorician s rules if they are rules teach him not
only to name his tools, but to use his tools, the
capacity of his tools their extent their limit; and
from an examination of the nature of the tools
(an examination forced on him by their constant
presence) force him, also, into scrutiny and com
prehension of the material on which the tools are em
ployed, and thus, finally, suggest and give birth to
new material for new tools.

CXLV.

Among his eidola of the den, the tribe, the forum,
the theatre, etc., Bacon might well have placed the
great eidolon of the parlor (or of the wit, as I have
termed it in one of the previous Marginalia) the
idol whose worship blinds man to truth by dazzling
him with the apposite. But what title could have
been invented for that idol which has propagated,
perhaps, more of gross error than all combined?
the one, I mean, which demands from its votaries
that they reciprocate cause and effect reason in a
circle lift themselves from the ground by pulling



MARGINALIA 141

up their pantaloons and carrying themselves on
their own heads, in hand-baskets, from Beersheba to
Dan.

All absolutely a I the argumentation which I
have seen on the nature of the soul, or of the Deity,
seems to me nothing but worship of this unnameable
idol. Pour savoir ce qu est Dieu, says Bielfeld,
although nobody listens to the solemn truth, it
faut lire Dieu meme and to reason about the reason
is of all things the most unreasonable. At least,
he alone is fit to discuss the topic who perceives at a
glance the insanity of its discussion.

CXLVL

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
unti he had made an end of thinking.

CXLVII.

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 particular tragedy, by Sophocles, in which he
introduces a full chorus of turkeys, who set about
bewailing the death of Meleager. 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.



I 4 2 EDGAR ALLAN POE

CXLVIII.

Alas! how many American critics neglect thr
happy suggestion of M. Timon "que le ministre
de L* Instruction Publique doit Iui-m2me savoir parkr
Francais."

CXLIX.

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. As for American Letters, plain-speaking
about them is, simply, the one thing needed. They
are in a condition of absolute quagmire a quag
mire, to use the words of Victor Hugo, d oti OH n*
peut se tirer par des periphrases par des quemad-
modums et des verumenimveros.

CL.

It is certainly very remarkable that although des
tiny is the ruling idea of the Greek drama, the word
Txi (Fortune) does not appear once in the whole
Iliad.

CLI.

Had John Bernouilli lived to have the experience
of Fuller s occiput and sinciput, he would have
abandoned, in dismay, his theory of the non-
existence of hard bodies.

CLII.

They have ascertained, in China, that the abdo
men is the seat of the soul ; and the acute Greeks con
sidered it a waste of words to employ more than a
single term, tpv**, for the expression both of the
mind and of the diaphragm.



MARGINALIA 143

CLIII.

Mr. Grattan, who, in general, writes well, has a
bad habit of loitering of toying with his subject,
as a cat with a mouse, instead of grasping it firmly
at once, and devouring it without ado. He takes
up too much time in the ante-room. He has never
done with his introductions. Sometimes one in
troduction is merely the vestibule to another; so
that by the time he arrives at his main theme, there
is rone of it left. He is afflicted with a perver
sity common enough even among otherwise good
talkers an irrepressible desire of tantalizing by
circumlocution.

If the greasy print here exhibited is, indeed, like
Mr. Grattan,* then is Mr. Grattan like nobody else
for who else ever thrust forth, from beneath a wig
of wire, the countenance of an over-done apple
dumpling?

CLIV.

"What does a man learn by travelling?" de
manded 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?" 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 pyra
mid in a snake.

CLV.

The author of "Miserrimus" might have been
W. G. Simms (whose "Martin Faber" is just such a

* "High- Ways and By- Ways."



144 EDGAR ALLAN POE

work) but is* G. M. W. Reynolds, an Englishman,
who wrote, also, "Albert de Rosann," and "Pick
wick Abroad" both excellent things in their way.

CLVI.

L is busy in attempting to prove that his play

was not fairly d d that it is only "sketched,

not killed"; 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 I
Oh, let me be deceased I

CLVII.

We may safely grant that the effects of the oratory
of Demosthenes were vaster than those wrought by
the eloquence of any modern, and yet not controvert
the idea that the modern eloquence, itself, is superior
to that of the Greek. The Greeks were an excitable,
unread race, for they had no printed books. Viv&
voce exhortations carried with them, to their quick
apprehensions, all the gigantic force of the new.
They had much of that vivid interest which the first
fable has upon the dawning intellect of the child
an interest which is worn away by the frequent
perusal of similar things by the frequent inception
of similar fancies. The suggestions, the arguments,
the incitements of the ancient rhetorician were, when
compared with those of the modern, absolutely
novel ; possessing thus an immense adventitious force
a force which has been, oddly enough, left out of
sight in all estimates of the eloquence of the two eras.

The finest philippic of the Greek would have been

* [Mr. Poe was wrong. "Miserrimus" was written by W. M.
Reynolds, who died at Fontainbleau in 1850. Ed.]



MARGINALIA 145

hooted at in the British House of Peers, while an im
promptu of Sheridan, or of Brougham, would have
carried by storm all the hearts and all the intellects
of Athens.



CLVIII.

Much has been said, of late, about the necessity
of maintaining a proper nationality in American Let
ters; but what this nationality is, or what is to be
gained by it, has never been distinctly understood.
That an American should confine himself to American
themes, or even prefer them, is rather a political
than a literary idea and at best is a questionable
point. We would do well to bear in mind that
"distance lends enchantment to the view." Ceteris
paribus, a foreign theme is, in a strictly literary
sense, to be preferred. After all, the world at large
is the only legitimate stage for the autorial histrio.

But of the need of that nationality which defends
our own literature, sustains our own men of letters,
upholds our own dignity, and depends upon our own
resources, there cannot be the shadow of a doubt.
Yet here is the very point at which we are most su
pine. We complain of our want of an International
Copyright, on the ground that this want justifies
our publishers in inundating us with British opinion
in British books and yet when these very publishers
at their own OL ious risk, and even obvious loss,
do publish an American book, we turn up our noses
at it with supreme contempt (this is a general thing)
until it (the American book) has been dubbed
"readable" by some illiterate Cockney critic. Is.
it too much to say that, with us, the opinion of
Washington Irving of Prescott of Bryant is a
mere nullity in comparison with that of any anony-
VOL. VII 10



i 4 6 EDGAR ALLAN POE

mous sub-sub-editor of the Spectator, the Athenaeum,
or the "London Punch " ? It is not saying too much,
to say this. It is a solemn an absolutely awful act.
Every publisher in the country will admit it to be a
fact. There is not a more disgusting spectacle under
the sun than our subserviency to British criticism.
It is disgusting, first, because it is truckling, servile,
pusillanimous secondly, because of its gross irration
ality. We know the British to bear us little but ill
will we know that, in no case, do they utter un
biased opinions of American books we know that
in the few instances in which our writers have been
treated with common decency in England, these
writers have either openly paid homage to English
institutions, or have had lurking at the bottom of
their hearts a secret principle at war with Democracy:
we know all this, and yet, day after day, submit
our necks to the degrading yolk of the crudest
opinion that emanates from the fatherland. Now
if we must have nationality, let it be a nationality
that will throw off this yoke.

The chief of the rhapsodists who have ridden us
to death like the Old Man of the Mountain, is the
ignorant and egotistical Wilson. We use the term
rhapsodists with perfect deliberation ; for, Macaulay,
and Dilke, and one or two others, excepted, there
is not in Great Britain a critic who can be fairly
considered worthy the name. The Germans, and
even the French, are infinitely superior. As regards
Wilson, no man ever penned worse criticism or better
rhodomontade. That he is "egotistical" his works
show to all men, running as they read. That he is
"ignorant" let his absurd and continuous schoolboy
blunders about Homer bear witness. Not long ago
we ourselves pointed out a series of similar inani
ties in his review of Miss Barrett s poems a series,



MARGINALIA 147

we say, of gross blunders, arising from sheer ignor
ance and we defy him or any one to answer a single
syllable of what we then advanced.

And yet this is the man whose simple dictum (to
our shame be it spoken) has the power to make or to
mar any American reputation! In the last number
of Blackwood, he has a continuation of the dull
"Specimens of the British Critics," and makes occa
sion wantonly to insult one of the noblest of our
poets, Mr. Lowell. The point of the whole attack
consists in the use of slang epithets and phrases of
the most ineffably vulgar description. "Squa-
bashes" is a pet term. "Faugh!" is another. "We
are Scotsmen to the spine!" says Sawney as if the
thing were not more than self-evident. Mr. Lowell
is called "a magpie," an "ape," a "Yankee cock
ney," and his name is intentionally miswritten John
Russell Lowell. Now were these indecencies per
petrated by an American critic, that critic would be
sent to Coventry by the whole press of the country,
but since it is Wilson who insults, we, as in duty
bound, not only submit to the insult, but echo it,
as an excellent jest, throughout the length and
breadth of the land. Quamdiu Catilina? We do
indeed demand the nationality of self-respect. In
Letters as in Government we require a Declaration
of Independence. A better thing still would be a
Declaration of War and that war should be carried
forthwith "into Africa."

CLIX.

The Doctor has excited great attention in America
as well as in England, and has given rise to every
variety of conjecture and opinion, not only concern
ing the author s individuality, but in relation to the



i 4 8 EDGAR ALLAN POE

meaning, purpose, and character of the book itself.
It is now said to be the work of one author now of
two, three, four, five as far even as nine or ten.
These writers are sometimes thought to have
composed the Doctor conjointly sometimes to
have written each a portion. These individual
portions have even been pointed out by the
supremely acute, and the names of their respective
fathers assigned. Supposed discrepancies of taste
and manner, together with the prodigal introduction
of mottoes, and other scraps of erudition (apparently
beyond the compass of a single individual s reading)
have given rise to this idea of a multiplicity of
writers among whom are mentioned in turn all
the most witty, all the most eccentric, and especially
all the most learned of Great Britain. Again in
regard to the nature of the book. It has been called
an imitation of Sterne an august and most pro
found exemplification, under the garb of eccentricity,
of some all-important moral law a true, under
guise of a fictitious, biography a simple jeu d esprit
a mad farrago by a Bedlamite, and a great multi
plicity of other equally fine names and hard. Un
doubtedly, the best method of arriving at a decision
in relation to a work of this nature, is to read it
through with attention, and thus see what can be
made of it. We have done so, and can make nothing
of it, and are therefore clearly of opinion that the
Doctor is precisely nothing. We mean to say that
it is nothing better than a hoax.

That any serious truth is meant to be inculcated
by a tissue of bizarre and disjointed rhapsodies,
whose general meaning no person can fathom, is
a notion altogether untenable, unless we suppose
the author a madman. But there are none of the
proper evidences of madness in the book while



MARGINALIA 149

of mere banter there are instances innumerable.
One-half, at least, of the entire publication is taken
up with palpable quizzes, reasonings in a circle,
sentences, like the nonsense verses of Du Bartas,
evidently framed to mean nothing, while wearing
an air of profound thought, and grotesque specula
tions in regard to the probable excitement to be
created by the book.

It appears to have been written with a sole view
(or nearly with the sole view) of exciting inquiry
and comment. That this object should be fully
accomplished cannot be thought very wonderful,
when we consider the excessive trouble taken to
accomplish it, by vivid and powerful intellect.
That the Doctor is the offspring of such intellect, is
proved sufficiently by many passages of the book,
where the writer appears to have been led off from
his main design. That it is written by more than
one man should not be deduced either from the
apparent immensity of its erudition, or from dis
crepancies of style. That man is a desperate
mannerist who cannot vary his style ad infinitum;
and although the book may have been written by
a number of learned bibliophagi, still there is, we
think, nothing to be found in the book itself at
variance with the possibility of its being written
by any one individual of even mediocre reading.
Erudition is only certainly known in its total result.
The mere grouping together of mottoes from the
greatest multiplicity of the rarest works, or even
the apparently natural inweaving into any com
position, of the sentiments and . manner of these
works, are attainments within the reach of any
well-informed, ingenious and industrious man having
access to the great libraries of London. Moreover,
while a single individual possessing these requisites



r 5 o EDGAR ALLAN POE

and opportunities, might, through a rabid desire
of creating a sensation, have written, with some
trouble, the Doctor, it is by no means easy to
imagine that a plurality of sensible persons could
be found willing to embark in such absurdity from
a similar, or indeed from any imaginable inducement.
The present edition of the Harpers consists of two
volumes in one. Volume one commences with a
Prelude of Mottoes occupying two pages. Then
follows a Postscript then a Table of Contents to the


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