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first volume, occupying eighteen pages. Volume
two has a similar Prelude of Mottoes and Table of
Contents. The whole is subdivided into Chapters
Ante-Initial, Initial, and Post-Initial, with Inter-
Chapters. The pages have now and then a typo
graphical queerity a monogram, a scrap of grotesque
music, old English, &c. Some characters of this latter
kind are printed with colored ink in the British
edition, which is gotten up with great care. All
these oddities are in the manner of Sterne, and
some of them are exceedingly well conceived. The
work professes to be a Life of one Doctor Daniel
Dove and his horse Nobs but we should put no
very great faith in this biography. On the back
of the book is a monogram which appears again
once or twice in the text, and whose solution is a
fertile source of trouble with all readers. This
monogram is a triangular pyramid ; and as, in geome
try, the solidity of every polyedral body may be
computed by dividing the body into pyramids, the
pyramid is thus considered as the base or essence
of every polyedron. The author then, after his
own fashion, may mean to imply that his book is
the basis of all solidity or wisdom or perhaps, since
the polyedron is not only a solid, but a solid ter
minated by plane faces, that the Doctor is the very



MARGINALIA 151

essence of all that spurious wisdom which will
terminate in just nothing at all in a hoax, and a
consequent multiplicity of blank visages. The wit
and humor of the Doctor have seldom been equalled.
We cannot think Southey wrote it, but have no
idea who did.

CLX.

These twelve Letters* are occupied, in part, with
minute details of such atrocities on the part of the
British, during their sojourn in Charleston, as the
quizzing of Mrs. Wilkinson and the pilfering of her
shoe-buckles ^e remainder being made up of the
indignant comn _.xts of Mrs. Wilkinson herself.

It is very true, as the Preface assures us, that "few
records exist of American women either before or
during the war of the Revolution, and that those
perpetuated by History want the charm of personal
narration," but then we are all well delivered from
such charms of personal narration as we find here.
The only supposable merit in the compilation is that
dogged air of truth with which the fair authoress
relates the lamentable story of her misadventures.
I look in vain for that "useful information" about
which I have heard unless, indeed, it is in the
passage where we are told that the letter-writer
"was a young and beautiful widow; that her hand
writing is clear and feminine; and that the letters
were copied by herself into a blank quarto book, on
which the extravagant sale-price marks one of the
features of the times:" there are other extravagant
sale-prices, however, besides that; it was seventy-
five cents that I paid for these "Letters." Besides,

* "Letters of Eliza Wilkinson, during the invasion and
possession of Charleston, S. C., by the British, in the Revolu
tionary War." Arranged by Caroline Oilman.



1 S 2 EDGAR ALLAN POE

they are silly, and I cannot conceive why Mrs.
Oilman thought the public wished to read them.
It is really too bad for her to talk at a body, in this
style, about "gathering relics of past history," and
"floating down streams of time."

As for Mrs. Wilkinson, I am rejoiced that she
lost her shoe buckles.

CLX.

Advancing briskly with a rapier, he did the busintss for
him at a blow. Smollett.

This vulgar colloquialism had its type among the
Romans, Et ferro subitus grassatus, agit rem.
Juvenal.

CLXI.

It cannot, we think, be a matter of doubt with
any reflecting mind, that at least one-third of the
reverence, or of the affection, with which we regard
the elder poets of Great Britain, should be credited
to what is, in itself, a thing apart from poetry we
mean to the simple love of the antique and that
again a third of even the proper poetic sentiment
inspired by these writings should be ascribed to a
fact which, while it has a strict connexion with
poetry in the abstract, and also with the particular
poems in question, must not be looked upon as a
merit appertaining to the writers of the poems.
Almost every devout reader of the old English
bards, if demanded his opinion of their productions,
would mention vaguely, yet with perfect sincerity,
a sense of dreamy, wild, indefinite, and, he would
perhaps say, undefinable delight. Upon being
required to point out the source of this so shadowy
pleasure, he would be apt to speak of the quaint



MARGINALIA 153

in phraseology and of the grotesque in rhythm.
And this quaintness and grotesqueness are, as we
have elsewhere endeavored to show, very powerful,
and, if well managed, very admissible adjuncts to
ideality. But in the present instance they arise
independently of the author s will, and are matters
altogether apart from his intention.

CLXII.

As to this last term ("high-binder") which is so
confidently quoted as modern ("not in use, certainly ;
before 1819,") I can refute all that is said by referring
to a journal in my own possession "The Weekly
Inspector," for Dec. 27, 1806 published in New
York:

On Christmas Eve, a party of banditti, amounting, It is
stated, to forty or fifty members of an association, calling
themselves "High-Binders," assembled in front of St.
Peter s Church, in Barclay-street, expecting that the
Catholic ritual would be performed with a degree of pomp
and splendor which has usually been omitted in this city.
These ceremonies, however, not taking place, the High-
Binders manifested great displeasure.

In a subsequent number, the association are
called "Hide-Binders." They were Irish.

CLXIII.

Perhaps Mr. Barrow* is right after all, and the
dearth of genius in America is owing to the con
tinual teasing of the musquitoes.

CLXIV.

The title of this bookf deceives us. It is by no
means "talk" as men understand it not that true

* "Voyage to Cochin-China."
t "Coleridge s Table-Talk."



54 EDGAR ALLAN POE

talk of which Boswell has been the best historiogra
pher. In a word it is not gossip, which has been
never better denned than by Basil, who calls it
"talk for talk s sake," nor more thoroughly com
prehended than by Horace Walpole and Mary
Wortley Montague, who made it a profession and
a purpose. Embracing all things, it has neither
beginning, middle, nor end. Thus of the gcssipper
it was not properly said that "he commences his
discourse by jumping in medias res. 1 For, clearly,
your gossipper commences not at all. He is begun.
He is already begun. He is always begun. In the
matter of end he is indeterminate. And by these
extremes shall ye know him to be of the Caesars
porphyrogenitus of the right vein of the true
blood of the blue blood of the sangre azula. As
for laws, he is cognizant of but one, the invariable
absence of all. And for his road, were it as straight
as the Appia and as broad as that "which leadeth
to destruction," nevertheless would he be mal
content without a frequent hop-skip-and-jump, over
the hedges, into the tempting pastures of digression
beyond. Such is the gossipper, and of such alone
is the true talk. But when Coleridge asked Lamb
if he had ever heard him preach, the answer was
quite happy "I have never heard you do any
thing else." The truth is that "Table Discourse"
might have answered as a title to this book; but
its character can be fully conveyed only in
"Post-Prandian Sub-Sermons," or "Three Bottle
Sermonoids."

CLXV.

A rather bold and quite unnecessary plagiarism
from a book too well known to promise impunity.



MARGINALIA 155

It is now full time to begin to brush away the insects
of literature, whether creeping or fluttering, which have too
long crawled over and soiled the intellectual ground of this
country. It is high time to shake the little sickly sterns
of many a puny plant, and make its fading flowerets fall.
Monthly Register, p. 243, Vol. 2, New York, 1807.

On the other hand

I have brushed away the insects of literature, whether
fluttering or creeping; I have shaken the little sterns of
many a puny plant, and the flowerets have fallen. Pref
ace to the Pursuits of Literature.

CLXVI.

Men of genius are far more abundant than is
supposed. In fact, to appreciate thoroughly the
work of what we call genius, is to possess all the
genius by which the work was produced. But the
person appreciating may be utterly incompetent
to reproduce the work, or anything similar, and
this solely through lack of what may be termed the
constructive ability a matter quite independent
of what we agree to understand in the term "genius "
itself. This ability is based, to be sure, in great
part, upon the faculty of analysis, enabling the
artist to get full view of the machinery of his pro
posed effect, and thus work it and regulate it at
will; but a great deal depends also upon properties
strictly moral for example, upon patience, upon
concentrativeness, or the power of holding the
attention steadily to the one purpose, upon self-
dependence and contempt for all opinion which is
opinion and no more in especial, upon energy or
industry. So vitally important is this last, that
it may well be doubted if anything to which we have
been accustomed to give the title of a "work of
genius" was ever accomplished without it; and it is



156 EDGAR ALLAN POE

i

chiefly because this quality and genius are nearly
incompatible, that "works of genius" are few, while
mere men of genius are, as I say, abundant. The
Romans, who excelled us in acuteness of observation,
while falling below us in induction from facts ob
served, seem to have been so fully aware of the
inseparable connexion between industry and a
"work of genius," as to have adopted the error that
industry, in great measure, was genius itself. The
highest compliment is intended by a Roman, when,
of an epic, or anything similar, he says that it is
written industri& mirabili or incredibili industrid.

CLXVII.

The merely mechanical style of "Athens" is far
better than that of any of Bulwer s previous books.
In general he is atrociously involute this is his
main defect. He wraps one sentence in another
ad infinitum very much in the fashion of those
"nests of boxes" sold in our wooden ware-shops,
or like the islands within lakes, within islands
within lakes, within islands within lakes, of which
we read so much in the "Periplus" of Hanno.

CLXVIII.

All true men must rejoice to perceive the decline
of the miserable rant and cant against originality,
which was so much in vogue a few years ago among
a class of microscopical critics, and which at one
period threatened to degrade all American literature
to the level of Flemish art.

Of puns it has been said that those most dislike
who are least able to utter them; but with far more
of truth may it be asserted that invectives against
originality proceed only from persons at once



MARGINALIA 157

hypocritical and commonplace. I say hypocritical
for the love of novelty is an indisputable element
of the moral nature of man; and since to be original
is merely to be novel, the dolt who professes a dis
taste for originality, in letters or elsewhere, proves
in no degree his aversion for the thing in itself, but
merely that uncomfortable hatred which ever
arises in the heart of an envious man for an excellence
he cannot hope to attain.

CLXIX.

When I call to mind the preposterous " asides "
and soliloquies of the drama among civilized nations,
the shifts employed by the Chinese playwrights
appear altogether respectable. If a general, on a
Pekin or Canton stage, is ordered on an expedition,
"he brandishes a whip," says Davis, "or takes in
his hand the reins of a bridle, and striding three or
four times around a platform, in the midst of a
tremendous crash of gongs, drums, and trumpets,
finally stops short and tells the audience where he
has arrived." It would sometimes puzzle an Euro
pean stage hero in no little degree to "tell an audience
where he has arrived." Most of them seem to have
a very imperfect conception of their whereabouts.
In the "Mort de Caesar," for example, Voltaire
makes his populace rush to and fro, exclaiming,
"Courons au Capitole!" Poor fellows they are in
the capitol all the time; in his scruples about
unity of place, the author has never once let them
out of it.

CLXX.

Sallust, too. He had much the same free-and-
easy idea, and Metternich himself could not have



i 5 8 EDGAR ALLAN POE

quarrelled with his "Impune quce libet facele, id est
esse regem."

CLXXI.

A ballad entitled "Indian Serenade, 1 and put
into the mouth of the hero, Vasco Nunez, is, perhaps,
the most really meritorious portion of Mr. Simms
Damsel of Darien." This stanza is full of music :

And their wild and mellow voices

Still to hear along the deep,
Every brooding star rejoices,

While the billow, on its pillow,
Lulled to silence seems to sleep.

And also this:

"Pis the wail for life they waken

By Samana s yielding shore
With the tempest it is shaken;

The wild ocean is in motion,
And the song is heard no more.

CLXXII.

Here is a man who is a scholar and an artist, who knows
precisely how every effect has been produced by every
great writer, and who is resolved to reproduce them. But
the heart passes by his pitfalls and traps, and carefully-
Canned springs, to be taken captive by some simple
^ilow who expected the event as little as did his prisoner.*

Perhaps I err in quoting these words as the
author s own they are in the mouth of one of his
interlocutors but whoever claims them, they are
poetical and no more. The error is exactly that
common one of separating practice from the theory
which includes it. In all cases, if the practice fail,

* Lowell s "Conversations."



MARGINALIA 159

it is because the theory is imperfect. If Mr. Lowelfs
heart be not caught in the pitfall or trap, then the
pitfall is ill-concealed and the trap is not properly
baited or set. One who has some artistical ability
may know how to do a thing, and even show how
to do it, and yet fail in doing it after all; but the
artist and the man of some artistic ability must not
be confounded. He only is the former who can
carry his most shadowy precepts into successful
application. To say that a critic could not have
written the work which he criticises, is to put forth
a contradiction in terms.

CLXXIII.

Talking of conundrums: Why will a geologist
put no faith in the fable of the fox that lost his
tail? Because he knows that no animal remains
have ever been found in trap.

CLXXIV.

We have long learned to reverence the fine intellect
of Bulwer. We take up any production of his pen
with a positive certainty that, in reading it, the
wildest passions of our nature, the most profound
of our thoughts, the brightest visions of our fancy,
and the most ennobling aria lofty of our aspirations
will, in due turn, be enkindled within us. We feel
sure of rising from the perusal a wiser if not a better
man. In no instance are we deceived. From the
brief tale from the "Monos and Daimonos" of
the author to his most ponderous and labored
novels all is richly, and glowingly intellectual
all is energetic, or astute, or brilliant, or profound.
There may be men now living who possess the power
of Bulwer but it is quite evident that very few



160 EDGAR ALLAN POE

have made that power so palpably manifest. Indeed
we know of none. Viewing him as a novelist a
point of view exceedingly unfavorable (if we hold
to the common acceptation of "the novel") for a
proper contemplation of his genius he is unsur
passed by any writer living or dead. Why should
we hesitate to say this, feeling, as we do, thoroughly
persuaded of its truth. Scott has excelled him in
many points, and "The Bride of Lammormuir" is
a better book than any individual work by the
author of Pelham "Ivanhoe" is, perhaps, equal
to any. Descending to particulars, D Israeli has
a more brilliant, a more lofty, and a more delicate
(we do not say a wilder} imagination. Lady Dacre
has written Ellen Wareham, a more forcible tale
of passion. In some species of wit Theodore Hook
rivals, and in broad humor our own Paulding
surpasses him. The writer of "Godolphin" equals
him in energy. Banim is a better sketcher of
character. Hope is a richer colorist. Captain
Trelawney is as original Moore is as fanciful, and
Horace Smith is as learned. But who is there
uniting in one person the imagination, the passion,
the humor, the energy, the knowledge of the heart,
the artist-like eye, the originality, the fa 1 :\, and
the learning of Edward Lytton Bulwei ( In a
vivid wit in profundity and a Gothic massiveness
of thought in style in a calm certainty and
definitiveness of purpose in industry and above
all, in the power of controlling and regulating by
volition his illimitable ^acuities of mind, he is
unequalled he is unapproached.

CLXXV.

The author of "Richelieu" and "Darnley" is
lauded, by a great majority of those who laud him,



MARGINALIA 161

from mere motives of duty, not of inclination duty
erroneously conceived. He is looked upon as the
head and representative of those novelists who, in
historical romance, attempt to blend interest with
instruction. His sentiments are found to be pure
his morals unquestionable, and pointedly shown
forth his language indisputably correct. And for
all this, praise, assuredly, but then only a certain
degree of praise, should be awarded him. To be
pure in his expressed opinions is a duty; and were
his language as correct as any spoken, he would
speak only as every gentleman should speak. In
regard to his historical information, were it much
more accurate, and twice as extensive as, from any
visible indications, we have reason to believe it,
it should still be remembered that similar attainments
are possessed by many thousands of well-educated
men of all countries, who look upon their knowledge
with no more than ordinary complacency; and that
a far, very far higher reach of erudition is within
the grasp of any general reader having access to the
great libraries of Paris or the Vatican. Something
more than we have mentioned is necessary to place
our author upon a level with the best of the English
novelists for here his admirers would desire us to
place him. Had Sir Walter Scott never existed,
and Waverley never been written, we would not, of
course, award Mr. J. the merit of being the first to
blend history, even successfully, with fiction. But
as an indifferent imitator of the Scotch novelist
in this respect, it is unnecessary to speak of the
author of "Richelieu" any farther. To genius of
any kind, it seems to us, that he has little pre
tension. In the solemn tranquillity of his pages
we seldom stumble across a novel emotion, and if
any matter of deep interest arises in the path, we

VOL. VII ii



162 EDGAR ALLAN POE

are pretty sure to find it an interest appertaining
to some historical fact equally vivid or more so in
the original chronicles.

CLXXVI.

Jack Birkenhead, apud Bishop Sprat, says that
"a great wit s great work is to refuse." The
apophthegm must be swallowed cum grano salis.
His greatest work is to originate no matter that
shall require refusal.

CLXXVII.

"Frequently since his recent death," says the
American editor of Hood, "he has been called a
great author a phrase used not inconsiderately
or in vain." Yet, if we adopt the conventional
idea of "a great author," there has lived, perhaps,
no writer of the last half century who, with equal
notoriety, was less entitled than Hood to be so
called. In fact, he was a literary merchant, whose
main stock in trade was littleness; for, during the
larger portion of his life, he seemed to breathe only
for the purpose of perpetrating puns things of so
despicable a platitude that the man who is capable
of habitually committing them, is seldom found
capable of anything else. Whatever merit may be
discovered in a pun, arises altogether from unex
pectedness. This is the pun s element and is two
fold. First, we demand that the combination of the
pun be unexpected; and, secondly, we require the
most entire unexpectedness in the pun per se. A
rare pun, rarely appearing, is, to a certain extent,
a pleasurable effect; but to no mind, however
debased in taste, is a continuous effort at punning
otherwise than unendurable. The man who main-



MARGINALIA 163

tains that he derives gratification from any such
chapters of punnage as Hood was in the daily
practice of committing to paper, should not be
credited upon oath.

The puns of the author of "Fair Inez," however,
are to be regarded as the weak points of the man.
Independently of their ill effect, in a literary view,
as mere puns, they leave upon us a painful impres
sion; for too evidently they are the hypochondriac s
struggles at mirth the grinnings of the death s
head. No one can read his "Literary Remin
iscences" without being convinced of his habitual
despondency: and the species of false wit in
question is precisely of that character which would
be adopted by an author of Hood s temperament
and cast of intellect, when compelled to write at
an emergency. That his heart had no interest
in these niaiseries, is clear. I allude, of course, to
his mere puns for the pun s sake a class of letters
by which he attained his widest renown. That he
did more in this way than in any other, is but a
corollary from what I have already said, for, gen
erally, he was unhappy, and almost continually
he wrote invitQ, Minerva. But his true province
was a very rare and ethereal humor, in which the
mere pun was left out of sight, or took the character
of the richest grotesquerie; impressing the imaginative
reader with remarkable force, as if by a new phase
of the ideal. It is in this species of brilliant, or,
rather, glowing grotesquerie, uttered with a rushing
abandon vastly heightening its effect, that Hood s
marked originality mainly consisted: and it is
this which entitles him, at times, to the epithet
"great": for that undeniably may be considered
great (of whatever seeming littleness in itself) which
is capable of inducing intense emotion in the minds



164 EDGAR ALLAN FOB

or hearts of those who are themselves undeniably
great.

The field in which Hood is distinctive is a border
land between Fancy and Fantasy. In this region
he reigns supreme. Nevertheless, he has made
successful and frequent incursions, although vacil-
latingly, into the domain of the true Imagination.
I mean to say that he is never truly or purely
imaginative for more than a paragraph at a time.
In a word, his peculiar genius was the result of
vivid Fancy impelled by Hypochondriasis.

CLXXVIIL

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 Malspart. He
should have taken to reading the "American Drama "
of "Witchcraft." I fancy he would have found
himself "thoroughly alone " in that.

CLXXIX.

Since it has become fashionable to trundle houses
about the streets, should there not be some remodel
ling of the legal definition of reality, as "that which
is permanent, fixed, and immovable, +hat cannot
be carried out of its place?" According to this,
a house is by no means real estate.

CLXXX.

The enormous multiplication of books in every
branch of knowledge, is one of the greatest evils
of this age; since it presents one of the most serious
obstacles to the acquisition of correct information,



MARGINALIA 165

by throwing in the reader s way piles of lumber, in
which he must painfully grope for the scraps of
useful matter, peradventure interspersed.

CLXXXL

That Professor Wilson is one of the most gifted
and altogether one of the most remarkable men,
of his day, few persons will be weak enough to deny.
His ideality his enthusiastic appreciation of the
beautiful, conjoined with a temperament compelling
him into action and expression, has been the root
of his preeminent success. Much of it, undoubtedly,
must be referred to that so-called moral courage
which is but the consequence of the temperament
in its physical elements. In a word, Professor
Wilson is what he is, because he possesses ideality,
energy and audacity, each in a very unusual degree.
The first, almost unaided by the two latter, has
enabled him to produce much impression, as a poet,
upon the secondary or tertiary grades of the poetic
comprehension. His "Isle of Palms" appeals effec
tively to all those poetic intellects in which the poetic
predominates greatly over the intellectual element.


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