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imaginatively attributed to Mrs. Rudge "the ca
pacity for expressing terror something only dimly
seen, but never absent for a moment the shadow
of some look to which an instant of intense and most
unutterable horror only could have given rise?"
But it is a condition of the human fancy that the
promises of such words are irredeemable. In the



CHARLES DICKENS 43

notice before mentioned we thus spoke upon this
topic :

This is a conception admirably adapted to whet curiosity
in respect to the character of that event which is hinted at
as forming the basis of the story. But this observation
s,hould not fail to be made that the anticipation must
surpass the reality ; that no matter how terrific be the circum
stances which, in the denouement, shall appear to have
occasioned the expression of countenance worn habitually
by Mrs. Rudge, still they will not be able to satisfy the mind
of the reader. He will surely be disappointed. The skilful
intimation of horror held out by the artist, produces an
effect which will deprive his conclusion of all. These
intimations these dark hints of some uncertain evil
are often rhetorically praised as effective but are only
justly so praised where there is no denouement whatever
where the reader s imagination is left to clear up the mys
tery for itself and this is not the design of Mr. Dickens.

And, in fact, our author was not long in seeing his
precipitancy. He had placed himself in a dilemma
from which even his high genius could not extricate
him. He at once shifts the main interest and in
truth we do not see what better he could have done.
The reader s attention becomes absorbed in the
riots, and he fails to observe that what should have
been the true catastrophe of the novel, is exceedingly
feeble and ineffective.

A few cursory remarks : Mr. Dickens fails pecul
iarly in pure narration. See, for example, page 296,
where the connexion of Hugh and Chester is detailed
by Varden. See also in "The Curiosity Shop,"
where, when the result is fully known, so many
words are occupied in explaining the relationship
of the brothers. The effect of the present narrative
might have been materially increased by confining
the action within the limits of London. The "Notre
Dame" of Hugo affords a fine example of the force



44 EDGAR ALLAN POE

which can be gained by concentration, or unity of
place. The unity of time is also sadly neglected,
to no purpose, in "Barnaby Rudge." That Rudge
should so long and so deeply feel the sting of con
science is inconsistent with his brutality. On page
15, the interval elapsing between the murder and
Rudge s return, is variously stated at twenty-two
and twenty-four years. It may be asked why the in
mates of "The Warren" failed to hear the alarm-bell
which was heard by Solomon Daisy. The idea of
persecution by being tracked, as by blood-hounds,
from one spot of quietude to another, is a favorite
one with Mr. Dickens. Its effect cannot be denied.
The stain upon Barnaby s wrist, caused by fright in
the mother at so late a period of gestation as one
day before mature parturition, is shockingly at war
with all medical experience. When Rudge, escaped
from prison, unshackled, with money at command,
is in agony at his wife s refusal to perjure herself for
his salvation is it not queer that he should demand
any other salvation than lay in his heels?

Some of the conclusions of chapters see pages 40
and 100 seem to have been written for the mere
purpose of illustrating tail-pieces.

The leading idiosyncrasy of Mr. Dickens remark
able humor, is to be found in his translating the lan
guage of gesture, or action, or tone. For example

The cronies nodded to each other, and Mr. Parkes re
marked in an under tone, shaking his head meanwhile, as
who should say " let no man contradict me, for I won t believe
him," that Willet was in amazing force to-night.

The riots form a series of vivid pictures never sur
passed. At page 17, the road between London
and the Maypole is described as a horribly rough
and dangerous, and at page 97, as an uncommonly



CHARLES DICKENS 45

smooth and convenient one. At page 116, how
comes Chester in possession of the key of Mrs.
Rudge s vacated house?

Mr. Dickens English is usually pure. His most
remarkable error is that of employing the adverb
"directly" in the sense of "as soon as." For
example "Directly he arrived, Rudge said," &c.
Bulwer is uniformly guilty of the same blunder.

It is observable that so original a stylist as our
author should occasionally lapse into a gross imi
tation of what, itself, is a gross imitation. We
mean the manner of Lamb a manner based in the
Latin construction. For example

In summer time its pttmps suggest to thirty idlers springs
cooler and more sparkling and deeper than other wells;
and as they trace the spillings of full pitchers on the heated
ground, they snuff the freshness, and, sighing, cast sad
looks towards the Thames, and think of baths and boats,
and saunter on, despondent.

The wood-cut designs which accompany the edi
tion before us are occasionally good. The copper
engravings are pitiably ill-conceived and ill-drawn;
and not only this, but are in broad contradiction of
the wood-designs and text.

There are many coincidences wrought into the
narrative those, for example, which relate to
the nineteenth of March; the dream of Barnaby,
respecting his father, at the very period when his
father is actually in the house; and the dream of
Haredale previous to his final meeting with Chester.
These things are meant to insinuate a fatality which,
very properly, is not expressed in plain terms but
it is questionable whether the story derives more in
ideality from their introduction, than it might have
gained if verisimilitude from their omission.

The ramatis persona sustain the high fame of



46 EDGAR ALLAN POE

Mr. Dickens as a delineator of character. Miggs,
the disconsolate handmaiden of Varden; Tappertit,
his chivalrous apprentice; Mrs. Varden, herself;
and Dennis, a hangman may be regarded as original
caricatures, of the highest merit as such. Their
traits are founded in acute observation of nature,
but are exaggerated to the utmost admissible extent.
Miss Haredale and Edward Chester are common
places no effort has been made in their behalf.
Joe Willet is a naturally drawn country youth.
Stagg is a mere make- weight. Gashford and Gordon
are truthfully copied. Dolly Varden is truth itself.
Haredale, Rudge and Mrs. Rudge, are impressive
only through the circumstances which surround them.
Sir John Chester, is, of course, not original, but is a
vast improvement upon all his predecessors his
heartlessness is rendered somewhat too amusing, and
his end 100 much that of a man of honor. Hugh
is a noble conception. His fierce exultation in his
animal powers; his subserviency to the smooth
Chester; his mirthful contempt and patronage of
Tappertit, and his brutal yet firm courage in the hour
of death form a picture to be set in diamonds. Old
Willet is not surpassed by any character even among
those of Dickens. He is nature itself yet a step
farther would have placed him in the class of cari
catures. His combined conceit and obtusity are in
describably droll, and his peculiar misdirected energy
when aroused, is one of the most exquisite touches
in all humorous piinti^. We shall never forget
how heartily we laughed at his shaking Solomon
Daisy and threatening to put him behind the fire,
because the unfortunate little man was too much
frightened to articulate. Varden is one of those
free, jovial honest fellows, at charity with all man
kind, whom our author is so fond of depicting.



CHARLES DICKENS 47

And lastly, Barnaby, the hero of the tale in him
we have been somewhat disappointed. We have
already said that his delight in the atrocities of the
Rebellion is at variance with his horror of blood.
But this horror of blood is inconsequential; and of this
we complain. Strongly insisted upon in the begin
ning of the narrative, it produces no adequate result.
And here how fine an opportunity has Mr. Dickens
missed! The conviction of the assassin, after the
lapse of twenty-two years, might easily have been
brought about through his son s mysterious awe of
blood an awe created in the unborn by the assassina
tion itself and this would have been one of the
finest possible embodiments of the idea which we are
accustomed to attach to "poetical justice." The
raven, too, intensely amusing as it is, might have
been made, more than we now see it, a portion of the
conception of the fantastic Barnaby. Its croakings
might have been prophetically heard in the course of
the drama. Its character might have performed, in
regard to that of the idiot, much the same part as
does, in music, the accompaniment in respect to the
air. Each might have been distinct. Each might
have differed remarkably from the other. Yet
between them there might have been wrought an
analogical resemblance, and although each might
have existed apart, they might have formed together
a whole which would have been imperfect ;TI the
absence of either.

From what we have here said and, perhaps, said
without due deliberation (for alas ! the hurried du
ties of the journalist preclude it) there will not be
wanting those who will accuse us of a mad design
to detract from the pure fame of the novelist. But
to such we merely say in the language of heraldry
"ye should wear a plain point sanguine in your arms.



4 8 EDGAR ALLAN POE

If this be understood, well ; if not, well again. There
lives no man feeling a deeper reverence for genius
than ourself. If we have not dwelt so especially
upon the high merits as upon the trivial defects of
"Barnaby Rudge" we have already given our rea
sons for the omission, and these reasons will be
sufficiently understood by all whom we care to
understand them. The work before us is not, we
think, equal to the tale which immediately preceded
it ; but there are few very few others to which we
consider it inferior. Our chief objection has not,
perhaps, been so distinctly stated as we could wish.
That this fiction, or indeed that any fiction written
by Mr. Dickens, should be based in the excitement
and maintenance of curiosity we look upon as a mis
conception, on the part of the writer, of his own very
great yet very peculiar powers. He has done this
thing well, to be sure he would do anything well
in comparison with the herd of his contemporaries
but he has not done it so thoroughly well as his
high and just reputation would demand. We
think that the w r hole book has been an effort to him
solely through the nature of its design. He has been
smitten with an untimely desire for a novel path.
The idiosyncrasy of his intellect would lead him,
naturally, into the most fluent and simple style of
narration. In tales of ordinary sequence he may
and will long reign triumphant. He has a talent
for all things, but no positive genius for adaptation,
and still less for that metaphysical art in which
the souls of all mysteries lie. "Caleb Williams"
is a far less noble work than "The Old Curiosity
Shop"; but Mr. Dickens could no more have con
structed the one than Mr. Godwin could have
dreamed of the other.



MARGINALIA 49



MARGINALIA



IN getting my books, I have been always solici
tous of an ample margin; this not so much
through any love of the thing in itself, however
agreeable, as for the facility it affords me of pencil
ing suggested thoughts, agreements, and differences
of opinion, or brief critical comments in general.
Where what I have to note is too much to be included
within the narrow limits of a margin, I commit it to
a slip of paper, and deposit it between the leaves;
taking care to secure it by an imperceptible portion
of gum tragacanth paste.

All this may be whim; it may be not only a very
hackneyed, but a very idle practice : yet I persist in
it still; and it affords me pleasure; which is profit, in
despite of Mr. Bentham with Mr. Mill on his back.

This making of notes, however, is by no means
the making of mere memoranda a custom which has
its disadvantages, beyond doubt. "Ce que je mets
sur papier says Bernardin de St. Pierre, "j>
remets de ma memoir e, et par consequence je Voublie;"
and, in fact, if you wish to forget anything on the
spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.

But the purely marginal jottings, done with no eye
to the Memorandum Book, have a distinct complex
ion, and not only a distinct purpose, but none at
all; this it is which imparts to them a value. They
have a rank somewhat above the chance and desul
tory comments of literary chit-chat for these
latter are not unfrequently "talk for talk s sake,"
hurried out of the mouth; while the marginalia are

VII 4



5 o EDGAR ALLAM POE

deliberately penciled, because the mind of the
reader wishes to unburthen itself of a thought
however flippant however silly however trivial
still a thought indeed, not merely a thing that might
have been a thought in time, and under more favor
able circumstances. In the marginalia, too, we
talk only to ourselves; we therefore talk freshly
boldly originally with abandonnement without
conceit much after the fashion of Jeremy Taylor,
and Sir Thomas Browne, and Sir William Temple,
and the anatomical Burton, and that most logical
analogist, Butler, and some other people of the old
day, who were too full of their matter to have any
room for their manner, which being thus left out of
question, was a capital manner, indeed -a model of
manners, with a richly marginalic air.

The circumscription of space, too, in these pencil-
ings, has in it something more of advantage than
inconvenience. It compels us (whatever diffuseness
of idea we may clandestinel i entertain) into Mon
tesquieu-ism, into Tacitus-ism, (here I leave out of
view the concluding portion of the "Annals,")
or even into Carlyle-ism a thing which, I have been
told, is not to be confounded with your ordinary
affectation and bad grammar. I say "bad gram
mar," through sheer obstinacy, because the gramma
rians (who should know better) insist upon it that I
should not. But then grammar is not what these
grammarians will have it; and, being merely the
analysis of language, with the result of this analysis,
must be good or bad just as the analyst is sage or
silly just as he is a Home Tooke or a Cobbett.

But to our sheep. During a rainy afternoon, not
long ago, being in a mood too listless for continuous
study, I sought relief from ennui in dipping here and
there, at random, among the volumes of my library



MARGINALIA 51

no very large one, certainly, but sufficiently miscel
laneous; and, I flatter myself, not a little recherche.

Perhaps it was what the Germans call the "brain-
ocattering" humour of the moment; but, while the
picturesqueness of the numerous pencil-scratches
arrested my attention, their helter-skelterness of
commentary amused me. I found myself, at length,
forming a wish that it had been some other hand
than my own which had so bedevilled the books, and
fancying that, in such case, I might have derived no
inconsiderable pleasure from turning them over.
From this the transition-thought (as Mr. Lyell, or
Mr. Murchison, or Mr. Featherstonhaugh would
have it) was natural enough: there might be
something even in my scribblings which, for the mere
sake of scriDbling, would have interest for others.

The main difficulty respected the mode of trans
ferring the notes from the volumes the context
from the text without detriment to that exceed
ingly frail fabric of intelligibility in which the con
text was imbedded. With all appliances to boot,
with the printed pages at their back, the commen
taries were too often like Dodona s oracles or those
of Lycophron Tenebrosus or the essays of the ped
ant s pupils, in Quintillian, which were "necessarily
excellent, since even he (the pedant) found it im
possible to comprehend them": what, then, would
become of it this context if transferred? if
translated? Would it not rather be traduit (tra
duced) which is the French synonyme, or overzezet
(turned topsy-turvy) which is the Dutch one?

I concluded, at length, to put extensive faith in
the acumen and imagination of the reader : this as
a general rule. But, in some instances, where even
faith would not remove mountains, there seemed
no safer plan than so to re-model the note as to con-



52 EDGAR ALLAN POE

vey at least the ghost of a conception as to what
it was all about. Where, for such conception, the
text itself was absolutely necessary, I could quote it ;
where the title of the book commented upon was
indispensable, I could name it. In short, like a
novel-hero dilemma d, I made up my mind "to be
guided by circumstances," in default of more satis
factory rules of conduct.

As for the multitudinous opinion expressed in the
subjoined farrago as for my present assent to all, or
dissent from any portion of it as to the possibility
of my having, in some instances, altered my mind
or as to the impossibility of my not having altered it
often these are points upon which I say nothing, be
cause upon these there can be nothing cleverly said.
It may be as well to observe, however, that just as
the goodness of your true pun is in the direct ratio
of its intolerability, so is nonsense the essential sense
of the Marginal Note.

I.

ONB of the happiest examples, in a small way, of
the carrying-one s- self -in-a-hand-basket logic, is to
be found in a London weekly paper, called "The
Popular Record of Modern Science; a Journal of
Philosophy and General Information." This work
has a vast circulation, and is respected by eminent
men. Sometime in November, 1845, it copied from
the "Columbian Magazine," of New York, a rather
adventurous article of mine, called "Mesmeric
Revelation." It had the impudence, also, to spoil
the title by improving it to "The Last Conversation
of a Somnambule" a phrase that is nothing at all
to the purpose, since the person who "converses" is
not a somnamhule. He is a sleep- waker not a



MARGINALIA 53

sleep-walker; but I presume that "The Record"
thought it was only the difference of an /. What I
chiefly complain of, however, is that the London
editor prefaced my paper with these words: "The
following is an article communicated to the Colum
bian Magazine, a journal of respectability and in
fluence in the United States, by Mr. Edgar A. Poe.
It bears internal evidence of authenticity "\ There
is no subject under heaven about which funnier
ideas are, in general, entertained than about this
subject of internal evidence. It is by "internal evi
dence," observe, that we decide upon the mind.
But to "The Record" : On the issue of my "Valde-
mar Case," this journal copies it, as a matter of
course, and (also as a matter of course) improves
the title, as in the previous instance. But the edi
torial comments may as well be called profound.
Here they are :

The following narrative appears in a recent number of
The American Magazine, a respectable periodical in the
United States. It comes, it will be observed, from the
narrator of the "Last Conversation of a Somnambule,"
published in The Record of the 2gth of November. In
extracting this case the Morning Post, of Monday last,
takes what it considers the safe side, by remarking " For
our own parts we do not believe it; and there are several
statements made, more especially with regard to the
disease of which the patient died, which at once prove the
case to be either a fabrication, or the work of one little
acquainted with consumption. The story, however, is
wonderful, and we therefore give it." The edi.or, however,
does not point out the especial statements which are incon
sistent with what we know of the progress of consumption,
and as few scientific persons would be willing to take their
pathology any more than their logic from the Morning Post,
his caution, it is to be feared, will not have much weight.
The reason assigned by the Post for publishing the account
is quaint, and would apply equally to an adventure from
Baron Munchausen : "it is wonderful and we therefore give



54 EDGAR ALLAN POE

it." . . . The above case is obviously one that cannot be
received except on the strongest testimony, and it is equally
clear that the testimony by which it is at present accom
panied, is not of that character. The most favorable
circumstances in support of it, consist in the fact that
credence is understood to be given to it at New York,
within a few miles of which city t"ie affair took place, and
where consequently the most ready means must be found
for its authentication or disproval. The initials of the
medical men and of the young medical student must be
sufficient in the immediate locality, to establish their
identity, especially as M. Valdemar was well known, and
had been so long ill as to render it out of the question that
there should be any difficulty ir-. ascertaining the names of
the physicians by whom he had been attended. In the
same way the nurses and servants under whose cognizance
the case must have come during the seven months which it
occupied, are of course accessible to all sorts of inquiries.
It will, therefore, appear that there must have been too
many parties concerned to render prolonged deception
practicable. The angry excitement and various rumors
which have at length rendered a public statement necessary,
are also sufficient to show that something extraordinary
must have taken place. On the other hand there is no
strong point for disbelief. The circumstances are, as the
Post says, "wonderful"; but so are all circumstances that
come to our knowledge for the first time and in Mesmer
ism everything is new. An objection may be made that
the article has rather a Magazinish air; Mr. Poe having
evidently written with a view to effect, and so as to excite
rather than to subdue the vague appetite for the mysterious
and the horrible which such a case, under any circumstances,
is sure to awaken but apart from this there is nothing
to deter a philosophic mind from further inquiries regarding
it. It is a matter entirely for testimony. [So it is.]
Under this view we shall take steps to procure from some of
the most intelligent and influential citizens of New York all
evidence that can be had upon the subject. No steamer
will leave England for America till the 3d of February, but
within a few weeks of that time we doubt not it will be
possible to lay before the readers of the Record informa
tion which will enable them to come to a pretty accurate
conclusion.



MARGINALIA 55

Yes; and no doubt they came to one accurate
enough, in the end. But all this rigmarole is what
people call testing a thing by "internal evidence."
The Record insists upon the truth of the story be
cause of certain facts because "the initials of the
young men must be sufficient to establish their iden
tity" because "the nurses must be accessible to all
sorts of inquiries" and because the "angry ex
citement and various rumors which at length
rendered a public statement necessary, are suffi
cient to show that something extraordinary must
have taken place." To be sure! The story is
proved by these facts the facts about the students,
the nurses, the excitement, the credence given the
tale at New York. And now all we have to do is to
prove these facts. Ah ! they are proved by the story.
As for the Morning Post, it evinces more weakness in
its disbelief than the Record in its credulity. What
the former says about doubting on account of in
accuracy in the detail of the phthisical symptoms, is
a mere fetch, as the Cockneys have it, in order to
make a very few little children believe that it,
the Post, is not quite so stupid as a post prover
bially is. It knows nearly as much about pathology
as it does about English grammar and I really
hope it will not feel called upon to blush at the com
pliment. I represented the symptoms of M.
Valdemar as "severe," to be sure. I put an ex
treme case ; for it was necessary that I should leave on
the reader s mind no doubt as to the certainty of
death without the aid of the Mesmerist but such
symotoms might have appeared the identical symp
toms have appeared, and will be presented again and
again. Had the Post been only half as honest as
ignorant, it would have owned that it disbelieved
for no reason more profound than that which in-



56 EDGAR ALLAN POE

fluences all dunces in disbelieving it would have
owned that it doubted the thing merely because
the thing was a "wonderful" thing, and had never
yet been printed in a book.

II.

We were men of the world, with no principle a


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