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of society as would tolerate his perpetual inter
ference, we have no difficulty in agreeing to admit
the possibility of his accomplishing all that is
accomplished. Another point which distinguishes
the Sue school, is the total want of the ars celare
artem. In effect the writer is always saying to the
reader, "Now in one moment you shall see what
you shall see. I am about to produce on you a
remarkable impression. Prepare to have your im
agination, or your pity, greatly excited." The
wires are not only not concealed, but displayed
as things to be admired, equally with the puppets
they set in motion. The result is, that in perus
ing, for example, a pathetic chapter in the "Mys
teries of Paris" we say to ourselves, without shed
ding a tear "Now, here is something which will
be sure to move every reader to tears. " The philo
sophical motives attributed to Sue are absurd in
the extreme. His first, and in fact his sole object,
is to make an exciting, and therefore saleable book.



20 EDGAR ALLAN POE

The cant (implied or direct) about the ameliora
tion of society, etc., is but a very usual trick among
authors, whereby they hope to add such a tone of
dignity or utilitarianism to their pages as shall
gild the pill of their licentiousness, The ruse is
even more generally employed by way of engrafting a
meaning upon the otherwise unintelligible. In
the latter case, however, this ruse is an after-thought,
manifested in the shape of a moral, either appended
(as in ^Esop) or dovetailed into the body of the
work, piece by piece, with great care, but never
without leaving evidence of its after-insertion.

The translation (by C. H. Town) is very imperfect,
and, by a too literal rendering of idioms, contrives
to destroy the whole tone of the original. Or, per
haps, I should say a too literal rendering of local
peculiarities of phrase. There is one point (never
yet, I believe, noticed) which, obviously, should be
considered in translation. We should so render
the original that the version should impress the people
for whom it is intended, just as the original impresses
the people for whom it (the original) is intended. Now,
if we rigorously translate mere local idiosyncrasies
of phrase (to say nothing of idioms) we inevitably
distort the author s designed impression. We are
sure to produce a whimsical, at least, if not always a
ludicrous, effect for novelties, in a case of thi?
kind, are incongruities oddities. A distinction,
of course, should be observed between those pecu
liarities of phrase which appertain to the nation
and those which belong to the author himself for
these latter will have a similar effect upon all nations,
and should be literally translated. It is merely the
general inattention to the principle here proposed,
which has given rise to so much international depre
ciation, if not positive contempt, as regards litera,



MARGINALIA 121

ture. The English reviews, for example, have
abundant allusions to what they call the "frivo-
lousness " of French letters an idea chiefly derived
from the impression made by the French manner
merely this manner, again, having in it nothing
essentially frivolous, but affecting all foreigners as
such (the English especially) through that oddity
of which I have already assigned the origin. The
French return the compliment, complaining of the
British gaucherie in style. The phraseology of every
nation has a taint of drollery about it in the ears of
every other nation speaking a different tongue.
Now, to convey the true spirit of an author, this
taint should be corrected in translation. We should
pride ourselves less upon literality and more upon
dexterity at paraphrase. Is it not clear that, by
such dexterity, a translation may be made to convey
to a foreigner a juster conception of an original than
could the original itself?

The distinction I have made between mere idioms
(which, of course, should never be literally rendered)
and "local idiosyncrasies of phrase," may be exem
plified by a passage at page 291 of Mr. Town s
translation :

Never mind! Go in there! You will take the cloak of
Calebasse. You will wrap yourself in it, etc., etc.

These are the words of a lover to his mistress,
and are meant kindly, although imperatively. They
embody a local peculiarity a French peculiarity
of phrase, and (to French ears) convey nothing dicta
torial. To our own, nevertheless, they sound like
the command of a military officer to his subordi
nate, and thus produce an effect quite different
from that intended. The translation, in such case,
should be a bold paraphrase. For example: "I



122 EDGAR ALLAN POE

must insist upon your wrapping yourself in the cloaV
of Calebasse. "

Mr. Town s version of "The Mysteries of Paris,"
however, is not objectionable on the score of excessive
literality alone, but abounds in misapprehensions
of the author s meaning. One of the strangest errors
occurs at page 368, where we read:

" From a wicked, brutal savage and riotous rascal, he has
made me a kind of honest man by saying only two words
to me; but these words, voyez vous, were like inagic."

Here "voyez vous" are made to be the twe
magical words spoken; but the translation should
run "these words, do you see? were like magic."
The actual words described as producing the magical
erfect are "heart" and "honor."

Of similar character is a curious mistake at page
245-

"He is a gueux fini and an attack will not sare him,
added Nicholas. "A yes," said the widow.

Many readers of Mr. Town s translation have no
doubt been puzzled to perceive the force or rele
vancy of the widow s "A yes " in this case. I have
not the original before me, but take it for granted
that it runs thus, or nearly so: "// est un gueux
fini et un assaut ne V intimidera pas." "Un out!"
dit la veuve.

It must be observed that, in vivacious French
colloquy, the out seldom implies assent to the letter,
but generally to the spirit, of a proposition. Thus
a Frenchman usually says "yes" where an English
man would say "no." The latter s reply, for ex
ample, to the sentence "An attack will not intimi
date him," would be "No" that is to say, "I
grant you that it would not." The Frenchman,



MARGINALIA 123

however, answers "Yes" meaning, "I agree with
what you say it would not." Both replies, of
course, reaching, the same point, although by oppo
site routes. With this understanding, it will be
seen that the true version of the widow s "Un
ouir should be, "One attack, I grant you, might
not," and that this is the version becomes apparent
when we read the words immediately following
"but every day every day it is hell!"

An instance of another class of even more repre
hensible blunders, is to be found on page 297, where
Bras-Rouge is made to say to a police officer "No
matter; it is not of that jomplain; every trade has
its disagreements." Here, no doubt, the French is
desagriwiens inconveniences disadvantages un
pleasantnesses. DSsagrSmens conveys disagreements
not even so nearly as, in Latin, religio implies
religion.

I was not a little surprised, in turning over these
pages, to come upon the admirable, thrice admirable
story called "Gringalet et Coupe en Deux," which is
related by Pique-Vinaigre to his companions in
La Force. Rarely have I read anything of which the
exquisite skill so delighted me. For my soul I could
not suggest a fault in it except, perhaps, that the
intention of telling a very pathetic story is a little too
transparent.

But I say that I was surprised in coming upon
this story and I was so, because one of its points
has been suggested to M. Sue by a tale of my own,
Coupe en Deux has an ape remarkable for its size
strength, ferocity, and propensity to imitation.
Wishing to commit a murder so cunningly that dis
covery would be impossible, the master of this ani
mal teaches it to imitate the functions of a barber,
and incites it to the throat of a child, under



124 EDGAR ALLAN POE

the idea that, when the murder is discovered, it will
be considered the uninstigated deed of the ape.

On first seeing this, I felt apprehensive that some
of my friends would accuse me of plagiarizing from
it my "Murders in the Rue Morgue." But I soon
called to mind that this latter was first published in
"Graham s Magazine" for April, 1841. Some years
ago, "The Paris Charivari" copied my story with
complimentary comments; objecting, however, to
the Rue Morgue on the ground that no such street
(to the Charivari s knowledge) existed in Paris. I
do not wish, of course, to look upon M. Sue s adapta
tion of my property in any other light than that of a
compliment. The similarity may have been entirely
accidental.

CXI.

Has any one observed the excessively close resem
blance in subject, thought, general manner and
particular point, which this clever composition*
bears to the "Audibras" of Butler?

CXII.

The a priori reasoners upon government are, of all
plausible people, the most preposterous. They
only argue too cleverly to permit my thinking them
silly enough to be themselves deceived by their own
arguments. Yet even this is possible; for there is
something in the vanity of logic which addles a man s
brains. Your true logician gets, in time, to be logi-
calized, and then, so far as regards himself, the uni
verse is one word. A thing, for him, no longer exists.
He deposits upon a sheet of paper a certain assem
blage of syllables, and fancies that their meaning is

* The "Satyrs Menipee."



MARGINALIA 125

riveted by the act of deposition. I am serious in the
opinion that some such process of thought passes
through the mind of the "practised" logician, as he
makes note of the thesis proposed. He is not aware
that he thinks in this way but, unwittingly, he so
thinks. The syllables deposited acquire, in his view,
a new character. While afloat in his brain, he might
have been brought to admit the possibility that these
syllables were variable exponents of various phrases
of thought ; but he will not admit this if he once gets
them upon the paper.

In a single page of "Mill," I find the word "force"
employed four times; and each emplovment varies
the idea. The fact is that a priori argument is much
worse than useless except in the mathematical
sciences, where it is possible to obtain precise mean
ings. If there is any one subject in the world to
which it is utterly and radically inapplicable, that
subject is Government. The identical arguments
used to sustain Mr. Bentham s positions, might,
with little exercise of ingenuity, be made to over
throw them; and, by ringing small changes on the
words "leg-of-mutton," and "turnip" (changes so
gradual as to escape detection,) I could "demonstrate"
that a turnip was, is, and of right ought to be, a leg-
of-mutton.

CXIII.

The concord of sound-and-sense principle was
never better exemplified than in these lines*:

Ast amans charge thalamum puellas
Deserit flens, et tibi verba dicit
Aspera amplexu tenerse cupito a

vulsus arnicas.
* By M. Anton Flaminius.



126 EDGAR ALLAN POE

CXIV.

Miss Gould has much in common with Mary How-
itt ; the characteristic trait of each being a sportive,
quaint, epigrammatic grace, that keeps clear of the
absurd by never employing itself upon very exalted
topics. The verbal style of the two ladies is identi
cal. Miss Gould has the more talent of the two,
but is somewhat the less original. She has occasional
flashes of a far higher order of merit than appertains
to her ordinary manner. Her "Dying Storm"
might have been written by Campbell.

cxv.

Cornelius Webbe is one of ti. _ oest of that numer
ous school of extravaganzists who sprang from the
ruins of Lamb. We must be in perfectly good
humor, however, with ourselves and all the world, to
be much pleased with such works as "The Man
about Town," in which the harum-scarum, hyperex-
cursive mannerism is carried to an excess which is
frequently fatiguing.

CXVI.

Nearly, if not quite the best "Essay on a Future
State."* The arguments called "Deductions from
our Reason," are, rightly enough, addressed more
to the, feelings (a vulgar term not to be done without,)
than to our reason. The arguments deduced from
Revelation are (also rightly enough) brief. The
pamphlet proves nothing, of course; its theorem
is not to be proved.

* A sermon on a Future State, combating the opimion thaw
"Death is an Etej~a 5 Sleeo." By Gilbert Austin. London.
1794.



MARGINALIA 127

CXVII.

The style is so involute, * that one cannot help
fancying it must be falsely constructed. If the use
of language is to convey ideas, then it is nearly as
much a demerit that our words seem to be, as that
they are, indefensible. A man s grammar, like
Caesar s wife, must not only be pure, but above
suspicion of impurity.

CXVIII.

It is the curse of a certain order of mind, that it
can never rest satisfied with the consciousness of
its ability to do a thing. Not even is it content with
doing it. It must both know and show how it
was done.

CXIX.

Not so : a gentleman with a pug nose is a contra
diction in terms. "Who can live idly and without
manual labor, and will bear the port, charge and
countenance of a gentleman, he alone should be called
master and be taken for a gentleman." Sir Thomas
Smith s "Commonwealth of England."

cxx.

Here is something at which I find it impossible not
to laugh ;f and yet, I laugh without knowing why.
That incongruity is the principle of all nonconvul-
sive laughter, is to my mind as clearly demonstrated
as any problem in the "Principia Mathematica " ;
but here I cannot trace the incongruous. It is there,
I know. Still I do not see it. In the meantime let
me laugh.

* "Night and Morning."

f Translation of the Book of Jonah into German Hexameters.
By J. G. A. Miiller. Contained in the " M mfr*Hlien " v*n
Pautus.



128 EDGAR ALLAN POE

CXXI.

So violent was the state of parties in England, that I
was assured by several that the Duke of Marlborough was a
coward and Pope a fool. Voltaire.

Both propositions have since been very seriously
entertained, quite independently of all party-feeling.
That Pope was a fool, indeed seems to be an estab
lished point at present with the Crazyites what else
shall I call them ?

CXXII.

Imitators are not, necessarily, unoriginal except
at the exact points of the imitation. Mr. Long
fellow, decidedly the most audacious imitator in
America, is markedly original, or, in other words,
imaginative, upon the whole; and many persons
have, from the latter branch of the fact, been at a
loss to comprehend, and therefore, to believe, the
former. Keen sensibility of appreciation that is
to say, the poetic sentiment (in distinction from the
poetic power) leads almost inevitably to imitation.
Thus all great poets have been gross imitators.
It is, however, a mere non distributio medii hence to
infer, that all great imitators are poets.

CXXIII.

With all his faults, however, this author is a man of respect
able powers.

Thus discourses, of William Godwin, the "London
Monthly Magazine," May, 1818.

CXXIV.

As a descriptive poet, Mr. Street is to be highl}
commended. He not only describes with force ano



MARGINALIA 129

fidelity giving us a clear conception of the thing
described but never describes what to the poet,
should be nondescript. He appears, however, not
at any time to have been aware that mere description
is not poetry at all. We demand creation -otij<rt.
About Mr. Street there seems to be no spirit. He is
all matter substance what the chemists would
call "simple substance" and exceedingly simple it
is.

CXXV.

I never read a personally abusive paragraph in
the newspapers, without calling to mind the perti
nent query propounded by Johnson to Goldsmith:
"My dear Doctor, what harm does it to a man to
call him Holof ernes?"

CXXVI.

Were I to consign these volumes,* altogether, to
the hands of any very young friend of mine, I could
not, in conscience, describe them otherwise than
as "tammuUi, tarn grandes, tarn pretiosi codices";
and it would grieve me much to add the "incen- 1
dite omnes illas membranas "\

CXXVII.

In reading some books we occupy ourselves chiefly
with the thoughts of the author; in perusing others,
exclusively with our own. And thist is one of the
"others" a suggestive book. But there are two
classes of suggestive books the positively and the
negatively suggestive. The former suggest by what

* Of Voltaire.

t St. Austin de libris Manichcets.
j Mercier s L ar deux mille quatre cents quarante."
You VII 9



130 EDGAR ALLAN POE

they say; the latter by what they might and should
have said. It makes little difference, after all. In
either case the true book-purpose is answered.

CXXVIII.

It is observable that, in his brief account of the
Creation, Moses employs the words, Bara Elohim
(the Gods created,) no less than thirty times; using
the noun in the pleural with the verb in the singular.
Elsewhere, however in Deuteronomy, for example
he employs the singular, Eloah.

CXXIX.

It is a thousand pities that the puny witticisms
of a few professional objectors should have power to
prevent even for a year, the adoption of a name for
our country. At present we have, clearly, none.
There should be no hesitation about "Appalachia."
In the first place, it is distinctive. "America"*
is not, and can never be made so. We may legislate
as much as we please, and assume for our country
whatever name we think right but to us it will be
no name, to any purpose for which a name is needed,
unless we can take it away from the regions which
employ it at present. South America is "America,"
and will insist upon remaining so. In the second
place "Appalachia" is indigenous, springing from
one of the most magnificent and distinctive features
of the country itself. Thirdly, in employing this
word we do honor to the Aborigines, whom, hitherto,
we have at all points unmercifully despoiled, assassi
nated and dishonored. Fourthly, the name is the

* Mr. Field, in a meeting of "The New York Historical
Society," proposed that we take the name of "America," and
bestow "Columbia" upon the continent.



MARGINALIA 131

suggestion of, perhaps, the most deservedly eminent
among all the pioneers of American literature. It is
but just that Mr. Irving should name the land for
which, in letters, he first established a name. The last,
and by far the most truly important consideration of
all, however, is the music of "Appalachia" itself;
nothing could be more sonorous, more liquid, or
of fuller volume, while its length is just sufficient for
dignity. How the guttural "Alleghania" could
ever have been preferred for a moment is difficult
to conceive. I yet hope to find "Appalachia"
assumed.

cxxx.

The "British Spy" of Wirt seems an imitation of"
the "Turkish Spy," upon which Montesquieu s
"Persian Letters" are also based. Marana s work
was in Italian Doctor Johnson errs.

CXXXI.

M , as a matter of course, would rather be

abused by the critics, than not be noticed by them
at all; but he is hardly to be blamed for growling a
little, now and then, over their criticisms just as
a dog might do if pelted with bones.

CXXXII.

About the "Antigone," as about all the ancient
plays, there seems to me a certain baldness, the
result of inexperience in art, but which pedantry
would force us to believe the result of a studied
and supremely artistic simplicity. Simplicity, in
deed, is a very important feature in all true art
but not the simplicity which we see in the Greek
drama. That of the Greek sculpture is everything



133 EDGAR ALLAN POE

that can be desired, because here the art in itself is
simplicity in itself and in its elements. The Greek
sculptor chiselled his forms from what he saw before
him every day, in a beauty nearer to perfection
than any work of any Cleomenes in the world. But
in the drama, the direct, straightforward, un-
German Greek had no Nature so immediately pre
sented from which to make copy. He did what he
could but I do not hesitate to say that that was
exceedingly little worth. The profound sense of one
or two tragic, or rather, melodramatic elements
(such as the idea of inexorable Destiny) this sense
gleaming at intervals from out the darkness of the
ancient stage, serves, in the very imperfection of
its development, to show, not the dramatic ability,
but the dramatic lability of the ancients. In a
word, the simple arts spring into perfection at their
origin; the complex as inevitably demand the long
and painfully progressive experience of ages. To
the Greeks, beyond doubt, their drama seemed per
fection it fully answered, to them, the dramatic
end, excitement, and this fact is urged as proof
of their drama s perfection in itself. It need only be
said, in reply, that their art and their sense of art
were, necessarily, on a level.

CXXXIII.

That man is not truly brave who is afraid either
to seem or to be, when it suits him, a coward.

CXXXIV.

A corrupt and impious heart a merely prurient
fancy a Saturnian brain in which invention has
only the phosphorescent glimmer of rottenness.*

* Michel Masson, author of "Le Cceur d une Jeune Fille."



MARGINALIA 133

Worthless, body and soul a foul reproach to the
nation that engendered and endures him a fetid
battener upon the garbage of thought no man a
beast a pig: Less scrupulous than a carrion-crow,
and not very much less filthy than a Wilmer.

cxxxv.

If ever mortal "wreaked his thoughts upon ex
pression," it was Shelley. If ever poet sang as a
bird sings earnestly impulsively with utter
abandonment to himself solely and for the mere
joy of his own song that poet was the author of
"The Sensitive Plant." Of art beyond that which
is instinctive with genius he either had little or
disdained all. He really disdained that Rule which
is an emanation from Law, because his own soul was
Law in itself. His rhapsodies are but the rough
notes the stenographic memoranda of poems
memoranda which, because they were all-sufficient
for his own intelligence, he cared not to be at the
trouble of writing out in full for mankind. In all his
works we find no conception thoroughly wrought.
For this reason he is the most fatiguing of poets.
Yet he wearies in saying too little rather than too
much. What in him seems the diffuseness of one
idea, is the conglomerate concision of many: and
this species of concision it is, which renders him
obscure. With such a man, to imitate was out of
the question. It would have served no purpose; for
he spoke to his own spirit alone, which would have
comprehended no alien tongue. Thus he was pro
foundly original. His quaintness arose from intui
tive perception of that truth to which Bacon alone
has given distinct utterance: "There is no exqui
site Beauty which has not some strangeness in its



I 3 4 EDGAR ALLAN POE

proportions." But whether obscure, original, or
quaint, Shelley had no affectations. He was at all
times sincere.

From his ruins, there sprang into existence,
affronting the heavens, a tottering and fantastic
pagoda, in which the salient angles, tipped with mad
jangling bells, were the idiosyncratic faults of the
original faults which cannot be considered such in
view of his purposes, but which are monstrous when
we regard his works as addressed to mankind. A
"school" arose if that absurd term must still
be employed a school a system of rules upon the
basis of the Shelley who had none. Young men in
numerable, dazzled with the glare and bewildered by
the bizarrerie of the lightning that nickered through
the clouds of "Alastor" had no trouble whatever
in heaping up imitative vapors, but, for the light
ning, were forced to be content with its spectrum,
in which the bizarrerie appeared without the fire.
Nor were mature minds unimpressed by the con
templation of a greater and more mature ; and thus,
gradually, into this school of all Lawlessness
of obscurity, quaintness and exaggeration were
interwoven the out-of-place didacticism of Words
worth, and the more anomalous metaphysicianism
of Coleridge. Matters were now fast verging to
their worst ; and at length, in Tennyson poetic incon
sistency attained its extreme. But it was precisely
this extreme (for the greatest truth and the greatest
error are scarcely two points in a circle) which,
following the law of all extremes, wrought in him
(Tennyson) a natural and inevitable revulsion;
leading him first to contemn, and secondly to in
vestigate, his early manner, and finally to winnow,
from its magnificent elements, the truest and purest
of all poetical styles. But not even yet is the process


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