Selections From Poe
J. Montgomery Gambrill

Part 4 out of 5

concerned, depend on, and are varied by, the genius of the particular
idiom. In general, there is no alternative but experiment (directed by
probabilities) of every tongue known to him who attempts the solution,
until the true one be attained. But, with the cipher now before us,
all difficulty is removed by the signature. The pun upon the word
'Kidd' is appreciable in no other language than the English. But for
this consideration I should have begun my attempts with the Spanish
and French, as the tongues in which a secret of this kind would most
naturally have been written by a pirate of the Spanish main. As it
was, I assumed the cryptograph to be English.

"You observe there are no divisions between the words. Had there been
divisions, the task would have been comparatively easy. In such case
I should have commenced with a collation and analysis of the shorter
words, and, had a word of a single letter occurred, as is most likely
(_a_ or _I_, for example), I should have considered the solution as
assured. But, there being no division, my first step was to ascertain
the predominant letters, as well as the least frequent. Counting all,
I constructed a table, thus:

Of the character 8 there are 33
; " 26
4 " 19
Y) " 16
* " 13
5 " 12
6 " 11
y1 " 8
0 " 6
92 " 5
:3 " 4
? " 3
P " 2
] " 1

"Now, in English, the letter which most frequently occurs is _e_.
Afterwards the succession runs thus: _a o i d h n r s t u y c f g l m
w b k p q x z. E_ predominates, however, so remarkably that an
individual sentence of any length is rarely seen, in which it is not
the prevailing character.

"Here, then, we have, in the very beginning, the groundwork for
something more than a mere guess. The general use which may be made of
the table is obvious--but, in this particular cipher, we shall only
very partially require its aid. As our predominant character is 8, we
will commence by assuming it as the _e_ of the natural alphabet. To
verify the supposition, let us observe if the 8 be seen often in
couples--for _e_ is doubled with great frequency in English--in such
words, for example, as 'meet,' 'fleet,' 'speed,' 'seen,' 'been,'
'agree,' etc. In the present instance we see it doubled no less than
five times, although the cryptograph is brief.

"Let us assume 8, then, as _e_. Now, of all _words_ in the language,
'the' is most usual; let us see, therefore, whether there are not
repetitions of any three characters, in the same order of collocation,
the last of them being 8. If we discover repetitions of such letters,
so arranged, they will most probably represent the word 'the.' On
inspection, we find no less than seven such arrangements, the
characters being ;48. We may, therefore, assume that the semicolon
represents _t_, that 4 represents _h_, and that 8 represents _e_--the
last being now well confirmed. Thus a great step has been taken.

"But, having established a single word, we are enabled to establish a
vastly important point; that is to say, several commencements and
terminations of other words. Let us refer, for example, to the last
instance but one, in which combination ;48 occurs--not far from the
end of the cipher. We know that the semicolon immediately ensuing is
the commencement of a word, and, of the six characters succeeding this
'the,' we are cognizant of no less than five. Let us set these
characters down, thus, by the letters we know them to represent,
leaving a space for the unknown--

t eeth

"Here we are enabled, at once, to discard the '_th_,' as forming no
portion of the word commencing with the first _t_; since, by
experiment of the entire alphabet for a letter adapted to the vacancy,
we perceive that no word can be formed of which this _th_ can be a
part. We are thus narrowed into

t ee,

and, going through the alphabet, if necessary, as before, we arrive at
the word 'tree' as the sole possible reading. We thus gain another
letter _r_, represented by (, with the words 'the tree' in

"Looking beyond these words, for a short distance, we again see the
combination ;48, and employ it by way of _termination_ to what
immediately precedes. We have thus this arrangement:

the tree ;4(Y?34 the,

or, substituting the natural letters, where known, it reads thus:

the tree thrY?3h the.

"Now, if, in place of the unknown characters, we leave blank spaces,
or substitute dots, we read thus:

the tree thr . . . h the,

when the word '_through_' makes itself evident at once. But this
discovery gives us three new letters, _o, u_, and _g_, represented by
Y ? and 3.

"Looking now, narrowly, through the cipher for combinations of known
characters, we find, not very far from the beginning, this

83(88, or egree,

which, plainly, is the conclusion of the word 'degree,' and gives us
another letter, _d_, represented by y.

"Four letters beyond the word 'degree,' we perceive the combination


"Translating the known characters, and representing the unknown by
dots, as before, we read thus:

th . rtee,

an arrangement immediately suggestive of the word 'thirteen,' and
again furnishing us with two new characters, _i_ and _n_, represented
by 6 and *.

"Referring, now, to the beginning of the cryptograph, we find the


"Translating as before, we obtain


which assures us that the first letter is _A_, and that the first two
words are 'A good.'

"To avoid confusion, it is now time that we arrange our key, as far as
discovered, in a tabular form. It will stand thus:

5 represents a
y " d
8 " e
3 " g
4 " h
6 " i
* " n
Y " o
( " r
; " t

"We have, therefore, no less than ten of the most important letters
represented, and it will be unnecessary to proceed with the details of
the solution. I have said enough to convince you that ciphers of this
nature are readily soluble, and to give you some insight into the
rationale of their development. But be assured that the specimen
before us appertains to the very simplest species of cryptograph. It
now only remains to give you the full translation of the characters
upon the parchment, 5 as unriddled. Here it is:

"'_A good glass in the bishop's hostel in the devil's seat twenty-one
degrees and thirteen minutes northeast and by north main branch
seventh limb east side shoot from the left eye of the death's-head a
bee line from the tree through the shot fifty feet out_.'"

"But," said I, "the enigma seems still in as bad a condition as
ever. How is it possible to extort a meaning from all this jargon
about 'devil's seats,' 'death's-heads,' and 'bishop's hotels'?"

"I confess," replied Legrand, "that the matter still wears a serious
aspect, when regarded with a casual glance. My first endeavor was to
divide the sentence into the natural division intended by the

"You mean, to punctuate it?"

"Something of that kind."

"But how was it possible to effect this?"

"I reflected that it had been a _point_ with the writer to run his
words together without division, so as to increase the difficulty of
solution. Now, a not over-acute man, in pursuing such an object,
would be nearly certain to overdo the matter. When, in the course of
his composition, he arrived at a break in his subject which would
naturally require a pause, or a point, he would be exceedingly apt to
run his characters, at this place, more than usually close
together. If you will observe the MS., in the present instance, you
will easily detect five such cases of unusual crowding. Acting on this
hint, I made the division thus:

"'_A good glass in the bishop's hostel in the devil's seat--twenty-one
degrees and thirteen minutes--northeast and by north--main branch
seventh limb east side--shoot from the left eye of the deaths-head--a

bee line from the tree through the shot fifty feet out_.'"

"Even this division," said I, "leaves me still in the dark."

"It left me also in the dark," replied Legrand, "for a few days;
during which I made diligent inquiry, in the neighborhood of
Sullivan's Island, for any building which went by the name of the
'Bishop's Hotel'; for, of course, I dropped the obsolete word
'hostel.' Gaining no information on the subject, I was on the point of
extending my sphere of search, and proceeding in a more systematic
manner, when one morning it entered into my head, quite suddenly, that
this 'Bishop's Hostel' might have some reference to an old family, of
the name of Bessop, which, time out of mind, had held possession of an
ancient manor-house, about four miles to the northward of the
island. I accordingly went over to the plantation, and reinstituted my
inquiries among the older negroes of the place. At length one of the
most aged of the women said that she had heard of such a place as
_Bessop's Castle_, and thought that she could guide me to it, but that
it was not a castle, nor a tavern, but a high rock.

"I offered to pay her well for her trouble, and, after some demur, she
consented to accompany me to the spot. We found it without much
difficulty, when, dismissing her, I proceeded to examine the place.
The 'castle' consisted of an irregular assemblage of cliffs and
rocks--one of the latter being quite remarkable for its height as well
as for its insulated and artificial appearance. I clambered to its
apex, and then felt much at a loss as to what should be next done.

"While I was busied in reflection, my eyes fell on a narrow ledge in
the eastern face of the rock, perhaps a yard below the summit upon
which I stood. This ledge projected about eighteen inches, and was not
more than a foot wide, while a niche in the cliff just above it gave
it a rude resemblance to one of the hollow-backed chairs used by our
ancestors. I made no doubt that here was the 'devil's seat' alluded to
in the MS., and now I seemed to grasp the full secret of the riddle.

"The 'good glass,' I knew, could have reference to nothing but a
telescope; for the word 'glass' is rarely employed in any other sense
by seamen. Now here, I at once saw, was a telescope to be used, and a
definite point of view, _admitting no variation_, from which to use
it. Nor did I hesitate to believe that the phrases, 'twenty-one
degrees and thirteen minutes,' and 'northeast and by north,' were
intended as directions for the levelling of the glass. Greatly excited
by these discoveries, I hurried home, procured a telescope, and
returned to the rock.

"I let myself down to the ledge, and found that it was impossible to
retain a seat on it unless in one particular position. This fact
confirmed my preconceived idea. I proceeded to use the glass. Of
course, the 'twenty-one degrees and thirteen minutes' could allude to
nothing but elevation above the visible horizon, since the horizontal
direction was clearly indicated by the words, 'northeast and by
north.' This latter direction I at once established by means of a
pocket-compass; then, pointing the glass as nearly at an angle of
twenty-one degrees of elevation as I could do it by guess, I moved it
cautiously up or down, until my attention was arrested by a circular
rift or opening in the foliage of a large tree that over-topped its
fellows in the distance. In the centre of this rift I perceived a
white spot, but could not, at first, distinguish what it was.
Adjusting the focus of the telescope, I again looked, and now made it
out to be a human skull.

"On this discovery I was so sanguine as to consider the enigma solved;
for the phrase 'main branch, seventh limb, east side,' could refer
only to the position of the skull on the tree, while 'shoot from the
left eye of the death's-head' admitted, also, of but one
interpretation, in regard to a search for buried treasure. I perceived
that the design was to drop a bullet from the left eye of the skull,
and that a bee-line, or, in other words, a straight line, drawn from
the nearest point of the trunk through 'the shot' (or the spot where
the bullet fell), and thence extended to a distance of fifty feet,
would indicate a definite point--and beneath this point I thought it
at least _possible_ that a deposit of value lay concealed."

"All this," I said, "is exceedingly clear, and, although ingenious,
still simple and explicit. When you left the Bishop's Hotel, what

"Why, having carefully taken the bearings of the tree, I turned
homewards. The instant that I left 'the devil's seat,' however, the
circular rift vanished; nor could I get a glimpse of it afterwards,
turn as I would. What seems to me the chief ingenuity in this whole
business, is the fact (for repeated experiment has convinced me it
_is_ a fact) that the circular opening in question is visible from no
other attainable point of view than that afforded by the narrow ledge
on the face of the rock.

"In this expedition to the 'Bishop's Hotel' I had been attended by
Jupiter, who had no doubt observed, for some weeks past, the
abstraction of my demeanor, and took especial care not to leave me
alone. But on the next day, getting up very early, I contrived to give
him the slip, and went into the hills in search of the tree. After
much toil I found it. When I came home at night my valet proposed to
give me a flogging. With the rest of the adventure I believe you are
as well acquainted as myself."

"I suppose," said I, "you missed the spot, in the first attempt at
digging, through Jupiter's stupidity in letting the bug fall through
the right instead of through the left eye of the skull."

"Precisely. This mistake made a difference of about two inches and a
half in the 'shot'--that is to say, in the position of the peg nearest
the tree; and had the treasure been _beneath_ the 'shot,' the error
would have been of little moment; but 'the shot,' together with the
nearest point of the tree, were merely two points for the
establishment of a line of direction; of course the error, however
trivial in the beginning, increased as we proceeded with the line,
and, by the time we had gone fifty feet, threw us quite off the
scent. But for my deep-seated convictions that treasure was here
somewhere actually buried, we might have had all our labor in vain."

"I presume the fancy of _the skull_--of letting fall a bullet through
the skull's eye--was suggested to Kidd by the piratical flag. No doubt
he felt a kind of poetical consistency in recovering his money through
this ominous insignium."

"Perhaps so; still, I cannot help thinking that common sense had quite
as much to do with the matter as poetical consistency. To be visible
from the devil's seat, it was necessary that the object, if small,
should be _white_; and there is nothing like your human skull for
retaining and even increasing its whiteness under exposure to all
vicissitudes of weather."

"But your grandiloquence, and your conduct in swinging the beetle--how
excessively odd! I was sure you were mad. And why did you insist on
letting fall the bug, instead of a bullet, from the skull?"

"Why, to be frank, I felt somewhat annoyed by your evident suspicions
touching my sanity, and so resolved to punish you quietly, in my own
way, by a little bit of sober mystification. For this reason I swung
the beetle, and for this reason I let it fall from the tree. An
observation of yours about its great weight suggested the latter

"Yes, I perceive; and now there is only one point which puzzles
me. What are we to make of the skeletons found in the hole?"

"That is a question I am no more able to answer than yourself. There
seems, however, only one plausible way of accounting for them--and yet
it is dreadful to believe in such atrocity as my suggestion would
imply. It is clear that Kidd--if Kidd indeed secreted this treasure,
which I doubt not--it is clear 30 that he must have had assistance in
the labor. But, the worst of this labor concluded, he may have thought
it expedient to remove all participants in his secret. Perhaps a
couple of blows with a mattock were sufficient, while his coadjutors
were busy in the pit; perhaps it required a dozen--who shall tell?"


Nil sapientiae odiosius acumine nimio.

At Paris, just after dark one gusty evening in the autumn of 18--, I
was enjoying the twofold luxury of meditation and a meerschaum, in
company with my friend C. Auguste Dupin, in his little back library,
or book closet, _au troisieme_, No. 33, Rue Dunot, Faubourg St.
Germain. For one hour at least we had maintained a profound silence;
while each, to any casual observer, might have seemed intently and
exclusively occupied with the curling eddies of smoke that oppressed
the atmosphere of the chamber. For myself, however, I was mentally
discussing certain topics which had formed matter for conversation
between us at an earlier period of the evening; I mean the affair of
the Rue Morgue, and the mystery attending the murder of Marie Roget. I
looked upon it, therefore, as something of a coincidence, when the
door of our apartment was thrown open and admitted our old
acquaintance, Monsieur G----, the Prefect of the Parisian police.

We gave him a hearty welcome; for there was nearly half as much of the
entertaining as of the contemptible about the man, and we had not seen
him for several years. We had been sitting in the dark, and Dupin now
arose for the purpose of lighting a lamp, but sat down again, without
doing so, upon G----'s saying that he had called to consult us, or
rather to ask the opinion of my friend, about some official business
which had occasioned a great deal of trouble.

"If it is any point requiring reflection," observed Dupin, as he
forebore to enkindle the wick, "we shall examine it to better purpose
in the dark."

"That is another of your odd notions," said the Prefect, who had a
fashion of calling everything "odd" that was beyond his comprehension,
and thus lived amid an absolute legion of "oddities."

"Very true," said Dupin, as he supplied his visitor with a pipe, and
rolled towards him a comfortable chair.

"And what is the difficulty now?" I asked. "Nothing more in the
assassination way, I hope?"

"Oh, no; nothing of that nature. The fact is, the business is _very_
simple indeed, and I make no doubt that we can manage it sufficiently
well ourselves; but then I thought Dupin would like to hear the
details of it, because it is so excessively _odd_."

"Simple and odd," said Dupin.

"Why, yes; and not exactly that, either. The fact is, we have all been
a good deal puzzled because the affair _is_ so simple, and yet baffles
us altogether."

"Perhaps it is the very simplicity of the thing which puts you at
fault," said my friend.

"What nonsense you _do_ talk!" replied the Prefect, laughing heartily.

"Perhaps the mystery is a little _too_ plain," said Dupin.

"Oh, good Heavens! who ever heard of such an idea?"

"A little _too_ self-evident."

"Ha! ha! ha!--ha! ha! ha!--ho! ho! ho!" roared our visitor, profoundly
amused. "O Dupin, you will be the death of me yet!"

"And what, after all, _is_ the matter on hand?" I asked.

"Why, I will tell you," replied the Prefect, as he gave a long,
steady, and contemplative puff, and settle'd himself in his chair. "I
will tell you in a few words; but, before I begin, let me caution you
that this is an affair demanding the greatest secrecy, and that I
should most probably lose the position I now hold were it known that I
confided it to any one."

"Proceed," said I.

"Or not," said Dupin.

"Well, then; I have received personal information, from a very high
quarter, that a certain document of the last importance has been
purloined from the royal apartments. The individual who purloined it
is known; this beyond a doubt; he was seen to take it. It is known,
also, that it still remains in his possession."

"How is this known?" asked Dupin.

"It is clearly inferred," replied the Prefect, "from the nature of the
document, and from the non-appearance of certain results which would
at once arise from its passing _out_ of the robber's possession; that
is to say, from his employing it as he must design in the end to
employ it."

"Be a little more explicit," I said.

"Well, I may venture so far as to say that the paper gives its holder
a certain power in a certain quarter where such power is immensely
valuable." The Prefect was fond of the cant of diplomacy.

"Still I do not quite understand," said Dupin.

"No? well; the disclosure of the document to a third person, who
shall be nameless, would bring in question the honor of a personage of
most exalted station; and this fact gives the holder of the document
an ascendency over the illustrious personage whose honor and peace are
so jeopardized."

"But this ascendency," I interposed, "would depend upon the robber's
knowledge of the loser's knowledge of the robber. Who would dare--"

"The thief," said G-------, "is the Minister D------, who dares all
things, those unbecoming as well as those becoming a man. The method
of the theft was not less ingenious than bold. The document in
question--a letter, to be frank--had been received by the
personage robbed while alone in the royal boudoir. During its perusal
she was suddenly interrupted by the entrance of the other exalted
personage, from whom especially it was her wish to conceal it. After
a hurried and vain endeavor to thrust it in a drawer, she was forced
to place it, open as it was, upon a table. The address, however, was
uppermost, and, the contents thus unexposed, the letter escaped
notice. At this juncture enters the Minister D----. His lynx eye
immediately perceives the paper, recognizes the handwriting of the
address, observes the confusion of the personage addressed, and
fathoms her secret. After some business transactions, hurried through
in his ordinary manner, he produces a letter somewhat similar to the
one in question, opens it, pretends to read it, and then places it in
close juxtaposition to the other. Again he converses for some fifteen
minutes upon the public affairs. At length, in taking leave, he takes
also from the table the letter to which he had no claim. Its rightful
owner saw, but, of course, dared not call attention to the act, in the
presence of the third personage, who stood at her elbow. The Minister
decamped, leaving his own letter--one of no importance--upon the

"Here, then," said Dupin to me, "you have precisely what you demand to
make the ascendancy complete--the robber's knowledge of the loser's
knowledge of the robber."

"Yes," replied the Prefect; "and the power thus attained has, for some
months past, been wielded, for political purposes, to a very dangerous
extent. The personage robbed is more thoroughly convinced, every day,
of the necessity of reclaiming her letter. But this, of course, cannot
be done openly. In fine, driven to despair, she has committed the
matter to me."

"Than whom," said Dupin, amid a perfect whirlwind of smoke, "no more
sagacious agent could, I suppose, be desired, or even imagined."

"You flatter me," replied the Prefect; "but it is possible that some
such opinion may have been entertained."

"It is clear," said I, "as you observe, that the letter is still in
possession of the Minister; since it is this possession, and not any
employment of the letter, which bestows the power. With the
employment the power departs."

"True," said G----; "and upon this conviction I proceeded. My first
care was to make thorough search of the Minister's Hotel; and here my
chief embarrassment lay in the necessity of searching without his
knowledge. Beyond all things, I have been warned of the danger which
would result from giving him reason to suspect our design."

"But," said I, "you are quite _au fait_ in these investigations. The
Parisian police have done this thing often before."

"Oh, yes; and for this reason I did not despair. The habits of the
Minister gave me, too, a great advantage. He is frequently absent from
home all night. His servants are by no means numerous. They sleep at a
distance from their master's apartment, and, being chiefly
Neapolitans, are readily made drunk. I have keys, as you know, with
which I can open any chamber or cabinet in Paris. For three months a
night has not passed, during the greater part of which I have not been
engaged, personally, in ransacking the D---- Hotel. My honor is
interested, and, to mention a great secret, the reward is enormous. So
I did not abandon the search until I had become fully satisfied the
thief is a more astute man than myself. I fancy that I have
investigated every nook and corner of the premises in which it is
possible that the paper can be concealed."

"But is it not possible," I suggested, "that although the letter may
be in possession of the Minister, as it unquestionably is, he may have
concealed it elsewhere than upon his own premises?"

"This is barely possible," said Dupin. "The present peculiar condition
of affairs at court, and especially of those intrigues in which D----
is known to be involved, would render the instant availability of the
document--its susceptibility of being produced at a moment's notice--a
point of nearly equal importance with its possession."

"Its susceptibility of being produced?" said I.

"That is to say, of being _destroyed_," said Dupin.

"True," I observed; "the paper is clearly then upon the premises. As
for its being upon the person of the Minister, we may consider that as
out of the question."

"Entirely," said the Prefect. "He has been twice waylaid, as if by
footpads, and his person rigorously searched under my own inspection."

"You might have spared yourself this trouble," said Dupin. "D----, I
presume, is not altogether a fool, and, if not, must have anticipated
these waylayings, as a matter of course."

"Not _altogether_ a fool," said G----, "but then he's a poet, which I
take to be only one remove from a fool."

"True," said Dupin, after a long and thoughtful whiff from his
meerschaum, "although I have been guilty of certain doggerel myself."

"Suppose you detail," said I, "the particulars of your search."

"Why, the fact is, we took our time, and we searched _everywhere_. I
have had long experience in these affairs. I took the entire building,
room by room, devoting the nights of a whole week to each. We
examined, first, the furniture of each apartment. We opened every
possible drawer; and I presume you know that, to a properly trained
police agent, such a thing as a _secret_ drawer is impossible. Any man
is a dolt who permits a 'secret' drawer to escape him in a search of
this kind. The thing is _so_ plain. There is a certain amount of
bulk--of space--to be accounted for in every cabinet. Then we have
accurate rules. The fiftieth part of a line could not escape us. After
the cabinets we took the chairs. The cushions we probed with the fine
long needles you have seen me employ. From the tables we removed the

"Why so?"

"Sometimes the top of a table, or other similarly arranged piece of
furniture, is removed by the person wishing to conceal an article;
then the leg is excavated, the article deposited within the cavity,
and the top replaced. The bottoms and tops of bedposts are employed in
the same way."

"But could not the cavity be detected by sounding?" I asked.

"By no means, if, when the article is deposited, a sufficient wadding
of cotton be placed around it. Besides, in our case we were obliged to
proceed without noise."

"But you could not have removed--you could not have taken to pieces
_all_ articles of furniture in which it would have been possible to
make a deposit in the manner you mention. A letter may be compressed
into a thin spiral roll, not differing much in shape or bulk from a
large knitting-needle, and in this form it might be inserted into the
rung of a chair, for example. You did not take to pieces all the

"Certainly not; but we did better--we examined the rungs of every
chair in the Hotel, and indeed, the jointings of every description of
furniture, by the aid of a most powerful microscope. Had there been
any traces of recent disturbance we should not have failed to detect
it instantly. A single grain of gimlet-dust, for example, would have
been as obvious as an apple. Any disorder in the gluing--any unusual
gaping in the joints--would have sufficed to insure detection."

"I presume you looked to the mirrors, between the boards and the
plates, and you probed the beds and the bedclothes, as well as the
curtains and carpets?"

"That, of course; and when we had absolutely completed every particle
of the furniture in this way, then we examined the house itself. We
divided its entire surface into compartments, which we numbered, so
that none might be missed; then we scrutinized each individual square
inch throughout the premises, including the two houses immediately
adjoining, with the microscope, as before."

"The two houses adjoining!" I exclaimed; "you must have had a great
deal of trouble."

"We had; but the reward offered is prodigious."

"You include the _grounds_ about the houses?"

"All the grounds are paved with bricks. They gave us comparatively
little trouble. We examined the moss between the bricks, and found it

"You looked among D----'s papers, of course, and into the books of the

"Certainly; we opened every package and parcel; we not only opened
every book, but we turned over every leaf in each volume, not
contenting ourselves with a mere shake, according to the fashion of
some of our police officers. We also measured the thickness of every
book-_cover_, with the most accurate admeasurement, and applied to
each the most jealous scrutiny of the microscope. Had any of the
bindings been recently meddled with, it would have been utterly
impossible that the fact should have escaped observation. Some five or
six volumes, just from the hands of the binder, we carefully probed,
longitudinally, with the needles."

"You explored the floors beneath the carpets?"

"Beyond doubt. We removed every carpet, and examined the boards with
the microscope."

"And the paper on the walls?"


"You looked into the cellars?"

"We did."

"Then," I said, "you have been making a miscalculation, and the letter
is _not_ upon the premises, as you suppose."

"I fear you are right there," said the Prefect. "And now, Dupin, what
would you advise me to do?"

"To make a thorough re-search of the premises."

"That is absolutely needless," replied G----. "I am not more sure that
I breathe than I am that the letter is not at the Hotel."

"I have no better advice to give you," said Dupin.

"You have, of course, an accurate description of the letter?"

"Oh, yes!"--And here the Prefect, producing a memorandum-book,
proceeded to read aloud a minute account of the internal, and
especially of the external appearance of the missing document. Soon
after finishing the perusal of this description, he took his
departure, more entirely depressed in spirits than I had ever known
the good gentleman before.

In about a month afterwards he paid us another visit, and found us
occupied very nearly as before. He took a pipe and a chair and entered
into some ordinary conversation. At length I said,--

"Well, but, G----, what of the purloined letter? I presume you have at
last made up your mind that there is no such thing as overreaching the

"Confound him, say I--yes; I made the re-examination, however, as
Dupin suggested--but it was all labor lost, as I knew it would be."

"How much was the reward offered, did you say?" asked Dupin.

"Why, a very great deal--a _very_ liberal reward--I don't like to say
how much, precisely; but one thing I _will_ say, that I wouldn't mind
giving my individual check for fifty thousand francs to any one who
could obtain me that letter. The fact is, it is becoming of more and
more importance every day; and the reward has been lately doubled. If
it were trebled, however, I could do no more than I have done."

"Why, yes," said Dupin, drawlingly, between the whiffs of his
meerschaum, "I really--think, G----, you have not exerted yourself--to
the utmost in this matter. You might--do a little more, I think, eh?"

"How?--in what way?"

"Why--puff, puff--you might--puff, puff--employ counsel in the matter,
eh?--puff, puff, puff. Do you remember the story they tell of

"No; hang Abernethy!"

"To be sure! hang him and welcome. But, once upon a time, a certain
rich miser conceived the design of sponging upon this Abernethy for a
medical opinion. Getting up, for this purpose, an ordinary
conversation in a private company, he insinuated his case to the
physician, as that of an imaginary individual.

"'We will suppose,' said the miser, 'that his symptoms are such and
such; now, doctor, what would _you_ have directed him to take?'

"'Take!' said Abernethy, 'why, take _advice_, to be sure.'"

"But," said the Prefect, a little discomposed, "I am _perfectly_
willing to take advice, and to pay for it. I would _really_ give fifty
thousand francs to any one who would aid me in the matter."

"In that case," replied Dupin, opening a drawer, and producing a
check-book, "you may as well fill me up a check for the amount
mentioned. When you have signed it, I will hand you the letter."

I was astounded. The Prefect appeared absolutely thunder-stricken. For
some minutes he remained speechless and motionless, looking
incredulously at my friend with open mouth, and eyes that seemed
starting from their sockets; then, apparently recovering himself in
some measure, he seized a pen, and after several pauses and vacant
stares, finally filled up and signed a check for fifty thousand
francs, and handed it across the table to Dupin. The latter examined
it carefully and deposited it in his pocketbook; then, unlocking an
_escritoire_, took thence a letter and gave it to the Prefect. This
functionary grasped it in a perfect agony of joy, opened it with a
trembling hand, cast a rapid glance at its contents, and then,
scrambling and struggling to the door, rushed at length
unceremoniously from the room and from the house, without having
uttered a syllable since Dupin had requested him to fill up the check.

When he had gone, my friend entered into some explanations.

"The Parisian police," he said, "are exceedingly able in their
way. They are persevering, ingenious, cunning, and thoroughly versed
in the knowledge which their duties seem chiefly to demand. Thus, when
G---- detailed to us his mode of searching the premises at the Hotel
D----, I felt entire confidence in his having made a satisfactory
investigation--so far as his labors extended."

"So far as his labors extended?" said I.

"Yes," said Dupin. "The measures adopted were not only the best of
their kind, but carried out to absolute perfection. Had the letter
been deposited within the range of their search, these fellows would,
beyond a question, have found it."

I merely laughed--but he seemed quite serious in all that he said.

"The measures, then," he continued, "were good in their kind, and well
executed; their defect lay in their being inapplicable to the case,
and to the man. A certain set of highly ingenious resources are, with
the Prefect, a sort of Procrustean bed to which he forcibly adapts his
designs. But he perpetually errs by being too deep or too shallow, for
the matter in hand; and many a schoolboy is a better reasoner than
he. I knew one about eight years of age, whose success at guessing in
the game of 'even and odd' attracted universal admiration. This game
_is_ simple, and is played with marbles. One player holds in his hand
a number of these toys, and demands of another whether that number is
even or odd. If the guess is right, the guesser wins one; if wrong, he
loses one. The boy to whom I allude won all the marbles of the
school. Of course he had some principle of guessing; and this lay in
mere observation and admeasurement of the astuteness of his
opponents. For example, an arrant simpleton is his opponent, and,
holding up his closed hand asks, 'Are they even or odd?' Our schoolboy
replies, 'Odd' and loses; but upon the second trial he wins, for he
then says to himself, 'the simpleton had them even upon the first
trial, and his amount of cunning is just sufficient to make him have
them odd upon the second; I will therefore guess odd;' he guesses odd,
and wins. Now, with a simpleton a degree above the first he would have
reasoned thus: 'This fellow finds that in the first instance I guessed
odd, and, in the second, he will propose to himself, upon the first
impulse, a simple variation from even to odd, as did the first
simpleton; but then a second thought will suggest that this is too
simple a variation, and finally he will decide upon putting it even as
before. I will therefore guess even;' he guesses even, and wins. Now
this mode of reasoning in the schoolboy, whom his fellows term
'lucky,'--what, in its last analysis, is it?"

"It is merely," I said, "an identification of the reasoner's intellect
with that of his opponent."

"It is," said Dupin; "and, upon inquiring of the boy by what means he
effected the _thorough_ identification in which his success consisted,
I received answer as follows: 'When I wish to find out how wise, or
how stupid, or how good, or how wicked is any one, or what are his
thoughts at the moment, I fashion the expression of my face, as
accurately as possible, in accordance with the expression of his, and
then wait to see what thoughts or sentiments arise in my mind or
heart, as if to match or correspond with the expression.' This
response of the schoolboy lies at the bottom of all the spurious
profundity which has been attributed to Rochefoucauld, to La Bruyere,
to Machiavelli, and to Campanella."

"And the identification," I said, "of the reasoner's intellect with
that of his opponent, depends, if I understand you aright, upon the
accuracy with which the opponent's intellect is admeasured."

"For its practical value it depends upon this," replied Dupin, "and
the Prefect and his cohort fail so frequently, first, by default of
this identification, and, secondly, by ill-admeasurement, or rather
through non-admeasurement, of the intellect with which they are
engaged. They consider only their _own_ ideas of ingenuity; and, in
searching for anything hidden, advert only to the modes in which
_they_ would have hidden it. They are right in this much--that their
own ingenuity is a faithful representative of that of _the mass_: but
when the cunning of the individual felon is diverse in character from
their own, the felon foils them, of course. This always happens when
it is above their own, and very usually when it is below. They have no
variation of principle in their investigations; at best, when urged by
some unusual emergency--by some extraordinary reward--they extend or
exaggerate their old modes of _practice_, without touching their
principles. What, for example, in this case of D----, has been done
to vary the principle of action? What is all this boring, and probing,
and sounding, and scrutinizing with the microscope, and dividing the
surface of the building into registered square inches--what is it all
but an exaggeration _of the application_ of the one principle or set
of principles of search, which are based upon the one set of notions
regarding human ingenuity, to which the Prefect, in the long routine
of his duty, has been accustomed? Do you not see he has taken it for
granted that _all_ men proceed to conceal a letter,--not exactly in a
gimlet-hole bored in a chair leg--but, at least, in _some_
out-of-the-way hole or corner suggested by the same tenor of thought
which would urge a man to secrete a letter in a gimlet-hole bored in a
chair-leg? And do you not see, also, that such _recherches_ nooks for
concealment are adapted only for ordinary occasions and would be
adopted only by ordinary intellects; for, in all cases of concealment,
a disposal of the article concealed--a disposal of it in this
_recherche_ manner--is, in the very first instance, presumable and
presumed; and thus its discovery depends, not at all upon the acumen,
but altogether upon the mere care, patience, and determination of the
seekers; and where the case is of importance--or, what amounts to the
same thing in policial eyes, when the reward is of magnitude--the
qualities in question have _never_ been known to fail. You will now
understand what I meant in suggesting that, had the purloined letter
been hidden anywhere within the limits of the Prefect's
examination--in other words, had the principle of its concealment been
comprehended within the principles of the Prefect--its discovery would
have been a matter altogether beyond question. This functionary,
however, has been thoroughly mystified; and the remote source of his
defeat lies in the supposition that the Minister is a fool, because he
has acquired renown as a poet. All fools are poets; this the Prefect
_feels_; and he is merely guilty of a _non distributio medii_ in
thence inferring that all poets are fools."

"But is this really the poet?" I asked. "There are two brothers, I
know; and both have attained reputation in letters. The Minister, I
believe, has written learnedly on the Differential Calculus. He is a
mathematician, and no poet"

"You are mistaken; I know him well; he is both. As poet _and_
mathematician, he would reason well; as mere mathematician, he could
not have reasoned at all, and thus would have been at the mercy of the

"You surprise me," I said, "by these opinions, which have been
contradicted by the voice of the world. You do not mean to set at
naught the well-digested idea of centuries. The mathematical reason
has long been regarded as _the_ reason _par excellence_."

"'_Il-y-a a parier_,'" replied Dupin, quoting from Chamfort, "'_que
toute idee publique, toute convention recue, est une sottise, car elle
a convenue au plus grand nombre_.' The mathematicians, I grant you,
have done their best to promulgate the popular error to which you
allude, and which is none the less an error for its promulgation as
truth. With an art worthy a better cause, for example, they have
insinuated the term 'analysis' into application to algebra. The French
are the originators of this particular deception ; but if a term is of
any importance--if words derive any value from applicability--then
'analysis' conveys 'algebra,' about as much as, in Latin, '_ambitus_'
implies 'ambition,' '_religio_,' 'religion,' or '_homines honesti_,'a
set of honorable men."

"You have a quarrel on hand, I see," said I, "with some of the
algebraists of Paris; but proceed."

"I dispute the availability, and thus the value, of that reason which
is cultivated in any especial form other than the abstractly
logical. I dispute, in particular, the reason educed by mathematical
study. The mathematics are the science of form and quantity;
mathematical reasoning is merely logic applied to observation upon
form and quantity. The great error lies in supposing that even the
truths of what is called _pure_ algebra are abstract or general
truths. And this error is so egregious that I am confounded at the
universality with which it has been received. Mathematical axioms are
_not_ axioms of general truth. What is true of _relation_--of form and
quantity--is often grossly false in regard to morals, for example. In
this latter science it is very usually _un_true that the aggregated
parts are equal to the whole. In chemistry also the axiom fails. In
the consideration of motive it fails; for two motives, each of a given
value, have not, necessarily, a value when united, equal to the sum of
their values apart. There are numerous other mathematical truths which
are only truths within the limits of _relation_. But the mathematician
argues, from his _finite truths_, through habit, as if they were of an
absolutely general applicability--as the world indeed imagines them to
be. Bryant, in his very learned 'Mythology,' mentions an analogous
source of error, when he says that 'although the Pagan fables are not
believed, yet we forget ourselves continually, and make inferences
from them as existing realities.' With the algebraists, however, who
are Pagans themselves, the 'Pagan fables' _are_ believed, and the
inferences are made, not so much through lapse of memory, as through
an unaccountable addling of the brains. In short, I neyer yet
encountered the mere mathematician who could be trusted out of equal
roots, or one who did not clandestinely hold it as a point of his
faith that _x^{2}+px_ was absolutely and unconditionally equal to _q_.
Say to one of these gentlemen, by way of experiment, if you please,
that you believe occasions may occur where _x^{2}+px_ is _not_
altogether equal to _q_, and, having made him understand what you
mean, get out of his reach as speedily as convenient, for, beyond
doubt, he will endeavor to knock you down.

"I mean to say," continued Dupin, while I merely laughed at his last
observations, "that if the Minister had been no more than a
mathematician, the Prefect would have been under no necessity of
giving me this check. I knew him, however, as both mathematician and
poet, and my measures were adapted to his capacity, with reference to
the circumstances by which he was surrounded. I knew him as courtier,
too, and as a bold _intriguant_. Such a man, I considered, could not
fail to be aware of the ordinary policial modes of action. He could
not have failed to anticipate--and events have proved that he did not
fail to anticipate--the waylayings to which he was subjected. He must
have foreseen, I reflected, the secret investigations of his
premises. His frequent absences from home at night, which were hailed
by the Prefect as certain aids to his success, I regarded only as
ruses, to afford opportunity for thorough search to the police, and
thus the sooner to impress them with the conviction to which G----, in
fact, did finally arrive--the conviction that the letter was not upon
the premises. I felt, also, that the whole train of thought, which I
was at some pains in detailing to you just now, concerning the
invariable principle of policial action in searches for articles
concealed--I felt that this whole train of thought would necessarily
pass through the mind of the Minister. It would imperatively lead him
to despise all the ordinary _nooks_ of concealment. _He_ could not, I
reflected, be so weak as not to see that the most intricate and remote
recess of his Hotel would be as open as his commonest closets to the
eyes, to the probes, to the gimlets, and to the microscopes of the
Prefect. I saw, in fine, that he would be driven, as a matter of
course, to _simplicity_, if not deliberately induced to it as a matter
of choice. You will remember, perhaps, how desperately the Prefect
laughed when I suggested, upon our first interview, that it was just
possible this mystery troubled him so much on account of its being so
_very_ self-evident."

"Yes," said I, "I remember his merriment well. I really thought he
would have fallen into convulsions."

"The material world," continued Dupin, "abounds with very strict
analogies to the immaterial; and thus some color of truth has been
given to the rhetorical dogma, that metaphor, or simile, may be made
to strengthen an argument, as well as to embellish a description. The
principle of the _vis inertiae_, for example, seems to be identical in
physics and metaphysics. It is not more true in the former, that a
large body is with more difficulty set in motion than a smaller one,
and that its subsequent momentum is commensurate with this difficulty,
than it is, in the latter, that intellects of the vaster capacity,
while more forcible, more constant, and more eventful in their
movements than those of inferior grade, are yet the less readily
moved, and more embarrassed and full of hesitation in the first few
steps of their progress. Again: have you ever noticed which of the
street signs, over the shop-doors, are the most attractive of

"I have never given the matter a thought," I said.

"There is a game of puzzles," he resumed, "which is played upon a
map. One party playing requires another to find a given word--the name
of town, river, state, or empire--any word, in short, upon the motley
and perplexed surface of the chart. A novice in the game generally
seeks to embarrass his opponents by giving them the most minutely
lettered names; but the adept selects such words as stretch, in large
characters, from one end of the chart to the other. These, like the
over-largely lettered signs and placards of the street, escape
observation by dint of being excessively obvious; and here the
physical oversight is precisely analogous with the moral
inapprehension by which the intellect suffers to pass unnoticed those
considerations which are too obtrusively and too palpably
self-evident. But this is a point, it appears, somewhat above or
beneath the understanding of the Prefect. He never once thought it
probable, or possible, that the Minister had deposited the letter
immediately beneath the nose of the whole world, by way of best
preventing any portion of that world from perceiving it.

"But the more I reflected upon the daring, dashing, and discriminating
ingenuity of D----; upon the fact that the document must always have
been _at hand,_ if he intended to use it to good purpose; and upon the
decisive evidence, obtained by the Prefect, that it was not hidden
within the limits of that dignitary's ordinary search--the more
satisfied I became that, to conceal this letter, the Minister had
resorted to the comprehensive and sagacious expedient of not
attempting to conceal it at all.

"Full of these ideas, I prepared myself with a pair of green
spectacles, and called one fine morning, quite by accident, at the
Ministerial Hotel. I found D---- at home, yawning, lounging, and
dawdling, as usual, and pretending to be in the last extremity of
ennui. He is, perhaps, the most really energetic human being now
alive--but that is only when nobody sees him.

"To be even with him, I complained of my weak eyes, and lamented the
necessity of the spectacles, under cover of which I cautiously and
thoroughly surveyed the apartment, while seemingly intent only upon
the conversation of my host.

"I paid especial attention to a large writing-table near which he sat,
and upon which lay confusedly some miscellaneous letters and other
papers, with one or two musical instruments and a few books. Here,
however, after a long and very deliberate scrutiny, I saw nothing to
excite particular suspicion.

"At length my eyes, in going the circuit of the room, fell upon a
trumpery filigree card-rack of pasteboard, that hung dangling by a
dirty blue ribbon from a little brass knob just beneath the middle of
the mantelpiece. In this rack, which had three or four compartments,
were five or six visiting cards and a solitary letter. This last was
much soiled and crumpled. It was torn nearly in two, across the
middle--as if a design, in the first instance, to tear it entirely up
as worthless, had been altered, or stayed, in the second. It had a
large black seal, bearing the D---- cipher _very_ conspicuously, and
was addressed, in a diminutive female hand, to D----, the Minister
himself. It was thrust carelessly, and even, as it seemed,
contemptuously, into one of the upper divisions of the rack.

"No sooner had I glanced at this letter, than I concluded it to be
that of which I was in search. To be sure, it was, to all appearance,
radically different from the one of which the Prefect had read us so
minute a description. Here the seal was large and black, with the
D---- cipher; there it was small and red, with the ducal arms of the
S---- family. Here, the address, to the Minister, was diminutive and
feminine; there the superscription, to a certain royal personage, was
markedly bold and decided; the size alone formed a point of
correspondence. But then, the _radicalness_ of these differences,
which was excessive; the dirt; the soiled and torn condition of the
paper, so inconsistent with the _true_ methodical habits of D----, and
so suggestive of a design to delude the beholder into an idea of the
worthlessness of the document; these things, together with the
hyperobtrusive situation of this document, full in the view of every
visitor, and thus exactly in accordance with the conclusions to which
I had previously arrived; these things, I say, were strongly
corroborative of suspicion, in one who came with the intention to

"I protracted my visit as long as possible, and, while I maintained a
most animated discussion with the Minister, upon a topic which I knew
well had never failed to interest and excite him, I kept my attention
really riveted upon the letter. In this examination, I committed to
memory its external appearance and arrangement in the rack; and also
fell, at length, upon a discovery which set at rest whatever trivial
doubt I might have entertained. In scrutinizing the edges of the
paper, I observed them to be more _chafed_ than seemed necessary. They
presented the _broken_ appearance which is manifested when a stiff
paper, having been once folded and pressed with a folder, is refolded
in a reversed direction, in the same creases or edges which had formed
the original fold. This discovery was sufficient. It was clear to me
that the letter had been turned, as a glove, inside out, re-directed,
and re-sealed. I bade the Minister good-morning, and took my departure
at once, leaving a gold snuff-box upon the table.

"The next morning I called for the snuff-box, when we resumed, quite
eagerly, the conversation of the preceding day. While thus engaged,
however, a loud report, as if of a pistol, was heard immediately
beneath the windows of the Hotel, and was succeeded by a series of
fearful screams, and the shoutings of a mob. D---- rushed to a
casement, threw it open, and looked out. In the meantime, I stepped to
the card-rack, took the letter, put it in my pocket, and replaced it
by a facsimile (so far as regards externals), which I had carefully
prepared at my lodgings--imitating the D---- cipher, very readily, by
means of a seal formed of bread.

"The disturbance in the street had been occasioned by the frantic
behavior of a man with a musket. He had fired it among a crowd of
women and children. It proved, however, to have been without ball, and
the fellow was suffered to go his way as a lunatic or a drunkard. When
he had gone, D---- came from the window, whither I had followed him
immediately upon securing the object in view. Soon afterwards I bade
him farewell. The pretended lunatic was a man in my own pay."

"But what purpose had you," I asked, "in replacing the letter by a
facsimile? Would it not have been better, at the first visit, to have
seized it openly, and departed?"

"D----," replied Dupin, "is a desperate man, and a man of nerve. His
Hotel, too, is not without attendants devoted to his interests. Had I
made the wild attempt you suggest, I might never have left the
Ministerial presence alive. The good 30 people of Paris might have
heard of me no more. But I had an object apart from these
considerations. You know my political prepossessions. In this matter,
I act as a partisan of the lady concerned. For eighteen months the
Minister has had her in his power. She has now him in hers--since,
being unaware that the letter is not in his possession, he will
proceed with his exactions as if it was. Thus will he inevitably
commit himself, at once, to his political destruction. His downfall,
too, will not be more precipitate than awkward. It is all very well to
talk about the _facilis descensus Averni_; but in all kinds of
climbing, as Catalani said of singing, it is far more easy to get up
than to come down. In the present instance I have no sympathy--at
least no pity--for him who descends. He is that _monstrum horrendum_,
an unprincipled man of genius. I confess, however, that I should like
very well to know the precise character of his thoughts, when, being
defied by her whom the Prefect terms 'a certain personage,' he is
reduced to opening the letter which I left for him in the card-rack."

"How? Did you put anything particular in it?"

"Why--it did not seem altogether right to leave the interior
blank--that would have been insulting. D----, at Vienna once, did me
an evil turn, which I told him, quite good-humoredly, that I should
remember. So, as I knew he would feel some curiosity in regard to the
identity of the person who had outwitted him, I thought it a pity not
to give him a clew. He is well acquainted with my MS., and I just
copied into the middle of the blank sheet the words--

'--Un dessein si funeste,
S'il n'est digne d'Atree, est digne de Thyeste.'

They are to be found in Crebillon's _Atree_."


The text followed both for poems and tales is that of the
Stedman-Woodberry edition of Poe's Works, in which the editors
followed, in most cases, the text of what is known as the "Lorimer
Graham" copy of the edition of 1845, containing marginal corrections
in Poe's own hand. Poe revised his work frequently and sometimes
extensively. The following notes show, in most cases, the dates both
of the first publication and of subsequent ones. Familiarity with the
Introduction to this book will, in some cases, be necessary to an
understanding of the notes. Gayley's "Classic Myths in English
Literature" (Ginn & Company, $1.50) is the best reference work of
small size for allusions to mythology, and should be available.

Both poems and tales are arranged in chronological order.


SONG (Page 3)

Published in 1827, 1829, and 1845. The poem is believed to refer to
Miss Royster, of Richmond, with whom Poe was in love as a boy of
sixteen, shortly before he entered the University of Virginia. The
young lady's father intercepted the correspondence, and Miss Royster
soon became Mrs. Shelton. The blush, mentioned in lines 2, 9, and 14,
is doubtless intended to imply shame for her desertion. The poem is
commonplace, and shows little that is characteristic of the older Poe.


Published in 1827 as "Visit of the Dead," and in 1829 and 1839 under
the above title. It has been conjectured that this poem was inspired
by the death of Mrs. Stannard (see Introduction, page xii).

TO ---- (Page 4)

The original, longer and addressed "To M----," appeared in the edition
of 1829, and was republished in 1845.

ROMANCE (Page 5)

Printed as a preface in 1829, and as an introduction in 1831;
considerably revised and shortened, it appeared in 1843 and 1845 as

11. condor years. The metaphor implies a likeness of time--the
years--to a bird of prey. Cf. "condor wings" in "The Conqueror Worm."

19. forbidden things: i.e. "lyre and rhyme." What is the meaning?

TO THE RIVER-- (Page 5)

Published first in 1829, afterwards in several magazines and in the
edition of 1845.


Published first in 1829, this poem appeared in editions of 1831 and
1845, and in magazines. It is a sonnet, differing from the
Shakespearean form only in the repetition of the rhyme with "eyes."

9, 10, 12. In classical mythology, Diana is the moon goddess,
Hamadryad, a wood nymph, Naiad, a water nymph. Consult Gayley's
"Classic Myths." Explain the figures of speech.

13. Elfin: elf, a fairy, from the Anglo-Saxon, refers especially to
tiny sprites, fond of mischief and tricks. But there were various
kinds of elves, according to the Norse mythology. Consult Gayley's
"Classic Myths." Explain the figure.

14. tamarind-tree: a beautiful, spreading, Oriental tree, with pinnate
leaves and showy racemes of yellow flowers variegated with red. What
does the line mean?

TO HELEN (Page 7)

Published in 1831, 1836, 1841, 1843, and 1845. Read comment in the
Introduction, pages xii and xxiii.

2. Nicaean barks. It is impossible to say exactly what this allusion
means. Professor W.P. Trent aptly suggests that if "wanderer" in line
4 refers to Ulysses, as seems likely, "Phaeacian" would have been the
right word, since the Phaeacians did convey Ulysses to Ithaca. Poe may
have had that idea in mind and used the wrong word, or this may simply
be a characteristically vague suggestion of antiquity. Point out
similar examples of indefinite suggestion in this poem.

7. hyacinth hair: a favorite term with Poe. In "The Assignation" he
says of the Marchesa Aphrodite, "Her hair ... clustered round and
round her classical head, in curls like those of the young hyacinth."
The hair of Ligeia, in the story of that title, he calls "the
raven-black, the glossy, the luxuriant and naturally-curling tresses,
setting forth the full force of the Homeric epithet, 'hyacinthine.'"

8. Naiad airs: suggestive of exquisite grace. The Naiads, in
classical mythology, are water nymphs,--lovely maidens presiding over
brooks and fountains.

9, 10. Two of Poe's best and most frequently quoted lines. Explain the
fitness of the epithets. Originally the lines read:

To the beauty of fair Greece
And the grandeur of old Rome.

Is the change an improvement? Explain.

14. Psyche: the Greek word for "soul," and also the name of a
beautiful maiden whom Cupid himself loved and wedded. Read the story
in Gayley's "Classic Myths."

ISRAFEL (Page 7)

Published in editions of 1831 and 1845, and several times in
magazines. See comment in the Introduction, page xxiii. Poe derived
the quotation through Moore's "Lalla Rookh," altered it slightly, and
interpolated the clause, "whose heart-strings are a lute"; it is from
Sale's "Preliminary Discourse" to the Koran.

12. levin, or leven: an archaic word for "lightning."

13. Pleiads, or Pleiades: a group of stars in the constellation
Taurus; only six stars of the group are readily visible, but legend
tells of a seventh, lost. Read the account of the ancient myth in
Gayley's "Classic Myths."

23. skies: the object of "trod."

26. Houri: derived from an Arabian word meaning "to have
brilliant black eyes." It is the name in Mohammedan tradition for
beautiful nymphs of Paradise, who are to be companions of the pious.


Published in 1831 as "The Doomed City," in 1836 as "The City of Sin,"
and several times in 1845 under the above title.

Point out examples of alliteration.

18. Babylon-like walls. The walls of the ancient city of
Babylon, on the Euphrates, were famous for massiveness and extent.


Published as "Irene" in 1831 and 1836, and as "The Sleeper" in 1843
and 1845. The theme is Poe's favorite, the death of a beautiful young
woman, and the poem is remarkable, even among Poe's, for its melody.

LENORE (Page 13)

Published as "A Paean" in 1831 and 1836, and as "Lenore" in 1843 and
1845. It was much altered in its numerous revisions.

1. broken is the golden bowl. See Ecclesiastes xii. 6.

2. Stygian river. The Styx was a river of Hades, across which
the souls of the dead had to be ferried.

3. Guy De Vere: the mourning lover. It is he who speaks in the
second and fourth stanzas.

13. Peccavimus: literally, "we have sinned." This stanza is the
reply of the false friends.


Published in 1831 as "The Valley Nis," with an obscure allusion to a
"Syriac Tale":

Something about Satan's dart--
Something about angel wings--
Much about a broken heart--
All about unhappy things:
But "the Valley Nis" at best
Means "the Valley of Unrest."

Later it was published in magazines and in the 1845 edition, revised
and improved, and transformed into a simple landscape picture,--one of
the strange, weird, unearthly landscapes so characteristic of Poe.


This poem was submitted in the prize contest in Baltimore in 1833, and
would have been successful but for the fact that the author's story,
"The Manuscript Found in a Bottle," had taken the first prize in its
class. It was republished several times, but not much altered. The
usual spelling is "Colosseum." It is very unlikely that Poe ever saw
the Colosseum, though it is barely possible his foster parents may
have taken him to Rome during the English residence (see Introduction,
page xii).

13-14. Apparently a reference to Jesus, but characteristically vague.

15-16. The ancient Chaldeans were famous students of the heavens and
practiced fortune telling by the stars; during the Middle Ages
astrologers were commonly called "Chaldeans."

17. hero fell. Explain the allusion. Read an account of the
Colosseum in a history or reference book.

18. mimic eagle: the eagle on the Roman standard.

20. gilded hair: adorned with golden ornaments.

26-29. arcades, plinths, shafts, entablatures, frieze,
cornices. Consult the dictionary and explain these architectural

36. Memnon: a gigantic statue of this Greek hero on the banks
of the Nile was said to salute the rising sun with a musical note.

HYMN (Page 16)

Published in 1835 in the tale "Morella," and several times afterward
in magazines and collections. As an expression of simple, religious
trust and hope, this poem stands quite apart from all others by Poe.


Published in 1835 as part of the tale called "The Visionary,"
afterward "The Assignation"; in 1839 in a magazine under the title "To
Ianthe in Heaven"; and several times afterward in magazines and in
collections. It fits admirably into the story "The Assignation," where
it contains this additional stanza, readily understood in its setting:

Alas! for that accursed time
They bore thee o'er the billow,
From Love to titled age and crime
And an unholy pillow--
From me, and from our misty clime
Where weeps the silver willow.

TO F---- (Page 18)

Appeared in 1835 under the title "To Mary," and in 1842 and 1843, "To
One Departed." It is not known to whom these forms were addressed. In
1845 it again appeared with the above title, which is believed to
refer to Mrs. Frances Sargent Osgood, a poet of the time, whom Poe
greatly admired.

TO F----S S. O----D (Page 18)

First appeared in the _Southern Literary Messenger_(1835) as "Lines
Written in an Album," addressed to Eliza White, a young daughter of
the editor of the _Messenger_; in 1839 the same lines were addressed
"To ----," whose name is unknown; and in 1845 they were addressed
under the above title to Mrs. Osgood (see note on the preceding poem).

TO ZANTE (Page 18)

Published in 1837, 1843, and 1845. In form this is a regular
Shakespearean sonnet. Zante is one of the principal Ionian islands, in
ancient times called Zacynthus. Again the poet writes of a fair isle
in the sea; point out other instances. Note the fondness for "no
more," and find examples in other poems. As usual with Poe, the thread
of thought is slight and indefinite; apparently the beautiful island
has become "accursed ground" because of the death there of the "maiden
that is no more."

1. fairest of all flowers. There is a zantewood, or satinwood,
but it does not take its name from this island. Poe associated the
name of the island with the hyacinth, but there is no etymological
connection. He probably derived his fancy from a passage in
Chateaubriand's "Itineraire de Paris a Jerusalem," page 53.

13. hyacinthine isle: a reference to the flowers of the island
(see preceding note).

14. "Isola d'oro! Fior di Levante!" "Golden Isle! Flower of
the Levant!" These are Italian terms for Zante; they occur in the
passage in Chateaubriand referred to in the note on line 1.


Published in 1837, 1841, 1845, and greatly improved in revision. The
bride remembers her dead lover who died in battle, and wonders
fearfully whether "the dead who is forsaken" knows and is unhappy.

SILENCE (Page 20)

Published in 1840, 1843, and 1845.


Published in 1843 and 1845. The repulsive imagery recurs in several of
the tales and poems, and shows one of the most morbid phases of Poe's
imagination (see Introduction, page xxiv). It would hardly meet Poe's
own test of beauty, but the grim power of this terrible picture is
palpable enough.

9. Mimes: actors, who in this case are men; mankind.

13. vast formless things: doubtless the Fates (consult Gayley's
"Classic Myths"); at any rate beings who exercise the same powers.

15. condor wings. The condor is a great vulture of South
America; the word here suggests the Fates preying on human happiness,
health, and life.

18. Phantom: happiness, or perhaps any object of human desire
or ambition.

DREAM-LAND (Page 22)

Published in 1844 and 1845. The poem paints another of Poe's
extraordinary landscapes.

3. Eidolon: phantom, specter, shade.

6. ultimate dim Thule. "Thule" was used by the ancients to
indicate extreme northern regions; the Romans used the phrase "Ultima
Thule" to denote the most remote, unknown land. What does the allusion
signify here?

THE RAVEN (Page 24)

Published in 1845 in various magazines, first in the New York _Evening
Mirror_ of January 29. This is the most famous if not the best of
Poe's poems. There is a clear thread of narrative and greater dramatic
interest than in any other of the author's poems. If possible, read
"The Philosophy of Composition," in which Poe gives a remarkable
account of the composition of this poem, an account which is to be
accepted, however, as explaining only the mechanical side of the
work. This essay is included in Cody's "Best Poems and Essays" (see
Bibliography, page xxxi). Read the comment in the Introduction, page
xxiv. Note the numerous alliterations.

34. thereat is. Was the idea phrased this way for any other
purpose than to make a rhyme? Is it artistic?

38. Raven. Read an account of the bird in a natural history or
an encyclopedia; it is frequently mentioned in English literature as a
bird of ill omen.

41. Pallas: Minerva, goddess of wisdom. Consult Gayley's
"Classic Myths." Is a bust of Pallas appropriate for a library?

47. Plutonian: from Pluto, god of the underworld.

64, 65. burden: thought or theme.

76-77. gloated ... gloating. It is impossible to say just what
is suggested. It is characteristically vague. Find other examples in
this poem.

80. tinkled on the tufted floor. Not very easy to imagine. In
"Ligeia," Poe speaks of "carpets of tufted gold," apparently meaning
fabrics of very thick and rich material. Perhaps we may think of the
tinkling as proceeding from tiny bells.

81. "Wretch," etc. The lover addresses himself.

82. nepenthe: a name given in Homer's "Odyssey" to a drug
offered to Helen in Egypt, the effect of which was to banish all grief
and pain. Later the term was sometimes used for opium.

89. balm in Gilead. Gilead is a district on the banks of the
Jordan and the "balm" an herb of reputed medicinal value. The allusion
here is to Jeremiah viii.22: "Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no
physician there?" The lover means to ask if there is any remedy for
his sorrow, any consolation. Perhaps he means, "Is there any solace
after death?" or "Is there any solace either in this world or the

93. Aidenn: Eden, Paradise, from the Arabic form _Adn_; coined
by Poe for the rhyme.

101. This line, Poe said in "The Philosophy of Composition," first
betrays clearly the allegorical nature of the poem.

106. the lamp-light o'er him streaming. In answer to criticism
on this line, Poe explained, "My conception was that of the bracket
candelabrum affixed against the wall, high up above the door and bust,
as is often seen in the English palaces, and even in some of the
better houses of New York."

107, 108. In these last lines the allegory is fully revealed.

EULALIE (Page 29)

Published in 1845 with the subtitle, "A Song."

19. Astarte. See note on line 37 of "Ulalume," page 189.

TO M.L. S----- (Page 30)

Published March 13, 1847, and addressed to Mrs. Marie Louise Shew, who
had been a veritable angel of mercy in the Poe home. She relieved the
poverty and helped to care for Virginia (who died January 29), and
afterward nursed Poe himself during his severe illness. Mrs. Shew had
had some medical training and probably saved Poe's life. This brief
poem is instinct with a gratitude and reverence easy to understand,
and is, for Poe, unusually spontaneous.

ULALUME (Page 30)

Published in December, 1847, and in January, 1848. The earlier form
contained an additional stanza, afterward wisely omitted. Read the
comment on the poem in the Introduction, pages xxiv-xxv.

5. Immemorial: properly means extending indefinitely into the
past. Poe may mean that the year has seemed endless to him, but
apparently he uses the word in the sense of memorable.

6, 7. Auber rhymes with October, Weir with year; the
names were coined by Poe for rhyme and tone color. Note the
resemblance of "Weir" to "weird."

8. tarn: a small mountain lake. It is used provincially in
England to mean a boggy or marshy tract. Poe used the word to signify
a dark, stagnant pool. Cf. "The Fall of the House of Usher," page 49.

11. cypress. What is its significance?

12. Psyche: soul. Cf. note on line 14 of "To Helen," page 183.

14. scoriac: a very rare word, from _scoria_ (lava).

16. Yaanek: another specially coined word.

35. crescent: suggesting hope.

37, 39. Astarte: a Phoenician goddess, as the deity of love
corresponding to Venus (Aphrodite), and as moon goddess to Dian, or
Diana (Artemis). But Diana was chaste and cold to the advances of
lovers, which explains "she (Astarte) is warmer than Dian."

43. where the worm never dies: implies the gnawing of unending
grief. Cf. Isaiah lxvi. 24, and Mark ix. 44, 46, 48.

44. The Lion: the constellation Leo.

64. sibyllic: usually "sibylline," prophetic; from "sibyl."
Consult Gayley's "Classic Myths."

179. legended tomb: having on it an inscription.

TO ---- ---- (Page 33)

Published in March, 1848, and is another tribute to Mrs. Shew. See
note on "To M.L. S-----," page 188.

9-10. The quotation is from George Peele's "David and Bethsabe," an
English drama published in 1599:

Or let the dew be sweeter far than that
That hangs, like chains of pearl, on Hermon hill.

14-15. Cf. the poem "Israfel," and the notes on it.

AN ENIGMA (Page 34)

Published in March, 1848. To find the name, read the first letter of
the first line, the second letter of the second line, and so on. In
form this is a sonnet irregular in rhyme scheme.

1. Solomon Don Dunce: a fanciful name for a stupid person.

6. Petrarchan stuff: of or by Petrarch (1304-1374), a famous
Italian writer of sonnets.

10. tuckermanities: a contemptuous allusion to the poetic
efforts of Henry T. Tuckerman, a New England writer of the day.

14. dear names: Sarah Anna Lewis, a verse writer of the day,
whom Poe admired.

TO HELEN (Page 35)

Published in November, 1848; addressed to Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman
(see Introduction, page xvii). Although her engagement to marry Poe
was broken off, she continued to admire him and was faithful to his
memory after his death. The poem was written before Poe met Mrs.
Whitman, and is said to have been suggested by the poet's having
caught a glimpse of the lady walking in a garden by moonlight.

48. Dian: Diana, the moon goddess.

66. Venuses: refers at once to the planet Venus and to Venus,
goddess of love.


Published in 1849. The name is found as in "An Enigma," by reading the
first letter of the first line, the second of the second, and so on.

2. twins of Leda: Castor and Pollux, two stars in the
constellation Gemini. For the myth consult Gayley's "Classic Myths."

3. her own sweet name: Frances Sargent Osgood. See note on the
lines "To F---- ," page 185.

10. Gordian knot. Explain this; consult an encyclopedia.

14. perdus: lost, a French word introduced to rhyme with "too."

17. lying: used in a double sense.

18. Mendez Ferdinando Pinto, a Portuguese traveler (1509-1583),
was said to have been the first white man to visit Japan. He wrote an
account of his travels, which at the time was considered mere

FOR ANNIE (Page 37)

Published in 1849, and addressed to Mrs. Richmond of Lowell,
Massachusetts. This is the "Annie" so frequently referred to in
biographies of Poe, who also figures in his correspondence. Of all the
women associated with Poe's later years (see Introduction, pages ),
"Annie" was the object of his most sincere and ardent friendship, and
was his confidant in all his troubles,--including the courtship of
Mrs. Whitman. Poe and Mrs. Clemm were frequent visitors at her home,
and the latter found shelter there for a time after her "Eddie's"

This poem is usually regarded as one of the author's poorest, though
it has a distinctly individual character that must be recognized. Thus
Professor C.F. Richardson, in his "American Literature," quoting
several stanzas, remarks, "This is doggerel, but it is Poe's special
doggerel." Some of the lines really deserve this severe epithet, but
hardly the entire poem. Its theme seems to be peace in death through
the affection of Annie, following a life of passion and sorrow, and so
regarded, it has some strength.

THE BELLS (Page 41)

Published in 1849. Read the comment on this poem in the Introduction,
page xxv. Though not especially characteristic of him, this is one of
Poe's most remarkable poems, as well as one of the most popular. A
very interesting account of its composition may be found in
Woodberry's biography, pages 302-304, or in Harrison's biography,
pages 286-288, or in the Stedman-Woodberry edition of Poe's Works,
Vol. X, pages 183-186.

10. Runic. Runes are the characters of the alphabet of the
early Germanic peoples. The allusion is intended to suggest mystery
and magic. Consult an unabridged dictionary or an encyclopedia.

23. gloats. What does the word mean here? Cf. line 76 of "The
Raven," and corresponding notes.


Published in the _New York Tribune, _October 9, 1849, two days after
the poet's death. Read the comment in the Introduction, page xxv. Note
the mid-rhymes in line 26, "chilling and killing," and in line 32,
"ever dissever"; point out other examples in "The Raven" and other

TO MY MOTHER (Page 46)

Published in 1849; in form, a regular Shakespearean sonnet. It is a
sincere tribute addressed to Mrs. Clemm, mother of Poe's girl wife,
Virginia, a woman who was more than worthy of it. The tenderest
affection existed between the two, and Mrs. Clemm cared for him after
Virginia's death and grieved profoundly at his own. She lived until

ELDORADO (Page 46)

This first appeared in the Griswold edition of 1850; no earlier
publication is known. It was probably Poe's last composition, and this
story of the knight's quest, its failure, and his gaze turned to "the
Valley of the Shadow," is a fitting finale for the ill-starred poet
(see comment in the Introduction, page xxv).

Eldorado: a fabled city or country abounding in gold and
precious stones, and afterward any place of great wealth. The word is
often used figuratively. In a preface to an early volume of his
poetry, Poe alludes quite incidentally to "the poet's own kingdom--his
El Dorado," and in this sense the metaphor may be accepted here.

Note the varying sense of the recurring rhyme, shadow. In the
first stanza it is simply contrasted with the "sunshine" or happiness
of life, in the second it implies the coming of discouragement and
despair, in the third it is the shadow of death cast before, in the
fourth the Valley of the Shadow of Death.


Published in the _Baltimore Museum_ in April, 1839, and in September
of the same year in _Burton's Gentleman's Magazine_ as part of the
tale "The Fall of the House of Usher"; afterwards published in 1840,
1843, and 1845. It was altered very slightly in revision. Lowell wrote
that he knew of no modern poet who might not justly be proud of it
(see Introduction, pages xxiii-xxiv).

59. 24. Porphyrogene: from Greek words meaning "purple"
and "begotten," hence, born in the purple, royal. This term, or
"porphyrogenitus," was applied in the Byzantine empire to children of
the monarch born after his accession to the throne. It is not clear
whether the word is used here as a descriptive adjective or as the
name of the monarch.



Published first in 1839, and several times reprinted with revisions.
Read the comment in the Introduction, page xxvii. Lowell said of this
story: "Had its author written nothing else, it would alone have been
enough to stamp him as a man of genius, and a master of a classic

This tale is one of the best to study as an example of the application
of Poe's critical theory of the short story (see Introduction, page
xxvi). What is the "effect" sought? Is the main incident of the tale
well adapted to produce this effect? Are the parts skillfully related
to one another and to the whole? Is the setting suitable to the theme?
What is the effect of the first sentence? Pick out a number of rather
unusual words which Poe seems particularly to like; observe their
effect. The adjectives are especially worth study; in the first
sentence try the effect of substituting for "soundless," "quiet," or
"silent," or "noiseless."

49. Quotation: "His heart is a suspended lute; as soon as it is
touched it resounds." P.J. Beranger (1780-1857), a popular French
lyric poet.

50. 12. black and lurid tarn: see note to line 8 of "Ulalume,"
page 189. Tarn is one of several words Poe particularly liked.

58. 10. low cunning. See if the reason for this encounter
appears later.

58 31. ennuye: a French word meaning "wearied," "bored."

54. 5-24. The description of Usher is in the main a remarkably good
portrait of Poe himself.

55. 20-30. Observe the extreme to which Poe goes in this study of
terror; it is the fear of fear that oppresses Usher.

56. 2. too shadowy here to be re-stated. Note the effect of
making this weird suggestion instead of a clear statement.

57. 26. Von Weber (1786-1826), a famous German composer.

58. 5. Henry Fuseli, or Fuesli (1742-1825), as he was known in
England, was born in Zurich, Switzerland, and named Johann Heinrich
Fuessli. He was a professor in the Royal Academy and painted a series
of highly imaginative pictures illustrating Shakespeare and Milton.

59. The Haunted Palace. For notes see page 192.

60. 30-31. Richard Watson (1737-1816), Bishop of Llandaff, was
for a time professor of chemistry at Cambridge University and wrote
popular essays on that subject. James Gates Percival (1795-1856) was
an American poet, musician, linguist, surgeon, and scientist; it is
possible the reference is to Thomas Percival (1740-1804), an English
physician. Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799) was an Italian
naturalist, distinguished in experimental physiology.

61. 22-31. All of these titles have been traced, except the last,
which Poe either invented, or, in quoting, altered. Some of the works
named he apparently had not read, since their character is not suited
to his purpose. Jean Baptiste Louis Gresset (1709-1777) was a French
poet and playwright; the two works mentioned are poems,--the first, a
tale of an escaped parrot who stopped at a convent and shocked the
nuns by his profanity. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was a
famous Italian historian and statesman, who wrote a celebrated
treatise called "The Prince"; "Belphegor" is a satire on marriage.
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was an eminent Swedish
theologian and religious mystic. Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754)
was a great Danish poet and novelist; the work mentioned is one of his
best known poems and has been translated into the principal languages
of Europe. Flud, Robert Fludd (1574-1637), was an English
physician, inventor, and mystic philosopher. Jean D'Indagine
(flourished in the first half of the sixteenth century) was a priest
of Steinheim, Germany, who wrote on palmistry and similar subjects.
Marin Cureau de la Chambre (1594-1675), physician to Louis XIV,
who was an adept in physiognomy, and wrote a work on "The Art of
Judging Men." Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853) was a German romantic
novelist. Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639) was an Italian monk
and philosopher, who suffered persecution by the Inquisition.
Eymeric, Nicolas Eymericus (1320-1399), was a native of Gerona,
Spain, who entered the Dominican order and rose to the rank of
chaplain to the Pope and Grand Inquisitor; his famous "Directorium
Inquisitorum" is an elaborate account of the Inquisition. Pomponius
Mela was a Latin writer of the first century A.D., who wrote a
famous work on geography "De Situ Orbis" (Concerning the Plan of the

61. 31. Satyrs and Aegipans: in classic mythology the satyrs and
minor deities of wood and field, with the body of a man and the feet,
hair, and horns of a goat; Aegipans is practically equivalent to, and
is also an epithet of Pan, the satyr-like rural god.

61. 33-34. curious book in quarto Gothic: printed in the
black-faced letters of mediaeval times.

61. 35. The Latin title, which has not been found, means "Vigils for
the Dead according to the Choir of the Church of Mayence."

66. 1-2. The "Mad Trist" of Sir Launcelot Canning has not been found;
undoubtedly the title was coined and the quotations invented to fit
the text, as they do perfectly.

69. 24-25. It was the work of the rushing gust. Note the fine
effect of the momentary suspense, the instant's disappointment carried
by this clause.


First published in a magazine in 1840 (see comment in the
Introduction, page xxvii).

71. Quotation. William Chamberlayne, an English poet and
physician (1619-1689), who in 1659 published "Pharronida, a Heroic

71. 18. Elah-Gabalus: usually Elagabulus, emperor of Rome from
218-222, who indulged in the wildest debaucheries.

72. 26-73 2. The description here is based on fact, apparently
being a true picture of the English school attended by Poe himself
(see Introduction, page xii).

73. 31. Draconian Laws: Draco was an Athenian legislator, who codified
the laws of his city in 621 B.C. The penalty for every offense was
death, and the laws were, therefore, said to be written in blood, not

75. 5. peine forte et dure: "punishment severe and merciless";
a penalty formerly imposed by Enlish law upon persons who refused to
plead on being arraigned for felony. It consisted in laying the
accused on his back on a bare floor and placing a great iron weight on
his chest until he consented to plead or died. There is one instance
of the infliction of this punishment in American colonial history:
Giles Cory, accused of witchcraft, was pressed to death in
Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692.

75. 33. exergues: the exergue is a term in numismatics to
signify the space under the principal figure on the reverse of a coin,
usually containing the date or place of coining.

76. 7. "Oh, le bon temps, que ce siecle de fer!" "Oh! the good
time, the age of iron."

86. 11. Herodes Atticus: a Greek born about A.D. 101, who
inherited from his father, of the same name, great wealth, to which he
added by marriage. He was a noted teacher of rhetoric and became a
Roman consul.


First published in a magazine in 1841 (see comment in the
Introduction, pages xxvii-xxviii).

94. Quotation. Joseph Glanville, or Glanvill (1636-1680), an
English clergyman and author of several works on philosophy and
religion. The quotation has been found in the writings of Glanvill by
Professor Woodberry, but Poe quoted rather carelessly, and his extract
varies slightly from the original. The Democritus referred to was a
famous Greek philosopher, born about 470 B.C., who taught the atomic

94. 1-3. Note the effect of the opening sentences in seizing attention
and arousing interest at once.

95. 21. Nubian geographer ... Mare Tenebrarum. The same
allusion occurs in "Eleonora," and in "Eureka" Poe speaks of "the
_Mare Tenebrarum_,--an ocean well described by the Nubian geographer,
Ptolemy Hephestion." Apparently he refers to Claudius Ptolemy, a
celebrated philosopher who flourished in Alexandria in the second
century A.D.

His theory, known as the Ptolemaic System, remained the standard
authority in astronomy to the end of the Middle Ages, while his
geography was accepted until the era of the great discoveries opened
in the fifteenth century. Ptolemy is thought to have been born in
Egypt, and it is impossible to say what grounds Poe had for calling
him Nubian. _Mare Tenebrarum_ means "sea of darkness," the Atlantic.

96. 10-15. This is a real description of the geography of the region
of the Lofoden islands. Refer to a good map of Norway.

97. 27. Maelstrom: from Norwegian words meaning "grind" and
"stream." The swift tidal currents and eddies of the Lofoden islands
are very dangerous, but the early accounts are greatly exaggerated,
and Poe's description is, aside from being based on these accounts,
purely imaginative.

97. 32. Jonas Ramus. Professor Woodberry, whose study of Poe's
text has been exhaustive, has an interesting note to this effect: Poe
used an article in an early edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in
which a passage was taken from Pontoppidan's "The Natural History of
Norway" without acknowledgment, this in turn having been taken (with
proper acknowledgment) from Ramus. The Britannica, in the ninth
edition, after giving Poe credit for "erudition taken solely from a
previous edition of this very encyclopedia, which in its turn had
stolen the learning from another, quotes the parts that Poe invented
out of his own head." See "Whirlpool" in the Britannica.

98. 26-27. Norway mile: a little over four and a half English

99. 19. Phlegethon: a river of Hades in which flowed flames
instead of water.

100. 4. Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680) was a learned Roman Catholic
writer, a native of Germany. See "Whirlpool" in the Britannica.

105. 2. what a scene it was to light up! Interest in the
narrative should not hurry the reader too much to appreciate this
scene,--the magnificent setting of the adventure.

109. 10. tottering bridge, etc.: Al Sirat, the bridge from
earth over the abyss of hell to the Mohammedan paradise. It is as
narrow as a sword's edge, and while the good traverse it in safety,
the wicked plunge to torment.

111. 35. Archimedes of Syracuse (i.e. 287--212) was the
greatest of ancient mathematicians; the work to which Poe refers deals
with floating bodies.


First published in _Graham's Magazine_ for May, 1842 (see comment in
the Introduction, page xxvii).

113. The "Red Death" is a product of Poe's own imagination;


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