Selections From Poe
J. Montgomery Gambrill

Part 5 out of 5

there is no record of such a disease in medical history.

113. 3. avatar: a word from Hindoo mythology, in which it means
an incarnation. The word is used here in its secondary sense,--a
visible manifestation.

113. 11. This paragraph suggests the circumstances under which
Boccaccio represents the stories of his famous "Decameron." A
comparison will be interesting.

116. 3. decora: possibly used as a plural of "decorum,"
propriety; probably it is intended to suggest ornamentation.

116. 14. Hernani: a well-known tragedy by the great French
writer, Victor Hugo (1802-1885).

THE GOLD-BUG (Page 120)

First published in the _Dollar Newspaper_ of Philadelphia in June,
1843, as the $100 prize story (see comment in the Introduction, page
xxviii). This is the best and most widely read of the stories
regarding Captain Kidd's treasure. Read an account of Captain Kidd in
an encyclopedia or dictionary of biography.

Is the main incident of the story the discovery of the treasure or the
solution of the cryptogram? Would the first satisfy you without the
second? The plot is worthy of careful study. Consider the following
points, for example: the significance of the chilly day, how
Lieutenant G---- affects the course of events, the incident of the dog
rushing in, the effect of introducing the gold-bug and making it the
title of the story. If Poe's purpose was to make a story of
cryptography, think of some of the innumerable plots he might have
used, and see what you think of the effectiveness of the one chosen.

120. Quotation. Arthur Murphy (1727-1805), an English actor and
playwright, wrote a comedy called "All in the Wrong," but Professor
W.P. Trent, who examined the play, failed to find Poe's quotation.

120. 15. Poe, while serving in the army, was stationed at Fort
Moultrie, and should have known the region well, but his description
is said to be inaccurate.

121. 11. Jan Swammerdamm (1637-1680), a Dutch naturalist, who
devoted most of his time to the study of insects.

122. 7. scarabaeus: Latin for "beetle," and the scientific term in
entomology. While there are various golden beetles, Poe's was a
creation of his own.

122. 26. This is one of the early attempts to use negro dialect. Poe's
efforts are rather clumsy, considering his long residence in the
South. The reader will notice a number of improbable expressions of
Jupiter's, introduced for humorous effect, but the general character
of the old negro is portrayed, in the main, very well.

124. 5. scarabaeus caput bominis: man's-head beetle.

127. 17. brusquerie: brusqueness, abruptness.

127. 20. solus: Latin for "alone." The Latin word is
altogether unnecessary. Poe was often rather affected in the use of
foreign words and phrases.

128. 22. empressement: French for "eagerness," cordiality.

132. 31. Liriodendron Tulipifera: the scientific name for the
tulip tree, which sometimes attains a height of 140 feet and a
diameter of 9 feet.

138. 25-26. curvets and caracoles: rare terms belonging to
horsemanship; the first is a low leap, the second a sudden wheel.

142. 13. counters: pieces of money, coins; or the meaning may
be imitation coins for reckoning or for counting in games.

142. 16. No American money. Why?

142. 31. Bacchanalian figures: figures dancing and drinking
wine at a celebration of the worship of Bacchus, god of wine.

143. 29. parchment. What is the difference?

147. 20. aqua regia: "royal water," so called because it
dissolves gold, is a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids.

150. 15. Golconda: a ruined city of India, once famous as a
place for the cutting and polishing of diamonds; used figuratively in
the sense of a mine of wealth.

150. 30. Read Poe's article on "Cryptography," included in his
collected works.

151. 13. Spanish main: that part of the Caribbean Sea adjacent
to the coast of South America. It was part of the route of Spanish
merchant vessels between Spain and her new-world possessions, and was
infested with pirates.


First published in 1845 (see comment on the detective stories in the
Introduction, page xxviii). This story is peculiarly original in its
incidents and subtle in its reasoning. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"
should certainly be read also, and perhaps it will prove of more
sustained interest to the majority of readers.

160. Quotation. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (B.C. 4-A.D. 65) was a
celebrated Roman philosopher and tutor of the Emperor Nero. The
quotation means: "Nothing is more hateful to wisdom than excessive

160. 3. Dupin: introduced in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."

160. 4-5. Au troisieme: French, literally, "on the third," but
the meaning is the fourth floor, because the count is begun above the
ground floor; Faubourg St. Germain: an aristocratic section of

160. 15-16. Monsieur G----: introduced in "The Murders in the
Rue Morgue."

164. 3. Hotel: in French usage, a dwelling of some
pretension,--a mansion.

164. 7. au fait: French for familiar, expert.

168. 26. John Abernethy (1764-1831), an eminent English
surgeon, was noted for his brusque manners and his eccentricities.

171. 15-16. Francois, Due de la Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) was
a French moralist, author of the famous "Maxims"; Jean de la
Bruyere (1645-1696) was a French essayist; see notes on
Machiavelli and Campanella under "The Fall of the House
of Usher," page 194.

172. 19. recherche: French for "sought after," selected with

173. 1. non distributio medii: "undistributed middle," a term
in logic for a form of fallacious reasoning. Consult an encyclopedia,
articles on "Logic," "Syllogism," and "Fallacy," or the Century
Dictionary under "Fallacy."

173. 16. Nicholas Chamfort (1741-1794), a Frenchman, was said
to be the best conversationalist of his day, and wrote famous maxims
and epigrams. The quotation means, "It is safe to wager that every
popular idea, every received convention, is a piece of foolishness,
because it has suited the majority."

173. 27-28. ambitus: a going round, illegal striving for
office; religio: scrupulousness, conscientiousness; homines
honesti: men of distinction.

174. 17. Jacob Bryant (1715-1804), an Englishman; his work on
mythology is of no value.

175. 5. intriguant: an intriguer.

176. 3. vis inertiae: force of inertia.

180. 5. facilis descensus Averni: "the descent to Avernus is
easy." Virgil's "Aeneid," VI, 126; Cranch's translation, VI,
161-162. Lake Avernus was, in classical mythology, the entrance to
Hades. Consult Gayley's "Classic Myths."

180. 6. Angelica Catalani (1780-1849), a famous Italian singer.

180. 9. monstrum horrendum: a dreadful monster.

180. 23-24. "A design so baneful, if not worthy of Atreus, is worthy
of Thyestes." Atreus and Thyestes were brothers to whom, in classic
story, the most terrible crimes were attributed.

180. 25. Prosper J. de Crebillon (1674-1762), a noted French
tragic poet. The quotation is from "Atree et Thyeste."


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