Page images
PDF
EPUB

POE'S TALES. *

We fear that Mr. Poe's reputation as a and confined. It likewise makes him critic, will not add to the success of his pre aware of the practical value of such mensent publication. The cutting scorn with tal acuteness in the ascertainment of truth, which he has commented on many authors, where the materials for its discovery seem and the acrimony and contempt which provokingly slight,or hopelessly confused. have often accompanied his acuteness, The first story in this collection—a must have provoked enmities of that kind, collection, we believe, that does not inwhich are kept warm by being assiduously clude more than one-sixth of what Mr. “nursed.” Ît might be too much to ex Poe has written-is “ The Gold-Bug.” pect praise from those, on whose brows Few could guess at the character of this he has been instrumental in fixing the tale from the title. It is exceedingly inbrand of literary damnation ; but still we genious and interesting, and full of acute think that even an enemy would be found and vigorous thinking. The account of to acknowledge, that the present volume the intellectual process by which a crypis one of the most original and peculiar tograph is decyphered strikes us as a ever published in the United States, and most remarkable instance of subtile obsereminently worthy of an extensive circula- vation and analysis. This is one of the tion, and a cordial recognition. It dis- author's most characteristic tales, and plays the most indisputable marks of well illustrates his manner and his mode intellectual power and keenness, and an of arresting and fixing the attention of individuality of mind and disposition, of the reader. peculiar intensity and unmistakeable The “ Murders in the Rue Morgue," iraits. Few books have been published “ The Mystery of Marie Roget,” and the of late, which contain within themselves “ Purloined Letter,” are all illustrations of the elements of greater popularity. This forcible analysis, applied to the disentanpopularity it will be sure to obtain, if it gling of complicated and confused quesbe not for the operation of a stupid preju- tions, relating to supposed events in actual dice which refuses to read, or a personal life. The difference between acumen and enmity, which refuses to admire. cunning, calculation and analysis, are ad

These tales, though different in styleand mirably illustrated in these tales. No one matter from the generality of such compo can read them without obtaining some mesitions, lack none of the interest of roman- taphysical knowledge, as well as having tic narrations. Indeed, their peculiarity his curiosity stimulated and his sympaconsists in developing new sources of in- thies awakened. A lawyer might study terest. Addressed to the intellect, or the them to advantage, and obtain important more recondite sympathies and emotions of hints relative to the sifting of evidence. our nature, they fix attention by the force We extract the commencement of “The and refinement of reasoning employed in Murders in the Rue Morgue,” in order that elucidating some mystery which sets the the reader may learn, from Mr. Poe himcuriosity of the reader on an edge, or in self, his notion the analytic power: representing, with the utmost exactness,

“ The mental features discoursed of as and in the sharpest outlines, the inward the analytical, are, in themselves, but little life of beings, under the control of per- susceptible of analysis. We appreciate verse and morbid passions. As specimens them only in their effects. We know of of subtile dialectics, and the anatomy of them, among other things, that they are althe heart, they are no less valuable and ways to their possessor, when inordinately interesting, than as tales. Their effect is possessed, a source of the liveliest enjoyto surprise the mind into activity, and to ment. As the strong man exults in his make it attend, with a curious delight, to physical ability, delighting in such exercises the unraveling of abstruse points of evi

as call his muscles into action, so glories dence, through the exercise of the most entangles. He derives pleasure from even

the analyst in that moral activity which dispiercing and patient analysis. This

the most trivial occupations bringing his power is employed, not on any subject talents into play. He is fond of enigmas, of apart from the story, but to relieve the conundrums, or hieroglyphics; exhibiting curiosity of the reader from the tangled in his solutions of each a degree of acumen mesh of mystery, in which it is caught which appears to the ordinary apprehension

* Tales. By Edgar A. Poe. New York: Wiley & Putnam. 1 vol. 12mo.

nents.

preternatural. His results, brought about When I say proficiency, I mean that perby the very soul and essence of method, fection in the game which includes a have, in truth, the whole air of intuition. comprehension of all the sources whence

“ The faculty of re-solution is possibly legitimate advantage may be derived. These much invigorated by mathematical study, are not only manifold but multiform, and and especially by that highest branch of it, lie frequently among recesses of thought which, unjustly, and merely on account of altogether inaccessible to the ordinary units retrograde operations, has been called, as derstanding. To observe attentively is to if par excellence, analysis. Yet to calculate remember distinctly; and, so far, the conis not in itself to analyse. A chess-player, centrative chess-player will do very well at for example, does the one without effort at whist; while the rules of Hoyle (themselves the other. It follows that the game of chess, based upon the mere mechanism of the in its effects upon mental character, is game) are sufficiently and generally comgreatly misunderstood. I am not now writ- prehensible. Thus, to have a retentive ing a treatise, but simply prefacing a some memory, and to proceed by “the book,” are what peculiar narrative by observations points commonly regarded as the sum total very much at random; I will, therefore, take of good playing. But it is in matters beyond occasion to assert that the higher powers of the limits of mere rule that the skill of the the reflective intellect are more decidedly analyst is evinced. He makes, in silence, and more usually tasked by the unostenta a host of observations and inferences. So, tious game of draughts, than by all the perhaps, do his companions; and the difelaborate frivolity of chess. In this latter, ference in the extent of the information where the pieces have different and bizarre obtained, lies, not so much in the validity of motions, with various and variable values, the inference, as in the quality of the obserwhat is only complex is mistaken (a not vation. The necessary knowledge is that unusual error) for what is profound. The of what to observe. Our player confines attention is here called powerfully into himself not at all; nor, because the game play. If it flag for an instant, an oversight is the object, does he reject deductions from is committed, resulting in injury or defeat. things external to the game. He examines The possible moves being not only manifold the countenance of his partner, comparing but involute, the chances of such oversights carefully with that of each of his oppoare multiplied; and in nine cases out of ten

He considers the mode of assorting it is the more concentrative rather than the the cards in each hand; often counting trump more acute player who conquers. In by trump, and honor by honor, through draughts, on the contrary, where the moves the glances bestowed by their holders upon are unique, and have but little variation, the each. He notes every variation of face as probabilities of inadvertence are diminished, the play progresses, gathering a fund of and the mere attention being left compara- thought from the differences in the exprestively unemployed, what advantages are sion of certainty, of surprise, of triumph, or obtained by either party are obtained by of chagrin. From the manner of gathering superior acumen. To be less abstract-Let up a trick he judges whether the person us suppose a game of draughts where the taking it can make another in the suit. He pieces are reduced to four kings, and where, recognizes what is played through feint, by of course, no oversight is to be expected. the air with which it is thrown upon the It is obvious that here the victory can be table. A casual or inadvertent word ; the decided (the players being at all equal) only accidental dropping or turning of a card, by some recherché movement, the result of with the accompanying anxiety or caresome strong exertion of the intellect. De. lessness in regard its concealment; the prived of ordinary resources, the analyst counting of the tricks, with the order of throws himself into the spirit of his oppo- their arrangement; embarrassment, hesinent, identifies himself therewith, and not tation, eagerness or trepidation-all afford, unfrequently sees thus, at a glance, the sole to his apparently intuitive perception, methods (sometimes indeed absurdly simple indications of the true state of affairs. ones) by which he may seduce into error, The first two or three rounds having been or hurry into miscalculation.

played, he is in full possession of the con“ Whist has long been noted for its in tents of each hand, and thenceforward puts fluence upon what is termed the calculating down his cards with as absolute a precision power; and men of the highest order of in- of purpose as if the rest of the party had tellect have been known to take an appa turned outward the faces of their own. rently unaccountable delight in it, while “ The analytical power should not be eschewing chess as frivolous. Beyond confounded with simple ingenuity: for doubt, there is nothing of a similar nature while the analyst is necessarily ingenious, so greatly tasking the faculty of analysis. the ingenious man is often remarkably inThe best chess-player in Christendom may capable of analysis. The constructive or be little more than the best player of chess; combining power, by which ingenuity is but proficiency in whist implies capacity usually manifested, and to which the phrefor success in all those more important un nologists (I believe erroneously) have asdertakings where mind struggles with mind. signed a separate organ, supposing it a

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

primitive faculty, has been so frequently the others carefully planned. The kind seen in those whose intellect bordered of shuddering sympathy with which we otherwise upon idiocy, as to have attracted are compelled to follow the story, and the general observation among writers on mo.

continuity of the impression which it rals. Between ingenuity and the analytic

makes on the mind, are the best evidences ability there exists a difference far greater, indeed, than that betwen the fancy and the of the success of the author's design. imagination, but of a character very strictly “A Descent into the Maelström” is also analogous. It will be found, in fact, that conceived with great power, and dethe ingenious are always fanciful, and the veloped, in its details, with almost paintruly imaginative never otherwise than! ful exactness. The singular clearness analytic.”

with which the scene is held up to the The last sentence in this extract, referring imagination, and the skill with which to the imaginative element in analysis, is the thoughts and emotions of the author forcibly illustrated in the “ Purloined and sufferer are transferred to the reader's Letter.” In the last tale, the whole cun- mind, evince uncommon intensity of feelning and ingenuity of the Parisian police ing and purpose. In both of these comare baffled by the seeming simplicity of positions, it would be difficult to convey their antagonist. He is a poet, and, in à fair idea of their merit by extracts, as imagination, identifies his own intellect the different parts bear the most intimate with that of his opponents, and conse relation to each other, and depend for quently understands what will be the their true effect upon being read consecucourse they will pursue in ferreting out tively,—still we cannot refrain from giv. the place where the letter is concealed. ing the conclusion of the “Fall of the They act upon the principle, that every House of Usher :” man, who has anything to hide, will follow what would be their own practice, my lips, than—as if a shield of brass had

“ No sooner had these syllables passed and therefore they search for their object indeed, at the moment, fallen heavily upon in the most out-of-the-way holes and a floor of silver-I became aware of a dis. corners. The man of imagination, know. tinct, hollow, metallic, and clangorous, yet ing this, puts the letter in a place, the apparently muflled reverberation. Comvery publicity of which blinds and leads pletely unnerved, I leaped to my feet; but astray his cunning opponents. This iden- the measured, rocking movement of Usher tification of the reasoner's mind with was undisturbed. I rushed to the chair in that of his adversary, so as to discover which he sat. His eyes were bent fixedly what course of action he would in all before him, and throughout his whole probability pursue in given circumstances, But, as I placed my hand upon his shoul

countenance there reigned a stony rigidity. is, of course, an exercise of imagination, der, there came a strong shudder over bis just as much as the delineation of an

whole person ; a sickly smile quivered about imaginary character. No force or acute- his lips ; and 'I saw that he spoke in a low, ness of mere understanding, could do the hurried, and gibbering murmur, as if unoffice of the imagination in such a case. conscious of my presence. Bending closely The thousand instances which arise daily over him, I at length drank in the hideous in actual life, where such a power of import of his words. analysis as Mr. Poe describes, might be Not hear it?-yes, I hear it, and have of great practical utility, are too obvious heard it

. Long-Jong-long-many mito need comment.

nutes, many hours, many days, have I heard “ The Fall of the House of Usher," wretch that I am!—I dared not-I dared.

it-yet I dared not-oh, pity me, miserable though characterized by intellectual qual- not speak! We have put her living in the ities in no way dissimilar from those

tomb! Said I not that my senses were apparent in the tales to which we have acute! I now tell you that I heard her just referred, is still one which has a first feeble movements in the hollow coffin. more potent pictorial effect on the inagi. I heard them-many, many days ago-yet nation, and touches with more subtlety I dared not-I dared not speak! And now the mysterious feelings of supernatural

-to-night-Ethelred-ha! ha!-the breakterror. In this story is a fine instance of ing of the hermit's door, and the death-cry out with great elaboration, and displays the grating of the iron hinges of her prison, probing a horror skillfully. It is wrought of the dragon, and the clangor of the shield"

-say, rather, the rending of her coffin, and much force of imagination in the repre. and her struggles within the coppered archsentation of morbid character. Each

way of the vault! Oh whither shall I fy? picture, as it rose in the author's mind, will she not be here anon? Is she not we feel to have been seen with the hurrying to upbraid me for my haste? Have utmost distinctness, and its relation to I not heard her footstep on the stair ? Do

I not distinguish that heavy and horrible doubtless a fair exhibition of the inward beating of her heart? Madman !-here he life of the criminal whose motives and sprang furiously to his feet, and shrieked actions are narrated; but it is not much out his syllables, as if in the effort he were giving up his soul-Madman! I tell you the author refers, seems to us to be rightly

to our taste. The perverseness, to which that she now stands without the door!

“ As if in the superhuman energy of his classed, not among the original impulses utterance there had been found the potency of human nature, but among the pheof a spell—the huge antique panels to

nomena of insanity. In its lighter maniwhich the speaker pointed, 'threw slowly festations in human character, we think back, upon the instant, their ponderous and would be possible to show that it is ebony jaws. It was the work of the rushing one of those secondary feelings, produced gust—but then without those doors there by the moral discord of the mind, and to be did stand the lofty and enshrouded figure classed among the other frailties or sins of the lady Madeline of Usher. There was of human nature. It is a moral disease, blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every tion of it, perhaps, is Shelley's “ Cenci."

not a primitive impulse. The best illustraportion of her emaciated frame. For a moment she remained trembling and reeling

In this review we have merely indito and fro upon the threshold-then, with cated some characteristics of these tales a low moaning cry, tell heavily inward which strike us as eminently original, upon the person of her brother, and in her and as entitling them to more attention violent and now final death-agonies, bore than is usually given to fictitious compohim to the floor a corpse, and a victim to sitions bearing the same general name, but the terrors he had anticipated.

not belonging to the same class. We “From that chamber, and from that man have not space to enter into any

discussion, I fled aghast. The storm was still sion respecting the justness of the author's abroad in all its wrath as I found myself views on some debatable questions in crossing the old causeway. Suddenly there ethics or metaphysics, or to point out shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual occasional offenses against good taste in could have issued; for the vast house and

his mode of opposing antagonist opinions. its shadows were alone behind me. The In a volume like the present, bearing on radiance was that of the full, setting, and every page evidence of marked individualblood-red moon, which now shone vividly ity of thought and disposition, and interestthrough that once barely-discernable fissure, ing the reader as much by the peculiarity of which I have before spoken as extending as the force of the mind which produced it, from the roof of the building, in a zigzag it would not argue critical skill, so much direction, to the base. While I gazed, as critical impertinence, to subject it to this fissure rapidly widened—there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind-the entire

tests which it was never intended to orb of the satellite burst at once upon my bear, and try it by laws which it openly sight-my brain reeled as I saw the mighty

contemns. In each of the tales the walls rushing asunder—there was a long tu- author has succeeded in the object he multuous shouting sound like the voice of a presented to himself. From his own thousand waters—and the deep and dank tarn point of view, it would puzzle criticism at my feet closed sullenly and silently over to detect blunders in thought, or mismanthe fragments of the ' House of Usher.'» agement in the conduct of the story. The

“ The Black Cat” is a story, exceed- objections to the volume will vary accordingly well told, illustrative of a theory, ing to the differences of taste among its which the author has advanced in other readers. But whatever may be the oppowritings, respecting perverseness, or the sition it may meet, from persons whose impulse to perform actions simply for nature is essentially different from that of the reason that they ought not to be per- the author, it would be in vain to deny formed. For this devilish spirit, Mr. that it evinces a quickness of apprehenPoe claims the honor of being one of sion, an intensity of feeling, a vigor of the primitive impulses of the human imagination, a power of analysis, which heart—one of the indivisible primary are rarely seen in any compositions going faculties, or sentiments, which give direc- under the name of tales;" and that, tion to the character of man.” The contemptuously tossing aside the comtheory is ingeniously represented in the mon materials on which writers of fiction case of an imaginary character, and sup- generally depend for success, the writer ported by a skillful use, or abuse, of cer has shown that a story may be all the tain facts of consciousness, revealed in more interesting by demanding for its full morbid states of the mind. The story is development the exercise of the strongest not without power and interest, and is and most refined powers of the intellect.

HELICON IN HOT WEATHER.

[ocr errors]

Yes! Yes !-a stone pitcher.—A large the sweat running from our nose upon one, boy, about like yourself, with a our shirt bosom!-Heigh! he! oh-ah-aw small head and big belly. Fill it with ee-yah !!—what a yawner we have beice to the brim, my chubby fellow, and come!-But cooler thoughts are from turn in as much Croton as won't run over. inland. Right! We twist our head Hurry now, Ariel, Mercury, Puck ! over the other chair-post, and locate ourmake haste !—and don't wait to be rung selves in the hollows of the Meriden hills, for.

where the century-ice (bless that boy, 0, Phæbus! Doubtless thou hast a

with his ice-pitcher,-Puck, with a vendelight in shining. It is thine honor- geance !) never melts, or in the shadowy thy divinity. Thou art a God, and valleys of Berkshire. Nay! we bury us wouldst have thyself known; and, in- deep in the wilds of Maine--by Moosedeed, we are thy worshipers. We ac head Lake,—glorious region! or Chesknowledge thy presence, (faith, it would uncook, or the great bases of Mount be difficult doing otherwise, these days!) Katahdin-ah! yes, or wander, would and are accustomed to welcome thee you believe it! week by week, through a “When thou upcomest from thy Delian primitive wilderness in our own “ Empire bed!"

State”—from Horicon to the Saranac--and

far north to the fountains of St. RegisBut, oh! “Far-flinging” Apollo !-just mountains, mountains, those old Monowmoderate thy glory! Give us but hegans! haunts of the bear and panther the “ tae half” at once! Remember, we are but mortal, and would not, like lonely cool streams in the deep woods,

-small lakes, frequent and solitary, and Semele, court the! “present blaze” of abodes of the smooth-furred tribes—truly, deity to the extent of being quite burned up --Ha! or is it more likely a visit of within sixty leagues of the Great City,

a most savage and delightful country, wrath than of love !-And what rash men (among the fankees), like the wise yet as wild and almost as unknown

as it was three centuries ago.-- Hillo! old wanderer’s silly comrades, have pro- Apollo is rather hot on our left shoulder. voked him, eating up (instead of taking only ten of the morning, and he conthem to market!) his sacred oxen—“high- trives to look fiercly in upon us, though pathed Hyperion's ?"

we slanted our blinds for mid-day. A Νήπιοι, οι καταβούς υπερίονος Ηελίοιο worthy feat, Chaser of Daphne, filching Ησθιον. .

our good humor at this rate !—Well, we -What a glorious roll of vowels ! There give it up. We have tried to consider was never any language but the Greek! ourselves shadyand with what effect !

Where is that imp of slowness! Imagination thoroughly failed us. If this old bell-cord were fastened to his

Neither is memory any better! ears !—Patience? The wide atmosphere Diá we not suddenly, like a cloud ais one vast sudorific, and that quality fire, (but with no breath of wind to help in us is melting-melting:-it never was us !)-hurry away from this Great Babel very cool. And there is no benefit, as —this eternal extent of mortar and brick, one would suppose, in thinking of shadly brick, stone, and mortar, that is crushing and delectable places. We have tried that, one end of old Manhattan into the water and it “refuses to work.” Of what houses tumbling, houses buildinguse to lean back in our chair-shut eyes care-worn crowds,sweltering and busy-and imagine ourself courting the gray streets, streets, streets-dust, roar, and surf and the sea-wind among the isl- caloric-did we not escape, plunging into ands of Buzzard's Bay, or the coasts of the dark ravines of the Katskills-strange Casco-yes, dream ourself alone-half- places, where the tinkling rivulets and way from Rockaway to Montauk, where springs have hid themselves for centuthe central forests of Long Island-unin- ries, and the dew hangs all summer on habited as yet-stretch down to meet the the mossy rocks, and the sun does not ocean rolling in on the white beach from find it !-yes, hasten off still farther, and the shores of Africa) We start, and find make ourselves solitary in the wide

ak

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1

« PreviousContinue »