Edgar Allen Poe by Henry Seidel Canby, Ph.D.

Edgar Allen Poe

by Henry Seidel Canby, Ph.D.

With all Poe’s tremendous versatility, his obscure phases of a complex genius, and his manifold debts to universal literature, it is not to be forgotten that, at the beginning of his career, in 1833, he belonged distinctly to the school of romantic emotionalism where the Landons and the Shelleys had been experimenting. Nevertheless, though born of this school, he had already overtopped its most strenuous efforts.

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Literary masterpieces of the first order in the short story have, so far, been rare. Poe not only added to their number, he made, as it were, two masterpieces to spring after him where one might have grown before. Yet the work of this surprising American rises directly from the welter of sentimental, horrific narrative of the periodicals of his day; it is, in general, of like purpose, and of like substance, and was easily classified by his contemporaries as another variety of the "grim tale."

With all Poe's tremendous versatility, his obscure phases of a complex genius, and his manifold debts to universal literature, it is not to be forgotten that, at the beginning of his career, in 1833, he belonged distinctly to the school of romantic emotionalism where the Landons and the Shelleys had been experimenting. Nevertheless, though born of this school, he had already overtopped its most strenuous efforts.

The very pathetic, or very horrible story was, as the last chapter recorded, the ware most readily sold in English periodical-markets of the twenties and thirties. If, at the upper end of its register, one found the powerful Ancient Mariner, or the intensely sensuous tales of Keats, at the other were those prose narratives whose appeal was only to the mawkish sensibilities of a sentimental generation. By them, the mind was left unfluttered, untouched, be the subject as horrid or as pathetic as you please. There is much in the work of Poe for which they supply no adequate source.

At a little earlier period, Germany, too, was experimenting with sensibility, especially with sensibility to the mysterious or awful. In the first decades of the century, the art of arousing such feelings in Teutonic hearts was largely appropriated by the so-called romantic school of German novelists and poets, that literary group about which Heine wrote so brilliantly.

The most interesting characteristic of their fiction was a thought or idea worked into the fabric of a strange or terrible story so that a thrill should run through the mind as well as the body of the reader. This characteristic is to be found in literature earlier than the so-called romantic school.

It belongs to the most romantic parts of Faust, and to The Sorrows of Werther; its genesis may be in the transcendental philosophy of Schelling and Fichte. But let us keep to the poets and story-tellers, who embodied dreams, introspections, guesses at the nature of the soul, in the ghosts, elves, double personalities, soulless spirits, wild adventure, and sudden death which that romantic time had ready at hand for them.

There is Tieck, who wrote, in The__Runenberg (1802), of the beautiful spirit calling the hero's other self away from duty to the mountains; Hoffmann and his hideous sandman, who is perhaps an evil genius, perhaps the soul's own weakness viewed objectively; Fouque and the lovely Undine, who learns, in the sadness of her romance, what it means to have a soul. Such stories traffic in pathos, in mystery, or in horror, and work upon the sensibilities of their readers.

But, with all their formlessness and their overwrought fantasy, they are superior to their English kin of the annuals in more than virility and art. They have an idea, a thought, a conception at the core, and therefore grapple with the mind and stir the emotions of the soul.

There is, of course, every reason for supposing that the instant any English writer possessed of an intensity of thought equal to his depth of feeling should take up the weakly emotional story, some heightening of its effects would result, and the intellect of the reader would no longer remain unimpressed. Even though the highly-wrought, half-symbolic narratives which John Sterling contributed to The Atheruseum in the late twenties show some traces of Germanism, they are evidence that such a development was bound to come without external influence.

Yet the quickening agency of this German school in the genius of Poe is not now to be doubted. Several monographs have been published to show his knowledge of the German language and of the German romantic writers. Parallels between his stories and those of Hoffmann's have been pointed out which are close enough to prove a knowledge, a sympathy, and a lionlike borrowing. Still more convincing are his own half- veiled assertions. To be sure, the terror in his stories, so he said in his preface to the Tales of the Grotesque and the Arabesque, was "not of Germany, but of the soul."

The terror of these German predecessors, however, is precisely a terror of the soul, for the first time systematically wrought into fiction. In the hands of Poe, it gained enormously in art, and awakened the emotions by means peculiar to his own genius. Yet one can readily believe that his Roderick in The House of Usher, who pored over books which had the "character of phantasm," Morelia, who was interested in the transcendentalism of Schelling and Fichte, Ægaeus, whom "the realities of the world affected — as visions," are all identical with the young Poe when he freed his mind and later his fancy in the fields where Novalis sought the blue flower and all the German romanticists wandered.

He seems, indeed, to have read as a young man much that the Germans had been reading, cultivated an introspective and intensely mystical view of his own personality in a fashion very characteristic of them, and, furthermore, familiarized himself with the stories of Hoffmann and of Tieck, wherein mysticism, complexities of the mind, terror of the soul, had been made to pay dividends through the agency of moderately good narrative. To say that Poe was a creature of German influence would be absurd.

To say that German thought and fancy were sympathetic to his genius, would be putting it too mildly. Between these extremes the truth must lie.

How Poe's "thin and pallid lips" would have curled if one had called him a transcendentalist — one of "our friends of The Dialas he sneeringly designated Emerson and the Concordians! Transcendentalism denotes, nevertheless, the quality in which Poe and these German story-tellers were alike. When brought to bear upon a goose-flesh tale of terror, that preoccupation with the things of the mind, which accompanied, or flowed from, transcendentalism, was bound to give the story substance.

The night-walking ghost of the grim tale would be transformed into "the blot upon the brain that will show itself without." The objective story would be changed to a subjective one. The terror, if it struck at all, would be made to strike through to the soul. Such a metamorphosis, as far as their imperfect technique would permit, was the accomplishment of the German romanticists. Such a metamorphosis, to a far higher degree, was wrought by Poe.

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The Philosophical Element of Poe's Story-telling

The importance of this philosophical element in Poe's story-telling is not to be measured by the opportunity which it presents for discussions in comparative literature. Its real importance lies in the effect upon the short story.

In the past, most short stories had lacked specific gravity. Their weight in proportion to their size was less than that of the novel or the romance. These new tales gained weight by the idea which inspired them. The public, eager for grim stories, and getting fiction which reached no deeper than the hair, received at last full value for its money.

Germans began the transformation; only began it, for if there is weight there is also verbosity in German stories, and, pace Mr. Brownell, very little art to make up for it. Poe, following parallel lines, gave the short story of the romantic variety worth as well as weight. The conception of gloomy terror which impregnates The House of Usher is as complete as the idea of medieval chivalry underlying Ivanhoe. Amontillado, Ligeia, or The Masque of the Red Death, are as ounces of lead. Short as they are, they have more, not less, than the specific gravity required for durable literature, and, furthermore, they are excellent artistically. This transformation, when successful, was the first step in the nineteenth century's remodeling of the short story.

Before we leave the question of the soil whence sprang the genius of Poe, that curiously perfect plant — nightshade if you will — it is worth our while to speculate on the effect of his own nationality as it combined with the English and German fashion which he was following. Except Irving, he is the first American whom we have discussed, and Irving's subjects alone betray his nativity.

More is to be said of the national characteristics of Poe, partly as to taste, style, and like matters to be discussed later, partly as regards less obvious effects of environment upon his genius. He was an American with an English education. This made him somewhat cosmopolitan, and therefore more susceptible to currents of thought from abroad than would otherwise have been the case. He was young, and an American, at a time when an idealistic movement was in strong progress in his country. This encouraged the mystical tendencies of his mind. He was a fellow countryman of Irving.

Through all of Poe's younger life, Irving was the reverenced master of American literature, the first American to gain recognition abroad. His greatest success had been won in the short story, to which he kept because there he felt himself most original and most at home (P. M. Irving's Life of Irving, ii., 226-7). That this success was due as much to the perfection of telling as to the story substance itself, so keen a critic as Poe could not fail to discern.

Thus a powerful stimulus, the example of a success, perceptibly attainable for him also, must have urged on the younger author to write stories of a high degree of artistic excellence. Irving was the admiration of both races. Yet how infinitely more imperative must have been the call to go and do likewise for an American, one of a vainglorious nation, who had scored, so far, but a single literary triumph which England was ready to admit!

Poe must divide with the Germans, though his share was greater, the credit of giving specific gravity to the short story. But his tales of the grotesque and arabesque, with the exception of the Canterbury stories, the best known and most influential in English, were made possible by a tour de force which was all his own. Leaving behind questions of origin, influence, and source, I follow Sainte-Beuve, and begin the endeavor to come at the more intimate and personal secrets of the art and power of Poe by a study of his first great success. The MS. Found in a Bottle won Poe $100 in The Saturday Visitor Competition of 1833, and his first popular reputation.

This MS. records, in vividly realistic narrative, the experiences of a wanderer cast from the wreck of his own boat upon a vast spectral ship, manned by an ancient crew, and coursing tumultuously dead south over a frightful sea, until, as the story ends, an engulfing whirlpool in a vast amphitheater gapes for them, and amid the "thundering of ocean and tempest, the ship is quivering — Oh God! and — going down!"

Now, there are dozens of contemporary stories where terrible adventures figure, but this first Poe tale contains a new thrill. Why?

Of course, it is partly because this young writer (he was probably only twenty-two when he composed the story) had relearned the old, easy, yet so universally neglected art of Defoe, the use of the specific word. Everyone does it now, and usually with such gross plethora of highly-colored verbs and adjectives that, even though Poe wrote with so strong an appeal to the senses that the wildest tale reads as if it had happened, our jaded taste may prejudice his achievement. Here are a few sentences from the story under discussion:

"Her huge hull was of a deep dingy black, unrelieved by any of the customary carvings of a ship. A single row of brass cannon protruded from her open ports, and dashed from the polished surfaces the fires of innumerable battle lanterns which swung to and fro about her rigging. — For a moment of intense terror she paused upon the giddy pinnacle as if in contemplation of her own sublimity, then trembled, and tottered, and — came down."

But this vivid style is not, as so often with that contemporary master of specific prose, De Quincey, an end in itself, it is only a means to an end. It is one of several means to the end that a tremendous impression of the terrible at sea should be forced upon the most callous reader. The introductory paragraph, where one learns how scientific and how unfanciful is this traveler who is to tell such a strange story, is another means, this time to make the tale read true, and hence convey a stronger impression.

The character of the hero, a man who courts desperation with the coolness of the desperate, is yet another device to make the narrative real and impressive, for his character is in keeping with the tale of a hurricane sweeping the ship into the eternal night of the Antarctics. Thus this whole story is in every way bound up with a governing artistic purpose which never relaxes until the last word is written.

Deeper than the vivid, gloriously rhythmic style, deeper than the study of the hero's morbid personality, deeper than the adventures which thrill the nerve of the macabre, is the power which controls them all, the power and purpose to play the literary game with an artistic plan, every stroke controlled and effective, the end ever served by the means, and that end one deep impression upon the mind of his reader. This purpose and power is the most interesting deduction from Poe's first masterpiece.

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Poe's Narrative Construction

But The MS. Found in a Bottle is not completely typical even of Poe's earliest narrative work. We must add to our critical analysis a study of what seems to have been his earliest experiment in the introspective story, Berenice, a tale composed probably in 1833, and published in 1835. Berenice is one of the most distinctly unpleasant stories in literature. Terror of the soul in this case becomes torture of the stomach.

But it is a remarkable piece of narrative construction and very probably the first thoroughgoing illustration of the technique of the modern short story. Ægaeus, the hero of Berenice, is a spiritual relative of the heroes of Ligeia, Morelia, and Eleanora. In this instance, the romantic environment of boyhood, reading of the mystics, and a solitary life, have given Ægaeus a specialized disorder. He is troubled with superattentiveness, and ponders for hours upon some phrase, object, or word, which becomes, as it were, an idea, and his mental life. The beautiful Berenice, when she was a healthy being, never aroused his attention. Then a strange disease, withering her beauty, caused abnormalities in feature and form, until, for the distempered mind of the hero, she began to have some appeal.

Thanks to his strange attentiveness to detail, her abnormal features caught upon his mind. He decided to marry her. Afterwards, his diseased brain continued to warp, until, in a terrible moment, every faculty was absorbed in an attentive contemplation of the teeth of Berenice, "long, narrow, and excessively white, with the pale lips writhing about them."

One sees faintly from this digest, most impressively from the story itself, that the horrible conclusion when the white teeth, torn in an insanity from the buried but still living Berenice, drop and are scattered to and fro about the floor, is absolutely logical; furthermore, that every turn of the plot leads to it, and every rhythmic description lends aid to establish the necessary tone.

In this story Poe is again a master of an artistic purpose, as in The MS. Found in a Bottle, and more cunning, more sparing of materials. But this is by no means all. The MS. is descriptive narrative only. Berenice is a well-plotted story which totally embraces the significant actions in the lives of two characters, and does so with an economy of means hitherto unknown, and a force and vividness not hitherto surpassed.

As you compare its artificial (but how effective!) development with earlier tales, the secret of the technique of the modern short story comes with a rush. Our short story is a result of an artistic purpose; of an artistic purpose worked out, as in this instance, by means of an emphasis of the climax of the story.

Suppose that a man should be so obsessed by the sight of certain teeth that he would go for them to the grave. This is the story nucleus of Berenice. Take the last clause — "go for them to the grave." Put all the stress on it in your thinking. Develop your hero so that it would be probable that he would go for them to the grave. Modulate your style until the tone is such that your reader is in the mood where there is no humor in teeth stolen from the grave. Shift, in this fashion, all emphasis to the climax of the story, and, instantly, the whole art of the modern short story is demanded of you; for due structural change and rhetorical improvement must follow if you are to make vivid, memorable, and significant the climax in which your narrative culminates.

Poe gave specific gravity to the short story, but his just described invention was far more important. By means of this shift of emphasis it has become easy to secure the effective unity of impression so desirable in a short story. This concentration upon the climax was the great first cause of all those niceties of construction which Professors Matthews and Baldwin have excellently expounded in their studies of modern short narrative. And it was by this simple device that Poe learned to pack into a few pages such effective significance.

Berenice is artificial. In structure, every story of Poe's, and many of those that followed, are highly sophisticated. Let us therefore be somewhat artificial in criticism; suppose that we have the beginning and the end of the problem, and seek for its middle. The solution of the beginning is that Poe, in common with the popular short-story writers of his times, sought to achieve mystery, pathos, horror by his stories (let the tales of ratiocination stand aside for an instant), but wishing to strike deeper than the sensibilities with which Miss Roberts and L. E. L. toyed, reach toward the intellect and the soul.

For the end of the problem — he succeeded in his attempt by fixing the attention upon the climax of his story, usually some outward sign of an inward horror, such as Berenice's teeth, the physical terrors of the Antarctic, or The Fall of the House of Usher, and always with this result, that the reader sees, feels, thinks of the "unique effect" of the story, and of nothing else. If the modern short story has a technique, here it is; if it is an invention, Poe invented it.

The question that remains is the unsolved middle of the problem. How did it come to be Poe who devised this new method of telling a story, a method used by nine-tenths of the notable short-story writers since?

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The Development of Poe's Structure

The reason, in general, is that the urge of the time upon the first genius who should devote himself to this narrative of the emotions was necessarily towards a development of structure. Apparitions, double personalities, all the new plots which the romantic movement had provided and the story-tellers experimented with, were current and had failed of any great literary success.

The Germans came nearest to success from the very strength and variety of their fantasy. They added specific gravity to the short narrative, but only tales like Tieck's The Goblet, which fell naturally into good short-story form, can be called well told. They failed ultimately for lack of structure.

Irving, to be sure, had reached the pinnacle by dissolving his smaller share of fancy in the perfect liquid of a classic style, but he stood away from the movement, even threw back to earlier forms. Poe, on the contrary, was a romanticist to the core, and one who looked through realities into the dream world beyond. He was likewise a genius, and so the man of men to give strength and intensity to the weak story of the emotions and sensibilities.

But that he succeeded, and provided the needed road of easy expression for all this lurid story-making, was due to a more particular cause. Poe was poet and critic before he was story-teller. As poet, he came strongly under the influence of that sensuous verse of which Coleridge was prophet, Keats and the young Tennyson prime disciples.

If one draws up the rhetoric of this poetry, it appears that the carefully calculated effects of The Ancient Mariner or The Eve of St. Agnes — effects of mystery, horror, beauty, the most sensuous of the emotions — are to be conveyed, primarily, by the connotative power of words, secondarily, by such arrangement of those incidents, moods, descriptions which make up the poem, as may best secure the desired effect. Impressionism, in its best sense, is the name which fits the technical process employed. Poe's verse, at any time after the end of his subserviency to Byron and to Moore, is in evident sympathy with this art. His critical comments show his agreement with its principles.

But Poe was also a keen and practical critic, whose criticism was in close relation to his own composition. He practised what he preached and preached what he practised. As early as the introduction to the 1831 edition of his poems, he was thinking out the relation between poetry and prose:

"A poem, in my opinion, is opposed to a work of science by having for its immediate object, pleasure, not truth; to romance, by having, for its object, an indefinite instead of a definite pleasure."

Clearly, at this time, when he was just beginning to work upon the short story, the purpose which he set for his narratives was a pleasure like to, but more definite than, the sensuous impression which he had endeavored to achieve by his verse. The nature of this definite pleasure, which was to be the aim of narrative, is clearly explained in the later, and often quoted, criticism of Hawthorne's tales published in Graham's Magazine for May, 1842.

There Poe maintained that the purpose of short narrative should be "a certain unique or single effect" an effect which could be attained more readily in prose than in verse, because in prose the writer could employ his materials with a freedom which the rhythm of poetry would not permit.

From these critical dicta, we can deduce his reasons for applying impressionistic methods to the short story. He was a devotee of sensuous poetry and the pleasure which it gave. Hence he wished to secure a like pleasure from prose narrative; but discovered, first, that narrative demanded a more definite pleasure, a more concentrated effect, if a sensuous impression were to result; and next, that prose lent itself far more readily than poetry to the structural changes necessary in order to secure this unique effect and this intense concentration. These discoveries were bound to be made the instant Poe began to carry over his interest in sensuous effects into prose.

In poetry there is a connotative value of the word which can never be attained in prose. The word, therefore, is not so powerful when we try to make, not verse, but prose impressionistic, and structure springs instantly to a superior importance. For, as Poe himself pointed out, prose is more flexible than verse, and more readily altered into the sequence and proportion of incident desired. If one tries to put The Ancient Mariner or Hood's Eugene Aram into prose, this theory will prove itself, for once the charm of words set in rhythm is lost, the arrangement of the incidents and their proportioning begin to impose tyrannical obligations upon the transposer.

Poe seems to have tried such an experiment, but with new stories instead of old. Busying himself with prose narrative, after he had already solved his problem for verse, he worked out the solution as we have seen it worked out in the two stories already analyzed, securing his "effect" mainly by a newly devised structure, yet not neglecting the careful choice of words, rhythm, and poetical heightening of style. In this way, his theory of poetry, transforming itself to a theory of prose narrative, automatically gave birth to the changes in structure which made possible a new kind of short story.

This high desire for one intense impression of the idea, the emotion, or the vision of the writer moulds all the greatest tales of Poe, and it alone could have made possible such powerful and artificial stories as Usher, Ligeia, Amontillado, The Black Cat, and the others of this kind.

Perhaps an "attentiveness" like that of Ægaeus, a susceptibility to all sensations like Roderick's, qualities to be found in Poe himself, are, to some extent, responsible for the unique success with which these stories proceed unwaveringly to their fearful end. Perhaps this success may also be psychologically connected with that other quality of Poe's brain, his ratiocinative power, which made him the first teller of great detective stories. At all events, the two are united in practice. In The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Gold-Bug, The Purloined Letter, stories which share, and perhaps share predominantly in Poe's reputation as a story-teller, an effort of pure reason has been put into compact and effective story form by the method of construction already developed for his studies in impressionism. The emphasis has been put upon the solution of the mystery, instead of upon a climatic incident as in the tales of the grotesque.

And the reader will notice, in these ratiocinative stories, sentences, paragraphs, and pages which block the narrative, detract from the total effect, and read like explanatory notes incorporated in the text, a fault of which Poe was never guilty in the tales where his theory of impressionism had uninterrupted sway.

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Technique in Poe's Short Stories

It is tiresome to be always talking of technique, and yet it is very difficult to speak of Poe and leave technique out of the question. The stories of ratiocination, barring the style, and such a conception as that of M. Dupin, are all technique. The tales of the grotesque would be impossible, so subtle are their effects, without the technique.

And yet, if we look upon these latter and most characteristic narratives of our author, disengage his conceptions from the results which he attained with them, think over his characters, and regard his setting, one does not feel so sure of Poe's eminence in literature. As a student of personality he knew to its depths only one, his own. That should be enough if he knew it truly. But if abnormal, or viewed abnormally! If warped in the presentation by an attentiveness to the occasional, the merely possible manifestation!

Roderick Usher, for instance — is he not artificially abnormal? And those projections of Poe's own personality which are imbued with the elixir drawn from his love of certain women: Ligeia, Morelia, Eleanora, is there not in them a certain noxious mixing of dreams, of diseased mind-states, and of reality which precludes, not success, for literature is not anthropology, but the soundest, and highest art of literature?

Perhaps we are too near Poe to judge, too little advanced even yet on the road of subjective analysis. Or possibly we are too far from the stir of the romantic movement to judge fairly, too little affected by what the next true romanticist will consider the very material for his art. And yet, as we read of Eleanora and the bizarre valley of many scented grasses, of the Gothic chamber where the body of Lady Rowena of Tremaine stirred with the soul of Ligeia, of Montresor who so mockingly left the drunken jester buried alive in his vaults, the doubt will come — in spite of all the magic of narrative, of impressionism, of technique, is this healthy? Is it the material from which great literature is made?

The question is unfair. Guava, the tropical fruit, is ill-flavored when raw, but it makes the most delicious of jellies. The morbid figures of Poe's imagination, be they untrue, or fabricated from supernormal truth, make you feel the horror, beauty, mystery, or terror of the mind. And they do it whether you like them or not. They accomplish legitimate results, thanks to technique, and that is all that art requires of them. Thus, as is right, we involve Poe's subject-matter with Poe's technique again, and the discussion ends where it began.

There is one detraction to be registered. Whether a fault of his environment — for we remember what Englishmen thought of us, and how banal Englishmen themselves sometimes were — or a defect of his nature, certainly Poe is not always in good taste. For example, in that extravaganza in landscape gardening, The Domain of Arnheim, there is, for all its beauty, some bad taste. The scenery inclines to the melodramatic, the cluster of Saracenic-Gothic minarets at the heart of the paradise is — well, doubtful.

In many dialogues, too, throughout the stories, the faint hint comes again, now suggested by a word that is fulsome, now by a description that is overstrained. The fault is not easily pointed out or defined, since it is neither vulgarity nor ostentation, yet now and then, in The Assignation, in Usher, in William Wilson, even in the exquisite Morelia, one wishes that the rooms were not furnished just so, that the trappings of feudalism were not displayed quite so lavishly, that the college profligate was not quite so crass, black horror painted not quite so thickly!

My criticism is intentionally unspecific, for it is hard to pick out one instance without seeming too nice, and impossible to include many. This leads, however, to firmer ground, and explains my neglect of some volumes of Poe's narrative work.

In a letter of March, 1843, Mrs. Carlyle remarked of humorous stories, "All the books that pretend to amuse in our day come, in fact, either under that category, which you except against, 'the extravagant clown-jesting sort,' or still worse, under that of what I should call the galvanised-death's-head- grinning sort. There seems to be no longer any genuine, heartfelt mirth in writers of books."

Poe lacked a good sense of humor. What he had was precisely of the clown-jesting or galvanised-death's-head sort, the humor of the school of Hood, whose poorer narratives his own burlesques faintly resemble. Like many another man, he erroneously supposed himself to be funny. He was not, and his lack of taste shows in his vain attempts. At satire he was little better than at mirth, and the tempered excellence of his one successful satiric venture, Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether, was due more to the possibilities of its plot than to any satire, latent or otherwise. "Back to your horrors, young man," Keat's reviewer might have said with justice.

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The Master of Technique, Lord of the Bizarre

One more eulogistic paragraph remains to be added. Like a corona about Poe's serious stories is an effusion of beauty and power — beauty from the solemn, rhythmic style, and the perfect tone of the setting, power from the force of the ideas, the precision of the images even when most fantastic. And this beauty and power is dependent upon no literary influences, upon no development culminating in this one man; it is the flower of his own genius, with a value absolute and for itself. Without other consideration, it gives to Poe's tales a rank among the masterpieces of style.

But we would hail Poe first as a master of technique; as the great craftsman in English narrative, perhaps the most influential innovator since Richardson. The strong and still increasing flow of literary energy into the channels of the short story opened by his art is witness that he deserves this title. If to the highly organized short narrative which his followers pour out in pursuance of the lessons first taught by him, some of us prefer the simple, unemphatic tale of Chaucer, this means no detraction from the enormous value of his discovery — a value not half-developed as yet in this study — but merely that to Poe, Stevenson, or Kipling, we prefer — Chaucer.

Next, he is also the undisputed lord of the bizarre, the terrible, the mysterious in fiction. The loftiness of his achievement here may sometimes be questioned, not so much, I fancy, on the ground of decadence or abnormality in his subjects, as because of a little bad taste which, like an economic error, has shown itself only many years after commission. But as an expert commanding the resources of fiction, and as an artist supreme in putting into action all that can arouse the terror of the soul, Poe is worthy of the highest and most discriminating praise.

~ The End ~

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