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poetic suggestion. A lamp never hangs from the ceiling, it depends. One of his favorite words is domain.' The black tarn' which mirrors the house of Usher he could have called by no other term. 'Lake,' or 'pond,' or 'pool' would not have done. The word must be remote, suggestive, mysterious.
His style often glows with prismatic colors, but the colors seem to be refracted from ice. There is no warmth, no sweetness, no lovable and human quality. All the pronounced characteristics of Poe's style are intensely and coldly intellectual. It is easier to admire his use of language than to like it.
TALES OF THE GROTESQUE AND
By virtue of his journalistic gift, Poe resembled the author of Robinson Crusoe. He could not, like Defoe, have become general literary purveyor to the people, but he was quite ready to profit by what was uppermost in the public mind. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is an illustration, as it is also a good example of Poe's art in its most mundane form. It recounts the adventures of a runaway lad at sea. Mutiny, drunkenness, brawling, murder, shipwreck, cannibalism, madness, are the chief ingredients of the book. It is minute, circumstantial, prolix, matter of fact. The air of verisimilitude is increased by an alternation of episodes of thrilling interest with tedious accounts of how a cargo should be stowed, and the object and method of bringing a ship to. Only at rare intervals does Poe's peculiar genius flash out.
As the longest of his writings the Narrative has a peculiar value. By it we are able to get some notion of his power for sustained effort,' to use a phrase that always irritated him. That
power was certainly not great ; perhaps it was never fairly tested. The Journal of Julius Rodman is a second attempt at the same kind of fiction. Poe was less happy in descriptions of the prairie than of the sea; the interest of the Journal is feeble.
In these fictions the author holds fast to tangible things. Pym and Rodman might have had the adventures they recount. In another group of stories Poe leavens fact with imagination. Such are * The Balloon Hoax,''The Unparalleled Adven'ture of one Hans Pfaall,' 'A Descent into the Maelström,' and the ‘MS. Found in a Bottle.' Real or alleged science is compounded with the elements of wonder and mystery. And with these elements comes an increase of power.
Poe, who was never backward in giving himself the credit he thought his due, often failed to understand where his own most marvellous achieve
ments lay. In ‘Hans Pfaall’he claimed originality in the use of scientific data. Had his stories only this to recommend them, they would long since have been forgotten. Nothing so quickly becomes old-fashioned as popular science. The display of knowledge about aerial navigation in ‘Hans Pfaall' perhaps made a brave show in 1836, but it is childish now. A Hans Pfaall of the Twentieth Century would descend on Rotterdam in a dirigible balloon, and if questioned would be found to entertain enlightened views on storage batteries. Poe talked glibly about sines and cosines and brought noisy charges of astronomical ignorance against his brother writers, but it was not in these things that his genius displayed itself, it was rather in the way this wonder-worker makes one aware of the illimitable stretches of
the appalling vastness, the silence, the mystery, terror, and majesty of Nature. He is the clever craftsman in his account of how the Dutch bellows-mender started on his aerial travels. But when in two or three paragraphs Poe conveys a sense of height so terrific that the plain fireside reader, indisposed to balloon ascensions, grasps the arms of his chair and clings to the floor with the toes of his slippers lest he fall — then does he display a power with which popular science has nothing to do.
This is true of A Descent into the Maelström.' What scientific fact went into the composition of the piece appears to have been taken from the Encyclopædia Britannica, but the valuable part, the sense of life and movement, the crash of the storm, the roar of the waves, the shriek of the vortex, like the cry of lost souls, all this is not to be found in encyclopædias. The story can be read any number of times and its magical power felt afresh each time. But the first reading cannot be described by so tame a phrase as a literary pleasure, it is an experience.
Another masterpiece is the ‘MS. Found in a · Bottle.' The din of the storm is not easily got out of one's ears. With the unnamed hero of the tale we 'stand aghast at the warring of wind and 'ocean' and are chilled by the stupendous ram‘parts of ice, towering away into the desolate sky.'
In another group of stories, 'The Gold-Bug,' the gruesome
"Murders in the Rue Morgue,' * The Mystery of Marie Rogêt,' and 'The Pur‘loined Letter,' the author fabricates mysteries for the express purpose of unravelling them afterwards. Poe, who seldom attempts the creation of a character, actually created one in the person of his famous detective. Dupin is a living being in a world peopled for the most part with shadows.
Poe professed not to think much of his detective stories. The ratiocinative' tale is not a high order of literary achievement. Poe shares the honors accruing from the invention of such puzzles with Wilkie Collins, Gaboriau, and the 'great
'Boisgobey,' and they in turn with the most sensational of sensation mongers.
• The Gold-Bug' afforded the author a vehicle for giving expression to his delight in cryptography, at the same time he availed himself of the perennial human interest in the prospect of unearthing buried treasure. “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt’ was based on a contemporary murder case. It contains a minimum of that in which Poe often revelled, namely physical horror, and a maximum of the ratiocinative element. “The Purloined Letter' is in lighter vein, and illustrates the comedy side of Dupin's adventures. Chevalier and minister cross swords with admirable grace, but no blood is drawn.
The masterpiece of the group is 'The Murders ‘in the Rue Morgue.' Genuinely original, bloodcurdling, the story depends for its real force not on the ingenious unravelling of a frightful mystery, but on the sense of nameless horror which creeps over us as little by little the outré character of the tragedy is disclosed. We realize that in the dread event of being murdered one might have a choice as to how it was done. The predestined victim might even pray to die by the hands of a plain God-fearing assassin and not after the manner of Madame L'Espanaye.
Of the stories classified as tales of conscience, William Wilson,' 'The Man of the Crowd,' “The Impof the Perverse,'«The Tell-Tale Heart,' and “The Black Cat,' the first is not only the best,