Saturday, March 31, 2012

"A Dream within a Dream" Published 1849

"A Dream Within a Dream" (1849)

by Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow—
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand—
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep—while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

-- THE END --

for Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes. And Barbara with infinite love as I falter on the road to Ithaka

"A Dream Within a Dream" is a poem written by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1849. The poem is 24 lines, divided into two stanzas. The poem questions the way one can distinguish between reality and fantasy, asking, "Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?"


"A Dream Within a Dream" reflects Poe's feelings about his life at the time, dramatizing his confusion in watching the important things in his life slip away.[1] Realizing he cannot hold onto even one grain of sand leads to his final question that all things are a dream.[2]

The poem references "golden sand," an image derived from the 1848 discovery of gold in California.[1]

Alternately, it may be interpreted that the "golden sand" is an allusion to the author's loved ones, and that each is inevitably swept away by death (the pitiless wave), no matter how tight a clasp the author tries to retain them with.

Publication history

The poem was first published in the March 31, 1849 edition of a Boston-based periodical called Flag of Our Union.[2] The same publication had only two weeks before first published Poe's short story "Hop-Frog." The next month, owner Frederick Gleason announced it could no longer pay for whatever articles and poems it published.


The Alan Parsons Project's album Tales of Mystery and Imagination opens with an instrumental homage to the poem. Its 1987 re-release included a narration by Orson Welles.

The Propaganda album A Secret Wish features the track "A dream within a dream"; the lyric of the song is this poem.

Biological Radio, the 1997 Dreadzone album, features the track "Dream Within A Dream" which quotes lines from the poem.

Britney Spears' 2001-2002 Dream Within a Dream Tour is heavily themed on the poem.

The Yardbirds' recorded a musical adaptation for their 2003 album Birdland.

The 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock (directed by Peter Weir) features the character Miranda reciting these lines, slightly inaccurate, from Poe's poem.


1.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 402 ISBN 0060923318
2.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 73. ISBN 081604161X

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Deathday: Poe's Foster Father John Allan 1834

Edgar Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809, the second child of actress Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and actor David Poe, Jr. He had an elder brother, William Henry Leonard Poe, and a younger sister, Rosalie Poe. His father abandoned their family in 1810, and his mother died a year later from consumption. Poe was then taken into the home of John Allan (1779-1834) and his wife Frances Valentine Allan. John Allan was a successful Scottish merchant in Richmond, Virginia, who dealt in a variety of goods including tobacco, cloth, wheat, tombstones, and slaves. The Allans served as a foster family and gave him the name "Edgar Allan Poe," though they never formally adopted him.

The Allan family had Poe baptized in the Episcopal Church in 1812. John Allan alternately spoiled and aggressively disciplined his foster son. The family sailed to Britain in 1815. Poe attended the grammar school in Irvine, Scotland (where John Allan was born) for a short period in 1815, before rejoining the family in London in 1816. There he studied at a boarding school in Chelsea until summer 1817. He was subsequently entered at the Reverend John Bransby’s Manor House School at Stoke Newington, then a suburb four miles (6 km) north of London.

Frances Valentine Allan

Poe moved back with the Allans to Richmond, Virginia in 1820. In 1824 Poe served as the lieutenant of the Richmond youth honor guard as Richmond celebrated the visit of the Marquis de Lafayette. In March 1825, John Allan's uncle and business benefactor William Galt, said to be one of the wealthiest men in Richmond, died and left Allan several acres of real estate. The inheritance was estimated at $750,000. By summer 1825, Allan celebrated his expansive wealth by purchasing a two-story brick home named Moldavia. Poe may have become engaged to Sarah Elmira Royster before he registered at the one-year-old University of Virginia in February 1826 to study languages. The university, in its infancy, was established on the ideals of its founder, Thomas Jefferson. It had strict rules against gambling, horses, guns, tobacco and alcohol, but these rules were generally ignored. Jefferson had enacted a system of student self-government, allowing students to choose their own studies, make their own arrangements for boarding, and report all wrongdoing to the faculty. The unique system was still in chaos, and there was a high dropout rate. During his time there, Poe lost touch with Royster and also became estranged from his foster father over gambling debts. Poe claimed that Allan had not given him sufficient money to register for classes, purchase texts, and procure and furnish a dormitory. Allan did send additional money and clothes, but Poe's debts increased. Poe gave up on the university after a year, and, not feeling welcome in Richmond, especially when he learned that his sweetheart Royster had married Alexander Shelton, he traveled to Boston in April 1827, sustaining himself with odd jobs as a clerk and newspaper writer. At some point he started using the pseudonym Henri Le Rennet.

Poe was first stationed at Boston's Fort Independence while in the army. Unable to support himself, on May 27, 1827, Poe enlisted in the United States Army as a private. Using the name "Edgar A. Perry," he claimed he was 22 years old even though he was 18. He first served at Fort Independence in Boston Harbor for five dollars a month. That same year, he released his first book, a 40-page collection of poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems, attributed with the byline "by a Bostonian." Only 50 copies were printed, and the book received virtually no attention. Poe's regiment was posted to Fort Moultrie in Charleston, South Carolina and traveled by ship on the brig Waltham on November 8, 1827. Poe was promoted to "artificer," an enlisted tradesman who prepared shells for artillery, and had his monthly pay doubled. After serving for two years and attaining the rank of Sergeant Major for Artillery (the highest rank a noncommissioned officer can achieve), Poe sought to end his five-year enlistment early. He revealed his real name and his circumstances to his commanding officer, Lieutenant Howard. Howard would only allow Poe to be discharged if he reconciled with John Allan and wrote a letter to Allan, who was unsympathetic. Several months passed and pleas to Allan were ignored; Allan may not have written to Poe even to make him aware of his foster mother's illness. Frances Allan died on February 28, 1829, and Poe visited the day after her burial. Perhaps softened by his wife's death, John Allan agreed to support Poe's attempt to be discharged in order to receive an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Poe finally was discharged on April 15, 1829, after securing a replacement to finish his enlisted term for him. Before entering West Point, Poe moved back to Baltimore for a time, to stay with his widowed aunt Maria Clemm, her daughter, Virginia Eliza Clemm (Poe's first cousin), his brother Henry, and his invalid grandmother Elizabeth Cairnes Poe. Meanwhile, Poe published his second book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems, in Baltimore in 1829.

Poe traveled to West Point and matriculated as a cadet on July 1, 1830. In October 1830, John Allan married his second wife, Louisa Patterson. The marriage, and bitter quarrels with Poe over the children born to Allan out of affairs, led to the foster father finally disowning Poe.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"An Enigma" Published 1848

An Enigma (1848)

by Edgar Allan Poe

"Seldom we find," says Solomon Don Dunce,
"Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.
Through all the flimsy things we see at once
As easily as through a Naples bonnet-
Trash of all trash!- how can a lady don it?
Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff-
Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff
Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it."
And, veritably, Sol is right enough.
The general tuckermanities are arrant
Bubbles- ephemeral and so transparent-
But this is, now- you may depend upon it-
Stable, opaque, immortal- all by dint
Of the dear names that he concealed within't.

An Enigma (1848)

A riddle poem in a modified sonnet form, "An Enigma" was published in March 1848 in the Union Magazine of Literature and Art under its original simple title "Sonnet." Its new title was attached by Rufus Wilmot Griswold. Its lines conceal an anagram with the name Sarah Anna Lewis (also known as "Stella"). Lewis was an amateur poet who met Poe shortly after the death of his wife Virginia while he lived in Fordham, New York. Lewis's husband paid Poe $100 to write a review of Sarah's work. That review appeared in the September 1848 issue of the Southern Literary Messenger. Marie Louise Shew (Virginia's one-time volunteer nurse, of sorts) later said that Poe called Lewis a "fat, gaudily-dressed woman." Poe biographer Arthur Hobson Quinn called "An Enigma" "one of Poe's feeblest poems."[14]

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Deathday: Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1882

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882) was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride," The Song of Hiawatha, and "Evangeline." He was also the first American to translate Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy and was one of the five Fireside Poets.

Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine, then part of Massachusetts, and studied at Bowdoin College. After spending time in Europe he became a professor at Bowdoin and, later, at Harvard College. His first major poetry collections were Voices of the Night (1839) and Ballads and Other Poems (1841). Longfellow retired from teaching in 1854 to focus on his writing, living the remainder of his life in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a former headquarters of George Washington. His first wife, Mary Potter, died in 1835 after a miscarriage. His second wife, Frances Appleton, died in 1861 after sustaining burns from her dress catching fire. After her death, Longfellow had difficulty writing poetry for a time and focused on his translation. He died in 1882.

Longfellow predominantly wrote lyric poems which are known for their musicality and which often presented stories of mythology and legend. He became the most popular American poet of his day and also had success overseas. He has been criticized, however, for imitating European styles and writing specifically for the masses.

Poe and Longfellow

One evening in January 1842, Virginia Clemm Poe showed the first signs of consumption, now known as tuberculosis, while singing and playing the piano. Poe described it as breaking a blood vessel in her throat. She only partially recovered.

Poe began to drink more heavily under the stress of Virginia's illness. He left Graham's and attempted to find a new position, for a time angling for a government post. He returned to New York, where he worked briefly at the Evening Mirror before becoming editor of the Broadway Journal and, later, sole owner. There he alienated himself from other writers by publicly accusing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of plagiarism, though Longfellow never responded.

Rufus Wilmot Griswold, a known rival of Poe's, claimed that Poe had plagiarized "The Haunted Palace" from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Beleaguered City." Poe denied that charge and suggested that Longfellow had, in fact, plagiarized from him. Nevertheless, "The Haunted Palace" was one of the poems highlighted in Griswold's Poets and Poetry of America, one of the first anthologies of American poetry in 1842. When the poem was reprinted by the New World in 1845, Charles Eames introduced it as exquisite. "We can hardly call to mind in the whole compass of American Poetry, a picture of more intense and glowing Ideality."

On January 29, 1845, Poe's poem "The Raven" appeared in the Evening Mirror and became a popular sensation. Though it made Poe a household name almost instantly, he was paid only $9 for its publication. It was concurrently published in the American Review: A Whig Journal under the pseudonym "Quarles."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Deathday: Poet & Socialite Anne Charlotte Lynch 1891

Anne Charlotte Lynch Botta (November 11, 1815 – March 23, 1891) was an American poet, writer, teacher and socialite whose home was the central gathering place of the literary elite of her era.


Early life

She was born Anne Charlotte Lynch in Bennington, Vermont. Her father was Patrick Lynch (?-1819), of Dublin, Ireland, who took part in the United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798.[1] For this, he was imprisoned and then banished from Ireland. He came to the United States at the age of 18, eventually making his way to Bennington where he set up a dry-goods business. There he met his future wife, Charlotte Gray (1789-1873),[2] the daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Lt. Col. Ebenezer Gray (1743-1795). Patrick Lynch and Charlotte Gray married in 1812. Along with their daughter Anne, they also had a son, Thomas Rawson Lynch (1813-1845).[2]

Lynch's father died in 1819, shipwrecked off the coast of Puerto Principe, in the West Indies.[3] After the death of her father, the family moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where Anne and her brother were sent to the best schools. When she was sixteen she was sent to the Albany Female Academy, where she graduated with high honors in 1834 and stayed there as a teacher for a few years.[3]

Literary society

She moved to Providence, Rhode Island with her mother in 1838, where she continued to teach. In 1841, she compiled and edited "The Rhode Island Book,"[1] a collection of poems and verse from the best regional writers of the time, including two poems of her own. She also began to invite these writers to her home for her evening receptions. It was said in 1843, that "the very best literary society of Providence could be found in the parlor of Miss Lynch."[3]

In 1845, Miss Lynch met the famed actress Fanny Kemble, who became very attached to her and introduced her to a wider circle of literary friends."[3] In the same year she moved to Manhattan with her mother. She began teaching English composition at the Brooklyn Academy for Young Ladies;[4] she continued her writing and was published in periodicals such as the New-York Mirror, The Gift, the Diadem, Home Journal, and the Democratic Review. In New York, she also continued her literary receptions which she held every Saturday evening.[3] It was at one of these receptions that she introduced the unknown Edgar Allan Poe to the literary society of New York. In 1848, her book "Poems" by Anne C. Lynch, was published by George P. Putnam. Edgar Allan Poe said of her: "She is chivalric, self-sacrificing, equal to any fate, capable even of martyrdom, in whatever should seem to her a holy cause. She has a hobby, and this is, the idea of duty."[3]


Miss Lynch traveled to Europe in 1853, where she met Vincenzo Botta (1818-1894).[5] He was an Italian professor of philosophy in Turin.[3] In 1849 he was elected to the Sardinian parliament, and in 1850 commissioned, in association with Dr. Parola, another deputy, to examine the educational system of Germany. In 1853 he came to the United States for the purpose of investigating the public-school system, settled here, and became naturalized.[6] He taught philosophy and Italian at the University of the City of New York where for many years he was chair of the department of Italian language and literature. He and Miss Lynch were married in 1855. Mrs Botta told an intimate friend of her marriage, "it satisfied her judgement, pleased her fancy, and, above all, filled her heart."[3]

Evening receptions

For many years she was a well-known and popular leader in society. She hosted intellectual gatherings, seemly without the least bit of effort or pretension, at her home on West 37th Street.[1] Unlike other salons, which had more to do with seeing and being seen by the high society of New York, her receptions provided a creative space in which artists could meet and collaborate. It was said of her salons that no one was either neglected or treated like a celebrity, and every one went away feeling stimulated, refreshed, and happy.[1] At Mrs. Botta's receptions every Saturday night, attendees would find the most well-known writers, actors and artists, such as Poe, Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott,[7] Horace Greeley, Richard Henry Stoddard, Andrew Carnegie, Mary Mapes Dodge, Julia Ward Howe, Charles Butler, Fitz-Greene Halleck, Delia Bacon, Grace Greenwood, Bayard Taylor, William Cullen Bryant, Helen Hunt Jackson, actress Fanny Kemble, Daniel Webster, and many more.[1] Her friend Kate Sanborn started her literary lecturing career at these receptions. Said a Boston writer: "It was not so much what Mrs. Botta did for literature with her own pen, as what she helped others to do, that will make her name a part of the literary history of the country."[3]

Later life

In 1860, Mrs. Botta published the Handbook of Universal Literature, which contained concise accounts of authors and their work. She wrote: "This work was begun many years ago, as a literary exercise, to meet the personal requirements of the writer."[8] This book was used as a text book in many educational institutions.[9]

She was also a sculptor of portrait busts. Her sculpture of Charles Butler, done in marble, was donated to New York University.[3] She said: "Beauty in art, in my opinion, does not consist in simply copying nature, but in retaining the true features of the subject, and breathing on them a breath of spiritual life, which should bring them up to their ideal form."[3]

An example of her poetry which showed her interest in literature:


Speak low, tread softly through these halls;
Here genius lives enshrined,
Here reign, in silent majesty,
The monarchs of the mind.
A mighty spirit-host they come
From every age and clime;
Above the buried wrecks of years
They breast the tide of Time.
And In their presence-chamber here
They hold their regal state,
And round them throng a noble train,
The gifted and the great.

Anne Charlotte Botta died of pneumonia at age 75. She is buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in New York.[3]

Mrs. Botta refused to write an autobiography of her life, so after her death, her husband collected correspondence, poems, and biographical information and had a book published, in 1893, called the "Memoirs of Anne C. L. Botta: Written by Her Friends."[1] A quote by her friend, Mrs. L Runkle: "Life was the material with which she wrought."


1.^ "Memoirs of Anne Lynch Botta". New york University Archives.
2.^ "Anne C. Lynch Page". RootsWeb.
3.^ "Memoirs of Anne C. Botta". Making of America Books.
4.^ "Anne Botta". Library company. Retrieved January 28, 2007.
5.^ "Vincenzo Botta". Picture History.
6.^ "Botta, Vincenzo". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1900.
7.^ Harriet Reisen, Louisa May Alcott: The woman behind 'Little Women', New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2009, p. 253, reports Bronson Alcott frequented their salon in 1856, Louisa Alcott frequented it during her stay in New York the winter of 1875/76, and describes the topics as "politics and literature in three or four languages."
8.^ "Anne C. Botta Biography". Book Rags.
9.^ "Anne C. Lynch". biography.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Man with a Cloak (1951) Joseph Cotten Plays Poe

The Man with a Cloak is a 1951 drama film directed by Fletcher Markle and starring Joseph Cotten, Barbara Stanwyck, Louis Calhern, and Leslie Caron. It was based on a short story by John Dickson Carr, "The Gentleman from Paris."


Martin and Lorna consider the changing situation.In 1848 New York, a young Frenchwoman, Madeline Minot (Caron), arrives, looking for expatriate Charles Theverner (Calhern). She is initially turned away at the door by his mistress and housekeeper, Lorna Bounty (Stanwyck), but persists and presents Theverner with a letter of introduction from his only grandson, Paul, a romantic revolutionary with whom Madeline is in love.

Theverner, a wealthy, old, dissipated rake, correctly guesses Madeline's purpose in visiting him; she has been sent by Paul to ask him for money to support the revolution in France. Lorna, assisted by hulking butler Martin (Joe De Santis) and cook Mrs. Flynn (Margaret Wycherly) are also after Theverner's fortune, having waited for the old man to die for ten years. To that end, the trio let Theverner drink as much as he wants, contrary to the instructions of Dr. Roland (Nicholas Joy), and replace some prescribed medicine.

Madeline has one ally, Dupin (Cotten), an impecunious, heavy-drinking poet (to whom the film's title refers). A chance acquaintance, she turns to him when she suspects the medicine has been poisoned. They take it to a pharmacist, who finds it to be sugar water. Dupin becomes acquainted with Lorna and recognizes her as a former actress who achieved fame with Theverner's backing.

During her stay in Theverner's townhouse, Madeline softens the old reprobate's heart. He summons his lawyer, Durand (Richard Hale), and changes his will. Then he secretly puts arsenic in his drink, ready to end his life. However, he suffers a stroke that paralyzes him, leaving him only partial control of his face. He watches helplessly as Durand drinks the fatal brandy. The will is then snatched up by Theverner's pet raven and hidden in the fireplace. Before the old man dies, he tries to pass along to Dupin the location of the will solely with his eyes.

Lorna guesses that there is a new will and its contents. After the funeral, she and her accomplices search desperately for it without success. Dupin is more perceptive; from the clues, he finds and retrieves the document, though he has to fight Martin off to escape the house alive. When the will is read, it reveals that Paul does inherit the money; Lorna, Martin and Mrs. Flynn are left only the house.

At the end of the film, Madeline goes looking for Dupin to thank him. Dupin's generous bartender Flaherty (Jim Backus) tells her he has gone, leaving only a seemingly worthless IOU for his sizable bar bill. On one side is a draft of a verse about a woman named Annabel Lee, and on the other, the IOU's signature, which reveals Dupin's real name: Edgar Allan Poe.


Markle originally wanted Marlene Dietrich for the role of the scheming maid and Lionel Barrymore for the ailing millionaire, but Barrymore was too ill and when Marlene said no, Stanwyck jumped in. During filming, Stanwyck was going through a difficult divorce with actor husband Robert Taylor.


The dramatic score for the film was composed and conducted by David Raksin. In his score, he wrote for an uncommon ensemble of instruments - 2 flutes, 1 oboe, 2 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 1 bassoon; 1 horn, 1 trumpet, 1 trombone; 1 percussion, and a solo viola d’amore - and included a musical clue to the identity of Dupin. He also employed a tone row in the main title theme, claimed to be the first used in film.[1]

"Another Yesterday," the song performed onscreen by Barbara Stanwyck, was written by Earl K. Brent and dubbed by vocalist Harriet Lee.[1]

The complete score by Raksin was issued on cd in 2009, on Film Score Monthly records.

Cinematic clues as to Dupin's real identity

He shares the same name as Poe's famous detective.
He is a heavy drinker.
He runs up a large bar bill which he cannot pay.
The presence of a raven, as a pet of the old man.


1.^ Kaplan, Alexander (2009). Release notes for David Raksin at MGM (1950-1957) by David Raksin (CD online notes). Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.: Film Score Monthly (Vol. 12, No. 2).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lines on Ale (1848) Written by Poe in Lowell Tavern

Lines on Ale (1848)

Fill with mingled cream and amber
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain -
Quaintest thoughts - queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.

Lines on Ale (1848) 

A simple 8-line poem, "Lines on Ale" may have been written by Poe to pay his drinking bill. It was discovered at the Washington Tavern in Lowell, Massachusetts where it was written. The original copy hung on the wall of the tavern until about 1920.

The poem depicts a joyful narrator who carelessly lets time go by as he asks for another drink of ale, saying he will drain another glass. He enjoys the "hilarious visions" and "queerest fancies" that enter his brain while drinking.

"Hop Frog" Published 1849

"Hop-Frog" (originally "Hop-Frog; Or, the Eight Chained Ourangoutangs") is a short story by American writer Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1849. The title character, a dwarf taken from his homeland, becomes the jester of a king particularly fond of practical jokes. Taking revenge on the king and his cabinet for striking his friend and fellow dwarf Trippetta, he dresses them as orangutans for a masquerade. In front of the king's guests, Hop-Frog murders them all by setting their costumes on fire before escaping with Trippetta.

Critical analysis has suggested that Poe wrote the story as a form of literary revenge against a woman named Elizabeth F. Ellet and her circle.

Plot summary

The court jester Hop-Frog, "being also a dwarf and a cripple," is the much-abused "fool" of the unnamed king. This king has an insatiable sense of humor; "he seemed to live only for joking." Both Hop-Frog and his best friend, the dancer Trippetta (also small, but beautiful and well-proportioned), have been stolen from their homeland and essentially function as slaves. Because of his physical deformity, which prevents him from walking upright, the King nicknames him "Hop-Frog."

Hop-Frog reacts severely to alcohol, and though the king knows this, he forces Hop-Frog to consume several goblets full. Trippetta begs the king to stop and, in front of seven members of his cabinet council, he strikes her and throws another goblet of wine into her face. The powerful men laugh at the expense of their two servants and ask Hop-Frog (who has very suddenly sobered up and become cheerful) for advice on an upcoming masquerade. He suggests some very realistic costumes for the men: costumes of orangutans chained together. The men love the idea of scaring their guests and agree to wear tight-fitting shirts and pants, which are saturated with tar and covered with flax. In full costume, the men are then chained together and led into the "grand saloon" of masqueraders just after midnight.

As predicted, the guests are shocked and many believe the men to be real "beasts of some kind in reality, if not precisely ourang-outangs." Many rush for the doors to escape but Hop-Frog has insisted the doors be locked and the keys given to him. Amidst the chaos, Hop-Frog attaches a chain from the ceiling to the chain linked around the men in costume. The chain then pulls them up via pulley (presumably by Trippetta, who had arranged the room so) far above the crowd. Hop-Frog puts on a spectacle so that the guests presume "the whole matter as a well-contrived pleasantry." He claims he can identify the culprits by looking at them up close. He climbs up to their level, and holds a torch close to the men's faces. They quickly catch fire: "In less than half a minute the whole eight ourang-outangs were blazing fiercely, amid the shrieks of the multitude who gazed at them from below, horror-stricken, and without the power to render them the slightest assistance." Finally, before escaping through a sky-light with Trippetta to their home country, Hop-Frog identifies the men in costume:

I now see distinctly... what manner of people these maskers are. They are a great king and his seven privy-councillors - a king who does not scruple to strike a defenceless girl, and his seven councillors who abet him in the outrage. As for myself, I am simply Hop-Frog, the jester - and this is my last jest.


The story can be categorized as one of Poe's revenge tales, along with "The Cask of Amontillado." Just as in that story, the murderer seems to get away without punishment for his deeds. While the victim in "The Cask of Amontillado" wears motley, in "Hop-Frog," the murderer is wearing it.

The story uses the grating of Hop-Frog's teeth as a symbolic element, just before he comes up with his plan for revenge and again just after executing it. Poe often used teeth as a sign of mortality, as in lips writhing about the teeth of the mesmerized man in "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" and in the obsession over teeth in "Berenice."[1]

Just as "The Cask of Amontillado" represents Poe's attempt at literary revenge on a personal enemy,[2] "Hop-Frog" may have had similar motivations. As Poe had been pursuing relationships with Sarah Helen Whitman and Nancy Richmond (either romantic or platonic is uncertain), members of the New York City literary circle spread gossip and incited scandal about alleged improprieties. At the center of it was a woman named Elizabeth F. Ellet, whose affections Poe had previously scorned. Ellet may be represented by the king himself, his seven councilors representing Margaret Fuller, Hiram Fuller (no relation), Thomas Dunn English, Anne Lynch Botta, Anna Blackwell, Ermina Jane Locke and her husband.[3]

The tale, written toward the end of Poe's life, was somewhat autobiographical in other ways. The jester Hop-Frog, like Poe, was "kidnapped from home and presented to the king" (his wealthy foster father John Allan), "bearing a name not given in baptism but 'conferred upon him'... and susceptible to wine... when insulted and forced to drink becomes insane with rage."[4] Like Hop-Frog, Poe was bothered by those who urged him to drink, despite a single glass of wine making him drunk.[5]

Poe may also have based the story on an historical event, the Bal des Ardents, at the court of Charles VI of France in January 1393. At the suggestion of a Norman squire, the king and five others dress as satyrs in highly flammable costumes made with pitch and flax.[5] Four of the men died in the fire; Charles was saved.

Citing Barbara Tuchman as his source, Jack Morgan, of the University of Missouri-Rolla and author of The Biology of Horror, discusses the Bal des Aredents incident as a possible inspiration for "Hop-Frog." The incident occurred in the fourteenth century, Morgan observes, "at a masquerade ball," during which "the king and his frivilous party, costumed - in highly flammable materials - as simian creatures, were ignited by a flambeau and incincerated, the King narrowly escaping in the actual case."

"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" also concerns an orangutan, although in that story an actual one.

Publication history

The tale first appeared in the March 17, 1849 edition of The Flag of Our Union, a Boston-based newspaper. It originally carried the full title "Hop Frog; Or, The Eight Chained Ourangoutangs." In a letter to friend Nancy Richmond, Poe wrote: "The 5 prose pages I finished yesterday are called - what do you think? - I am sure you will never guess - Hop-Frog! Only think of your Eddy writing a story with such a name as 'Hop-Frog'!"[6] He explained that, though The Flag of Our Union was not a respectable journal "in a literary point of view," it paid very well.[6]


French director Henry Desfontaines made the earliest film adaptation of "Hop-Frog" in 1910.
James Ensor made an 1898 etching, Hop-Frog's Revenge, based on the story.

A 1926 symphony by Eugene Cools was inspired by and named after Hop-Frog.

A plot similar to "Hop-Frog" was used as a side plot in Roger Corman's The Masque of the Red Death (1964) starring Vincent Price as "Prince Prospero." Hop-Frog (called Hop-Toad in the film) is played by the actor Skip Martin who was a 'little person,' but his wife Trippetta is played by a child overdubbed with an older woman's voice.

In 1992, Julie Taymor directed a short film entitled Fool's Fire adapted from "Hop-Frog." Michael J. Anderson of Twin Peaks fame starred as "Hop-Frog" and Mireille Mosse as "Trippetta," with Tom Hewitt as "The King." The film aired on PBS's "American Playhouse" and depicts all characters being dressed in masks and costumes (designed by Taymor) while only the faces of Hop-Frog and Trippetta revealed. Poe's poems "The Bells" and "A Dream Within A Dream" are also used as part of the story.

A radio-drama production of "Hop-Frog" was broadcast in 1998 in the Radio Tales series on National Public Radio. The story was performed by Winifred Phillips and included music composed by her.

The story features as part of Lou Reed's 2003 double album The Raven. One of the tracks is a song called "Hop-Frog" sung by David Bowie.


1.^ Kennedy, J. Gerald. Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987. ISBN 0300037732 p. 79
2.^ Rust, Richard D. "Punish with Impunity: Poe, Thomas Dunn English and 'The Cask of Amontillado'" in The Edgar Allan Poe Review, Vol. II, Issue 2 - Fall, 2001, St. Joseph's University.
3.^ Benton, Richard P. "Friends and Enemies: Women in the Life of Edgar Allan Poe" as collected in Myths and Reality: The Mysterious Mr. Poe. Baltimore: Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1987. p. 16
4.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 407.
5.^ Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. p. 595. ISBN 0801857309
6.^ Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. p. 594. ISBN 0801857309

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"To Marie Louise" Published 1848

To Marie Louise

by Edgar Allan Poe

Not long ago, the writer of these lines,
In the mad pride of intellectuality,
Maintained "the power of words"- denied that ever
A thought arose within the human brain
Beyond the utterance of the human tongue:
And now, as if in mockery of that boast,
Two words- two foreign soft dissyllables-
Italian tones, made only to be murmured
By angels dreaming in the moonlit "dew
That hangs like chains of pearl on Hermon hill,"
Have stirred from out the abysses of his heart,
Unthought-like thoughts that are the souls of thought,
Richer, far wilder, far diviner visions
Than even seraph harper, Israfel,
(Who has "the sweetest voice of all God's creatures,")
Could hope to utter. And I! my spells are broken.
The pen falls powerless from my shivering hand.
With thy dear name as text, though bidden by thee,
I cannot write- I cannot speak or think-
Alas, I cannot feel; for 'tis not feeling,
This standing motionless upon the golden
Threshold of the wide-open gate of dreams.
Gazing, entranced, adown the gorgeous vista,
And thrilling as I see, upon the right,
Upon the left, and all the way along,
Amid empurpled vapors, far away
To where the prospect terminates- thee only.

To Marie Louise (1847)

Written in 1847 for Marie Louise Shew, voluntary nurse of Poe's wife Virginia, it was not published until March 1848 in Columbian Magazine as "To —— ——." Poe never pursued a romantic relationship with Shew, and the poem has no strong romantic overtones. It discusses the writer's inability to write, distracted by the thought of "thee." The poem also references an earlier poem of Poe, "Israfel."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"Berenice" Published 1835

"Berenice" is a short horror story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1835. The story follows a man named Egaeus who is preparing to marry his cousin Berenice. He has a tendency to fall into periods of intense focus during which he seems to separate himself from the outside world. Berenice begins to deteriorate from an unnamed disease until the only part of her remaining healthy is her teeth, which Egaeus begins to obsess over. Berenice is buried, and Egaeus continues to contemplate her teeth. One day Egaeus wakes up from a period of focus with an uneasy feeling, and the sound of screams in his ears. A servant startles him by telling him Berenice's grave has been disturbed, and she is still alive; but beside Egaeus is a box containing 32 blood-stained teeth and a poem about "visiting the grave of my beloved."

Contemporary readers were horrified by the story's violence and complained to the editor of the Messenger. Though Poe later published a self-censored version of the work he believed he should be judged solely by how many copies were sold.

Plot summary

The narrator, Egaeus, is a studious young man who grows up in a large gloomy mansion with his cousin Berenice. He suffers from a type of obsessive disorder, a monomania that makes him fixate on objects. She, originally beautiful, suffers from some unspecified degenerative illness, with periods of catalepsy a particular symptom, which he refers to as a trance. Nevertheless, they are due to be married.

One afternoon, Egaeus sees Berenice as he sits in the library. When she smiles, he focuses on her teeth. His obsession grips him, and for days he drifts in and out of awareness, constantly thinking about the teeth. He imagines himself holding the teeth and turning them over to examine them from all angles. At one point a servant tells him that Berenice has died and shall be buried. When he next becomes aware, with an inexplicable terror, he finds a lamp and a small box in front of him. Another servant enters, reporting that a grave has been violated, and a shrouded disfigured body found, still alive. Egaeus finds his clothes are covered in mud and blood, and opens the box to find it contains dental instruments and "thirty-two small, white and ivory-looking substances" — Berenice's teeth.

The Latin epigraph, "Dicebant mihi sodales si sepulchrum amicae visitarem, curas meas aliquantulum fore levatas," at the head of the text may be translated as: "My companion said to me, if I would visit the grave of my friend, I might somewhat alleviate my worries." This quote is also seen by Egaeus in an open book towards the end of the story.


In "Berenice," Poe was following the popular traditions of Gothic fiction, a genre well-followed by American and British readers for several decades.[1] Poe, however, made his Gothic stories more sophisticated, dramatizing terror by using more realistic images.[2] This story is one of Poe's most violent. As the narrator looks at the box which he may subconsciously know contains his cousin's teeth, he asks himself, "Why... did the hairs of my head erect themselves on end, and the blood of my body become congealed within my veins?" Poe does not actually include the scene where the teeth are pulled out. The reader also knows that Egaeus was in a trance-like state at the time, incapable of responding to evidence that his cousin was still alive as he committed the gruesome act. Additionally, the story emphasizes that all 32 of her teeth were removed.

The main theme lies in the question that Egaeus asks himself: "How is it that from beauty I have derived a type of unloveliness?"[3] Poe also uses a character afflicted with monomania for the first time, a device he uses many times again.[2]

Teeth are used symbolically in many of Poe's stories to symbolize mortality. Other uses include the "sepulchral and disgusting" horse's teeth in "Metzengerstein," lips writhing about the teeth of the mesmerized man in "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," and the sound of grating teeth in "Hop-Frog."[4] Sigmund Freud might point out the importance of teeth in "Berenice." In Freudian terms, the removal of teeth can be a symbol of castration, possibly as punishment for masturbation. Another interpretation is thinking of the teeth as protection for an entrance to the cousin's body, another sexual connotation. In addition, the psychoanalytic literary critic Princess Marie Bonaparte, in her book The Life and Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, refers to the idea of vagina dentata in her critique of this story. Teeth also frequently invoke or represent the primal horror of bodily decay (and hence fragility), because losing teeth is a common experience even in healthy individuals.

Egaeus and Berenice are both representative characters. Egaeus, literally born in the library, represents intellectualism. He is a quiet, lonely man whose obsession only emphasizes his interest on thought and study. Berenice is a more physical character, described as "roaming carelessly through life" and "agile, graceful, and overflowing with energy." She is, however, an oppressed woman, having "spoke no word" throughout the story. Her only purpose, as with many of Poe's female characters, is to be beautiful and to die.[5] Egaeus loses his interest in the full person of Berenice as she gets sick; she becomes an object to analyze, not to admire. He dehumanizes her by describing "the" forehead of Berenice, rather than "her" forehead.[6]

Poe may have used the names of the two characters to call to mind the conventions of ancient Greek tragedy. Berenice's name (which means "bringer of victory") comes from a poem by Callimachus. In the poem, Berenice promises her hair to Aphrodite if her husband returns from war safely. Egaeus may come from Aegeus, a legendary king of Athens who had committed suicide when he thought his son Theseus had died attempting to kill the Minotaur.[2]

The final lines of the story are purposely protracted using a series of conjunctions connecting multiple clauses. The rhythm as well as the heavy accented consonant and long vowels sounds help unify the effect.[7]

Incidentally, this is one of the few Poe stories whose narrator is named.

Major themes

Several often-repeated themes in Poe's works are found in this story:

The death of a beautiful woman (see also "Ligeia," "Morella," "The Oval Portrait," "The Philosophy of Composition")
Being buried alive (see also "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Premature Burial")
Mental illness (see also "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether")
Catalepsy (see also "The Premature Burial," "The Fall of the House of Usher")

Publication history and critical response

First published in the relatively genteel Southern Literary Messenger[8] in March 1835. Many readers were shocked by the violence in "Berenice" and complained to publisher Thomas W. White,[9] leading to an edited version eventually being published in 1840. The four removed paragraphs describe a scene where Egaeus visits Berenice before her burial and clearly sees that she is still alive as she moves her finger and smiles.

Poe disagreed with the complaints. A month after "Berenice" was published, he wrote to White saying that many magazines achieved fame because of similar stories. Whether in bad taste or not, he said it was his goal to be appreciated, and "to be appreciated you must be read."[9] He admitted, "I allow that it approaches the very verge of bad taste -- but I will not sin quite so egregiously again." Even so, Poe also emphasized that its final judgment should come not from the taste of the reading public but on the circulation of the magazine.[9]


The 1995 computer game The Dark Eye contained reenactments of selected stories by Poe. One of them was based on "Berenice" and allowed the player to experience the story from the alternating points of view of both Egaeus and Berenice.


1.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 111. ISBN 0060923318
2.^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. Cooper Square Press, 1992. p. 77. ISBN 0815410387
3.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 114. ISBN 0060923318
4.^ Kennedy, J. Gerald. Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987. ISBN 0300037732 p. 79
5.^ Weekes, Karen. "Poe's Feminine Ideal," as collected in The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. New York City: Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0521797276 p. 150
6.^ Weekes, Karen. "Poe's feminine ideal," collected in The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Kevin J. Hayes. Cambridge University Press, 2002. p. 155. ISBN 0521797276
7.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 113. ISBN 0060923318
8.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 110. ISBN 0060923318
9.^ Whalen, Terence. "Poe and the American Publishing Industry" as collected in A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe, edited by J. Gerald Kennedy. Oxford University Press, 2001. p. 69. ISBN 0195121503

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Tell-Tale Corpse (2006) Harold Schechter

The Tell-Tale Corpse - Poe groups with author Louisa May Alcott to put down yet another murderer. This time, he takes his mystery to Massachusetts.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mask of the Red Death (2004) Harold Schechter

Mask of the Red Death (2004) - Poe joins forces with Kit Carson to track down a liver-eating murderer. Like the previous book, this one also takes place in New York.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Hum Bug (2001) Harold Schechter

The Hum Bug (2001) - Poe teams with Showman PT Barnum to solve a series of murders in New York.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Nevermore (1999) Harold Schechter

Nevermore (1999) - Edgar Allan Poe joins Davy Crockett to solve a series of shocking murders in Baltimore in 1835.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mystery & True Crime Writer Harold Schechter Writes Poe Fiction

Harold Schechter is a true crime writer who specializes in serial killers. He attended the State University of New York in Buffalo, where he obtained a Ph.D. He is professor of American literature and popular culture at Queens College of the City University of New York. He is married to Kimiko Hahn.

True crime

Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America's First Serial Killer, the story of Chicago serial murderer Herman Mudgett, alias Dr. H. H. Holmes
Deranged: The Shocking True Story of America's Most Fiendish Killer!, the story of New York serial murderer Albert Fish
Fiend: The Shocking True Story of America's Youngest Serial Killer, the story of Jesse Pomeroy, child murderer.
Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster, serial murderer Earle Leonard Nelson, who killed in Canada and the United States.
Deviant: The Shocking True Story of the Original "Psycho", the story of Ed Gein, the killer who inspired Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Silence of the Lambs
Fatal : The Poisonous Life of a Female Serial Killer, the story of 19th century murderess Jane Toppan
A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (co-written with David Everitt)
The Serial Killer Files : The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World's Most Terrifying Murderers
Panzram: A Journal of Murder (Introduction)
"The Devil’s Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial that Ushered in the Twentieth Century," New York: Random House/Ballantine Books, 2007.
"True Crime: An American Anthology," New York: Library of America, 2008.


Nevermore (1999) - Edgar Allan Poe joins Davy Crockett to solve a series of shocking murders in Baltimore in 1835.
The Hum Bug (2001) - Poe teams with Showman PT Barnum to solve a series of murders in New York.
Mask of the Red Death (2004) - Poe joins forces with Kit Carson to track down a liver-eating murderer. Like the previous book, this one also takes place in New York.
The Tell-Tale Corpse (2006) - Poe groups with author Louisa May Alcott to put down yet another murderer. This time, he takes his mystery to Massachusetts.
Outcry - A Novel based on the fictional son of Ed Gein, and his path of destruction

Popular culture

The Manly Movie Guide
Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment
Real to Reel
Patterns in Popular Culture: A SourceBook for Writers
Film Tricks: Special Effects in the Movies
The Manly Handbook
Kidvid: A Parents' Guide to Children's Videos
American Voices: A Thematic/Rhetorical Reader
Start Collecting Comic Books

Academic works

Discoveries: Fifty Stories of the Quest
Bosom Serpent: Folklore and Popular Art
New Gods: Psyche and Symbol in Popular Art
Original Sin: The Visionary Art of Joe Coleman
"Conversation Pieces: Poems that Talk to Other Poems," editor with Kurt Brown, New York: Knopf/Everyman, 2007.