The Unsung Edgar Allan Poe

No One

Orange Aide ;)
Dec 17, 2009
I’ve put together these links for the other existing threads in the horror section (I figured this one doesn’t really belong over there though). There’s also the additional link to J.D’s compendium and Poe’s works, and a sixth Poe thread, but I just can’t dignify that title with a link!







I'm not sure how many links can be posted at once, so I'll post again with a link to the point of this thread. Namely what Poe isn’t so famed for and his focus on more sublime themes, as opposed to the terror.

Outside of his main body of work, his most direct contribution under that theme has to be Eureka. It’s probably, from a purely academical point of view, Poe’s most loathed and flawed work – but whatever faults there are with it, it’s still the reason I developed a healthy mistrust of physicists.

You could also say this thread is just an acknowledgement, as concepts in Eureka pre-date the likes of Georges Lemaître and Edwin Hubble in their predictions of an expanding universe (as well as black holes and singularities, or as Poe termed it, unparticled matter – although the part on black holes I think was built on previous work by LaPlace and maybe John Michell. I can’t stress how unsure I am on that last part). It’s just something that irks me and, over the last decade, the only time I’ve ever heard Poe given any credit for this was through Stephen Fry on QI.

I also think the principles seen in Eureka (namely in his view of the universe and how he venerated his own interpretation of God and the soul) were a huge driving force of Poe’s work, as opposed to the sex and drugs that many say otherwise. Many, if not most, of his stories reflect those principles in some form – sometimes directly, as in The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, or indirectly with The Pit and the Pendulum, which could be seen as one of the purest allegories ever written for the horror of a physical existence, delivered into sublime relief. Or those principles are used in purer form, as in A Descent into the Maelstrom.

It can just as easily be said that the sense of decay or constriction that features heavily in his horror is also in keeping with his views on matter vs mind (to say nothing of his thoughts on intuition vs logic, which obviously feature in his more Detective-oriented stories).
So I’ve found a couple of online sources for Eureka and have generously provided not one but two links to two different sites (the first is better presented, but if there’s any particular reason why I shouldn’t be linking to one or both of these sites, then I’ll change things forthwith and seek out some others):

Eureka: Source 1

Eureka: Source 2
Certainly I don't see any problem with the links. As to Eureka itself... I finished reading it yesterday afternoon (between shifts at work), and I really am at a loss quite what to say about that one, other than I agree that it provides a wonderful key to at very least the majority of Poe's other work. The science is often outdated, and some of it was extremely suspect even in its own time; his vacillation between condemning the concept of axioms in reasoning and then using that very concept to support something is a dubious practice at best... yet some of his speculations or insights are remarkably prescient, and I would agree with his description of the piece as a poem -- in its own very odd fashion. With that classification, though, one should really have in mind his views on the poetic impulse as set forth in such things as "The Poetic Principle" and his discussion of Drake and Halleck.

You may be interested to know (if you don't already) that, in the Penguin edition, there is a quotation from a letter to Arthur Hobson Quinn by Sir Arthur Eddington that Poe "seems to hae had the mind of a mathematician, [...] and consequently was not to be put off with vague phrases; and made a creditable attempt introduce precision of thought" (letter dated 29 Sept. 1940).

Yes, Poe's "horrific" work actually forms a rather small portion of his total output, even among his fiction and verse (leaving aside his essays, letters, etc.). He was very proud of his versatility, in fact, and extremely partial to studies of the sublime, which enters a great deal of his work.

One thing I noted, too, toward the end of Eureka, is its possible influence (depending on if and when HPL read it) on Lovecraft's "The Silver Key", or, rather, some of the philosophical points within it, even to similar phrasing. It's a fascinating and complex work, and something I will revisit many times, I am sure...
Yeah recently i read about Eureka and the fact that Poe said it was it was masterpiece and claimed it was more important than the discovery of gravity was very interesting.

I dont care what critics,academics say about it look forward to experience on my own.

Nice thread idea No One! It will be nice to read about the unknown sides,not as popular stories of Poe. Too many people he assume he wrote only horror,crime,poetry.
Glad to hear it SE (and Connavar)! No doubt Eureka is vastly open to subjective interpretations, so I'll look forward to hearing some of your thoughts, whatever form they take.

It does sound ludicrous for Poe to have claimed the work as more significant that the discovery of gravity, and sure, it could be torn apart mathematically (as if I'd know the difference, I might add), but then again I stand by the assertion that no physicist, in any age to come, will ever be able to provide a mathematical solution to the root cause of the universe. Never, I say!

Also happy to hear J.D's agreement that the piece is fundamental to much of Poe's literary expressions and that it's not just me (it always helps to get a second opinion :)).

The part about Poe having the mind of a mathematician rings a bell, but I don't think I'm familiar with that letter from Sir Arthur Eddington (I haven't read much at all on the peripheral side of Poe's work, though I have read The Poetic Principle and The Rationale of Verse, albeit about a decade ago).

Sadly though, apart from a few stories (At the Mountains of Madness and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward spring to mind) I still haven't delved into my Lovecraft! I see I do have The Silver Key readily available (and Through the Gates of the Silver Key), so based on what J.D says of it in relation to Eureka I'll try and get round to that at some point. Cheers!
Before reading Eureka I pondered for three years, during those spaces in my life not filled by the events and moments that fills ones life, the thought that there exists one truth in which all other truths or all pure beliefs exist with out contradictions. For me Eureka is a gift left to all who are open enough to the belief that complexities are merely a single simple thing that due to their sheer numbers elude or escape quantitative methods and instead reveals itself to the emotional and the spiritual cravings of the soul. I think that at some time in our life, we will each fully understand that "perpetual existence is the gift" of which Edgar Allan Poe wrote and that the writing of this gift has been echoed in a myriad of text through-out time as "ever lasting life" or any other spiritual unending reward. Some two months after reading Eureka, I find that I am considering a new question. What is the essence of conscientiousness and how can it be manifest?
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What is the essence of conscientiousness and how can it be manifest?

I have a Penguin Classic of Poe's sf with "Eureka" but haven't read it yet. Let me just check with you to make sure -- is it "conscientiousness" rather than "consciousness" that you mean?

(The question reminds me that somewhere S. T. Coleridge -- perhaps the writer who most influenced Poe? -- has an interesting comment on the indissoluble connection between conscience and consciousness. I will have to try to track it down. It might have appeared in Aids to Reflection, one of those books that was the property of many thinking persons at one time, but is now almost unknown.)
Thank you Extollager. I did mean consciousness. I should not have relied on spell check.
As to Eureka itself... I finished reading it yesterday afternoon (between shifts at work), and I really am at a loss quite what to say about that one...

I'm half tempted to give it a try as late-night reading when I'm ready for something other than Thoreau!

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