Edgar Allan Poe's Essays: A Guide to His Literary Theory and Criticism
Essays by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was an American writer who is widely regarded as one of the founders of the genres of detective fiction and horror. He is also known for his poetry, especially "The Raven" and "Annabel Lee". But besides his poems and stories, Poe also wrote many essays on various topics, such as literature, philosophy, art, science, and history. In this article, we will explore some of the most important and influential essays by Edgar Allan Poe, and examine their themes, styles, and insights.
essays by edgar allan poe
The Philosophy of Composition
One of the most famous essays by Edgar Allan Poe is "The Philosophy of Composition", which he published in 1846. In this essay, Poe explains his method of writing "The Raven", one of his most popular poems. He claims that he wrote the poem with a deliberate and rational plan, based on his theory of poetic effect. According to Poe, the aim of poetry is to create a single and intense impression on the reader's mind, which can be achieved by choosing a suitable subject, tone, length, structure, rhyme scheme, refrain, and word choice. He also reveals that he chose the raven as a symbol of melancholy and death, and that he based the poem on his own experience of losing his wife to tuberculosis.
"The Philosophy of Composition" is a fascinating essay that reveals Poe's creative process and his aesthetic principles. It also shows his mastery of language and rhetoric, as he uses various techniques such as repetition, parallelism, contrast, analogy, irony, and humor to persuade and entertain his readers. The essay is also an example of Poe's self-consciousness as a writer, as he reflects on his own work and defends it against potential criticism.
The Poetic Principle
"The Poetic Principle" is the title given to a lecture that Poe delivered several times in 1848 and 1849, shortly before his death. It was published posthumously in 1850. In this lecture, Poe expresses his views on the nature and purpose of poetry, and his preferences and criteria for judging poetic excellence. He argues that poetry is the highest form of literature, because it appeals to the pure sense of beauty, which is the ultimate source of happiness. He also states that poetry should be brief, lyrical, and musical, and that it should avoid didacticism, moralizing, and allegory. He praises the works of poets such as Shelley, Coleridge, Tennyson, and Longfellow, and criticizes those of Wordsworth, Southey, Moore, and Campbell.
"The Poetic Principle" is a valuable essay that reveals Poe's poetic vision and taste. It also shows his familiarity and engagement with the contemporary literary scene, as he comments on the works and reputations of his peers and predecessors. The essay is also an example of Poe's eloquence and passion as a speaker, as he uses various devices such as metaphor, simile, hyperbole, antithesis, and apostrophe to convey his emotions and opinions.
The Philosophy of Furniture
"The Philosophy of Furniture" is a humorous essay that Poe published in 1840. In this essay, Poe critiques the taste and style of American and European furniture and interior design. He argues that furniture should be chosen according to the principles of harmony, proportion, unity, and contrast, and that it should reflect the character and culture of the owner. He also compares the different types of furniture and decoration used in various countries, such as England, France, Italy, Germany, China, and Turkey. He praises the elegance and simplicity of the Chinese style, and ridicules the extravagance and vulgarity of the French style.
"The Philosophy of Furniture" is a fun essay that shows Poe's wit and sarcasm. It also shows his knowledge and interest in art and culture, as he describes and evaluates the different aspects of furniture and interior design. The essay is also an example of Poe's observational skills and attention to detail, as he notices and comments on the various features and flaws of furniture and decoration.
How to Write a Blackwood Article
"How to Write a Blackwood Article" is a satirical essay that Poe published in 1838. In this essay, Poe mocks the sensationalism and absurdity of the stories published in Blackwood's Magazine, a popular British periodical that featured Gothic tales of horror and mystery. He pretends to be a young American writer who seeks advice from Mr. Blackwood on how to write a successful article for his magazine. Mr. Blackwood gives him a series of ridiculous instructions, such as choosing a shocking title, inventing a grotesque plot, using exaggerated language, inserting irrelevant digressions, and ending with a surprising twist. He also provides him with an example of a Blackwood article, which is a parody of Poe's own story "A Predicament".
"How to Write a Blackwood Article" is a hilarious essay that shows Poe's humor and irony. It also shows his awareness and criticism of the literary trends and conventions of his time, as he exposes and ridicules the clichés and formulas of Gothic fiction. The essay is also an example of Poe's creativity and imagination, as he invents a ludicrous story within a story.
Maelzel's Chess Player
"Maelzel's Chess Player" is a detective essay that Poe published in 1836. In this essay, Poe exposes the fraud behind a famous automaton that supposedly played chess against human opponents. The automaton was invented by Wolfgang von Kempelen in 1769, and later acquired by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel in 1805. It was exhibited in various cities in Europe and America, attracting large crowds and generating much curiosity and speculation. Poe attended one of its exhibitions in Richmond in 1835, and became convinced that it was not a genuine machine, but a clever hoax. In his essay, he explains his reasoning process and presents his evidence to prove that there was a human chess player hidden inside the machine.
"Maelzel's Chess Player" is an intriguing essay that shows Poe's analytical skills and logical thinking. It also shows his curiosity and interest in science and technology, as he investigates and describes the workings of the automaton. The essay is also an example of Poe's pioneering role in the genre of detective fiction, as he applies his method of ratiocination to solve a real-life mystery.
Morning on the Wissahiccon
"Morning on the Wissahiccon" is a descriptive essay that Poe published in 1844. In this essay, he praises the natural beauty and tranquility of a river valley near Philadelphia. He describes the scenery, the flora Morning on the Wissahiccon
"Morning on the Wissahiccon" is a descriptive essay that Poe published in 1844. In this essay, he praises the natural beauty and tranquility of a river valley near Philadelphia. He describes the scenery, the flora and fauna, the weather, and the atmosphere of the place, using vivid and poetic language. He also compares the Wissahiccon to other famous rivers, such as the Rhine, the Hudson, and the Potomac, and claims that it surpasses them in charm and grace. He also expresses his admiration for the Native Americans who once inhabited the valley, and laments their disappearance and oppression.
"Morning on the Wissahiccon" is a beautiful essay that shows Poe's appreciation and sensitivity for nature. It also shows his knowledge and interest in history and geography, as he refers to various facts and legends about the valley and its inhabitants. The essay is also an example of Poe's descriptive skills and poetic style, as he uses various devices such as imagery, metaphor, personification, alliteration, and assonance to create a vivid and enchanting picture of the Wissahiccon.
Eureka: A Prose Poem
"Eureka: A Prose Poem" is the final work of Edgar Allan Poe, which he published in 1848. In this work, Poe presents his cosmological theory and his vision of the origin and destiny of the universe. He claims that his theory is based on intuition and reason, rather than observation and experiment. He argues that the universe was created by a single force or principle, which he calls God or Unity. He also states that the universe is finite in size and duration, and that it follows a cycle of expansion and contraction. He also speculates on various topics such as gravity, light, matter, electricity, magnetism, life, death, free will, immortality, and God.
"Eureka: A Prose Poem" is a remarkable work that shows Poe's ambition and originality as a thinker. It also shows his familiarity and engagement with the scientific and philosophical ideas of his time, as he challenges and criticizes the theories of Newton, Laplace, Kant, Hegel, and others. The work is also an example of Poe's creativity and imagination, as he combines science and poetry to create a unique and visionary cosmology.
In conclusion, we have seen that Edgar Allan Poe was not only a great poet and storyteller, but also a prolific and influential essayist. His essays cover a wide range of topics, such as literature, philosophy, art, science, and history. They also display his various talents and skills, such as analysis, criticism, humor, description, and rhetoric. His essays reveal his personality and opinions, as well as his knowledge and interests. They also reflect his legacy and influence as an essayist, as they have inspired and challenged many readers and writers over the years.
If you want to learn more about Edgar Allan Poe's essays, you can read them online at https://eapoe.org/works/essays/index.htm, or you can find them in various collections and anthologies, such as Essays and Reviews, edited by G. R. Thompson (New York: Library of America, 1984), or The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Thomas Ollive Mabbott (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978).
How many essays did Edgar Allan Poe write?
There is no definitive answer to this question, as some of Poe's works can be classified as essays, sketches, lectures, or reviews. According to one source, Poe wrote about 50 essays in his lifetime (https://www.eapoe.org/geninfo/poegen.htm).
What was Edgar Allan Poe's first essay?
The first essay that Poe published was "Letter to B ----", which appeared in The Baltimore Saturday Visiter
on July 2, 1831. In this essay, Poe defends his poetry and criticizes the literary standards and tastes of his time (https://www.eapoe.org/works/essays/lttrb31.htm).
What was Edgar Allan Poe's last essay?
The last essay that Poe published was "The Rationale of Verse", which appeared in two parts in The Southern Literary Messenger
in October and November, 1848. In this essay, Poe explains his theory and practice of versification, or the art of writing poetry (https://www.eapoe.org/works/essays/ratv1848.htm).
What is Edgar Allan Poe's most popular essay?
The most popular essay by Edgar Allan Poe is probably "The Philosophy of Composition", which he published in 1846. In this essay, Poe explains his method of writing "The Raven", one of his most famous poems. He also reveals his theory of poetic effect, or the creation of a single and intense impression on the reader's mind (https://www.eapoe.org/works/essays/philcomp.htm).
What is Edgar Allan Poe's most controversial essay?
The most controversial essay by Edgar Allan Poe is probably "Eureka: A Prose Poem", which he published in 1848. In this work, Poe presents his cosmological theory and his vision of the origin and destiny of the universe. He also speculates on various topics such as gravity, light, matter, electricity, magnetism, life, death, free will, immortality, and God. His work was met with mixed reactions, ranging from admiration to ridicule (https://www.eapoe.org/works/eureka/index.htm).