Tackling Poe: The Complete Works, Part 13

In true Poe fashion, Tackling Poe: The Complete Works is concluding with part 13. 13! This time, we’ll be looking at all of his essays.

The complete essays include:

  • Philosophy of Furniture
  • A Tale of Jerusalem
  • The Sphinx
  • Hop-Frog
  • The Man of the Crowd
  • Never Bet the Devil Your Head
  • Thou Art the Man
  • Why Little Frenchmen Wears His Hand in a Sling
  • Some Words with a Mummy
  • Bon-Bon
  • The Poetic Principle
  • Old English Poetry

And our last Poe Humor!

'Not bad, Mr Poe...but could you write in a love interest for the raven?'

Philosophy of Furniture

Text Version: Virginia University

Review: Edgar Allan Poe schools us with his superior understanding of interior decorating, and the English version of feng shui. The first part of this essay was particularly amusing to read, though it was quite inflammatory (I imagine even more so in the era it was written in). An overall amusing read.

Some quotes:

In the internal decoration, if not in the external architecture of their residences, the English are supreme.


The people will imitate the nobles, and the result is a thorough diffusion of the proper feeling. But in America, the coins current being the sole arms of the aristocracy, their display may be said, in general, to be the sole means of aristocratic distinction; and in the populace, looking always upward for models, are insensibly led to confound the two entirely separate ideas of magnificence, and beauty.


It is an evil growing out of our republican institutions, that here a man of large purse has usually very little soul which he keeps in it. The corruption of taste is a portion or a pendant of the dollar-manufacture. As we grow rich, our ideas grow rusty.

A Tale of Jerusalem

Text Version: Virginia University

Review: A story written as a parody of another popular novel at the time, A Tale of Jerusalem is one of those stories that loses its impact over the years. I’m not quite sure why it was in the essays category, as it does count as a story, even if most of the story was lifted word for word from the source it sought to make fun of. Not a terribly impressive story, either, in my opinion, and easily skipped.

The Sphinx

Text Version: Virginia University

Review: A more detailed and considered summary can be read of this story on Book Rags, but I will do my best. This is another story where I am unclear why it is in this section of the anthology, as it is clearly a fiction. A man, fearing a monster, fearing his own death, makes a great deal out of a tiny something, and is corrected by his friend. That is basically all there is to it, though it isn’t a bad story all on its own, having many of the turns of phrases you would expect from something written by Poe.



Text Version: Virginia University

Review: Beginning to think that this “Essay” segment of the anthology was quite poorly named! This story, the story of the jester Hop-Frog, is an amazing, short macabre story that I absolutely adore. Definitely worth a read, especially if you were fond of Masque of the Red Death and Cask of Amontillado.

The Man of the Crowd

Text Version: Virginia University

Review: A relatively straight-forward story, in which a man, upon observing a type of person he has never before witnessed, seeks to stalk him through the streets of London until more can be discovered about the man’s character. Despite the overwhelming amount of art to be found for this story, it is not particularly strong, in my opinion, but rather a very interesting vignette that describes a wide range of people in clever, intricate ways.

Never Bet the Devil Your Head

Text Version: Virginia University

Review: Well, that was interesting! This tale opens with a note on morality, and Poe’s response to critics which had insinuated that he had never written a moral tale in all his life. I quoted one of my favorite lines from that below. 

The story itself is amusing in that the main character, a Mr. Dammit, who has a frightful propensity to ‘bet the devil his head’, finally does have to come clean on the bet when attempting to jump a turnstile. (Though considering the narrator, I can’t help thinking the narrator made up the bit about the old man and killed his friend. Sort of like Weird Al’s “I Remember Larry”…)

…it has been shone that no man can sit down to write without a very profound design. Thus to authors in general much trouble is spared. A novelist, for example, need have no care of his moral. It is there––that is to say, it is somewhere––and the moral and the critics can take care of themselves. When the proper time arrives, all that the gentlemen intended, and all that he did not intend, will be brought to light […], together with all that he ought to have intended, and the rest that he clearly meant to intend:––so that it will all come very straight at the end.

Thou Art the Man

Text Version: Virginia University

Review: I am disappointed to say that for the epicness of the title, Thou Art the Man didn’t really live up to the expectations. The story revisits Poe’s murder mystery genre, but unlike the stories of Dupin, this one is hand-fed to the reader, so obvious (and convenient) as to really destroy any real tension of the tale.

Why Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling

Text Version: Virginia University

Review: Ugh…. I think one of the hardest things about this story was that though it was written in a rarer “voice” for Poe, he made a point of misspelling things on purpose, so they’d be read the way he liked. (And how like ‘text speak’ it was!) I find that sort of gimmick pretty distracting, so it was hard to get into the story itself, even though it was cheeky and amusing at its heart.

An example of the spelling:

But it’s the illigant big figgur that I ave, for the rason o’ which all the ladies fall in love wid me. Isn’t it my own swate silf now that’ll missure the six fut, and the three inches more nor that, in me stockins, and that am excadingly will proportioned all over to match?

Some Words with a Mummy

Text Version: Virginia University

Review: This is a science fiction by Poe that sort of sneaks up on the reader like a mystery. I enjoyed it a lot, for several reasons, but also for the pre-tech idea on how someone might extend their life. Another highly recommended read.

A quote:

“Why, it is the general custom of Egypt to deprive a corpse, before embalmment, of its bowels and brains; the race of the Scarabaei alone did not coincide with the custom. Had I not been a Scarabeus, therefore, I should have been without bowels or brains; and without either it is inconvenient to live.”


bon-bon-poe1Text Version: About.com

Review: I really, really liked this story (though again wonder as to its placement in the anthology). In addition to having one of the most simultaneously amusing and suspenseful dialogs in any of Poe’s story, just the mere premise of it was intriguing. I highly recommend this as a must-read.

The Poetic Principle

Text Version: Virginia University

Review: This is Poe’s essay on the essence of poetry, and whether you like poetry or not, it is a very good read. It was lovely to see snippets of the poems and poets that Edgar Allan Poe himself admires, and his overall consideration of the topic was very profound on many levels. He is harsh at times, but always reasonable, which is rare when he is in one of his more critical moods. So, for the third time in a row, I highly recommend this read!

A quote:

It is to be hoped that common sense, in the time to come, will prefer deciding upon a work of Art rather by the impression it makes––by the effect it produces––than by the time it took to impress the effect, or by the amount of “sustained effort” which had been found necessary in effecting the impression.

Old English Poetry

Text Version: Lit2Go

Review: A relatively short, far more biting critique of the poems of old English poets, which Poe has often gone back and forth on in terms of whether to exhalt or criticize. I do prefer the former essay over this one, but it’s a short enough read to get through quickly.

divider_big_transparentAnd, with “Old English Poetry”, I have officially reached the end of all of Poe’s works. HOORAY! What a ride it’s been! I will be writing a conclusion post soon, with some of my overall, final thoughts of the anthology itself (including a word tally), and a movie review of “The Raven”, which stars John Cusack and came out a few years ago. I’ve been waiting to watch it for almost two months; I’ve been saving it as a reward for finishing this monster of an anthology! 🙂 See you all soon!

If you’d like to read any of the other parts, feel free to check them out below:

6 thoughts on “Tackling Poe: The Complete Works, Part 13

  1. What was the editor of this anthology drinking, labeling some of Poe’s stories as essays? I agree–“Bon-Bon” and “Hop-Frog” are two excellent stories. And congratulations on completing a quite daunting task, Alex! Thanks to your series, I know which of Poe’s stories to revisit, or read for the first time, or just ignore altogether. 🙂


    1. I’m not sure either, Miranda! I’m just glad they weren’t forgotten altogether (some of the poems didn’t have the accompanying notes to the editor as well, which I only found because I was looking for free text and audio versions online).

      Happy to help! He has a lot of good stuff… many I’d never head of before. So it was nice to read them for the first time.


  2. What a genius this man had! My daughter loves him, though I’m ashamed to say that I just read the better known – and, thus, creepy – stuff as a ‘tween and never thought to look beyond. I know better now, and am looking forward to the experience! Thanks for visiting again. I’ve missed you! And I haven’t heard from Mike in ages. If you talk to him, give him my love.


    1. I’ve missed you too! I’m trying to get better about keeping up with all of the blogs I follow. It’s an ongoing struggle (something like 300 on my reader), but I will always try and comment on yours when I finally have a moment!

      I’ll let Mike know, though I haven’t spoken to him recently either. Hope you’re staying warm.


  3. This was an amazing undertaking, reviewing the entire works of Poe! And what a great resource for readers and writers and students. What’s really impressive is how you set it up, including a text version, your review, and quotes. Even the humor! It’s so multi-layered, and gives a rich impression of each piece and the works as a whole. I’ve bookmarked the piece on The Poetic Principle, which especially interests me. I’ve never been a huge fan of Poe, but now I want to reread some of his works. I think the piece on furniture is a kick! Who’d think he’d want to write on such a thing? I have a greater appreciation of him after having reviewed your posts on him. Much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Deborah. If the series was able to do that for you, then I consider my work successful! I really, really enjoyed “The Poetic Principle”, and I don’t lay claims on understanding poetry. The furniture essay was hilarious. The way he talks about every nationality, I really would have been interested to find out about public reaction to it when it was published.

      Also, thank you for the tweet!


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