Light and Dark in the Art of
Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)

Jane Williams-Hogan

Conference Paper, University of Sydney, 2002


Emanuel Swedenborg
Swedenborg's Teachings
Poe and Swedenborg's Works
Poe and Swedenborgians
George Bush—Mesmerist and Swedenborgian (1796–1859)
Thomas Holley Chivers—Friend and Swedenborgian (1809–1858)
Poe and Mesmerism
Signs of Swedenborg in the Works of Poe


The name of the American author Edgar Allan Poe is almost synonymous with horror and the dark side. "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Pit and the Pendulum," and "The Tell-Tale Heart" are but a few of his well-known tales of horror. (Hopefully some of you may have had the opportunity to witness the power of Poe's art early today by seeing "The Tell Tale Heart.") Poe's name is closely associated with horror and his stories still resonate with us today, perhaps because he took the gothic images of horror current in his day and internalized them. Frances Winwar acknowledges this source of Poe's power in the final paragraphs of her study of Poe entitled The Haunted Palace.

The book ends with a rejoinder to Walt Whitman's private comments about Poe spoken to friends after the dedication of the Poe Memorial in Baltimore, Maryland, on November 17, 1875. Whitman said:

In a dream I once had, I saw a vessel on the sea, at midnight in a storm. . . . On the deck was a slender, slight, beautiful figure, a dim man apparently enjoying all the terror, the murk and the dislocation of which he was the center and the victim. That figure of my lurid dream might stand for Edgar Poe, his fortunes, and his poems . . .1

Winwar continues, "Whitman's mystical vision had indeed seen much, yet not enough. The figure in his dream was Poe, but he was also modern Man, conscious of a new dimension: the world within, whose storms, terrible in their revealing flashes, throw light, now more than ever on the black hidden regions of the soul."2

Poe, however, authored more than beautifully crafted psychological tales of terror. He also wrote criticism, comedy, and cosmology. His contemporaries saw both light and dark in his work. In The Poe Log for the year 1839 are noted the remarks of an anonymous reviewer of the Tales in the New York Mirror on December 28th (possibly Louis F. Tasistro):

. . . It would be, indeed, no easy matter to find another artist with ability equal to this writer for discussing the good and evil—the passions, dilemmas, and affectations—the self-sufficiency and the deplorable weakness, the light and darkness, the virtue and the vice by which mankind are by turns affected. These volumes present a succession of richly-coloured pictures in the magic lantern of invention.3

This quality of Poe is sweetly echoed in the remembrances of a young woman friend, a Miss Tally. In the summer of 1849, a few months before his death, on an outing with friends, she walked with Poe through The Hermitage in Richmond, Virginia. She vividly recalled their visit as they strolled about the deserted and decaying home of his childhood friends, the Mayo family. Her recollection of Poe on that day ends with the following description:

. . . Seated in one of the deep windows, over which now grew masses of ivy, his memory must have borne him back to former scenes, for he repeated the familiar lines of Moore:—
"I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet hall deserted,"
and paused, with the first expression of real sadness that I had ever seen on his face. The light of the setting sun shone through the drooping ivy-boughs into the ghostly room, and the tattered and mildewed paper-hangings, with their faded tracery of rose-garlands, waved fitfully in the autumn breeze. An inexpressibly eerie feeling came over me, which I can even now recall, and as I stood there, my old childish idea of the poet as a spirit of mingled light and darkness recurred strongly to my imagination.4

The focus of this paper is to explore the sources of the light and dark in Poe's work. To shape his art Poe drew, not only on the inner promptings of his own heart and mind, but on the currents and enthusiasms of his day, such as phrenology, mesmerism, alchemy, astronomy, and I will argue Swedenborgianism. Edward Hungerford finds extensive use of the "science" of phrenology in Poe's stories and critical essays. He demonstrates this in a 1930 article entitled "Poe and Phrenology" in the journal, American Literature.5 Poe himself left no doubt of his use of mesmerism in his art, given his story entitled "Mesmeric Revelations" published in 1844. Randall A. Clack, in an article entitled "'Strange Alchemy of Brain': Poe and Alchemy" found in the 1996 work, A Companion to Poe Studies, makes a case for Poe's awareness and use of an alchemical system of symbols in many of his poems and stories.6 Poe was well versed in the science of his day, due in part to the many book reviews he wrote. Barbara Cantalupo in her article "Eureka: Poe's Novel Universe," also found in A Companion to Poe Studies, specifically discusses Poe's use of science in his 1848 work.7 His science is also taken up in Sir Patrick Moore's forward to the 2002 Hesperus Press edition of Eureka.8 Cantalupo finds "no new scientific ideas" evolving in Poe's texts, but Moore discovers that when Poe discusses cosmology "he introduces ideas that are well ahead of their time."9

The above discussion is not exhaustive either with regard to currents that Poe chose to employ or regarding the scholarly discussion of them. Given the extensive body of Poe scholarship, one could easily find other authors addressing these and other influences in Poe's work. At this point, I should also like to make it clear that I will not attempt to demonstrate these influences in Poe's works or to weigh their relative impact on his art. I am simply acknowledging that they are there and that there is an ongoing scholarly conversation about them.

Given the large body of Poe's work, one might find other currents and enthusiasms in his corpus. One that is mentioned, from time to time by Poe scholars, that to my knowledge has not yet been explored is the possible influence of Emanuel Swedenborg's (1699–1772) works on Poe's art. I am unaware of any attempt to explore his influence on or relationship to Poe and his work.

In exploring Swedenborg's possible influence on Poe, if discovered to exist, I would simply like to add it to the mix of mid-nineteenth century currents that he drew on in the creation of his art. How privileged a position it may hold remains to be seen. In order to make my case I would like to briefly discuss Emanuel Swedenborg and his thought, and then detail what is known about Poe and Swedenborg's works, Poe and Swedenborgians, and Poe and Mesmerism. After developing this background, it would be useful to see what it tells us about Poe and his art. First, it may help illuminate the shifting nature of "the dark" in Poe's art from gothic horror to psychological terror; and second, it may clarify his vision of "the light" as found in his religiously informed tales and his cosmological works.

Emanuel Swedenborg top

Emanuel Swedenborg was an eighteenth century Swedish scientist, civil servant, and philosopher who, in mid-life, claimed he was called by God to reveal the secrets of heaven and hell, and to publish them. Prior to his call he was interested in cosmology and anatomy. He searched the heavens to find their origin, and he searched the human form to find the seat of the soul. He wished to understand God both as Creator and Redeemer. He published extensive works in both of these areas. In addition, when he died in 1772 he had published eighteen different theological works, but he had never attempted to found a church. Some of the titles of these works are Heavenly Secrets (1749–1756), Heaven and Hell (1758), The Last Judgment (1758), Earths in the Universe (1758), Divine Love and Wisdom (1763), Apocalypse Revealed (1766), Love in Marriage (1768), and True Christian Religion (1771).

Although Swedenborg never attempted to establish a church based on his writings, others did. In 1787 a church was founded in London, England. Books of his writings were brought to the United States in 1784 and were sent in 1788 to Botany Bay. A church organization was established in the United States in 1817 and a congregation in Australia in 1837. Although church membership has never been particularly high, interest in his works has been notable, particularly in the United States, England and Europe.

Readers of his writings in nineteenth century America include important literary, cultural and political figures. Some that might be known to you are the essayist and public intellectual Ralph Waldo Emerson, the poet Walt Whitman, the President Abraham Lincoln, the founder of Mormonism Joseph Smith, the sculptor Hiram Powers, and the landscape artist George Inness.

In nineteenth century England, readers included the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband, Robert Browning. In France, among other readers, one can discover the novelist Honré de Balzac, the poet Charles Baudelaire, and the painter Paul Gauguin. On the list of German readers are the writer Goethe and educational reformer Rudolf Steiner. In Australia a notable reader who lived in nineteenth and early twentieth century was Alfred Deakin.

Swedenborg's Teachings top

While, of course, not all of these people were attracted to exactly the same concepts and ideas found in Swedenborg's revelatory writings, they were attracted to his new understanding of human nature, his view of the dynamic and interactive nature of spirituality, and the correspondence between nature and spirit.

According to Swedenborg, the spiritual world is the world of causes and the natural world is the world of effects. These worlds are intimately connected to each other, despite the fact that they appear independent. With few exceptions, human beings cannot see into the spiritual world, nor can spirits see into the natural world. But what happens in one world does affect the other. Every individual lives in both worlds simultaneously. Spirits associate themselves with people in this world, and all people have what Swedenborg calls associate spirits. These associate spirits are balanced between good and evil spirits, maintaining the spiritual freedom of every individual in the natural world.

The spiritual world is the world of life, while the natural world is the realm of death. Spirit is living, while nature is dead. Human beings are born natural with a capacity to become spiritual. Human beings are born with an evil heredity, but are endowed by the Divine, by God, with freedom to choose good. Evil is defined as the love of self and the world, and good is defined as the love of God and the neighbor. Evil people use the things of the world and others to enhance and enrich themselves. Good people use the things of the world and themselves to enhanced and enrich the lives of others. Evil people are self-focused, and good people are other-focused.

Every individual has a soul, a mind, and a body. The soul is from God, the body is from the world and the mind is formed and shaped by what the individual loves. The mind operates according to spiritual principles, and the body operates according to natural principles. Time and space are natural qualities, while state and extension are spiritual qualities. The soul animates the body and the mind. The body clothes the spirit in this world, and the mind acquires a spiritual body after death in the spiritual world.

People in this world can dissemble and act contrary to what they love, but in the spiritual world what a person loves creates his or her external world. There we are precisely what we love; the mind of each spirit shapes his or her environment. It appears as substantial as the natural world, but it is continually changing to reflect the changes of state of the individual. In the spiritual world our inner world and our outer world correspond and make one. Loving heavenly things creates a delightful, heavenly world; and desiring evil things creates a dark, destructive world. Good loves make a heaven, while evil loves create a hell. No one in Swedenborg's afterlife is caste into hell or elected into heaven. Every individual after death chooses which society he or she loves or is most compatible with. Obviously in Swedenborg's system spirits or angels with similar loves are found living together, creating and shaping their common environment. The same holds true of evil spirits with similar loves. However, because of the discordant nature of evil, one can imagine the fractiousness of hellish societies.

In Swedenborg's theology every person truly and freely fashions his or her eternal home while here on earth. In that sense every person is an artist, and that may be one reason why Swedenborg has appealed to so many poets, novelists, sculptors, and painters. In addition, his concept of correspondences opened up the natural world to a more interior, spiritual interpretation. It was a key that unlocked nature, and unlocked the mind. Nature could be read more deeply, and the mind became the locus of human action. People were not shaped but were shapers. The internal world created and shaped the external world. Thoughts and intentions were what were real—they were living and could shape the social and physical environments of those who understood this truth.

Poe and Swedenborg's Works top

Obviously it is important to know whether Edgar Allan Poe had knowledge of or familiarity with any of Swedenborg's religious writings. In fact, he did. In his collected works Poe makes one specific mention of Swedenborg and his work Heaven and Hell. This mention occurs in his tale "The Fall of the House of Usher" written and published in 1839. It is listed with other books that the narrator and Usher had read. I quote,

Our books—the books which, for years, had formed no small portion of the mental existence of the invalid—were, as might be supposed, in strict keeping with this character of phantasm. We pored together over such works as the "Ververt et Chartreuse" of Gresset; the "Belphegor" of Machiavelli, the "Heaven and Hell" of Swedenborg; the "Subterranean Voyage of Nicholas Klimm" by Holberg; the "Chiromancy" of Robert Flud, of Jean D'Indagine and of De la Chambre; the "Journey of Blue Distance" of Tieck; and the "City of the Sun" of Campanella.10

According to Edward H. Davidson in his Poe: A Critical Study, Poe had read Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell. Davidson writes,

IN "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839) we have an early exposition, and one of the best, of this psychic drama, a summary of Poe's ideas and methods of investigating the self in disintegration. The story was a study of the tripartite division and identity of the self. It was, to go even further, an attempted demonstration of the theory that spirit is extended through and animating all matter, a theory confirmed by the books which Poe, and Usher, had read: Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell, Campanella's City of the Sun, and Robert Flud's Chiromancy, to name only a few listed in the narrative, all of which consider the material world as a manifestation of the spiritual. From the opening sentence of the story we have the point-for-point identification of the external world with the human constitution.11

According to Sova's Edgar Allan Poe A to Z, "The Fall of the House of Usher" is the most popular of Poe's short stories. Its publication brought "positive critical attention to Poe as a serious writer."12 As a result the respectable publisher, Lea and Blanchard, decided to publish a collection of Poe's short stories. In the discussion of "The Fall of the House of Usher" that follows, Sova states that "The story departs from the usual gothic fare in its emphasis upon introspection rather than action and incident . . . The effect produced is not one of physical terror but of the psychological, which requires the reader to enter Roderick's mind and to join him in fearing the onslaught of insanity."13

If Davidson is to be believed, in this section we have established the fact that Poe had read Heaven and Hell, prior to writing "The Fall of the House of Usher." Later in the paper we must return to "The Fall of the House of Usher" in order to address the question of whether there is any additional evidence of Poe's reading Swedenborg in the work itself, other than the citation or in any subsequent works that he produced.

Poe and Swedenborgians top

While there appears to be only one reference to Swedenborg in the works of Poe, there are several references to Swedenborgians in his complete works. These are identified in The Poe Log. The clear references to Swedenborgians focus on two of Poe's works "Mesmeric Revelation" (1844) and Eureka (1848). "Mesmeric Revelation" was published in August of 1844 in New York by the Columbian Magazine.14 According to The Poe Log it was reprinted in the New York magazine the New World that same month.15 In Sova's records in her Poe A to Z, it was also reprinted in Philadelphia in the Philadelphia Sunday Museum on August 31, 1844.16

The following year in August of 1845, Godey's Lady's Book contained first "Marginal Notes" written by Poe for that magazine. He writes: "The Swedenborgians inform me that they have discovered all that I said in a magazine article, entitled 'Mesmeric Revelation,' to be absolutely true, although at first they were very strongly inclined to doubt my veracity."17 This comment is also mentioned and elaborated upon in the Aristidean for October of 1845 in a long critique of Poe's Tales by editor Thomas Dunn English.18 He observes:

The third story, "Mesmeric Revelation," has excited much discussion. A large number of mesmerists, queerly enough take it for gospel. Some of the Swedenborgians, at PHILADELPHIA, wrote word to POE, that at first they doubted, but in the end became convinced, of its truth. . . . It is evidently meant to be nothing more than the vehicle of the author's views concerning the DEITY, immateriality, spirit, etc., which he apparently believes to be true, in which belief he is joined by Professor [George] BUSH. Among "literary people" the most popular tale seems to be "The Fall of the House of Usher," . . .19

Poe published Eureka in March of 1848. It was a written version of a lecture Poe gave on "The Universe" on February 3rd. In August of the same year The Home Journal reviewed Eureka. Below are excerpts from the review:

In the spirit of bold speculation and ideal thought, Mr. Poe has undertaken, in the little treatise before us, to expound a theory of the universe. He begins by repudiating the idea that the arcana of nature are to be completely explored by induction. He recognizes the intuitive and unconscious process as the source of discovery. . . . Eureka is "not a demonstrative so much as a suggestive work," which probably contains "as much phantasy as fact." The book has "brilliant rhetorical passages," but reveals "no great novelty in the scientific ideas advanced." It shares a "certain correspondence of tone" with Chambers' Vestiges of Creation and Swedenborg's writings on the Infinite.20

Eureka was also reviewed in The New Church Repository, a Swedenborgian magazine edited by Professor George Bush in August of 1848.21 Bush wrote,

A poet here enters upon profound speculations, shooting ahead of Newtons, Laplaces, Herschells, and Nicholses, in the solution of the great problems of the Universe. He calls his work a poem, perhaps, because, with Madame De Stael, he regards the Universe itself more like a poem than a machine, and therefore to be treated poematically. Others might say it was because he had invested the subject with all a poet's imagination. But this would be, we think to withhold its due meed of praise . . . The hypothesis of the generation of the Universe from a simple monad—not however the monad of Leibnitz—plainly approximates, in several of its features, to the view given by Swedenborg in his philosophical works, of the evolution of all things from "the first natural point," and Mr. Poe will recognize a striking analogy between his own theory and that presented in the following paragraph from the "Outlines on the Infinite" [by Swedenborg].22

Bush then inserted a fairly lengthy paragraph in the review from the work "On the Infinite" by Swedenborg. The review continues,

Indeed, we have no doubt that Mr. Poe would be vastly surprised upon reading Swedenborg's "Outlines on the Infinite" to see to what extent many of the prominent ideas of his own work had been anticipated in that masterly dissertation on the origin of the Universe and "final cause of creation."23

Bush goes on to say comment on the distinction Swedenborg makes between the agency of God and that of nature. He faults the parts of Poe's work that touch on pantheism, but approves of those that speak of the Divine will in a Christian manner. In the end he suggests that Eureka is worth reading.

George Bush—Mesmerist and Swedenborgian (1796–1859) top

This review is not the only connection between George Bush and Edgar Allan Poe, as documented in The Poe Log. In January of 1845, Poe wrote to George Bush, a Professor of Hebrew at New York University. He enclosed a copy of his story "Mesmeric Revelation."24 This is what he wrote,

I have ventured to send you the article because there are many points that bear upon your subject matter of your late admirable work on the Future Condition of Man—and therefore I am induced to hope that you will do me the honor to look over what I have said.

. . . The article is purely fiction, [but it may contain] some thoughts which are original; [Poe] is exceedingly anxious to learn if they have claim to absolute originality.25

Bush replied to Poe's letter and suggests that he had a generally favorable impression of the work.

A year later in 1846, George Bush is the first person to be described in his work entitled "The Literati of New York City" that appeared in the May issue of Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book. The series was very successful and thus, they were reprinted. In this brief biography of Bush, Poe indicates that he had read several of Bush's works. He paid particular attention to a recent work of Bush, entitled "Anastasis, or the Doctrine of the Resurrection; in which it is shown that the Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body is not sanctioned by Reason or Revelation." Poe finds that

"Anastasis" is lucidly, succinctly, vigorously, and logically written, and proves, in my opinion, everything that it attempts, provided that we admit the imaginary axioms from which it starts; and this is as much as can be said of any theological disquisition under sun.26

Despite his distaste for theology, it is clear that Poe had read Bush's radical Swedenborgian theology.27 Poe continues his essay on Bush by suggesting that Bush is an enthusiast. He writes,

No man is more ardent in his theories; and these latter are neither few nor commonplace. He is a Memerist and a Swedenborgian—has lately been engaged in editing Swedenborg's works, publishing them in numbers. He converses with fervor, and often with eloquence. Very probably he will establish an independent church.

He is one of the most amiable men in the world, universally respected and beloved. His frank, unpretending simplicity of demeanor is especially winning.28

Poe ends his biographical sketch of Bush with a phrenological analysis, finding Bush deficient in "ideality." Thus, he reiterates his previous observation, that Bush is rigorous in his logic, but his premises are weak.

Thomas Holley Chivers—Friend and Swedenborgian (1809–1858) top

George Bush was part of the same world Poe inhabited during his years in New York City. Another Swedenborgian is his life, Thomas Holley Chivers, was a Southerner, a friend and a poet. They became acquaintances in the summer of 1840, when Poe sent out an appeal to start the Penn Magazine in Philadelphia. Chivers answered Poe's appeal on August 27th, and promised his aid, but also advised Poe to be more gentle in the style of his criticism. Poe does not take the suggestion to heart and in 1841, in an article "Autography" in Graham's December issue, he described Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers, as "at the same time one of the best and one of the worst poets in America."29 Although Chivers complained about this characterization to Poe, he continued his correspondence with him. Poe in response wrote that he felt he had wronged Chivers in the "Autography" piece. This exchange is the beginning of a correspondence that lasted until 1849, and in the summer of 1845 they had the opportunity to develop a relationship in person.

It is not possible to detail all the complexities of the Poe/Chivers relationship, but there are some points that are worth relating and which touches on the Poe/Swedenborg question. In a letter to Chivers in 1844 Poe makes several interesting comments. First he reports to Chivers that he had been recently lecturing on "American Poetry." During these lectures he recited Chivers poem "Heavenly Vision." Poe tells Chivers that "[I] have drawn profuse tears from large and intellectual audiences by the recital of your 'Heavenly Vision'—which I can never weary of repeating."30 He goes on to say,

You mistake me in supposing I dislike the transcendentalists—it is only the pretenders and sophists among them. My own faith is indeed my own. You will find it, somewhat detailed, in a forthcoming number of the "Columbian Magazine," published here. I have written for it an article headed "Mesmeric Revelation," which see. It may be out in the August or September number.

He continues,

There is no such thing as spirituality, God is material. All things are material; yet the matter of God has all the qualities which we attribute to Spirit; thus the difference is scarcely more than of words. There is a matter without particles—of no atomic composition; this is God. It permeates and impels all things, and thus is the all things in itself. Its agitation is the thought of God, and creates. Man and other beings (inhabitants of stars) are portions of this unparticled matter, individualized by being incorporated in the ordinary or particled matter. Death is the painful metamorphosis. The worm becomes the butterfly—but the butterfly is still material—of a matter, however, which cannot be recognized by our rudimental organs . . . At death, these, taking a new form, of a novel matter, pass everywhere and act all things, by mere volition, and are cognizant of all secrets but the one—the nature of the volition of God—of the agitation of the unparticled matter.31

Chivers was finally able to meet Poe during the summer of 1845 when he was himself in New York. They met often and went for long rambling walks. After Poe's death in 1849, Chivers wrote his reminiscences and impressions made during that summer with the desire to publish them in Poe's defense. The point in mentioning their meeting and spending time together is twofold. First, it altered their relationship and it altered their conversation. It permitted things to be said beyond and developed beyond the limits of written correspondence and it permitted a deep friendship to develop. It permitted Chivers' religion, his Swedenborgianism to be personally as well as intellectually evident to Poe.

A year later, in the summer of 1846, on July 22nd, Poe writes to Chivers, with deep gratitude for his friendship. He says,

My Dear Friend, I had long given you up (thinking that after the fashion of numerous other friends, you had made up your mind to desert me at the first breath of what seemed to be trouble) . . . In fact, my dear friend, I have been driven to the very gates of death and a despair more dreadful than death, and I had not even one friend, out of my family, with whom to advise. What would I have not given for the kind pressure of your hand! . . . Your professions of friendship I reciprocate from the inmost depths of my heart. Except for yourself I have never met the man for whom I felt that intimate sympathy (of intellect as well as soul) which is the sole basis of friendship. Believe me that never, for one moment, have I doubted the sincerity of your wish to assist me. There is not one word you say that I do not see coming up from the depths of your heart.32

After Poe's death and his immediate vilification by his executor, Griswold, Chivers became determined to defend Poe's memory and thus he wrote a manuscript entitled, "The New Life of Edgar Allan Poe." This is in fact, from Chivers point of view, the resurrection of Poe. He perhaps painted it here, but he was thinking of the hereafter. In one part of the manuscript, which he labeled "Golden Letters," he used the very particular language of Swedenborg to refer to Poe. It begins,

It is not by the objective relationships of a man that we are to judge of his peculiar idiosyncrasies—his essential qualities, psychological as even as physiological—but by his subjective experiences—these constituting the true esse of the existere of his life—the plenary Revelation of his inmost life. As a tree is known by its fruits; so a man is known by his works—these constituting the truly Hesperian Apples of the Paradise of his being in time.33

These sentiments are a somewhat flowery expression of Swedenborgian beliefs, and the words esse and existere are specifically used by Swedenborg in his work Divine Love and Wisdom. In his friendship with Chivers, Poe touched a deep well of Swedenborgian thought.

Poe and Mesmerism top

In this section I will discuss both Poe's relationship to Mesmerism and his acquaintance with Andrew Jackson Davis (1826–1910) known during Poe's life-time as the "Poughkeepsie Seer."

Just as Poe was interested in Phrenology, a purported science in his day, he was likewise interested in the pseudo-science of Mesmerism. Developed by Franz Anton Mesmer in the 1770s, as a method to cure diseases. Mesmer believed he had discovered a superfine natural fluid that surrounds the body, which if not allowed to properly flow could cause illness. The role of the Mesmerist was to manipulate the flow of this "animal magnetism" while the patient was in a trance. Mesmer made it quite clear that this fluid was natural and physical, and he attempted to free it from any spiritual association.

According to Sova, in her Poe A to Z, Poe attended a series of lectures in 1838 by the French magnetist Charles Poyen. He also attended a similar series of lectures by Andrew Jackson Davis in New York in 1845. Poe mentions Mesmerism in several of his short stories. "Mesmeric Revelation" (1844), "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains" (1844), "Some Words with a Mummy" (1845), and "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" (1845).34 It is interesting to note that they are clustered into a two year period of time, and are more closely associated with the Andrew Jackson Davis' lectures than Poyen's.

Poe appears to have found something about Andrew Jackson Davis compelling. In Graham's Magazine, in the May–June issue of 1845, as Damon notes: Poe remarked: "There surely cannot be 'More things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of' (oh, Andrew Jackson Davis!) 'in your philosophy.'"35 Davis was a young country boy who gained quick notoriety for his clairvoyant powers that had been released as a result of being an experimental subject of mesmeric trances. He claimed to have insight into the essence of things. He felt his spirit was guided by Galen and Swedenborg, who had revealed themselves to him in his trances. And soon he was using his strange powers to heal the sick. Within a short time, however, he turned his attention to solving the problem of the universe. In a trance he began to dictate his work Principles of Nature. He began on November 28, 1845 and completed it on January 25, 1847.

Not only does Poe attend Davis' lectures, while Davis is in a trance, but he has his own private audience with him on January 19, 1846.Davis recalled the interview in his autobiography, The Magic Staff published in 1857.

His remarkable face bore traces of feminine mental characteristics; but upon his spacious brow there sparkled the gems of rare endowments. In his critical eye, however, I observed an ominous shadow! Thinking to myself, I said: "This person's talent immolates his genius." At length he informed us that his name was "Edgar Allan Poe." During an interior conversation, I recollect of assuring him that, though he had poetically imagined the whole of his published article upon the answers of a clairvoyant, the main ideas conveyed by it concerning "ultimates" were strictly and philosophically true. At the close of this interview he departed, and never came again.36

Damon cites another note that Davis had written about Poe, immediately after his visit.He wrote,

Edgar A. Poe's personal presence conveys me, in feeling, to a beauteous field, or to a kind of blooming valley, surrounded by hight wall of craggy mountains. So high that the sun can scarcely shine over their summits during any portion of the twenty-four hours. There is, too, something unnatural in his voice, and something dispossessing in his manners. He is, in spirit, a foreigner. My sympathies are strangely excited. There are conflicting breathings of commanding power in his mind. But as he walked in through the hall, and again when he left, at the conclusion of his call, I saw a perfect shadow of himself in the air in front of him, as though the sun was constantly shining behind and casting shadows before him, causing the singular appearance of one walking into a dark fog produced by himself.37

Poe was also determined to solve the problem of the universe. This is evident in his earlier stories, "Island of the Fay" (1841), and "Mesmeric Revelation" (1844). After the publication of Davis' The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and A Voice to Mankind, in 1847, Poe was stimulated to write Eureka: A Prose Poem. He first presented his ideas found in Eureka at a lecture in New York in February of 1848. It was called "On the Cosmogony of the Universe." Although the audience was small and the reviews in the papers unenthusiastic, Poe renamed the lecture Eureka and he found a publisher. It was published by Wiley & Putnam in March, only a month later. Five hundred copies were printed and it sold very slowly. Nonetheless, on July 7th of 1849, when Poe was quite ill, he wrote to Mrs. Clemm, perhaps from Philadelphia, saying "I have no desire to live since I have done 'Eureka.' I could accomplish nothing more."38 As an aside, it is interesting to note that Chivers also published almost simultaneously with Poe, his own answer to the problem of the universe. It, too, was perhaps in response to Davis. Chivers answer was titled Search After Truth; or, A New Revelation of the Psycho-Physiological Nature of Man.39

Although not completely recovered from his illness or his despondency, he traveled South to Richmond and arrived on the 14th of July. Slowly his health return and he entered fully into the social life of the city of his youth. From early August until his final illness, which developed at the end of September, Poe was perhaps as happy as he had ever been. As he wrote to Mrs. Clemm on September 5th 1849, "I was never received with so much enthusiasm. The papers have done nothing but praise me before the lecture and since . . . I have been invited out a great deal . . . In a word I have received nothing but kindness since I have been here, and could have been quite happy but for my dreadful anxiety about you."40 These feelings of Poe's are reinforced by a friend who recalled, "he declared that the last few weeks in the society of his old and new friends had been the happiest he had known for many years, and that when he again left New York he should there leave behind all the trouble and vexation of his past life."41

However, that was not to be. On September 26th, the evening before his departure to settle his affairs in the North and bring Mrs. Clemm to Richmond, he appeared sick to Mrs. Shelton, (his first love that he soon intended to marry). In fact, he seemed so sick, that she expected he would postpone his trip. He did not, and only a few days later he was found unconscious in Baltimore. Taken to the hospital, he never regained command of his senses and he died on October 7th 1849. The man died and the myth and the legend were born. The "Ludwig article" by Griswold sought to destroy the "house of Poe," and the unpublished manuscript by Chivers sought to resurrect the very same "house of Poe" titled as it was, "NEW LIFE of Edgar Allan Poe."42

Signs of Swedenborg in the Works of Poe top


If Davidson is right and Poe read Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell, it would appear that he read it in 1839. Is it possible that this work by Swedenborg could have stimulated Poe's shift from Gothic horror to psychic terror? To answer that question first, we need to explore the structure of dread in Poe's earlier tales to see if they do, indeed, have a different form than in "The Fall of the House of Usher." And second, we need to examine some of Swedenborg's specific teachings found in Heaven and Hell. Do they resonate with the psychology of Poe's protagonists and do they color Poe's images?

Perhaps the best tale to use to explore "the before" is "Ligeia." The story was first published in September of 1838 in the Baltimore American Museum, about a year before "The Fall of the House of Usher." "Ligeia" makes a good test case, because it is one of Poe's most critically acclaimed works and is also one of his personal favorites.43

Like many of Poe's tales, "Ligeia" combines three themes common to many of Poe's stories: a mysterious and beautiful woman, a grieving, unstable narrator, and a horrific resurrection. The narrator marries the pale, raven-haired beauty with brilliant black eyes and long jetty lashes. Ligeia is identified with the epigraph that prefaces the story, "And the will therein lieth, which dieth not."44 Ligeia's will gave her an intensity of thought and action, which resulted in her immense learning. She guided her husband, the narrator, through the chaotic world of metaphysics leading him on toward the goal of wisdom. She illuminated the mysteries of transcendentalism, to him, who groped at it like a child benighted. But, in time, her eyes shone less brightly, and she read less frequently the books which contained the secrets of the world. "Ligeia" grew ill . . . I saw that she must die—I struggled desperately in spirit with the grim Azurel. And the struggles of the passionate wife were, to my astonishment even more energetic than my own."45 Ligeia wrestled with the Shadow in her wild longing for the life that was fleeing so rapidly away. "It is this wild longing—it is this vehemence of desire for life—but for life—that I have no power to portray—no utterance capable of expressing."46

Here it is interesting to note that in the first edition of this story, the poem, "The Conqueror Worm" that soon follows the narrator's failed powers of expression in a version of "Ligeia" in The Complete Tales was, in fact, not included. Thus in the 1838 version of the story, the tale moves quickly to her death. Poe writes, "She died: and I, crushed into the very dust with sorrow, could no longer endure the lonely desolation of my dwelling in the dim decaying city by the Rhine."47

The narrator, then, after months of aimless wandering, buys an abbey in the remote wilds of England. Poe writes,

The gloomy and dreary grandeur of the building, the almost savage aspects of the domain, the many melancholy and time-honored memories connected with both, had much in unison with the feelings of utter abandonment which had driven me into that remote and unsocial region of the country.48

Here, in this setting, the narrator takes another bride, the fair-haired and blue-eyed Lady Rowena Trevanion, of Tremaine. Addicted to opium, the narrator, within days, begins to loath his bride "with a hatred belonging more to demon that to man."49 Rowena, too, falls sick, and as the narrator rushes to revive her with a goblet of wine, he sees "three or four large droplets of ruby colored fluid fall into the goblet, as if from some invisible spring in the atmosphere of the room." But he cannot be sure because after all, "it could have been the suggestion of a vivid imagination, rendered morbidly active by the terror of the lady, by the opium, and by the hour."50

Rowena dies, and while the narrator gazes upon her body, he hears and sees strange things. Poe writes, "Color had flushed up within the cheeks. Through a species of unutterable horror and awe, for which the language of mortality has no sufficient energetic expression I felt my heart cease to beat, my limbs grow rigid where I sat."51

Rowena seems to come to life, but doubt begins to arise in the brain of the narrator, "there was a mad disorder in my thoughts—a tumult unappeasable. Could it indeed be the living Rowena who confronted me? Could it, indeed be Rowena at all . . . but had she grown taller since her malady? What inexpressible madness seized me with that thought?"52 At this point the narrator rushes toward the body, and reaches her feet and is astonished to see, "huge masses of dishevelled hair; it was blacker than the raven wings of the midnight! And now slowly opened the eyes of the figure which stood before me. Here then at least I shrieked aloud, 'can I never—can I never be mistaken—these are the full, and the black, and the wild eyes—of my lost love—of the Lady—of the Lady Ligeia.'"53

It is not only Poe who liked this story, but the critics as well. As documented in Sova, the British critic and playwright George Bernard Shaw said, "The story of the Lady Ligeia is not merely one of the wonders of literature: it is uparalleled and unapproached. There is really nothing to be said about it: we others simply take off our hats and let Mr. Poe go first."54

While the story may work intellectually, and visually or externally, it is flat emotionally. We observe, just as the narrator observes, he tells and we see, but he does not show us the madness, he tells it to us, he describes it, he does not demonstrate it. The painting is voluptuous but its passion is distant from the reader.

It is otherwise in "The Fall of the House of Usher." Here we move inside the mind of the narrator. The pictures he paints give rise to sensations and feelings in the reader, because they belong to the narrator. We identify with the narrator in this tale, we sense what he senses, we feel what he feels because we are privy to the various thoughts and speculations of his mind. In this story we are inside looking out, in "Ligeia" we are outside looking in.55

"The Fall of the House of Usher" begins with the narrator approaching the House of Usher on horseback. A scene, similar to the abbey in "Ligeia" is described, but the introspection of the narrator in "The Fall" transforms it, and the reader is intimately drawn into the setting. Poe writes,

. . . at length [I] found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows—upon a few rank sedges—upon a few white of decayed trees—with an utter depression of soul, which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium—the bitter lapse into every-day life—the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart—an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it—I paused to think—what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? . . . It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression. . . .56

There can be little doubt in this paragraph just quoted that we see the mind of the narrator in action. In this tale, the focus is placed on the narrator's perceptions and reflections. The reader experiences his mind. While, it would be possible to go through the entire tale of "The Fall of the House of Usher" to amplify the point, I believe this paragraph shows the whole. Because as the story unfolds we also get inside Roderick Usher through the mind of the narrator.

However, another key feature of this story is the fact that the exterior house mirrors the psycho-emotional or spiritual state of its occupants. As the narrator says,

Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its principle feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation. No portion of the masonry had fallen; and there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still adaptations of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual stones. In this there was much that reminded me of the specious totality of old woodwork which has rotted for long years in some neglected vault, with no disturbance from the breath of the external air. Beyond this indication of extensive decay, however, the fabric gave little token of instability. Perhaps the eye of a scrutinizing observer might have discovered a barely discovered fissure, which extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zig-zag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.57

After the dreaded events of the future came to pass, that Roderick had so deeply feared—his twin sister's living death, and then his own in one embrace, the fall of the house corresponds to and mirrors the death of its lineage. The fleeing narrator glances back and describes the scene,

I found myself crossing the old causeway. Suddenly there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could have issued; for the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me. The radiance was that of the full, setting, and blood-red moon, which now shone vividly through that once barely discernable fissure, of which I have before spoken as extending from the roof of the building, in a zig-zag direction, to the base. While I gazed, the fissure rapidly widened—there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind—the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight—my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder—there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters—and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the "House of Usher."58

The destruction of the house of Usher is apocalyptic—the mighty walls rushing asunder, the tumultuous shouting, the voice of a thousand waters. The fall is total, for with the fall are destroyed body, mind and soul. Meyers, writes that "Usher identifies with his rotting house, he is passionately absorbed in it, and believes that its very stones have human feelings."59 He continues,

The House of Usher is brought down by psychological as well as architectural stress; and the deeper significance of the story is hidden below the dazzling surface. The word "mystic," Poe wrote, is applied by German critics "to that class of composition in which there lies beneath the transparent upper current of meaning an under or suggestive one. What we vaguely term the moral of any sentiment is its mystic or secondary expression." D. H. Lawrence was the first to perceive that the story portrayed the unconscious impulses of the characters; that Poe "was an adventurer into the vaults and cellars and horrible underground passages of the human soul."60

Davidson elaborates on this idea.

As so frequently happens in Poe's writing, inner moods and ideas are consistently externalized; the city itself, the labyrinthian streets, the noise, and garish colors—these are the pictorial and frenzied manifestations of states of mind which would presuppose that the world is a mirrored chiaroscuro of the human psyche . . . for him "the invisible spheres" were not "formed in fright." Evil or good is each man's right and his willing; each one saves or damns himself. But the ultimate reason why man chooses or will one or the other is far beyond anyone's knowing; the sinner is compulsively driven by some motive to be malignant, by some maggot in the brain which he cannot anticipate or understand but the penalty of which he is more than willing to suffer. The need to do evil Poe placed in the idea of "perversity," man's tendency to act "for the reason that he should not."61

Drawing on Davidson, who observed that man's perversity was Poe's rationale for man's moral system, Poe seemed content to place the faculty in man alone and not in nature or in God.

Here is what can be found in Swedenborg's teaching in Heaven and Hell that could be a source for or echo Poe's vision and the understanding of him by his critics.62 In number 90 we read,

Since a human being is both a heaven and an earth in least form in the image of the greatest (see §57 above), there is a spiritual world and a natural world within us. The deeper elements, which belong to our minds and relate to our intelligence and willing, constitute our spiritual world, while the outer elements which belong to our bodies and relate to our senses and actions, constitute our natural world. Anything that occurs in our natural world (that is, in our bodies and their senses and actions) because of something in our spiritual world (that is, because of our minds and their intelligence and willing) is called something that corresponds.
We can see in the human face what correspondence is like. In a face that has not been taught to dissimulate, all the affections of the mind manifest themselves visibly in a natural form, as though in their very imprint, which is why we refer to the face as "the index of the mind." This is our spiritual world within our natural world. Similarly, elements of our understanding are manifest in our speech, and matters of our volition in our physical behavior. So things that occur in the body, whether in our faces or in our speech or in our behavior, are called correspondences. (HH 91)
We need to know as well that it is humankind through which the natural world is united to the spiritual world, that we are the means of that union. For there is within us a natural world and also a spiritual world (see above, §57); so to the extent that we are spiritual, we are a means of union. However, to the extent that we are natural and not spiritual, we are not a means of union. (HH 112)
[When spirits claim their own inner natures after death, they] have faces and bodies responsive to the inner natures of their minds. So they are in an outward form that is the imprint or image of their inner natures . . . This means that when they are seen by [spiritual] eyes, one can tell instantly what their nature is not only from their faces but also from their bodies, and especially from their speech and behavior. Further, because they are now their essential selves, they can only be where kindred souls are . . . Spirits move spontaneously toward kindred spirits because they are motivated by what attracts and delights them. In fact, they actually turn in that direction because that is how they breathe in their life, or draw their breathe freely, and not when they turn elsewhere . . . In the spiritual world, communication depends on the way we face . . . This is why hellish spirits all turn away from the Lord toward gloomy and dark objects there that are in the location of the earth's sun and moon, while heaven's angels all turn toward the Lord as the sun and the moon of heaven . . . (HH 552)
In general, though, all the people in the hells are governed by their fears . . . (HH 543)
The evil within [a person] is hell within [him], for it makes no difference whether you say "evil" or "hell." (HH 547)

The bodies of those in hell are grotesque, and their speech apparently arises from anger or hatred or revenge because each one talks out of his own evil nature. In short, all of them are reflections of their own hells . . . That is why the hells are described as being in gloom and darkness, and why the words gloom and darkness indicate false elements arising from what is evil (HH 553).

Love of self and world reign supreme in the hells and even constitute the hells (HH 554).

When heavenly light flows into false elements from what is evil, it is turned into forms of madness and various kinds of hallucinations. In all cases it depends on how it is received (HH 569).

The malice and artfulness of hellish spirits is on the same level as wisdom and intelligence for angels. The situation is similar, since after a person's spirit is released from his body, it is involved either in its own good or its own evil . . . So in the same way that an angelic spirit thinks, intends, speaks or acts out of his own good, a hellish spirit does the same things out of his own evil. Thinking, intending, speaking, and acting out what is really evil is doing these things out of the whole complex of elements involved in what is evil. It was different while he was in the body. The evil part of a person's spirit was under the restraints that apply to every individual on account of law, profit, prestige, reputation, and fears of losing them (HH 481).

There is a balance between heaven and hell. Everything needs to be in a balance if anything is to result. Without balance, there is no "action and reaction," since the balance is between two forces, one acting and the other reacting. The state of rest that results from an equal agent and re-agent is called balance (HH 589).

The balance between the heavens and the hells ebbs and flows in response to the number of people entering heaven and hell, which amount to several thousand a day (HH 593).

In Heaven and Hell 602 some common people related that in the world some intelligent people had asked them what they thought about their souls after the end of life in the world. They said they did not now what the soul was. They went on to ask what they believed about the state after death; they said they believed they would live as spirits. They asked what kind of belief they had about 'the spirit'; they said it was a person. They kept asking how they knew this; they kept saying that they knew it because it was so.

George Dole the translator of Heaven and Hell has written a book based on it, entitled Freedom and Evil: A Pilgrim's Guide to Hell. There are three passages from his book that illuminate some of the themes in Poe that resonate with Swedenborg's teachings briefly outlined above.

Actually, if evil is its own punishment, then there is really no more reason to fear hell than there is to fear our own malice. Judging by the range of our own tastes, hell is not all ugliness, nor constant fire and brimstone, to anyone who has chosen to live there . . . If resentment is inherently ugly, if brutality is inherently bestial, then to the mind that enjoys resentment or bestiality grotesque features can look handsome. If home is where the heart is, if money can't buy happiness, then to the mind that treasures opulence, its spirtual hovels will look like palaces and its spiritual poverty like treasures of gold or jewels.63

In discussing what hell might look like, Dole writes,

The houses would be rugged, with shuttered windows and heavy doors. They would face away from each other, and there would be an abundance of massive stone walls around individual properties . . . In heaven's light all of this strength would look like the pretense that it actually is. The houses would be small and cramped, and lightless, crowding in on each other. The air would be smoky with smoldering resentments, the people hunched and wary, they voices strident. There would be no sense of order, no city plan. There would certainly be many houses lying in ruins, causalities of the latest insurrection . . . There would be no beauty to the aridity of the landscape—it would be simply bleak, colorless, and harsh.64

Dole adds to all this by saying that we are creating our hell, moment by moment, as our whims change so our worlds change. It is quite simply a world were our wishes come true. He goes on to say, "of course it is not quite that simple because we are not alone. Everyone in our world is a creator, as well, which means that there are cosmic conflicts, vast sky-sweeping battles in which the odds are against us. Occasionally we may prevail and our illusions may invade the mind of our opponents; but more often we find ourselves to be the martyrs."65

He concludes by telling us,

Again and again we are reminded that the "other world" is as close to us as our own thoughts and feelings. It is the realm of our unseen motivations. It is the geography of our own relationships, the space in which we move closer to each other in mutual understanding and affections or farther from each other in mutual misunderstanding and suspicion, regardless of our location in this physical world.66
The highest usefulness of Swedenborg's pictures of hell is not to terrify us with fears about the future but to alert us to threats to our souls in the present. What does our egocentricity look like when the masks are stripped off? Are we the handsome, dramatic devils of Paradise Lost, or the small minded, venomous, deformed creatures who flee from the light lest our actual bestiality be exposed to view? There is really no point in deceiving ourselves.67

It would appear to me that Poe draws on the correspondence between mind and body found in the teachings of Swedenborg and the psychological and creative qualities with which our inner spirits are endowed to make and shape their own world. "The Fall of the House of Usher" is a story that takes place in a hellish landscape where the external world is in the image of the spirit of Roderick's mind. The terror is the terror of a world where all the nuances of mind are found depicted socially and architecturally. It is so frightening because there is no mask, the inner and outer world merge and make one. We live in a world of masks and disguises and we often prefer it to one in which the inner reality defines everything.

"The Tell-Tale Heart" also seems to draw on Swedenborg's concept that human beings are shaped by their loves, and that evil has its own reward. We are drawn into the mind of the "rational" murderer who had become fixated on the "eye" of the kind old man. Perhaps the old man could read the narrators inner loves, but his obsession does not have to be real or rational or true, for us, it was simply true for him and he acted on it. He thought that the obsession could be hidden, but he manifests his inner world to the police because he was so self-centered that all he could think of was his perfect crime, his obsession which reverberated in his very being, by the beating of the heart, and by his certainty that all the police could speak about was him.

The Light

Poe did not only draw on Swedenborg in his depiction of the dark, but he also draws on him in his depiction of the light. His series on the question of the Universe addresses questions that Swedenborg addressed. The first in this series is "The Island of the Fay" (1841), the second is "Mesmeric Revelation" (1844), and the third is Eureka (1848).

The most clearly "Swedenborgian" of these is "Mesmeric Revelation." And it is here that Poe reveals the "faith" that is his own. In this story, the Poe scholar, Arthur Hobson Quinn, tells us that Poe "was ahead of his time, as usual, in his conception of the relations between God and man . . . In this story, he rejected the idea of the absorption of the individual in God. This would be an action of God returning upon itself—a purposeless and futile action. Man is a creature. Creatures are thoughts of God. It is the nature of thought to be irrevocable."68 In another discussion of "Mesmeric Revelation," presented later in his critical biography of Poe, Quinn tells us that this story is "an expression of Poe's certainty of man's free will and the persistence of his individuality after death."69 While God is perfect matter, according to Poe, complexity and substantiality are necessary because pain is reality and is necessary to happiness. That is, because as Poe says, "All things are either good or bad by comparison. Positive pleasure is a mere idea. To be happy at any one point we must have suffered at the same."70 So Poe concludes that "The pain of the primitive life of Earth is the sole basis of the bliss of the ultimate life of Heaven."71

The tale "Mesmeric Revelation" permitted Poe to explore and share radical ideas that, when presented as religion, might have disturbed people, but when clothed as fiction could lead to Van Kirk's experience, when at the end he wore a "bright smile irradiating all his features."72

This work was written by Poe when his wife was still alive. It contains an optimism that perhaps left him at her death, even though he expressed the idea that her death made life easier to bear, it may have been easier to bear precisely because there was no more zig-zag between hope and despair. After her death, perhaps he found only desolation. On the other hand, however, this is not to say that there are no similarities between Swedenborg's Cosmology and Poe's Cosmogony found in Eureka. George Bush certainly aludes to them in his review of the book.

One other thing needs to be said about Poe and his possible Swedenborgian touches, and that is that so many writers that themselves were touched by Swedenborg found Poe congenial both stylistically and substantively. Whitman and Baudelaire are two such examples and there are others. In conclusion, let me reiterate an earlier point. I trust my paper has opened the door to consider Swedenborg as one source among many for magic and mystery, and the light and dark in the art of Edgar Allan Poe.

Footnotes top

1 Frances Winwar, The Haunted Palace: A Life of Edgar Allan Poe (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), 391.

2 Winwar, 1959, 392.

3 Dwight Thomas and David K. Jackson, The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe 1809–1849 (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1987), 284.

4 George E. Woodberry, The Life of Edgar Allan Poe: Personal and Literary with His Chief Correspondents with Men of Letters, Vol. II (New York: Biblio and Tannen, 1909), 337–339.

5 Edward Hungerford, "Poe and Phrenology," in American Literature, Volume 2, Issue 3 (Nov., 1930), 209–231.

6 Randall A. Clack, "'Strange Alchemy of Brain': Poe and Alchemy" in A Companion to Poe Studies, ed. Eric W. Carlson (Westport, CN and London: Greenwood Press, 1996), 367–389)

7 Barbara Cantalupo, "Eureka: Poe's Novel Universe" in A Companion to Poe Studies, ed. Eric W. Carlson (Westport, CN and London: Greenwood Press, 1996), 322–366.

8 Edgar Allan Poe, Eureka, foreword by Sir Patrick Moore (London: Hesperus Press, 2002).

9 Cantalupo, 1996, 334; Poe, 2002, vii.

10 Edgar Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher," in The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, with an introduction and explanatory notes by Arthur Hobson Quinn, texts established, with bibliographic notes by Edward H. O'Neill (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1992), 271.

11 Edward H. Davidson, Poe: A Critical Study (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1957), 196.

12 Dawn B. Sova, Edgar Allan Poe A to Z (New York: Checkmark Books, 2001), 86.

13 Sova, 2001, 87.

14 Thomas, 1987, 468.

15 Thomas, 1987, 468.

16 Sova, 2001, 282.

17 Thomas, 1987, 556.

18 Thomas, 1987, 586.

19 Thomas, 1987, 587.

20 Thomas, 1987, 752.

21 George Bush, "Notices on Books 3.—Eureka: A Prose Poem," in The New Church Repository, Vol. I. Aug. Ed. George Bush (New York: John Allen & London: J. S. Hodson, 1848), 508–509.

22 Bush, 1848, 508.

23 Bush, 1848, 509.

24 Thomas, 1987, 485.

25 Thomas, 1987, 485.

26 Edgar Allan Poe, "The Literati," in The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Vol. III Literary Criticism (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1927), 8.

27 Bush in the work Anastasis cites the work of Samuel Noble, an English Swedenborgian who had tackled a similar subject. See page 390 in George Bush's Anastasis: or The Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body, Rationally and Scriptually Considered (New York and London: Wiley & Putnam, 1845).

28 Poe, 1927, 8.

29 George E. Woodberry, ed. "The Poe-Chivers Papers," in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, Vol LXI, New Series Vol. XLIII, November, 1902, to April 1903, 435–447, 439.

30 Woodberry, 1902–1903, 441.

31 Woodberry, 1902–1903, 441.

32 Woodberry, 1902–1903, 547.

33 Woodberry, 1902–1903, 549.

34 Sova, 2001, 155.

35 S. Foster Damon, Thomas Holley Chivers: Friend of Poe (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1930), 157.

36 Damon, 1930, 157–158.

37 Damon, 1930, 158.

38 Woodberry, 1909, 312.

39 Damon, 1930, 159. Here perhaps it should also be mentioned that the last letter Poe wrote to Chivers was dated July, 13, 1848 and the last letter Poe received from Chivers was in September of 1849. See Woodberry, 1902–1903, 549.

40 Woodberry, 1909, 326.

41 Woodberry, 1909, 340.

42 Woodberry, 1902–1903, 549.

43 Sova, 2001, 133.

44 Poe, 1992, 224.

45 Poe, 1992, 226.

46 Poe, 1992, 226.

47 Poe, 1992, 228.

48 Poe, 1992, 228.

49 Poe, 1992, 228.

50 Poe, 1992, 231.

51 Poe, 1992, 232.

52 Poe, 1992, 233.

53 Poe, 1992, 233.

54 Sova, 2001, 133.

55 It might be useful to point out that the use of alchemical symbols used in this story aptly discussed in Randall A. Clack's article "'Strange Alchemy of Brain': Poe and Alchemy" in A Companion to Poe Studies, edited by Eric C. Carlson (Westport, CN & London: Greenwood Press, 1996), 367–390.

56 Poe, 1992, 262–263.

57 Poe, 1992, 264–265.

58 Poe, 1992, 276–277.

59 Jeffrey Meyers, Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy (New York: Cooper Square Press, 2000), 112.

60 Meyers, 2000, 112.

61 Davidson, 1957, 189.

62 Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, trans. George F. Dole (West Chester, PA: The Swedenborg Foundation, 1979).

63 George F. Dole, Freedom and Evil: A Pilgrim's Guide to Hell (West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 2001), 120.

64 Dole, 2001, 134–135.

65 Dole, 2001, 142.

66 Dole, 2001, 146.

67 Dole, 2001, 146.

68 Arthur Hobson Quinn, Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University, (1941) 1998), 391–392.

69 Quinn, 1998, 419.

70 Quinn, 1998, 419.

71 Quinn, 1998, 419.

72 Poe, 1992, 550.