The Complete Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe Including Essays on Poetry

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 186

is not altogether in
accordance with Mr. Dickens's idea--but the author of _Caleb Williams_
was too good an artist not to perceive the advantage derivable from at
least a somewhat similar process. Nothing is more clear than that every
plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its _denouement_ before
anything be attempted with the pen. It is only with the _denouement_
constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of
consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the
tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention.

There is a radical error, I think, in the usual mode of constructing a
story. Either history affords a thesis--or one is suggested by an
incident of the day--or, at best, the author sets himself to work in the
combination of striking events to form merely the basis of his
narrative---designing, generally, to fill in with description, dialogue,
or autorial comment, whatever crevices of fact or action may, from page
to page, render themselves apparent.

I prefer commencing with the consideration of an _effect._ Keeping
originality _always_ in view--for he is false to himself who ventures to
dispense with so obvious and so easily attainable a source of
interest--I say to myself, in the first place, "Of the innumerable
effects or impressions of which the heart, the intellect, or (more
generally) the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present
occasion, select?" Having chosen a novel first, and secondly, a vivid
effect, I consider whether it can be best wrought by incident or
tone--whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse,
or by peculiarity both of incident and tone--afterwards looking about me
(or rather within) for such combinations of events or tone as shall best
aid me in the construction of the effect.

I have often thought how interesting a magazine paper might be written
by any author who would--that is to say, who could--detail, step by
step, the processes by which any one of his compositions attained its
ultimate point of completion. Why such a paper has never been given to
the world, I am much at a loss to say--but perhaps the autorial vanity
has had more to do with the omission than any one other cause. Most
writers--poets in especial--prefer having it understood that they
compose by a species of fine frenzy--an ecstatic intuition--and would
positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes,
at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought--at the true
purposes seized only at the last moment--at the innumerable glimpses of
idea that arrived not at the maturity of

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Text Comparison with The Fall of the House of Usher

Page 0
.
Page 1
The writer spoke of acute bodily illness--of a mental disorder which oppressed him--and of an earnest desire to see me, as his best, and indeed his only personal friend, with a view of attempting, by the cheerfulness of my society, some alleviation of his malady.
Page 2
In this there was much that reminded me of the specious totality of old wood-work which has rotted for long years in some neglected vault, with no disturbance from the breath of the external air.
Page 3
Many books and musical instruments lay scattered about, but failed to give any vitality to the scene.
Page 4
It was thus that he spoke of the object of my visit, of his earnest desire to see me, and of the solace he expected me to afford him.
Page 5
"Her decease," he said, with a bitterness which I can never forget, "would leave him (him the hopeless and the frail) the last of the ancient race of the Ushers.
Page 6
I shall ever bear about me a memory of the many solemn hours I thus spent alone with the master of the House of Usher.
Page 7
A small picture presented the interior of an immensely long and rectangular vault or tunnel, with low walls, smooth, white, and without interruption or device.
Page 8
Wanderers in that happy valley .
Page 9
But evil things, in robes of sorrow, Assailed the monarch's high estate; (Ah,.
Page 10
I lack words to express the full extent, or the earnest abandon of his persuasion.
Page 11
The result was discoverable, he added, in that silent, yet importunate and terrible influence which for centuries had moulded the destinies of his family, and which made him what I now saw him--what he was.
Page 12
Having deposited our mournful burden upon tressels within this region of horror, we partially turned aside the yet unscrewed lid of the coffin, and looked upon the face of the tenant.
Page 13
features of the mental disorder of my friend.
Page 14
I say that even their exceeding density did not prevent our perceiving this--yet we had no glimpse of the moon or stars--nor was there any flashing forth of the lightning.
Page 15
Here, it will be remembered, the words of the narrative run thus: "And Ethelred, who was by nature of a doughty heart, and who was now mighty withal, on account of the powerfulness of the wine which he had drunken, waited no longer to hold parley with the hermit, who, in sooth, was of an obstinate and maliceful turn, but, feeling the rain upon his shoulders, and fearing the rising of the tempest, uplifted his mace outright, and, with blows, made quickly room in the plankings of the door for his gauntleted hand; and now pulling therewith sturdily, he so cracked, and ripped, and tore all asunder, that the noise of the dry and hollow-sounding wood alarmed and reverberated throughout the forest.
Page 16
I was by no means certain that he had noticed the sounds in question; although, assuredly, a strange alteration had, during the last few minutes, taken place in his demeanour.
Page 17
" No sooner had these syllables passed my lips, than--as if a shield of brass had indeed, at the moment, fallen heavily upon a floor of silver--I became aware of a distinct, hollow, metallic, and clangorous, yet apparently muffled reverberation.
Page 18
jaws.