The Museum Collection

Manuscript Portion of Poe's Marginalia

ID #: 364
Creator: Edgar Allan Poe
Date: 1849
Format: Manuscript in Two Strips of Uneven Length
Dimensions: 8.5" x 4"
Source: Museum Purchase
Collection: Poe Foundation, Inc.
Publisher: Southern Literary Messenger
Place of Publication: Richmond, Virginia
Publish Date: June 1849


This manuscript was written on thin strips of paper, glued end to end, as Poe was know to do. Poe would roll these manuscripts like scrolls for easy storage in his writing desk.

The text of this manuscript appears in the June 1849 issue of the Southern Literary Messenger in an installment of Poe's series, Marginalia, in which the author gives his insights on subjects ranging from modern technology to philosophy. Sometimes witty and often pessimistic, these articles reveal much of Poe's character, humor, and diverse interests. Installments appeared in the Democratic Review, Godey's, Graham's, and The Southern Literary Messenger.

The text of the first strip reads: "[Hell could invent] no greater torture than that of being charged with abnormal weakness on account of being abnormally strong. In like manner, nothing can be clearer than that a very generous spirit--truly feeling what all merely profess--must inevitably find itself misconceived in every direction--its motives misinterpreted. Just as extremeness of intelligence would be thought fatuity, so excess of chivalry could not fail of being looked upon as meanness in its last degree:--and so on with other virtues. This subject is a painful one indeed. That individuals have so soared above the plane of their race, is scarcely to be questioned; but, in looking back through history for traces of their existence, we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."

The smaller strip reads: "[There are moments when, even to the sober eye of Reason, the world of our sad humanity must assume the aspect of Hell; but the Imagination of Man is no Cara]this, to explore with impunity its every cavern. Alas! the grim legion of sepulchral terrors cannot be regarded as altogether fanciful; but, like the Demons in whose company Afrasiab made his voyage down the Oxus, they must sleep, or they will devour us-- they must be suffered to slumber, or we perish."