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English Romanticism and Edgar Allen Poe

I have tried to show Poe's debt to French Romantic writers.. It should be noted first that the size of the audience French Romanticism enjoyed in America should not be understimated

English Romanticism
Edgar A. Poe
Mahmood Azizi,
University of Mazandaran

New dicoveries in Poe cover a wide range of topics heretofore either unnoticed or given little attention. Chapters are devoted to such diverse subjects as "The Role of Byron and Mary Shelley in 'The Masque of the Red Death,'" "Poe and the 'Magic Tale' of Ellen Wareham," "Poe and the River," "Godwin and Poe," and "Poe as 'Miserrimus.' Not satisfied with merely identifying a source, I will pinpoint Poe's precise use of story-telling.
I have also tried to show Poe's debt to French Romantic writers.. It should be noted first that the size of the audience French Romanticism enjoyed in America should not be understimated. French was the second language of many educated people, and graduates of Eastern and Southern universities and fashionable seminaries for young ladies were well-acquainted with the French Romantics, as attested to by numerous critical articles, book reviews, and translations of poems and excerpts from novels and plays. With no international copyright law, translations of French novels flooded the American bookmarket. Practically all of the New York literati read the French Romantics, and many had written reviews of individual writers. In New York, as well as other cities, French Romantic drama enjoyed wide popularity. Thus Poe, an active figure on the American literary scene, would have had ready sources of information about French Romanticism .
I will show Poe's indebtedness to Victor Hugo and borrowings from Notre-Dame de Paris (1831), with close analyses of Poe's use of various episodes in his own works. Poe described Hugo's novel as "a fine example of the force which can be gained by concentration, or unity of place." In this connection, however, it should be mentioned that Poe could have had in mind Esmeralda, a staged version of the novel, which was shown successfully in America. Incidents from Notre-Dame de Paris which are associates with episodes in Poe's short stories also strongly suggest the atmosphere of the Romantic stage, .

"The Cask of Amontillado" had a mise en scene, complicated, perhaps, but not too complicated for a stage director accustomed to arranging a setting for a sequence from Sue's Mysteries of Paris. Poe's interest in dramaturgy and unified action with a complicated plot frequently brings to mind the preface to Cromwell. Again one may hesitate to assert the nature of Poe's acquaintance with the preface, though Poe could have read at least an analysis of it in an American or British journal.
In addition to Notre-Dame de Paris, it is probable that Poe knew two other Hugo novels available in America in the 1830's, Bug-Jargal and Han d'lslande. Concerning the influence of these novels on Poe, his case can be strengthened by noting how Poe combined the features of Hugo's misshapen creatures in his own dwarf in "Hop-Frog." Hop-Frog recalls Quasimodo in the rescue scene that ends Notre-Dame. His most pertinent observation again calls our attention to details closely associated with stage setting in matters of background, costume, and dramatic effect.

Thus a major strength of the essay is the considerable light thrown on Poe's knowledge of Hugo. I wish he had given this relationship even greater focus. It would also be good to have an examination of similarities in both poets' use of hallucinatory imagery. The French writer, after all, was concerned with sensory impressions and mental images derived from dreams and nightmares. Moreover, when considering the tendency of both Poe and Hugo to play with the effects of light and shadow, one is tempted to compare them to Charles Nodier, in whom there has been a recent revival of interest. Nodier clearly influenced Hugo, though any direct connection with Poe is probably out of the question, since Nodier was practically unknown here in the past century. One is struck, nonetheless, by the extent to which Poe penetrated the realm of dreams and the preternatural much in the manner of Nodier.

Poe reacted adversely to Chateaubriand's cloying sentimentalism much as he did to Lamartine's. Yet he was too much a Romantic to reject them altogether.There are also instances on Poe's borrowings from Chateaubriand's Itineraire de Paris a Jerusalem in the "Sonnet to Zante" , though he might have indicated the extent to which the Itineraire was read (Poe no doubt knew of it at the University of Virginia, where it enjoyed wide popularity). what seems an obvious association Chateaubriand's role in encouraging Poe's sensitivity to the grandeur of nature should not be neglected. Passages in "Ragged Mountains" and "Julius Rodman" capture the flavor of the Genie du Christianisme.
. I find nothing distinctively Poesque about either review; both are written in the critical jargon which any "magazinist" of the period would have used. The matter of attribution of unsigned articles in nineteenth-century journals is at best highly problematical. But such criticisms strike me as minor.

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