Poe Shadow ~ Matthew Pearl ~ Book Club Online ~ 9/06
August 30, 2006 - 03:55 pm

"The public, the press, and even Poe's family and friends accept the conclusion that Poe was a second-rate writer who met a disgraceful end as a drunkard.

Matthew Pearl has crossed a pitch-perfect literary history with innovative mystery to create a beautifully detailed, ingeniously plotted tale of suspense.
Pearl's groundbreaking research - which uncovered material never published until now - opens a new window on the truth behind Poe's demise, literary history's most persistent enigma." Random House

To fully appreciate Matthew Pearl's stylistic accomplishment we recommend you read Edgar Allan Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales.

Book I ~ Oct.8, 1849 Sept.1 - 7
Book II ~ Paris Sept.8 - 14
Book III ~ Baltimore 1851 Sept.15 - 20
Book IV ~ Phantoms Chased for Evermore Sept.21 - 25
Book V ~ The Flood Sept.26 - Sept. 30

For Your Consideration
September 26 - 30
Book V ~ The Flood

1. Do you see the title of this last book as more than the water that opened up the prison wall to allow Quentin's escape, but perhaps symbolic of his release from the confines of his own solitude? Has his solitude been the prison that has led to his obsession?
Do you see other "floods" in these last chapters?

2. What are the heartbreaking discoveries that led Quentin to conclude that Poe invented C. Auguste Dupin and Duponte is nothing but a fraud?

3. "Only through observing that which is mistaken can we come to the truth." How does the realization of his personal misperceptions enable Quentin to take charge of his life and ultimately save himself?

4. What was the connection between Louis Napoleon's coup and Baron Dupin's murder? Did all those Bonapartes really live in Baltimore at one time?

5. Is it noteworthy that Edwin Hawkins is the one who comes to Quentin's aid whenever he is in an impossible situation? Why does Edwin Hawkins risk all for Quentin? Why doesn't Hope Slatter press charges and take him back into slavery when he has the chance?

6. What is the only way Quentin thinks he can prove he is not mentally incompetent to look after the Clark family fortune and prove himself worthy of Hattie? At what point does he realize the error in his thinking?

7. "To guess is one of the most elevated powers of the human mind and more interesting than reasoning because it comes from the imagination." But isn't this what the Baron had done with the information he had gathered?

8. Does Quentin conclude on his own that the Baron's version of the circumstances of Poe's death is believable but not true? Does Duponte ever admit that he is not Poe's Dupin? Do you believe that he is?

9. Do you believe that Duponte has responded to the mysteries surrounding Poe's death as he reveals the errors in the Baron's version one by one? Has he solved the mystery simply by proving there was nothing extraordinary or mysterious about Poe's last days?

10. Would you say the Substance or the Shadow prevailed as Quentin faced the choice between the Baron's version that seemed true and would be believed and Duponte's truthful explanation, which would put that man's future at risk?

Does Quentin's decision not to reveal information on Poe's death indicate that his obsession with Poe has ended? What would you have done with the new information?

Related Links: Murders in the Rue Morgue Discussion // The Raven Illustrated // Poe's correspondence // "Secret Chapters" 1 - Paris (Rose Acton Murder) // "Secret Chapters 2" - (The Humboldt Incident) // "Secret Chapters 3" - (The Reynolds Question) // Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore // Posting urls from other websites//
Discussion Leader ~ Joan P

B&N Bookstore | Books Main Page | Book Discussion Guidelines | Suggest a Book for Discussion
We sometimes excerpt quotes from discussions to display on pages on SeniorNet's site or in print documents.
If you do NOT wish your words quoted, please contact Books.

Joan Pearson
August 31, 2006 - 02:14 pm
Welcome to Baltimore, 1849 to all of you geniuses, talented, imaginative or merely inquisitive readers!

Have you ever written to an author as Quentin Clark wrote to Poe with his question about the lamplight in "The Raven"? Did you receive a reply?
How fortunate we are to have the author of The Poe Shadow in our midst to answer our questions in this way! Thank you, Matthew - you are very welcome!

"Poe becomes a friend to all who read him." Have you read any of Poe's work lately? Do you agree with Quentin Clark's observation? This promises to be such a spirited discussion on a number of different levels. I know you are all as excited to get started at last!

August 31, 2006 - 09:53 pm
Re "Poe becomes a friend to all who read him."

I've read many of Poe's stories and poems - went through a phase years ago where I just had to read everything of Poe's I could get my hands on - like Quentin. But, no, I can't say Poe became a friend!! His topics were so morbid. Fascinating but morbid. A favorite author, but not a friend! This line of Quentin's is typical of Quentin, who is obsessed with his favorite author.

I wondered what could have induced Poe to write about the topics he did - so often about death, torture, madness, shadows. Often Poe wrote in the first person - like bizarre events were happening to the narrator himself - just like Quentin writes in our Pearl book. Quentin, writing in the first person, is like the narrator in some of Poe's stories and poems - someone who becomes obsessed and tormented and drawn into his own bizarre tale as events unfold while he tracks down clues of Poe's death.

Reading The Poe Shadow is like reading one of Poe's stories - even the language is like language of the 19th century. Pearl has carefully added even minute details so readers feel like we are back in 1849 Baltimore.

Joan Pearson
September 1, 2006 - 12:45 pm
Marni - an interesting question coming from someone like yourself who has read much of Poe. Why was he fascinated with the morbid - and with death? There's something about his writing (or about the poet) that attracts Quentin Clark. It might be more than death and morbidity though.

Quentin as a boy felt the absence of his father's approval. Maybe he senses something of a kinship with Poe because of this? I will say that I felt a thrill of recognition, maybe vindication or something very much like it when I read of Poe's "perverse Shadow within" which prevails over the substance of what we know we know we should do. My "Imp" usually prevails...just like Poe says. Does yours? Perhaps Quentin felt the same when reading Poe. Someone understood him.

I feel that I need to read more of Poe during this discussion to see if some of these elements are present in his other works. I must confess "The Raven" was the only thing that came to mind until I started seeing other titles in Matthew's book - which I know I read years ago. Maybe I was too young to appreciate them!

"Quoth the Raven, nevermore." Do you think that "evermore" and "nevermore" were Poe's - or were they words commonly used in the 19th century? I see Matthew using them several times in this first Book.

September 1, 2006 - 12:55 pm
I agree with Marni; Poe is not to everyone's taste. Even tho' there is much of Poe I do like, I still find some of his work too morbid and unsettling. I could not help but think that some of his work did reflect a mind dangerously close to insanity.

I also enjoyed the 'atmosphere' of 1841 Baltimore. The language, the social mores, the expectations of 'industry and sobriety' from the young men. I was unaware that the trains had separate compartments for the ladies, so they would not be exposed to the smoke from the men's cigars and the men could not have to be careful of their language!

Dupin's 'ratiocination' obviously combines close observation with logical deduction, but there is something more. There seems to me places where a leap of the imagination takes him in a direction that could just as well have led him elsewhere. I am thinking of that famous train of thought from "Murders in the Rue Morgue". That he turns out to be correct is necessary to establish his genius, right? But I'm not wholly persuaded that he could not just as well have been entirely wrong.


September 1, 2006 - 04:07 pm
We are indeed fortunate to have Matthew Pearl with us again.

I'm not very far into The Poe Shadow and believe it or not, have never read any Poe, although I do plan to at least read "Murder in the Rue Morgue," which I have been told is a "locked door" mystery.

What has struck me most in the beginnings of my reading, is how different the style here is from The Dante Club. Poe Shadow seems much more introspective, a rather scholarly experience, where we are led step by step.

Joan Pearson
September 1, 2006 - 06:41 pm
Pedln, it is so good to have you with us again! I agree, the style is different from The Dante Club. - After reading "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" I hear echoes of Poe in the style. "Introspective" is a good way of putting it, I think. I find Quentin a detached character, as Dupin seemed to be. He seemed to get receive real understanding from his family - and doesn't he have a strange, though comfortable romance with Hattie? I don't see passion, and yet he has been attracted to something close to passion in Poe's work. Does it make sense that he is drawn to Poe's "unsettling" writing (a good way to describe much of it, Babi. I was thinking "dark" but unsettling seems more accurate.) and it is Hatti's "settled" quiet manner that he cherishes.

Intersting that Matthew P. chose the same period again. He seems comfortable in the late 1900's. I remember Longfellow and his friends playing whist in the evenings - Poe writes of whist in the Rue Morgue Murders. I don't see Quentin at the whist table though, do you? He doesn't seem to fit into that society. Does he have any friends? Is that why he is attracted to Poe?

I also enjoyed the 'atmosphere' of Baltimore, Babi. The expectations of sobriety and industry you write of - the people without gaiety.... It doesn't sound like a happy place to be. Does the sun ever shine? It seems so gloomy - foggy.

I'm wondering too if Quentin isn't letting his imagination take him too far, Babi...but he does seem to be have valid reasons for suspecting something out of the ordinary happened to Poe on that last day.

Pedln, read Book 1 - we want to know what you think! I like being led step by step as Quentin gathers pieces of the mystery.

September 1, 2006 - 08:43 pm
I'm obsessed with Poe. I took a special college course on literature when I was in 7th grade and we read and discussed The Cask of Amontillado. From that first line forward ("The thousand injuries of Fortunato I bore as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge....") I was hooked.

I have never felt that Poe was my friend. I want Poe's stories, not the man who wrote them. I know very little about Poe, the man, for someone who has had a steady diet of his stories for about 30 years now.

To me, he sounds more modern than his contemporaries in a way, and more ancient in another way. I feel he was a man ahead of his times, but also a man whose soul got lost somewhere on the ancient path of prehuman history.

In junior high school my friends and I became obsessed with early to mid-19th century literature from our exposure to Poe at this age. We devoured the novels and the poets. We loved Poe and Washington Irving's short stories, and Hawthorn and Melville (although my white whale is still out there) and Dana and Byron and both Shelleys.

Poe was initially translated into the French by Charles Baudelaire, one little bit of trivia I know from my interest in macabre literature and poetry.

Poe doesn't really write about the macabre. His stories simply are macabre. Rather he writes about the human condition and obviously so.

I like the setting, the middle of the 19th century is one of my favorite eras for historical novels. I'm always disappointed that so many authors set theirs much later in the Victorian era.


September 1, 2006 - 08:47 pm
It seems that Poe's shadow, like The Raven's, has been cast over Quentin's soul Evermore.

Quentin becomes so strange. His whole life becomes one obsession - to find out how Edgar Poe died and to clear his name.

He has a lot to offer as a young man. Quentin is smart, handsome, and has some wealth inherited from his parents.......who died in an accident, right? (Am I forgetting things already?) Quentin has his own large house and is a partner in a law firm. Sounds like every young woman's dream, right? WRONG!

He feels he must find out what really happened to Poe. He thinks Poe's name is being dragged through the mud because of the way Poe ended in Ryan's in a deplorable state and apparent return to drinking. Quentin wants to clear Poe's name and ends up devoting what seems to be his every waking minute to following clues about Poe's last days. Like Poe's character Dupin, Quentin tries to use careful observation and logic, following clues, to find answers to the mysterious end of Edgar Poe.


Until I read Quentin's questions to Poe about the shadow cast by the raven, I never even wondered about it!! I don't think I pictured it vividly. Now I'm trying to visualize the room where the raven sat above the bust over the door casting his shadow forevermore. What a fabulous image!!! You can't get much creepier than that.

I'd like to see a picture of the raven casting his shadow from the bust of Pallas.

Ahah! Found some! For you Gustave Dore fans out there in the Don Quixote discussion, Dore illustrated Poe's The Raven. Here are some of the illustrations:







September 2, 2006 - 09:56 am
Joan P--I have a question for Matthew Pearl. Are you collecting them?

Question: "Quentin" is a fairly unusual name, at least now. It must have been more common in the 19th century. When I read it, I keep thinking of the "other" Quentin, he of The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom!. Faulkner's introspective Quentin Compson. Does the name have echoes for Pearl as well?


Joan Pearson
September 2, 2006 - 11:12 am
That's a good idea - to gather our questions for Matthew into one place - and I love your question about Quentin's name too, Maryal! Will get up a page for questions this afternoon!

We did discuss Absalom! Absalom! here years ago. Quentin Compson was the boy, the narrator, who quietly unraveled the mystery of the Sutpen family tragedy that had occurred years before - just by listening and observing, putting together the facts he learned from different sources. Quite smart of you to associate the name, Maryal - I'm sure Matthew will agree!

Babi - you've rolled the term "ratiocination" off your tongue as if you are quite familiar with it. Will you expand on the word? Its meaning - and did Poe coin it in his Dupin mysteries?

Kleo - we're fortunate to have you with us - as you and Poe go way back - to 7th grade. The Cask of Amontillado sounds so familiar - I must have read it long ago. Will read it this afternoon as I see it on the bookshelf right now.
I'm curious why you prefer the mid 1900's to the later years. Will you expand on that please?

That's an important observation - Poe writes about the human condition. His stories are macabre, not his subject matter. Thank you.

Marni- "Poe's shadow, like the Raven's has been cast over Quentin's soul." I like that. Do you think this explains the title? The Dore illustrations are wonderful! I'm going to put them in the header this afternoon too. They illustrate Quentin's question to Poe in his first letter.

Have you ever written to an author with a question about his writing? Do you think it unusual that an author actually responded to Quentin's question? I have to keep reminding myself that Poe himself did not actually write this letter providing the explanation for the lamplight. This is Matthew's fiction! I'm wondering if Poe ever did explain this elsewhere and Matthew incorporated it into the story. Trying to decide whether to put this question to Matthew - or to leave it as part of his story for a while.

Your mention of Dore's illustrations of Don Quixote reminds me of another note I made while reading The Poe Shadow. Peter is concerned about Quentin's fascination with Poe - worries about the world of books invading the mind of those who read them. Shades of Don Quixote's preoccupation with books of knight-errantry? Did her family worry about little Kleo's preoccupation with Poe?

September 2, 2006 - 06:32 pm
MARNI, those paintings certainly capture the gloominess of Poe's "Raven", don't they. Some were so extreme in their emotional display, it made me think of the old, over-acted melodramas that had the audience hissing and booing the villain.

I did find a definition for ratiocination in my huge old dictionary, JOAN. It cites a basis in Latin, and defines the word as: "The art or process of reasoning, or of deducing consequences from premises." That does seem to be what Dupin was doing, ie., deducing consequences from premises.

I found a line that seemed to express the comfort of the society from which Quentin seems to be withdrawing. "In here people knew themselves, and never doubted for a moment that they understood the others around them and that they themselves were perfectly understood in return." People in such a social group would begin to close out someone they no longer understood, wouldn't they?

JOAN, you ask a question about Poe's writing on the 'substance' and the 'shadow' of our lives. He wrote that the substance of our lives is what we know we should do, and the shadow is a 'dangerous and giggling imp' of what "we must or will do or secretly want".

I wonder if that is so. It is certainly true that what we 'must do', or 'will do' will prevail. And quite often,what we secretly want as well. But isn't 'should do' a weak force to begin with? So much of what we think we 'should do' is dictated the rules in which we are raised and may or may not be the best thing to do. I can't help but think that what we 'must do and will do' is more substantial than 'should do'. Perhaps 'should do' is the shadow life, and 'must do' is the truer guide.


September 2, 2006 - 07:53 pm
"I'm curious why you prefer the mid 1900's to the later years. Will you expand on that please?" Joan

Not mid-1900s, mid-19th century. Because it was a less certain and less modern time, before the Second Industrial Revolution, but firmly in the first. People of a later age, late 19th century, are every bit as modern as we are, but people of this time are somewhere in between. I think in terms of throwing a person from the times, mid-19th century, into the modern era, versus throwing a person from, say 1879 into the modern era. Much more difference between these two folk than between someone from 1841 and someone from 1769, when throwing them into our modern times. There's something less functionally like my own times in 1841, while still having so many of the modern conveniences because of manufacturing and transportation advances. It seems there is not so much more in the 1870s, but in reality there is.

Poe, however, does not fit quite so well in his times.

"Did her family worry about little Kleo's preoccupation with Poe?" Joan

We had very few books and were voracious readers, my parents and 6 siblings and various others in one house. I was a slow reader. If I had a good book and was enjoying it everyone bothered me to hurry up, or to pass it on so everyone else could read it first--that was their real worry. I also read the usual books for young teens, Are You There, God, It's Me Margaret, Encyclopedia Brown, Jane Eyre, not just Poe. I read Poe's poetry when I was younger, because I read a lot of poetry as a child. My brother's snuck me into a movie based on a Poe poem, The Conqueror Worm--except it had nothing whatsoever to do with Poe and was a horrid, dreadful movie to take a young child to. This was a bit problematic because I had nightmares for ages afterwards.


September 2, 2006 - 08:50 pm
Re "He wrote that the substance of our lives is what we know we should do, and the shadow is a 'dangerous and giggling imp' of what 'we must or will do or secretly want'."

This reminds me of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde discussion on SeniorNet recently. Dr. Jekyll was like the shadow, a shadow that loomed larger and larger.

September 3, 2006 - 12:24 am
I wonder if Quentin is suffering from a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. He is within the age group for its onset, and the rapidity with which his obsession with Poe seems to take over his entire life is beyond the bounds of normal behavior.

Everyone has unpleasant or obsessive thoughts occasionally. However, people with OCD have repetitive thoughts and/or behaviours, which are time-consuming and distressing. Even though they may know they are irrational, people with OCD cannot ignore these thoughts. To help cope with them, they carry out compulsions - which are repetitive behaviours or rituals - that can get in the way of everyday life. Quentin abandons his law practice and livelihood. He also abandons Hattie and any chance of family life. All this to spend his time collecting information about Poe's death. It makes for a good mystery story, but probably a sad outcome for Quentin.

I also wonder if Matthew is making Quentin a standin for Poe, since Poe was an alcoholic (a form of obsession), and his prospects for a normal life were blighted by this.

September 3, 2006 - 12:55 am
Marni, what a treat! The Gustave Dore pictures are fantastic! Thank you so much.

September 3, 2006 - 01:33 am
Thank you so much. I am tongue-tied trying to post a question to Matthew Pearl. I am honored by your visit.

Often we hear about Poe's alcoholism, poverty, maybe insanity. No person in life, I find, is totally black or white. While researching Poe's life, what did you, Matthew Pearl, discover about Poe's good side? What made you like this man? After finishing THE POE SHADOW, did you find it hard to let Poe go? If so, how long did Poe remain your shadow or companion?

During your daily activities did you think like Quentin?

"There were as highly respectable ladies and gentlemen there that night as could be obtained in Baltimore. Yet wouldn't I have preferred to be in Madame Tussaud's chamber of murderers just then, anywhere just then but caught in slow and smooth conversation, when I had such a momentous task tempting me!"

September 3, 2006 - 05:36 am
I have completed the book! I could not help myself! Once I started, one passage, and then another, and then another propelled me forward. I think it is brilliant!

I look forward to hearing all about this book from Matthew. By the way, Matthew, I will also be participating in the Barnes and Noble discussion of your book. I have the same screen name there too, so don’t be confused when you happen upon me in both places. I am the same person.

Because I do participate in the Barnes and Noble on-line book discussions, I have had the privilege of speaking with many authors over the past three years. Without exception, I find their comments enhancement my enjoyment and understanding of their work.

I have read half of the story Murders in the Rue Morgue, which is my first reading of any Poe. I am enjoying it so far, but I don’t plan to snuggle up in bed with any of his works --- daytime reading only for me!

Ratiocination fascinates me. So clever! And for Matthew to be able to apply Poe’s style and methods to his writing of The Poe Shadow is incredible.

Now to catch up with all of your posts…

September 3, 2006 - 11:08 am
I'm probably thinking way ahead but I wonder about the introduction in which Quentin talks about going to court and speaks to the judge and jury concerning the events of his investigation. Why do some people still think him a "criminal, vile murderer", etc. What kind of trouble does he get himself into? I guess we'll find out. Events of modern life show us that the person who attempts to get at the "truth" often does get into a lot of touble. The whistleblower is not often appreciated. Some people like to continue in their normal, even if boring,lives and not be made to feel uncomfortable.

To Matthew. I'm enjoying the Poe Shadow. Sorry I haven't read any of your work before. But I have ordered the Dante Club and will read it a little later.

September 3, 2006 - 02:39 pm
Well, my remarks on 'substance' vs 'shadow' didn't draw any fire, so I guess I'll go on to my next

I love the small touches appropriate to the time that Matthew uses so casually. The ginger-nuts, for example. The words 'scrivener' and 'autographer'. The custom of the 'death portrait'. That is something that seems macabre to us today. The whole ambience makes me feel as though I am actually visiting Baltimore in 1849.


Joan Pearson
September 3, 2006 - 05:51 pm
horselover, antlerlady, Laura - we are happy you have joined us. Welcome!
~Laura - since you have read the whole book, you must promise two things...to be careful about posting beyond the discussion limits (Book I only this week) and please DO bring us any tidbits you glean from the Barnes & Noble discussion, okay?

~Antlerlady, aka Crankypants (which name do you prefer in this discussion?) - I do remember being startled to hear Quentin speak of being accused as a "vile murderer" in the introduction. That tells us that he will be successful in convincing the police that Poe was murdered, eh?

horselover (may we call you Ann?) - Quentin certainly sounds obsessed with Poe. He can't wait to get away from family and friends to do more research. His obsession with Poe's works goes beyond his death. Now he must keep his promise to help clear his name. Do you think Matthew has taken the role of Quentin as he searches for answers surrounding Poe's mysterious death?

Joan Pearson
September 3, 2006 - 07:04 pm
Are you enjoying moving back and forth between Matthew's story and Poe's Rue Morgue Murders? Sometimes I forget where I read something and spend a lot of time searching...
Ratiocination fascinates me , Hats - and puzzles me too. BaBi - thanks for looking up the dictionary definition of the word - Kleo tells us in the Poe discussion that it's a 17th century word. (I wonder if Cervantes was familiar with it!)
"The art or process of reasoning, or of deducing consequences from premises."
Babi, I get the feeling from reading Poe's Rue Morgue mystery that Dupin goes beyond "deducing consequences from premises" as he questions the impossible conclusions he is left with. I sense a rather uncanny ability to see things that others can not that goes beyond ratiocination. Does anyone else feel this way?

Joan Pearson
September 3, 2006 - 07:13 pm
Kleo, yes, I meant to say 19th c.and not 1900's - thank you for understanding that and answering my question. It's very interesting to read about those yet untouched by modern advances, transportation, manufacturing, as you say - along with the associated problems that came along with them - especially the unrest in society, in the family. The human condition of which Poe writes is quite different from the period Dickens will explore, for example.
An aside to Kleo - remember yesterday when you said that Poe wrote about the human condition...that he didn't write of the macabre? How would you characterize the story of revenge and Fortunato? Maybe I need a new definition of macabre?

Babi - I was quite taken with your flip-flop of substance and shadow! Do you really believe that the "should do" is merely a guideline, a shadow that hovers over all of our willful acts - the giggling impish acts we know are wrong?

Is it Peter - then who is living a shadow of a real life. Peter and the society from which Quentin is withdrawing? Babi, that is a very intersting proposition.

Marni - is Quentin becoming a Dr. Jekyll then? Does he find it more desirable than to continue as Mr. Hyde? What if Poe hadn't died? Do you think Quentin would have been happy to continue the life he had been living? Would he have settled down with Hattie and lived happily? I think not.

Hats - asks an interesting question. Was there a good side of Poe? A happy Poe? The death of his young wife might have been the cause of the excesses in his life. Babi brings up her "death portrait" - that did seem macabre. There were similar customs observed in the last 100 years or so. Snipping a lock of a loved one's hair and wearing it in a locket around one's neck. Taking photographs of a dead family member lying in a coffin. I've actually seen people doing this - not lately, but a number of years ago. I was aghast that anyone would want to preserve such a memory. People didn't think it "macabre" though.

Matthew used Poe's wife's death protrait to introduce the young girl in the carriage with Poe's cousins - who resembled Poe's young wife. Are we beginning to keep a list of clues yet?

September 3, 2006 - 07:50 pm
Ah, Joan, I assumed that if you read that story you might use it to lay a foundation (sorry!) for arguing Poe was indeed rather macabre. There are macabre elements in Poe's stories, certainly Fortunato's death as an element of Montresor's revenge qualifies. But, yes, the stories are, imo, brilliant stories that explore the depths of the human soul way beyond the limits of their macabre elements. This is what struck me as a 7th grader, how much substance there was to the story beyond the creepy elements. This still strikes me today rereading "Murders in the Rue Morgue," although I'm not as enamored of this particular Poe story as other folks are.

I suspect Joan's definition of macabre to be the one most folks use.


September 4, 2006 - 05:59 am
Joan said, “---and doesn’t he have a strange, though comfortable romance with Hattie?”

I didn’t find the romance itself strange. At that time, people often were “assigned” (I don’t want to say arranged because I am not sure that is the correct term here, maybe assumed with people feeling obliged to meet the expectations.) to marry other people based on societal status of the family. Hattie and Quentin seem to be a bit formal and stand off-ish with each other, but that seemed to be normal for the times, to me. Couples could not spend much, if any time alone before marriage.

There does seem to be something a bit off though, something I can’t put my finger on.

Joan Grimes
September 4, 2006 - 08:25 am
I have just started this book. I am reluctant to say anything much here. I am like Hats. I think I am tongue tied because Mathew Pear is here with us.

I have been reading Poe for many years. I have always loved him. I feel that he was such a tragice figure in our literary history. Used to teach American Literature and always spent a lot of time with Poe. High school kids usually really like Poe's stories.

I have always wanted to know more and more about Poe and have studied much about him and read much about him. However have found that there are no real answers.

I have never spent anytime in Baltimore. I have just past through the city. I have visited the Poe Museum in Richmond, virginia. I enjoyed it tremendously. I have some photos taken there around here somewhere in all the hundreds of photos that I have taken in the last 5 years.

As I started to read this book, I felt the same atmosphere that I always felt when reading a Poe story. I will continue to read more. I do not plan to read the Murders in the Rue Morgue. I have read it many years ago and it is the Poe story in which I was least interested. So I really don't want to read it again. Of course I might change my mind as I read this book.

Joan Grimes

September 4, 2006 - 11:23 am
As I read the book, I marked what I thought were clues with the post it page markers. Here’s what I marked in Book I:

Page 34 – “…as he lay there he called out a name over and over…” … “You said he called a name, Mr. Wilson?” … “’Reynolds,’ it was! Right, that’s it, ‘Reynolds’!”

Page 37 – “I recollect it because he asked for help --- wanted to know where a Dr. Brooks lived, if I remember.”

Page 41 – flower at Poe’s grave (I know this was mentioned earlier, but I didn’t mark it then). Page 46 – “The fire would have been just around the time…the very time Edgar Poe arrived in Baltimore looking for the house of Dr. Brooks.”

Page 48 – “Mr. Poe believes there is no need for any examination. He stands quite content with what is known about his cousin’s premature death.”

Page 49 – “And Mr. Herring here agrees with Mr. Poe,” he went on. “Perhaps you know him --- the lumber merchant? He is another one of Mr. Poe’s cousin’s, and he was the first relative to be present at the Fourth Ward polls, which were at Ryan’s hotel, the day Mr. Poe was found delirious there.”

Page 50 – “Poe’s description of the beautiful girl Lenore at her death --- “that now so lowly lies” --- were the same words at the end of the Phantom’s warning. It is unwise to meddle with your lowly lies.”

September 4, 2006 - 02:09 pm
I am very interested in the man named Reynolds. Who is he? We don't know whether Reynolds is a friend or enemy. Is he just an acquaintance or a very close friend?

September 4, 2006 - 04:10 pm
When I was in high school, back in the 1950s, I read everything I could find written by Poe and wrote my senior English paper on his life and works. I think I burned myself out, and have not read any of his works since, though I remember a few isolated facts and bit of stories. It is fun to hear lines from Poe's works and remember reading them so long ago.

I am listening to 'The Poe Shadow" on an audiobook, and one thing that came to mind was a similarity I seemed to see between Dupin's ratiocination and Sherlock Holmes style of deduction, so I looked up their dates. Poe died in 1849 and Arthur Conan Doyle was born in 1859. Therefore it seems to me that Doyle may have been influenced by Poe's stories featuring Dupin. Does that seem reasonable to anyone else?

September 4, 2006 - 04:16 pm
I'm pretty sure he calls Dupin the greatest detective ever at some time in his life.


September 4, 2006 - 05:13 pm
I think the affair between Quentin and Hattie is odd. Apparently, there has always been something special between them. They have known each other since childhood and were special friends. There is definitely a love between them. Everyone around them seems to assume they are a couple and will marry. I guess Quentin and Hattie assume they will marry, too; at least Hattie does.

Quentin's head in somewhere else. And his heart, I think. He just wants to focus on Poe. Hattie is secondary. If he loves her, she is in the background for him.

They certainly are formal with each other and they don't seem to see each other very often. Hattie and her aunt give all kinds of little clues to Quentin to wake him up, but it doesn't work very well. Quentin is....what....nearly 27 years old or so? Hattie can't wait for him forever. People are going to call her an old maid.

Joan Pearson
September 4, 2006 - 05:45 pm
...and she's only 23 years old, Marni! Notice that she is not complaining or nagging at Quentin, but can't you sense her growing concern? He doesn't seem to notice. Laura, this wasn't so much an arranged marriage as it was just expected, wouldn't you agree? These two have known each other since childhood. I don't think they were stand-offish with one another, but can't put finger on their strange relationship. They seem to have a tacit understanding that they are meant for one another. It is odd, though, isn't it? What do you see in their future?

JoanG, Perkie - happy to have you both with us. You will balance off the numbers of those who have and have not read Poe! ~Welcome! I look upon these discussions as a chance to catch up with authors I've never read - or have read so long ago, I've forgotten! And this is such a fun way to do that!

Perkie, I'm not sure the exact words with which Conan Doyle praised Poe, but he did pay homage to Dupin in his work...
"Poe’s Dupin, in particular, seems to have been a major influence on Conan Doyle. The Rue Morgue murders require to be solved by the kind of rigorous (and sometimes lateral) thinking which Holmes specialised in (indeed, in the very first ever Holmes story (A Study in Scarlet) the debt to Poe and Dupin is expressly acknowledged when Watson says to Holmes, “You remind me of Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin”.) Arthur Conan Doyle
Laura - thanks for the list of clues! Thank you for citing the page numbers too! That'll come in handy at some point. What did you think of the young woman in the back of the carriage with the Poe cousins...the one whose face resembled that of the girl in the death portrait - Poe's first wife. (p. 49) - Did you find that significant enough to be included as a clue? Or is it not yet tangible evidence? Hats - I think we'll have to wait for more on the identity of this Reynolds - unless of course I've missed something. It is significant that Poe called his name over and over in the hospital on the day he died. (Do you think that is fact - or Matthew's fiction?) Laura's list of clues is in the heading under "related links" - will try to keep up with it...if you all will point out clues when you spot them.

I've been walking around today thinking about Quentin's attraction to Poe...and wonder how you understand it. Quentin is described as "dangerously restless"...did reading Poe cause this, or is there something in his nature that responded to Poe's writing?
Hats, you asked yesterday whether Matthew walked in Quentin's shoes as he wrote this story. I would like to know too what drew Matthew to Poe.

September 5, 2006 - 01:31 am
JoanP I would love to know the answer to that question. Is Reynolds Matthew's fiction?Is it possibly a fact Poe called out one person's name over and over before dying? I guess further reading is necessary.

September 5, 2006 - 03:57 am
I wonder if Quentin is an absent minded professor type of person --- very focused on his research, but is sometimes unaware of the world around him (Poe being the research and Hattie and the law practice being the world around him)?

Joan, I did not include the “young woman in the back of the carriage with the Poe cousins...the one whose face resembled that of the girl in the death portrait - Poe's first wife,” as a clue. It could easily be something I missed. The book is so full of detail! Please add that to the list of clues. I don’t consider my list to be in any way complete.

The Poe Shadow discussion starts at Barnes and Noble University today. I will see what’s going on over there…

September 5, 2006 - 05:01 am
Joan was kind enough to organize some questions for me, so here we go

1. "Quentin" is a fairly unusual name, at least now. It must have been more common in the 19th century. When I read it, I keep thinking of the "other" Quentin, he of The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom!. Faulkner's introspective Quentin Compson. Does the name have echoes for Pearl as well?

Yes, Quentin Compson has always been an important character for me. Particularly in thinking about someone who does/doesn't fit into the South -- who is a Southerner but doesn't consider himself one. Quentin Clark is from Baltimore, which itself is in a strange position as part of a state, Maryland, that never quite felt comfortable being part or being separate from the South. Thanks for noticing!

2. C. Auguste Dupin sounds much like a criminal lawyer in "Murders in the Rue Morgue." In the course of your research did you learn anything that might explain Poe's knowledge of the law?

Good point to raise, as a certain sector of readers feel that C. Auguste Dupin must have been a lawyer. Here are some of the quotes that might make us think that:

Murders in the Rue Morgue: “You will say, no doubt, using the language of the law” ...Mystery of Marie Roget: “He has thought it sagacious to echo the small talk of the lawyers, who, for the most part, content themselves with echoing the rectangular precepts of the courts. I would here observe that very much of what is rejected as evidence by a court, is the best of evidence to the intellect. For the court, guided itself by the general principles of evidence – the recognized and booked principles – is averse from swerving at particular instances. And this steadfast adherence to principle, with rigorous disregard of the conflicting exception, is a sure mode of attaining the maximum of attainable truth, in any long sequence of time. The practice, in mass, is therefore philosophical; but it is not the less certain that it engenders vast individual error” ... Mysery of Marie Roget: “It is the malpractice of the courts to convince evidence and discussion to the bounds of apparent relevancy. Yet experience has shown and a true philosophy will always show, that a vast, perhaps the larger, portion of truth, arises from the seemingly irrelevant. It is through the spirit of the principle, if not precisely through its letter, that modern science has resolved to calculate upon the unforeseen”

But these passages, particularly the first, might indicate instead that the unnamed narrator, rather than Dupin himself, is the lawyer. As for Poe, he may have considered studying law (most young writers at that time considered it), but, if memory serves me, professed overall ignorance of it. In 1836, Poe writes in a letter (used in 'The Poe Shadow' in a letter to Quentin): “I am entirely ignorant of all law matters”

3. While researching Poe's life, what did you discover about Poe's good side? What made you like this man? After finishing THE POE SHADOW, did you find it hard to let Poe go? If so, how long did Poe remain your shadow or companion?

Thank you for the question. I feel I know Poe so much better than when I started, and yet he'll always be a mystery, I think, which is maybe part of why he's so enduring a writer and a persona for us. I think I will continue getting to know Poe, but I don't think it's primarily about *liking* him. Poe likely was not a very personable or very generous person -- but he's certainly intriguing!

4. During your daily activities did you think like Quentin when writing this book?

I think I often did! Part of what was fun for me about writing this book, perhaps more so than 'The Dante Club', was feeling a real resemblance to the main character. Particularly because Quentin and I had similar goals, trying to chase Poe's death.

5. Did Poe ever did explain the lamplight behind "The Raven" elsewhere or did you create this question - (and answer) for your story?

All quotes from Poe are actual quotes (or reported quotes) from Poe, and "The Raven" answer is indeed from a real letter by Poe. I just thought it was such a kick that a fan of his would ask him that, and that he would have such a specific answer. It seemed a perfect type of question for Quentin to answer because, in my mind, Quentin is a very literal reader, he wants to know the "truth" behind everything (a very American way of reading, I think!).

September 5, 2006 - 05:53 am
Another note, tomorrow I go to Poland to promote Cien Poego, the Polish translation of The Poe Shadow. I'm hoping to still have good internet access. I wanted to share the Polish version of the website:


Joan Pearson
September 5, 2006 - 12:07 pm
Matthew, thank you for taking the time to consider our questions before taking off tomorrow! Laura is taking part in the Barnes & Noble University discussion of your book scheduled for today and we knew just how busy you would be before taking off! That's why your response to our questions was so much appreciated.

If you all will look in the heading under "related links" you will see where we are storing questions for Matthew that you have posted here so he can catch them on the run! Poland! I wonder about the keyboards overseas! Have you ever had the experience? I can't even find the "period" on the French board. Or the exclamation point and you may have noticed that I think in exclamatories!!! What I'm saying is that I think we should continue to make it easy for Matthew and gather questions for him in one place to save time while he travels. If I miss something you have asked, let me know and I'll add them to the list right away.
~ It's intersting that you separate Poe from the narrator in his Murders in the Rue Morgue by telling us that Poe knew little about legal affairs...but that the passage you have cited for us indicate that the unnamed narrator, rather than Dupin himself, is the lawyer.

~ It was revealing to me when you write that Poe will always be a mystery...does this mean that even when employing "ratiocination" his death will remain a mystery? You help us to understand the man when you tell us that Poe likely was not a very personable or very generous person. This makes Quentin's interest in him even more curious. He was more intrigued with him then?

~ It was really helpful to know that the letter regarding was from a real letter by Poe. And that all quotes from Poe are actual quotes (or reported quotes) from Poe. Thank you!!!

Joan Pearson
September 5, 2006 - 12:21 pm
Hats...from what Matthew has just posted this morning about all quotes from Poe are actual, I think it is safe to assume that he DID repeat the name over and over before dying, don't you think?

Laura - when you wrote of Quentin being focusedI focused on his research and sometimes unaware of the world around him (Poe being the research and Hattie and the law practice being the world around him) - I couldn't help but think of the talk of shadow and substance. In thie case, it is Hattie and his law practice that Quentin SHOULD be focused on...and his concentration on Poe's death the shadow that is slowly overtaking him.

I'm just curious - what do you think Hattie will do? And if you were Hattie, living in these times, what do you think she SHOULD do?

September 5, 2006 - 10:39 am
I have a book of this author's that I just can't get into. Not my cup of tea.. sorry.. Colkot.

September 5, 2006 - 12:33 pm
I would like to say, along with JoanP, thank you to Matthew for taking time to answer our questions. He is a thoughtful and talented author.

Joan Pearson
September 5, 2006 - 12:39 pm
Colkott - it seems to me that enjoyment of Matthew Pearl's novels comes from a familiarity with the authors he researches and writes about in his fiction. His love for an author's work comes across in his enthusiastic research and writing. I can see where you would have trouble getting into The Dante Club without a rather recent reading of Dante's Inferno

I think the same thing might be true regarding his Poe Shadow and am curious what others here think about this question. Does Matthew's novel stand alone without some familiarity with Poe's work, without an understanding C. Auguste Dupin and his "ratiocination"?

I'm also curious about those who love Poe's work, and those who find it dark or inaccessible. Do you think it might be true that those of you who appreciate Poe came to his work when very young - at a time when you might have been insecure - with feelings that you didn't quite fit in - and found someone who seemed to understand in Poe's writing? I guess my question is...do you think a person who hasn't read Poe as a young person can appreciate him at a more mature age? If your answer is "yes", do you think you enjoy other elements in his writing than a younger person might?

September 5, 2006 - 01:17 pm
I feel that THE POE SHADOW is a stand alone book. Quentin's drive to solve the mysterious death of this man is driving me too. I want to know about Poe's ending days. I want to read all of Poe's stories and poems. Through Quentin Clark's admiration I have a desire to read a biography about Poe. I want to know the start, middle and end of this man's life. Isn't that amazing? A fictional character made up by an author is pushing me forward to learn about the whole life of a real man.

Of course, it is a book about becoming fully involved with another person's life. What does this type of passion feel like? Have we experienced it? Would we like to experience it? I have experienced passion in my life. I hope to experience it over and over before death. Does passion only come to us once in a lifetime?

There is so much I like about Quentin Clark. I like his compassion. I think the tiny, tearless burial is painful to Quentin. Is it possible for so few people to care about the death of this famous man? Quentin, driven by the words he must have read more than once is determined to keep Poe alive.

Quentin's grief keeps him moving and searching. This is his way of dealing with the death of a loved one. Why this man? Because Quentin Clark found a man, Poe, who could relate to his deepest feelings. It is a friendship evolved through words.

"And I found something new to me as a reader: recognition. I felt suddenly less alone in the world with his words before me. Perhaps this is why the occasion of Poe's death, which might have riveted another reader for a passing day or two, inhabited my thoughts."

September 5, 2006 - 01:40 pm
I had read (a long time ago) that Poe was an opium addict. I haven't seen anything to that effect in this discussion or in the Poe short story discussion. I've just read here that he was an alcoholic.

Has anyone else every heard of Poe being an opium addict?

Re the name Quentin - It reminded me of the old soap opera "Dark Shadows." Remember the vampire was named Quentin?


September 5, 2006 - 01:42 pm
By passion I mean a powerful friendship, a friendship meeting emotional needs.

September 5, 2006 - 02:32 pm
I liked Poe when I first read "The Pit and the Pendulum" in ninth grade. Loved that opening sentence, "When at length they unbound me and I was permitted to sit, I felt my senses leaving me. . ."

It was dramatic and (I thought) terribly adult. Later when I read some of the poetry (again in school) I fell for "The Raven" which I can almost recite. Also some of the other poems. I loved their sounds--"the tintintabulation of the bells bells bells" etc.

I read Poe's short stories--not all, but some--a little later but can't remember when. I thought some interesting and others not so much. I really liked the idea of "The Tell-Tale Heart" and thought it was psychologically accurate. A lying man's own heart beating faster and faster until he thought it was the heartbeat of his murder victim. I also found the voices of the first person narrators interesting.

The Dupuin stories weren't among my favorites, but I loved the idea of Poe, an American no less, inventing a whole new genre. I don't think I came even close to solving any of the mysteries, but I'm still not even when all the clues are given. It's always a matter of guessing for me.

I do very much like what Pearl is doing in this book, creating a narrator, Quentin Clark, who is almost as quirky as the author he is obsessed with. I love the recreation of Baltimore which I visit with some frequency. My father grew up in Baltimore although he never lived there after he married. My father was born in 1899 so the time of the novel is earlier than his, but his father lived all his life in Baltimore and would have been living at the time of Poe. I wonder if he noticed when Poe died in the city.

Hattie's quietude reminds me of my mother who was raised to be a lady and to comfort men with her soft voice and understanding listening.

Isn't it a little ominous that Quentin pulls a burning book of Poe's works out of the fire at the end of Part I? If I were Hattie, I'm not sure that I'd feel up to taking this man on. I haven't read further, so I don't know whether she stays with him or gets out while the getting is good. There he is with his sleeve on fire:

"I stood there in the middle of my chambers, the book ablaze in my hand. My sleeve became a burning ring at the cuff. But I stood resolutely in place as Peter blinked, his helpless eyes large and glinting red with the fire as he took in this sight: the sight of his partner gripping a flaming book while the sizzling fire was beginning to engulf his arm."

Just after this, Quentin steps out of his chamber door(and chamber door reminds me of "The Raven") . . . .and he doesn't turn back.

Run, Hattie, run!


September 5, 2006 - 02:43 pm
Oh, thanks for posting the Polish website for the book, Matthew--it's fun to read. I hope you have a wonderful time in Poland.

Joan, I like the book itself. I'm not certain whether knowing anything about Poe is necessary. I'm simply fond of well-written mysteries and historical novels set in this time frame. Since I know a lot about Poe, at least his writing, I doubt I'm qualified to weigh this matter for others, though, whether a knowledge of Poe is necessary for enjoying Poe Shadow.

Quentin's relationship with Hattie will drive me batty, though. She needed to have dumped his butt when she turned 21, not wait this long. Men who dump their lives for an obsession, should be tossed out of other folks' lives as soon as possible.

Colkot--all book clubs on SeniorNet are completely optional. If you don't want to join one, simply don't. It's not necessary to ever enter, much less post that you won't be joining, or your reasons why.


September 5, 2006 - 04:16 pm
JOAN, I'm not clear enough myself on 'should not', 'must not', to fully explain it. "Willful acts" are something else, and IMO generally refer to acts that would have been better not done. But to me, 'I know I should....' is a weak statement that means I probably won't. "I must" is a strong imperative, and to me does not imply a negative action per se. (I do not include instances of compulsive behavior here.) I think it was Poe's (Pearl's??) use of 'must' as signifying something one should not do that puzzled me and evoked my reaction.

I agree with Marni (it was Marni, wasn't it) that thee was something definitely over the edge about Quentin standing there 'defiantly' with his sleeve on fire. There is a point where passionate concern becomes unhealthy obsession, and there are moments when I think Quentin steps past that point.


September 5, 2006 - 04:57 pm
I just want to clarify that the Barnes and Noble University discussion of The Poe Shadow is not just one day, but a full four weeks! I'll be sharing tidbits from it throughout the month.

It's not too late if any of you would like to join in at BNU. Just go to bn.com, create an ID, and sign into the classroom. It's free too!

September 5, 2006 - 06:04 pm
Pondering the questions of Hattie…

What do I think Hattie will do? I think she will continue to be patient with Quentin for awhile. Who knows how long this Poe investigation will last. It may not interfere with their relationship, or maybe not for long. She’s shown remarkable patience so far. I think it is others who are more impatient for an engagement than she is. She knows and accepts Quentin, idiosyncrasies and all, it seems

What do I think Hattie should do? I think she should give him a few months to sort this Poe obsession out. After that, sad as it may be, she is going to have to start exploring other options. Quentin is 27 and she is 23, I think. Very old for marriage for both of them in their time. Can’t wait forever.

September 5, 2006 - 06:13 pm
I think The Poe Shadow can stand alone. I read all but about 50 pages of it before reading any Poe, ever, in my life. Now, I must say that while reading the first half of Murders in the Rue Morgue, I immediately felt a much deeper appreciation for Matthew’s talent as a writer --- to be able to imitate another writer takes skill! Wow!

September 5, 2006 - 08:20 pm
I just could not get into the book..that's all. I bought it on my way back from Montreal.. the premise was interesting & I knew that you had chosen the book about Poe.. I'm familiar with the short stories and read them years back..some were even dramatized on radio in England with great success... I've been battling an infection in my leg (again) & I'm intellectually tired...so i'm working on getting well enough to take my English vacation at the end of this month. Best to all of you Colkot

September 5, 2006 - 09:12 pm
I found the relationship between Quentin and Hattie confusing. They had been such good friends for so long. They shared personal thoughts, according to Quentin. Hattie was the only one he could tell certain things to. Yet, when you see them actually together in a scene, they are extremely formal with each other. It doesn't really make sense to me. And then, of course, Quentin totally takes Hattie for granted. He is definitely going to push her away from him with his odd behavior.

September 5, 2006 - 10:42 pm
Nineteenth century dating, I think, was very formal. The formality of the relationship between Hattie and Quentin, for that time, doesn't bother me. What bothers me is Quentin's losing control especially in the fire episode.

Anyone, I think, can become overly involved with a person's death especially if the person dies under mysterious circumstances. I want to know about the mysterious circumstances of Poe's death. That's why I am reading the book. Other people in our time, for example, are still reading about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. People are still reading about Abraham Lincoln. There are others in societies around the world reading up to date books about Lady Diana and the car crash. Why did these people, who brought so much to society lose their lives so early and in such senseless ways? Why did they die so young? In the beginning, I think these are Quentin's thoughts.

Whether he will drown in his own thoughts, I don't know. I do see Quentin floundering in the water. Someone needs to save his life. He doesn't hear Peter. He doesn't see or hear Hattie. He is at the yellow light. The yellow light is turning red.

September 5, 2006 - 10:57 pm
I think to have a passion is positive. To be obsessed is negative. Maybe Quentin is making that change so gradually it is hard for him to feel his over involvment. Others can see the change easily.

September 5, 2006 - 11:45 pm
I really didn't quite "get" the sense of the story until I had read Poe's short story. Then I began to pay attention to the character's counterpart and how his thinking developed from that point on. There should have been more examples of his thinking in the character's dialogue.

It's been hard to sustain interest in the "why" of this obsession without more events in Poe's life being revealed throughout the boook. I really don't think the circumstances aroung Poe's death warrented this much attention. I would like to have read more tidbits related to bulding the reader's interest in Poe himself.

September 6, 2006 - 08:20 am
As usual, Hats, you have put your finger right on the heart of the matter -- "Of course, it is a book about becoming fully involved with another person's life." Beautifully expressed. And also good points -- about the groups associated with the deaths of celebrities -- like Diana.

Laura, I'm glad to read your comments, also, about The Poe Shadow being able to stand alone, without having previously read Poe. I found that to be true with The Dante Club, loving the book, with without knowledge of the Inferno. However, I do wish, at this point, that I knew more about Poe's life. Well, I guess I should know where to find out.

I've just started reading the Dupin stories, and I think they will help me get more involved with the PS.

September 6, 2006 - 10:12 am
I finally got my book, yesterday. Ordered it ages ago, but the bookseller really let me down.

Have just started it, and it drew me in at once: the writing, so much like Poe, and immediately felt one had to know what happened.

I read Murder at the Rue Morgue while waiting for my book. BABI said exactly what I thought:

" There seems to me places where a leap of the imagination takes him in a direction that could just as well have led him elsewhere. I am thinking of that famous train of thought from "Murders in the Rue Morgue". That he turns out to be correct is necessary to establish his genius, right? But I'm not wholly persuaded that he could not just as well have been entirely wrong.


EXACTLY: it is a chain of deductive logic that is as full of holes as Swiss cheese, making assumptions that are not supported by any evidence. That is the nature of deductive logic: it has to be exact on every point and all of its premises have to be true, or it falls on its face. That is the reason that, except in Mathematics, very few complex chains of reasoning depend completely on it.

But I assume Poe was not aware of this. Pearl has his narrator say that the subject of the story is the nature of the human mind (or thought? I don't have the quote here). What do you think of that?

Joan Pearson
September 6, 2006 - 02:12 pm
JoanK, Welcome! So glad your book has finally arrived and that you will be joining us! Your comments, yours and Babi's strengthen my own opinion that the dictionary definition of "ratiocination" is insufficient in describing what we are seeing in Poe's Dupin stories. Nowhere in the definition do we find the leap of imagination that we see in Poe.

The way I see it in Poe...to ratiocinate you take your deductive reasoning as far as it will go - and then you take the leap, test the possible deduction, and if that doesn't work, go back and test the last real logical conclusion.

I think that for Poe, the imagination is key to successful deduction. So far, we haven't seen Quentin take any such leap with the clues he has gathered - he's going to have to find someone with the unique ability of a Dupin to do so.

Thanks for pointing out the subject of the story - "the nature of the human mind, (or thought)" I'm thinking that it is the nature of the human mind to jump to conclusions, don't you think?

Quentin seems to have jumped to the conclusion that Poe's death was not meant for him...but for someone else. He suspects murder. Do you think he has good reason to come to this conclusion?

September 6, 2006 - 02:14 pm
It's the nature of my human mind to jump to wild conclusions with insufficient facts.


Joan Pearson
September 6, 2006 - 02:22 pm
Kleo - you too! I think of you as being far more logical and less impulsive than I!

Babi - did you notice that Poe says the giggling Imp always prevails? (p.44) in the conflict between the substance and the shadow, between what we know we should do, and what we want to do. That's scary. Do you agree with Poe?

I see Quentin's actions becoming more and more impulsive ...compulsive too! When he put his hand into the fire to pluck out a copy of Poe's stories (not even first edition), he had no time to think of what he should or shouldn't do - regarding the danger of fire.

Do you think the "imp" comes from "impulsive"?

Everyone seems to sympathize with poor Hattie. "Run Hattie Run!" Good advice, Maryal. But will she? And where will she run to? Laura thinks she will wait around patiently for a while - depending on how long the Poe investigation will last. Hmmm, judging from the evidence and the interest in the case, do you think that will ba any time soon? I don't think she should hold her breath!

Marni - I agree, Quentin's odd behavior is going to push her away. Did you notice her reaction when she came in and saw him standing there holding the burning book? "Not shocked exactly...but with a rare flash of anger." Hattie is angry, and Quentin turns on his heel and walks out...free, happy, liberated, "redemption waiting to be uncovered in a distant metropolis...."

Joan Pearson
September 6, 2006 - 03:25 pm
Bern - so glad you made it here! Have you read the entire book? I expect events of Poe's life and death to be revealed as we move through the story and trace his last days. Did you notice that M. Pearl has included a rather lengthy historical note at the end of the story you might be interested to read. I started it, but felt it becoming something of a spoiler and decided to leave it until I finished the book, figuring that Matthew had a reason for placing it at the END of the book, rather than up front.

Pedln, like you and Hats, I'm filled with a growing desire to learn more about Poe and read more of his work. If you go to the heading of the Murders of the Rue Morgue discussion, there's a link to Poe's biography. I'll bring it over to "our place" so you can read the factual biography of his life.

Are we feeling like Quentin now - "becoming totally involved with someone else's life" - as Hats put it?

It's interesting to hear those of you who HAVE read Poe before - saying that Matthew's story can stand alone...and then those who have never read it feeling that it makes more sense after having read the Dupin Tales. Especially the Rue Morgue Murders - in which "ratiocination" is demonstrated. . Personally I think reading Poe's Dupin Tales is beneficial to understanding what Matthew has achieved here...if not essential! You'll understand why Quentin has to locate the master of ratiocination to continue with his investigation into Poe's death...and to redeem his name!

Maryal - thank you for sharing your familiarity with Baltimore. (Do you remember fog?) I think Matthew did a great job pointing out the things about Baltimore that made Quentin feel he didn't fit in - the industry, the importance and appearances of wealth, the red brick row houses, the staid society that had no room for anyone who was "different"...and the fog that seemed to smother him. I am hoping he finds himself in Paris...frees himself from whatever makes him feel this restless and unhappy. Hats sees him as drowning - floundering.

September 6, 2006 - 03:31 pm
Clever, Joan P, but no, "imp" doesn't come from impulsive. Its roots go back to a medieval word that has to do with grafting, as in what you do when you take a slip of a tree and graft it to another. By extension the word came to mean the children of a highly placed person, to all children, and then to a more specialized meaning of children of the devil.

I think that very often what we want to do wins out over what we think we "should" do and that we explain to ourselves that in this particular case what I "should" do doesn't count and we follow our own desires.

It's interesting to take a photograph of Poe and take an index card or piece of paper, holding it vertically so that it covers on half of Poe's face. If you do this with the head-on photograph of Poe, you notice that the left side of his face (in the photo, so it would be his actual right side) is quite unpleasant looking. The other side of his face, on the other hand, is quite pleasant. There has been a good deal of work done on Poe as a divided personality, with a mean dark side and a kind and loving other side.

Looks like Quentin has a bit of a dual personality himself.

September 6, 2006 - 03:36 pm
I forgot to thank MP for answering my question about Quentin, the name. I appreciated his detailed answer and it seems the name was well chosen.

September 6, 2006 - 03:38 pm
Joan P--There is some fog in Baltimore because it is a port and right on the water, but my guess is that the fog would have been much worse, and closer to what we now call smog, in Poe's day because of coal being used as fuel. There are still lots of red brick row houses. They used to have marble steps, but most of those have been replaced now. You can still find a few with marble steps. My father said that in his day the women of the houses swept their marble steps every day, with great pride.

September 6, 2006 - 03:48 pm
JOAN, I personally think the 'giggling imp' is more likely to prevail with the young, immature and inexperienced. I don't think Poe means 'Impulsive', either. He is talking about a dark side of the personality. For the normal, average person, some experience of how much grief one can buy by indulging the 'imp' is sufficient. The person who continues to lean to, and indulge, that dark side has something unhealthy going on.

Hattie seems willing to wait for Quentin, but I suspect she waits in vain. There is no question that Quentin cares for her, wants her to be happy, and is quick to leap to her defense if he thinks anyone is causing her to be unhappy. He is quite oblivious to his own contribution to her unhappiness. But his affection is not that of a lover. He is quite content to be away from her for extended periods of time, has not a thought to spare for her when pursuing his own interests. Quentin seems to me to love Hattie like a sister, fondly, protectively...but no more than that. Again, he is oblivious to that, as well. Not an introspective and thoughtful person, our Quentin.


September 6, 2006 - 04:57 pm
Here are some pictures of Poe. You can really see the wide forehead described by the narrator in The Poe Shadow. I don't know who the women are.


September 6, 2006 - 08:17 pm
Someone mentioned in a post that Conan Doyle May have been influenced by Poe's Dupin. While he was not the first detective in fiction, Auguste Dupin was the prototype for many that came later (including Sherlock Holmes). Dupin lives in Paris alone in an old house. Many things that would later become commonplace in mystery fiction first appeared in Poe's stories: the eccentric but brilliant detective, the bumbling constabulary, the first-person narration by a close personal friend. Like Sherlock Holmes, Dupin uses his considerable deductive prowess and observation to solve crimes. Another common thing in detective stories of that time was the use of disguises. Sherlock Holmes was a master of disguise. And in "The Poe Shadow," Baron Dupin's mastery of disguise is a key feature of the plot.

As for Hattie, her relationship with Quentin is more like sister and brother than lovers, so I would not expect her to feel great passion for him or he for her. Also, in those times, ladies could not work to support themselves and so had to marry well. At first, Quentin has excellent prospects, but as he goes rapidly downhill, we can expect Hattie's aunt to advise against such a match.

Several posters have spoken about ratiocination as a process of jumping to conclusions. I agree with this entirely. In fact, as the book goes on, this process gets less and less grounded in fact. I won't give any examples beyond Book I, but I could hardly believe the explanation given for the clothes Poe was found in at his death. I'll be interested to know what the rest of you think when you get to this deduction.

September 7, 2006 - 01:28 am
Joan, I enjoyed reading your response. It's good to be welcomed back! This book is of special interest to me since it is the first short story I introduce to my online students. The traditional students, especially, find it compelling. Both groups, adults and traditional students just "love" this. I wonder what our author would have to say about this presenation. What do you think?

http://www.bremenonline.org/poe/ Bern

September 7, 2006 - 02:59 am
Bmcinnis, welcome back! Thank you for the link.

Maryal, thank you for explaining the origin of "Imp." I am just beginning to find the origin of words, how words have changed meaning over time, very interesting. The part about "grafting" is really interesting.

Babi, I think, explained ratiocination very well. I can barely spell the word. All of the explanations have helped me get a better handle on the word. I have practiced pronouncing it too.

I need to go back and read about "fog" and Baltimore. While a small girl, I spent time in Baltimore with my aunt and uncle. I stayed until my mother recovered from her Mastecdomy. She had the operation done in Philadelphia at the American Oncological Hospital. Some of you might know about this hospital. It is very well known like Will's Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. I am talking about years ago. So, some of these places might not exist any longer. Now I am off topic.

September 7, 2006 - 04:12 am
It's fun seeing foreign editions of my books, and you can see L'Ombra di Edgar, the Italian edition, Does anyone want to guess why the Italian title puts "Edgar" in instead of "Poe"?

"Po" in Italian can mean "small" and there is a river known as the Po river. Therefore, if one said "L'Ombra di Poe" aloud (as this would be the most obvious translation of the title), it could sound confusing.

The Italian publisher proposed calling the book "L'Ombra del Maestro," or the Shadow of the Master. I liked how this sounded, but didn't like that it omitted any reference to Poe. We went through lots of variations

L'Ombra di E A Poe, L'Ombra di Edgar Allan Poe

Before settling on L'Ombra di Edgar. Of course, one wouldn't necessarily know that this is about Poe right away, but might be intrigued enough to look at the book to find out which "Edgar" it is...

September 7, 2006 - 05:13 am
"The Raven" is atop "a bust of Pallas." I might have missed a post. If not, will someone tell about Pallas? Will knowing about Pallas add to the meaning of "The Raven?"

LauraD, I like your "tidbits." Thanks.

Joan Pearson
September 7, 2006 - 05:30 am
Good morning! A full day today, decided to drop in early before I lose my thoughts reading all of these posts!

Marni - thank you for the portraits! I don't know all of the women, but do recognize the last one as Poe's young wife's "death portrait"...
You can enlarge it if you click the link in Marni's post. I was going to show the larger one, but the close up of her eyes was so moving...I felt it was disrespectful. She did die young, but I was thinking when looking at the portrait how a relationship between the 27 year old Poe and the 13 year old Virginia might have resembled one between Quentin and Hattie. I wondered whether Poe was considering his relationship with his young wife when he wrote of Hattie and Quentin. A quiet, deferential, younger wife, who wouldn't question her husband's rather eccentric behavior and interests.

Laura, thank you for bringing us your class notes. I knew that the Dante Club had been translated in many languages (could it have been 41?)...but am kind of surprised that it has already been printed in Italian...Polish. I agree with you, I like "THE POE SHADOW" as a title. I think in Book II which we start to discuss tomorrow, we will see another interpretation of the title.

Hats...no you're not off topic! You are just fine, sharing the fact that you've walked the streets of Poe's Baltimore brings us all closer as a group. (My son points out that the Baltimore football team is named the Ravens. Is that off topic?

Hopefully some of you who have visited Paris will bring some of your memories to the discussion of Book II. I think it is fairly evident that Matthew spent some time there as well as in Baltimore when he wrote this book. Interestingly, there is no evidence that Poe was ever in Paris - though he claimed to have been. We'll have to ask Matthew that!

Bern, I'm sure you'll students will be grabbed by the Tell-tale Heart production. It's a good story I think for new Poe readers. I love to listen to stories...especially when read by a good story teller as that.

Horselover - (Ann) - I guess it's important to remember that Matthew is writing fiction...and that his explanations, his "ratiocinations" (just love the word!) will be just as unbelievable as Dupin's - in the Rue Morgue Murders!

Before packing our bags for Paris, could be talk about the curious phrase..."Peace be to his ashes" - what did you make of that? I ran out of time to continue...hopefully you will shed some light on those words@

A good day to all...

September 7, 2006 - 05:34 am
Marni, thank you for the Poe website. It's a good one. I almost missed it until JoanP mentioned it.

September 7, 2006 - 09:09 am
"Several posters have spoken about ratiocination as a process of jumping to conclusions. I agree with this entirely. In fact, as the book goes on, this process gets less and less grounded in fact."

If that is so, then it is no longer ratiocination. I did not mean to imply that ratiocination means anything other than what it does, "logical and methodical reasoning." When it becomes unlogical and "gets less and less grounded in fact" it is no longer ratiocination.

I like The Shadow of the Master much better than The Shadow of Edgar!

The Baltimore Ravens are named after the Poe poem, by the way.


September 7, 2006 - 09:57 am
Thank you, Marni, for the link to photos (which you can enlarge by clicking on them) and Hats for the question about Pallas. It's a bust of the Greek goddess, Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom. She is often depicted with a helmet though I don't know if this particular bust had one. Click Here for an article on Athena that has good illustrations. If you scroll to close to the bottom, there are two reliefs of her, both with helmet.

Thank you, Laura, for the notes from B&N's discussion. When books are translated into other languages, the title sometimes has to change, doesn't it? I'm with Kleo in preferring "The Shadow of the Master" to using his first name.

But the French were really the first to go mad over Poe. He was lauded and praised there before he was here (if memory serves--I think that's correct). The French also love Faulkner. I wonder if Poe isn't so famous in France that when one hears "Edgar," one thinks of Poe? Just a thought.


September 7, 2006 - 10:48 am
Maryal, I thought it was the Italian edition that used Edgar, not the French.


September 7, 2006 - 11:02 am
Makes one think why the Raven was perched on the bust of the Goddess of Wisdom.

We don't have ravens this far South (not even in Baltimore). But there must be something about them! The Inuits feel that the raven has special significance: it seems to be some kind of spirit.

Is anyone from further North familiar with ravens?

(Ps. my son will be broadcasting the Baltimore Ravens football games for his radio station. I think their motto should be "Nevermore").

September 7, 2006 - 11:32 am
Baltimore is in the range of ravens, although it may be the southern portion of the range in the eastern US. The only place they're not found in the USA is most of the southeastern USA.

I had a raven and two crows living in my yard for a number of years. All of the crows in my neighborhood have died from West Nile. The raven did not come back this year.


Joan Pearson
September 7, 2006 - 11:35 am
Thanks for information on Pallas Athena, Maryal - goddess of wisdom - also goddess of war, and goddess of truth. Does any of this fit in with the Raven?

hahaha, JoanK - Ravens, "nevermore"- that's funny if you follow the team...

Kleo - yes, Baltimore loves Poe, claims him as their own, as a native son...even though he was born in Boston!

I've been thinking more of "ratiocination" and the part the imagination might play in the process. Could you still call it "ratiocination" if you use your imagination in forming the premise for your deductive reasoning? Here's an example-
There are a number of references to FIRE in Book I
- the fire that was burning Poe's work, destroying Poe's work - before Quentin interfered to save it.
- The fire that destroyed Dr. Brook's house the day Poe planned to visit. The last time anyone saw Poe alive.
- The words of Poe's cousin (the first to appear at Ryan's Hotel and identify his body) - "Peace be to his ashes," says the cousin as Quentin is warned to let the dead rest.
"Peace be to his ashes." Isn't this a strange choice of words? Poe wasn't cremated. He hasn't been dead long enough to have decomposed to ashes. I found it a jarring comment.

Can we apply "imagination" to the list of possibilities of how Poe may have died. Tell me what you think of this -
Poe didn't die at the hotel. The cousins identified the body - and now talk about "Peace be to his ashes". (Did anyone else who knew him see Poe's body?)

The last anyone knows of Poe's whereabouts, he called on the house that burned to the ground. Ready for a possibility? Quentin concludes that Poe's death was not meant for him but for someone else. Do you think it possible that Poe didn't die at the hotel at all - but in the house that burned down. Peace be to his ashes? Does the cousin know more than what he is saying about Poe's death? Do you think that Quentin might suspect this? Is this why he's going to look for Dupin's model for help?

September 7, 2006 - 11:48 am
Long recognized as one of the most intelligent birds, the raven also has a less than savory image throughout history as a scavenger that does not discriminate between humans and animals.

Ingenious and versatile, ravens are members of the crow family, which includes jays and magpies. They are found everywhere in the northern hemisphere and adapt to very different terrain, from deserts to mountains -- a feat requiring high intelligence.

They learn to find food even in the harshest conditions, such as the dead of winter in Yellowstone National Park. As scavengers, ravens know how and when to take advantage of other animals to help them cadge a meal they couldn't otherwise reach. In Yellowstone, bison that don't survive the harsh winter attract coyotes, whose sharp teeth and strong jaws rip open the tough, frozen hides -- making the meat accessible to watchful ravens. They also have been seen following wild wolf packs to a kill; some stories even have ravens flying ahead of the wolves to lead them to prey.

September 7, 2006 - 11:58 am
"`Peace to His Ashes and Sorrow for His Going: Thomas Wolfe's Funeral"

This is the entire phrase. Although Poe had not yet become ashes, the human fate is eventually "ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

Joan Pearson
September 7, 2006 - 12:00 pm

Poe's "The Raven" - 1845 (Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1841)

Ann, Thomas Wolfe - died in 1938 or thereabouts? Was this expression a common prayer recited at funerals? I can't find used in 1849 or before...though it sure sounds as if it could be.

September 7, 2006 - 12:00 pm
Maryal, good information about Pallas Athena. Now if my tiny mind can connect Pallas with ravens. Horselover and JoanK's information might help. I love the helmet on the head. The helmet makes Pallas look like she can handle any situation that might come along. JoanP thanks for the link.

September 7, 2006 - 12:03 pm
Geeze, Hats, if your tiny mind succeeds in making the connection share it with my minuscule one.


Joan Pearson
September 7, 2006 - 12:07 pm
Maybe Hats can ratiocinate and come up with a connection that hasn't occurred to the rest of us, Kleo!

September 7, 2006 - 12:08 pm
Kleo, you understand Calculus. So, you should bring us an answer very soon. Right?????

September 7, 2006 - 12:13 pm
Quentin writes about the letters written to him by Poe. Poe writes to the fictional character, Poe, his great concern about the rumors about his character. Is suicide possible due to despondency?

September 7, 2006 - 12:20 pm
JoanP, I am still practicing how to spell ratiocinate. No way would I ever try doing it. No way in the world!

September 7, 2006 - 01:13 pm
Did Poe really die on that day? Nielson Poe, the cousin, tells Quentin he never closely identified Poe's body. He looked at Poe's body from behind a curtain in the hospital. Also, Poe's coffin was closed before Nielson had the chance to view the body. That's peculiar. Why is the coffin closed before a family member can view the body?

"Neilson only saw Poe through a curtain, and he looked from that vantage point like another man altogether, or a ghost of a body he had known. Neilson did not even have the chance to view the body before it was closed into the coffin."

Maybe it was mistaken identity. On that day someone might have died very similar in looks to Poe. Have I flipped my noodle?

September 7, 2006 - 01:30 pm
Hi from Poland! I'm here in Krakow, a gorgeous city with the charm of Prague but not quite the tourist-ization that has taken over the latter city.

I'm in the funny situation of having two online dicussions at once -- I believe Laura mentioned the B&N university discussion. Being in Poland on top of this makes me feel a bit overwhelmed, but I'll do my best.

joanp-- thanks as always for the moderating and the organizing of the discussion as it goes!

marni-- on opium, this was almost certainly a rumor, and there's no reliable evidence, though the rumor persists today. it's one way, i believe, people use to "explain" poe's oddities or genius (depending on how you look at him). poe *did* try to commit suicide once after a broken affair, and used a small amount of laudanum (sp?).if poe were a habitual drug user of some kind, this small amount would have been meaningless, so the suicide attempt actually speaks to the unlikelihood of him being a user.... also, thanks for that link to the poe photos -- the first woman is fanny osgood, with whom poe had an odd and flirtatious relationship, and the others are drawings of virginia, his wife

deems/maryal: i laughed out loud at your warning to hattie! you're probably right! also, good connection between the two chamber doors! nice careful reading! also, i never heard that about poe's face, dividing it in half -- had you read this or come up with it? either way, very intriguing, and there are many doubles or dopplegangers at play in 'the poe shadow' (and of course in poe's own works)

kleo: thanks for taking a look at the polish website, tomorrow i'm meeting the designer who adapted it... and yes, the baltimore ravens are the only nfl team named after a poem! how about that?! i'm from florida, so i'm a dolphins fan, even tho' it's a strange animal for a football team to be named for (woefully, being in poland, i will miss the first dolphins game, which is tonight)

laura: and thanks for taking a look at murders in the rue morgue -- i haven't had time to peek in on the discussion of the dupin tales at seniornet, though i hope to when i return from poland... obviously it was an inspiration for me

hats: funny, there is also a discussion of passion v. obsession at the bn.com board! i think the line is probably thin between them, thank you for thoughtful comments on them... and as for spelling ratiocination, try pronouncing it! it's "correct" pronunciation -- ratt-eo-sin-ation -- sounds "wrong."... and as for whether poe "died", now you're sounding like quentin, bravo! keep reading...

joank & babi: you're completely right about poe's dupin stories -- the genius is established *because* dupin is right -- in my book i tried to question whether such an absolute genius is possible, or even preferable

bern: thanks for sharing your site! my internet connection isn't great here in poland, but i'll look at it more when i'm back home

horselover: thanks for the raven info! i don't think i've ever been around ravens much -- there is a gigantic statue of a raven by the philadelphia poe house

September 7, 2006 - 01:52 pm
Hi Matthew (or are you Matt?)

You're more than considerate to check in with us when you are busy on a book tour. Thanks.


September 7, 2006 - 01:53 pm
Kleo--You're right. I read too quickly. It was the Italian title that had Edgar finally. We must ask Matthew what the French edition has as title. Certainly the French think of Poe as a master.

September 7, 2006 - 02:11 pm
Matthew Pearl, thank you for the answers and comments. I can't believe you are in Poland. I hope you can make time to enjoy yourself while in Krakow and not just work. I love your website. Thank you for showing it. While overseas, are you beginning research for another book idea?

Thank you for the correct pronunciation of ratiocination.

September 7, 2006 - 02:29 pm
Maryal, the French will be publishing the Poe Shadow next summer, so I don't know yet how they'll translate the title. They are very big into Poe, so I imagine they'll want Poe in the title. The French publisher did a really nice job with THe Dante Club (Le Cercle de Dante)

I agree with several of you that Shadow of the Master is a more elegant title than Shadow of Edgar, but it simply lacked any context or immediate connection with Poe.

Hats -- so thoughtful of you, yes, I'll certainly enjoy my time here, although it will be plenty of work... tomorrow I have something like 10 interviews and then a public book signing! they let me rest today (I only had one interview)... no research here for the next book, i'm still in the library stages for that, though i think the idea is set (i haven't gotten clearance yet from random house about whether i'm allowed to speak openly about the subject matter... that might have to wait)

September 7, 2006 - 03:28 pm
Matthew Pearl: How exciting that you are reading our comments and questions! And you're ANSWERING us and participating!!! This is great!!!! I'm so excitied I'm falling over!!


September 7, 2006 - 03:52 pm
Oh, I found something interesting about Poe's death in Wikipedia. Listen to this about Poe's death:

"[Alcohol] was, however, only one of several, sometimes contradictory, accounts of Poe's last days....Cholera cannot be ruled out. While in Richmond during the summer of 1849, Poe wrote letters to his aunt, Maria Clemm (July 7th), and to a newspaperman, E.H.N. Patterson (July 19th and August 7th), in which he confided that he may have contracted cholera in Philadelphia. Cholera is also a theme in three of his short stories ("The Masque of the Red Death"; "The Sphinx"; "Bon-Bon").

Numerous other theories have been proposed over the years, including several forms of rare brain disease, diabetes, various types of enzyme deficiency, syphilis, the idea that Poe was shanghaied, drugged, and used as a pawn in a ballot-box-stuffing scam during the election that was held on the day he was found, and, more recently, rabies. The rabies death theory was proposed by Dr. R. Michael Benitez, and is based upon the fact that Poe's symptoms before death are similar to those displayed in a classic case of rabies.[3] Cats play a prominent part in many of his stories, and it is conjectured that he was accidentally bitten by a rabid pet."

I'm getting anxious about what Quentin is going to find out about Poe's death. I wonder if he will discover anything about cholera or rabies - or syphilis - shanghaid and drugged? Will Quentin come across any cats involved?

I love this as a subject matter for a novel. Poe's death was mysterious - more mysterious than I ever realized. Perfect for solving by a Dupin-type of sleuth.

September 7, 2006 - 03:54 pm
Do we know what Poe's wife died of so young? I don't remember seeing what it was.

By the way, I don't think the age difference between Quentin and Hattie is nearly as wide as the age difference between Poe and his wife. Poe was approx. 14 years older than his wife. Quentin is....what...6 years older than Hattie? Big difference. Plus Poe married his wife when she was only 13. Gad. That's practically being a pedophile.

September 7, 2006 - 04:34 pm
HORSELOVER, I see we are in agreement on the relationship between Quentin and Hattie. At least on Quentin's part, I see it as brotherly.

JOAN, I found an instance of "Peace be to his ashes" dating back to 1814. It was spoken by Weber, on the death of Abbe Vogler.

That Vogler was much liked by his pupils there can be no doubt. Weber calls him his “well-beloved” and “cherished” master, and on hearing of his death, wrote, “Peace be to his ashes. I have much to thank him for, and he has always shown me the most sincere affection.”

I had to smile at the posts about ratiocination being a form of 'leaping to conclusions'. My Dad used that say that 'leaping to conclusions is the poorest form of mental exercise'. But I do think Dupin's thought processes were a bit more reasoned than that. And his final conclusions might more fairly be described as a 'leap of intuition', or a 'stroke of genius'. Personally, I prefer the leap of intuition. I consider intuition to be a sadly underrated commodity.

JOANK, classical busts were very popular in Poe's time, I believe. He may have chosen 'Pallas' simply because it fit the metre of his poem. Venus would have fit, too, but would hardly have been appropriate to the melancholy theme.


September 7, 2006 - 06:29 pm
How wonderful for you to be in Poland!I fell in love with the country as a student in Summer school at the Catholic University in Lublin.. We did visit Krakow & stayed in the student dorms at the Jagiellonian University. & was fortunate to see the Wit Stwosz Tryptch at the Kosciol Mariacki in all its glory..(a lifetime away 1978) Looked at the website..nice, clear, doskonale!. Was married to a Polish man for over 40 years my children are dual language. Enjoy your stay..Poles are the BEST..! Colkot

September 7, 2006 - 06:37 pm
BABI: rats -- I want Poe to be saying that the raven is a spirit of wisdom. I always want to overanalize things. In another author discussion, I proudly asked the author "Is the dog a symbol of ..." and she kindly answered "I never thought of that. It's a good idea. Yes, of course it is".

You would have thought that would have taught me, but I'm hopeless. It's all that @#$%^& Fruedian symbolism we had to swallow at university. I understand Freud is now passe. Thank goodness!

September 7, 2006 - 08:13 pm
"Poles are the BEST..! Colkot"

To prawda, Colkociu.


September 7, 2006 - 09:48 pm
The raven is a powerful symbol in a number of cultures. We may have talked about this already. Anyway, in some Native American tribes: "The raven is sometimes considered a trickster like the coyotee. It is also known to be a teacher and horder. The raven is also the mark of a shape shifter." http://www.gods-heros-myth.com/asymbols2.html

On Northwest American Indian totem carvings, the raven stands for "Creation & Knowledge - Bringer of the Light." http://www.aaanativearts.com/article905.html

"In Ireland it was once domesticated for use in divination practices and the term "Raven's Knowledge" meant second sight...To European Christians, this creature is the antithesis of the innocent white dove....Eaters of carrion, ravens were messengers of death, pestilence, and battle. It was believed that these flesh-hungry birds could smell the scent of death upon a person before they died - even through the walls of a house. In paintings, the raven may be seen flying over battlefields, eager to feast on the dead. After the Battle of Armageddon, ravens will descend upon the lands of the wicked. Isa 34:11]....To some, the raven is a symbol of death. http://death.monstrous.com/ravens.htm#death


Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a poem entitled "The Raven" in 1798, way before Poe's was written:

Underneath an old oak tree
There was of swine a huge company,
That grunted as they crunched the mast:
For that was ripe, and fell full fast.
Then they trotted away, for the wind grew high:
One acorn they left, and no more might you spy.
Next came a Raven, that liked not such folly:
He belonged, they did say, to the witch Melancholy!
Blacker was he than blackest jet,
Flew low in the rain, and his feathers not wet.
He picked up the acorn and buried it straight
By the side of a river both deep and great.
Where then did the Raven go?
He went high and low,
Over hill, over dale, did the black Raven go.
Many Autumns, many Springs
Traveled he with wandering wings:
Many Summers, many Winters -
I can't tell half his adventures.

At length he came back, and with him a She,
And the acorn was grown to a tall oak tree.
They built them a nest in the topmost bough,
And young ones they had, and were happy enow.
But soon came a Woodman in leathern guise,
His brow, like a pent-house, hung over his eyes.
He'd an axe in his hand, not a word he spoke,
But with many a hem! and a sturdy stroke,
At length he brought down the poor Raven's own oak.
His young ones were killed; for they could not depart,
And their mother did die of a broken heart.
The boughs from the trunk the Woodman did sever;
And they floated it down on the course of the river.
They sawed it in planks, and its bark they did strip,
And with this tree and others they made a good ship.
The ship, it was launched; but in sight of the land
Such a storm there did rise as no ship could withstand.
It bulged on a rock, and the waves rush'd in fast:
Round and round flew the raven, and cawed to the blast.
He heard the last shriek of the perishing souls -
See! see! o'er the topmast the mad water rolls!
And death riding home on a cloud he did meet,
And he thank'd him again and again for this treat,
For they had taken his all and REVENGE, IT WAS SWEET!

September 8, 2006 - 05:08 am
Marni, thank you. I really enjoyed Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem titled THE RAVEN.

Joan Pearson
September 8, 2006 - 10:22 am
Matthew! A letter from Poland! The wonders of technology! Lucky for us you had a light schedule yesterday - compared to today! Lucky for us that you used some of your precious time to spend with us! It was so exciting to come in and see you had been here. Like Marni, I nearly fell off my chair! Thank you SO much!

Today we begin Book II - Paris! My first questions for you, Matthew, did you spend time in Paris while writing this book? I'd be surprised if you say you didn't - because everything feels so right. Second question - do I remember correctly hearing you say that there is no evidence to indicate that Poe spent any time in France, though he set his Dupin Tales there? But did you also say that he SAID he did? Why is there a question about this?

Didn't you get the feeling that when Peter sent Quentin from the law offices after the burning book episode, that he was on his way to "distant shores" right then! Were you as shocked as I was that he didn't get going for another year and a half? What was he doing all that time?

Marni, Virginia Poe died of t.b. at the age of 24 - just about Hattie's age! I realize that there was a greater age difference between Poe and his wife than between Quentin and Hattie - but both young women grew up knowing their men (Poe lived with his aunt and young cousin from the time she was 8 years old) - both seemed to recognize that the men in their lives had set ways and ideas and were going to do whatever without conferring with them as equal partners in their marriages.

Interesting - Coleridge has a thing about ravens. Remember in his "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" - the presence of a raven was always ominous!

I have more questions for Matthew on his French - but will hold off until tomorrow. Am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Matthew's description of a traveler in Paris compared to the foreign visitor in the US. Were you at all surprised at what he wrote?

September 8, 2006 - 11:48 am
Antlerlady is fine for my name. I put Ms.Crankypants on there for fun.I have several other nicknames too. But back to the subject. Because Quentin is considered a "vile murderer" does that mean the murder referred to is that of Poe? Maybe somebody else dies. Quentin doesn't seem like a violent person to me. He's more like the absent-minded professor (in his ordinary daily life anyway.) And in his quest for clues he doesn't seem dangerous unless he uncovers something that could cause problems for somebody else. But murder?!

Poor Quentin gets into such trouble with his investigations that he reminds me of the detective in more modern stories that gets bonked on the head when he gets too close to the answer. Will there be more of that?

September 8, 2006 - 01:12 pm
Ms.Crankypants: (I giggle every time I see your name. It IS fun!) Re "Because Quentin is considered a "vile murderer" does that mean the murder referred to is that of Poe? Maybe somebody else dies."

I was wondering that same exact thing. The book starts off with him appearing to be blamed for a murder. To review, on the very first page Quentin says, "....There are those sitting here among you who still believe me a criminal, a liar, an outcast, a clever, vile murderer...."

I figured with all of his obsession and investigation into Poe's death that he'd eventually be blamed for his murder. Poe's death is so mysterious. Quentin's research is starting to reveal that there could have been a cover-up. Maybe Quentin gets too close to the real answer and is set up as the murderer?

September 8, 2006 - 01:15 pm
Well, we seem to have our Dupin! Or maybe a number of Dupins! Quentin thinks Dupin was based on the young Auguste Duponte who is now not so young and not so interested in solving the mystery of Poe's death. But Quentin is his usual persistent self and hounds the man to come to America with him.

In Quentin's research he found that Duponte supposedly showed the police that Monsieur Lafarge had been poisoned by Madame Lafarge in the case that made Duponte's reputation. (Wasn't Madame Lafarge a character in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities? Or maybe that was Defarge???)

We also have some competition to solve the mystery. And a beautiful crafty independent young lady. Could Quentin have a new love interest?

I really thought Pearl's description of Paris made it seem real, as though Quentin really visited. I have not been there - not that I would have been there in the 19th century - but it sounds like descriptions I've read elsewhere. Pearl added little touches - like how the Parisians were crazy about James Fenimore Cooper - they were. And the description of the hotels, carriages, the gardens and streets, and use of French words like commissionnaire. It sounds like Pearl knows French and Paris.

The whole thing about the recent overthrow of the French govt. and the fear of radicalism gave it a very real feeling - and the paranoia of the French police when foreigners arrived. That was neat because Quentin is followed - a number of people are followed and you don't know who is following whom

September 8, 2006 - 01:34 pm
Ah, at last we have arrived in Paris!

MARNI, thank you for the research on ravens. Interesting how they have captured the imagination of different peoples in such different ways. There aren't that many birds appearing so widely in human cultures. Offhand, I think of the dove,..which you mentioned.., the owl, the eagle, the 'bluebird'. There must be others.

I, too, wondered why it took Quentin a year and a half to travel to Paris. This does tend to make one back off of the 'obsession' theory. It's difficult to judge, not knowing what caused the long delay.

I loved the statement re. Duponte, that: "he detested writing anything....for with obnoxious consistency it stopped him from thinking." I've read books that seemed to have been written in that fashion!

We also have a new word, "auspicate", which I do not find in my trusty dictionary. Did you make up this one, MATTHEW? I assume it's of the same origin as 'auspices'. The old Romans used to study bird entrails and suchlike for 'auspices', which I take to be the same as omens. It is used in the sentence: "He knows where you are, and can auspicate where you go next." Used it that fashion, it apparently means "predict".


September 8, 2006 - 01:35 pm
My mother says I just think of ravens as being everywhere because where I live they're a bit strange. She says that although Baltimore is probably within their range, the American Raven nests in cliffs and they tend to live in mountains--she also points out that besides the Central Valley I tend to do most of my bird watching in mountains and might consider them more common than they are due to this bias of mine. Raven sightings in Baltimore are probably rare, according to Mom, who's a birder, whereas I'm a dabbler. Ravens living in agricultural flatlands of my neighborhood are an exception to their usual pattern. Also, according to her, they don't usually form threesomes with crows like the raven living in my backyard for the last 5 years--gone now, but not forgotten.


September 8, 2006 - 01:37 pm
Auspicate, verb, "commence in a manner calculated to bring good luck."

The easiest on-line dictionary is http://onelook.com/.


September 8, 2006 - 01:42 pm
Hmm. That definition doesn't fit the use of the word in the sentence, tho', Kleo. "...can auspicate (commence in a manner calculated to bring good luck) where you will be"?!! There must be another definition.


September 8, 2006 - 01:45 pm
Is that the complete sentence, Babi? You seem to be missing a subject. What page are you on?


September 8, 2006 - 01:56 pm
The full sentence was quoted in my previous post, KLEO. You can find it on page 75, end of a paragraph about midway down the page.

But to save you time: ...."He knows where you are, and can auspicate where you go next." You see what I mean?


September 8, 2006 - 02:04 pm
Oh, this is 19th century manner of speakingism that is catching you with the definition, Babi, maybe!

I had to go look at the 1828 and 1913 dictionaries on line (available at onelook.com, also) to see that it appears to be used like this in 19th century speech. In this case it means foreshow or foretoken. It sounds awkward, but "foreshow" is used like "predict" in this case, "foretell by divine inspiration." "He knows where you are, and can predict where you go next." "He knows where you are, and can foretell by divine inspiration where you go next."


September 8, 2006 - 07:57 pm
I haven't finished the second part yet, so will catch up with the posts later.

But an earlier post of mine sounded as if I didn't like "Murder in the Rue Morgue". But that's not the case at all. Nor do I agree that it was only popular because it was new.

Here is what I said in the "Rue Morgue" discussion:

But, in spite of my criticisms of his logic, Poe has grasped all the elements that make detective stories (to me, at least) endlessly fascinating: the logical puzzle element, the attraction of being in a world where problems are solvable by logical reasoning and where, even though tragic things happen, justice always triumphs, the technical detail (in the windows. Many mystery story readers like to learn about technique), and the chance to learn something on a new subject (in this case apes). I often say that everything I know, I know from reading Detective Stories. And, in spite of endless years of formal schooling, it's almost true.

Later writers have added other elements: character development, relationships, humor, a sense of the tragic. These enrich the stories a lot and make for a fuller experience, but often threaten to take the stories over and drown out the basic elements that Poe uses.

So Hurrah for Poe!!!

Joan Pearson
September 9, 2006 - 11:24 am
Ever since reading Matthew's post the other day mentioning the second Dupin tale (I admit, I'm going to read all three of them while Matthew is with us - don't tell Bill! He wants to save them for next month, but the image of Duponte reading the three tales - remember Quentin watching him through the keyhold as he puffed up with pride while reading them? - I decided I have to read all three this month. Antlerlady, I think I may see two murders in the "Mystery of Marie RogÊt" too - but I'd better be quiet about that or I'll get in trouble. Don't want to be a spoiler for the rest of you who haven't read it yet.)

Before going any further, I just NEED to ask this - of all you French speakers, former French teachers: ever since I saw that circumflex over the name, Marie Rogêt, I've been distracted! I can't recall ever seeing the circumflex used this way. Matthew uses it...in Poe Shadow, as well as in the collection of Dupin Tales he has recently edited. I have an old yellowing collection of Poe stories and it looks as if someone hand-entered the circumflex over the name in the story EVERY time it appears. So, my questions for anyone who has an opinion -
Does YOUR copy of Poe's short stories include that circumflex over Marie Rogêt's name?
Is such a use of the circumflex acceptible - would the Academy approve?
Did Poe write it this way in error, and so everyone who produced his manuscript included the "ê" evermore?
Sorry, didn't mean to take so much space on that question - but it's driving me to ...cognac!

Joan Pearson
September 9, 2006 - 11:51 am
Antler asks - "Because Quentin is considered a "vile murderer" does that mean the murder referred to is that of Poe? Maybe somebody else dies."Oh dear, I hope Quentin doesn't have to defend himself from a charge of "vile murder" in the course of the investigation- does he realize the danger he may be in IF there has been foul play - as he suspects?

I'm guessing Quentin spend the year and a half trying to track down C. Auguste Duponte's model - and he now has three names on his short list. I dunno, Marni - anyone who spends a year and a half tracking down possible Dupins may be exhibiting a real obsession! Has he made up with Hattie in the meantime? Are they still engaged? A ring and a date?

Marni - I agree, Matthew must have visited Paris for this book. Does it sound as if Poe visited France for his Dupin Tales? At first I thought it a bit unlikely that the Police would be showing such interest in Quentin as soon as he arrives in Paris - until I read the answers he gave for the reasons for his visit - "business," "touring" or educational"? I answered negative on each count." You wrote about "the paranoia of the French police when foreigners arrived." The French take such questions seriously. When you answer "negative" to a question like that - they want to hear the reason WHY you are there then. He who hesitates to answer immediately becomes suspect and so the police need to follow upon him. They didn't necessarily follow him though.

Did you know that every visitor who checks into a hotel in Paris is asked to show his/her passport, and that visitor's name and identification is forwarded to the Prefecture of Police. On a given night, the police have a record of where each visitor is staying and can locate him/her for questioning whenever the need arises. I wonder how long that's been going on? I don't remember it happening in other European cities...but maybe they do it too. I remember once having to leave my passport at the hotel desk. Very uneasy about that. I think they had to wait until someone official came in to verify it.

JoanK - a second hurrah for Poe, and well put was your comment on his Dupin tales - I loved what you wrote -
I often say that everything I know, I know from reading Detective Stories. (not Kindergarten?) "And, in spite of endless years of formal schooling, it's almost true."
pps - colkot - So happy you are "auditing. Love it when you "pipe up too!

September 9, 2006 - 11:58 am
For Matthew: I forgot to answer your question about covering half of Poe's face and then the other and comparing them. I can't remember when I learned about this technique for "reading faces." It has something to do with psychology and the two hemispheres of the brain. You can bisect any front-on portrait and look at the characteristics on one side, imagining them occurring on both sides.

Poe's face makes an exceptionally good study for the technique since one side is so pleasant and the other so, er. . ., troubled? maybe.


September 9, 2006 - 02:12 pm
Colkot, thanks for the nice words re: my visit here in Poland. I'm having a great time and am very impressed with the kindness of everyone I've met. I have been staying in Krakow and today I went to Wroclaw, which I learned is not pronounced as it would look to an English speaker, which was a very charming city with a unique multinational history. Tomorrow I go to Warsaw, and I have a visit to Poznan on Wednesday. As an American Jew, it saddens me to learn the once rich history of Jews in Poland that was decimated and to hear (not at all to witness, though) that today there is much anti semitism though very few Jews. Ok, that's off topic I suppose!

Joan P: As I've been lucky enough to say to you in person, Seniornet is a uniquely thoughtful and active forum for books, and I consider it an honor to be invited and to participate with you and your fellow site frequenters. Even in Poland! In fact, that my trip abroad coincides with Quentin's (or at least your discussion of Quentin's), all the better! So segue to that: Yes, I did research twice in Paris for The Poe Shadow (although both times the actual trip had a dual purpose, once as a vacation and once as promotion for Le Cercle de Dante (http://www.laffont.fr/cgi-bin/affichageL.asp?code=2-221-09471-9 ... the photo of me on that page is taken at the Longfellow House in Cambridge))... This research was of course more like site-seeing than my library-based research! I visited all of the places important to Quentin's visit, including the site where his hotel once stood..

...more on Paris: Yes, Poe claimed to have gone to Paris, but Poe liked to, well, lie about his own life to make it sound more exciting. There is no evidence at all that he actually went to Paris, although of course it is hard to prove a negative! Certainly, none of the geography in the Dupin tales is very accurate (the first French translations corrected many of the street names).

... as for the French title, I'm following Poe's original intention in that circumflex, but he didn't really speak French, so it may not be technically correct, or it may be archaic. In one of Poe's other, er, exaggerations, he claimed to speak many languages fluently that he was barely able to understand. That's our Poe!

Marni: Funny enough, a friend of mine is named Molly Fennimore Cooper -- she is a descendent! I was very tickled in my research to find the French admired Cooper far out of proportion to Americans at the time. Anyone who wants more of 19th century Paris, you can read the first set of Secret Chapters on my website (http://www.matthewpearl.com/poe/chapters.html)... Almost all of the details come from real accounts of Paris, including the politics... The Lafarge case was a real one which I adapted for Duponte's backstory -- perhaps the name inspired Dickens? Good catch!

Kleo and Babi -- thanks for the "auspicate" discussion, I liked it because it's such a silly word.

JoanK -- like JoanP, I really like your comment about learning everything from detective stories. What a nice observation.

September 9, 2006 - 06:23 pm
THERE you go, Kleo. "Predict" is what I said auspicate must mean. in that context. It is a silly word, isn't it, MICHAEL. I love exploring odd words, and Kleo does, too. So we had fun with this one.

I continue to be impressed with Duponte's powers of observation, even if I might still quibble over his deductions. How many people, watching a funeral cortege pass by, would have noticed that their companion reached up and settled his hat more firmly on his head? And if they did, how many would have therefore surmised that their companion was at least partly Jewish?

In the same situation I would have thought either that the wind was picking up, or if that was not the case, that the hat was not a good fit. On the other hand, in a time when uncovering ones head when a funeral cortege passed was customary, and probably everyone else around was doing so, the gesture would have been more significant. Maybe, just maybe, if one was aware of the Jewish custom, one might have made that deduction. That's what keeps me on my toes It is still possible to believe that Poe's brilliant character was indeed brilliant!


September 9, 2006 - 07:05 pm
It's interesting to think about Poland and the Jews of Poland in relation to the time setting of Poe Shadow, though. This was, the mid-19th century, the start of the rise of the type of nationalism that was to take over, by the end of the century, the meaning of identity and its connection of the person with their state, that eventually led to Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, the Albanians, the strife and murders in the Balkans, the death camps, the partitionings.

As a teenager I read Poe and I. B. Singer to the point of obsession, although, unlike Quentin, obsessed with the stories, not the writers themselves. It's sad to contemplate the dynamic lively Poland between the World Wars and its complete destruction by the Nazis.

I think this is part of what attracts me to the mid-19th century, the fact that you can't, as a person of the times, yet predict the awful turns nationalism will take. You could still believe that the revolutions in 1848 had something to do with improving things for the masses. By the end of the the 19th century only a fool would still believe that after all the wars and bloodshed and utter destruction of the peasants of Europe anyone in power ever intended to give more power to the masses rather than simply use it as a cover for taking more for themselves. Still, people did believe this very thing.

There were many Jews in Poland who left Russia due to late 19th century/early 20th century pogroms, those who survived them, only to be killed in the death camps before and during WWII.

Even though there is not much innocent about the characters in a Poe story, he did write about a much more innocent time, though I think he might have been prescient. I think it was the last possible time to be innocent.

The French, like the Russians and the Poles are not afraid of great literature. They read enough they can love what they love.

I'm still a bit repulsed by Poe marrying his 13-year-old cousin. Blech. This is why I don't want to read about authors. I'm sure my life under a microscope would reveal some serious icks.

I got the book from the library today. It's very popular and all copies in the Stockton Public Library system are on wait-list.


PS In Polish letters have traditionally not been transliterated but rather just translated into whatever they look like. Polish has two letters that look like an 'l' but one is pronounced much like an English 'l' and the other like a 'w.' In addition 'c,' as in Russian, is a 'ts' sound, but is simply translated as 'c' leaving the non-Pole clueless. There are other examples. It's hard if you've studied Polish and learned Polish geography in Polish figuring out how the heck American English speakers pronounce some of these names.

So, Anyone, how the heck is "Wroclaw" pronounced in English? In Polish it's VRO'tswaff, although maybe I'm confusing the syllables.

September 9, 2006 - 07:06 pm
Oh, yes, Babi, and the more obscure, and the more difficult it is to get to the meaning, the more fun.


September 10, 2006 - 08:07 am
Ok, I figured out how to upload these if anyone wants to see --

While on my research trip to Paris, this is me in the catacombs... I originally planned a long sequence in the catacombs for Quentin, but ended up not doing it because my editor and I wanted to keep the Paris section fairly short... however, you can read a version of the catacombs scene in my "Secret Chapters" (the first set)... http://matthewpearl.com/assets/me.catacombs.bmp

Me in Paris, standing under the sign for the "Rue Dupin"! (and I know I don't look very happy, I don't remember why, although note that this was the summer of the horrible European heatwave, right smack in the middle of it) http://matthewpearl.com/assets/me.ruedupin.bmp

Me at Versailles, studying up for Quentin's big visit... http://matthewpearl.com/assets/me.versailles3.bmp

And me at Poe's grave in Baltimore -- it really was windy
Poe's gravesite, Baltimore

Joan Pearson
September 10, 2006 - 10:47 am
Oh WOW, Matthew's been here - with photos, no less! And he's in the photos, just to prove he really was there to research the novel! Too bad Poe didn't leave some photos of himself in Paris. Then there would be no doubt to his claims that he had been. How difficult to set one's story in a foreign country one hasn't visited - and now we learn that he didn't speak the language of that country either! I'm smiling at the idea of French editors correcting the translations of the street names in the Rue Morgue Murders! They must have gotten a kick out of that!

I am drawn to this photo in particular - the street name clearly visible on the wall of the building...Rue Dupin. The French really liked Poe to name a street after his fictional character! I'm wondering just WHEN the street was renamed. (EDIT: - after marvelling that the French named the street after Poe's character, I had to check it out and learned that the street was NOT named after C. Auguste Dupin, but rather a lawyer very much involved in French politics at this time! Andre Marie Jean Jacques Dupin (1783-1865), lawyer and politician French
It's good that you have described the political climate in Paris at this time. None of that is evident in Poe's stories, but I think it goes far to explain "the paranoia" of the police at the time. I intend to read more of this period on your website. I smiled when you suggested the watchful eye of the police might have been the worry that the mobs, having a legislature and duly elected president might be bored with republicanism and riot to have their kings back again! They seem to suspect that Quentin is one of the radicals out to stir up trouble.
Kleo, happy that you finally reached the top of the library list - you are certain to appreciate this background material on the political climate at this time!

Babi - I've been thinking of your "quibble" with Duponte's deductions and remember similar discussion of Poe's Dupin and some of his deductions. Do you suppose that Matthew is imitating Poe's Dupin in Duponte's far-fetched deduction regarding his conclusion that Quentin must be part Jewish - because of the hat? I would guess so. It won't be the first time in this story that this "ratiocination" brings up this very question. How about the billiard game and the expected appearance of Bonjour's boyfriend, simply because she had been looking out the window previously? More than anything, I enjoy the confidence both Duponte and Dupin had in their own deductions.

I hope you all have as lovely a sunny Sunday as we are having here on the East Coast! Too nice to stay indoors!

September 10, 2006 - 12:06 pm
JEWS IN POLAND: yes. When I lived in Israel, I knew a man who had survived the camps. He said that even when the few Jews left alive were struggling back to their villages, they met anti-Semitism. Why is hate so much harder to forget than love?

He said the people in the villages would wait all day at the train stations, hoping that one of their loved ones would return. They would wear signs saying who they were -- the experience had changed everyone so much, they couldn't recognize each other. Their biggest fear was that they would walk right by a sister, son, or parent, and not know it.

September 10, 2006 - 12:10 pm
KLEO: thank you for your excellent research on ravens, archaic words (I had no idea that was online) and Polish. I'm relieved about the raven -- I didn't think they were that near to me and I not know it. Say hello to your mother the birdwatcher from another addict.

September 10, 2006 - 12:16 pm
Sorry to post so many times, but I, too, have to congratulate Matthew Pearl on his scene setting, both in Baltimore and in Paris. They both seem so real, you feel like you've been there.

The picture of the world of Baltimore society is very interesting: so different from the picture of the Baltimore of African Americans that Frederick Douglass portrays in his autobiography written at that time, or the world of working class Baltimore immigrants portrayed in the next century.

September 10, 2006 - 02:54 pm
Matthew: How very interesting that your friend Molly is descended from James Fennimore Cooper. I wonder if she's visited Cooperstown, NY (baseball hall of fame) founded by his father and where he grew up? The French loved to hear about the wilds of America, the Indians, etc. Benjamin Franklin wore a raccoon fur cap (picture Davy Crockett's) around when he was minister to France to give himself that particularly American style. The French loved it.

September 10, 2006 - 02:56 pm
I wonder if the French word "morgue" as in Rue Morgue means the same thing in French as in English? Morgue Street? Is there really a Morgue Street? Is it named after a morgue there?

September 10, 2006 - 03:03 pm
I'm usually to bed at 10:30 at home, but here, still haven't adjusted...

Molly actually grew up in Cooperstown! Her family still has a house there.

There is no actual Morgue Street in Paris and indeed in means the same thing -- the original title for the story was Murders in the Rue Trianon (I think it was) but Poe apparently wanted a more symbolic name. I originally had a scene in The Poe Shadow where Quentin asks the cab driver to take him to The Murders in the Rue Morgue so he can see where the story takes place, and is driven in circles around the city since the driver doesn't know where it is, and Quentin thinks the driver is cheating him (since Paris drivers were known to do so). I cut it, but once again it's in the Secret Chapters.

September 10, 2006 - 03:10 pm
Oh, Matthew, how interesting! If that had happened in the U.S. we would have created a street named Rue Morgue with all the interest in the story and people trying to find the street.

I hope you get a good night's sleep.


September 10, 2006 - 03:47 pm
I like the photos of Matthew at Versailles and at Poe's graveyard best. You're actually smiling in Baltimore, MATTHEW. You must smile more; it looks good on you!

DuPonte's if very confident in his deductions, isn't he, as evidenced by the episode in the tavern. It was Quentin's hide on the line there. I am more perturbed by growing evidence of Quentin's apparently total lack of skills in self defense. Anybody and everybody can push him around and he just clutches his umbrella and falls down. (Well, that may be a trifle extreme...but not much.) I have a vague impression of 'Southern gentlemen' being well able to defend themselves. Perhaps they are an entirely different class than the sober, industrious business and professional gentlemen of Baltimore. Yes, I would say the bus/pro society of Baltimore were more likely to be profoundly shocked that anyone would raise a violent hand to them.


September 10, 2006 - 04:19 pm
What's this about the corpse in the mausoleum turning to stone? Anyone ever heard of that before? No volcanoes in Baltimore as it's a passive margin out there, still heard there was an earthquake today south of there, Gulf?

Stone corpses anyone?


September 10, 2006 - 09:53 pm
Baltimore has a football team,"The Ravens." I wonder if that is because the raven is found there, or because of Poe and his poem.

September 11, 2006 - 05:41 am
Matthew, I am enjoying your comments and pictures so much. Thank you for sharing them with us. Also, I was thrilled to read that you think the idea for your next book is set!

I have stayed in a Parisian hotel, and would like to answer question #2, but am finding it hard to draw any direct comparisons between my experience and Quentin’s. Joan, are you suggesting Americans are currently under suspicion when visiting Paris? The only unusual thing I found about staying in hotels in both Paris and Lyon was that our room key was on a big keychain of sorts, and we left it at the front desk when we left the hotel and picked it up upon return. I was glad now to have to carry that big clunky thing around, but did wonder if a person off the street could ask for our room key and access our room in our absence.

As for Quentin’s carriage ride to the hotel, I can only compare it to modern experiences with Eurostar trains and taxis, neither of which was in any way unusual. I visited France prior to 9/11 and they did check our passports three times before our departure from London on the Eurostar. However, I was not surprised by this, nor did I feel singled out in any way. In some ways, European security was tighter than in the U.S., especially prior to 9/11 (how odd to be writing this on the anniversary).

Did anyone who has been to Paris wonder why there were no garbage cans on corners, resulting in garbage strewn streets? I was told they were removed after bombs were placed in them.

On a lighter note, I, too, was surprised to find that one and a half years went by before Quentin left for Paris. It made sense it would take him that much time to research for the trip. But---why hadn’t he and Hattie married yet?!?!? Big mistake, Quentin, leaving for France not even having married yet.

September 11, 2006 - 05:47 am
Back to garbage for a minute…

Matthew, I noted the word chiffonniers, on page 80, as “men whose occupation was to search through the rubbish heaps put out from the houses of Paris.” This tidbit is fascinating! These types of details make the story come alive! Why can’t interesting stuff like this be in history books? I guess it is somewhere, but certainly none that I ever studied!

September 11, 2006 - 06:01 am
As I mentioned earlier, I am terrible at figuring things out in books, so, of course, I have no idea what is going on with the EST Grey clue. However, here is an interesting exchange between a reader and Matthew that occurred in the Barnes and Noble discussion regarding clues and solving mysteries:

Cheryl said: A compliment to Matthew (I hope) is that I am rereading "The Poe Shadow". When I started I had one HUGE question, also my only disappointment in both the "Poe Shadow" and "The Dante Club"; when I read a mystery, I want a fair chance to solve it before I am given the answer. I felt that I did not have it in either book. Then, as I was rereading, I found this quote in the book (p.11)--"Mere spectator readers enjoyed seeing an unbroken puzzle solved, but there was a higher level of importance. My ultimate object is only the truth....The genuine mystery was not the particular riddle that the mind aches to know; the mind of man, this was the tale's true and lasting mystery." (Sorry to quote your own words back to you, but they are quotable).

So, did I through your own words, find the answer to my question? Was I one of those "spectator" readers?

Matthew said: Hi Cheryl, thanks for your thoughtful comments. Like you, I am not a speed reader, in fact I would say I'm a pretty slow reader. I think different mysteries can be read differently, depending on the person reading and of course on the book. I don't think of my books primarily as mysteries when I write, rather simply as "a book" with some mystery elements (as well as other elements). So perhaps this means they are not puzzles in the sense of the reader solving them... although I have had people tell me, for example, they guessed the murderer in The Dante Club. I suppose I wonder whether "solving" something should be the goal, and perhaps the way I write does reflect that.

Joan Pearson
September 11, 2006 - 08:26 am
This morning it is difficult to keep focused. I live about a mile from the Pentagon. Since early morning the skies have been aroar with the sound of jet engines, canon booms - constant reminders of what happened here five years ago. Not sure if the jets are patrolling the skies, or if they are part of the commemoration ceremonies. The ceremonies are private this morning, but we are all with the survivors and the memories of their lost loved ones. I wish everyone could "rest in peace"- but the sounds of war are all around.

Laura - thank you so much for bringing us those thoughts. I do remember enjoying "The Dante Club"- not to solve the mystery of who dunnit, but the connection with Dante's "Inferno," which we were reading at the time and of course the interaction among Longfellow and his cronies. The comment Cheryl made about Matthew's novels could be made about Poe's too, don't you think? I have only read Books I and II, so don't know the ENDING - so don't anyone tell!!! (I have no idea how Matthew could possibly come up with a solution to Poe's killer though.)

Horselover - I got to thinking about those Baltimore Ravens and was curious as to how they came by that name. It IS an odd name for a football team, isn't it? I found the answer, but one question remains concerning the team mascots. The team is relatively new. The old team, the Baltimore Colts, moved out, taking the name with them. The Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, but had to leave the "Browns" behind. This was in 1996. -
"The Ravens' name was selected from the results of a Baltimore Sun poll. Chosen to honor the famous poet, it's believed that Edgar Allan Poe wrote his poem, "The Raven," while living in Baltimore in the 1830's. The Baltimore Ravens Mascot is Edgar, Allan and Poe!

Just a few hours before the Ravens pre-season game against the Philadelphia Eagles on August 24, 1998, the eggs began to shake vigorously and continued to do so for the hours leading up to kickoff. At that point, the nest was moved to midfield so Ravens fans could witness the hatching of these three mysterious eggs, and the birth of the team's mascots.

First to emerge from his egg was Edgar, the tall, strong, competitive Raven with long, flowing feathers, and sharp, pointy eyes.
Next, the skinny egg's top cracked off uncovering the short, skinny and agile Allan.
Finally, after some gentle pushes from Edgar and Allan, the final egg cracked. The chubby, lazy, but undeniably lovable Poe playfully waddled out of his egg. The Ravens - after spending two years without a mascot - finally had not one, but three official mascots, to the delight and approval of Ravens fans everywhere."
So, the question remains...were these three birds really ravens? How did they get to the baseball field. Anyway, they appear at football games as three Ravens, Edgar, Allan and Poe! More than you wanted to know, right?

Kleo - I'm not sure about those petrified corpses. These two sites suggest that there were many stories (unsubstantiated hoaxes) concerning the discovery of human remains which had petrified.
Only a quarter to view human petrification
Journalists' Favorite Hoax Stories
I suspect that Matthew was working something into his story from something that Poe wrote - but not sure.

Quentin sure learned a lot from the caretaker in the cemetery though, didn't he? I noted again that rose on the gravesite too. Will store that away in memory. Who might have left it?

Joan Pearson
September 11, 2006 - 08:45 am
I love the opening sentences that make your eyes open wide -
"I arrived at my first appointment in Paris by way of kidnapping."
Kidnapping? I thought at first the first "appointment" was the escorted appearance at the prefecture, didn't you? A kidnapping in a way. Of course the real kidnapping takes place later...for the appointment with the Baron.
"Kidnapping" - are we to think of Quentin as a "kid" - young, naive, unable to fend for himself?

Laura, do you remember having to register your passport number at the hotel where you were staying when you first arrived? Did you know the police keep a record of where tourists are staying while in Paris? I wonder where else they do that. And I really wonder WHEN they started to do this!

Remember the news article Quentin read ...in Paris? It contained information about the letter Poe wrote to his his former mother-in-law directing her to address correspondance to E.S.T. Grey Esqre. Here's a site containing copies of Poe's correspondance - you can read the letter in Poe's own handwriting. I'll put the site in the heading for future reference...

Did you find it unusual that a journal in Paris would carry such a detailed account? Too unlikely?

September 11, 2006 - 10:32 am
Oh, hoaxes are tons of fun. I'm reading a book about Clarence King, the first head of the USGS. One of the things he did while in California was head out to the 4 Corners region to expose the Great Diamond Hoax. Hoaxes were quite popular in the 19th century.

Joan, kidnapping doesn't make me think of kids at all, although that is probably the etymology of the word. Oh, yes, the online etymology dictionary says it is derived from the practice of nabbing children to sell as indentured servants. Still, the word has lost that meaning, after all, when an adult is kidnapped, you still use the word "kidnapped," rather than saying they were "adultnapped." I'm not at that point in the book yet, so you may be talking about something completely different.


September 11, 2006 - 12:02 pm
Joan, Thanks for the info about the football team. It was actually NOT more than I wanted to know, and I loved the story about the baby ravens. _____________________________________________________________________

My problem with this book (I'm up to Book III) is that I haven't become attached to any of these characters. Unlike "The Dante Club" where I did care about the characters, here the plot has somewhat of a comic book style. In the beginning, I started to feel a connection to Quentin--a young man whose obsession was going to cost him his career and his girl. But then Quentin set off on a path of such utter stupidity that I finally lost touch with any sympathy I might have had. Even in a mystery story, the author has to make you care about and identify with at least one character. Probably the rest of you don't agree, but I can't seem to care if Quentin gets sent back to prison. He probably deserves some sort of punishment for such monumental naivete. Of course, I'm still hoping he'll do something to redeem himself in the end.

September 11, 2006 - 12:18 pm
According to my French dictionary, chiffonier is a rag and bone man and chiffon is a rag. How many of you ladies have worn chiffon (English word) dresses never knowing you were wearing a "rag." I always thought a chiffonnier (spelled differently) was a piece of furniture --a place to store your rags??

Matthew must have had to do a lot of research concerning the way people talked in those days. Interesting expressions -- odd stick, to say sooth, cut dirt...others I've forgotten. Some phases sound like modern slang (save your own bacon, for instance) and make me wonder just when they came into use.

September 11, 2006 - 01:57 pm
I thought a chiffonier was a piece of furniture, too - like a wardrobe.

JoanP: Thanks for the letters and for the raven info. I loved it!

It was interesting reading about the petrified people. It reminded me of something done in Paris at the end of the 18th century. Sometimes morticians mummified people who had died. This was done to John Paul Jones. He died of some illness in Paris and Americans didn't seem too interested in his death. To the French, Jones had been a great hero of the American Revolution. The mortician thought that one day America might want his body back, so he "pickled" Jones by placing him in a lead-lined casket filled with wine. The body became mummified and was eventually claimed by America and taken to Annapolis in great honor where it lies today guarded 24 hours a day.

Did you see all of the heads around Matthew Pearl in his picture of himself in the Catacombs? Startling! I'm not sure what the Catacombs are. Anybody know?


September 11, 2006 - 04:00 pm
JOAN, thank you for the story about Edgar, Allen and Poe! I loved it!

I've done some more thinking about that year and a half delay before Quentin went to Paris, and I now believe it was perfectly reasonable. Quentin had discovered that Dupin was based on an actual person; now he has to find out who that person was. That would have required a good deal of research and communication back and forth to various persons/places in Europe. Letter weren't flying over there, you know. It must have taken weeks for a letter of inquiry to reach Europe, and more weeks before an answer returned. I can readily see how it could have taken a year and a half before Quentin was satisfied he knew where to go, and who to see.

Baron Dupin's eagerness to persuade Quentin that he was the 'real' source of Poe's character seems fairly evident. He needed to get out of town! Some nasty people were eager for pieces of his hide. He needed to persuade them that he would have the money he owned them soon, as well as get as far away from them as possible meanwhile. He was hoping Quentin would pick up the tab for the trip to America. What I'm curious about, is where did the Baron got the cash to pay for passage for himself and his entourage. Not that I ever expect to know the answer to that one.

KLEO! Before I forget again...you mentioned on-line sites for old dictionaries, from the 19th century and early 20th century as I recall. Please tell me where I can find them. I'd love to have them on my research list!


September 11, 2006 - 05:06 pm
I guess you didn’t watch Treasure Hunters this summer, Marni. That’s where I learned about the catacombs. Here are three websites with information and pictures:

Information on Catacombs

Slideshow of Catacombs

Underground Paris

September 11, 2006 - 05:44 pm
BaBi and everyone, one of the best sites on the Internet, right up there with

http://imdb.com/ ---->

for everything you want to know about movies (it's how I can post the director with every movie I mention).



----> a link to multiple dictionaries, including, if the word is listed in them, public domain dictionaries from 1828 and 1913 and the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. If you're reading period fiction it can be a wonderful on-line resource. Onelook is a portal to many on-line dictionaries. Enter your word in the search box, and if it is in any of a dozen or so modern online dictionaries, plus the older ones, it will give you a clickable link to the page in that dictionary--a whole list of links! Also it gives you a quick definition on the right-hand side of the page, with a link to the Online Etymology dictionary if it has the word origins available.

Both (imdb and onelook) are sites that really thought about how people might use their online resources if they were available and designed well to interface with a nontechnical user seeking information, not hours on the web.

A chiffonier is generally a tall narrow chest of drawers that is used to hold undergarments or odds and ends. Catacombs are underground tombs, once specific ones used by the Romans.

I didn't think the Baltimore Ravens mascots were real Ravens, but rather 3 mascots with Poe's various names attached. They're very cute mascots, and I've seen their "nest" and "eggs" which appear much much larger than any real Ravens' nests I've seen. I miss my 'hood raven.

Marni, fascinating information about John Paul Jones. My son went to school some in Louisiana, and I know when we watch Jeopardy! together there are all sorts of questions related to the French in American history that he can answer that I can't, including a handful about John Paul Jones. But I don't understand the French connection there. He wasn't French, or from Louisiana as far as I know. Sailors, especially, and Marines love the man, though, he's one of the American Navy's greatest heroes--this I learned in the military when the Marines shaved the the Navy CO's dog giving him a high and tight, but wouldn't shave his First Officer's dog because the First Officer had named the dog John Paul Jones.


September 11, 2006 - 06:18 pm
Speaking of the Baltimore ravens, it looks like I misjudged them. They showed real pop, yesterday. I'll have to find a better motto than "nevermore".

HORSELOVER: The two books are different because they are imitating two very different authors. I haven't read "The Dante Club" but assume the style follows Dante. The style in "Poe Shadow" is an excellent imitation of Poe's, I admire Matthew for being able to suit his style so well to his author. But of course, it emphasizes Poe's strengths and limitations. It emphasizes the puzzle/technical aspects of the story, and suits Quinten perfectly -- like Poe's Dupin, a man who is passionate in his search for truth, but not in human relationships. But it follows that one cannot really relate too closely to this one-sided character. If you don't like this style, then it's Poe you don't like, not Matthew.

Perhaps this was talked about in the pre-discussion, but I'm interested in how MATTHEW chose those two authors to write about.

September 11, 2006 - 09:59 pm
LauraD: Thanks for the catacombs info! Fascinating!

Kleo: John Paul Jones, a Scot, was a captain in the U.S. Navy during the Revolution. He worked with the French Navy because they were our allies and had a large navy unlike the weeny American navy at the time. Jones spent a lot of time in France obtaining ships, putting together crews, etc. and from there he attacked British towns and ships in British waters. Jones got his orders from Benjamin Franklin who was in Paris. Jones' famous ship Bonhomme Richard was a French ship named after Franklin's Poor Richard. Jones sought work in Russia and in France after the Revolution when the American navy was, for the most part, disbanded.


September 12, 2006 - 04:32 am
Back to passports and traveling in Paris…

Joan, I had double checked with my husband prior to my last post --- No, we were not asked for our passports in Paris or Lyon. We were there in 2000. My husband travels extensively for business, throughout Europe and the world. He commented that even now, he is rarely asked for his passport when checking into a hotel, and even then, it is only the better hotels that request it. We were in Zurich a year ago and we both did have to show our passports upon check in there. But, when we then traveled to Lichtenstein, the hotel there did not request them. I cannot explain the differences in our two experiences, Joan. The only other factor could be that we were traveling alone, not as part of a tour group. Were you part of a tour group?

September 12, 2006 - 05:32 am
Joan asked: Remember the news article Quentin read ...in Paris? It contained information about the letter Poe wrote to his former mother-in-law directing her to address correspondance to E.S.T. Grey Esqre. … Did you find it unusual that a journal in Paris would carry such a detailed account? Too unlikely?

I was fine with this being in the newspaper. I think it was in an American newspaper. On page 88, Quentin reported, “I still collected articles on Poe’s death from the reading rooms that carried American papers.” Newspapers printed different things back then, what we would consider small town news. As late as the 1960’s, a newspaper in a small town in Ohio published accounts of who had who over for Sunday dinner. No joke! They were accounts of my husband’s relatives and they are in a scrapbook now.

So cool to see the actual Poe letter!

Joan Pearson
September 12, 2006 - 07:23 am
Good morning, everyone! WoW! Where to begin this morning? Your posts are brimming with good information - AND questions too, many which will go on our list for Matthew!

My question for Matthew concerns the Catacombs and the Secret Chapters. (Thank you Laura for the catacomb links! I've been there, and they are not quite as macabre as that found in Poe's Cask of Amontillado - if you remember the piles of exposed bones there) - but eerie, sobering, nonetheless. Am I correct in concluding that the "secret chapters" you include in your web site, Matthew, are those that were edited out? You mention that your editor wanted to abbreviate the Paris chapters, which included a scene in the catacombs. Do you think the reader loses any important information from these edited chapters? As a writer, does it break your heart to see all that work on the cutting room floor?

I'm finding the missing chapters extremely interesting - they led me to read the "Murder of Marie Rogêt" - the second of Poe's Dupin Tales. I like this tale better than the first - they reveal another facet of C. Auguste Dupin's abilities.

Here's a link to Matthew's "Secret Chapters" relating to Quentin's Paris trip. If you have time, I think you will enjoy them - and if you do, please share here any new informatin that will shed light on Auguste Duponte and Baron Dupin? That would be great!

Marni, after reading your post on the "Pickling" of John Paul Jones' body, I'm wondering if the corpse described in the Baltimore cemetery wasn't also preserved in the same way because of an illness of some sort - and the caretaker mistook it for "petrification" - a popular hoax of the day.

Laura - it's more understandable knowing that Quentin read the news article concerning Poe's correspondence in an American paper, rather than in a French journal. Still, with so little journalistic interest shown in Poe's death in America, isn't it a bit of a surprise that such a detail would merit enough interest to be printed at all? The link to Poe's correspondence is now in the heading...there are a number of interesting letters included, not just the one he wrote to his mother-in-law.

Oh, and Laura, I had to smile when you wrote that "only in the better hotel" did you have to show your passport. No, no tour groups will do for this husband - who likes to find his own out of the way hotels...and I don't think there's ever been one I'd call one of the better ones!

Kleo - thank you for sharing your two links...I've put them away for future reference. Most helpful of you!

Need coffee - be right back! So much here this morning!!!

September 12, 2006 - 08:00 am
Aaarrghhhhh! It's time, me hearties, to sign up for the discussion of The Mutiny on Board H.M.S. Bounty! This book is Captain Bligh's own written account of what happened on the mutinous voyage and afterward when he and some of his crew were set adrift in shark-infested waters.

The discussion begins officially on November 1. There's plenty of grog, salt pork, and duff aboard ship waiting for you, so sign up here:

patwest, "---Mutiny on Board H.M.S. Bounty, The ~ William Bligh ~ Proposed for Nov. 1st" #, 11 Sep 2006 2:26 pm


Joan Pearson
September 12, 2006 - 08:14 am
I've been thinking about your comment, Horselover - "Even in a mystery story, the author has to make you care about and identify with at least one character." It's funny, but up to now, I haven't thought of this as a mystery story! Perhaps because I've been thinking of the "Mystery" as the mysterious circumstances of Poe's death. And naively wondering how Quentin/Duponte/Matthew would figure out how Poe actually died by the end of the story! Talk about Quentin's naivete! I had great faith invested in Matthew's three years of research! . I suppose that's why I like what Matthew does in his stories...focuses on the work of a great author - and sends me into total immersion into the works he writes about!

But suddenly, this morning, I realize that there will be another mysterious death to solve. One of Matthew's creation in the course of solving Poe's death! And it sounds as if Quentin will be blamed! (I haven't read beyond Book II - so please don't answer that!!!)

JoanK makes a good point - Matthew is imitating Poe's style, which "emphasizes the puzzle/technical aspect" - and "not human relationships."

Have you read any of Poe's Dupin Tales, Ann? You'll see how Matthew is approaching this story. Earlier I wondered aloud if you thought Matthew's story can stand alone as a mystery, without reading Poe at all. Perhaps the question should remain on the floor?

Antlerlady, I agree, Matthew's research took him into 19th century vocabulary and expressions - in both French and English! This why I'm wondering what the term "kidnapping" would have meant in 1850, Kleo. After reading Quentin's comment regarding his "kidnapping" - I thought of it as a bit of sarcasm because he had been treated by the police, and especially by the Baron as one unworthy of respect...as a child. He seems vulnerable to me, in his naivete, he doesn't realize the danger he is in.

Babi - if the Baron is dangerous, what about the beautiful Bonjour? Is she as heartless as she sounds? Is she capable of murder? She seems key to carrying out the Baron's plans. If he's going to America, so is she. Quentin seems taken with her. Will he be vulnerable to her charms? Dupin must have SOME money to book passage - but yes, clearly he'd been counting on Quentin's support. He can't be happy that Quentin has decided to go with Duponte...even knowing that he himself is not the Dupin of the Rue Morgue Mysteries.

By the way, why DID Poe decide to name his detective "DUPIN"? Does anyone know that?

September 12, 2006 - 10:02 am
Re: ".....what about the beautiful Bonjour? Is she as heartless as she sounds? Is she capable of murder? She seems key to carrying out the Baron's plans. If he's going to America, so is she. Quentin seems taken with her. Will he be vulnerable to her charms?"

I think Bonjour is one of the most interesting characters in the book so far. She's a tough lady and I think she is absolutely capable of murder. She can be quite heartless, I think, and uses her charms to get what she wants. Quentin seems quite smitten with her and her little scar.

September 12, 2006 - 04:30 pm
KLEO, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Onelook.com is now safely on my list of favorites.

JOANP, if what Quentin has been told about Bonjour is true, she has already committed murder and is a very dangerous lady indeed. I think Quentin definitely finds her alluring, but she also makes him nervous. Which is most sensible of him. I think she also shows some interest in him, but not enough to betray the Baron. He did, after all, successfully defend her against murder charges. All his loyal henchmen were attached to him thru' his defense of them for criminal charges of one kind or another.

Speaking of signifcant words, the man who was going around Baltimore stirring up interest in Poe's death at the Baron's instigation, was supposed to be an American. But he slipped when he spoke of Poe's Dupin as "..the real china, and no mistake". (p. 129) China is English street slang, derived from seamen who traveled the long sea route to China. The were considered the elite of the seafaring men, and the term 'china' came to refer to someone very good at their trade.


Joan Pearson
September 13, 2006 - 02:12 pm
Geeeee, Matthew! I spent the afternoon reading the "Murder of Marie Rogêt" and then before stopping in here to comment...decided to read your "Secret Pages" first. "Secret" means that Matthew's editor wanted to abbreviate the Paris chapters - and so these ended up on the cutting room floor. I put a link to these four chapters in the heading. If you have time, it would really be worth reading them. If no time, I'll try to summarize what you are missing. Matthew, it must have broken your heart to lose these chapters. Tell your editor to reconsider restoring them for the paperback!!!

You have all read how hard Quentin works on Duponte to help him with Poe's mysterious death. Nothing seems to interest him...money, fame. (What made Duponte decide to go to America with Quentin?

In the "secret pages" Quentin inadvertently gets him to solve a murder - the Murder of Rose Acton. Remember the chiffonier - the one who sifts through the garbage? He's involved in the episode - Quentin thinks he's the murderer! While deep in the catacombs - 90 steps beneath the earth, dark, damp, the roof sagging...the murderer shoots at Quentin! Actually shoots at him! When he tells Duponte the details, of course Duponte is able to ratiocinate and lead him to the killer!

You miss all this because of the editing. BUT, what I really loved - in the second edited chapter was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's visit to Paris...and reading all about the feud between Poe, Longfellow, James Russell Lowell and Oliver Wendell Holmes. You'll remember them from The Dante Club. Actually it is Lowell who talks to Quentin...and in the course of the conversation, we get a physical and psychological description of Poe worth more than I can say! Matthew, did you move any of this material to later chapters in the Book? (Am reading as we go, so I don't know the answer to this?)

Just in case your answer is no, will bring just a bit of it here.
"I [Quentin] had my own image of Poe. A turned-down collar and black cravat, one arm thrown lightly over the back of his chair. He keeps a cold demeanor when at rest, reserving himself for private meditations and dreamings. The pale complexion suggests a nervousness that could arise at any moment. But upon finding someone near him who promised genuine interest, the gray eyes would turn a shade warmer, and standing at his full height – there he is, a fine slender figure in the middle of the room, straightening his black vest, straightening himself to about an average height, five feet eight, perfectly straight – here he would present a hand that was more delicate and beautiful than any woman's. His speech would be low, nearly a whisper, so that only if you lean forward, and exclude all other sounds from your attention, you are able to hear what he was saying and know opinions that he had told no one else about some popular politician or poem. If reciting a poem of his own to the room, he would not speak, he would positively sing, always perfect and pure in enunciation.

"Poe was small, smaller than you, my friend," Lowell said, talking at a theatrical volume that swatted aside his introspective mood. "I'd call his complexion Clammy- White. Fine, dark eyes, and fine head, very broad at the temples," he positioned his palms a fair width apart, "but receding sharply from the brows backwards – something snakelike about it. His manner was rather formal, even pompous, but I have the impression he must have been a little soggy with drink when I saw him. Not tipsy. But as if he had been holding his head under a pump to cool it."
Meanwhile, back to the published copy, we walk from the incident in the Jardin des Plantes with the chiffonier *edit, edit,edit* to the Café Belge...and the billiard table.

Marni - I remember Bonjour was vicious, but had forgotten that she had actually committed murder, Babi - do you remember how she got that scar on her mouth? How do you picture it? It's good that she makes Quentin nervous. He seems not to see danger when face to face with it. Maybe his association with Duponte will sharpen his power of observation!

September 13, 2006 - 03:46 pm
I've been looking at the book's cover, and I can't relate it to anything in the book. Is it from the deleted chapters about the catacombs, perhaps? It appears to be either a vault or a dim arcade, one wall lined with carvings of figures. I've found nothing like that in the final version of the book...so far. For the time being, I've stopped at Ch. 31.

Looking at the schedule, I realized I jumped ahead in my last post. Sorry.


September 14, 2006 - 12:29 pm
6. Puzzle solvers, do you care to guess what Poe had in mind with the false name, E.S.T. Grey, Esqre, he asked his former mother-in- law to use when corresponding with him in Pennsylvania? Why would he be so concerned about hiding his identity in the days before his death?

It is not necessary to exercise your brain explaining this particular piece of the puzzle,since Duponte will shortly give a full explanation of this seemingly mysterious action on Poe's part. I will say only that it is all perfectly logical after he tells us how the Post Office worked at that time.

Joan Pearson
September 14, 2006 - 12:38 pm
This is an interesting question for Matthew, Babi! I really don't think the scene on the bookcover depicts the catacombs. In my memory they are much rougher (can't think of a better word)...rows of skulls, arms, legs, neatly arranged. As if someone did a big clean up job tidying the bones as they lay. But not as grand as what is on the cover.

On the inside of the book jacket in the back, there is an attribution to Edouard Baldus, the photographer who did photographs of the cloisters and the Eglise Saint-Trphime in Arles. (Baldus lived in Poe's time.) I did a search and can't get a good closeup that resembled anything like what is on the bookcover. I did find another of Baldus' works now in the Musée D'Orsay - as the bookcover relates. This one is the Hôtel de Ville in Paris...look at those archways and statues. Do you remember any mention of the Hôtel de Ville in the Paris chapters? Did Quentin and Duponte stroll past this edifice in their nightly walks through the streets of Paris?

Or maybe Quentin returns to Paris in later chapters? - Babie, you posted that you stopped at chapter 31 - did you mean 13? If chapter 31, you are nearly through with the book. I'm wondering if others have gone on too? If so, maybe we should adjust our reading schedule - since the discussion of Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue is completed and the Mystery of Marie Rogêt isn't scheduled to begin until October, you may want to try another approach?

I had been happily reading Marie Rogêt and Matthew's "Secret Pages"...other Poe stories - "The Gold Bug" - and hadn't stopped to think that others were not into total immersion. Please let me know!

In the meantime, let's plan to return to Baltimore tomorrow and see what awaits Quentin at home! Horselover, I take it you are ready for tomorrow! I think it is safe to assume that everything in Matthew's book will be explained, sooner or later - though Poe's last days will remain a mystery, I fear!

September 14, 2006 - 03:55 pm
JOAN, thanks for the research on the cover. Maybe whoever chose it just felt it set an appropriate mood.

No mistake; I am up to Ch. 31. I will need to return the book to the library next week. I'll be finishing the book and making notes of those aspects that caught my particular interest for reference after the book is no longer in my hands. Meanwhile, I will try to be more careful about getting ahead of the discussion.

Tomorrow we return to Baltimore!


September 14, 2006 - 06:19 pm
It’s been quiet here the past few days. I couldn’t help but wonder if people were reading the next week’s reading and got caught up in the story and just kept reading and reading. I know I did!

I read Series 1 of the Secret Chapters today. I loved reading more about the chiffonnier, after noting him earlier in the week. I agree with Joan that it would be wonderful to have this omitted material included in the paperback. I have only read Series 1 so far, but based on what two of the other series are about, I am wondering if they couldn’t be included as an appendix.

What is a sherry cobbler? It is on page 7 of Series 1. Is it a typo and should be cherry cobbler?

I was wondering what the Latin proverb that ends Series 1 meant. I found the following meaning special-dictionary.com: A plan that cannot be changed is bad.

I was also wondering what the inscription above the door in the catacombs meant. I had no luck in translating it. It reads: Has ultra metas requiescunt beatam spem specantes. Does anyone know? I can’t even figure out what language it is. I thought Latin, then French, but couldn’t find the words using an online translator.

After reading this Secret Chapter, I am now going to go ahead and read The Mystery of Marie Roget. I suspect there are similarities between it and The Murder of Rose Acton. I can’t wait until October’s discussion to discover what those might be, so I won’t tell Bill if you don’t, Joan. LOL!

September 14, 2006 - 08:44 pm
The cover illustration is of a Cloisters. There's an explanation of the composite picture on the inside of the back dust cover. Of course, that doesn't work if you have a library copy.

September 15, 2006 - 03:13 am
Just back last night from Poland -- sorry for falling behind a bit on the board...

Will try to get some photos up from my Poland trip, in the meantime, this is a photo from my publisher in Chile to show their promotion of the book -- they had a man dressed as the man from the cover of The Poe Shadow in front of bookstores! Poor man: http://www.matthewpearl.com/assets/chile.promotion.JPG

September 15, 2006 - 03:35 am
LauraD-- on the garbage/chifonnier sorts of details... yes, I find these to be found more in private histories so to speak -- memoirs, diaries -- than the history books

Various-- on the Baltimore Ravens, I believe, as farfetched as it sounds, that the first season of the Ravens, there was a videotape made of the entire team reciting Poe's poem together! would like to get our hands on that!

Various-- on the discussions of hotels... Before Dante Club was published i had only been out of the country twice, to england and canada, and have felt very lucky that the two books have carried me now to 13 (i believe it is) different countries, some multiple times... and there are some interesting differences in hotels, including in many countries that it is required to give a passport when checking in and to give your room key to the front desk EVERYTIME YOU LEAVE THE HOTEL and retrieve it as you come back. i found the latter very strange at first, although in a way it makes sense so housekeeping knows when to go to your room! i will say, though, there is less of a sense of privacy than at an american hotel

Joan P-- on the Secret Chapters, well, yes and no (re whether they were edited out)... parts of the Secret Chapters had been in earlier versions of the book, but as a whole they are written as original content for the web to share some extra stories with readers who want them... i did feel sad not having james russell lowell, who is a character of course in the dante club, in the actual book, but at the same time glad i have this parallel forum... because Quentin's time in Paris is delaying the investigation of Poe's death, there was no way to fit in a self-contained paris storyline, but of course i'd be honored if anyone on the board takes the time to read them

Babi-- good catch on "the real china"... And for the bookcover, it is a cloister in Paris as Joan points out (not one that specifically is in the book), and the man can be... well, whoever you imagine... dupin, duponte, quentin, poe... probably quentin, in my mind! it is less a specific image of the book and more an image of a man on a lonely journey or quest

September 15, 2006 - 04:04 am
and i forgot to say about petrification: well, the sexton says this is true, perhaps it is perhaps it isn't? we probably don't know, but it was said at the time that it was... certainly at the very least a poe-esque idea!

September 15, 2006 - 05:23 am
Laura -- in case you want to try it! 50ml Cream Sherry. 12.5ml Maraschino liqueur. 12.5ml fresh Lemon juice. 100ml fresh Orange juice.

Joan Pearson
September 15, 2006 - 12:57 pm
Matthew! Welcome back! Where next? You need some time to rest up - and wash your socks! Here are a few photos of our Matthew in Poland - Who knew Poe was so popular in Poland?
Matthew signs his book - in Polish?
A TV interview - in Polish?

I loved the photo of the man in front of the bookstore dressed as the man on the bookcover! And thank you for your comment on that cover photo too, Matthew. I will look at him as - dupin, duponte, quentin, poe - and YOU in a lonely journey or quest!

Today we return back to Baltimore! I just had to include Queston #5 for your consideration this week -
"You have a quixotic sense of the honorable, Brother Quentin."
Don Quixote's quest is tops on my mind this week as we wind up a 6 month journey with a man consumed with an impossible dream. Many thought, still think he was crazy. Can you see why some think Quentin has lost it - giving up his future while he concentrates on proving something of questionable merit?

When he returns to America - he finds Baltimoreans enthusiastically reading Poe at every turn. Was this his dream? To see that America appreciated the author as much as he himself did? What more does he want?

Matthew - thanks for the sherry cobbler recipe! Have you tried it?

Laura - Poe often includes Latin phrases in his work, without translation - and is often in error. Matthew seems to be imitating Poe's proclivity for Latin phrases. Perhaps he purposely misquoted the phrase. Or maybe time has worn the inscription so that all of the letters are not legible.

As far as I can see the Latin inscription at the entry to the catacombs translates to something like this =
"Has ultra metas requiescunt beatam spem specantes." This seems to have some letters missing.

"Has beatam spem expectantes is more like it, but the "Has" looks questionable too.
"expectantes" = we wait-
"beatam spem"= joyful hope,
So it seems to me to indicate that those who are buried here rest in wait with joyful hope.. Any Latin students out there?

September 15, 2006 - 01:27 pm

Poe Shadow in Warsaw!

September 15, 2006 - 02:20 pm
MATTHEW, you are collecting some really great photos! But I think I'd better pass on the Sherry Cobbler. A whiff of that would probably be sufficient.

Duponte seems to have the French freedom in being insulting. Quentin says he is used to it, and no longer finds it insulting. Personally, I don't think I could peacefully accustom myself to be addressed as "Dunce!".

But then I don't understand Quentin anyway. He has returned to Baltimore, and hasn't even bothered to let Hattie, Peter or his family know. He explains himself saying: "...it was as though the world outside my involvement with Duponte was suspended; as though I had been caught in a universe made only from Duponte's mind and his ideas and could not return to my usual place until the task at hand had been achieved."

Quentin's uncaring detachment from those who should be closest and dearest to him is frankly perturbing.

QUESTION: What do you think of Bonjour's critique of Poe's work? "It seems it consists chiefly of him saying plain things in a fashion that makes them hard to understand, and commonplace things in a mysterious form which makes them seem oracular."


September 15, 2006 - 09:58 pm
Joan, I don't think Quentin is comparable to Don Quixote. The Don is at least slightly insane and spends his time literally tilting at windmills. Quentin is obsessive, but is otherwise in full possesion of his mental faculties.

I have read the book and listened to the audio tapes. At first I thought this would be redundant. However, I found that I focused on different aspects in each medium. And the best part of all, for those of you who enjoy Matthew's comments, is that at the end of the last tape, Matthew himself becomes a kind of standin for Dupin. Despite Joan's fear that much about Poe's last days would remain a mystery, Matthew explains much about what happened to him based on the evidence that does exist. I won't say any more about it, leaving it to all to enjoy this for themselves..

September 16, 2006 - 05:42 am
Thanks, Matthew, for answering all our questions. And here I thought sherry cobbler was a fruity dessert!

Thanks, Joan for the Latin translation. I have not studied Latin.

It looks like you were well received in Poland, Matthew. How does it feel to see signs like that for your books? In the U.S., I have seen those types of signs for museum exhibits, or a neighborhood cultural event, but not for a book.

September 16, 2006 - 07:29 am
Thanks Laura -- part of the fun research in these sorts of books is to discover the "menu" of another time. In my research of Paris, I found guide books from the 1840s & 50s that would tell you what restaurants to go to and what to order! Some -- just a handful -- still exist!

You're right -- books are marketed very thinly in the US. Occassionally there would be a big sign, perhaps, for a John Grisham sort of book. It was certainly odd, there was even the "Cien Poego" billboard in front of my hotel, just by coincidence!

Joan -- I haven't tried sherry cobbler! I'm not much of a drinker, anyway, but I wonder if a modern bartender would know what it is? Thanks for the translation -- I got the catacombs inscription from a guidebook from the nineteenth century, I don't know if I actually was able to see it when I visited. So it might have been different then, or the inscription itself might have been incorrect Latin, or faded, as you suggest.

Not much travelling for a little while -- well, that's not totally true: A book festival appearance in Rockford Illinois on Sept 27, Baltimore Book Festival on Oct 1, a talk at the Poe Room at NYU on Oct 17, possibly another New York appearance at a mystery group on Nov 1, and a Latin American tour -- Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Mexico -- starting Nov 20 and into early December. If any of these cross paths with SeniorNet folks, please come say hi! (presumably not the Latin American part)

September 16, 2006 - 07:38 am
Horselover, were you able to listen to the unabridged audio? I met the actor, Erik Singer, who narrated, at my book party in May, he was exceptionally nice and, I think, very talented.

Joan Pearson
September 16, 2006 - 09:42 am
Don't you love the photos? They add another dimension to the discussion. Thank you for your schedule too, Matthew. We've been thinking about a visit to Baltimore this fall. The Baltimore Book Festival on October 1 sounds like perfect timing. We could visit the gravesite as well as the Poe museum. I hope it's open on Saturdays!

Now Quentin and Dupont are in Baltimore...I'd be interested in seeing some photos of Old Baltimore! I thought the Baltimore Sun building, mentioned in the novel, would be still standing - made of iron as it was. But my search for a photo came up empty - did find this -
"Of the first four, the only one that had not been outgrown by the time it was replaced was the celebrated Sun Iron Building, a five-story structure built in 1851 with design and construction concepts that made it the forerunner of the contemporary skyscraper. Located at the corner of Baltimore and South streets, the Iron Building was destroyed in the historic fire of 1904 that razed 20 blocks of the downtown area." Baltimore Sun Old Iron Building
Golly - 24 blocks of the downtown area razed in 1904? My search for photos of Poe's Baltimore just ended!

Joan Pearson
September 16, 2006 - 10:04 am
Where are all mis compadres from Don Quixote this morning? We need to gang up on you, horselover - and defend our knight of la Mancha! The ONE THING we all agreed on - the Don had a keen mind - though obsessive regarding matters of knight errantry - but otherwise in full possession of his mental faculties. Just like Quentin!

It's difficult understanding the obsessions of others. You mentioned earlier, Ann - not relating to the characters in Poe Shadow. I believe it's Quentin that we are supposed to relate too...(but maybe our sympathies are with poor Hattie more.)

Babi - I wondered too why he didn't get in touch with her when he returned after having been away for so long. She's still his fiancée, isn't she? I can understand his not wanting to get in touch with Peter - who has made it very clear what he thinks of the matter than is consuming Quentin. The passage you quoted tells us that he plans to call Hattie once "the task at hand has been achieved."

To understand Quentin, we have to understand his obsession. I think it's more than just wanting to fulfull his promise to Poe. His world before his communication with Poe had been stifling to him. Law doesn't interest him. Social gatherings were something to get out of. What matters to him? It is more important that he gets to the truth of the Poe matter, than practicing the law. Poor Hattie seems to be part of the stifling world he's left behind.

But Bonjour - one exciting woman! Notice the electricity when he touched her hand! I'll bet he never felt anything like that with Hattie - maybe he never touched her hand? That was an odd critique of Poe = Bonjour does not mince words - calls it as she sees it. I wonder if she isn't repeating something that she heard the Baron say. When I think about Poe's Dupin's method of problem solving - I find just the opposite to be true. He takes the difficult to understand, and strips away the mystery to reach what he sees as the obvious truth.

Poe's goal - truth. Quentin's is the same. I think C. Auguste Dupin and Duponte are more interested in uncovering the truth as a game - They have to be coaxed into finding the truth. With Quentin there is a personal motivation.

But maybe we need to ask - is Quentin's obsession understandable? Have you ever been so distracted with a problem that you overlook your surroundings until you resolve it?

September 16, 2006 - 04:10 pm
When concentrating on a task in hand, I can easily ignore distractions. However, if the task is a long-term one, I don't neglect my life for it!

A very good observation, JOAN, that Quentin is not all that interested in the law, and his social world is stifling to him. He was ripe for something to absorb his interest and energies, wasn't he? Perhaps, deep down, his obsessive behavior is also a way to escape from his engagement to Hattie, I don't believe he knows that, but it was fairly evident that he became engaged only under social pressure. He is unquestionably fond of Hattie, but.....

We now learn how Bonjour got her scar; ie., during an attack on her during one of her thefts. According to Duponte, she later became a hired assassin. Whoo! Yet Quentin still finds her exciting and alluring. Okay,.I can understand 'exciting'. So,perhaps that is precisely where the 'allure' lies. Poor Quentin tries to excuse her with the statement that "I believe poor health and environments create such lapses in character in women." Lapses??! Egads!

I side with Dupontes dry comment on that. "She has been most poor then."

On Q. 3: I tried to find the word 'bonjourier', without success. We'll have to ask Matthew about that one, unless someone else can find it.


September 17, 2006 - 05:36 am
I have not ever been so distracted by a task that I overlooked the rest of my life for it. The exception could be studying for a big exam or working on a project during college, but that was a few days, not a few years!

Quentin’s distraction is not understandable to me. I agree with Joan and Babi --- he is avoiding his real life.

I can understand why Quentin did not contact Hattie upon his return from France. He knew he was in trouble with Hattie’s aunt, so he wanted to avoid her. He knew that Hattie would hear through the grapevine that he was back. The only way he could hope to have a pleasant encounter with these two women was to have successfully completed his Poe quest. I am still not sure the initial encounter would be pleasant, but it would be a start. Given norms of the day, Hattie wouldn’t contact him, so no face to face communication took place.

anne arden
September 17, 2006 - 06:16 am
Hi All,

I have been reading along with you. Actually listening along - like horselover is it? The Eric Singer audio is excellent, I've never experienced a book in this way. He has great voices - I especially like the way he delivers Bonjour's voice. Like when she whispers to Quintin, " You are not in the SHADOW of any harm."

Interesting when Quintin describes Bonjour as "that killing beauty." and the "star-crossed lips"

Matthew, such a reference to lawyers! " Wherever you travel in the world you are sure to find the same limited number of species of lawyers sure as the naturalists finds his grass and weeds in every land!" and then the description of the carnivorous species of lawyer. I'm sure you have had plenty of time to make your observations up close and personal.

anne arden
September 17, 2006 - 06:24 am
Qunitin's desire to be trasnported into Duponte's life fascinates me: he speaks of Duponte's impenatrability, his moral invisibility. Quintin desires to see Duponte in all the variations of life, to see him in love, in a dual, to see what meal he would select at a certain establishment. Quintin "burns" to know Duponte's thoughts and wishes Duponte desired to know more of him. A bit of a needy character, this Quintin.

anne arden
September 17, 2006 - 06:32 am

I am curious about the reference to the mental state of Poe when he was delivered to the hospital - delusions, hallucinations - seeing objects crawling on the wall. Is this going to take us to the rabies hypothesis of Poe's death that has been hanging out there for so long. This mental state and fact that just two weeks prior to his death he seemed to be "high functioning" would be consistent with the presentation and time course of this possiblity?

I have to say I did not sustpect the old guy in the reading room to be Duponte - Matthew, you really pulled that one over on me. I didn't realize until he started dismantling the disguise. I must be asleep while listening to the story!

anne arden
September 17, 2006 - 06:37 am
Since I'm not sure whether we are solving a murder or a death (or both), I none the less keep my little list of characters with judgment about their motive and opportunity etc. and just cannot understand the letter from Poe to his mother-in law (Sissy's mother) whom he calls his beloved protector, his own darling Muddy and signs the letter "Your very own Eddy" What's that about or did I misinterpret this?

Joan Pearson
September 17, 2006 - 01:44 pm
Bonjour mes amis!

Have spent some time this afternoon on the trail of the meaning of the term, bonjour. Though I got no further than the definition Matthew provides in the book...using a dictionary of French slang, Babi - I found to tidbits to add to what we know of Bonjour:
"Bonjourier or Goupineur with the service road climbed the opened windows, the morning per hour of the breakfast, to nimbly serve, in the absence of witnesses, the silverware laid out on the table. Surprised in the course of visit, the intruder greeted and claimed to seek someone else. The courtesy of the robber with hello was worth the name of bonjourier to him."
The above is the French translation Google provided - from a work by one Eugène François Vidocq. This gets interesting -
"Eugène François Vidocq was an 18th century French crook-turned-cop who was a confidant of at least two famous contemporary French writers and an inspiration for many others around the world. Victor Hugo based not one but two characters in Les Miserables on Vidocq - both Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert. Honore Balzac's character Vautran, in Pere Goriot, was also modeled after him.

Vidocq's legendary crime-solving reputation was also lauded in Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue and in Herman Melville's Moby Dick. The fugitive in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations was also inspired by Vidocq's real-life exploits.

Vidocq's life story is amazing. As a fugitive from French justice, he first offered his services as a police spy and informer. Later, he became so successful at catching criminals that he was named the first chief of the Sûreté, in 1811. Vidocq eventually directed a force of 28 detectives, all of whom were also former criminals.

Eugène François Vidocq is considered by historians and those in law enforcement to be the father of modern criminal investigation. More on Vidocq
Also - I went back and reread what Matthew has said about our Bonjour - Though it was Duponte who informs Quentin that she has the reputation of "an assassin who calls out 'bonjour' before sending a knife through a man's heart" - did you notice he hastens to add - "this is mere speculation, for nobody living can confirm it." Ha! That's funny, but it also leaves the door open for her innocence. So the Baron got her off a murder charge by proving her innocent. That still doesn't make her a murderess, does it? I'm all for innocent until proven guilty!

Joan Pearson
September 17, 2006 - 02:11 pm
Hello, Anne! So good to hear from you! I smiled at the thought of Eric Singer doing Bonjour's voice!

It sounds as if you know more of Quentin's developing relationship with Duponte than we do from these first three chapters, but Quentin's fascination with Poe and now with Duponte reminds me of Poe's Dupin character from the Murders of the Rue Morgue mystery stories. His odd relationship with the unnamed narrator of the stories leaves much to be explained. They meet in Paris for the first time, decide to room together and spend months in darkened rooms during the day, never going out until night when they walk the streets of Paris together, arm in arm....or is it years? They are still living together in this same way by the Marie Rogét Murder case and I would guess they will continue through the Purloined Letter case too.

Their fascination for one another is mirrored in Quentin and Poe - and then for Duponte, perhaps. Quentin does seem to be attracted to something in both of these two men. The narrator in the Rue Morgue Murders has suspended his whole life in the darkened rooms with Dupin - no reason given as I recall. At least Quentin says he will return to his old life once Poe's murder has been resolved. Poe's narrator's future seems less clear.

Maybe the narrator is avoiding his "real life" too, just as Quentin seems to be doing Laura. Hattie acted very strangely when she ran into Quentin in the street, didn't she? Warned him to keep moving, not to turn around and let her aunt see him - and promises to get in touch with him. Does it sound as if the Baron is behind it?

Anne, I'm thinking there's a parallel between how lawyers view truth. Peter and the Baron seem to be one type - Quentin and Duponte the other. And Duponte's interested in the truth is what draws Quentin to Duponte to get to the truth of Poe's last days.

Now, here's a question that keeps buzzing in my head - how did the Baron, with the help of Bonjour, manage to get Baltimore into Poe in a matter of days? Do you find that believable? If so, will you explain how all of Baltimore is talking about Poe in so short a time?

Matthew - I loved the thought of the Ravens fans reciting The Raven before the first game! I wonder if they were reading it?

September 17, 2006 - 02:54 pm
The ravens are cawing!! They won their second game! I think they should start shouting "Nevermore!" at their opponants.

September 17, 2006 - 03:02 pm
African-Americans in Baltimore:

Have you noticed that several freed slaves have been mentioned already? It was the custom for planters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to free their slaves in their wills. By the time of the Civil War, half of the African Americans in Maryland were free. Many of these freed slaves would make their way to Baltimore, where they could more easily find jobs and had less chance of being recaptured.

Another route to Baltimore was that taken by Frederick Douglass. He was not freed, but taught a trade (I can't remember which one) and sent to Baltimore to be "rented out", to provide revenue for his master. Later, he was able to escape, and make his way north.

(Sources "Slavery in Maryland" -- I don't remember the author, and Frederick Douglass' Autobiography)

September 17, 2006 - 09:51 pm
We find out that one of the freed slaves in Baltimore is named Edwin Hawkins. I thought this was very interesting. I have an old record album of gospel music sung by "The Edwin Hawkins Singers," including the song "O, Happy Day." I wonder who Edwin Hawkins really was? The only thing I find on the web is info about the musician/choir director Edwin Hawkins, born in 1943, who started this singing group. I wonder if he was named after someone famous?

September 17, 2006 - 10:06 pm
I took a book of Poe's literature out of the library to read the 3 Poe Dupin mysteries. One of Poe's works is called "Shadow — a Parable" (1835). Here's a quote from it:

"Ye who read are still among the living, but I who write shall have long since gone my way into the region of shadows. For indeed strange things shall happen, and many secret things be known, and many centuries shall pass away, ere these memorials be seen of men. And, when seen, there will be some to disbelieve, and some to doubt, and yet a few who will find much to ponder upon in the characters here graven with a stylus of iron."

I'm going to have to read it.

I think "The Poe Shadow" could mean a number of things. "Region of shadows" here seems to mean the world of the dead, so a shadow can mean someone dead - like a definition for the word "shade": a disembodied spirit; a ghost. The ghost of Poe certainly looms over Quentin.

The shadow could also be like the heavy gloom on the soul cast by the raven in Poe's poem "The Raven."

"And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted---nevermore!"

September 17, 2006 - 10:11 pm
Quentin and Duponte rely heavily on newspaper articles to research Poe's death.

I'm noticing in reading Poe's Dupin mysteries that Dupin questions newspaper articles about crimes - that they editorialize. The writers want to make certain points and adjust or select facts to fit their point. Their conclusions are not reached necessarily by logic.

September 18, 2006 - 04:16 am
Anne, I don’t think you were asleep while reading the story --- I also had no idea it was Duponte in the reading room until he removed his disguise!

I thought bonjourier was a made up word. Maybe not! Thanks for the info., Joan.

Joan said, “Hattie acted very strangely when she ran into Quentin in the street, didn't she? Warned him to keep moving, not to turn around and let her aunt see him - and promises to get in touch with him. Does it sound as if the Baron is behind it?”

I didn’t think of Baron in this case. I think Hattie was trying to avoid a scene which may occur if her Aunt saw Quentin. She knew they couldn’t talk in the street, and that he wouldn’t contact her, since he hadn’t. She still wanted to talk to him, so I suspect she will pass a note through someone to Quentin.

I did notice the mention of the freed blacks. More little known tidbits of history!

September 18, 2006 - 04:24 am
We are discussing the meaning of the title in the BNU discussion too, Marni.

I thought one meaning of the title could be derived from the idea that Quentin is Poe's shadow, that is, when Poe is alive. Quentin follows the work of Poe closely.

Another meaning of the title could be derived from the idea that Quentin shadows Poe's life after Poe has died in order to understand the mystery of Poe's life and death.

Matthew posted this link to Shadow: A Parable: Shadow: A Parable

I had to read it a couple of times. I expected a parable, like the Bible, or maybe like a fable, but this was much more complex.

Matthew said, “…it's worth remembering that Poe wrote this at the time of a cholera outbreak. It's hard for us to imagine (although, as a society, we often do imagine it in movies or in health scares like the bird virus) but people would be dropping dead left and right after being sick only for days.”

September 18, 2006 - 05:31 am
Yes! Vidocq is the forerunner of all literary detectives -- since he was a real detective, he doesn't quite count as a literary detective, although his memoirs were probably highly fictional! Anyone who has the Modern Library edition of the Dupin tales that I edited, there is an excerpt from Vidocq's memoirs in the appendix... it's really interesting stuff and IN FACT at one point I considered using Vidocq as a character in The Poe Shadow, at one point considering that Quentin goes to find Vidocq himself

Rabies -- Anne, thanks for mentioning that -- the rabies speculation was pretty much total speculation, and was arrived at using faulty documents from Dr. Moran's later life, when he began to rewrite history in the 1870s and 1880s to promote himself in relation to Poe... still, almost nothing medically can be ruled out

marni-- thanks for bringing up newspapers, and for Joan P posting that great image of an old Baltimore Sun -- the Poe Dupin tales are among the most interesting fictional uses of newspapers and reflect the growing importance of newspaper media in understanding life, both accepting and disputing what the newspapers report... I try to reflect this in Poe Shadow as well

LauraD-- yep, bonjouriers were real, and thanks to Joan P for that post -- I loved the word as soon as I saw it and knew I had my female assassin

Marni-- Poe really did "sell" a 20 year old slave named Edwin when Poe himself was around 20... I've done lots of research, but have not been able to track down Edwin's last name, so Hawkins is my own addition

Joan Pearson
September 18, 2006 - 07:47 am
Good Monday morning, Matthew! Thanks for starting off your week with us!

Marni brought up the newspaper articles yesterday - and the fact that they tended to editorialize to make a point. My first impression was that serious newspapers wouldn't carry such details of a specific case - details that weren't necessarily true, conclusions not necessarily logical - sensationalist journalism - But you post that the newspaper industry was growing at this time and folks relied on them for ALL of the news - even unsubstantiated news. The need for reliable sources would come later. I can see where someone like the Baron could easily influence just one writer to suit his purpose. ~

The newswriters were interested in engaging readers - their readers' imaginations. C. Auguste Dupin and Duponte knew this - and were able to sift through the hype to get to truth. Remember the definition of "ratiocination that we've been puzzling over? How is "imagination" involved in Dupin and Duponte's techniques? Here we see Duponte instructing Quentin to bring him MORE than the news articles he has been painstakingly collecting. Duponte wants the names of the papers, the dates the articles appeared, etc. The imagination seems to need some boundaries!

Quentin gives us his understanding of the "ratiocination" process. Does this help explain the role of imagination?
"Ratiocination, Noun. The act of deliberate, calculated reasoning through the imagination and spirit; the intimate observation and forecasting of the complexities in human activity; especiall6y the frequent simplicty in that activity. Not interchangeable with mere "calculus" or logic.""
Laura - of course you are right - I had no logical reason to conclude that the Baron had somehow put fear into Hattie. My imagination got the better of me - no facts, no logic involved. The fact that the Baron is described as such a chameleon - and has been so successful at influencing the Baltimore readers to pick up Poe - I guess I endowed him with superhuman powers. Why couldn't he infuence Hattie - or her aunt? But there are no facts to support my conclusion.

Joan Pearson
September 18, 2006 - 08:06 am
Very interesting discussion on the meaning of the book's title. I'm thinking it can mean a number of things - you all have great ideas! Wasn't it a coincidence that Marni posted an excerpt from One of Poe's works, called "Shadow — a Parable" (1835) - and then along came Laura with an excerpt from the same Poe story - which Matthew posted in the B&N discussion! Is the reference to the "Region of shadows," the region of the dead the source of your inspiration for the title, Matthew? The mystery of Poe's death casting a shadow over Quentin's life - and those associated with his demise? Or are there a number of meanings that inspired your choice of "shadow"? I like the whole concept of Quentin - and the Baron shadowing one another too.

Anne, you referred to the letter from Poe to his former mother-in-law. You may be interested in reading more of Poe Correspondence - this link includes the "Dear Muddy" letter - it is found in the heading under "Related links" too - for future reference. Remember that "Muddy" was not only his former MIL, but also his aunt whom he lived with before his marriage. I thought she was financially dependent on "Eddy" ...so don't understand why he refers to her as his "beloved protector" - funny to think of little "Eddie Poe" isn't it? I'm not sure why Eddie is expecting her to write to him - under the fake name. Maybe we'll get learn the answer. Maybe not. Lots of intrigue.

Quentin observes that he senses a "cheerless unrest" in Baltimore - and he's only been away for one season.
~He mentions the demolition of old buildings, new warehouses...lots of debris in the streets.
~ Matthew tells us that there is a major cholera outbreak at this time - in all the big cities - Baltimore included. Have we seen any cases yet?
~ JoanK mentions the newly freed slaves pouring into Baltimore, looking for work. Some of those we have seen so far do not seem overjoyed in their new roles, working for the wealthy - almost treated like slaves again. This must have been one of the reasons for the unrest that Quentin senses - even in his own home!

ps JoanK - Maybe our Redskins need some of those Ravens' fans cawing in the stands!

September 18, 2006 - 08:48 am
Maybe The Poe Shadow in the title refers to the shadow that loomed over Poe, rather than Poe's shadow that looms over others.

LauraD: Thanks for the link to the info about Poe's "Shadow - a Parable." I thought I was onto something when I saw that story listed in the library book! It was pretty interesting reading the words. It reminds me EXACTLY of another Poe story that I read many many years ago. I think it was "The Masque of the Red Death." I thought it was about the bubonic plague in Europe.....Hmmmm....Now that I think about it, though, wasn't the bubonic plague called the "black death"? Anyway, it was so similar. Death was like a visible shadow stalking some aristocrats who were hiding from the disease. But they couldn't keep it out. In both Poe stories, the shadow of disease is bound by no walls.

I read on the web that there were cholera outbreaks in Baltimore in 1831 and in 1842. I know that there were also periodic breakouts of smallpox in Philadelphia, New York, and other cities in 18th and 19th century America. Poe certainly would have been exposed to the effects. Then again, his young wife died of TB, another disease that ran pretty much rampant in the 19th century.

September 18, 2006 - 04:17 pm
I noticed in the "Acknowledgements" a refererence to the website of the Edgar Allen Poe Society of Baltimore. Matthew describes it as a site/"which should set the standard for all on-line literary resources." With that sort of recommendation, naturally I wanted to see it. If you would like to see it, here's the address:


JOAN, the Baron stirred up Baltimore by the tried and true method...advertising! He touted his plans re. the 'mystery' of Poe's death to the newspapers, had copies of Poe's books planted in book stores, had a stooge going around to all the libraries raving to patrons about how wonderful Poe was. He got people intrigued, and they started reading Poe's books.

In answer to Q. 4, the Baron certainly planned on making a substantial profit out of his scheme. He needed to rouse people's interest, He was claiming to be the 'Dupin' of Poe's stories, and that he was going to solve the mystery surrounding Poe's death. He would become famous, and exploit his fame in his larger-than-life, flamboyant style. I have no doubt he would know how to make a profit out of the situation.


September 18, 2006 - 08:14 pm
Yes, Matthew, I did listen to the unabridged version. And I agree with you that the reader was quite good. One of the best aspects of his performance is the way he makes the action scenes seem very believable.

This is a question for Matthew--You mentioned several book festivals where you will be appearing. Will any of them be covered by CSPAN (otherwise known as BookTV)? I watch this channel on weekends whenever I have time, and would like to record the session if you were going to give a talk.

I think "The Poe Shadow" refers to the shadow the author casts over Quentin's life, at least for a time.

September 19, 2006 - 03:15 am
Hi Horselover: re: cspan -- not that i know of... for the most part, cspan only covers nonfiction; there are some exceptions -- they will do an entrenched fiction writer, like tom clancy, or a panel that has a mix... but the exceptions are, well, the exceptions... i watch it too, though, so it would be fun one day!

Joan Pearson
September 19, 2006 - 01:08 pm
Poe doesn't mention cholera in Baltimore 1849 in his Rue Morgue Mysteries, does he? If course the setting is Paris. Is cholera associated with the poor - with sanitation and lack of medical care medical care? Or... Maybe Matthew will refer to it in later pages of this book -

Another factor contributing to the restlessness Quentin senses might be the immigration influx - France is just getting over the Revolution. There must be more like the Baron who have come for financial reasons, don't you think? Marni - I like your idea - clearly there was a shadow of sorts looming over Poe himself - otherwise why all the secrecy? Ann - quentin is operating in the shadows of his life, isn't he?

Babi - I thought the Baron did a remarkable job in a very short time rousing interest in Poe. Makes you wonder how many people he had working for him and how much he has to invest in the whole enterprise. To tell the truth, I found this somewhat unbelievable! Either that, or I'd like to hire him as my publicity manager when I get around to writing my book! Right, Matthew? An author's dream - covering all the bases!

You'd think he'd be running scared, knowing Duponte is on the scene. I can't get over Duponte's confidence in his own powers of deduction. Just like Poe's C. Auguste Dupin! He doesn't seem to have much of an investment in solving Poe's mysterious death. Not running up hotel bills either!

One of the things I didn't understand - his quick promise to the Baron not to speak to any of the witnesses of Poe's last days. Why make such a promise? Interesting the way quentin overhears so much information...he's getting the knack of being at the right place at just the right time! So we know something about the mysterious "Reynolds" whose name was on Poe's lips through his last night. A carpenter - an election judge at the polling place at Ryan's. I'll bet he could shed some light on Poe's condition before he collapsed. (Do you get the feeling that Matthew is going to work all known details surrounding Poe's death into his story?

Babi - I think there's a problem with the link to the eapoe society you posted? Will you check it out for us, please?

September 19, 2006 - 03:59 pm
Odd. I found the site again, but the address appears to be different. See if this works.



Joan Pearson
September 19, 2006 - 07:27 pm
Thanks, Babi! That time it worked! Great site - I put it in the heading for future reference. Love the Poe house as it looked when he lived here...with Muddy and Virginia.

The Poe House, Circa 1833

Poe lived with Maria Clemm and her family in the right side of the house.

September 19, 2006 - 08:56 pm
Re: "One of the things I didn't understand - his quick promise to the Baron not to speak to any of the witnesses of Poe's last days. Why make such a promise?"

I wondered the same thing. Then I thought "Ahah!" Duponte knows exactly what he's doing. He definitely has an ulterior motive of some sort. Maybe he thinks he has all he needs from them already? Maybe he doesn't need their testimony? Maybe he'll have Quentin speak to them instead? Maybe he got info about them from the newspapers?

September 19, 2006 - 09:22 pm
Reading Poe's story of Marie Roget makes it clearer what Duponte is doing with trhe newspaper. In that story, Poe (Dupin) uses several other apparently unrelated stories in the papers a clues as to what happened. We'll see if that happens in "Poe Shadow" as well.

September 20, 2006 - 03:47 am
Marni, I agree with every reason you gave for Duponte promising Baron that he would not speak with the witnesses, except, “Maybe he'll have Quentin speak to them instead.” Duponte has all the information he needs from the witnesses from the newspapers. Witness accounts have not solved the mystery of Poe’s death yet, so he is concentrating on looking at new evidence.

September 20, 2006 - 04:37 am
Yesterday I read A Descent Into the Maelstrom, The Gold Bug, and Series 2 of the Secret Chapters: The Humboldt Incident, in that order. My comments may contain spoilers, so steer clear of this post if you would like to read them yourself first.

I really liked Maelstrom, which was sort of a nature story, and very different from the other works I had read by Poe. I loved The Gold Bug! It is now my favorite Poe story. The Gold Bug gets my vote for Poe’s best prose (keeping in mind that I have only read about six of his works). I am always impressed when an author can write a dialect, and the dialect spoken by Jupiter, a former slave, was wonderfully conveyed.

It turns out the whirlpool portrayed in Maelstrom is real. This is from Online Encyclopedia:

Maelstrom: a term originally applied to a strong current running past the south end of the island of Moskenaes, a member of the group of Lofoten Islands on the west coast of Norway. It is known also as the Moskenstrom. Though dangerous in certain states of wind and tide, the tales of ships being swallowed in this whirlpool are fables. The word is probably of Dutch origin, from malen, to grind or whirl, and strom or stroom, a stream or current.

The Humboldt Incident is a fun Secret Chapter. I was pleasantly surprised when I found it, too, like The Gold Bug, contained a cipher. What a coincidence for me to have read the two stories back to back! I couldn’t help but wonder if The Gold Bug influenced The Humboldt Incident. Not only did both stories contain ciphers, but both contain a literary device I have seen in works from the mid 1800’s --- the use of the first few characters of a name, date, or place, with the rest of the word being represented by blanks. For example, on page 10 of The Humboldt Incident, Matthew writes, “Mr. A_____’s stateroom.” In The Gold Bug, I noted several examples: “October, 18 --,” “My Dear -- --,” and “Lieutenant G -- --.” What is this technique called and why do authors use it? My guess is that the information is irrelevant in detail; any date or name could be substituted with no effect on the story.

Joan Pearson
September 20, 2006 - 06:28 am
We keep going back to that definition of a "ratiocinator," don't we? Just how much inspiration is involved so that one can be confident enough he's solved a mystery?

Marni - sometimes Duponte seems to have a super power that goes way beyond the ordinary mortal's ability, doesn't he? Is it a special gift one is born with - or can it be developed? I agree with Laura about Quentin deposing witnesses - Duponte doesn't appear interested in anything Quentin is able to find out - except in those newspaper clippings!

JoanK - I think it is really helpful to read all three of the Dupin mysteries to understand Matthew's story. As you say, Dupin was able to solve The Marie Rogêt Murder from reading seemingly unimportant newspaper clippings. If you can get your hands on Poe's The Purloined Letter, I think it is a valuable source for the upcoming chapters.

Laura - you've outread me in your supplemental reading - Haven't read the Descent into the Maelstrom yet. Wasn't it the Baron, disguised as the enthusiastic Poe fan, who preferred The Gold Bug to Quentin's favorite - Descent into Maelstrom? I enjoyed Gold Bug until I reached decoding the message...and realized that I was scanning...and lost some enthusiasm through those pages. I was fascinated reading about the pre-war history - knowing the area, knowing the part Ft. Moultrie and Fort Sumpter would play in the next decade.

Do you think the Baron had the skill of a ratiocinator? How about Quentin? I've a link to the next series of Matthew's Secret Chapters in the heading - the Humboldt Incident - on board the ship to America - in which Quentin tries his hand at solving a mystery. Not sure Duponte is impressed - cautions him that he must consider whether finding the truth is worth the cost before getting involved.

If you have some time, you will enjoy these Secret Chapters - aboard the Humboldt on the way to America
Secret Chapters Following Chapter 10- Part I
Part II
Part III

I noted this in the Secret Chapters -
"The ratiocinator appears to those uninitiated observers to possess powers that are nearly divine – or demonic – divine, I say, because it is a talent wholly inaccessible for most."
Does the Baron display any powers of the ratiocinator in these chapters? Does Quentin?

Joan Pearson
September 21, 2006 - 05:54 am
The action really picks up in Book IV. Some of the chase scenes would lend themselves to film, don't you think?

I find the interaction with the freed slaves of great interest, realizing the amount of research into the period that went into the writing - and a lot of it into Poe - like the Gold Bug. Since Poe lived at the time, I'm assuming that he spoke to freed slaves and the dialogue is pretty accurate.

Finally, we get the relationship between Duponte and the Baron Dupin. I knew there was a lot more to it than merely the competition between them to identify the real Dupin. Do you remember seeing any evidence of ratiocination powers in the Baron?

September 21, 2006 - 03:51 pm
If I could hear Officer White in person, I'm sure I would be gaping in disbelief. He, indeed the entire Baltimore police dept., seems more concerned with pretending crime doesn't exist in Baltimore than in catching criminals. Even to the point of ignoring a report of kidnapping! He wants to pretend Duponte doesn't exist, when there are household servants who can confirm the man's presence in the house, despite how crazy he may think Quentin is.

And why did Duponte go with his kidnappers so quietly? He could have made a disturbance, at least. Whatever else has happened, I still credit the man's acute intelligence. There's something I don't understand here, but I am still persuaded Duponte has reasons for what he does.

However, I despair of Quentin. He is a lawyer, and presumably an intelligent and level-headed man. Why has he behaved so idiotically in the lecture hall? It was Quentin, after all, who rented the hall for Duponte's lecture. Why didn't Quentin simply confront the lyceum director and demand to know why his instructions had been ignored? He had arranged for a free lecture; the director knew that. Why didn't he tell the man that the Baron was an imposter, and not the man for whom Quentin had rented the hall? QUENTIN's money hired the hall, therefore Quentin called the shots. Or he could have.

The answer, IMO, is that we have been building up an ominous frame of mind for Quentin, and the Poe 'shadow' has descended. Quentin is now behaving like a man with a shattered intellect, in the truest tradition of Poe. I find it just a wee bit too facile. (Sorry, Matthew). One just expects more of a trained lawyer. Maybe Baltimore just isn't up to 'Philadelphia lawyer' standards.


Joan Pearson
September 22, 2006 - 10:10 am
"And why did Duponte go with his kidnappers so quietly?" Babi - Like you I credit Duponte's ability to "ratiocinate" and must have had a good reason to walk out of the house and climb into the carriage. I assume the man sitting in the carriage "like a king," was the Baron...and will assume too that he is in his disguise looking just like Duponte. But Duponte didn't see him before he came out to the carriage, did he? Notice that he first "gave it some thought" before he went outside. Did he consider he might be putting himself in some kind of danger? Would he have gone if he had?

I believe he was expecting the Baron after posting those fliers. Do you think he really planned to give a lecture on Poe's last days, or was this just a ploy to make the Baron show his hand? My bet is that Duponte knew something we don't know - knew that the lecture would not go off as planned. Did he know that Poe's enemies or those involved in Poe's death would stop the lecture one way or another? I'll bet that Duponte is safe and sound somewhere?

Why do you believe it was Quentin who rented the hall for the lecture? Maybe I missed something. Remember when he went out in the rain at Duponte's direction and exchanged his garments for dry ones with the clothier? I thought it was then that he first saw the posted flier advertising Duponte's free lecture. When he came back to Glen Eliza Duponte related news of the lecture and sent him back out to post more of those yellow fliers. I thought this was the first time Quentin heard about the lecture from Duponte - which would mean that he didn't rent the hall.

As I think about it - I think that Duponte hired the hall himself - but had no intention of giving a lecture. I think everything was going according to his plan.

Don't have any idea who shot down the stage lights though. The Baron tells Quentin that he is the only one who could stop him, but that it is too late. Didn't he consider those French thugs who are a threat? What of those who might have had some interest in silencing Duponte/Dupin from revealing details surrounding Poe's death?

I understood Quentin's desperate actions on the stage when he realizes that the man who looks like Duponte is Dupin! He fears that something has happened to Duponte - and he fears that the Baron is going to reveal untruths about Poe. He tries everything he can think of to stop him - although I agree, not in a very "lawyerly" fashion!

There was something -that seemed a bit out of character to me - when Quentin handed his outer coat to the pauper who was standing in the rain looking at the poster. What was that about? Are we supposed to be seeing an altruistic side of Quentin that we hadn't seen before? I was left puzzled by the gesture. Quentin is now standing in the rain, soaked to the skin in those ill fitting clothes. Just like Poe might have done the night he died.

September 22, 2006 - 11:34 am
Hmmmm. I have to go back and read this part again. I got wrapped up in the story and read ahead and now have to go back. Lots of stuff going on here in this section. However, whatever happened, I definitely don't think Duponte was killed. He is certainly portrayed as a Dupin and very wily. He would be able to keep himself out of trouble one way or another.

Quentin, however, is constantly getting into trouble or acting dumb or getting emotionally involved and getting carried away or drugged or poisoned or beaten up or tied up or arrested or whatever. I'm more apt to be concerned about the well-being of Quentin than of Duponte.

September 22, 2006 - 12:05 pm
I find Newman's character very interesting. It is not easy for him to make an escape to any northern state. There is always the chance of being captured again.

"Newman was right; he would be traced even if his owner did not especially care about the loss."

Matthew Pearl, I do admit to being starstruck by an author's presence. Your book is fascinating. It's just easy to talk mumble jumble with an author in the house. I suppose you are not aware of your star power.

Like Quentin, I find the Baron's masquerade of Duponte haunting. I am amazed that Duponte seems quietly undisturbed by the Baron's powerful acts.

September 22, 2006 - 12:12 pm
I also like the definition of the word "nigger." My parents always called anyone with crude behavior a "nigger." Therefore, any white or black person without manners, without self respect is a "nigger."

"Among the Africans, both slaves and free, in the southern and in northern states, the use of the word nigger was not about race."

September 22, 2006 - 12:37 pm
I have heard the term "manumission." It is hard for me to explain or define. I hope Matthew Pearl will define it. From what I understand manumission is running away to freedom without the permission from a slave owner or master. Manumission is on the mind of Newman. However, he is fully aware of the consequences of such a daring step.

What is the difference between emancipation and manumission?

September 22, 2006 - 12:56 pm
Hmmm, you are right, Joan. On careful re-reading, it does not appear that Quentin hired the hall. I had gained the impression, probably erroneous, that Duponte did not have much money and that Quentin was paying for everything. And of course he had been pressuring Duponte to come forward and make his findings public. I made a connection there that did not exist.

Giving his coat to the shivering pauper was a kindly act, and not entirely out of character. After all, Quentin did take on the responsibility of seeing that the negro slave was safely 'sold' to his family. That was a kindly act, too. The giving of the coat was a bit off-hand, tho', I admit.

Quentin is in bad shape by the end of this segment. "I had lost all ability to articulate, all flow of logic. I shouted something about justice. I pulled and prodded, and was pushed in return." He is confused; he is seeing a whirl of faces he recognizes in the crowd, then the grinning face of the Baron. Noise, shots, stage lights down,.. Whoo,..exciting stuff!


September 22, 2006 - 01:56 pm
According to Wikipedia:

Manumitting slaves is a regular element of perhaps any system of slavery and not a rejection of it. If anything it works in the opposite direction, to help maintain the system and make it more palatable to both parties. In this it differs from emancipation, the wholesale freeing of slaves by an act of government. Two 19th century examples of the latter are the liberation of the serfs in Russia in the 1860s and of American slaves after the Civil War, also in the 1860s.

September 22, 2006 - 02:02 pm
Perkie, thank you for the definition.

September 22, 2006 - 02:07 pm
Yesterday I read The Purloined Letter. Again, if you want to read it yourself, please do not read further in my post as it may be a spoiler.

The main point I noticed in The Purloined Letter was that things are often hidden in plain sight. I did not immediately see the connection to The Poe Shadow, like I did with the other Poe stories, until I read discussion question #2. Baron was essentially hiding in plain sight by looking like Duponte.

Did anyone else see any similarities between The Purloined Letter and The Poe Shadow?

September 22, 2006 - 02:14 pm
Joan said, “Quentin is now standing in the rain, soaked to the skin in those ill fitting clothes. Just like Poe might have done the night he died.”

Exactly! When I read this, I couldn’t help but think that Quentin was following in Poe’s footsteps…the Poe shadow.

September 23, 2006 - 02:03 am
LauraD, I see some similarities between Baron Dupin and Dupin in the story. I have read these in The Poe Shadow.

1. Both Baron Dupin and Dupin in the story make use of disguises. Dupin in the story wears "green spectacles."

2. Both Dupins are lawyers

3. Both men also are well aware of the importance or need for money

I also have read about a difference between the Baron Dupin and Duponte. Duponte, in The Poe Shadow, I think, treats Quentin like an enthusiastic, intelligent child jumping up and down in his seat. The childlike Quentin is totally involved with the subject at hand, the death of Poe, and is enjoying the thrill of learning a new craft, investigation. While Duponte remains steady on his course not becoming excited over every word or idea flowing from Quentin's mouth. Duponte sees Quentin as an amateur sleuth, a beginner with a spyglass, flashlight and notepad with pencil.

"Yet Auguste Duponte, my own companion, hardly gave credence to my role as collaborator and quietly dismissed my numerous ideas and suggestions..." Poor Quentin. He is giving his all and feels taken for granted. Well, now he knows how Hattie feels about being ignored.

In Poe's story or stories, Dupin relies heavily on his assistant. His words are important for him to hear and digest. I think of the two coexisting together in the thought processes like siamese twins.

September 23, 2006 - 02:25 am
All of the slaves were set free after the Civil War. The Emancipation of Proclamation is the document written about this period in American History. Manumission, If I understand Perkie, is the freeing of one man, one woman or a few slaves by the slave owner. This is the case of Newman. He expects Duponte to free him, "spring" him in the future. Although Newman knows Duponte means to free him, he can not leave and go up north without papers stating that he is free. Taking steps on his own without the permission of his owner can only lead to severe consequences, even death.

In my eyes, I see manumission as a legal agreement for a slave's freedom. However, it was a very dicey situation. Thank goodness for the Emancipation of Proclamation which involved the government and not the feelings of one man to choose the destiny for a few slaves.

Besides, these pieces of paper written by one southern gentleman could possibly be destroyed at the whim of another white man. Manumitting made a slave feel almost free but not totally free. Now I am thinking of freemen. Freemen, before the Emancipation of Proclamation, were never sure of their freedom either. If at the wrong place at the wrong time, a freed person could find himself back in the south serving as a slave. We needed the Emancipation of Proclamation.

September 23, 2006 - 03:16 am
Solomon Northup

Joan Pearson
September 23, 2006 - 08:33 am
Good morning! Fascinationg information to consider today! Don't you find the new vocabulary interesting? It takes us back to an earlier time in our history and lends to our understanding of Baltimore in Poe's time. A huge amount of research went into this - Matthew went way beyond researching Poe's last days - like Poe's Dupin, he was interested in other events in those newspapers! Matthew became a "ratiocinator" while writing his novel!

Someone mentioned being frightened by the term, "ratiocination"- was it you, Hats? I see Matthew going out of his way in Poe Shadow to explain to us the meaning to the word. He describes the powers as - "nearly divine – or demonic – divine, I say, because it is a talent wholly inaccessible for most." No wonder we have a problem believing any mortal has such divine - or demonic power!

There's another vocabulary word that gets us thinking - "manumission. Such good questions! Thank you so much Perkie for the explanation of the difference between between emancipation and manumission? But exactly what was manumission? I understood that Newman could leave Baltimore as long as he had the papers and the sponsorship of the white man who freed him - he had to get out of Maryland, a slave state to one of the northern states. Do I misunderstand that correctly? As long as he hangs around Baltimore, he's in danger of having his papers destroyed and being taken back into slavery again. Thanks for the link to the heartbreaking true story of Solomon Northup, Hats! (I lingered on his last name - "North - up)

Newman had been working for the Baron, but the Baron didn't own him. The Baron was not at all happy when he was "manumitted" by his owner - who had been renting him out to the Baron. I forget - was it Duponte or Quentin who paid his owner for his release? I'm thinking it must have been Quentin - did Duponte have any money?

The name - Hope Slatter, struck me as being the oddest in the novel. I was going to ask Matthew about the name, but on a whim I googled it and found he was a REAL slave dealer in Baltimore at this time! Look!

Slatter's Slave Trade Building
"There were still others, but the main slave dealer of them all was Hope H. Slatter, originally from Clinton, a small town about fifteen miles northeast of Macon, Ga.

Slatter was in the slave business in Baltimore at least as early as 1835. An advertisement of his on February 2 of that year in the Baltimore Republican and Commercial Advertiser shows that at that time he wished "particularly to purchase several seamtresses and small fancy girls for nurses."

During July, August and September of 1838 Slatter ran a series of twenty-seven lengthy advertisements to The Sun. The wording in several of these notices varied slightly, but they all referred to the new building which he had just erected." Hope Slatter

Joan Pearson
September 23, 2006 - 09:30 am
Laura, Hats - as you both point out, the influence of the Purloined Letter is quite strong, here - your comparison of Baron Dupin and C. Auguste Dupin made me stop and think, not only of their similarities, but their differences! As you say they both make use of disguises! The Baron's strength seems to be gathering evidence and then making use of the information in a devious way meant to deceive. That's his strength. C. Auguste Dupin and Duponte both value getting to the truth - at any cost! But maybe our Duponte has learned to consider the cost of getting to the truth.

Laura saw from the Purloined Letter that things are often hidden in plain sight - "the Baron was essentially hiding in plain sight in by looking like Duponte."

Here's something else I noticed - that may provide another clue as to the whereabouts of Duponte. The Purloined Letter involves more than one party? Dupin is asked to find the letter, which turns out to be hidden in plain sight - as Laura tells us. The letter has been stolen - the victim knows the identity of the thief. In The Poe Shadow , Duponte's identity has been stolen - he too knows the thief. The holder of the letter holds power over the true owner because the revelation would bring into question a third party's honor.

So what is the Baron holding over Duponte? Whose honor is Duponte trying to protect?

Another riddle from the Purloined Letter - "the power of the robber depends on the robber's knowledge of the loser's knowledge of the robber." How do you translate that? The Baron's power over Dupont depends on his knowledge of Duponte's knowledge of the Baron??? Do you think this can mean that Duponte will come upon new knowledge of the Baron that will cause him to step out of hiding to identify the thief? Is this Quentin's task then? To uncover this new information?

September 23, 2006 - 09:34 am
JoanP, thank you for the link about Hope Slatter. The place where the slaves stayed had barred window. Although, the article describes the slaves as able to entertain themselves before being sold, it is impossible to forget the fact that these men and women were kept behind bars waiting to be sold like cattle or some other livestock.

I have always liked Whittier's poetry. Whittier was an abolitionist, strongly against the bonds of slavery.


Joan Pearson
September 23, 2006 - 09:54 am
Marni, I'm wondering about Quentin's character too. What has happened to him since the start of the story...as you point out - "he is constantly getting into trouble or acting dumb or getting emotionally involved and getting carried away or drugged or poisoned or beaten up or tied up or arrested or whatever." Why has he suddenly become so inept? Is it because he has stepped out of the safety zone of Glen Eliza and his law practice into the unsavory underworld for the first time - and is totally out of his element?

Hats - I don't see how Quentin could have lived in Hope Slatter's Baltimore - and not been aware of the slave trade. But perhaps the high society had developed blinders to it...accepting it as a way of life. They probably didn't frequent those parts of town where Quentin is now wandering. Quentin may be coming into direct contact with this part of Baltimore's society for the first time in his life.

Hats sees him as "learning a new craft" - under the tutelage of Duponte who dismisses his numerous ideas and suggestions. He's giving his all, isn't he Hats? Maybe he'll come to appreciate Hattie by the end of the story!

Babi - I'm wondering if we are seeing a new side of Quentin's character? He's been living in the safety of another Baltimore than he is now seeing - and for the first time maybe he's considering those less fortunate. That would explain the overcoat to the poor man. But yes, he is in very bad shape by the end oe htis segment - he's in over his head and helpless to do anything to stop the world from spinning out of control. He's lost his ability to speak or act.

Laura's thought: Quentin is following in Poe's footsteps. Matthew too! At this point, I'm wondering whether Quentin is going to help Duponte or will Duponte come to Quentin's aid. My money is on Quentin. I think Quentin will need to come out as the hero to save Poe's name. What do you think?

September 23, 2006 - 11:56 am
Edwin Hawkins, the freed slave, tells about the kindness he experienced from Poe's hand. Poe sells Hawkins for forty dollars to a black family. Poe could have sold Hawkins to any white slave owner for a larger sum of money. From somewhere I had gotten the idea that Poe was not sympathetic about the plight of the black slaves. Now, I am a little bit confused. How did Poe feel about the black slave? Is Hawkins a character made up by Matthew Pearl? Did Matthew give Poe a softer heart in the story? If so, why? In Historical Fiction how can the reader tell what is true vs. what is untrue?

September 23, 2006 - 12:31 pm
HATS, I seem to remember Matthew saying that it is a fact that Poe arranged the sale of a slave in this manner, for his mother-in-law. Whether the slaves name was Hawkins is moot,

So far as I can see, Poe's love for his wife, for his aunt-cum-mother-in-law, who was like a mother to him, does not suggest to me a man who was hard of heart. Family seems very important to him. He has suffered many disappointments, and may often have been moody, sad or depressed. But I can't see him as a hard-hearted man.


September 23, 2006 - 02:40 pm
So many great comments! Let me just touch on a few…

Hats, thanks so much for the additional comparisons between The Poe Shadow and The Purloined Letter. I spotted the information you mentioned on pages 209 and 210 when I was reviewing these chapters. The story of Solomon Northup was fascinating, but so sad. I cannot imagine the fear that at any moment, my freedom could be lost. From what I have heard and read, many people around the world still live with this type of fear today. Wow.

Joan, thanks for the information on Hope Slatter. I love the historical tidbits.

Hats, you talked about Poe making an arrangement to sell Edwin to a black family, which was essentially another way of freeing a slave. I couldn’t help but think of the novel The Known World by Edward P. Jones. If you haven’t read it, I do recommend it. It is about black slave owners --- quite the opposite of what we are reading in The Poe Shadow, yet both are true.

Joan, I agree with you translation of the riddle, but don’t want to comment further since I have completed the book.

What has happened to Quentin? Why is he inept? I think he is exhausted, physically and emotionally. This quest he has led himself on has cost him his job, his fiancé, has him interacting with odd people, has him moving in the fringes of society as he knew it, yet what has he really accomplished up to this point? He was just about to find out from the lecture. Poor guy! No wonder he is a mess! However, now he must pull himself together again. Yes, I am cheering for him too, Joan.

Hats, there is a historical note at the end of The Poe Shadow. Don’t read it until you have finished the book, but it does answer a lot about what is historically true.

September 23, 2006 - 02:45 pm
Babi, I feel the same way. I feel that, for some reason, many falsehoods grew up around Poe's name. The fact that he was a hard drinker seems like an untruth too. I remember one of the characters in Poe Shadow telling Quentin that one drink could severely harm Poe's ability to function. So, the fact that he would drink and drink until he was unable to function seems totally untrue.

Yes, I have read "The Known World" by Edward P. Jones. I am well aware of blacks owning slaves. No matter whether a black or white person owned slaves does not matter. Slavery is not beneficial to the person being owned. Unfortunately, the majority of slave owners were white in American. I don't think anyone would argue with that point.

September 23, 2006 - 02:54 pm
LauraD thank you. I haven't looked at the back of the book yet. I will look forward to reading the information at the end.

I began to feel Poe was unsympathetic about the black slaves after reading this statement from the Poe discussion. It is written Matthew Pearl. It was one of the reasons I felt unsettled about reading Poe.

"Poe's sympathy for the orangutan was limited, as was his sympathy for blacks in America."

Maybe I have misinterpreted this quote. If so, I am sorry. If that is the case, I would like the statement explained again or further please.

September 23, 2006 - 03:05 pm
Babi, many people, during the time of slavery, were kind to their relatives and friends. Many of these same people attended church daily. These slave owners traded people for money, separated families and had no guilt about thinking the slave was an animal. Maybe thinking the slave was an animal helped excuse the beatings which were given to the slaves.

This is not to say all slaveowners were cruel. Some were "kind." This kindness is hard to understand. When an adult needs a pass to go on a visit, when a slave husband would have to watch another man take his wife sexually, then I say "kindness" in this era of history was peculiar.

Some slaveowners taught the slave or slaves to read. Wonderful. Still, when I compare my free life to a slave's life something comes up missing. I never had to gain permission to walk in a library. Neither did I have to ask for permission to read, hoping my white master and mistress would agree to my desire. If a person can not make decisions for himself or herself, then, the system is wrong. Harriet Beecher Stowe had the clear vision to see the slave system was disgusting.

September 23, 2006 - 03:27 pm
This is another statement from the Murders of Rue Morgue discussion by Matthew Pearl. I think Matthew Pearl is just giving clear facts about the people and their feelings during that period. I am grateful to him for bringing such facts out and into the open for discussion.

"Poe was writing before Darwin's theories, but it's very likely Poe was using the orangutan as a racial stand-in -- the enslaved dark creature, abused and driven to violence; "

I think this statement shows a flaw in Poe's character. Remember, his statement is made before Darwin's theories came to light. I am glad. Therefore, there is not a need to discuss Evolution vs. Creation here. However, Poe's thought seems equal to the idea that black slaves were violent.

Sure, some slaves like Nat Turner did turn to violence in slave uprisings. John Brown, a white man, also turned to violence. From my reading slavery drove some to violence. There were others who became weak and meek like obedient children, unable to think for themselves. In either case, slavery, such a psychologically strong system managed by man had the ability to warp and manipulate a person's mind. To this day some people see all black men as brutal and violent. All stereotypes which are alive and well today. Slavery is a dead system but it's rotten, false, generalized ideas remain alive, refusing to be buried.

September 23, 2006 - 03:34 pm
I think it is impossible to read Matthew Pearl's book without discussing slavery. During the nineteenth century American slavery was just a very big part of the culture.

September 23, 2006 - 03:54 pm
A new book is out by Edward P. Jones. It is a collection of short stories. I love short stories.

Aunt Hagar's Children

September 23, 2006 - 03:58 pm
JoanP, I included Whittier's name because he was mentioned in the article link you gave us.

September 23, 2006 - 07:15 pm
HATS: I agree with you "I think it is impossible to read Matthew Pearl's book without discussing slavery. During the nineteenth century American slavery was just a very big part of the culture".

It WAS a very big part of the culture. Just because the actual ownership of slaves was confined to the South doesn't mean that it didn't affect the whole culture. Northern manufacturers, while righteously refusing to own slaves themselves, profited from slavery every bit as much as the Southerners did. William Lloyd Garrison, an anti-slavery writer, said it was easier to convince Southerners of the necessity to abolish it than it was to convince the Northern mill owners, who depended on the cheap cotton produced.

If Matthew Pearl is saying that Poe had a very low opinion of Blacks and yet helped to free a slave, I'm not a bit surprised. The attitude of those Whites living at the time is full of contradictions. Many Northerners hated slavery as an institution, and were sympathetic to Black individuals whom they knew, but were very prejudiced toward their idea of Blacks in general.

Poe would not have been alone in this. I have my great-great-grandfather's letters, written in the 1840s. He was anti-slavery, ran a station on the underground railway, and was very proud later of a distant relationship to John Brown. But his statements about Blacks "in general" are as full of prejudice and misinformation as any racist today.

September 23, 2006 - 07:25 pm
I really like the scenes in the "Poe Shadow" dealing with the two ex-slaves. They manage in a few paragraphs to include a wealth of material about the situation if Blacks in Baltimore: the cruelty, lack of humanity, and lack of honoring the few safeguards they had with which they were treated, the ways in which they tried to circumvent this.

And the additional incredible pain of the separation of families. Frederick Douglass was separated from his mother as a young child, and was on a plantation some miles away from her. Every night, she would get up in the dark, walk the miles to his plantation to hold him in her arms for a short while, walk back in time to get up and work a full day.

She died when he was still young. He says he couldn't remember her face, but he could remember the feeling of waking in the night to feel warm arms around him.

September 24, 2006 - 01:01 am
JoanK, your post is great! It's hard to talk about this period of history because it's like a lot of double talk, like being in a movie and all the scenes are flipping backwards, "contradiction" is right. Even Abraham Lincoln was full of contradictions. He didn't fight the Civil War to free the slaves. He fought the Civil War to reunite the country. The country was being torn apart by the secessionists. The slaves were a part of the package, not his main concern.

The North was just as bad as the South at that time. It was not a land of love and hospitality either. Writing and talking about this period just strains the mind. I am so glad to live in the present and not in the past. Unfortunately, the past lives with us. If history is not talked about people will relive dreadful mistakes.

JoanK, I love what you wrote here. It is amazing what Matthew Pearl accomplished with these two people. I could never write the words like you have here. I have recopied your words.

" I really like the scenes in the "Poe Shadow" dealing with the two ex-slaves. They manage in a few paragraphs to include a wealth of material about the situation if Blacks in Baltimore: the cruelty, lack of humanity, and lack of honoring the few safeguards they had with which they were treated, the ways in which they tried to circumvent this"

I have read Frederick Douglass' book. Wow! I am glad you brought it up. It is so moving especially the part where he is separated from his mother. I have also read Incidents of a Slave Girl. It really is emotional too.

September 24, 2006 - 01:18 am
Frederick Douglass

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

September 24, 2006 - 01:24 am
I do not think this era of American History should separate us. It should bring us together because all of us have ancestors who lived during this time. Talking about any part of history is a binding force. History also is powerful. We learn to make a better world for our children and grandchildren and other coming generations.

September 24, 2006 - 02:40 am
In The Purloined Letter by Poe, Dupin tells about a little boy skilled at winning all of the marbles belonging to other children. He had the gift of being able to guess whether their hands held an even or odd amount of marbles. Using this method the boy won many marbles. Did this little boy have the gift of ratiocination? He is using deductive thinking, right?

"Of course he had some principle of guessing; and this lay in mere observation and admeasurement of the astuteness of his opponents."

The metamorphisis used in The Purloined Letter is Dupin's decision to shape his face like the other person of interest. For example, if the person frowns, Dupin would frown. Then, his mind would begin to think the same thoughts as the person really wearing the frown.

"I fashion the expression of my face, as accurately as possible, in accordance with the expression of his, and then wait to see what thoughts or sentiments arise in my mind or heart, as if to match or correspond with the expression."

Is this the skill of ratiocination being used by Dupin?

September 24, 2006 - 02:49 am
I am rereading The Purloined Letter. I find it very interesting. So, failure comes when we look no further than our personal idea of where the truth might lie. Success comes by using the ability to think beyond ourselves and begin thinking like the "felon." It's like going out of our bodies and into the mind and hearts of others before, in this case, any mystery has the chance to be solved. This is the magnificent ability or talent owned by Dupin.

Is it possible to become a great deal smarter after reading Poe's stories??? I do believe reading his stories could reshape the mind in a positive fashion.

September 24, 2006 - 03:34 am
What do the French words at the end of The Purloined Letter mean?

September 24, 2006 - 07:47 am
What a big cliffhanger! That dirty dog, the Baron Dupin, imitating Duponte. I am out of breath just from reading this part of the book. What will happen in Book V??? I can't imagine.

Joan Pearson
September 24, 2006 - 09:27 am
Great posts - great questions to consider! And what an opportunity to focus on this pre-Civil War period in our history. Do you realize that the importation of slaves had been banned in the US since 1808 when Thomas Jefferson signed the bill abolishing slavery? So the slaves that we are considering in Baltimore at this time have been in the country for some 40 years. Hats - writes - "I think it is impossible to read Matthew Pearl's book without discussing slavery. During the nineteenth century American slavery was just a very big part of the culture". I agree, with you, Hats.

Matthew Pearl is collecting study questions to be printed in the paperback edition. (Wouldn't it be great if we could come up with a good one here in our discussion?) Here's a question from his web site that coincides with what we have been talking about here these days ~
"In addition to serving as physical locales, Baltimore and Paris may be said to serve as "characters" in the book. What do the cities add to the novel, and what kinds of details bring alive their histories?"
How would you describe the character of the residents of Baltimore? To simplify, I think we'd have to say that Baltimore wears two faces. JoanK writes "The attitude of those Whites living at the time is full of contradictions. Many Northerners hated slavery as an institution, and were sympathetic to Black individuals whom they knew, but were very prejudiced toward their idea of Blacks in general. " Joan, do you consider Baltimore, your Maryland, North or South? "The situation of Blacks in Baltimore: the cruelty, lack of humanity," - yes, I agree with you, this is how Matthew has portrayed them in Poe Shadow. But where was Poe on the slavery issue? That is the confusing question du jour.

Babi writes that it was factual that Poe arranged for the sale of his Muddy's slave - at her instruction. Well, she told him to sell him, but as has been pointed out, he could have sold him to a white man for $600 rather than the $40 to the black family. What young Poe did indicated where his heart was, don't you think, Hats? To sell a slave to a black family was the first step to freedom, I believe.

The slave was not a character made up by Matthew Pearl - just his last name, was unavailable. A good question for Matthew -
"In Historical Fiction how can the reader tell what is true vs. what is untrue?"
Has Matthew Pearl presented a more sympathetic picture of Poe than can be observed from his work? Is that the real question here? From The Poe Shadow
"Poe did not write much about the slavery question," I [Quentin/Matthew P.] said. "He was not a writer for any abolitionist causes." In fact, it had always seemed to me that Poe never liked causes at all, automatically believing them hypocritical. Yet he did this in your situation, forging hundreds of dollars, at a time when he was entirely poor and without support."

Edwin replied, "It is not a question of what a man writes...It is a question of what a man does that says who he is...I loved him for it and love him still." p. 248

Joan Pearson
September 24, 2006 - 09:55 am
Here's a question that has come up several times in our discussion of The Poe Shadow Do you believe that reading Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue is very important/not very important in understanding and appreciating Matthew Pearl's book? We had hoped to read and discuss all three of the Dupin tales simultaneously with the discusson of Poe Shadow. It didn't work out that way and most of you have just read the first story - and not yet made it to the Purloined Letter. Personally, I think that this story should be "required reading" before going any further.

Hats picked up something important from Poe's tale - "failure comes when we look no further than our personal idea of where the truth might lie." Yes, if we've learned that, I do believe that our powers of observation - and logical reasoning will be sharper , Hats!

You made an interesting connection here - Is the Baron Dupin using the skill of ratiocination as he fashions not only his face, but so convincingly assumes the personality of Duponte from close observation? Do you believe that the Baron possesses the skills of C. Auguste Dupin?

"What do the French words at the end of The Purloined Letter mean?"
“Un dessein si funeste, S'il n'est digne d'Atrée, est digne de Thyeste.” -

I had to look up the meaning of that one, Hats - and glad I did. Not only because I found the meaning, but because of other information included in the search that we can use in the coming chapters...The literal translation of the French - “If such a sinister design isn't worthy of Atreus, it is worthy of Thyestes.” I looked up Atreus and his twin brother Thyestes - in Greek mythology - the two were exiled by their father for having murdered their step-brother."
In The Purloined Letter D- is startled by a gunshot in the street. While he goes to investigate. Dupin switches D-’s letter for a duplicate. The man with the gun is in Dupin’s pay.

The narrator asks Dupin why he bothered to leave a duplicate. Dupin replies that, if he did not, he probably wouldn't’t have left the hotel alive! As a political supporter of the Queen, he hopes that when D- produces the unopened letter it will mean the minister’s downfall. For the letter he left contains an insulting note - which points to the guilt of both parties - just as Atreus and his twin brother, Thyestes are both guilty of the murder of their step-brother.
This will all make more sense in the final chapters - when Quentin has to consider when it would be better if the truth is never revealed! We're getting real close to "spoiler" time...and I want us to enjoy hanging on the cliff for another day!

Super Sunday, everyone! I've got to go out and plant my pansies before the rains - damaging wind too, according to the weatherman!

September 24, 2006 - 01:36 pm
Edwin replied, "It is not a question of what a man writes...It is a question of what a man does that says who he is...I loved him for it and love him still." p. 248

I thought this sentence or sentences so powerful. Edwin left the flower on Poe's grave. Is it possible that some present day ancestor of Edwin's family still puts a flower on Poe's grave????

September 24, 2006 - 06:45 pm
Church Hospital, the successor to the Washington College Hospital, has put up a nice web page about Poe's last illness and death. See http://www.lfchosting.com/eapoe/balt/poechh.htm.

I recall that some years ago, the University of MD gave the circumstances of Poe's last illness to a group of students as a case study,and thier conclusion was that their hypothetical patient died of rabies. This has distracted my readinf of this book.

I have concluded that we will never know just how Poe died. Thank goodness, we now have more compasson for people who suffer from alcoholism.

September 25, 2006 - 12:45 am
JoanP, thank you for explaining and translating the last words of The Purloined Letter.

LauraD, I thought of your words, "hidden in plain view" while reading The Purloined Letter. I loved your posts about the story. There is a book about slaves and quilting with the exact same title, "Hidden in Plain View." I will have to check the title again.

Quilts and slavery

Marni, I think you are right about Quentin. I think he is headed for the worse and most dangerous part of his adventure to learn more about Poe. I am worried about Quentin.

Babi, Like you wrote, those last moments are really exciting. Reading about a scene like the one between Quentin and the Baron Dupin is far better than seeing a movie. You can put all of your imagination to the test. Matthew Pearl, good job! When writing a book are the chase and fight scenes, where there is rapid movement all around, are these the hardest scenes to write? Are these scenes easier to write than other scenes?

While writing about Baltimore and Paris in the Nineteenth century, which place did you enjoy researching and writing about the most and why?

Also, did Poe really carry around a malacca cane? I didn't expect a sword to be hidden inside the cane? Did most classy, sophisticated men carry this cane?

September 25, 2006 - 01:21 am
My mind is spinning with questions. Matthew, I think Hattie seems too good to be true. After writing about her, do you feel she is too angelic? Did you ever think about changing Hattie and making her a partner sleuth for Quentin?

September 25, 2006 - 02:02 am
I remember hearing lots of talk, I guess in the sixties, about ESP. Is the idea of ESP interchangeable with the word "ratiocination?" If not, what is the difference and similarities between the two terms? I am still fascinated with the term "ratiocination."


September 25, 2006 - 04:24 am
I looked through the information on Matthew’s website, the Poe Museum website, and the Poe Society’s website and found nothing on how Poe felt about blacks. It is definitely a question for Matthew.

Hats, thanks so much for mentioning the book Hidden in Plain View. I heard about messages being hidden in quilts along the Underground Railroad this past summer on the TV program Treasure Hunters, the same one that introduced me to the Paris catacombs. I was thrilled to see that my local library has a copy of the book. I plan to check it out this week.

I don’t think ESP and ratiocination are the same thing. I would say that with ESP, thoughts just come to you, while with ratiocination, you must hazard a guess about something and think it through logically.

September 25, 2006 - 04:38 am
LauraD, now I really do understand "ratiocination." I am beginning to enjoy the spelling of the word. I already love the pronunciation.

September 25, 2006 - 06:57 am
Hi there, somehow I missed just a days and around 45 messages! Sorry about that, i can't remember what I was doing.

HATS-- Thanks for your interest in the slave questions. Manumission and emancipation may sometimes be used interchangeably, but I think technically manumission would be the official process of purchasing a slave's freedom, and a process coming from an individual or family, while emancipation would come from the governmen -- Ah, I see Perkie found a good definition, thanks! oh, and of the "star power", thank you so much for saying that, though I'm not sure about that!... Also, i may have posted this earlier, by Poe did indeed sell a slave named Edwin (we don't know the last name, so Hawkins is my addition) to a black family... You're right that Poe's relationship to slaves and to race generally is complicated and murky... Those of you who have read The Gold Bug know Poe can indulge in stereotypes, yet this doesn't mean Poe was a blanket racist-- his sympathy was definitely "limited" but not nonexistent (as some people might argue about Poe)... to whatever extent Murders in the Rue Morgue uses the orangutan as a racial stand-in (and this is debatable), even that portrayal is complicated... Poe could have chosen the orangutan to attack unprovoked, instead he makes sure we know its abused

JoanK-- on the same subject, i think you're absolutely right about the bluriness of racism in the 19th century -- and maybe today, too... it's "easier" for someone to be racist in the abstract, and maybe more difficult when face to face with a human being

LaruaD-- thanks for the careful attention to Poe's Dupin stories. They're so interesting, in part, for how much they don't tell us!

Joan P-- thanks for finding the Hope Slatter storefront! He was really a nefarious/interesting character... you know me, if there's someone in history that I can recruit, particularly as a side character, I usually opt to do that rather than invent someone ... more on the question of Poe's good deed with Edwin: it's odd, really, i wrestled with this quite a lot with my historian hat on-- we know only what Poe did in that case, not what he thought about it or how he decided to do it... I think in the novel perhaps we're dealing more with Edwin (and Quentin's) perception of Poe in that event rather than Poe's perception of it (which neither we nor they can know)

JBmillican-- on rabies, i may have posted on it before, but unfortunately the doctors who "concluded" this were probably very good doctors but not poe scholars-- alas, they were using notoriously flawed documents about poe's medical condition... in fact, it was more of a fun exercise at a medical conference and received press far out of proportion to its importance, even the head of the conference who thought up the exercise doesn't accept it...

Hats-- "Is it possible to become a great deal smarter after reading Poe's stories???" Quentin would love this question!

Joan Pearson
September 25, 2006 - 07:03 am
Good morning!

Your posts provide much to think about - and as expected, we have many, many questions as the house is brought down, literally, at the end of Book IV!

Do we know for sure that the Baron is not Poe's Dupin? Did he exhibit ratiocination power we've been describing when he used his powers of observation to succeed in changing himself into Duponte? Do you think that Duponte brought down the stagelights at the end of the book? One with real ratiocinaton power would be able to guess what the Baron has been up to. Don't you think Bonjour is somewhere close by? Maybe it's the pols from the Fourth ward who are concerned that the truth will reveal voting fraud? Or those French guys who seem to be following Quentin...

Jaunita - thank you so much for the link to the Poe museum's information on Washington Hospital and Poe's final days.!
Earlier, Matthew wrote "the rabies speculation was pretty much total speculation, and was arrived at using faulty documents from Dr. Moran's later life, when he began to rewrite history in the 1870s and 1880s to promote himself in relation to Poe... still, almost nothing medically can be ruled out."

This is what is described in greater length in the artificial you provided from the Poe Museum website -
"The exact details of Poe's condition and treatment here are left to us only in the writings of his attending physician, Dr. John J. Moran. Unfortunately, Dr. Moran (who seems to have given up medicine after 1851 and was briefly the mayor of Falls Church, Virginia), appears to have made quite a career from 1875 until his own death in 1888 lecturing on Poe's final days, the story growing more elaborate and intriguing with each telling. Washington Hospital"
It doesn't sound as if Dr. Moran had any medical evidence, but was simply conjecturing... years later on another possibility that would explain the sudden decline in Poe's health. I have a question - can pigs be rabid? Did you notice how they scavenged garbage in the area around Ryan's Hotel?

Juanita - I'm amazed and I guess a little amused that the University of MD med students "diagnosed" rabies in hindsight as the cause of death. Right now, I'm interested in the new information Matthew unearthed during his research, but other than that, we may come away with the story with a "ratiocination" as to what actually happened.

Hats - I just love your inquisitive mind and am looking forward to Matthew's response to some of the questions you've posed. I don't think that most classy men of the time had canes like Poe's. But will leave your questions to the master researcher..) I will hazard a guess about the difficult scenes for a writer - I would think writing the dialogue would present a great challenge - trying to get 19th century speech just right - and also trying to adapt to the characters in Poe's stories. Chase scenes - for a guy - seem to be second nature. I speak as the mother of four guys.

September 25, 2006 - 07:09 am
This is only for those who really want to dig deep into the issue:

Why do we have any preconceived ideas about Poe and racism?

Here is an angry letter from Poe to his foster father (not unusual -- they were strained) from Mar 19 1827: "You suffer me to be subjected to the whims & caprice, not only of your white family, but the complete authority of the blacks ­- these grievances I could not submit to; and I am gone." Poe was only 18, but I think it's actually one of Poe's most interesting comments on race. There is also the parallel phrasing of "your white family" with the silent suggestion that the blacks, in a way, would be part of "your black family."

We also have Poe's depiction of nonwhites. A prime example, as I mentioned, is Gold Bug and the character of the slave. Has anyone read this and want to share any comments?

Anyone want to see the bill of sale for Edwin? http://www.lfchosting.com/eapoe/WORKS/docs/d2912100.htm

Now, the single most inflammatory "conclusion" on Poe's racism has been the attribution to Poe of a racist review of two books on slavery. Here is a short but very persuasive commentary summarizing this issue and putting forward the case that Poe was not the author of the review: http://www.eapoe.org/PAPERS/misc1990/jvr19921.htm

There is a book called Romancing the Shadow: Poe and Race for anyone who really wants more on the topic!

Joan Pearson
September 25, 2006 - 07:10 am
Matthew! Good morning! I just now see that we are posting at the same time!

Thank you so much for answering the questions - especially those on Poe's views on Slavery. I think the Gold Bug would provide a great psychological study on Poe and his knowledge of slaves.

We'd been collecting some questions for you - many of which you've answered just now - will put up the whole list to save time - maybe we can catch you before you start your day -
In your research have you encountered the term, "ratiocination" anywhere other than in Poe's work? Was this term something with which Poe's 19th century readers would have been familiar?

Has your research provided any insights into Poe's views on slavery?

While writing about Baltimore and Paris in the Nineteenth century, which place did you enjoy researching and writing about the most and why?

When writing a book are the chase and fight scenes, where there is rapid movement all around, are these the hardest scenes to write? Are these scenes easier to write than other scenes?

Also, did Poe really carry around a malacca cane? I didn't expect a sword to be hidden inside the cane? Did most classy, sophisticated men carry this cane?

After writing about her, do you feel she is too angelic? Did you ever think about changing Hattie and making her a partner sleuth for Quentin?
Thanks, Matthew!

Joan Pearson
September 25, 2006 - 07:15 am
Oh my...thank you for all of this additional information on Poe and Racism, Matthew! You can probably see that our readers are quite interested in the topic. Yes, I've read the Gold Bug, as mentioned above. Here's a link - the story can be read in about 20 minutes I think -
The Gold Bug

September 25, 2006 - 07:24 am
Matthew, thank you again for your answer to questions and extra comments. I started The Gold Bug last night. I am really enjoying The Gold Bug. Some parts of the story have made me laugh. I do have a problem with finding something funny while others think the same anecdote or whatever is not funny. I haven't finished the story yet. I like it better than The Tell Tale Heart.

September 25, 2006 - 07:27 am
I had shared the letter i quoted above with a prominent English professor and he emailed me this really interesting response (I don't think he'd mind me sharing his email, but just in case, I won't include the professor's name):

-------------------- Thanks so much for this fascinating and important letter. It sheds a lot of light on Poe's attitudes toward race, I think.

Poe seems to betray his fears, common throughout antebellum America, of the fruits of emancipation: that is, that equality is impossible and will result in the inversion of the hierarchy, with blacks on top. "You suffer me to be subjected to . . . the complete authority of the blacks." A most revealing and fascinating line. For contextual background, there's a wonderul print by Edward Clay, a Phildelphia printer, called "Fruits of Emancipation" (1837), which depicts such an inversion. Eugene Genovese, esp. in Roll Jordan Roll, describes how some masters felt themselves subjected to blacks owing to their "responsibility" as paternalistic masters, much like parents who felt that their children really controlled them. It seems that Poe felt his foster father was not only an overpowering, paternalistic figure, but had demoted him in the hierarchy of his family. The letter also seems to suggest Poe's fears of the inversion of the racial hierarchy, a fear that was present from at least the time of Aristotle, who wanted slavery to be based on race and couldn't conceive of a world without slavery of some form. In fact it wasn't until the age of revolution (1760s) when people, including slaves, began articulating a vision of a world without slavery. Few people have wanted to be slaves, but in all of slave revolts from Sparticus through the maroon societies in the West Indies in the early 18th century, rebelling slaves wanted to invert the hierarchy and felt no compunction enslaving people in their quest to conquer their masters.

September 25, 2006 - 07:28 am
Wow! Matthew, thank you for all the additional information. I am going to spend time reading all of it as soon as possible. I do like the character of Jupiter in The Gold Bug. His relationship with Mr. LeGrand does seem very relaxed, not exactly like most relationships between master and servant I would think.

JoanP, I have four sons too.

September 25, 2006 - 07:34 am
Thanks Joan, let me see if can touch on some of the questions I didn't get to:

In your research have you encountered the term, "ratiocination" anywhere other than in Poe's work? Was this term something with which Poe's 19th century readers would have been familiar?

... Well, they'd be familiar with it at the very least from Poe himself. I'm going to include in a separate post after this the Oxford English Dictionary listing for it, which will give us some dates and usages as samples.

While writing about Baltimore and Paris in the Nineteenth century, which place did you enjoy researching and writing about the most and why?

I enjoyed visiting Paris more, of course (no insult to Baltimore), but Baltimore was really a fun place for my imagination to "live" in for a while. If I had to describe Baltimore in one word, I'd say unpredictable.

When writing a book are the chase and fight scenes, where there is rapid movement all around, are these the hardest scenes to write? Are these scenes easier to write than other scenes?

I always say that the scenes that are hardest to write are the ones that are the most fun to read -- and the quickest to read! chase scenes are a good example of that, they're very tedious to construct

Also, did Poe really carry around a malacca cane? I didn't expect a sword to be hidden inside the cane? Did most classy, sophisticated men carry this cane?

Canes would have been very common, but this cane was peculiar -- he really did take it, apparently accidentally, from his friend Dr. Carter in Richmond before travelling to Richmond

After writing about her, do you feel she is too angelic? Did you ever think about changing Hattie and making her a partner sleuth for Quentin?

Well, Duponte is Quentin's investigation partner, so anyone else probably would have weighed down the structure of the story in that way -- whether Hattie or someone else -- but I don't think of Hattie as too angelic, she's willing to get pretty mad at Quentin, and to agree to be engaged to Peter!

September 25, 2006 - 07:37 am
1. The process of reasoning.

c1530 L. COX Rhet. (1899) 78 Raciocinacion is, that cometh of hope of any commodity, or to eschewe any discommodity. 1603 HOLLAND Plutarch's Mor. 1344 Without any discourse of reason, or ratiocination. a1677 HALE Prim. Orig. Man. I. i. 2 There are some truths so plain and evident, and open, that need not any process of ratiocination to evidence or evince them. 1758 JOHNSON Idler No. 31 11 He has observed in many trades the effect of close thought and just ratiocination. 1798 EDGEWORTH Pract. Educ. (1811) II. 78 We resort to Geometry, as the most perfect, and the purest series of ratiocination which has been invented. 1879 FARRAR St. Paul I. 55 He had not arrived at any one of the truths of his special gospel by the road of ratiocination.

2. With a and pl. An instance of this; also, a conclusion arrived at by reasoning. (Common in 17th c.)

c1620 A. HUME Brit. Tongue II. xii, The ratiocinative [conjunction] coples the partes of a ratiocination. 1644 MAXWELL Prerog. Chr. Kings 135 The Romanists must acknowledge [etc.]..or then they must foregoe these ratiocinations. 1759 JOHNSON Rasselas xxii, Other men may amuse themselves with subtle definitions, or intricate ratiocinations. 1818 JAS. MILL Brit. India Pref. 11, I have no apology, therefore, to make, for those inductions, or those ratiocinations. 1863 COWDEN CLARKE Shaks. Char. xx. 516 The one a cool, a frigid ratiocination; the other, an awful and terrible reality.

3. Power or habit of reasoning. rare.

1647 CLARENDON Hist. Reb. VII. §220 So infinite a Fancy, bound in by a most Logical ratiocination. a1656 BP. HALL Rem. Wks. (1660) 285 For us, that have ratiocination..we know [what] we have to do here. 1798 C. SMITH Yng. Philos. III. 94 A lady of prodigious ratiocination as well as of profound information.

September 25, 2006 - 07:51 am
Matthew, thank you for the title Romancing the Shadow: Poe and Race. I have ordered a copy of the book.

September 25, 2006 - 08:38 am
In the story I see typical stereotypes. Can stereotypical views about a race become funny after years of usage? Anyway, these stereotypes of Blacks are believed in the Twenty first century:

1. Blacks are easily frightened

"What! de bug, massa? I'd rudder not go fer to trubble dat bug-you mus git him for your own self."

2. Blacks are lazy

"Jupiter had with him the scythe and spades-the whole of which he insisted upon carrying-more through fear, it seemed to me, of trusting either of the implements within reach of his master, than from any excess of industry or complaisance."

3. Blacks grin all the time, take nothing seriously

"Jupiter, grinning from ear to ear..."

Hollywood, for many years, used these stereotypes in movies. I remember well Butterfly Mcqueen in Gone With the Wind. She is portrayed as slow and silly. I also remember the character, Lightening. I do not know Poe's reasons for typifying Jupiter in such a way.

September 25, 2006 - 10:02 am
Jupiter's name stands out to me in The Gold Bug. Immediately I thought of the planet, Jupiter. I didn't know much about Jupiter. So, I had to Google it.


"The largest planet in the solar system, and the fifth in the order of distance from the Sun. It is visible to the naked eye, except for short periods when in near conjunction with the Sun. Usually it is the second brightest planet in the sky; only Mars at its maximum luminosity and Venus appear brighter."

I also discovered Jupiter is a name of a Roman god.


"Roman Mythology. The supreme god, patron of the Roman state and brother and husband of Juno. He came to be identified with the Greek Zeus. Also called Jove."

Did Poe intend for the reader to see any meaning in the name of his character or is it just coincidental?

September 25, 2006 - 11:19 am
Wow, so many posts over the weekend! I haven't been able to check in because of work going on in my home - the internet was down.

Matthew: Thank you for all of your answers.

I was interested in the malacca cane because my dad has an antique sword cane collection including one sword that belonged to William Seward. I was looking at some sword canes in his collection this weekend. You press a button on a cane and it releases the locking mechanism. Then you can pull off the handle and pull out the sword, which is hidden inside attached to the handle. Sword canes were very popular in the 19th century. Gentlemen carried them as a matter of style and also for protection. It could be used to whack someone and also, with the sword, to stab.

Malacca is a type of rattan which is very strong and durable. I imagine it was named after Malacca, a city on the southwest coast of the Malay Peninsula. It was used in the finest of canes. Maybe that's why we call canes "canes" instead of "walking sticks" - because many were made of canes of rattan and bamboo. Here's an article with some pictures.


September 25, 2006 - 11:24 am
There are some interesting posts about emancipation and manumission here. I just wanted to add that the Emancipation Proclamation didn't free all of the slaves - just some of them. I remember being surprised when I found this out.

Here's an article from our National Archives & Records Administration which explains which slaves were freed:

"President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."

Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately free a single slave, it fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom."


September 25, 2006 - 12:36 pm
Marni, thank you for both links. Each one is interesting.

September 25, 2006 - 03:48 pm
HATS, I may have misunderstood, but it seemed to me that black families 'buying' slaves was for the purpose of freeing them, not to continue their slavery. I know it was common for an escaped or freed slave to do all in his power to earn enough money to 'buy' the rest of his family free. I realize it is likely that instances did exist of blacks owning slaves, human nature being what it is, but overall I would hope it was not common.

I also believe it was not unusual for the more scholarly slave owners to name their slaves after figures in mythology or classic literature. I could not begin to guess what thinking led to that particular conceit.


September 25, 2006 - 04:18 pm
Babi, I am sure you are right. I bet most Black owners did intend to free the slave or slaves. What you have mentioned about the naming of Black slaves is interesting too. Like you, I haven't the slightest idea why the owners would use the names of mythological figures. Maybe we can ask Matthew that question.

September 25, 2006 - 05:05 pm
Hats asked, “Can stereotypical views about a race become funny after years of usage?”

Good question. I was born after the civil rights movement, and lived in the north during my childhood, so was not exposed to black stereotypes until I read about them in literature. To me, many of them are funny in a laugh out loud kind of way, both because they seem ridiculous and because I cannot imagine a time when such thinking was commonplace and acceptable.

I loved the Uncle Remus stories as a child, especially The Tar Baby. I still have my book. A dialect like Jupiter spoke was used in The Tar Baby story.

Here is one line from Jupiter in The Gold Bug that I found laugh out loud funny: “Why I mean de bug. ‘Tis berry hebby bug. Spose I drop him down fuss, and den de limb won’t break wid just de weight ob one nigger.”

September 25, 2006 - 07:30 pm
Here are some first names I jotted down of slaves: Andrew, George, Caroline, Ellen, Daniel, Augusta, Nat, Hannibal, Minn, Ephraim, Reuben, Sara, Perry, Ben, Pricella, Isaac, Kitty, Minerva, Madison, Newman, Daphne… And here are some last names: Brent, Brooke, Crowley, Day, Queen, King, Matthews, Pitts, Pope, Rix, Turner, Young.

This is unscientific, of course! A historical novelist is usually less interested in the larger trends or statistics than with a particularly pixel of time and place. Still, we see Hannibal, Minerva, Augusta, Daphne, all of which have an ancient or classical feel.

That said, here's what some of my sources told me: the stats of naming & renaming shows freed slaves preferred full instead of shortened names (Charles, James, William, Benjamin) and more Anglo-American rather than classical names that looked indistinguishable from their neighbors in Baltimore – also took surnames that were rare in early 19th century for slaves & former slaves – “slaves often took as their surnames the names of former masters and used them despite their present owners’ objections” – when freed most former slaves assumed new surnames

What surnames? more from my research: “generally freedmen took simple surnames commonly found among whites. Johnson, Bailey, Smith, James, Brown, Jackson, Robinson, Williams, and the like. Occassionally, however, they assumed names that made statements about themselves as individuals – such as John Fortune, Elisha Caution, and Charles Togood – names that bespoke their faith in (or skepticism about) their future in their American homeland, or names emulative of famous Americans – such as freeborn Garrettson, George Washington Taylor and Thomas Jefferson”

September 25, 2006 - 07:35 pm
My own personal conclusion, in part informed knowledge and in part instinct, was that Poe was a lazy thinker about race. I would compare it to Dante's thoughts about Jews. When you read the Divine Comedy know, there are anti-Semitic sentiments. However, they are standard and unoriginal. That is, Dante does not seem particularly interested in doing anything but accepting the conventional wisdom of the world around him at the time (in most cases, Dante is quite eager to think out of the box). Poe, too, seems simply complacent in his racial attitudes. He certainly does not seem to go out of his way to degrade or uplift nonwhites. Even the stereotypes in Gold Bug are signs of lazy thinking, in my mind -- Poe is putting on a minstrel show. He is good at it because he is a great writer, but is he staking much creativity on it? Doesn't seem like it to me.

All of this, once again, makes his obscured actions in the Edwin case that more interesting to me.

September 25, 2006 - 08:52 pm
I found the whole thing about Dupin's taking on Duponte's appearance kind of mystifying. The whole elaborate scheme of the artist, the perfection of the makeup - that you couldn't tell the one from the other - that Duponte allowed it to happen. I started thinking: Was it really going to be Duponte pretending to be Dupin or Dupin pretending to be Duponte? You couldn't help but wonder who was really the good guy here? No wonder Quentin vacillated between them. And then so many things happened in kind of a fog after Dupin's presentation was so abruptly interrupted. More and more villains appeared on the scene. So many people were chasing after so many people. It was certainly beyond me to tell who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Who were they and why were they after Quentin? I even thought Hawkins was really a villain for awhile even though he kept saving Quentin's hide.

I guess this confusion was all in conjunction with the confusion surrounding Poe's death. They sort of went hand in hand. I thought that maybe at the end of the book we might find out not only who the current villains were but also what really happened to Poe.

Did you all think Dupin's version of Poe's death was plausible?

September 25, 2006 - 09:49 pm
Matthew, I agree. I do not think Poe's important agenda in The Gold Bug is about race either. However, Jupiter plays a big part in the story. I suppose at that time a man like LeGrand would have owned a slave. So, Poe had to have one in the story. It's interesting why names were chosen too. Thank you for doing so much research on the subject. I am glad Babi brought the subject of mythological names up.

September 25, 2006 - 10:44 pm
Wow! Book V, The Flood is a grand finale. I have started it and can't stop reading. While in a jail cell, Quentin's mind is becoming clearer, maybe all the dross is being washed away by the flood waters. Maybe not.

I am not saying another word, just reading my week's assignment.

Joan Pearson
September 26, 2006 - 07:26 am
Good morning! Oh wow, there is so much to talk about this morning as we turn from the cliffhanger in Book IV to the revelations in "The Flood." The Baron is dead, Quentin - in prison, the only suspect.

He seems still to be waiting to be rescued...and he is, again and again. UNTIL he finally realizes the mistakes the premises of his observations. Once he does that, he will be able to take control of his own destiny.

Hats - I like the image of the flood washing away the "dross" in Quentin's mind! I see the flood as Quentin's release from the misperceptions that have plagued him for much of his life.

I cannot wait to see how you react to the breathtaking Dan Brownish intrigue and chase that lead to the finale! I will admit that I was more interested in the psychological awakening than in the chase, but can understand why it was all necessary to arrive at the conclusion!

I have a number questions and observations on the wealth of information shared here yesterday, but need to get my grandson's birthday present - in the mail - shop for it, wrap it and get it in the mail today. I hope to be back this afternoon. But I don't want to leave without thanking you all for adding so much to this discussion - and a special thanks to you, Matthew for sharing the results of your research - above and beyond what we expected!

Talk to you later - off to find a "zoo" for a two year old!
ps Hats, four sons! You know where I'm coming from then - gray hairs, but a great sense of humor!

September 26, 2006 - 02:33 pm
Bonjour passes poison to Quentin in prison via a kiss. This starts a series of events which result in Quentin escaping from jail. I was wondering what kind of poison this could be. Matthew, did you have something particular in mind?

September 26, 2006 - 04:06 pm
I could see the title of this last book as symbolic of Quentin’s release from the confines of his own solitude. I don’t think solitude led to his obsession; I think his obsession led to solitude. He alienated family and friends while on his multiyear quest.

I have another interpretation for the title The Flood. It is time for Quentin to sink or swim, so to speak. He needs to defend himself in court, and not only defend himself, but win the case. Doing so will salvage both his career and his relationships with Hattie and Peter.

September 26, 2006 - 04:14 pm
Again Quentin is acting is a most unlawyerly fashion, talking to Officer White in a way that was bound to expose him to suspicion and possible legal charges. I think his social background and status has left him unable to believe anyhone could possibly think him a criminal, or doubt his word in anything. He belatedly becomes aware that his statements are incriminating. Too late. Officer White calls his statement "gas and blow", and requests "no more fables". Alas, Quentin.

Q.1. ..I saw the 'flood' as not only the literal one, but also a sort of breaking of the dam as the truth comes out at last. A flood of information and explanation.

Q,2 ,,, Duponte a fraud? Duponte never claimed to be Dupin. Quentin is the one who kept insisting on it. As far as I can see, Duponte has been attemting to escape this insistence that he is Dupin from the beginning. He is a very intelligent, observant and analytical thinker, to be sure, but definitely not happy with the mythic qualities of detection attributed to him.

MATTHEW, I had noticed before the preference of ex-slaves for full names. I assumed they felt the full names carried more dignity, and using them properly was a sign of respect.


September 26, 2006 - 05:17 pm
Q.1 Do you see other "floods" in these last chapters?

Yes, I do see other "floods" in these last chapters. I see a "flood" of information. All of a sudden, like flood waters, the reader is pounded with new information. For example, what Baron Dupin would have said about the death of Poe in his speech. Also, we are told there never was a "real" Dupin. Dupin came from the inner imaginations of Poe's mind. It's like a torrent of information swooshing over us.

Babi, I just read your post. We have the same idea about a "flood."

Matthew, when Quentin tries to dig up Poe's grave, for some reason, I thought of The House of Ushers, did you have any Poe story in mind while writing this scene?

September 27, 2006 - 01:02 am
4. What was the connection between Louis Napoleon's coup and Baron Dupin's murder? Did all those Bonapartes really live in Baltimore at one time?

Reading about the Napoleonic agenda, history, etc. is very exciting. Rollin, the stowaway, and the other two assassins never meant to murder Baron Dupin. These men meant to murder Duponte. The French government took Duponte's ratiocination abilities very seriously. His talent to ratiocinate could destroy the coup. Duponte became a moving target.

Matthew Pearl, did you find yourself becoming very interested in the history of the Naopoleonic Dynasty while writing about Poe? When researching a primary subject for one book, do you have to stop yourself from becoming overly involved with other titillating facts, secondary information?

Joan Pearson
September 27, 2006 - 05:55 am
We're going to have a good time sorting through these final chapters - and fortunate, so fortunate to have Matthew with us to answer some of our questions - like the one Hats just asked -
"When researching a primary subject for one book, do you have to stop yourself from becoming overly involved with other titillating facts, secondary information?"
I'm really interested to learn more about the Bonapartes in Baltimore at this time. Did I read somewhere that the divorced Bonaporte (annulled?), Elizabeth Patterson lived there - with her children? Is that right? Certainly a lot of intrigue in Baltimore at the time - that I didn't expect. Maybe it was the whole Napoleonic upheaval in France AND its overflow to America- Baltimore, that captured Poe's imagination and led to his writing of the Dupin Tales?

And Marni's question - "Did you all think Dupin's version of Poe's death was plausible?" - Which brings us back to "ratiocination" again! ( Matthew - thank you for the definitions and usage of the term - before Poe used it in his Dupin Tales!) Duponte at some point explains to Quentin that sometimes you have to take the information at hand - and guess. "To guess is one of the most elevated powers of the human mind and more interesting than reasoning because it comes from the imagination." When Hats asked earlier about the difference between ESP and ratiocination - I thought to myself that at some point in the ratiocination process, you just have to take that leap of imagination to reach possible answers. If it is a really lucky guess, you are said to have ESP - an extra sensory perception of what happened, without having a factual basis. (I'll admit, I don't know how ESP works.)

But isn't this what the Baron had done with the information he gathered? He guessed what happened based on the facts that he had before him. Folks would have believed the Dupin version, Marni - because it had just enough kernels of truth in it to be believable. We don't know if Duponte's version is the factual truth either, do we? I think Duponte is saying that there was an ordinary, rather than an extraordinary explanation of Poe's last movements in Baltimore and Philadelphia - using the same set of facts each man had to work with.

Joan Pearson
September 27, 2006 - 06:48 am
That must have been some kiss, Laura - to leave the poison in the back of Quentin's mouth! No peck on the cheek, or lips brushing lips! I'm a little fuzzy here as to her reasoning here. Bonjour thought Quentin would be taken down to the first floor of the prison - and? And what? This would have made it easier for him to escape? Surely not in the condition he would be in. Maybe she had another plan to spring him - she couldn't have foreseen that the prison wall would give out!

I'm loving all of these interpretations of the title.

Laura's - "a symbolic release from the confines of his own solitude," - though I'm not sure I agree completely that Quentin's obsession led to his solitude, but that his obsession with Poe was a result of his solitary life when he found Poe's work. Poe himself was a loner, wasn't he? Solitude seems to be at the heart of his work.

I was thinking of Poe and solitude - when reading "The Gold Bug" this week. The remote island where Poe had been spent a year at Fort Moultrie...the lone, somewhat wild Legrande, living a life of solitude with his slave - his freed slave Jupiter. Can you help but conclude that without Jupiter, Legrande could not function?

Does it seem to you that Poe was portraying a stereotype or do you see first-hand knowledge of a slave - like Jupiter. Does it sound as if Poe is making up sentence construction and word usage? Or as if he has made a careful study of it? For some reason, I think Poe knew Jup up close and personal. And I don't think he was portraying the slave as stupid, either, not knowing his left from his right. I think it was a language thing. Jupiter has more smarts and better instincts than does Legrande. I don't think it is an accident that Poe portrays him in this manner.

Hats, I'm still thinking of your question about the broad smiles portrayed on blacks at the time. Do you think it possible that some slaves, particularly freemen could have been happy, by nature easy-going in spite of all they had been through and that they could have smiled as Jupiter did? Or do you see it as a stereotype - perhaps to make the white man feel less guilt?

Laura - loved your interpretation of the flood - "it's now time for Quentin to sink or swim!" And Babi - "I saw the 'flood' as not only the literal one, but also a sort of breaking of the dam as the truth comes out at last. A flood of information and explanation." Do you think we know the truth at last?

September 27, 2006 - 07:59 am
Hats, I'm still thinking of your question about the broad smiles portrayed on blacks at the time. Do you think it possible that some slaves, particularly freemen could have been happy, by nature easy-going in spite of all they had been through and that they could have smiled as Jupiter did? Or do you see it as a stereotype - perhaps to make the white man feel less guilt? ____________________________________________________________________

JoanP, your question made me put my brain to work. I have the feeling during slavery "real" and "intimate" relationships happened between the slave and owner. In an earlier post, before the one about stereotypes, I wrote about the relaxed attitude between Jupiter and LeGrand. I felt a friendship between the two men. I think LeGrand called Jupiter "Jup."

This is why I loved Edwin. He crossed the barrier between the races and whatever systems were in place at the time. His spoken love for Poe and the placing of the flower on the grave is so moving. Then, Edwin's helping Quentin during his escape from prison, very moving too. I almost cried when Edwin and Quentin had to leave one another.

Earlier we talked a little bit about this time in history being so hard to understand. American Slavery, the Civil War, these times were neither black and white. There was a grey area. People loved one another, laughed with one another no matter whether free or enslaved. Also, the intertwining of families due to attractions between the men and women which we would call interracial relationships, for example, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Henson.

It is the strength and the ability for man to survive in difficult circumstances which allows people to smile and give their hearts under horrendous circumstances. Besides, not all slave owners were cruel, another contradiction in this system. I think of the relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker.

"But her involvement with the Lincoln family soon developed into far more than simply being modiste for Mary Lincoln. She and Mary became friends and somehow Elizabeth was able to see past Mary Lincoln's selfishness, pushiness and the other traits that caused her to be disdained by many."

Elizabeth Keckly

I also think of the kind family who taught Phillis Wheatley to read and write. This willingness of the family to teach Phillis Wheatley to learn reading and writing opened a new world to her. She began to write poetry.

Phillis Wheatley

As a personal example, my sister worked for many white families. She became a part of their families believe it or not. The love was sincere. My Cousin Louise worked for a white family. Cousin Louise could not have children. These children were like her own children.

Love can bypass systems put in place by governments. Chains, stereotypes, governments can not hold back love. The white people, Quakers, and others who helped slaves to escape are never forgotten.

This time period is so exciting, full of survival stories, friendship stories, sad stories. I could just go on forever about this time in American History. I loved reading The Poe Shadow because of the chance to talk about freedom and all the rest. I will never forget Edwin. I never doubted his character. Edwin's love was sincere and real. Also, I don't see Poe as a racist. The sadness in his life would not have allowed him to hate another man because of his color. Like many others, he was caught in an era of history. As of yet we can not escape the time of our birth.

September 27, 2006 - 08:09 am
Talking about contradictions of a period, the ability to love the ones who might have held you in bondage reminded me of Frederick Douglass. He did marry a white woman. Of course, many people were not happy campers about this situation.

Frederick Douglass

Please notice the first few lines in bold, black print.

September 27, 2006 - 08:39 am
Hats: Your postings are beautiful.

September 27, 2006 - 08:41 am
Re Dupin's theory. I didn't think it was plausible. It was too far out - too many wild possibilities when a simpler theory made more sense.

September 27, 2006 - 04:00 pm
I agree, MARNI, on both posts. HATS, I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughtful and perceptive post. But then, I always do.

MARNI, I also found Duponte's reasoning not only plausible, but highly likely. In comparison with the Baron's 'wild possibilities', Duponte's can be classified as probable. As I posted earlier, what is most likely to have happened is usually what did happen, IMO.

Quentin is still not behaving rationally. He bursts into the house in Baltimore where Poe once lived. "I hrdly noticed the two women, one with white hair and one young and fair, who screamed upon seeing me enter..." Women screaming, and he hardly notices. Writing about these events later, (supposedly), Quentin observes, "Perhaps I was a dreadful sight..." No kidding! He has not noticed "my sackcloth uniform...now tattered and dripping and spotted with soil and blood." He has not felt the need get clean and change clothes, which I would think would be one's first instinct.

MATTHEW, you are brilliant! The Graham Magazine with it's boilogical sketches. George Sand, ie., 'Dupin', 'Lamartine, Alexander Dumas, Alfred de Musset! [I am assuming this is actuallly the content of the magazine on that first appearance of Poe's Dupin.] All names in the "Murders in the Rue Morgue". BRAVO!, MATTHEW.


September 28, 2006 - 04:33 am
Babi, I agree that Quentin “thinks his social background and status has left him unable to believe anyone could possibly think him a criminal, or doubt his word in anything.” I found it comical that he could be doing absurd things, like digging in a graveyard or walking uninvited into a person’s house, and not understand the reactions he was getting from people.

I couldn’t help but wonder why Duponte put up with Quentin in Paris in the first place. I guess the interest in Poe’s death finally drew him. Maybe Duponte saw Quentin like one of those people we all knew in grade school, who hung around with you, even if you didn’t want them to, and became part of the group by default.

According to the historical note at the end of The Poe Shadow, “The Baltimore and Paris police departments, Louis-Napoleon in Paris, and Hope H. Slatter and Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte in Baltimore are situated within the fictional events of the novel, using the interests and motives history shows them possessing.” I understood this to mean that there wasn’t much to learn about the situation, not that was based in history. Hmmm…

I did not think that Dupin’s version of Poe’s death was plausible. However, I could see it being believed by some people of the time.

I found this quote on page 308 in which Bonjour describes her plan: “After I found a way inside the prison, I saw that the walls of the hospital chambers were already giving way to the floods. I felt you could get out through the sewer passages, but I needed to find a way for you to be transferred there. You may say I helped you, monsieur.”

What I can’t figure out is how Bonjour could pass poison to Quentin via a kiss and not be poisoned herself.

“Do you think we know the truth at last?” I don’t think we can ever be absolutely certain as to the circumstances surrounding Poe’s death. I think Matthew has presented a very plausible series of events, based on research. What I do know is that I have lots of factual information available to me, that if I only possessed the powers of ratiocination, I could put them together into my own theory of Poe’s death! Ha ha ha! LOL!

Great post on Joan’s question, Hats!

September 28, 2006 - 04:38 am
I read the last of the secret chapters yesterday, The Reynolds Question: An Examination of the Quentin Clark Footnote.

This is a very clever chapter, Matthew. It seems as though a lot of it is based in truth, given the footnotes. I assumed the information was true but the conclusions drawn were yours. However, I don’t feel entirely certain because I have read books where an author makes up articles, footnotes, etc. to make the fiction of the story seem to be based in fact.

Has anyone else read this secret chapter?

September 28, 2006 - 06:40 am
I am glad to be welcomed back after such a long, long post. I am slightly embarrassed. I have slowed down my reading because I hate to see The Poe Shadow end. There is a quote written by Matthew Pearl and spoken by Duponte. I just love this quote.

"It is not much more than a guess, you will say, but sometimes that is all that is there, Monsieur Clark, to make sense of events. We speak of the word as inferior to trained practices of reasoning--in fact, to guess is one of the most elevated and indestructible powers of the human mind, a far more interesting art than reasoning or demonstration because it comes to us directly from imagination."

Matthew Pearl, In Baron Dupin's rooms, there were many books. While Duponte spent time hiding in Baron Dupin's room, he spent time reading Geology books. Do you have an interest in Geology?

September 28, 2006 - 06:42 am
LauraD, I haven't read the secret chapter yet. I haven't read Matthew Pearl's notes at the end of the book yet.

When writing about Glen Eliza, in your imagination, did you have a particular house in mind?

Joan Pearson
September 28, 2006 - 08:12 am
Good morning, Hats! I'll agree with others here, your "long" post was most welcome and beautifully put. I'm referring to the one regarding allegations that Poe was a racist. I think we can all agree now that he was not - though as Matthew has pointed out - he was "lazy" on the subject. Poe was a quiet, introverted sort, wasn't he? Not one for causes. I think of him as C. Auguste Dupin - or Matthew's Duponte. He had to be coaxed to get involved to see that justice was done.
"It is not much more than a guess, you will say, but sometimes that is all that is there, Monsieur Clark, to make sense of events. We speak of the word as inferior to trained practices of reasoning--in fact, to guess is one of the most elevated and indestructible powers of the human mind, a far more interesting art than reasoning or demonstration because it comes to us directly from imagination."
Hats - that's it - that's the quote I was referring to yesterday. Did the Baron use his imagination in reaching his conclusions about what happened on Poe's last day? Yes, it was certainly "plausible" as Laura says. Quentin might have used his version in his defense and folks would have believed it. He feels that they would have believed Duponte's "guess" too - but then how would Duponte have returned to Paris? Wouldn't he run the risk of being hunted down and assassinated?

Marni, I've been thinking about The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Do you think that Dupin's ratiocination that the killer was an ape plausible? Wasn't it as far out as the Baron's? A wild possibility?

Laura, I just put a link to the "Secret Chapters series 3" - (The Reynolds Question) up in the heading for those still interested in Poe's cries of "Reynold's" on his last night! It is an eye-opener - BUT to fully understand it, I think you need to have read Poe's Marie Rogêt Murder. I'll add this link to the other discussion of Poe's stories - Marie Rogêt is scheduled to begin on October 1.

Matthew, I remember reading of new information you came across when researching for The Poe Shadow - and am wondering if the information connecting Reynolds to the Marie Rodgers was what you came across?

Joan Pearson
September 28, 2006 - 08:48 am
I'm still back and forth on Duponte as Poe's real Dupin, Babi - Yes, he's been attempting to escape Quentin's insistence that he is Dupin from the beginning - but don't you think he is aware of all the attempts to find him back in Paris? Wouldn't the police be interested in "using" him once again to get to the truth regarding insurrection in Paris? It's an association he's been hiding from, would rather forget. As you say, it IS Quentin who insists that he is Dupin -who really believes that he is Dupin. Duponte makes a moving statement in these last chapters - that he helped Quentin because he was someone who believed in him. At the end, Quentin still believes that Duponte can help - Duponte knows that if he admits the truth to Quentin, his life will be as good as finished. Isn't this where the truth led him back in Paris when his love was hanged because he revealed the truth?

Now that Quentin has the truth from Duponte, that the Baron was murdered, not because he was a Bonaparte, but because they know he is the real Dupin. Duponte is really the hunted one - Duponte gives Quentin permission to use his version, "the truth" - knowing that he faces great danger back in Paris if it is known that he is alive.

So, what happened to the Baron? He is on the stage, disguised as Duponte. Do folks believe now that Duponte is dead? Or has he been identified as Claude Dupin? I've missed that part/

Do you believe the Duponte could in fact be the real Dupin (yes I know this is fiction - fiction about fiction, actually! ) - who reveals his identity through his ratiocination powers to Quentin because the truth is still all-important to him?

Joan Pearson
September 28, 2006 - 09:09 am

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte

Hope to be back this afternoon - but wanted to share this with you. - Bonapartes in Baltimore

September 28, 2006 - 09:26 am
JoanP, thank you! If I remember correctly, Elizabeth Patterson was Jewish, wasn't she? I wanted us to talk about her before everything ended. Thank you for putting up the beautiful painting. I hope my facts are not mixed up. I have one more page to read in the book. Matthew Pearl's book is jampacked. I don't know if I can hold all the information in my head. I am giving it a good try. It is a great book.

September 28, 2006 - 10:04 am
I remember reading about the wedding dress worn by Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte. This is another unforgettable part of the book, The Poe Shadow.

"She lifted her hands upward and I could now observe more closely a gown that hung behind her. It was the wedding dress she had worn in 1803, in the ceremony in Baltimore that had ignited the world into consternation."

I think this part of the book is so romantic. I laughed at the Frenchman's description of the wedding gown. "All the clothes worn by the bride might be put in my pocket," a Frenchman reported in a letter to Paris." I do know this is a sad event too. It is a Family Saga.

September 28, 2006 - 04:20 pm
JOAN, it appears to me that in assassinating the Baron, the assassins believed they were killing the Duponte. It also seems apparent that Duponte realized that the impersonation could end in the Baron being killed in his place. I wonder if that is why the maid at Glen Eliza noted a 'sad' expression on Duponte's face when he got into the carriage. The Baron was bringing this on himself, and while Duponte had no reason to save him from his own actions (assuming he could have convinced the Baron of his danger), he could have experienced a sadness thinking about the possible outcome.

Matthew's depiction of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte is pretty harsh. An ambitious, manipulative woman, willfully turning a blind eye to assassination to further her own ends. I wonder how accurate that description is?

Quentin is thinking more clearly now, thank goodness! Copying out sentences from the Dupin stories in no particular order, even transcribing entire stories seems pointless, but it seems to have calmed him. "I do not know how best to share now what occurred in that upheaval of my mind." He speaks of the idea of the truth of Dupin as existing in all of us. Dupin represented truth, 'a part of everyone'. (I don't know about that. I have known one or two pathological liars in my time.)

Anyway, Quentin's actions now take on a calmer, more resolute and thoughtful tenor. He tells his stern and self-righteous great-Aunt, "I'd have wantd nothing more than to marry Hattie Blum. Anything you can say meant to punish me further is far too little. I am happy for Peter. He is a good man." Finally!


September 28, 2006 - 04:42 pm
It seems, if I remember correctly, Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte had reason for her reactions. She was thwarted in love by people trying to manipulate her life. No wonder she seemed bitter.

"when this brother was traveling through America as a soldier at nineteen, he courted and married a wealthy American girl, Elizabeth Patterson....They had a son, named Jerome after his father, and that is who you met with her....When he was no more than a baby, Emperor Napoleon ordered his brother to abandon the poor bride....Elizabeth Patterson, now abandoned, returned with her son to Baltimore, and this family would never again be recognized by the emperor."

I think Elizabeth Patterson Napoleon deserves a great deal of understanding and sympathy. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte's story is heartbreaking.

September 28, 2006 - 05:59 pm
HATS: I agree. MATTHEW, is the characterization of her (not as a murderess, but as an angry woman obsessed with having her sons take what she saw as their rightful place in France) based on historical documents?

I've been thinking about JoanP's questions: do I see Baltimore and/or Maryland in general as the South? I'm not the person to answer -- I don't live in Baltimore, (but in the Maryland suburbs of DC) and rarely visit. Matthew has probably spent more time in Baltimore than I have.

But everything I know, I know from reading detective stories. They portray Baltimore as a city populated by the descendants of slaves (from Maryland and from further South who migrated North) and the descendants of the great wave of immigration that occurred in the early 1900s, with many ethnic neighborhoods, such as are found in many Northern cities, such as Boston. The descendants of slaveowners (Quentin and Hattie's descendants) must be there too, but they are less visible to me. What do you think, MATTHEW?

Since I've never lived further south, my ideas as to what "The South" is like are stereotyped, and probably ridiculous. But this doesn't fit them. One thing I know -- South or North, everyone I ever knew who was from Baltimore loves it!! It seems to inspire more affection and loyalty than I've found in those who are "from" other cities.

September 28, 2006 - 06:37 pm
Is Maryland "The South"? Technically, yes, since the Mason-Dixon line is North of here. As we are discussing in another forum about Virginia, the Washington suburbs where I live are definitely not. Almost everyone there is from somewhere else. But there are different areas in Maryland, as in most states.

It was a border state -- it was one of four slave states that fought with the North in the civil War. The reason is interesting (if I've posted this before, skip this paragraph). A vote was to be taken in the Maryland legislature. Lincoln could tell that the secessionists were going to win. So he had them all arrested the night before the vote. After Md had voted to stay in the union, he released them.

The secessionists had a small bit of revenge, when they adopted the State Song. Maryland is the only state that has a state song advocating the overthrow of the government. Here it is (warning -- if you can't stand bad poetry, skip it):


Note the line in the last verse "Huzza: she spurns the Northern scum" The tyrant's heel here is the North.

Recently, a Maryland legislator proposed to change the words. There was an uproar!! He said "They must have never read the words". Which is probably true.

In spite of all this, since MD fought for the North, abolished slavery "voluntarily", and never went through reconstruction, the feeling here has to be different. I suspect the Eastern Shore is a good bit like the rural South. Other parts less so. My mother, who was from Ohio and still fighting the Civil War, indignantly said that it wasn't.

The pace is slower and the people more polite than in New York (perhaps that's true in Northern cities as well). When I moved to New York, people were always bumping into me (I walked too slowly). When I returned, I was always bumping into people (I walked too fast).

ellen c
September 29, 2006 - 12:32 am
I am very behind with my reading as I have had a recent cataract operation but I am catching up - I"m dancing as fast as I can! I love Mathew"s book, the 19th C atmosphere, those pitiful stories of the slaves, the connection to the Buonapartes, what an exciting history Baltimore and Boston had. Have not quite finished the last chapter cheers to all

Joan Pearson
September 29, 2006 - 06:09 am
Good morning, Ellen! Another instance of successful cataract surgery! So happy that you are catching up just in time to question Matthew. Be sure to read back over his informative posts in the "catching-up process." If you go up to the top right hand corner of the screen and click the "Printer Friendly" it will make reading back posts easier. Good for you!

JoanK - thank you so much for the capsule on Baltimore. Tell me that when you moved South from NY that you said "excuse me" when you bumped into the slower-moving folk. New Yorkers don't usually do this, in my experience. Bruce has commented that New Yorkers look "mad" - not crazy-mad, but irritated mad. Baltimorans don't look like that, I don't think. Matthew spent quite a bit of time researching Baltimore, so he can shed a light on that. I know the DC area, further South than Baltimore no longer seems "southern" - and I'm not saying that's a good thing. I fully realize I am exhibiting the stereotypical New Yorker syndrome here! Sorry, don't meant to offend!

Virginia has a problematic state song too, Joan. Carry me back to old Virginny... Do you think they will ever make a change - or just fade away? It is interesting that you point out Maryland was a slave state, but one of the four slave states that did not secede from the Union. What I find interesting - Marni posted this earlier, is that the Emancipation Proclamation did NOT apply to those states, did not abolish slavery in those states and for a while after that, Maryland continued to be a slave state. I guess that's why escaping to the North was more difficult if you lived in Maryland than if you lived further south.

Into this mix, we add the French, immigrating to America after the French revolution. And wasn't this a clever way to introduce Poe's French Dupin into Baltimore of the mid 19th century? Hats, I'd like to learn more about the real Elizabeth Patterson too - was it her Jewishness that led to the annulment of her marriage? (Do you think that could be her wedding dress in the portrait?) I'm interested in the answer to JoanK's question too - was she an angry woman obsessed with having her sons take what she saw as their rightful place in France) based on historical documents?

I thought it a very clever way to move the story along - Auguste Duponte, Poe's French Dupin, perhaps - followed by the French Bonapartistes to America, objective - assassination. Surely if they learn that he is still at large, they will still be interested in apprehending him? Or is the whole issue moot now that France has successfully reverted to "empire" status?

What I still don't understand, Babi - is it widely known that the murdered Claude Dupin is NOT Augueste Duponte - though he looks just like him and was prepared to give a lecture as Duponte? In other words, do the French feel they have eliminated Duponte - so the hunt is off? Or has it been discovered that the dead man is in fact Claude Dupin?

Pooch needs her morning walk. Back soon -

September 29, 2006 - 06:28 am
Good morning JoanP and pooches.

For some reason I do think the gown Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte is wearing in the beautiful portrait is the wedding gown. This is another link about the wedding gown. The article mentions Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte.

Wedding gown??

Joan Pearson
September 29, 2006 - 08:33 am
Thank you for the "dress" link, Hats - it does/doesn't appear to be the wedding dress. I'm looking at the neckline...So, was the beautiful, abandoned bride in the portrait at the heart of the plot to eliminate Duponte? Rollin was the stowaway on the ship - Duponte knew about him and had Quentin report that didn't he? A little ratiocination also predicted rightfully that he was armed. If he was discovered, how did he get free? We know he did - and knew right where to go when he got to America. Duponte knew all along that to "come out" as Duponte was a risky thing to do. He really preferred his hideaway in Paris where no one could find him.

In Matthew's novel, even though we hear Duponte telling Quentin he is not Poe's Dupin, I think it's pretty clear that he is, don't you? He can't help himself from seeing things as they are. Babi - I'd forgotten the sad look on Duponte's face as he left Glen Eliza and stepped into the carriage. He knew what the Baron was about to do, didn't he? He wasn't sad because he thought any danger was coming to himself, but because he knew the Baron was about to put himself into great danger. Was he wrong to let the Baron proceed to his death? He had a choice, didn't he?

Quentin had a choice too - all he wanted was to save his home and get back Hattie's respect and affection. The only way to do that was to convince the jury that he was of sound mind - and the only way to do that was to explain what motivated him to seemingly insane acts - like digging up Poe's body in the cemetery. He has a choice - two possibilities, Dupin's version or Duponte's conclusions, which would put Duponte in great danger. Wasn't this choice the same that Duponte had to make when putting the Baron in danger?

What exactly did Quentin decide to do? Does the Shadow ALWAYS prevail?

ps I've heard from Matthew of a hectic schedule these last few days and that he will get here as soon as he is able. I told him we'll keep the lights on here until he does. We'll extend our discussion as long as it takes. I know he plans to be at the Baltimore Book Festival this weekend - and will look for him there? Also plan to take in the Poe Museum, maybe the Patterson house if still standing and the Poe gravesite. Will take photos and bring them here on Sunday pm - or more than likely, on Monday.

September 29, 2006 - 10:45 am
Interesting article/pictures about the dress, Hats. Didn't Napoleon's wife Josephine make that daring/outrageous style popular at about the turn of the 18th century? It must have been so shocking, esp. in America where it seems things were more conservative than in France, perhaps because of the Puritan heritage in some states.

Didn't Napoleon annul his brother's wedding because he wanted him to make a political European match that would help ensure Napoleon's power? Although Napoleon himself married Josephine for love, he was certainly most interested in power for himself and for his family. He had his own marriage to Josephine annulled when she couldn't give him a son and married an aristocrat, Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria. (Ironically, Napoleon's marriage to Marie Louise, a Hapsburg, made him the nephew-in-law of Louis XVI, the king executed during the French Revolution.)



September 29, 2006 - 10:49 am
Re: "is it widely known that the murdered Claude Dupin is NOT Augueste Duponte - though he looks just like him and was prepared to give a lecture as Duponte? In other words, do the French feel they have eliminated Duponte - so the hunt is off?"

From what I read, it seemed that the murderers probably knew they killed the wrong man, but others mostly were not aware of that. The murderers went back to France and were expected to keep their mouths shut about killing the wrong man. They wouldn't want anyone to suspect they didn't do their job properly. So the hunt was off.

September 29, 2006 - 10:56 am
Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte had my sympathy, right up to the point where she gave aid and shelter to a pair of men she knew to be assassins, in order to place the new Emperor Bonaparte under obligation. I draw the line at aiding and abetting murder from an ambition to regain imperial status for one's son.

The Baron Dupin was passing himself off as Duponte when he was shot. Everyone believed him to be Duponte. The only one insisting otherwise was Quentin, to Officer White, who didn't believe a word of it. No, JOAN, at this point I believe the assassins are satisfied they killed Duponte.

Wasn't this choice the same that Duponte had to make when putting the Baron in danger? It wasn't Duponte who but the Baron in danger. The Baron's own scheme put him in danger. Duponte was shrewd enough to realize what the Baron was doing, but, did that obligate Duponte to warn him of the possible results of his actions, when his own life was at higher risk? I cannot quite see the rightness of the good guy being so 'honorable' as to sacrifice himself for the bad guy.

Quentin had remonstrated with the Baron more than once about his devious, self-serving tactics, and been laughed at for his pains. Suppose Dupone had said: "I have enemies. If you impersonate me they may kill you." Do you think Dupin would have been turned aside by that, or would he have assumed Duponte was as devious and untruthful as himself? To some extent I am pragmatic; ie., to each the fruits of his own planting.


September 29, 2006 - 11:59 am
Babi, I totally agree. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte did act the part of a co conspirator. Perhap, Elizabeth P. Bonaparte had also become bitten by the "bug" called obsession. Quention already showed the reader through his life how obsession, no matter how worthy the cause, can lead to wrong choices.

How many people really were obsessed in The Poe Shadow? I am beginning to see obsession in more than one character, not just Quentin. Could Edgar Poe been obsessed too with making a name in a worthy magazine? Edgar Poe reached out to a man not ever met by him, Quentin Clark. He only knew Quentin through an exchange of letters, maybe by word of mouth because Quentin was an attorney. How about Baron Dupin? Wasn't he obsessed too? Duponte seems the only one able to hold himself in check.

Is obsession contagious? If the cause becomes well known, does obsession spread like a disease? I think the Temperance society in Baltimore seemed obsessed too. They needed a well known person to prove that alcohol made a man insensible and clueless to remain in control of himself. After finishing the book, obsession remains in my head, nagging, not to forget how far it can make a person go.

What is the message Matthew Pearl wants to leave with his readers? Does his remaining message go farther than trying to relive Poe's mysterious death? Does it go farther than just remembering Poe's genius? Does it go farther than just sheer entertainment?

September 29, 2006 - 12:06 pm
After the murder, I feel Duponte is still going off to lead a secret life. If the assassins have murdered the right man, why does Duponte not change? He continues to act like a hunted man even after the murder of Dupin, I think.

Marni, thank you for the link. Your link and post is going to be very helpful. The annulment of the marriage by the Pope was a huge move. His reasons must have seemed more than important.

While reading about all those Bonapartes in Baltimore, I thought about the many Bin Laden relatives living in the United Stated before 9/11. Of course their presence in the United States did not make the whole family aware of Osama Bin Laden's plans. The size of the families became a personal thought while reading.

Not knowing much about the Bonapartes, I didn't know what was truth or fact. I don't remember reading much about the Bonapartes in the ending notes. That is probably a reading error on my part.

September 29, 2006 - 12:18 pm
In the Acknowledgements Matthew Pearl gave thanks to his parents. Matthew, I bet your parents are very, very proud of you. You do live up to your last name, Pearl. I think of a Pearl and all of its beautiful characteristics.

September 29, 2006 - 04:25 pm
One of the reasons I like to discuss books with others is because I always appreciate the different perspectives people bring to the discussion and the opinions people express about the book. Two discussion items brought up in these past few days have reminded me of these different perspectives.

First, when I was reading the part in the book about the role of the French monarchy in the mystery, I took it all in, rereading a few passages twice to make sure I understood what was going on, and then wondered a bit about the truth of this, that is, until I read the historical note at the end of the book --- “…Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte in Baltimore are situated within the fictional events of the novel.” OK, my curiosity about the real French people ended there. You all are writing much more than I ever expected about the French in the novel! Interesting!

Second, I found myself a bit puzzled by discussion question #10: Would you say the Substance or the Shadow prevailed as Quentin faced the choice between the Baron's version that seemed true and would be believed and Duponte's truthful explanation, which would put that man's future at risk?

Duponte at risk?!? OK, to some degree. However, I thought there was a completely different motivation for Quentin to remain silent as to what Duponte had deduced as the probable events surrounding Poe’s death --- Poe’s reputation and privacy as an individual. I thought Quentin acted, or should I say did not disclose, out of respect for Poe’s privacy. The last few days of Poe’s life are not too flattering, although innocent. Why would Quentin fuel the fire, disregard Poe’s privacy, and disclose information which would be ultimately disrespectful to Poe? Quentin wouldn’t. He respected Poe.

September 29, 2006 - 06:13 pm
First, apologies for missing a few days -- this has been a crazy week with some deadlines sandwiched between two trips (including tomorrow to Baltimore)-- I often lose track of dates and I now see that we're at the end of the dates for this discussion! Since I will be travelling tomorrow, it's possible I won't have much access, so I'm glad to have the chance to say thank you for all of the insightful comments and questions from all of you, and the as-always great moderation from Joan Pearson. Anyone who is not part of my e-newsletter and wants to be -- to hear about future books and events -- please sign up at my website so I can keep you updated (http://www.matthewpearl.com/newsletterform.html)

Babi: Thanks for the comment about the Graham's Magazine "clues" -- especially relevant to those who have been peeking on the Murders in the Rue Morgue discussion, perhaps?

Babi, JoanK, Hats: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte is indeed depicted how she was in real life, in fact, if anything, I probably softened her a bit! She was one tough woman, and a disappointed one, in the end (JoanK: yes, EPB really did want install her own sons or grandsons to the French throne! She thought her grandson would make "a very presentable Emperor of the French")... as Hats says, her story is a sad one, as well, having been thrust and pulled between so many powerful people and political forces

On the poison: I consulted lots of poison experts about this, but left out technical names because those changed so much at different times

Hats: There was a historic house near Baltimore that I based Glen Eliza on--it no longer exists, unfortunately... and as for geology, I have a relative, Richard Pearl, who was a relatively famous geologist and professor in Colorado (I believe he was confined to a wheelchair for most of his adult life)... "Is obsession contagious?" -- I like this question very much

Joan P: I think you're right that those interested in the Reynolds question may wish to read Mystery of Marie Roget! In answer to your question, there are many bits of new info in The Poe Shadow -- they are outlined in the Historical Note. The Reynolds connection is one of them, but is only indirectly in the novel since it's spelled out mostly in the Secret Chapter (for various reasons)... Great photo of Elizabeth Bonaparte by the way!

JoanK: Maryland has always been on the edge of North and South culturally and politically--I am much more familiar with the 19th century Baltimore than with Baltimore of 2006, though I am coincidentally getting on a plane there tomorrow morning! I'm not sure about the current makeup of the population in relation to slaves and slaveholders, though I am sure there are both

Ellen: thanks for jumping in!

LauraD: Quentin definitely has both worries to think about-- Duponte's safety and indeed Poe's integrity, thanks for bringing that up!

September 29, 2006 - 08:46 pm
Thank you, Matthew, for making time for us in your busy schedule. It was outstanding!!! Hope to see you again with your next book.

HATS: "I am beginning to see obsession in more than one character, not just Quentin. Could Edgar Poe been obsessed too with making a name in a worthy magazine?"

Yes, do you feel that Quinten is the "Poe shadow"?, becoming more and more like Poe? If so, Q got out of the shadow, while Poe didn't.

September 29, 2006 - 09:03 pm
Matthew, thank you again for answering our questions. I feel sad about the destruction of the historic house. I wish we, the readers, could have seen it. I agree. JoanP picked a gorgeous portrait of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte.

JoanK,I love what you have said about Quentin. "Quentin got out of the shadow while Poe didn't." Quentin really made a wonderful comeback. It's like the scales had fallen off his eyes. He knew how he wanted to react and what he wanted to say in that courtroom. Maybe Quentin's new obsession is a finer one. The flood waters did cleanse him of any poisonous elements. Now, with all of his heart, he is going to protect whatever his family left him, he is going to give all of his love to Hattie and Glen Eliza.

Peter proved himself a great friend in the end. He sacrificed his time to become a guardian to Hattie until Quentin had taken care of past Poe business. In a way, Peter acted like a father of the bride doing his duty until her love for all time came along, Quentin.

September 29, 2006 - 09:44 pm
Even in the beginning Peter cared about Quentin. In all honesty, Peter told Quentin he might lose what mattered in his life for a pipedream. Peter just wanted Quentin to slow down and think before leaping. When a friend is honest, it's not always easy to swallow their words, well, not at first. Later, their wisdom becomes clearer than water. So, Matthew, leaves obsession and true friendship on my mind along with the life of a genius, Poe.

September 30, 2006 - 01:25 pm
HATS, I agree that more than one person in this story developed a form of 'tunnel vision' in their actions and behavior. I have always heard that if you spend all your time around crazy people, you will go nuts! Maybe there is some truth to your question about obsessive behavior being 'contagious'.

Duponte stayed in 'hiding' by simply moving into the hotel room Dupin had now left vacant, for the simple reason that he needed to stay out of sight until the assassins were satisfed that their job was finished. It was easy, since the Baron had altered his appearance to look like Duponte, everyone at the hotel would assume Duponte was the Baron!

I was interested that Quentin's reflections on his Father, the man who had always championed 'industry' and 'enterprise', decided him to fight for his home against his great-Aunt. He realized his Father had also broken away from the strictures of society, for the sake of the woman he loved, and built this 'Glen Eliza' for her.

This statement gave me pause: "...the greatest detriments to our health: first, fear, and second, dread."

Anxiety, now...chronic, long-term anxiety, is certainly detrimental to one's health. Fear and dread are usually short-term emotions, don't you think? Coupled with illness, these things are certainly severely detrimental. Over the long term, tho', fear and dread would surely be rare occurrences, and unlikely to be a very great detriment to health.

Of course, I live in a more or less law-abiding, civil society. I can see where there are places on earth right now where people live in almost constant fear and dread. Detrimental to their health? Certainly. But not nearly so great a detriment as those things which are causing their fear and dread.

"Police in Europe want all criminals to know they are there; police in America want people to believe there are no criminals."

Was that a fair assessment of our police in the early 19th century? Interesting. The European stance seems far more practical.


Joan Pearson
September 30, 2006 - 03:27 pm
Matthew! No need to apologize - yours is a breakneck schedule. I plan to look for you in Baltimore tomorrow - wish me luck. There are all sorts of ball games scheduled for Sunday - including the Ravens! Somehow that's appropriate!

Do any of you you have more questions for Matthew? I think we might be able to coax him back for a few more before we close up shop. Thanks Matthew for additional information on Elizabeth Patterson. I am happy you mentioned it to clear up any concerns that you may have villanized the poor woman for fictional purposes! Matthew says he went easy on the lady? <Hats - here's some more on Elizabeth Patterson - who lived to the ripe old age of 94. Don't you think that was unusual for the time?
More on Elizabeth Patterson - and the annulment -

Epitaph on Elizabeth Patterson's tombstone: "After life's fitful fever she sleeps well."
" Betsy's ambitions must have risen in 1848 when the Bonapartes returned to power in France. Bo, by now Col. Bonaparte, was a friend of the new ruler, Louis Napoleon. But circumstances were still not to favor her aspirations. Her former husband Jerome, the ex-King of Westphalia, objected to Napoleon, in a gesture of reconciliation, referring to his American cousin as Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1855, Napoleon offered Bo the title of Duke of Sartene as a way to solve the family feud. Bo turned him down."
Another note on Jerome -
>"Readers may be interested to know how Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte happened to be in Baltimore, Maryland, to have a pair of askoi made for him by the silversmith Samuel Kirk. Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte was the grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte and the son of his youngest brother, Jerome, who was sent to the West Indies at the turn of the nineteenth century. On a visit to the United States in 1803, he met and married Elizabeth Patterson of Baltimore. silver askoi
Marni - Yes, I think you are right - it wasn't the fact that Elizabeth P. was Jewish - but that she was so young and as you say - Napoleon wanted him to make a political European match that would help ensure Napoleon's power"- someone titled, someone who would overcome the family's Corsican roots.
Back in a bit - (someone is looking for his dinner!) You've brought up some really good points...I don't feel we've finished just yet, do you? Laura made a great observation about Quentin's decision, and who might have been hurt - and Babi on his obsession and his father, JoanK on the Shadow of Poe. We need to talk more about this. Can you believe that Quentin will happily settle down to practice law now?

October 1, 2006 - 03:52 am
JoanP, thank you for more information about Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte.

October 1, 2006 - 01:12 pm
I do believe Quentin will happily settle down and practice law now. He had to settle down to get himself acquitted. He feels like he knows enough surrounding the mystery of Poe’s death. His friend, Peter, and his fiancée, Hattie, have stood by him through thick and thin. I do feel that Quentin can live a “normal” life now. If he does indeed possess obsessive behavior, I think he will channel his energies toward more useful projects, like the law practice and his marriage and family. And, if what Hats suggests is true, that obsession can be contagious (I think so too, Hats. Have you all heard of the term group think?), then maybe normalcy can be contagious too.

Here’s a sentence I never thought I would find myself saying --- I think I am Poe’d out! LOL! This month has been a great learning experience and so much fun. I sure am glad that I read The Poe Shadow ahead of time because spending time reading the Dupin mysteries, as well as a few of Poe’s other works, not to mention Matthew’s secret chapters, really added to my whole Poe experience.

Thank you, Matthew, for spending time with us here. Thank you, Joan, for leading the group. Thank you, everyone, for a month of Poe!

October 1, 2006 - 01:21 pm
I wasn't really expecting the ending to be so neatly tied up with Quentin ending up so normal, although I was glad he did. So many of Poe's stories had tragic or horrible endings and I thought maybe something bizarre would happen at the end or that Quentin's life would end tragically or something like how Poe's ended.

Matthew: Thank you so much for joining us in this discussion. It was very exciting to have a "live" author here with us! Good luck with your future books!

October 1, 2006 - 01:26 pm
Hi LauraD, your post is so interesting. I have never heard of "group think." Now my mind is wondering about "normalcy" being contagious. I want to say the idea of "normalcy" being contagious is great. However, my normalcy might not seem correct to somebody else. What is normalcy? Is there only one way to behave normal? Trying to dictate normalcy might lead to a totalitarian government. Oh boy, maybe it is time to leave Quentin's exciting life. I feel his curiosity is becoming a part of my psyche.

I have truly enjoyed this discussion. I am grateful to JoanP, Matthew Pearl, and all of the posters. I will remember this September of 2006. Matthew, I look forward to your next book. I wish you success.

Joan Pearson
October 1, 2006 - 03:08 pm
Such great closing posts! I just returned from the Baltimore Book Festival and took a bunch of photos I'd like to share with you before we move on to our next adventure and let Matthew move on to his third book. Can't wait!

I do have some last questions - maybe you do too. (It seems I'm never finished when the end of the discussion comes along and everyone is saying goodbye. Matthew has promised to come back tomorrow with some post-discussion notes. My very last question for him is kind of personal and I didn't want to put Matthew on the spot during the Q & A after his talk at the festival. At least here in the privacy of this room he can sidestep the question if he wishes.

But before I get the questions together and download the photos, I have a few bits of information lingering on my desktop. Please bear with me - I'd like to add this material to the archived discussion.

Joan Pearson
October 1, 2006 - 03:27 pm
This has been bugging me since I read that Napoleon got the pope to annul the marriage between Jerome Bonaparte and Elizabeth Patterson. I couldn't find the grounds for divorce anywhere...until I found that the annulment never happened. When he refused, Napoleon as emperor declared the marriage null and void. After the death of Jerome she brought suit for a share in his estate; but documentary proofs, the fact that the validity of her marriage had been sustained by the Church, and the zeal and eloquence of her advocate, Berryer, did not prevent an adverse decision, probably inspired by the imperial court. -
"The relations between the Church and France declined following the Pope's refusal to divorce Jerome Bonaparte and Elizabeth Patterson in 1805. The newly-crowned emperor of France restarted his expansionist policies and assumed control over Ancona, Naples (following the Battle of Austerlitz, making his brother king), Pontecorvo and Benevent. The changes angered the pope, and following his refusal to accept them Napoléon, in February 1808, demanded he subsidize France's military conflict with the United Kingdom. The pope again refused leading to further confiscations of territory such as Urbino, Ancona and Macerata. Finally in 1809, on 17 May, the Papal states were totally annexed and Pius VII was taken to Fontainebleau." The pope refused

Joan Pearson
October 1, 2006 - 03:56 pm
Laura, did it seem to you that Duponte gave Quentin his blessing - his permission to reveal the information he had "ratiocinated" about Poe's last days? Did Duponte not have the same concern for Poe's honor - as Quentin did? Quentin had taken the high road, more so than any characters I've seen in Poe's work - and yet, he reached his decision using the same "tools" we find in Poe's work. As Hats put it - "Quentin has taken the high road" - he found his way out of the locked room where it seemed his only keys to get out were to present the Baron's untrue, but believable version or Duponte's - closer-to-the-the-truth version, but probably damaging to Poe's memory. He risked it all by choosing not to reveal what he knew about Poe. So, what saved him? Why was he believed?

What was the turning point in the novel, the point where Quentin rose above his obsession? Do you think that's important? Babi, was it realizing that his father had broken from the strictures of Society? What made the "scales fall from his eyes, " Hats

No, I wasn't expecting Quentin to end up so normal either, Marni. He does say that he and Peter became two of the most successful lawyers in Baltimore. Quentin's new legal acumen is said to have been the reason.

What impressions has The Poe Shadow left on you? Did you learn anything about yourself from reading Matthew's book - or from Poe's stories for that matter? (Remember the day Hats asked whether reading Poe would make us "smarter"? I loved that question and have been thinking about it ever since.)

Joan Pearson
October 1, 2006 - 09:25 pm
First of all, the weather was a disappointment, as you can see. Isn't Poe's Baltimore supposed to be foggy and mysterious?

I thought you might enjoy ratiocinating what the City of Baltimore intended with this street sign?

We came early anticipating a huge crowd for the Baltimore Ravens/San Diego football game. (They won! Are we to "CAW"? Caw, caw, Ravens!)

Our first stop was the Poe burial ground. Unfortunately the gate was locked, though there was a sign saying it was open two hours earlier.

It was eerie the way the sun was shining right on Poe's tombstone - and only Poe's stone at that hour of the morning. I took this photo through the iron fence. Can you see the three dried roses at the base?
Behind the stone, there's a plaque on the fence, a tribute written in French from Poe's French friends.

This inscription is on the back of the tombstone.

Joan Pearson
October 1, 2006 - 09:27 pm
On the same tombstone, you find these inscriptions for "Muddy" and Virginia. For some reason I found them more moving than Poe's. They suddenly became real people rather than characters from a book

Later in the afternoon on the way home we saw that the gates were open and stopped again - notice that the flowers are accumulating.

Matthew says this occurs to makr the anniversary of Poe's death.

Poe is very much alive in Baltimore! There were nearly a dozen bunches of flowers around the grave.

Don't you think that's amazing over 150 years after his death?

Joan Pearson
October 1, 2006 - 09:29 pm
Unfortunately the Poe Home wasn't open, though it had a sign to knock at the hour that we were there.

I had hoped for some sign that Poe had actually lived here. The little dormer window on the roof was supposed to have been his room - or was it Virginia's...

But just standing outside gave me an eerie feeling to think that he had gone up and down these same old steps and entered through the little door and fallen in love with the little girl who lived there with her mother.

Here's another statue of Poe - this one is spectacular, wonderfully done by Moses Ezekiel nearly 100 years ago. The eyes follow you no matter where you stand. Can you read the marker?


Joan Pearson
October 1, 2006 - 09:32 pm
The highlight of the trip was the Baltimore Book Festival and meeting up with Matthew again. It is an amazing experience just listening to him speak of the book we have been disecting for the last month.

As you can tell from this photo - Matthew really gets into his topic and his enthusiasm is contagious!

Note his little Edgar doll - a gift from an admirer. You probably can't see the little raven velcroed on the doll's shoulder.

Nearly all, if not all of the questions during the Q&A period centered on Poe's last days. That's understandable - in Baltimore, but I would have liked to hear more about Matthew's book, his creation, his characters too. I mean, there was no way to ask him the question about "the kiss" and how Bonjour escaped getting poisoned herself!

Nor was there time to ask Matthew those personal questions that might have caught him off guard.

Clearly there are parallels between Quentin and Matthew. Quentin has had an epiphany - probably more than one, and has come to a better understanding of himself through his research into Poe's work, into the way Poe's mind worked. Now he is able to go back to his law practice with renewed interest and focus.

Matthew, can you share with us whether you have been affected by Poe, having lived so closely with the man for the last three years? Have you come away from the experience with new insights or self-understanding?

Joan Pearson
October 1, 2006 - 09:34 pm
We can't thank you enough for the gift of your precious time, Matthew.

As it turns out, today, October 2 is a red letter day.

We won't ask you the personal question - "how old are you now" - but just sing"

Happy Birthday, Matthew Pearl
...and THANK YOU!

October 2, 2006 - 01:11 am
JoanP, thank you so much for the wonderful photos. Each one is fantastic and interesting. I am glad you were able to get in the cemetery. I could see the roses, first three and more roses at a later time. Seeing you on the doorstep is exciting too. That statue of Poe looks very "real."

Oh yes, Muddy and Virginia's gravesites. Thank you for sharing those photos too.

Thanks to both of you for giving so much.

October 2, 2006 - 03:29 am
JoanP's question: What impressions has The Poe Shadow left on you? Did you learn anything about yourself from reading Matthew's book - or from Poe's stories for that matter?

"So many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible." Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

While reading The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl, I have become more curious. If my curiosity remains active, nothing is impossible. I do believe Poe had that type of curiosity. Quentin also lived an exciting adventure because he risked everything to satisfy his curiosity.

October 2, 2006 - 04:56 am
Here are definitions of groupthink from three different online dictionaries:

a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics

1. the practice of approaching problems or issues as matters that are best dealt with by consensus of a group rather than by individuals acting independently; conformity. 2. the lack of individual creativity, or of a sense of personal responsibility, that is sometimes characteristic of group interaction.

...The act or practice of reasoning or decision-making by a group, especially when characterized by uncritical acceptance or conformity to prevailing points of view....

I learned about groupthink in business school. The idea is that there will be a reduction of individual thought and creativity when people are put into a group. Have any of you ever seen an experiment where they set a person up and put him in a group where everyone claims that an apple is blue (for example)? After a short while, in order to conform to the group, the person being set up will also say the apple is blue, even though it is not. So, yes, obsession and normalcy would/could both be catching.

And back to a few questions on The Poe Shadow…

It seemed to me that Duponte left the decision about what to reveal about Poe’s last days up to Quentin. I am not sure what Duponte’s motives were, throughout the whole book actually. I would guess that he got “the ratiocination bug” when Quentin initially approached him and just was itching to work on the mystery. I don’t think he wanted any credit for himself, but I don’t know what he felt about Poe. I would guess that since Duponte wanted to be out of the spotlight, that maybe he would want Poe’s information to be out of the spotlight too.

As for what saved Quentin, I recall a comment that claimed he put all his energies into being the best lawyer he could, thereby saving himself. I don’t recall any details being presented, so I am not sure exactly why he was believed. Maybe public sympathy?

Oh, I just saw this comment you wrote amongst the pictures, Joan, which I think helps explain… Joan said: parallels between Quentin and Matthew. Quentin has had an epiphany - probably more than one, and has come to a better understanding of himself through his research into Poe's work, into the way Poe's mind worked. Now he is able to go back to his law practice with renewed interest and focus.

Thanks for the great pictures, Joan!

Happy birthday, Matthew!

October 2, 2006 - 05:07 am
LauraD, thank you.

October 2, 2006 - 09:41 am
Happy Birthday, Matthew!

Fabulous photos, JoanP! Thank you so much for them and for leading this terrific discussion!


October 2, 2006 - 01:09 pm
And thank you for a fascinating book. I hope you had fun researching it!

October 2, 2006 - 01:47 pm
I couldn't resist. Happy Unbirthday, Matthew!

Happy Unbirthday

I am confused. This is not an unbirthday but a birthday, right????

October 2, 2006 - 03:22 pm
Happy Birthday, Matthew, and many more!

October 2, 2006 - 03:58 pm
Happy Birthday! Hope this is your best birthday yet!!!

October 2, 2006 - 04:18 pm

And many thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to be with us and answer our many questions.

JOAN, thank you for those closing pictures and information. And for a very enjoyable discussion.


October 3, 2006 - 06:15 am
Thanks to all of you for your birthday wishes, a nice way to wind down such an enjoyable discussion... and to Joan for making it to the Baltimore Book Festival and for the great new t-shirt so I can always remember my two (and hopefully more in the future) seniornet discussions. Great pictures, too! The Poe house in Baltimore is notoriously hard to catch when it's "open," but it is a treat once you make it inside.

Epiphanies: I certainly feel I learned about Poe, in a pragmatic but also in a more abstract way, but I'm not sure I'd put it into any other words but the novel itself.

Poison: Good question! I have a few possibilities in mind, but intentionally didn't explain it because I want readers to be able to come to their own conclusions about Bonjour in general and her actions at that point in the novel. So I don't want to ruin that by giving a "definitive" explanation!

I do like how all our discussions come full circle with a Baltimore Ravens win, and it was a bit surreal being in Baltimore for the book festival and seeing people walk around with their Ravens t-shirts and hats, etc. What a strange fate Poe has -- not just his death, but his afterlife!

October 9, 2006 - 05:21 am
Hi all, I'm going to take a quick crack at selecting some of the leftovers here -- I won't get to all of them due to time, thanks to Joan for reopening the thread!...

"Do you see the title of this last book as more than the water that opened up the prison wall to allow Quentin's escape, but perhaps symbolic of his release from the confines of his own solitude? Has his solitude been the prison that has led to his obsession? Do you see other "floods" in these last chapters?"

I try not to interpet my own work, but I absolutely think it's right to identify various types of floods. Structurally speaking, most stories open up a flood, so to speak, in the final "act." At the same time, the actual flood was based on a real one in Baltimore.

""Only through observing that which is mistaken can we come to the truth." How does the realization of his personal misperceptions enable Quentin to take charge of his life and ultimately save himself?"

Sometimes we want characters to be perfect -- perhaps in imitation of how we imagine ourselves -- this has become the stock role of protagonists in much of popular fiction, film and books, but I'm generally more interested in damaged characters. I like the idea of Duponte's pronouncements as applying to Quentin's character, as well.

"Did all those Bonapartes really live in Baltimore at one time?"

Yes! They did indeed, and I believe there still may be American Bonaparte descendents around.

"Is it noteworthy that Edwin Hawkins is the one who comes to Quentin's aid whenever he is in an impossible situation? Why does Edwin Hawkins risk all for Quentin? Why doesn't Hope Slatter press charges and take him back into slavery when he has the chance?"

Well, Slatter lies and says it was a white person who attacked him because he is embarrassed to admit otherwise -- thus, he can't retract that without getting in trouble himself. Still, he would have made trouble for Edwin, which is why Edwin doesn't return until Slatter moves to Alabama (which he did) as a friendlier base of operations.

""To guess is one of the most elevated powers of the human mind and more interesting than reasoning because it comes from the imagination." But isn't this what the Baron had done with the information he had gathered?"

The Baron tends to manipulate information rather than actually use his instincts -- you don't get the sense that he's really trying to intuit what happened. More like a criminal defense lawyer, whose job it is to tailor information with a certain agenda, not to find the truth.

"Does Duponte ever admit that he is not Poe's Dupin? Do you believe that he is?"

In The Dante Club, the murderer was what I'd call a "literal" reader. In The Poe Shadow, its Quentin who is the literal reader -- as we see immediately when he wants to settle where the "shadow" comes from in The Raven. So it is with being sure there must be a "real" Dupin. The truth is we'll never know whether Poe had someone in mind (though he we can track some influences), but this is why it's interesting to me. Conan Doyle did have a "real" Sherlock Holmes, but I like the idea that we have to struggle with the question a little bit. Quentin, like many people today, especially American readers, wants to find reality behind everything in literature.

"Do you believe that Duponte has responded to the mysteries surrounding Poe's death as he reveals the errors in the Baron's version one by one? Has he solved the mystery simply by proving there was nothing extraordinary or mysterious about Poe's last days?"

Interesting question -- part of soliving mysteries is always debunking the mysterious. Think of The Murders in the Rue Morgue -- you could condense the events into a newspaper article about how the women died, and it wouldn't be too dramatic (though it would certainly be gruesome). Same with almost any Law & Order episode! If Scott Petersen had confessed to killing Laci Petersen the day after it happened it would not have been in the media for three years. What kept our attention as a culture (for better or worse) was not knowing. The mystery comes from not knowing. Duponte is working with the evidence I found on Poe's death and that's not something I was willing to change for the sake of sensationalizing it -- as the book indicates, what is most interesting about Poe's death is the humanity it shows, not the mystery.

"Does Quentin's decision not to reveal information on Poe's death indicate that his obsession with Poe has ended? What would you have done with the new information?"

Written a novel of course!

Joan Pearson
October 9, 2006 - 09:19 am
Thank you so much for your precious time and energy, Matthew! You have shared so much of yourself and your research throughout this discussion. We treasure your final thoughts which gives a rare glimpse into an author's point of view.

We have learned so much and enjoyed so much - your participation and enthusiasm have captured our imagination and we honestly appreciate that you shared it here with us. We look forward to sharing your next adventure!

As a result of your research and