Why does poe write like 18- or Minister D-

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Why does Poe abbreviate his responses in such a manner as stated in the Subject line? Any help greatly appreciated.


-- Anonymous, April 09, 2001


I must apologize, but certainty does failed me as here I sat thinking of your question. Nevertheless, if it should lend anything, I shall offer my opinion on the matter, but you must bear in mind that I cannot be precise on the matter.

As I read Poe's works, the same question had come to my mind, and after careful contemplation, I came to a conclusion for myself.

I believe that the last two digits specifying the year were left out by his person because I feel that he wanted the reader to know that this has happened or could happen within any year. The first two numbers were kept because some of his stories would lose some of their placement if they were to have been set in a century other than the nineteenth. I think that Edgar Allan Poe wanted his subjects to be left with a sense of wonder, thus he omitted crucial portions of the date to render the possibility or certainty that any of these events could happen at any one time.

Concerning the names, however, I believe he left the majority of the titles out in order to do those persons respect by not revealing the whole of their identity. For example, Mrs. S----- F. O---- (Mrs. Sargeant Francis Osgood, if I spelled it correctly) had her titile concealed so as not to draw attention to herself (though I do believe that I read something stating that not to be a real person, but rather a name based on an actual individual). Minister D------ and characters in his stories whose textual names bear those dashes, I believe, have their names as such because Poe wanted the reader to think that it could be Minister Anyone. So that the reader could possibly relate better to the story, Poe did this, allowing one to set the story as they wished to do so, in their mind. Poe always involves the reader in his tales, and this is an example of the method.

I do hope that this may have helped you in some way, but again, these are only opinions and rest merely upon the grounds of my own interpretation. If there is factual material concerning the reasoning for the concealment of the dates and names, than I do hope that someone should state so.

All Respects and Regards,

-- Anonymous, April 10, 2001

Blake and Mr. Regan,

As Mr. Regan so aptly indicated, to be precise in regards to Poe's design behind his use of ambiguity is difficult but I tend to feel his presumptions are essentially correct. Perhaps, this is one of those instances where the final analysis is determined by eliminating all the possibilities until we are left with the most practical probability.

Poe's use of the indeterminate was not unique for the time but it certainly appears he favored it more than most of his contemporaries. His use of partial dates and dashes for names wasn't his only form of vagueness. I fully agree that the use of 18__ for a date establishes the context of time but clearly limits the time frame to within a specific century or set of generations. This permits the reader to participate in the determination of his own context of time but relative to his own life experiences or knowledge. It must be remembered that these stories were written for the broadest possible audience and if there is any failing for which Poe cannot be condemned, it is neglecting his audience.

I also agree that his strange use of partial names (or omitting names altogether, as in some of his poetry) was intended to provide some measure of sensitivity to the object of his prose or poetry. Some biographers tend to parse, piecemeal and psychoanalyze this affinity for indistinctness as some imbedded cerebral recollection triggered by his mistreatment at the hands of John Allan; the death of a loved one or some foul deed done him by some literary enemy. As Mr. Regan points out, it also allows the reader to relate more easily to the events or circumstances of the story.

Yet another example of this ambiguity is ommission and can be seen in his story, "The Cask of Amontillado". We are never, even once, permitted to be privy to the details of the grievous insult heaped upon the noble Montresor by the arrogant buffoon, Fortunato. We know absolutely nothing of the specifics that drives Montresor's resolve to bring Fortunato to account through a devious act of premeditated murder. What insult could possibly have been so terrible? Do we need to know? Does it diminish the tale if we don't know? Does the fact that we know nothing of Fortunato's crime ruin the story for us? Not one whit!! Reading this tale as a teen, I knew precisely the offense which would cause me to seek similar retribution. Reading the tale today, the magnitude of the offense may have changed but the passions of retribution for an appropriate offense remain intact. Interesting question isn't it... what personal affront would cause you to contemplate and then to commit premeditated murder?

As regarding Ms. Osgood, actually she was a real person. She was a poetess of some renown in Philadelphia, I believe, and an unapologetic and devoted admirer of Poe's work. She was married to a portrait painter, Samuel Stillman Osgood. She and Poe were rumored to have had a romantic affair but their relationship was really limited to an exchange of poetry in print. They shared a mutual respect and admiration but anything beyond this was unlikely for Frances was also a good friend of Virginia's and held her in high regard. Poe was also fond of acrostics and the poem "A Valentine" was written for Frances. Her name is spelled out in the poem by using the first letter of the first line with the second letter of the second line and so on until the end. Of special interest regarding Frances Osgood was the privately combative relationship between Poe and Rufus W. Griswold who, himself, was romantically infatuated with Frances. Poe's open and mutual relationship with Frances must have galled Griswold who considered Poe a wicked and immoral Southerner. For Poe, Griswold represented a laughable figure, wholly undeserving of his station or his unearned literary influence.

Best Regards,

-- Anonymous, April 12, 2001

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