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November 17, 2011

"The Philosophy of Composition" — Edgar Allen Poe (1846)


Wrote John McPhee in an essay in the latest New Yorker, "In 1846, in Graham's MagazineEdgar Allan Poe published an essay called 'The Philosophy of Composition,' in which he described the stages of thought through which he had conceived of and eventually written his poem 'The Raven.'"

Above, the cover of the April, 1846 issue of Graham's Magazine in which Poe's piece first appeared.

Wrote McPhee of Poe's essay, "The idea began in the abstract. He wanted to write something tonally sombre, sad, mournful, and saturated with melancholia, he knew not what. He thought it should be repetitive and have a one-word refrain. He asked himself which vowel would best serve the purpose. He chose the long 'o.' And what combining consonant, producibly doleful and lugubrious? He settled on 'r.' Vowel, consonant, 'o,' 'r.' Lore. Core. Door. Lenore. Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.' Actually, he said 'nevermore' was the first such word that crossed his mind. How much cool truth there is in that essay is in the eye of the reader."

November 17, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Nov 17, 2011 2:05:11 PM

Or John McPhee's, for that matter.

Posted by: bookofjoe | Nov 17, 2011 10:16:38 AM

Would that we all could express our thoughts with Poe's clarity.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Nov 17, 2011 10:10:08 AM

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