POE THE FRONTIER PHILOSOPHER (Great Quotations)

My major reading goal for the year was/is to read the Running Press edition of The Unabridged Edgar Allan Poe. I’m a bit more than halfway through so I’m right on course. The surprising thing so far has been just how little of Poe’s output was dedicated to the tales of horror and the macabre for which he’s best (and nowadays almost solely) known.

Horror was definitely his metier…you can literally feel his pulse quicken–the writer finding himself–when he writes his first true horror scene in “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.”

But, like most great writers he had many dimensions. His greatness in horror came from a much deeper foundation. Here in “The Journal of Julius Rodman,” he gets as far into the heart of the frontier adventurer as even Fenimore Cooper, with whom most people forget he was an almost exact contemporary:

“Some singular evidences of the feeling which more or less pervaded us all occurred during the prosecution of the voyage. Interests, which, in the settlements, would have been looked upon as of the highest importance, were here treated as matters unworthy of a serious word, and neglected, or totally discarded upon the most frivolous pretext. Men who had traveled thousands of miles through a howling wilderness, beset by horrible dangers, and enduring the most heart-rending privations for the ostensible purpose of collecting peltries, would seldom take the trouble to secure them when obtained, and would leave behind them without a sigh an entire cache of fine beaver skin rather than forego the pleasure of pushing up some romantic-looking river, or penetrating into some craggy and dangerous cavern, for minerals whose use they knew nothing about, and which they threw aside as lumber at the first decent opportunity.

“In all this my own heart was very much with the rest of the party…”

(June, 1940).

Thus was America born. How it dies will be up to us I guess.

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