FOE A8 AN EVOLUTIONIST 269
Seated at my desk, says Mr. Putnam, and looking at me a full minute with his " glittering eye," he at length said, " I am Mr. Poe." I was " all ear," of course, and sincerely interested. It was the author of " The Raven " and of " The Gold Bug." " I hardly know," said the poet, after a pause, " how to begin what I have to say. It is a matter of profound importance." After another pause, the poet seeming to be in a tremor of excitement, he at length went on to say that the publication he had to propose was of momentous interest. New- ton's discovery of gravitation was a mere incident compared with the discoveries revealed in this book. It would at once command such unusual and intense interest that ttie publisher might give up all other enterprises, and make this one book the business of his lifetime. An edition of fifty thousand copies might be sufficient to begin with, but it would be but a small beginning. No other scientific event in the history of the world approached in importance the orig- inal developments of the book. All this and more, not in irony or jest, but in intense earnest — for he held me with his eye like the Ancient Mariner. I was really impressed, but not overcome. Promising a decision on Monday (it was late Saturday), the poet had to rest so long in uncertainty, upon the extent of the edition, partly reconciled by a small loan meanwhile. We did venture, not upon fifty thousand, but five hundred."
This account, which was written twenty years after the events it relates, seems more or less colored ;^^ it exhibits, however, sufficiently well, the value attached by Poe to his work.
At the opening of " Eureka " Poe thus states his purpose : I design to speak of the Physical, Metaphysical and Mathematical — of the material and spiritual universe, — of its Essence, its Origin, its Creation, its Present Condition and its Destiny. I shall be so rash, moreover, as to challenge the conclusions, and thus, in eS'ect, to question the sagacity, of many of the greatest and most justly reverenced of men."
Following this, conies a satire on the exclusive use of either the deductive or inductive methods in the search for truth, purporting to be written by a student of our logic, a thousand years hence.^^ The skit is clever and is not wanting in some telling hits, but it is out of place and has probably caused many a reader to put down the whole essay. Then after some acute criticisms of a few metaphysical terms, such as " Infinity " and a " First Cause,"^^ Poe proceeds to his main theme. " In the beginning," from " his spirit or from nihility," " by dint of his volition," God created a single material particle in a condi- tion of the utmost possible unity and simplicity.^* " The assumption of absolute unity in the primordial particle includes that of infinite divisibility. Let us conceive the particle, then, to be only not totally exhausted by diffusion into space. From the one particle, as a center,
" Putnam's Magazine, October, 1869. Quoted by Ingram, Vol. II., p. 145.
"Both Ingram (Vol. II., p. 144) and Woodberry (p. 285) are of this opinion.
" ' Works,' Vol. IX., p. 5.
" Works, edited by Steadman and Woodberry, " Eureka," Vol. IX., pp. 7-18. This edition of Poe's works is referred to throughout the references in the present article.
" Ihid., pp. : 0-14.
" Pages 26, 27.