Notes on Objects & Places from Stories of Edgar Allan Poe

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Stories of Edgar Allan Poe Objects/Places

Pen knife: The drunken Narrator used this small knife to stab Pluto’s eye after returning home late one night.

Gallows: A gallows is a structure used customarily to hang criminals. The Narrator hung Pluto from a tree in his yard, and his house is engulfed in flames soon after. In the wreckage of his house, a shadow resembling the cat hanging from the tree is visible. His second cat has a white patch of fur underneath resembling a gallows, and when the Narrator’s crime is discovered he is sentenced to death, presumably by being hung on a gallows as well.

House of Usher: This term refers to the 'Family of Usher,' of which Madeline and Roderick are the last survivors. In a literal sense, it also refers to the Usher family mansion, which collapses with the dying Roderick and Madeline Ushers. Both Houses of Usher thus fall, as a family and an old structure die together.

Red Death: A highly contagious disease, suggestive of the historical 'Black Death,' the Red Death causes individuals to cough up blood, soon leading to internal bleeding and a rapid death. Prospero hoped to escape the Red Death, but the disease, personified through the presence of a sinister figure, still somehow entered his palace, instantly infecting everyone within Prospero’s palace. The Red Death is superior to everything else, even Time itself.

Ebony clock: The clock is in the blood-red room at the end of the corridor in Prospero’s palace. Whenever this black clock chimes, the revelers stop partying, as if struck by fear. The clock remind them of their own mortality, that in spite of their revelry, their time is limited. The black color is suggestive of death, and even Time itself stops at midnight, the end of the day, after the Red Death consumed everything.

Pierre Jean de Beranger: A contemporary French poet who lived from 1780-1857, during Poe’s time.

Mesmerism: A movement begun by German physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), who believed that all objects have a natural 'animal magnetism' between them. According to his research, this magnetism could be used to heal people. Doctor Templeton uses this method upon Bedloe in 'A Tale of the Ragged Mountains,' and Mesmerism keeps Valdemar alive for many months, delaying his inevitable death. Edgar Allan Poe was also personally very interested in Mesmer’s research.

Harlaem, NY: A town above Manhattan which, like the town of Fordham, had not yet been incorporated into the greater community of New York City. Harlaem, or Harlem, is where Valdemar resides.

Passage of the Beresina: During Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Russia in November of1812, the French army eventually decided to retreat from Moscow. To accomplish this, they had to cross the Beresina River, but the Russians had already destroyed the bridge! Napoleon’s men created a makeshift bridge to cross, but In the process of crossing many French were slain by Russians patiently waiting on the other side of the river.

Earthquake of Lisbon: A catastrophic earthquake that devastated the Portugese capital city of Lisbon on November 1, 1755.

Black Hole of Calcutta: A Bengalese leader captured the Indian city of Calcutta and Fort William in 1755, after which he imprisoned 156 men in a tiny dungeon. The next morning, 123 of these men had suffocated due to the tiny space. Recent studies suggest that these facts are exaggerated, but in Poe’s day people no doubt based their opinions upon these events reported by survivor John Holwell, whom some say has distorted the facts.

Plague of London: The Black Death struck England with a violent epidemic in 1665, paralyzing the city and causing at least one hundred people to die in London alone during one year.

Massacre of St. Bartholomew: On August 24, 1572, Protestant worshippers were slain by at the order of the King Charles IX of France. This massacre Began this day and continued for an entire week, during which over one hundred thousand people were slain by the French military. Those who fled from France because of this persecution were called 'Huguenots,' such as the ancestors of Walter Legrand in 'The Gold-Bug.'

Baltimore, Maryland: Poe lived here with his Aunt Clemm and cousin Virginia soon after leaving West Point.

Chirurgical Journal of Leipsic: A chirurgical or 'surgical' journal from the town of Leipsic in Germany. This town is mentioned as having a group of notable physicians including Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), the founder of modern homeopathic medicine. The fact that a medical journal was published in Leipsic is not clear, but it may be plausible.

Galvanic battery: A device used to send an electric charge through a person’s body in order to observe the body’s reaction. The artillery officer died when he was experimented upon with this mechanism.

Catalepsy: The Narrator is diagnosed with this psychosomatic disorder known as 'catalepsy' in which the muscles become unusually tense or rigid, probably due to anxiety. The Narrator’s catalepsy disappears when he discards his fears of being buried alive.

Richmond, Virginia: The capital city of Virginia founded in 1737 and place where Edgar Allan Poe spent most of his formative years as a child and an adolescent.

Buchan: Scottish writer William Buchan (1729-1805) published a medical book in 1785 entitled Buchan’s Domestic Medicine. Presumably, the Narrator burns this book in suddenly dispelling all of his hypochondria.

Night Thoughts: A book by British novelist Edward Young published in 1742. Its focus is primarily upon the deep contemplation of life, with the full title reading: Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality.

Carathis: A character from William Beckford’s The History of the Caliph Vathek, published in 1786. Carathis is a wicked witch who casts spells on people; the Narrator’s warning suggests that such frightened visions abound in everyone’s mind, and we are not to explore such violent thoughts.

Afrasiab : A character from Persian poet Firdausi’s The Book of Kings. Afrasiab is an evil sorcerer whom the Narrator compares himself to. His fears will no longer surround him as Afrasiab surrounded himself with demons. The Narrator wishes to be free.

Atys by Quinault: A tragic opera by French poet Philippe Quinault and Jean-Baptiste Lully, which features a love story in which the hero Atys mistakenly murders his beloved Sangaride.

Pyrrhonism: The teachings of Greek philosopher Pyrrho (died circa 270 BC) that advise people to be skeptical of all things. According to Pyrrhonism, there are no finite truths in the world.

Batavia, Java: The modern day city of Jarkarta, on Indonesia’s island of Java, once called Batavia by the Dutch, who had conquered this territory in the Dutch East Indies from the Portuguese. The Narrator’s ship sets out from here before sinking during a mighty storm.

Phosphorescent fish and seaweed: This phenomenon of glowing fish and seaweed is factual and occurs throughout the many seas and oceans of the world.

Balbec, Tadmor, and Persepolis: Balbec is an ancient city in Syria, as is Tadmor. Persepolis is an ancient city located in modern Iran. Note that all three of these cities are mentioned in Edgar Allan Poe’s poem 'Al Aaraaf' as well.

Mercator’s maps: Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594) was a Flemish mapmaker who added lines of latitude and longitude to maps. Poe references one map where the Polar areas of the Earth is portrayed as having water rushing down into it, wishing to point out that his own vision of the South Pole was created independently from Mercator.

Charlottesville, Virginia: A city located southwest from Virginia’s capital city of Richmond. Poe attended the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, in Charlottesville when he was a young man.

Saratoga, Virginia: A city located near Richmond, north of Charlottesville. It is here that Doctor Templeton and Augustus Bedloe met for the first time.

Morphine: A drug used in medicine primarily to kill pain. Overcome by constant pain because of his illness, Bedloe consumes large quantities of morphine on a regular basis.

Ragged Mountains: A particularly rocky section of the Appalachian Mountain range that extends into the Shenandoah River Valley in Western Virginia near Charlottesville. Augustus Bedloe has a strange experience while walking through these mountains.

Arabian Tales: A collection of tales told by a Queen Shehezad attempting to prevent her execution at the hands of the Caliph. Augustus Bedloe encounters a city that looks as if it is taken right out of this ancient collection of stories.

Calcutta: The Indian city that has since been renamed to Koltata. It is here that the 'Black Hole' incident occurred, and where Warren Hastings put down an uprising of the native population against British colonial rule.

Cholera epidemic: An epidemic of this fatal disease struck New York City in 1832, suggesting that it is around this time that 'The Sphinx' takes place. The Narrator escapes from the city in order to avoid being infected by cholera.

Death’s-headed Sphinx: Whereas the Narrator had thought that a giant monster was coming from outside to murder him, his host reveals that there is an insect called the 'Death’s-headed Sphinx,' which bears markings similar to a skull upon its back. In reality, there exists a kind of moth similar to that which Poe describes from the family 'Sphingidae,' from which he probably receives his inspiration for this tale.

Sir Thomas Browne: Browne (1605-1682) was a famous British author and physician whose writings philosophize about the meaning of life and death, among other things.

Draughts: The British name for the game of checkers. The Narrator mentions playing games as a way to mold the analytical powers of the human mind.

Whist: A four person card game similar to the modern Backgammon. The Narrator compares playing card games such as whist to using analytical powers of the human mind.

Hoyle: Edmund Hoyle (1672-1769) published his first Short Treatise on the Game of Whist in 1742, and ever since that time the Hoyle Company has published officials rulebooks for many different kinds of games.

Orion: A constellation in the night sky named after the Greek hero Orion the hunter, who forever chases Scorpio the Scorpion through the heavens. This image models the behavior of Dupin, who is forever seeking answers of his own to problems.

Razor: A sharp object grabbed by the curious Ourang-Outang wishing to mimic the sailor’s act of shaving. Fleeing with the razor, the creature uses it to decapitate the elder L’Espanaye woman before the sailor’s own eyes.

Cuvier: George Cuvier (1769-1832) was a famous French scientist, known especially for his work in studying organisms of the world.

Ourang-Outang: An archaic spelling of 'orangutan,' a breed of large monkey. The sailor captured this creature in its native Borneo and brought it to Paris to recover from an injury before selling it away. However, the monkey escapes and commits two murders before it is eventually captured again.

Borneo: A city located in modern day Indonesia, where the sailor captured the Ourang-Outang and brought it to Paris.

Goddess Laverna: The Roman goddess of thieves. Dupin compares the Prefect to a statue of Laverna he has seen, which appear to lack a body.

Rue Morgue: Literally, this means 'The Pride Street' or also, ironically, 'The Morgue Street.' It is here that the bodies of the L’Espanaye women are discovered at their home.

Rousseau: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778 was a French political philosopher who expanded Thomas Hobbes’ social contract theory to suggest that if government does not uphold its bargain to protect citizens, then those citizens are justified to rebel against the ruling sovereign. He also wrote extensively about human nature’s three basic desires for fulfillment: life, liberty, and property.

Eye: The Narrator is obsessed with the old man’s eye, deciding to murder him so that the eye cannot look at him any more.

Lantern: A mechanism used to shed light usually fueled by kerosene, or perhaps whale oil in Poe’s day. An inner chamber is surrounded by metal doors, permitting any amount of light to exit. The Narrator closes this chamber except to allow a sliver of light to shine through on the old man’s face.

Heart: A large muscular organ located in the human body. The Narrator mistakes the beating of his own heart for that of the old man, as he maniacally confesses his gruesome act of murder to the policemen.

Arthur Murphy: A well-known Irish dramatist, Murphy (1727-1805) whose first acting role came in Othello, also featured in Poe‘s 'The Man That Was Used Up.' He was educated in France and was known for deriving the inspiration for his own writing from themes and figures already existing in literature, much as Poe had done. Interestingly, in addition to being a literary figure, Murphy went on to become a lawyer as well.

Charleston, South Carolina: Founded in 1770, this coastal city in South Carolina is next to Sullivan’s Island. The Narrator lives here, on the mainland. It is also the supposed city where Mr. Forsyth lives, who supposedly reported to the New York Sun about 'The Balloon-Hoax.'

Sullivan’s Island: Site of a famous Revolutionary War battle, Sullivan’s Island is separated from the mainland and the nearby city of Charleston by a shallow marsh. Its length is about three miles and is only about a quarter of a mile wide, as Poe describes. The island’s shape is similar to a peninsula, with only a small marshy creek separating its fourth side from the mainland. Although Charleston is some distance away across the harbor from the southern section of the island, as the Narrator notes well, the northern section is separated from that rural section of mainland only by a creek, and it is in this forest that Legrand discovers Captain Kidd’s treasure beneath the tulip tree.

Fort Moultrie: Named after Revolutionary War figure Colonel William Moultrie (1730-1805), Fort Moultrie was built on June 28, 1776 at the southern end of Sullivan’s Island. Poe was stationed here during his time in the U.S. Army, and it is here that a lieutenant friend of Legrand is stationed as well.

Beetle, or scarab: A large type of insect, usually bearing a black exterior shell, biting mouth parts, and hard, horny front wings. The 'gold-bug' of Legrand is highly unusual because of its uncharacteristic gold color and is put into a jar, where it dies. Jupiter believes that the bug had bitten Legrand, making him become mentally ill. Legrand later admits that his pretended obsession with the 'gold-bug' is fake, because he was purposely mocking the Narrator and Jupiter.

Tulip tree: A type of tree from the magnolia family, which bears cup-shaped flowers. Reaching a height of 150 feet and a trunk diameter of 4 feet, these large trees abound in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama. Legrand discovers the skull nailed to a branch at the top of a tulip tree.

Paper: The paper picked out of the sand by Jupiter is not really paper at all, but is parchment, which is much more durable. Legrand draws a picture of the gold-bug on this, but a skull appears instead when the Narrator holds it too close to the fire, revealing secret instructions of how to find Kidd‘s treasure.

Skull: Also called a 'Death’s-head.' The skull of some unnamed individual was nailed in a tree by Captain Kidd to mark the location of his buried treasure. A skull appears on the parchment paper once it is put close to the fire. A skull also appears on the back of the insect in 'The Sphinx.'

New Orleans, Louisiana: Founded in 1718, this is a popular coastal city located in Louisiana. It became United States territory after the Louisiana Purchase in 1808.

Huguenot Family: Huguenots were a class of French Protestants who fled France beginning on the day of St Bartholomew’s Massacre on August 24, 1572. The name possibly originated because the Protestant followers of Martin Luther sued to gather near a gate at Tours named after a Count Hugon. Apparently, Legrand‘s family immigrated to New Orleans during this time, which had been a French colony in Louisiana (named after French King Louis XIV who lived from 1638-1715) before being sold to the United States in 1808 by Napoleon.

Paris, France: The capital city of France. The site of the Jacobin club house mentioned in 'The Pit and the Pendulum,' it is also the home of C. Auguste Dupin. The Prefect is in charge of the Parisian police force.

Maison de Sante: Literally translated, it means 'House of Health.' Poe defines this as a :private madhouse,' or a psychiatric hospital. It is important to note that this establishment does not have a specific name, the term 'Maison de Sante' is just a general term to explain that this is a hospital.

Vincenzo Bellini: Bellini (1801-1835) was a very famous Italian composer, who primarily wrote operas that ended in tragedy, such as 'I Capulet e I Montecchi,' which was based upon Shakespeare’s sad story of love, Romeo and Juliet.

System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether: A new system of treating patients at the Maison de Sante (House of Health) created by Monsieur Maillard. The narrator seeks to understand what this system is exactly, compared to the 'soothing system' which allows patients to wander around uninhibited. In contrast, Tarr and Fether’s system requires patients to be tarred and feathered daily, which is then rinsed off with a huge flow of water poured out of pipes. The narrator searches for research about this system, because he doesn’t realize that these two men -- Prof. Tarr and Doctor Fether -- do not exist. Their names merely reveal the nature of this system.

Yankee Doodle: A British song originally written to mock the colonialists. It was played as the Redcoats marched from Boston to Lexington and Concord, but later it was the rallying cry for colonialists fighting for freedom during the American revolution, particularly in the North where people enjoyed being called 'Yankees.' Interestingly, this sing, too, mentions 'put a feather in his cap' (reminding us again of tar and feather), and an alternate verse is known to read: 'Yankee Doodle came to town/for to buy a firelock/We will tar and feather him/and so we will John Hancock.' Tarring and feathering are mentioned here, too. The song mocks the British while it also lauds the Yankees of the American North in contrast to the more old-fashioned South.

Cape of Good Hope: The southernmost tip of Africa. This area was originally founded by the Dutch, including the large city of Cape Town, which is located at the base of the Cape of Good Hope.

Bugaboo Indians: A fictitious Indian tribe created by Edgar Allan Poe. He uses the word 'Bugaboo' elsewhere, in 'The Premature Burial,' in writing 'no bugaboo tales…' (72). Reportedly this is the first literary use of this word with such a spelling; previously the word appeared as 'buggybow' in 1747.

Kickapoo Indians: An authentic Indian tribe native to the Great Lakes region but now present in northeastern Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. The original spelling was 'Kiikaapoa,' which European settlers transformed into 'Kickapoo.' In 1838, the Battle Creek Fight engaged Kickapoo Indians with determined Texans, and these struggles continued throughout 1839, as the Kickapoo, Cherokee, and Shawnee united together against Texans. These struggles were ongoing as Poe composed 'The Man That Was Used Up,' no doubt influencing his inclusion of the Kickapoo Indians.

Pierre Corneille's Le Cid: Pierre Corneille (1606-1684) was a French dramatist and chief rival of noted playwright Jean Racine. His tragedy, Le Cid, focuses upon a valiant knight named Rodrigue, Le Cid ('The Conqueror'), who experiences a conflict when he must choose between preserving his family’s honor or pursuing his more personal feelings of love for a woman. This theme reflects Smith’s own situation, for he has sacrificed himself for his country in battling against the Indians. His body is a remnant of what it was as a result.

Shakespeare’s Othello: A tragedy by British playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616) featuring a soldier named Othello, his lover Desdemona, and his jealous enemy Iago, whom Climax portrays here in Poe‘s tale. This reflects the theme of soldiery yet again, in tune with Smith’s military background.

Man-Fred: A Gothic dramatic poem written in 1816 by British poet Lord Byron (1788-1824), in which the main title character, Manfred, dies in the work’s conclusion.

Man-Friday: A character from the 1791 classic novel, Robinson Crusoe by British writer Daniel Defoe (1660-1731). The story features a man shipwrecked on an island with no one to aid him until 'Man Friday' appears. The narrator purposefully misinforms the woman that 'Man-Friday' was the name of Byron’s poem 'Man-Fred' because he is angry that she interrupted his conversation.

Nassau balloon: Originally named 'The Royal Vauxhall Balloon,' this balloon successfully traveled from the Royal Vauxhall Gardens in London to Weilburg, Nassau, in Germany, on November 7, 1836. It was renamed in honor of its landing place. Four men participated in this flight including Thomas Monck Mason, M.P., Charles Green, and Robert Holland. Poe uses Mason and Holland as participants in this fictitious trans-Atlantic balloon flight to Sullivan’s Island from North Wales.

Victoria: The name of the balloon that supposedly made a trans-Atlantic passage in 1844. 'Victoria' means 'Victory' in Latin, but more likely, just as the Nassau balloon was named to honor the Nassaus, who ruled the province where the Monck Mason had landed in 1837, here it honors Britain’s Queen Victoria, who ruled England from 1837 until her death in 1901.

New York Sun: A periodical founded by Benjamin Day In New York City on September 3, 1833. In addition to 'The Balloon-Hoax' in 1844, the New York Sun started 'The Great Moon Hoax of 1835.' At this time, the new journal published a series of articles claiming to be written by a Sir John Herschel, reporting that he witnessed aliens on the moon through a large telescope at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. The hoax only increased readership, rather than damaging the newspaper’s popularity.

Polytechnic Institution: London’s Royal Polytechnic Institution was founded by Charles Payne, formerly of the Adelaide Gallery, in 1838 to create 'a practical knowledge of the various arts and branches of science connected with Manufactures, Mining Operations, and Rural Economy.' The Polytechnic Institution hosted many displays, lectures, and events until it was closed in 1881.

Archimedean screw: A mechanism whose creation has been attributed to the ancient Greek mathematician, Archimedes. This screw is based on a screw inserted into a cylindrical tube used for raising and lowering water levels. The same technique is applied here to control the flow of gases into the balloon.

Willis’ Rooms: A famous complex of London ballrooms and assembly rooms affiliated with the social club entitled 'Almack’s,' built by William Almack in 1765. After his death in 1781, his niece Mrs. Willis inherited them, and they were thus renamed in accordance to the new owner. This complex continued to host a variety of events until its conversion into a mere restaurant in 1890, although the social club disbanded in 1863.

Adelaide Gallery: In 1830, Jacob Perkins founded a museum dedicated to putting new inventions on display in London. This establishment was called the 'Royal Adelaide Gallery.'

Guide rope: An innovation to the hot air balloon added by Charles Green, which simply involves dangling a rope from the balloon and raising or lowering it in order to adjust the balloon’s height. This conserves the gas, because it is not necessary to add or take away gas into the balloon as often, if the height can be first adjusted in this manner.

Wheal-Vor House: The fictitious estate of Poe’s fictitious character, 'Mr. Osbourne,' where the balloon 'Victoria' is assembled before they fly off to Sullivan‘s Island. It is supposedly located in North Wales.

Bristol Channel: A dangerous waterway to navigate by ship located in the southwestern corner of England, bordering the town of Bristol for which the Bristol Channel is named.

Cotopaxi: Mount Cotopaxi is an active volcano located in the Cotopaxi province of Ecuador, in South America. Cotopaxi has a summit elevation of 19,388 feet (approximately four miles) and has erupted fifty times since 1738. Ainsworth notes that even the balloon is as high as this mountain, they can still breathe without any difficulty, because air is usually thinner and thus harder to breathe in higher elevations.

Joseph Glanville: A merchant and ordained minister, Joseph Granville (1636-1680) was well-known for his strict religious beliefs and scientific writings such as Scepsis scientifica, and Plus Ultra. He was a chaplain, vicar, or acted in some church capacity for the duration of his life. His name is also spelled 'Glanvill,' without the 'e.'

Well of Democritus: Democritus (460 BC -370 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher who moved in the same circles as Socrates. His ideas laid the foundation for the modern atomic theory, since he declared that matter cannot be destroyed and space is an 'infinite Void' with no limits. This appears to be the 'bottomless well of Democritus,' this concept that space has no limits to it. In his Critique of Pure Reason published in 1781, German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) mentions the bottom of 'the well of Democritus,' using this as an elevated allegory for the attainment of ultimate knowledge, since the well of Democritus was supposed to be infinite.

Norway: A country located in eastern Scandinavia, a region that also included Denmark, Finland, and Sweden. Norway’s Moskoestrom is a true natural phenomenon that continues on less exaggerated terms to this present day. Fishing remains the base of its economy.

Helseggen: The mountain named Helseggen at Lofoden appears to be a fabrication of Poe, unless the spelling has been changed due to other transliterations of this Norwegian word. Lofoden, Moskoe, and Vurrgh are all real geographic places, however.

Vurrgh: An island located between the Norwegian Sea and a waterway called the 'Vestfjorden.' The nearest mainland is at Lofoden. The island of Moskoe is between Vurrgh and Lofoden.

Moskoe: A Norwegian island located off of the coast of Lofoden, around which the Maelstrom or 'Moskoestrom' occurs periodically.

Maelstrom (also called the 'Moskoestrom'): A naturally occurring whirlpool located at approximately sixty-eight degrees latitude off of the western coast of Norway near Lofoden. It is also called the 'Moskoestrom' because the island of Moskoe is located in the middle of the sea area in which this phenomenon occurs. In reality, this whirlpool is not as dramatic an event as that described by Poe’s character. However, it has possibly inspired many other stories such as those featuring the fabled 'Charybdis' from Homer’s The Odyssey, and the more recent 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.

Niagara Falls: A large, naturally occurring waterfall located on the border between New York, USA, and Ontario, Canada.

Jonas Ramus: Ramus was a Norwegian priest whose own description of the Maelstrom in 1715 was incorporated into Pontopiddan’s Natural History of Norway in 1752, which was later reprinted into the sixth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1823. It is from this latter source that Poe obtains the bulk of his information about this natural phenomenon.

Lofoden Point: The area known as Lofoden (also spelled Lofoten) is on the Norwegian mainland across from the islands of Moskoe and, farther out, Vurrgh. It is from this vantage point on the mainland that the old man tells his amazing story to the Narrator.

Encyclopedia Britannica: A collection of books detailing various pieces of information first published in 1768, by Colin Macfarquhar and Andrew Bell in Edinburgh, Scotland. Its purpose was to redefine scholarship for the changing scientific world of the Enlightenment. Edgar Allan Poe used the Encyclopedia Brittanica as a source for information that he later infuses into his own writing, as he does in 'A Descent into the Maelstrom.'

Kircher: Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680) was a German philosopher, scientist, inventor, professor, and linguist whose writings greatly influenced the academic world. He was especially interested in underground forces, such as volcanoes. The Museum Kircherianum at the College of Rome in Italy is named in his honor. Poe’s mention of Kircher’s theory appears is rooted in fact, as Kircher did argue that this Moskoestrom in Norway was the entrance to an underground network of passages. The Gulf of Bothnia located off of the eastern coast of Norway, and the Berents Sea located north from all of Scandinavia were mentioned as two connecting points for this subterranean passageway.

Water cask: A barrel-shaped vessel designed for holding water. The old man ties himself to this to avoid being drowned in the Moskoestrom.

Archimedes’ 'De Incidentibus in Fluido': Archimedes (287 BC - 212 BC) was an ancient Greek inventor, scientist, and mathematician. He was mistakenly killed by a Roman soldier who did not know who he was. The particular work mentioned here, 'De Incendibus in Fluido' is Latin for 'Concerning Falling Things in Fluid.' However, this work appears to be another fabrication of Edgar Allan Poe, as no record of such a document exists.

Seneca: Ancient Roman statesman, dramatist, and philosopher who lived from 3 BC until 65 AD. Among many others, he wrote the tragedy Thyestes featuring the deadly sibling rivalry that occurred between the Greek brothers Atreus and Thyestes. He died in 65 BC after reportedly slitting his wrists at the banquet table of Emperor Nero, whom he had tutored as a child. Seneca the Younger is known for founding the ancient philosophy of stoicism.

Abernethy: John Abernethy (1765-1831) was a renowned British physician, professor, and surgeon. A cancerous tumor is named in his honor, 'Abernechy’s sarcoma.'

Jacob Bryant: An English mythologist, Jacob Bryant (1715-1804) wrote extensively about religious history and ancient times, embodied in his greatest work, the ten volume A New System, or, an Analysis of Ancient Mythology, with volume one released in 1774, the next three released in 1775-1776, and the final six were available in 1807. This work focuses on the idea that all of mythology connects to the same great religious understanding of the world that is revealed through the teachings Christianity. It is for this masterpiece that he is best known, and Poe makes reference to Bryant’s work through Auguste Dupin.

Green-tinted spectacles: Dupin craftily wears tinted glasses to avoid being noticed by Miniter D--- as his eyes search his apartment for the location of the purloined letter.

Snuffbox: A container designed for holding snuff, which is powdered tobacco sometimes mixed with opium, designed to be inhaled through the nostrils.

Atree by Crebillon: A tragedy written by French poet Prosper Joylot de Crebillon (1674-1762), reflecting the events in Seneca’s Thyestes. It describes the rivalry between two brothers, Atreus and Thyestes, for the same woman’s love, and for the right to rule a kingdom. Dupin invokes this work as an allegory for his own relationship to Minister D---.

Catalani: A famous Italian opera singer, Angelina Catalani (1780-1849), whose life ended when she died of cholera on June 12, 1849. She was known for her beautiful voice and, after retiring from opera singing in 1828, devoted the rest of her life to running a free singing school for girls in Florence, Italy, which she had also founded.

Jacobin Club House: The meeting house of the Jacobins, a French political club that existed during the Reign of Terror that began in 1789. They met at a Jacobin monastery in Paris, from which their name is derived. The club fell apart with the defeat of its chief leader, Maximilien Robespierre, on July 27, 1794. This group was responsible for the vicious massacre of most of the French monarchy and provided the window of opportunity for Napoleon Bonaparte to seize control of the government.

Toledo, Spain: City located in central Spain and the chief place of operations for the ruthless persecutions that occurred during the Spanish Inquisition from 1478-1834. Spain capital city, Madrid, is located nearby.

Father Time: Ancient personification of the phenomenon of Time that goes back to the Greek Titan Cronus, father of Zeus. Cronus used a sickle to castrate his father Uranus, and he is often portrayed throughout literature as having a long beard. He also often bears a scythe or sickle in his arms, reflecting that Time’s eroding force cuts down everything. Poe’s image of the swinging pendulum invokes both the swinging of a clock, representing the passage of time, and it also literally portrays Father Time’s sickle. It is ironic that the sickle and the clock become one and the same, combining more modern inventions with ancient ideas.

Pendulum: A hanging object set to swing back and forth between two extremes. Attached to the end of this pendulum is a sharp blade designed to slice into the Narrator’s body.

Pit: The Narrator narrowly avoids falling into this deep hole of his prison after he trips on his gown. Water fills the bottom, causing him to also describe it as a 'well.' At the last possible moment, the Narrator is saved from falling into the pit after his hand is seized by the French general Lasalle.

Spanish Inquisition: A historical event beginning in 1478 at the order of Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, with the blessing of Pope Sextius IV. Its purpose was to eliminate non-Catholics and heretics from Spain, mirroring the later persecution of Protestants that would occur in France. The Spanish Inquisition continued for centuries with its base of operations located at Toledo, until it formally came to an end in 1834.

Carnival Season: An annual event occurring throughout Italy usually beginning in October and ending right before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the holy season of Lent.

Nitre (saltpeter): A strong chemical compound known as 'potassium nitrate' formed naturally as a reaction between minerals in the earth and water. It is very common in underground caves formed by water dripping from stalactites. Nitre, or niter, is also used to manufacture gunpowder. Whether Fortunato died from his close proximity to the saltpeter in the underground vault, or if he was in fact buried alive, remains unclear.

Astrolabe ring: A nautical instrument used to measure the altitude of stars and planets in the sky in order to determine a ship’s exact direction. It is shaped like a ring, as the name implies. The old man’s elder brother throws him off of the ring, because it holds a better grip than the water cask, where he had been hiding. Ironically, it is the water cask that is the old man‘s salvation!

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