The Complete Stories of Edgar Allan Poe Part 2 of 4

Humor and Satire

The System of Doctor Tar and Professor Fether

Patients at an asylum think they’re chickens, donkeys, a tea pot, etc. The lunatics end up taking over the asylum and tar and feather the employees. The narrator takes too long to figure out what’s happening. I didn’t find it funny, but your milage may vary.

The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.

Narcissistic writer tells his life story. He started his career by plagiarizing Dante, Homer, etc. Humorously, editors declare the writing drivel. He then writes a bad two line poem and everyone praises him, although the editor won’t pay him. He goes on to become a famous editor himself.

How to Write a Blackwood Article

This may be Poe’s only story told from a woman’s point of view, but he does it to make fun of literary women. Poe seems to make fun of the way he himself writes as well with advice to write about macabre topics, focus on sensation, and throw in obscure references and foreign phrases to make yourself seem erudite.

Signora Psyche Zenobia (Suky Snobbs) is advised to almost die somehow and focus on the sensations of the experience so her article will be realistic. She’s advised to avoid talking about something directly and to always use insinuations. She follows all the advice she’s been given and writes a story titled A Predicament.

The story humorously changes styles between laconic, overwrought, and melancholy. It’s amusingly repetitious. However, there are also offensive descriptions of her negro servant. It’s funny when she gets the allusions and foreign phrases wrong. She describes climbing a single step as if it’s epic. Her dog understands English and she can speak German. She gets her head stuck in a clock tower and nearly gets decapitated by the minute hand. Her eye pops out of her head and looks at her with insolence. Her head is cut off and she wonders whether the head or the body is the real her. Pretty funny.


Baron Ritzner Von Jung insults renowned duelist Johan Hermann. Our narrator is Mr. P. (Poe?) The Baron refers Hermann to a Latin text about dueling. Hermann backs down from challenging him to a duel rather than admit he doesn’t know everything there is to know about duels. Meh.

Loss of Breath

While calling his wife names and yelling at her the day after their wedding, Mr. Lackobreath loses his breath and can only speak in guttural tones. Taking a coach to the city, a fat man falls asleep on him, dislocating all his limbs. Thinking him dead because he has no breath, he’s thrown out of the coach. It runs over him, breaking both his arms and his trunk is thrown out, breaking his skull. A doctor begins dissecting him, then leaves for dinner. Lackobreath escapes, but gets mistaken for a prisoner headed to the gallows. He puts on such a good show twitching at the end of the rope, the crowd calls for an encore. He’s put in a public vault and checks out the corpses. Fat-shames one, then criticizes a thin corpse who objects. His neighbor Mr. Windenough was also mistaken for dead after he caught someone else’s breath. He gets his breath back and they escape. Hilarious dark humor.

The Man That Was Used Up

Brevet Brigadier General John A. B. C. Smith is a war hero who defeated the Bugaboo and Kickapoo Indians. Narrator admires his good looks and wants to learn more about him, but every time he asks someone, they’re interrupted. He finally discovers Smith was mutilated by the Indians and has a false leg, arm, bosom, shoulders, palate, etc.


Diddling is what men do but animals don’t. We’d call it being a con artist today. An essay on tricking people out of money giving several examples.

The Angel of the Odd

A man who doesn’t believe a newspaper story about a freak accident gets a visit from the Angel of the Odd who speaks in a German accent and is constructed of wine bottles. The angel causes odd accidents to happen. The man then becomes the victim of several freak accidents.

Mellonta Tauta

Written by Pundita. In the year 2848, a bored person on a balloon writes to a friend. Gets details of life a thousand years ago very wrong. In the future, war and pestilence are good things. Humanity as a whole is more valuable than individuals. Criticizes logicians of 1000 years ago for not relying on intuition. Train tracks are 50 feet wide with 12 rails and go 100 miles an hour. Balloons can go 300 miles an hour and carry hundreds of passengers. Pundita finds the idea of democracy absurd because it’s too easy to game the system. The sun has a binary star called Alpha Lyrae. Lunarians live on the moon. New York was apparently destroyed by an earthquake in 2050.

The Thousand and Second Tale of Scheherazade

Sinbad is kidnapped by a ship circumnavigating the world, but he thinks it’s a monster with man-sized vermin on its back. They encounter several real world wonders which Scheherazade describes in a fantastical way. The king doesn’t believe her and orders her executed when she says women (presumably those of Poe’s time) consider big butts to be fashionable.

X-ing a Paragrab

A rival paper steals the O from the typesetter who uses X in their place. Eh.

The Business Man

Peter Proffit does things like instigate someone to beat him and then sue them, train his dog to get a dandy’s shoes muddy so the dandy will pay him to shine his shoes (although the dog wanted a bigger cut so they ended up parting ways), plays an organ grinder badly so people pay him to stop playing, and raises cats to get a bounty on their tails.

A Tale of Jerusalem

I don’t completely understand this story. During Pompey’s siege of Jerusalem, Jews exchange silver for an animal to sacrifice, but the Romans give them a pig.

The Sphinx

While staying at a friend’s place to avoid a cholera outbreak in New York, our narrator sees a giant monster the size of a ship, hairy like a mammoth with a gigantic proboscis, tusks, prismatic staffs, four wings, and a death’s head upon its chest. It turns out our narrator misjudged distance. It wasn’t a giant monster outside the window, but rather an insect inside the house. This read like one of his scary stories until the end.

Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling

Sir Pathrick O’Grandison, Barronitt narrates the story in a thick Irish accent. He and a 3-foot tall Frenchman both flirt with the same lady. He holds hands with her behind her back, only to realize he was really holding hands with the Frenchman the whole time and subsequently breaks his hand.


Pierre Bon-Bon is another 3-foot Frenchman. A cook and a philosopher writing a book gets visited by the devil. The devil has no eyes, but can see souls. Bon-Bon offers to sell his soul at a bargain price, but the devil doesn’t want it, preferring the souls of philosophers.

The Duc De L’Omelette

This story repeats Byron’s claim that Keats died from criticism. The Duc apparently dies from disgust after seeing a bird? He goes to hell and challenges the devil to a game of cards. Since I don’t know French and didn’t bother to translate it, much of the story is unintelligible to me.

Three Sundays in a Week

Grand-uncle Rumgudgeon won’t let Bobby marry Kate until there are three Sundays in a week. A couple sailors, who both went all the way around the world in different directions tell him that there are three Sundays in a week because for one, yesterday was Sunday, for the other tomorrow is, and today is Sunday for the rest.

The Devil in the Belfry

A stranger appears in the Dutch town of Vondervotteimittiss and sabotages their clock so it strikes 13, throwing the town into an uproar.


Robert Jones is a nose expert. Everyone loves his nose. An artist pays a thousand pounds to draw it. But he goes too far when he shoots off the nose of someone who insults him.

Some Words with a Mummy

A group of men apply electricity to a mummy, making it come alive. The mummy, Count Allamistakeo, upbraids them for treating him like a specimen. He reveals that all ancient people were monotheistic. On average, people lived to be 800 years old in his time. The earth wasn’t created, but had always existed. Historians always get the past wrong. Five groups of men spontaneously germinated simultaneously in five different parts of the globe. Phrenology and animal magnetism were theorized and abandoned in ancient Egypt. Egypt had superior architecture and railroads compared to the modern. They had steam engines. Gave up on democracy when it turned into despotism under Mob. Similar to Mellonta Tauta, but looking at an ideal past rather than an ideal future.
The Spectacles

Napoleon Bonaparte Simpson needs glasses but refuses to wear them because of vanity. He falls in love with Madame Lalande at the theater before seeing her face. He marries her only to finally wear glasses and discover that she’s his great great grandmother.

Four Beasts in One

In ancient Antioch, the king of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes takes part in a triumph march through the city dressed as a camelopard (giraffe) celebrating a victory over the Jews. Animals in the city try to eat him and he runs away. 

Never Bet the Devil Your Head

When he was an infant, Toby Dammit’s mother beat him until he was as black as an African, but unfortunately, she was left-handed so instead of beating evil out of him, she beat evil into him. By the time he was one year old, he had a moustache and cursed. He refused to sign the Temperance pledge, etc. He liked to bet the devil his head until one day, the devil takes him up on it and he loses it. The homeopaths try to cure him, but unfortunately, he dies of his lost head a few days later. Pretty funny.

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