Flights and Fantasies
A balloon is said to have crossed the Atlantic in three days. Why did they bring sailors? He said it would be explained later and it wasn’t. This wasn’t originally published as a story, but was rather a journalist hoax.
Mr. Vankirk is skeptical of the afterlife. P. (Poe?) mesmerizes him. They have a philosophical discussion about God, the nature of matter, how pain is necessary to appreciate pleasure, etc. Inhabitants of Venus are mentioned. He may have died during the séance.
Narrator says he’s a madman. He’s in love with his cousin. Before she dies, he promises not to marry anyone else. She dies and he marries someone else, but he hears a voice forgiving him.
The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall
A balloon made of dirty newspaper shaped like a fool’s cap appears in Rotterdam. A small man no more than two feet tall delivers a letter, then leaves again in the balloon. The letter is from billows maker Hans Pfaall. He explains how he made a balloon and secretly left town (his wife was happy to see him go), incinerating three of his creditors as he lifts off. He is thrown from the balloon, but fortunately, his leg gets tied up in a rope and he pulls himself back in. He plans to go to the moon with an apparatus that will allow him to breathe in a diminished atmosphere. Passing through a cloud, his balloon is nearly stuck by lightning. At 9 and a half miles up, the pressure causes him to bleed from ears, nose, and eyes. He uses a knife to cut his arm for therapeutic bleeding and experiences relief.
He sees a hole at the North Pole, but can’t investigate further. As he gets closer to the moon, he’s almost hit by meteorites. Volcanoes on the moon shoot them out regularly. Pfaall lands in a city of “ugly little people” who can’t speak and don’t have ears. Each inhabitant of the moon is connected to someone on earth with intertwined destinies. There are dark and hideous mysteries on the moon in places telescopes can’t see. He promises to tell more of his five years on the moon if they will grant him a pardon for killing his creditors first. They think it’s a hoax. In a note, Poe ridicules other moon stories for not being as realistic as his. This story does spend a lot of time on logistics, making it one of his longest stories.
During a plague, two drunken sailors enter a quarantine zone and encounter six sick individuals, one with a big forehead, one with a big mouth, one with a big nose, etc. The guy with big eyes is wearing a coffin. They drink out of skulls and use a skeleton as a chandelier. Their leader is named King Pest. They attempt to drown the sailors in alcohol. The sailors escape and each take one of the women with them. Written in a humorous way.
The Island of the Fay
A guy enjoying nature sees one of the Fay. Then she goes away.
The Oval Portrait
An artist paints his wife. When he finishes the portrait, she dies.
The Domain of Arnheim
Ellison is a rare man: he’s actually happy and his own nature doesn’t try to thwart that happiness. His secret? Exercise, the love of woman, contempt of ambition, and an object of unceasing pursuit. He’s also lucky, inheriting 450 million dollars from a distant relative. He considers landscape gardening the highest art form. Most of the story is just a description of his amazing landscape garden.
Further description of Arnheim and a cottage there.
The Power of Words
A dialogue between two angels. Learning is better than knowing. There’s even something God doesn’t know because to know all would be devastating. Takes place after the destruction of Earth. All motion creates. Motion is caused by thought and God is the source of all thought. Angels can create with words.
The Colloquy of Monos and Una
A dialogue (more like a monologue since one of them doesn’t talk much and the other goes on for pages) between two dead people in the near future. Democracy is bad because nature teaches us that not all are equal. Knowledge and civilization are bad because they destroy nature. Things were better when man lived in tune with nature. Artistic taste is better than reason. Monos gives a poetic telling of what happened when he died. Apparently, his soul is tied to his body. He lays in his coffin for over a year until Una’s body is buried with him and he finally has someone to talk to.
Shadow – A Parable
In Ptolemais during a pestilence, Oinos is drinking wine with six companions and a corpse when a shadow appears and speaks to them with the voice of many departed friends.
Silence – A Fable
The Demon tells our narrator of a desolate place. A man goes there seeking solitude. He won’t leave when the Demon summons hippopotami or a tempest, but flees when the Demon makes everything silent. Narrator believes in Allah, so this is likely Poe’s only story told from a Muslim point of view.
Von Kempelen and His Discovery
A man discovers how to turn lead into gold, which causes gold to lose value and reduces the rush to California.