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Related Articles This account is based on a lecture delivered in Detroit, Michigan in mid-September , to a group of LaRouche Youth Movement members who have launched a research project to revive the life and works of Edgar Allan Poe.
A great deal of what people think they know about Edgar Allan Poe, is wrong. And if you ever got to the point of being told something about Poe as an actual personality, you have probably heard some summary distillation of the slanders about him: He died as a drunk; he was crazy; he was one of these people who demonstrate that genius and creativity always have a dark side, and the dark side is that most really creative geniuses are insane, and usually something bad comes of them, because the very thing that gives them the talent to be creative is what ultimately destroys them.
And if you try to really excel at being creative, really terrible things are going to happen to you. Poe is one of the people of whom, they use a falsification of his life to make that false point. In our case in particular, there are some very important parts of the Poe legacy that urgently need to be revived today.
The Lost Soul of America. In some cases, the articles and poems that he wrote were published in magazines that he himself edited. Because Griswold said that he wanted to come out in print with a definitive biography, and that this would be part of the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe.
Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Tales - The Purloined Letter
And in fact, a few years later, he came out with a biography that was a complete and total slander. Many years later, people came forward and admitted that they knew that a number of letters that were attributed to Poe, had actually been written and forged by Griswold, to convey the idea that he was an alcoholic; that he was a drug addict; that he was, basically, a pathetic, psychotic figure towards the end of his life.
Poe invented this character named C. August Dupin, who is a French private investigator. So the police have been asked to get the letter back, and to end this terrible political crisis. The police know, definitely, that this particular minister stole the letter; because there were eyewitnesses to the fact, who were too embarrassed to say anything.
Now, unfortunately, they have no choice but to go, embarrassingly, to inspector Dupin, to ask for his help. And what happens is absolutely amazing. Will you promise me right now, that you will give me 50, French francs if I can produce the letter? The prefect is so shocked, and at the same time so relieved that the case is now solved, that he immediately writes out a check for the 50, francs and goes running out. A mathematician thinks in formal, logical terms, and operates off a set of underlying axiomatic assumptions, that may work in the narrow domain of formal mathematics, but do not work in other areas, such as morals.
And he goes on at some length, explaining: I know how these police operate. Therefore, I have to think about how to catch someone whom I know is both a mathematician and a poet.
And I knew that this had to be the case: In fact, I surmised that he was playing with the police all along. Because by being out of his apartment at great length, throughout many, many days, he knew that the police were going to break into his apartment, and were going to thoroughly search it, in the predictable ways that the police, using the same kinds of mathematical underlying axiomatic assumptions, would do the search.
What I did, was I came up with a very good pretext to go visit the minister. And he immediately invited me in; we got into a long talk about something we were mutually interested in; and all the while, I was looking around, to figure out where it was. And there, above his desk, was a letter box.
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And right in the middle of the letter box, there was a letter. And I could surmise by the paper, that this was, possibly, the stolen letter. And I noticed that the letter was badly crumpled up, and dirty, and ripped up around the edges.
So I surmised that he probably had done that to make this appear to be something completely irrelevant and inconspicuous. And I managed actually to take notice, that the letter had been folded inside-out; as if you had a piece of paper that you folded one say; and then you reversed it and folded it the other way; and I noticed that the crease was doubled up.
And Dupin saw that there was a seal on it, that was somewhat similar to a ministerial seal. And so, he just left. And several days later, he came back for another visit; in the meantime, he had prepared a duplicate piece of paper; and had sealed it, and reversed the fold, and made it dirty in a similar way to the letter that he wanted.
And at a certain point in the visit, there were loud shouts and screams outside the window.
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The minister went running over to the window to see what was going on. At that moment, Inspector Dupin just made the switch. The guy looked out the window; it turned out that it was some psychotic who was threatening somebody with a shotgun, and actually fired a shot.
And Dupin says that, of course, the shots were blank; this was somebody that he had actually hired to make the incident, to give him enough time to switch the letters. And if he happened to notice that Dupin had swiped it, without having a replacement, there is no telling what the minister might have done. He might have tried to kill Dupin.
So I wanted to make my escape safely, Dupin explained. On the other hand, I left something in the piece of paper that I left, so that when he opened it up, he would have some clues, to be able to figure out it was I.
But by that time, the game would be up. The letter would be returned. And everything would be corrected. The Prefect and his cohorts fail so frequently, first, by default of this identification, and secondly, by ill-admeasurement, or rather through non-admeasurement, of the intellect with which they are engaged. This always happens when it is above their own, and very usually when it is below. Do you not see he has taken it for granted that all men proceed to conceal a letter, not exactly in a gimlet-hole or in a chair-leg, but, at least, in some out-of-the-way hole or corner suggested by the same tenor of thought which would urge a man to secrete a letter in a gimlet-hole bored in a chair-leg?
Algebra and Poetry So he goes on for a while. You get the idea: Then he goes on to the question of algebra and poetry. I dispute the availability, and thus the value, of that reason which is cultivated in any especial form other than the abstractly logical [in other words, the process of human cognition is what counts]. I dispute in particular, the reason educed by mathematical study. The mathematics are the science of form and quantity; mathematical reasoning is merely logic applied to observation upon form and quantity.
The great error lies in supposing that even the truths of what is called pure algebra are abstract or general truths. And this error is so egregious that I am confounded at the universality with which it has been received.
Mathematical axioms are not axioms of general truth. In this latter science it is very usually untrue that the aggregated parts are equal to the whole. In chemistry also the axiom fails. In the consideration of motive it fails; for two motives, each of a given value, have not, necessarily, a value when united, equal to the sum of their values apart.
A Platonic Republican Thinker And he goes on along these lines. This tells you a number of things that are quite interesting. Obviously, Dupin is part of an interesting kind of intelligence network that knows what is going on in Paris.
So we know something about Poe. The guy knows how to think. He was a thorough-going, studied, educated Platonic republican thinker. He died under very mysterious circumstances in , at the age of Life, Character, and the Dying Declarations of the Poet. An official account of his death by his attending physician, John J.
How do you deal with someone who, you at least hypothesize, was part of the American republican intellectual circles that were involved in the struggle both to defend the American republic during a period of great danger to its survival, and who was also committed to the idea of spreading these republican ideas around the world? Like the fact that he was born; and he had parents; and there were known addresses where he lived; he had jobs, and people knew him; so there are some things that are known.
Then you get into really murky areas, where there are some things that are said to have happened, according to accounts of people; but which, others say, are completely untrue. How do we start to put together a clearer picture? Poe Family and Lafayette Poe was born in Both his parents died, within a few months of one another, in , when he was two years old.
He had a younger sister and an older brother, and the three children were split up. The brother went to live with grandparents; the younger sister was adopted by a wealthy family in Richmond; and Poe was also adopted by a wealthy merchant in Richmond, a man named Allan. He was the deputy assistant quartermaster general of the Continental Army, and was assigned to the area around Baltimore, Maryland. Lafayette was born in , and he lived until The government was not exactly favorable to the idea of young princes coming over and fighting in North America, but he manages to get over here.
And, in fact, the grandmother spends all of her time, basically sewing uniforms for the Continental Army. So, Poe is adopted by this fairly wealthy merchant family in Richmond. He goes over to England, studies at private schools.
He comes back to Richmond, finishes his education. The Marquis de Lafayette, during his triumphal return tour of the United States in , inspects an artillery battalion of the New York National Guard.
Congress, comes back to the United States from France, and he is by now fairly old, but is really one of the heroes of the American Revolution; and was one of the people in France who broke with the monarchy, but also fought against the Jacobin Terror, the super-radical anti-intellectual mob phenomenon.
And in , he came back to the United States. It happened to be a Presidential election year, and he did a tour of all 24 states of the United States, campaigning for John Quincy Adams for President. And in fact, Adams was elected President of the United States. It actually was thrown into the Congress, and the House of Representatives, by one vote, chose him as President.
And so, during that trip, Lafayette stopped off in Baltimore, and went to try to find his old friend Gen. They leave this completely out of the history. Now, without getting into all of the psychobabble explanations of his conflicted relationship with his foster father, Poe spends a year at the University of Virginia.
And there were a series of meetings between president of the university Jefferson and the leading students, including Edgar Allan Poe.