October 22, 2017
Poe and the "Rue Morgue"On this day in 1841, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" was published in Philadelphia's Graham's Magazine. It is generally considered to be the first detective story, called "a tale of ratiocination" by Poe as the word "detective" did not yet exist. Poe realized that he had "something in a new key," but he could not have known that he was giving the nascent genre many of its prototypes: the 'locked-room' crime, the sidekick-narrator, and the gentleman-amateur detective, from whom no orangutan can hope to escape:
Ever conflicted, Poe combined these three talents -- self-praise, sleuthing and pirating --in an odd article entitled "A Reviewer Reviewed," written about 1846 under the pseudonym of Walter G. Bowen. "Bowen" praises Poe's "scholarship" and "analytic talent," and then goes on to point out numerous examples of "willful and deliberate literary theft" that he had detected in Poe's writing. Poe did not finish or publish the article, the need to make a living presumably winning out over the risk involved in the joke of self-accusation.
One of Poe's most famous ratiocinations was fictional in the other sense: while Dickens's Barnaby Rudge was still in serialization, Poe deduced the killer, a feat which amazed and could not have pleased the author. Poe also criticized Dickens for not making more use of the talking raven, Grip, in the novel, and then went on to borrow him for his famous poem. Dickens's bird and his writing desk are now displayed in The Free Library in Philadelphia, as is the manuscript of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."
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