Critical Survey: “Hans Phaall”
Campbell, Killis. “Poe’s Reading.” Studies in English 5 (Oct. 8, 1925): 166-196.
Ground-breaking study of what Poe certainly read and may have read, including over 400 books for reviews and notices (166). Bible study, ancient philosophy, Latin and Greek authors, contemporary poets and philosophers are evaluated for inclusion. Campbell even researches a newspaper advertisement that “lists the books read in Poe’s time in the Latin course that he took in the University of Virginia.” (167) Concludes that “Poe’s reading was extensive, but uneven; that is, that he had read widely, but that much of his reading was either desultory or superficial.” (195) Campbell mentions Brewster’s Letters on Natural Magic as one of Poe’s “Phaall” sources.
Posey, Meredith D. “Notes on Poe’s Hans Pfaall.” Modern Language Notes 45.8 (1930): 501-507.
Source study printing dual columns showing Poe’s borrowings from Abraham Rees, The Cyclopædia; or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, and Literature, London, 1819, XXIV, and J. F. W. Herschel, A Treatise on Astronomy, Philadelphia, 1834.
Bailey, J. O. “Sources for Poe’s Arthur Gordon Pym, ‘Hans Pfaal’, and Other Pieces.” PMLA 57.2 (Jun. 1942): 513-535.
Finds Poe’s source on Tucker’s A Voyage to the Moon to be the book itself, not the review. (524-5) “Apparently Poe drew upon Symzonia not only for Pym, but for an important detail in ‘Hans Pfaal’,” the gas used by the Symzonians to fly their balloons inside the hollow core of the Earth (525).
“I find no item in the ‘Notes’ that fits into Eureka, but could not fit into ‘Hans Pfaal ...’. (527)
Confirms Posey’s 1930 study: “Close examination reveals that a large proportion of the ‘Notes’ were taken almost verbatim from Rees.” (528)
Ventures that the “Notes” were prepared before 1840, for “some use was made of them in the 1840 edition” of “Phaall.” (529)
“It seems likely that the central portion of ‘Hans Pfaal,’ describing the trip to the moon, was written earlier than the date usually supposed, 1835.” (530)
Bailey is emphatic: “Poe grossly violates his own principles of unity. The tone of the central narrative is serious; the tone of the envelope is facetious. The outer unit discredits the core of the story.” (531)
Ventures that J. P. Kennedy may have suggested the “enveloping plot” (531), but, “with kind intentions, crushed Poe to earth with ridicule — and lifted him up with advice to ridicule it himself, and market it.” (532)
Bailey’s footnote contains a number of speculations:
Perhaps Poe's hero (who is ‘I’ in the central narrative) may be pronounced ‘Hans Fail’ in sardonic reference to himself. Hans writes that, in despair at the failure of his business of bellows-mender and pursued by creditors, he meditated suicide. Poe was pursued by creditors and arrested for debt. But Hans took a new interest in life when, at a bookstall, he came across a treatise on speculative astronomy written by a foreign professor. This treatise ’in conjunction with a discovery in pneumatics, lately communicated to me as an important secret by a cousin from Nantz’ (Works, II, 50) gave him an object of unceasing pursuit. Perhaps Hans's occupation of bellows-mender is facetious for Poe's work as hack-writer and critic. Perhaps the treatise in a bookstall is Tucker's book. Perhaps the discovery in pneumatics communicated by a cousin from Nantz is Symzonia (containing the formula for the gas) communicated to Edgar by brother Henry from Baltimore (while Edgar was in Boston). Tucker's Voyage had used a machine for condensing air to make it breathable on the way to the moon. Hans used the same device, invented by a man named Grimm. Perhaps Grimm is a reference to Tucker, chairman of the Virginia faculty and (perhaps) the ‘grave professor of mathematics.’ (532-533)
Moss, Sidney P. “Poe and his Nemesis — Lewis Gaylord Clark.” American Literature 28.1 (1956): 30-49.
Worth noting here for its description of the milieu in which Poe swam:
The evidence is plain. Poe began his career as a critic of high principles, and fearlessly asserted those principles, whatever the occasion, the author, the publisher, or the coterie involved. But the age as a whole was incredibly mediocre. One need simply read at random in the leading periodicals of the time to be convinced of that. To borrow a phrase of George E. Woodberry, no quotation can do sufficient justice to the writers of this period — they must be read to be properly damned. Such mediocrity prevailed, in fact, that it is really unbelievable that Poe and Hawthorne, Melville and Emerson, Thoreau and Lowell could have survived it artistically. As a practicing critic — a critic whose profession was criticism and who earned his livelihood chiefly by his critical writings — Poe continually received books from authors and publishers. It was inevitable that Poe should react to them in indignation, that he should slash at them, and that his indignation should be exacerbated by the cliques who arrogantly imposed such works on the public as monuments to American literature. Nothing — unless Poe abandoned his principles or his profession — could have stopped his clash with the authors, the publishers, and the coteries who wrote, published, and logrolled such works. (48-49)
Reiss, Edmund. “The Comic Setting of ‘Hans Pfaall’.” American Literature 29.3 (1957): 306-309.
The framework’s “tone is not the only reason why this envelope discredits the tale it contains.” (307)
“The Latin word follis, which is of a sound similar to Hans's surname, means bellows ... . In late popular Latin follis was used in the sense of "windbag," or empty-headed person; and it is this meaning which appears in French as fou and in English as fool. Follis is not so different in sound from Pfaall, and as Poe used several different spellings of the name, it may very well be that he was interested only in its sound and not in any particular spelling.” [Reiss’s footnote cites spellings of ‘Phaal” and “Phaall.”] The word fool may also be used to mean a jester, and it is this usage which most aptly describes the mysterious moon-man who brought Hans's letter to Rotterdam.” (307)
Reiss’s suggestion makes a neat elision from Phaall to moon-man: he wears bells like a jester (307). Reiss paints Hans’s letter as “the type of mock-heroic tale a court jester might tell.” “Foolscap,” notes he, is a “type of writing or printing paper.” (308) Future critics forget the writing paper reference.
“The story itself may be seen as nothing but an April Fool’s joke” because Hans leaves for the moon on April 1 (308).
“Perhaps Poe left blank the day and month so as not to make the joke of ‘Hans Pfaall’ too obvious. If the date were April 1, this would certainly be the case. Nor did Poe explain why the people were gathered in the square of Rotterdam, and April Fool's Day is not a holiday. Perhaps, however, he was referring to a medieval tradition called Innocent's Day. ... It is interesting to note that Innocent's Day was observed in some countries as an occasion for practical joking like an April Fool's day.” The “friendly showers” that fall on the burghers are loosely associated with Spring and thus imply April, “which is usually the month associated with them.” (309) Finally, Tom O’ Bedlam’s song, because it mentions a horse of air is “an anonymous song of wild imagination containing a mention of an aerial vehicle [which] was that of a man from Bedlam, a madman or a fool.” (309)
“The events of the letter are told with a Defoe-like verisimilitude and seem to be scientifically accurate, but in the framework Poe is jocular. Here, in fact, Poe cleverly but actually tells his readers that ‘The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall’ is nothing but an April Fool's joke.” (309)
Olney, Clark. “Edgar Allan Poe — Science-Fiction Pioneer.” The Georgia Review 12. 4 (Winter 1958): 416-421.
Survey of Poe tales that may be considered science fiction, little on “Phaall.”
Poe “was the first writer of science-centered fiction to base his stories firmly on a rational kind of extrapolation, avoiding the supernatural.” (417)
Braddy, Haldeen. “Poe’s Flight from Reality.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language (Spring 1959), 394-400.
Poe “fled reality ... especially when he relied on alcohol and the occasional use of narcotics.” (394)
“He depended for emotional support upon women, drugs, and alcohol ...”. (395)
“Poe’s removal from the here-and-now may be seen further in his intellectualization and in his meticulous craftsmanship.” (396)
“Instead of imitating life, he distorted it, gilded it, or fled it.” (397)
“Further evidences of Poe’s escapism abound in his creative work. Local atmosphere occupies no substantial role in his art.” (397)
“The fact is that Poe nowhere became the mirror of his times. ... None of the verses [in his poetry] exhibits any warmth or passion or degree of intimacy. ... His art was a conscious attempt to transmit an experience of escape to the reader without involving that reader in any more of a psychological dilemma than the writer himself felt. ... His art owed much to the Gothic tales of terror, to Coleridge, and to Poe’s own knowledge of narcotics, the effects of which confuse the user’s sense of time and location.” (400)
Nicolson, Marjorie Hope. Voyages to the Moon. New York: Macmillan, 1960.
A sequel to her A World in the Moon [A World in the Moon: A Study of the Changing Attitude Toward the Moon in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, vols. 17-18, Smith College: 1935], this study includes only a few pages on “Phaall” but is noteworthy for its historicism and unique approach to classifying moon voyages by means of conveyance (supernatural voyages, flight by the help of fowls, flying chariots, etc.). Covers many Poe sources, and more.
“Phaall” “is bald and anticlimactic and smells of the lamp.” (239)
Poe knew Godwin’s story of Domingo Gonsales “in the French translation of 1647 but had no idea that the original tale was in English.” (239)
Poe “attempted the impossible and apparently never realized how incongruous were the elements he clumsily sought to combine.” (240)
“Only in one section, so far as I can see, did Poe add anything to the tradition he inherited. He was more ‘scientific’ than earlier writers in considering the effect of altitude upon flying men.” (240)
Mooney, Stephen L. “Comic Intent in Poe's Tales: Five Criteria.” Modern Language Notes 76.5 (May 1961): 432-434.
“The interpretation of Poe’s tales as art-structures, a task still largely to be accomplished, will depend in part on an acceptable classification. ... Apart from the possibility that Poe was never serious, one suspects that almost half of the tales may be read legitimately as satire, farce, burlesque, or extravaganza.” (432)
Mooney offers five comic criteria:
An ascending or descending motion — “The flight upward ... appears uniformly to reveal comic intentions. [“Phaall” is not included in his list of tales here.] ... The hero, frequently an embodiment of the eiron, the little character from the old Greek comedy whose name still exists etymologically in our word irony, by his own wit and ratiocinative skill often escapes the machinations of his adversaries and lives, presumably, to practise his hoaxes another day.” (432-433)
Group-action — “Some of Poe’s most successful humor appears in his satiric pictures of a society bent on party-going, public competitions, and scientific exploits.” “Hans Phaall” is “a satire on science.” (433)
Machine-motions, as of automata, reveal comic intent. — [Does not cite the simultaneous dropping and retrieval of 10,000 pipes by the burghers in the square of the Exchange.] (433)
Structural proportion and avoidance of proportion “show, respectively, serious and comic intent.” (433)
The devil as a character — [Does not mention the devil tail peeking out of the moon-man’s car.] (434)
Wilkinson, Ronald Sterne. “Poe’s ‘Hans Pfaall’ Reconsidered.” Notes and Queries (1966) 13.9: 333-337.
“Poe follows the plot of Tucker to a much greater extent than has been realized, and in such a manner to suggest that ‘Hans Pfaall’ was designed as a subtle satire upon Tucker’s Voyage in particular, and previous ‘moon-voyages’ in general.” (334)
Joseph Atterley’s statement [he claims to have “accomplished a voyage, of which the history of mankind offers no example”] “is reflected in the message of Hans Pfaall to the burgomaster of Rotterdam [which describes] “a voyage undoubtedly the most extraordinary, and the most momentous, ever accomplished, undertaken, or conceived by any denizen of earth.” (334)
“Both Atterley and Pfaall express constant wonder, during their ascensions, at the changing panorama of the earth below.” (334)
“... Poe’s plot follows the same order of events as Tucker’s”, especially after the shared bouleversement. (335)
“... Poe adds another obvious influence from Tucker:” there exists a shared “understanding” between individuals on the earth and moon such that their lives are intertwined. (335-336) “Yet Poe ... sharply deviates from the experiences of Tucker’s explorer. Atterley discovers that the inhabitants of the moon magnify the virtues and vices of humankind, and the rest of the work is a moralizing satire.” In contrast, ”Phaall descends on a parcel of idiots, grinning in a ludicrous manner, and eyeing me and my balloon askant, with their arms set a-kimbo.” (336)
“Atterley finds the Lunarians ready to render aid in a cheerful manner; he discusses philosophical matters with them and finds them most congenial. Poe’s moon-beings are quite the opposite — dwarfed, unfriendly, incapable of speech and quite stupid.” (336)
It is here suggested that to achieve his purpose — the writing of a ‘lesson’ for authors in the ‘moon-voyage’ genre — Poe selected Tucker's book as example of the unscientific, moralizing work detested, and proceeded to construct a satire upon it. This would explain the liberal borrowing of plot material from Tucker, and the ludicrous shift of circumstances at the conclusion of the voyage. Tucker's use of the ridiculous "lunarium" violated Poe's insistence upon scientific plausibility, and was parodied by Pfaall's somewhat precarious descent. Atterley's interminable philosophical and moral discussions with the Lunarians were travestied by Poe's use of moon-beings completely incapable of speech.
If ‘Hans Pfaall’ is seen to be a satire upon A Voyage to the Moon, then the ‘facetious “enveloping plot”’ which J. 0. Bailey criticizes as damaging the unity of ‘Pfaall’ may be interpreted as Poe's coup de grâce to the moralizing Tucker. (336)
“[After a lengthy source study of balloon ascensions in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries provided to Prof. Mabbott for inclusion in Poe’s Tales] I contend that Poe’s most significant sources are scientific rather than fictional and hence take issue with Professor J. 0. Bailey, who has ably argued that George Tucker’s A Voyage to the Moon is Poe’s main source.” (2)
Cites Latrobe’s assertion that he wrote a poem entitled “The Aeronaut to the People” in honor of C. J. Durant’s ascension “from Federal Hill, Baltimore, October 14th, 1833. It was the first ever made in the city and created an extraordinary sensation. The verses were dropped from the ascending car.” (3)
“In his discussion of Richard Locke and his celebrated ‘Moon-Hoax,’ Poe tells how his own story had its inception in Sir John Herschel's A Treatise on Astronomy. He states that upon reading an American edition of this work he became interested in what the author said about ‘the possibility of future lunar investigations’ (p. 127).” (3)
Quotes extensively from Poe:
The theme excited my fancy, and I longed to give free rein to it in depicting my day-dreams about the scenery of the moon — in short, I longed to write a story embodying these dreams. The obvious difficulty, of course, was that of accounting for the narrator's acquaintance with the satellite; and the equally obvious mode of surmounting the difficulty was the supposition of an extraordinary telescope. I saw at once that the chief interest of such a narrative must depend upon the reader's yielding his credence in some measure as to details of actual fact. At this stage of my deliberations I spoke of the design to one or two friends — to Mr. John P. Kennedy, the author of ‘Swallow Barn,’ among others — and the result of my conversations with them was that the optical difficulties of constructing such a telescope as I conceived were so rigid and so commonly understood, that it would be in vain to attempt giving due verisimilitude to any fiction having the telescope as a basis. Reluctantly, therefore, and only half convinced, (believing the public, in fact, more readily gullible than did my friends,) I gave up the idea of imparting very close verisimilitude to what I should write — that is to say, so close as really to deceive. I fell back upon a style half plausible, half bantering, and resolved to give what interest I could to an actual passage from the earth to the moon, describing the lunar scenery as if surveyed and personally examined by the narrator. In this view I wrote a story which I called ‘Hans Phaall,’ publishing it about six months afterwards in ‘The Southern Literary Messenger,’ of which I was then editor. (Works, XV, 127-128) (3-4)
“... Poe definitely acknowledges an American edition of Herschel's A Treatise on Astronomy to have been his inspirational source for ‘Hans Pfaal.’” However, “the American edition of Herschel's work [available only in 1834] could not have had any influence on Poe's original plans [to cast the story as “telescopic discoveries”]. As far as I can see, however, the material which Poe drew from Herschel is the very warp and woof of what Mr. Bailey calls the central portion of ‘Hans Pfaal’ — the part on which he suggests that Poe may have been working as early as 1833.” (4)
Lastly, “Poe’s caustic appraisal of Professor Robley Dunglison’s elaborate review” of A Voyage leads to this conclusion: “It is most unlikely that either a review or a book which led Poe to express such an opinion as this would have been his inspirational source for a story to which he sought to give the illusion of plausibility through the use of scientifically accurate and minute descriptive detail.” (4)
“By perpetrating a successful hoax, Poe is demonstrating the fact of human gullibility, the equation of ‘Credulity’ with ‘Insanity’ (XIV, 179) and, by allegorical extension, he is implying that the supposed human condition is also a hoax.” (377)
“The question of tone in the tale is particularly problematical and, no doubt, it is for this reason that critics have tended to dismiss it as somehow abortive.” (379)
“The ‘sharply defined masses of cloud’ may be viewed as an objective correlative for ‘the host of sturdy burghers,’ the narrow-minded, pipe-smoking Dutchmen of Rotterdam ...”. (379)
The opening of the tale, with all Europe in an uproar, “describe[s] well the opening and closing phases of the narrative which satirize the limitations of much-bruited human knowledge.” (380)
“The ‘heterogeneous,’ ‘whimsically put together,’ ‘apparently solid substance’ may be equated with the central bulk of the narrative: the account of Hans Phaall’s trip to the moon which is suspected to be a hoax. But if it is a hoax then Poe’s satiric intent is subverted. The description of the insular Dutchmen [Ketterer describes these earlier as “the fat citizens of Rotterdam”] is designed to express Poe’s conviction that there is more to reality than meets the average human eye. The account of Phaall’s trip to the moon is part of the reality which man is normally unaware of.” (380)
“The hoax consists in devious Poe’s making the reader believe the account a hoax and thus ally himself with the more rationalistic Dutchmen ...”. (380)
Notes the re-use of a section from “Phaall” by Dupin in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue:”
“Dupin’s results have ‘the whole air of intuition’ (II, 146). And, immediately following the quoted passage, in a section excised from the 1840 printing of the tale and incorporated with slight variation in ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue,’ the narrator speaks of the ‘superficial’ nature of truth and the need ‘only to glance’ at a star (II, 332-33), in other words, the need to adopt the perspective of the half-closed eye. ... In ‘Hans Phaall,’ Poe is apparently taking a position which he had not consciously integrated into his philosophical framework.” (381)
“So the reader is hoaxed if he believes the astronomical information to be a hoax.” (382)
Ventures that “Hans Phaall” [sic] “did not reach the moon in quite the manner he describes. The truth seems to be that he died in the unexpectedly powerful explosion at take-off which killed the three creditors ...”. (382)
“To further implicate Hans Phaall’s misfortune with newspaper radicalism, he compares his water alarm system, rather unexpectedly, with the hot air operated ‘steam-engine,’ or ‘the art of printing itself’ (II, 84).” (382)
“Hans Phaal’s account of his voyage to the moon actually disguises the fact that he is making the transference from earth to some kind of purgatory or hell. The moment of ‘bouleversement’ (II, 94), as the gravity pull of the earth is exchanged for that of the moon, refers to the overturning of earthly perception and is preceded by three loud crackling noises. This is the same explosion which accompanied the balloon’s ascension, now segmented and stretched in time, perhaps to remind Hans Phaall of the three separate deaths for which he is responsible. ... These noises, an attenuated version of the initial explosion, mark the moment of Hans Phaall’s death and his transference to the afterlife, or the moon, which, being in a state of constant volcanic eruption, provides a fitting purgatory for the volcanic radicalism which the inhabitants of Rotterdam exhibit and which Poe is satirizing.” (382)
“That it is Hans Phaall’s death which is being described is supported by the fact that, during the voyage, he experiences an arabesque vision, amid ‘masses of cloud which floated to and fro’ (II, 79) ...”. (383)
“The moon is a place of punishment.” (384)
“Indeed, for some time it appears that the North Pole is the object of Phaall’s voyage, not the moon, significant in view of the fact that the South Pole, in The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym, represents death and arabesque reality.” (384)
“Hans Phaall finds himself a double [on the moon] because of the crimes he committed in connection with his radicalism.” (384)
“The character who looks like Hans Phaall but is only ‘two feet in height’ (II, 45), seen at the tale’s opening, is actually his lunar double.” (385)
“[T]he voyage cannot be a hoax in the straight sense because, if Poe is establishing that the account of dimensions of reality beyond mortal ken is untrue anyway, he is undercutting the satire of human idiopathic perception, the starting point of the tale. On the other hand, the reader is most definitely hoaxed if he believes the story to be about a literal journey to the moon and so it is appropriate that Hans Phaall leaves the earth on ‘the first of April’ (II, 54) and that the balloon, which the people of Rotterdam see, resembles ‘a huge fool’s-cap turned upside down’ (II, 44). Similarly Poe has turned the hoax upside down, inverted it and expanded it — blown it up.” (385)
“[I]t may be justifiable to conclude that the discordance of tone and seeming intention in ‘Hans Phaall’ is actually paradoxical evidence for its fundamental unity in the context of Poe’s understanding of the hoax.” (385)
Gravely, William H., Jr. “A Few Words of Clarification on ‘Hans Pfaal’.” Poe Studies 5.2 (1972): 56.
“Poe definitely states that he wrote [“Phaall”] about six months before publishing it. ... I should judge the time of composition to be certainly no later than January 1835 and more probably near the end of 1834 after Poe had had time thoroughly to digest the content of Herschel’s A Treatise on Astronomy.” (56)
“Finally, let me add that the omitted footnote [submitted to Mabbott for inclusion in the Tales; Gravely’s previous article ] I also accounted for the variant spellings of Pfaal appearing in my article, Poe having spelled the name over a number of years in four different ways.” (56)
Ketterer, David. “The SF Element in the Work of Poe: A Chronological Survey.” Science Fiction Studies 1.3 (1974): 197-213.
“Fundamental to all Poe's creative work is the philosophical assumption that man exists in a state of total deception as a result of the idiopathic nature of his awareness, limited externally by his circumscribed position in space and time, and internally by his personal experiences, eccentricities, and, in particular, his unreliable, gullible, and dissecting reason.” (198)
Beaver, Harold, ed. The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe. Hammondsworth, Middlesex UK: Penguin, 1976.
“But here the very name of this dreamer who rises upward has a dying ‘fall’: its phallic sound suggesting both erection and detumescence.” (339)
“Invert ‘Phaal’, that other variant of his name! What sound do you hear but ‘laugh’?” (339)
Describes the moon-man as “Pfaall’s alter ego, or lunar double.” (345)
Possible link to Symzonia; the Symzonians use balloons to fly about in the hollow Earth. (346)
Possible source: aeronaut W. W. Sadler is thrown from his car and suspended by one leg, Scots Magazine 94 (1824): 631. (347)
Possible source: John Cleve Symmes’s theory of “gigantic whirlpools, or holes at the Poles.” (349)
Locke’s moon hoax “rankled and rankled. Poe simply could not let the matter drop.” (351)
Cites parallels to George Tucker’s A Voyage to the Moon (1827): Hans’s air condenser, “a metallic substance”, and The Bouleversement are all prefigured. (352)
Pollin, Burton R. “Hans Pfaall: A False Variant and the Phallic Fallacy.” Mississippi Quarterly 31:4 (1978): 519-527.
Condemns “the hasty inferences and careless oversights far too common in the commentaries on Poe,” and welcomes the “chance to protest against the far too widespread assumption of Poe's sniggering indecency of language.” (519)
“The spelling ‘Hans Phaall’ is identical in the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque of 1839 (which proleptically bore the date of 1840), but ‘A Tale’ is dropped. The next change, intended for the public presentation of the tale in print although not achieved during Poe's lifetime, is for the ‘Table of Contents’ of the Phantasy Pieces; Poe prepared this no later than 1842 as a ‘second edition’ of the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.” (520)
Cites ’The Unparralleled [sic] Adventure of one Hans Pfaall.’ The mispelling [sic] of ‘unparalleled’ matches the same error in Poe's original fair-copy manuscript of the tale, but we know that ‘Pfaall’ is no transcription error but rather a deliberate change, since the copytext that Poe left to Griswold for the posthumous edition of his work contained the new title, which Griswold used.” (520)
“The only other variant of Hans's second name seems to be that of ‘Phaal’ which Poe used in two letters: one of July 20, 1835, to Thomas W. White; the other of September 11, 1835, to John P. Kennedy. The spelling also occurs twice in the Tales (paragraph 20, p. 45 of volume II and paragraph 1 of the Appendix), which was, we have reason to think, very hastily set into print. The spelling may indicate that after the first publication he toyed with the idea of dropping the second ‘l’ while retaining the initial ‘ph’. However, In his sketch of Richard Adams Locke, in the October 1846 issue of Godey's Lady's Book he speaks of ‘Hans Phaall’ four times as though uncertain about retaining the ‘pf’ spelling of the table of contents in Phantasy Pieces, which ultimately prevailed.” (520-521)
Pollin derides “a kind of carelessness that is common in Poe scholarship, whereby the authority of the ‘firstcome’ critic's name causes students to ignore the need for independent checking of firsthand sources. Second, there is the tendency to accept a reading which confirms one's own notions and justifies a ‘new’ and often startling conclusion. The authority of the name of J. O. Bailey ... has led to the ‘Pfaal’ error.” Where did Bailey make his mistake? “Probably from the newly issued biography of Quinn (1941)” with its false transcription of "Hans Pfaal" by “a careless amanuensis.” (522)
Disputes Bailey’s characterization of Hans as a failure because the narrative “presents Hans as a magnificent success since he uniquely achieves the moon, goal of his ‘unparalleled adventure.’” (521)
The “changes in spelling [of Hans’s surname] show us Poe worrying over the matter and coming to an apparently final conclusion in the version left to Griswold.” (522)
Disputes that Poe was playing on the word “phallus” in his manuscript and the first two printings (actually, the only two printings that Poe would ever see). “It appears to me that he was looking merely for a clever and disguised way of saying ‘fall’ since it is the story of a balloonist whose primary concern is to stay aloft and proceed toward the moon. There is absolutely no narrative sense in any implication of ‘phallus’ for Hans, despite the forced interpretation by Mr. Beaver of ‘its phallic sound suggesting both erection and detumescence’ (p. 339).” (522-523)
Chides those who “nowadays speak about his hidden meanings, his sly ‘turn’ of phrase, his off-color implications, as though Poe, who had to seek the acclaim of his contemporaries for meagre survival and who doted on the praise that came to him directly, could afford to ignore the strict Victorian proprieties and as though we alone, a century and a quarter later, have insights and ‘readings’ that penetrate to the truth veiled from the keenest of his critics and friends.” (524)
“To return to Hans Pfaall — Poe apparently wished to guard against any ‘phallic’ inferences by changing the spelling in the ‘definitive’ edition of the tale; hence he altered it from ‘ph’ to ‘pf.’ This had the further advantage of making the name more distinctly Dutch or Germanic, for he habitually merged both ambiences. ... The double ‘aa,’ I believe, is another mark of its being ‘Dutch’ and also inclines the tongue to make the long sound of the vowel, equivalent to that of ‘fault.’ ... The primary element in the play of language or ‘jeu d'esprit,’ as Poe was fond of saying, is the ‘fall’ to which every balloonist is subject.” (526)
Notes that Nicolson and Beaver both confuse Hans’s balloon with that of the moon-man. (526-527)
“Phaall” is a flawed work but certainly not “phallic”: “[T]he frame or envelope, involving the visit of the lunarian and the surmises of the Rotterdam populace about the fate of Hans, is poorly integrated with the science-fiction core of the tale, which scarcely deserves the designation of ‘banter.’ Nonetheless, whatever the mood in which Poe conceived and executed the space-probe adventures of his intrepid bankrupt Hans, he was responsible for the implications lodged in the two printed spellings of the meaningful name. His final choice definitely shunts us away from any unseemly interpretation and does not accord with the prevailing tone in the periodicals, with Poe's general tendencies, or with the contemporary response to the story itself.” (527)
Kesterson, David B. “New Resources for Poe Studies.” The Southern Literary Journal 15:2 (1983): 102-106.
Reviews The Imaginary Voyages, ed. Burton Pollin.
Notes that “Pollin had at his disposal Mabbott’s notes for his intended introductions and commentaries and his list of variants for the printings of ‘Pfaall.’ Thus, to the good fortune of Poe scholars, a new standard edition continues to grow.” (103)
“Professor Pollin naturally uses the most authoritative texts of the works, texts ‘as close as possible to the form that Poe conceived and wished known.’ He has retained Poe’s spellings, punctuation, and exact diction, choosing to comment on problems with these in his textual notes.” (104)
Repeats Pollin’s finding that there are “some 468,688 total words in Poe’s fictional canon.” (104)
Bennett, Maurice J. “Edgar Allan Poe and the Literary Tradition of Lunar Speculation (Edgar Allan Poe et la tradition littéraire de spéculation sélénite).” Science Fiction Studies , 10.2 (Jul., 1983) Science Fiction in the Nineteenth Century: 137-147.
Investigates “the extent and nature of Poe's direct contribution to SF and the degree to which his actual literary project here digresses from the scientific ‘plausibility’ that he claims for it.” (137)
“Poe's original intention, then, was identical with that of the predecessors he criticizes: the inevitably ‘satirical’ juxtaposition of lunar and earthly customs. ... A glance at any of the works he mentions reveals that one of the conventions of the genre is this very appeal to former speculations and a distinction between their ‘fantastic’ nature and the more ‘rational’ approach of the later text.” (138)
“In Pfaall's diminutive lunar world, Poe inverts the gigantism that Godwin attributed to lunar phenomena, and the crowd of ‘ugly little people’ suggests an inversion of the beauty, order, and general moral superiority ascribed to moon-dwellers by Plutarch, Godwin, and Cyrano.” (141)
Cites “the classical tradition — summarized in Plutarch — of the Moon as a quasi-purgatorial dwelling place for migratory souls, many of whom returned to Earth ‘to have the care and superintendency of oracles,’ and where they also joined ‘in celebrating the sublimest ceremonies, having their eye upon misdeeds, which they punish, and preserving the good as well in perils of war as of the sea’ (Face... of the Moon, p. 289).” (141)
“Pfaall thus commits a figurative suicide by effectively removing himself from the ‘adventitious’ circumstances of earthly existence and by attaining another, a higher reality” when he seeks to leave the world yet continue to exist.” (143)
Beaver, Harold. Rev. of Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Volume I. The Imaginary Voyages: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall, The Journal of Julius Rodman, by Burton R. Pollin. The Modern Language Review 79.4 (1984): 912-914.
Quotes Pollin on his debt to Mabbott’s scholarship: “The transmitted notes for his projected introductions and commentaries were brief and sketchy but they clearly indicated his own intentions, such as the reproduction of all the source passages in the commentaries; and his list of variants for the different printings of ‘Hans Pfaall’, served as a most useful double check for my own collation.” (912)
Mr. Pollin “is ever attentive to the zanier aspects of Poe's often hasty and inconsistently contrived texts.” (913)
“What Burton R. Pollin has achieved, however, is monumental, and it will stand as proof of contemporary scholarship well into the next century.” (914)
Miller, Linda Patterson. “Poe on the Beat: Doings of Gotham as Urban, Penny Press Journalism.” Journal of the Early Republic 7.2 (1987): 147-65.
Poe as newspaper man in the 1840’s.
“Many of Poe’s stories portray crowds as collectively mindless and uncontained beasts which defile human dignity.” (151)
Bennett, Maurice J. ‘Visionary Wings’: Art and Metaphysics in Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Hans Pfaall’,” Poe and His Times: The Artist and His Milieu, ed. Benjamin Franklin Fisher IV. Baltimore: The Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1990: 76-86.
Cites Harold Bloom’s notion of transcendence, which for Poe is “a covert gibbs.” (76)
“’Hans Pfaall’ is of interest here as neither hoax nor science fiction nor a curiously unsuccessful hybrid of the two, but as a fictionalization of Poe’s serious aesthetic and metaphysical preoccupations.” (76)
Tom O’Bedlam’s song “immediately introduce[s the reader] to the realm of Poe’s aesthetic metaphysics.” (77)
“The arrival of Hans’s tale thus constitutes the advent of a new reality that supercedes traditional epistemologies and customary modes of being.” (77-78)
“Hans is thus enroute towards the imaginative consciousness that Bloom identifies as the ultimate goal of the Romantic quest.” (78)
“Hans’s account of the material he collects for his space balloon and its assembly reads like a culinary recipe, and although it may appear to the casual reader as gratuitous and tedious detail, it provides a direct representation of the self-reliance, industry, and concentration that Poe considered indispensable to artistic creation.” (84)
“The carefully constructed and minutely described balloon that carries Hans to the moon should thus be considered in terms of Poe’s conception of art as a vehicle for transcendence.” (84)
“[T]he cosmic balloon voyage becomes a particularly adequate objective correlative for Poe’s ever-present and insistent metaphysical preoccupations.” (85)
Brody, Selma B. “The Source and Significance of Poe's Use of Azote in ‘Hans Pfaall’ (L'origine et la signification de l'utilisation de ‘l'azote’ dans ‘Hans Pfaall’ de Poe).” Science Fiction Studies (Mar. 1990) 17.1: 60-63.
“Poe's most significant source for chemical knowledge was in all likelihood Sir Humphrey Davy. His access to and close use of Davy's notebooks has been established (by Thomas Hall).” (60)
“Poe uses the less familiar name [azote, instead of nitrogen] because he is half-concealing, half-revealing a joke: the folly of using in a manned balloon a gas so ‘instantaneously fatal to animal life.’ Although the nitrogen content in ordinary air — 75.5% by weight — is harmless, a mere whiff of Pfaall's gas, with its telltale odor, will kill one before the smell has a chance to register.” (61)
“This humorous use of the name ‘azote’ is not unique. In ‘Von Kempelen and His Discovery,’ as Burton R. Pollin has pointed out, Poe conceals from his readers the fact that he is describing the subjective effects of laughing gas (nitrous oxide) by calling it ‘protoxide of azote’ (Discoveries, pp. 178-79).” (61)
Lévy, Sydney. “Marginal, Local and Time-Bound.” SubStance 32.1 (2003): 28-33.
On Poe, Babbage, and “Maelzel’s Chess Player,” chiefly.
“In 1835 Poe publishes the first version of ‘Hans Phaall,’ said to be inspired by John Herschel's A Treatise on Astronomy (1833). Babbage had founded the ‘Analytic Society’ with Herschel to introduce the Leibnizian notation system used in France, to replace the one devised by Newton. Poe implies knowledge of this controversy in ‘The Purloined Letter’ when he has the narrator say to Dupin ‘You have a quarrel on hand, I see[...] with some of the algebraists in Paris; but proceed.’ With Herschel, Babbage had also translated Delacroix, whom Poe had avidly sought and read, just a few years earlier (1830), when he was at West Point.” (31)
Dinius, Marcy J. “Poe’s Moon Shot: ‘Hans Phaall’ and the Art and Science of Antebellum Print Culture.” Poe Studies/Dark Romanticism 37.1-2 (2004): 1-10.
“[I]n making the letter public, [Von Underduk and Rub-a-dub] completely divest Phaall of any authority as its writer by subjecting his work to underinformed speculation and interpretation. Already chary of the letter after its official dismissal, the public ultimately reconfirms the position of its leaders by producing ‘evidence’ of its falsehood that is nothing more than conjecture. Upon entry into the public sphere, both the letter and its author become the victims of misunderstanding, manipulation, and ultimately neglect by a society that respects only certain forms of the written word as culturally valuable intellectual property.” (5)
“The market to which Phaall as a writer figure ultimately submits his product damns both him and his audience both ways because it is not allowed to operate freely in response to demand. The author is left, then, trying to steer some kind of middle course by publishing a tale that can later be relabeled a hoax, incorporating enough scientific information that it has a chance of catching the public's interest, if not its trust, and ultimately producing work that is multiply compromised, but that attempts to convert these compromises into virtues by playing on the conditions for assigning value.” (6)
“[Locke’s] Great Moon Hoax temporarily succeeded in deceiving the public by exploiting the indeterminacy of authority that was an inevitable effect of the reprint culture of the midnineteenth century.” (7)
Martinez, Carlo. “E. A. Poe’s ‘Hans Pfaall’, the Penny Press, and the Autonomy of the Literary Field.” Edgar Allan Poe Review 12.1 (2011): 6-31.
There is “a lingering impression that ‘Hans Pfaall’ is little more than a bizarre story verging on the absurd.” (6)
Miyazawa, Naomi. “Puffing a Balloon: Edgar Allan Poe’s Balloon Stories and the Journalism Revolution.” The Journal of the American Literature Society of Japan, 9 (Feb. 2011): 19-35.
Fernández-Santiago, Miriam. “Edgar Allan Poe’s Use of Literary Doubling.” Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 4.1 (Jan. 2013): 71-82.
Caraman, Lorelei. “Reading-effects as Determinants of Plot in Poe’s ‘The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall’ and ‘The Angel of the Odd’,” DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2795.2480, Conf. Proceedings, Perspectives in the Humanities and Social Sciences: Hinting At Interdisciplinarity, 2015.
“Like the object of reading (the letter) enclosed within another object of reading (the pocket-book), the story of The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall also constitutes a narrative within a narrative, or a reading within a reading. The first unnamed narrator, after introducing the context of the production of Pfaall’s letter then proceeds to relay the content of the letter. But this content, interestingly enough, is provided verbatim, as a direct quotation. So Pfaall himself becomes the second narrator. The first narrator, by quoting the letter in its entirety becomes himself receiver, a recipient and thus a reader of the text, of Pfaall’s text. In turn, Pfaall as will be shortly discussed, is himself a reader... . Yet as the narrator is already a reader (of Hans Pfaall’s letter) and Hand [sic] Pfaall is himself a reader (of the volumes he buys in the bookshop), it may therefore be said that the actual, extra-textual, reader receives the story through a frame of made up of double readers: the narrator (as reader) reading the narrative of another reader (Hans Pfaall).” (1-2)
“At one point, Hans Pfaall, [sic] describes the effects that the book he had bought had made on him. Thus, in actual fact, what he describes is precisely the “reading-effect’” (2) that Shoshana Felman describes in interpreting The Turn of the Screw.
“The idea of building the balloon and traveling to the moon thus came as a direct result of a reading-effect. The chain of events which ensued therefore starts with or was triggered by this act of reading. If ‘the desire of the narrative’, to borrow Peter Brooks’ term, is what makes the plot advance, here, in The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaall, the desire of the narrative constitutes itself in an act of reading.” (2)
“An act of reading is also what triggers the chain of events of the plot in Poe’s The Angel of the Odd. Just as Pfaall’s journey to the moon begins with his reading of the treatise, so the series of misfortunate and comical events that the narrator experiences in The Angel of the Odd start with his reading of a story in the newspaper ...”. (3)
Walsh, Lynda. Sins against Science: The Scientific Media Hoaxes of Poe, Twain, and Others. Albany: State U of NY P, 2016.
Nate, Richard. “Feigned Histories: Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall.” POEtic Effect and Cultural Discourses, ed. Hermann Josef Schnackertz. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2016: 85-102.
Lee, Maurice S. “Genre, Science, and ‘Hans Pfaall’.” The Oxford Handbook of Edgar Allan Poe, eds. Kennedy, J. Gerald, and Scott Peeples. Oxford UP, 2019: 338-350.
Rodenas, José Manuel Correoso. “Re-Visiting the Sources of ‘Hans Pfaall’: A Tentative Approach to Include Hugh Henry Brackenridge’s Modern Chivalry.” Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses 36 (2022): 69-83.
Fatuous, strained comparisons.