Poe and the Writing Hand


For indeed strange things shall happen, and many secret things be known, and many centuries shall pass away, ere these memorials be seen of men. And, when seen, there will be some to disbelieve, and some to doubt, and yet a few who will find much to ponder upon in the characters here graven with a stylus of iron.

— “Shadow” 1835


From Mary E. Phillips, Edgar Allan Poe: The Man. Cambridge, MA: The John C. Winston Company, 1926.


22:16a Matthew says “you teach the way of God ἐν ἀληθείᾳ - en alētheíai,” whereas Mark and Luke say ἐπ’ἀληθείας - ep’ alētheías. https://bibletranslation.ws/trans/DRPbiblesofar.pdf.

Traditionally, Poe’s illustration for The Stylus’s prospectus is taken to symbolically evince commitment to a pursuit of Truth in presenting (perhaps he might call it serving, but in a purely mechanical sense, as a rack server today mechano-electrically “serves” a pulsing abstract of bits) the publication (or “pushing content”) to the reading public. A servant of high ideals, Poe makes this his trademark declaration in a desperate search to fund a fading, doomed-from-the-start project.

Change the assumption: Poe is illustrating something akin to Derrida’s Trace, which I will call the Moment of Writing. It is a gerund/noun/transitive verb all at once that names (announces) itself by coming into being, this thing Poe considers Writing. It is the moment of the opening/the opening moment of Truth itself in the right hands (Poe’s of course and possibly yours as well, but in order to share you must first be able to detect). It is a non-place where fiction and the reader commingle within a communion of sorts. In Poe’s time, the reader expects to experience touching the soul of the author through his writings; it’s part of the literary bargain (you have my money; I’ll take my amusement now, please and thank you).

Poe’s talents as a sketch artist (shown as a woodcut by Darley in the final) are less than stellar. I believe that he hopes to impart a feeling of great swelling power beneath this force called Writing; that it is the only source of Truth, or rather for the expression of Truth, which like Yahweh is unknowable yet perfect in itself.




The Art of the Diddle: Autography 04