Conclusion Pictures of Ascent



In an introductory note to Poe’s last brief tale, “The Light-House,” T. O. Mabbott includes a detailed physical description of the untitled manuscript. Poe never published the story and may never have intended to do so, at least in conventional form. Some of the manuscript’s features, however, suggest that he may have meant to exhibit it as another variety of plate article, similar to the meditative ramble he composed in “The Island of the Fay.” “The Light-House” resembles a carefully prepared textual caption for a miniature seascape, perhaps a study similar to one of J. M. W. Turner’s superb, and frequently very small, expressionist paintings from the early nineteenth century. “Longships Lighthouse, Land’s End” (1834–1835) drew particular praise from John Ruskin in Modern Painters for its extraordinary depiction of atmospheric energy. Like the thrilling pictorial “vaguenesses” of Roderick Usher, it too is a painting of ideas. Only nature and Turner, Ruskin thought, could make such scenes, though Poe had long been interested in the resources of the verbal canvas as a means of depicting the immaterial energy of consciousness.


Atmospheric Energy Introductory Note Textual Caption Modern Painter Bronze Statue 
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  1. Thomas Mabbott quotes W. H. Bond’s detailed description of Poe’s manuscript copy of “The Light-House,” part of which is currently held in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library and part in Harvard’s Houghton Library. The Collected Works also reproduces a facsimile of “The Light-House” manuscript at the end of volume 3. Poe’s hand is so clear that the text reads just as easily from the facsimiles as from type. Ruskin’s comments on “Longship’s Lighthouse” are from the first American edition of Modern Painters (New York: John Wiley, 1847), pp. 250–252. The watercolor itself is one of 120 projected paintings that Turner agreed to do for an ambitious series of engravings, Picturesque Views in England and Wales (1825-1838). Only 96 paintings were ultimately engraved. For background, see Andrew Wilton, J. M. W. Turner: His Life and Art (New York: Rizzoli, 1979), pp. 175–190.Google Scholar

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© Douglas Anderson 2009

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