Tag Archives: Edgar Allan Poe

All Religion, My Friend, Is Simply Evolved Out of Chicanery, Fear, Greed, Imagination and Poetry

Edgar Allan Poe? William Barton? John A. Joyce? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following remark has been ascribed to the master of mystery and the macabre Edgar Allan Poe

Religion evolved out of fraud, fear, and greed.

Is this quotation accurate?

Quote Investigator: A controversial remark of this type was included in a 1901 biography of Edgar Allan Poe published by Colonel John A. Joyce. Poe aficionados consider the biography unreliable and doubt the authenticity of the quotation. Joyce presented the remarks second-hand with the following introductory words: 1

The religious opinions of Poe may be found in the following conversation he had one night at the old Astor House with Mr. William Barton, who was a typo and foreman on the Broadway Journal when Poe was editor of that paper.

Mr. Barton told me this:

“One night when Poe and myself were mellowed with the fumes of the wine cup, I asked him his opinion of the hereafter. He said:

“‘I don’t bother myself about a thing of which I know nothing—just as much as anybody else!

According to Joyce, Barton inquired further about religion. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

“‘Mr. Poe, what do you think of the religions of the world?’

“‘From the earliest dawn of creation man has worshipped something—sticks, stones, snakes, stars, suns, mountains, rivers, seas, myths, calves, popes, and preachers. He is largely an ape and mimics anything with glitter, pomp, and power.

“‘All the doctrines of the world, from the dawn of paganism, Buddhism, Mohammedism, and so-called Christianity, are but the conjurations of worldly sharpers, who make a splendid living by setting up themselves as agents of God and establishing rules and laws for fools and cowards to follow!

“‘The ass must still bear his burden, and fools build palaces and cathedrals for wise men to inhabit.

“‘No man who ever lived knows any more about the hereafter, Barton, than you and I, and all religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of chicanery, fear, greed, imagination and poetry!

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1901, Edgar Allan Poe by Colonel John A. Joyce (John Alexander Joyce), Quote Page 107 and 108, Published by F. Tennyson Neely Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

It’s Easy Enough, My Friend, to Dream of Utopian Worlds Afar…

Edgar Allan Poe? Ted Olson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a verse stating that only one person out of one-hundred is actively working toward making bold dreams come true. This notion has been ascribed to the horror master Edgar Allan Poe. Are you familiar with this verse? Would you please examine this topic?

Quote Investigator: The October 1, 1926 issue of “Forbes” magazine printed a five stanza poem by Ted Olson titled “Dreamer and Doer”. The first stanza described the ineffectual “dreamer” archetype. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

It’s easy enough, my friend, to dream
Of Utopian worlds afar;
Where wealth and power and prowess gleam
Remote as the utmost star.

The final stanza described the “doer” archetype and included the statement under investigation:

And ninety-nine are with dreams content.
But the hope of a world made new
Is the hundredth man who is grimly bent
On making the dream come true!

Edgar Allan Poe died in 1849 long before the poem above first appeared, and QI has found no substantive evidence linking him to these words.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1926 October 1, Forbes, Volume 18, Number 12, Dreamer and Doer by Ted Olson, Quote Page 32, B. C. Forbes Publishing Company, New York. (Gale Cengage)

I Do Not Believe in Ghosts, But I Am Awfully Afraid of Them

Edgar Allan Poe? Germaine de Staël? Bert Leston Taylor? Charles A. Dana? Anonymous?

stael09Dear Quote Investigator: There is a family of quips that express a comically contradictory attitude toward specters. Here are three instances:

I do not believe in ghosts, but I am awfully afraid of them.
I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’ve been running from them all my life.
I don’t believe in ghosts, but I don’t want to see one.

The master of the macabre Edgar Allan Poe sometimes has received credit for the second statement. Would you please explore this group of jokes for Halloween?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Edgar Allan Poe employed one of these quips.

Germaine de Staël was an author and influential French intellectual who died in 1817. The physician Sir Henry Holland met Madame de Staël on multiple occasions and dined with her; in 1872 he published a memoir titled “Recollections of Past Life” which included a quotation from de Staël in French about revenants, i.e., ghosts. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Another trait she discloses, speaking of les revenants: ‘Je n’y crois pas, mais je les crains.’

Here is one possible translation of the French:

‘I do not believe, but I’m afraid.’

When Holland’s book was reviewed in “The London Quarterly Review” 2 and “Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine” 3 the remark from Madame de Staël was reprinted which widened its distribution.

Also in 1872 the notable writer and conversationalist Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. published “The Poet at the Breakfast-Table” in which he presented a slightly different version of the quotation and ascribed the words to an unnamed “famous woman”: 4

We are all tattoed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were early implanted in his imagination; no matter how utterly his reason may reject them, he will still feel as the famous woman did about ghosts, Je ne les crois pas, mais je les crains, — “I don’t believe in them, but I am afraid of them, nevertheless.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1872, Recollections of Past Life by Sir Henry Holland, Quote Page 113, Longmans, Green, and Co., London. (Original text has “revenans” for “revenants”) (HathiTrust Full View) link
  2. 1872 January, The London Quarterly Review, American Edition, Review of Sir Henry Holland’s Recollections, Start Page 82, Quote Page 88, The Leonard Scott Publishing Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1872 April, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, American Edition, Review of Sir Henry Holland’s Recollections, Start Page 82, Quote Page 88, Leonard Scott Publishing Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  4. 1872 Copyright, The Poet at the Breakfast-Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Quote Page 346, George Routledge and Sons, London. Boston, Massachusetts. (HathiTrust Full View) link

I Don’t Suffer from Insanity; I Enjoy Every Minute of It!

Edgar Allan Poe? Edward Hastings Ford? Lloyd Biggle Jr.? Pat Williams? Joss Whedon? Bumper Sticker? T-Shirt Slogan? Anonymous?

raven12Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement has been attributed to Edgar Allan Poe, the influential writer of detective fiction and the macabre:

I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!

Poe died in 1849 and I think this expression only emerged in the twentieth century. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Poe said or wrote this quotation. An article titled “Did Poe Really Say That?” on the website of “The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe” in Richmond, Virginia examined the saying and concluded that it was not from Poe. 1

The earliest instance located by QI appeared in a 1946 article “That’s No Gag, That’s a Switch” published in “The New York Times”. The piece presented many examples of the construction of new jokes via the modification of existing jokes. According to the paper the quip was originally crafted by the comedian Edward Hastings Ford who performed using the persona ‘Senator’ Ed Ford. The phrasing was different, but the core jest was the same. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

Senator Ford, one of the best of the topical talkers, takes this oldie:

“Does anyone in your family suffer with rheumatism?”
“Sure, what else can they do but suffer with rheumatism?”

and switches it to:

“Does anyone in your family suffer from insanity?”
“No, they enjoy it.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. Website: The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe, Article title: Museum News: Did Poe Really Say That?, Article Author: Kelly, Date on website: September 10, 2014, Website description: Web presence of the Poe Museum of Richmond, Virginia. The Museum is located in The Old Stone House. (Accessed poemuseum.org on December 20, 2015) link
  2. 1946 May 12, New York Times, “That’s No Gag, That’s a Switch” by Joe Laurie Jr. (Stage and radio comedian), Start Page 21, Quote Page 59, New York. (ProQuest)

Sometimes I’m Terrified of My Heart, of Its Constant Hunger for Whatever It Is It Wants

Edgar Allan Poe? Poe? Anne D. Danielewski? Anonymous?

poe09Dear Quote Investigator: Edgar Allan Poe authored groundbreaking tales in three different genres: horror, mystery, and science fiction. Numerous websites attribute the following emotion-laden passage to the literary master:

Sometimes I’m terrified of my heart; of its constant hunger for whatever it is it wants; the way it stops and starts.

I have been unable to locate these words in any story written by the famous nineteenth-century romanticist. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive support for the ascription to Edgar Allan Poe.

Instead, the lines should be credited to the American singer/songwriter Poe. She released an album called “Haunted” in 2000, and the quotation was spoken by her during the fifth track which was about 52 seconds long. The audio can currently be heard on YouTube and Amazon: 1

Sometimes, I’m terrified of my heart, of its constant hunger for whatever it is it wants; the way it stops and starts.

Note that the audio and video available on YouTube changes over time. E. A. Poe is long dead, but the Poe who crafted the words above is very much alive and has a large cohort of fans and enthusiasts. Poe’s birth name was Anne Decatur Danielewski according Wikipedia, IMDB.com, and last.fm.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. YouTube video, Title: Terrified Heart Poe, Uploaded on March 12, 2012, Uploaded by: Amanda Johnston, (There is a delay before the final word is spoken), Description by Uploader: Song by Poe, Album – Haunted, 2001, (Album actually released in October 2000 according to metacritic.com). (Accessed on youtube.com on March 21, 2015) link

A Short Story Must Have a Single Mood and Every Sentence Must Build Towards It

Edgar Allan Poe? Apocryphal?

eapoe03Dear Quote Investigator: On a popular website I saw an intriguing list of “Indispensable Writing Tips from Famous Authors”. The following words were attributed to Edgar Allan Poe, the master of mystery and the macabre:

A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.

I was unable to determine where this statement originally appeared. Did Poe really say this?

Quote Investigator: QI hypothesizes that this sentence is a rough synopsis of comments written by Poe in a book review published in 1842. Poe used the phrase “single effect” and not the phrase “single mood” when describing the importance of concision and unified purpose in short stories. This important essay was published in Graham’s Magazine, and Poe was reviewing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s collection titled Twice-Told Tales. Here is an excerpt with boldface added: 1

A skilful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents—he then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. If his very initial sentence tend not to the outbringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step.

In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design. And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art, a sense of the fullest satisfaction. The idea of the tale has been presented unblemished, because undisturbed; and this is an end unattainable by the novel. Undue brevity is just as exceptionable here as in the poem; but undue length is yet more to be avoided.

In 1846 Poe published an essay in Graham’s Magazine titled The Philosophy of Composition in which he expatiated on his vision of literary creation: 2

Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its dénouement before any thing be attempted with the pen. It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1842 May, Graham’s Magazine, Volume 20, Number 5, Review of New Books, [Review by Edgar Allan Poe of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s collection Twice-Told Tales, Volume 2], Start Page 298, Quote Page 298 and 299, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (The spelling of “skilful” was used in the original document) (Google Books full view) link
  2. 1846 April, Graham’s Magazine, Volume 28, Number 4, “The Philosophy of Composition” by Edgar Allan Poe, Start Page 163, Quote Page 153, George R. Graham & Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Google Books full view) link link

The Scariest Monsters Are the Ones That Lurk Within Our Souls

Edgar Allan Poe? Rona Jaffe? Apocryphal?

edgarpoe01Dear Quote Investigator: The following quotation has been tweeted repeatedly, and I have seen it on Facebook and several tumblrs. The words are always ascribed to the famed poet and writer of the macabre Edgar Allan Poe:

The scariest monsters are the ones that lurk within our souls.

I have not found this expression in any stories or essays by Poe, and I am suspicious. Is this ascription accurate?

Quote Investigator: Probably not. QI has not located this saying in any works by Edgar Allan Poe.

On November 9, 2011 a person with the twitter handle @Edgar_Allan_Poe sent out the following tweet. The message was retweeted at least 522 times reflecting its popularity and its wide dissemination: 1

The scariest monsters are the ones that lurk within our souls.

Edgar Allan Poe died in 1849, and QI thinks that it is unlikely a supernatural agency has been channeling his utterances through twitter. The twitter profile of @Edgar_Allan_Poe currently states: 2

Woebegone Poet, Prickly scribbler of the Fantastic, Inebriate, Literary Critic, Editor
Currently buried in Baltimore

The saying may have originated with the tweet on November 9, 2011. This tweet was identified by correspondent Adrian Bailey.

Here are additional selected citations and commentary.

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  1. Tweet message, Tweet handle: ‏@Edgar_Allan_Poe, Tweet name: “Edgar Allan Poe”, Time stamp: November 9, 2011 at 9:51AM, Retweets 522, Favorites: 143. (Examined April 17, 2013)
  2. Tweet profile, Tweet handle: ‏@Edgar_Allan_Poe, Tweet name: “Edgar Allan Poe”, Tweets: 2,566, Following: 1,108, Followers: 71,690. (Examined April 18, 2013)