Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
It was published by the Philadelphia firm Lea & Blanchard and released in two volumes. The publisher was willing to print the anthology based on the recent success of Poe's story "The Fall of the House of Usher." Even so, Lea & Blanchard would not pay Poe any royalties; he was given 20 free copies. It was dedicated to William Drayton, a former member of Congress turned judge who may have subsidized the book's publication.
In his preface, Poe wrote the now-famous quote defending himself from the criticism that his tales were part of "Germanism." He wrote, "If in many of my productions terror has been the thesis, I maintain that terror is not of Germany but of the soul."
Contemporary reviews were mixed. The anonymous critic in the Boston Notion suggested that Poe's work was better suited for readers of the future; people of the time should consider it "below the average of newspaper trash... wild, unmeaning, pointless, aimless... without anything of elevated fancy or fine humor." Alexander's Weekly Messenger, on the other hand, remarked that the stories were the "playful effusion of a remarkable and powerful intellect." Likewise, the New York Mirror complimented the author's intellectual capacity, his vivid descriptions, and his opulent imagination. Even with those positive reviews, the edition did not sell well. When Poe requested a second release in 1841 with eight additional tales included, the publisher declined.
"Grotesque" and "Arabesque"
There has been some debate over the meaning of Poe's terms "Grotesque" and "Arabesque." Both terms refer to a type of art used to decorate walls. These arts styles are known for their complex nature. It has been proposed that the "grotesque" stories are those where the character becomes a caricature or satire, as in "The Man That Was Used Up." The "arabesque" stories focus on a single aspect of a character, often psychological, such as "The Fall of the House of Usher."
- "William Wilson"
- "The Man That Was Used Up — A Tale of the Late Bugaboo and Kickapoo Campaign"
- "The Fall of the House of Usher"
- "The Duc de L'Omelette"
- "MS. Found in a Bottle"
- "Shadow — A Parable"
- "The Devil in the Belfry"
- "King Pest — A Tale Containing an Allegory"
- "The Signora Zenobia"
- "The Scythe of Time"