The key to Intellect Magnifique
There was a world that existed once. A world that exists only in part now. A world where learning was exemplified in the stature of scholars and institutions of higher learning that were set far above the average man. They were institutions for gentlemen smartly dressed with smart wives who stayed at home and managed servants and nannies.
Higher learning was typified by books. A smart man is a well-read man. He knows because he studies. When we think of him, we think of tall shelves made out of thick dark wood. Leather wingback chairs are scattered around the room and mahogany tables accompany them. Grey haired men in thick coats sit quietly reading through their latest selection and contemplating how it fits into the big picture.
Poe’s Dupin — Intellect Magnifique
Is what a literary genius says in his stories important? Can it be taken seriously? Is their truth in fiction? Does the author reflect their opinion and incorporate their beliefs, and ideas into the characters they write? Does Edgar Allan Poe’s beliefs about what makes a genius worth anything to us today?
Barbey d’Aurevilly saw Poe as a “fantastic genius accompanied at times by the strong active genius of a true Yankee, eager for discovery, seeking to apply science to industry” (Cambiare, 1927). Poe was revered by European decadents as their father and they “praised his word, modeled their works after him, and loved him for his perversity” (1927). He was loved, admired, and imitated because he was a creative genius.
Poe could not “detach his personality from his writing exposing what he felt and what he suffered” (1927). Poe’s genius problem solver, Dupin, was a genius like his creator. Dupin was an acute observer, excellent analyzer, closely watched outside subjects, and followed the wakes of his neighbors (1927). What made Dupin so smart?
“Now for Dupin, books indeed, were his sole luxuries”
Our is a world of words
Through Dupin Poe tells us that books are important to the development of our mind. “Ours is a world of words, physical power of words” (Cambiare, 1927).
Do you know how you develop a dictionary of words? You pull words from other dictionaries, conversations, and from books (Winchester, 2003). That is how James Augustus Henry Murray and his team of contributors created the Oxford English Dictionary. Murray solicited volunteers to read books and search for words “that stuck them as rare, obsolete, old-fashioned, new, peculiar, or used in a peculiar way” (2003).
Reading was responsible for a masterpiece. Words were collected and meanings derived. A volume of words was published and served as the basis for the English language. Words approved by Oxford itself. An institution of scholars and decadents. A simple tool was used. A tool that has the power to increase intelligence and develop genius. This power is at the tip of our fingertips.
JRR Tolkien worked for the Oxford English Dictionary committee for one year and said of the experience, “Of the time he spent with the dictionary that he learned more…than in any other equal period in his life”(Winchester, 2003).
There is a world that exists now. A world filled with information that is transmitted at the speed of sound. Well, at the speed of our WIFI connection. The shelves have been replaced by digital files. Dark mahogany tables and exotic rugs are relics of a tradition quickly fading. Scholars exist, but their relevance is dependent upon their ability to go viral. Their credibility wanes as we look to social media stars for our opinions and knowledge. We no longer need the old man in the study, but the loud young one with the most viewed YouTube channel.
Somewhere in the back of the library, a genius speaks. He tells us that even the poor can buy books and become genius problem solvers. He provides us with a clue about how to learn.
A mastermind author created a world outfitted with its own people, language, and a long history. He gave our imaginations a hobbit and tells us that his brand of genius was developed by words.
A volume of words was created from readers scouring books for 71 years. It is words that have the power to change the world. It is words that have the power to change us — Read.
Cambiaire, C.P. Ph.D. (1927). The Influence of Edgar Allan Poe. New York, NY: G.E. Stechert & Co
Poe, Edgar Allan. Tales of Mystery. New York, NY: Award Books, Inc.
Winchester, S. (2003). The Meaning of Everything. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Originally published at aprolificanthology.com on December 13, 2018.