The Fall of the House of Eeyore
A Review of the Life and Works of Edgar Allan Pooh

As part of the recent interest in 19th-Century American literature, Bantam-Spectra has released a "retrospective" volume of one of this country’s most overlooked writers: Edgar Allan Pooh.

Pooh was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on January 20th, 1809, one day after and 30 miles away from his ultimately famed cousin, Edgar Allan Poe. Pooh’s mother was Josephene Arnold, sister to Poe’s mother, Elizabeth Arnold. The Arnolds couldn’t afford all the children they kept having, so Josephene, known as "Dusty" to her friends, was put up for adoption, and it is only the recent unearthing of some Boston-area birth records that has pointed at this link between the families.

Poe was partially named for his father, one Bartleby Allan. Allan was originally from Washington, D.C., where he met Ms. Arnold. After a whirlwind romance she was found to be pregnant, and subsequently abandoned by Arnold. She fled to her ancestral Boston, to plead for aid from her birth family, who gave her some small succor. Our last accounts of Allan place him in New York City, working as a rather unsuccessful scrivener.

Pooh was a lonely child, his mother having been paranoid about his being kidnapped by "The Enemies," a group she was convinced were out to ruin her. Ruining this woman would have been a rather simple task for a group of schoolchildren, much less an "international conspiracy made of horible [sic] Jews, Negroes, and Those Practising the most Perverse Depravity." Consequently, Pooh was raised in a high degree of isolation from other children, his only playmates being two boys, Christopher and Robin, the sons of his landlady. These three would often play in the back of the house shared by their families, and tell stories to each other on cold winter nights. It is these stories, mainly told by Pooh, which were the fertile source of Pooh’s later writings.

Pooh was educated at the prestigious 13th Street School in Providence, and we currently have no truly dependable documented proof as to how Ms. Arnold paid for his education. There are several letters, however, written by the school’s headmaster, Reginald Starr, that could lead us to conclude that Ms. Arnold pursued a career with a much more ancient history than acting, her sister’s choice, but propriety forbids us from delving into such prurient details.

Pooh was a precocious child, and his mother realized this; she, after he reached the age of approximately 12, used him as a form of secretary for her (insert polite cough) business dealings.

When Pooh was 19, he began working for a local newspaper as copy editor and occasional reporter. He showed a considerable talent for writing, but again there is evidence that his mother helped him along his path. Letters from Starr, his headmaster, to Peter Royal, the chief editor of the newspaper, devote an equal space to praising young Pooh’s abilities and those of his mother.

Just a few months after helping him secure his position at the paper, Ms. Arnold died in a horrible accident. She was supplementing her income by working with several publishers, and was evidently posing for a woodcut to be included in "Ye Olde Gange Bange" when a fire started in the warehouse used for the setting, and Arnold was crushed by a falling beam.

An inquest was started both into the fire and the business dealings involving that warehouse, but, in a letter from Pooh to the mayor of Providence, we find Pooh alluding to certain information kept by his mother involving the mayor and several of his close advisors, including references to birthmarks and "other distinguishing characteristics," and that portion of the inquest was closed.

Pooh was recognized as being a brilliant writer shortly after his mother’s death, and Royal encouraged him to write poetry and short stories, his preferred modes of expression. Unfortunately, even for so brilliant a writer, Pooh never received even a tenth of the fame and adoration of his more-known cousin, although he was infinitely more comfortable financially, due to some wise investing on his mother’s part.

Pooh passed the rest of his life in relative obscurity, until he was killed in 1869, in late May. On the 23rd of that month, he was inspecting an unused, experimental explosive shell from the Civil War for a magazine article, and tapping on it with a hammer to determine whether or not it was still "live." Unfortunately, it was. They never managed to recover all of his corpse, and the hand with the hammer was found nearly three miles away, the claws of the hammer embedded in a tree branch outside a "ladies' house," as if in final, fond memory of his mother.

Luckily, Pooh did have a devoted, albeit small, group of readers, and most of his works have survived to this day. His short stories are considered far superior to his poetry, and it is with his stories that Bantam-Spectra’s "tribute volume" is most concerned.

The book is "led off" with his classic tale, "A Cask of Honey":

The chain rattled softly. 'For the love of god, Christopher Robin!'

For a long time, there was no answer. Then a thin, boyish voice replied, 'Yes, Pooh. For the love of God.'

The final brick slid into place, plunging the Small Bear With Very Little Brain into utter darkness.

'Oh, Bother!' said Pooh.

A delicious tale, is it not? Pooh’s most curious habit, as an author, was placing characters with his name in them. This could cause curious speculations as to Pooh’s sanity, but these characters usually bear no resemblance to Pooh the man.

Another wonderful tale is "The Murders in the Roo Morgue." In this tale, the esteemed Monsieur C. Auguste Robin solves a strange mystery, wherein the Owl, a wise denizen of the Hundred-Acre Wood, reports a disturbance to his neighbor, Pooh. When Pooh and his guest, M. Robin, investigate, they find the bodies of Roo, a cute baby kangaroo, and his mother, Kanga, stuffed up his chimney. Their house was tightly closed up, from the inside, and nothing unusual could be found.

Then the brilliant M. Robin examines the floor, and notices strange circles pressed into the dirt, leading from the door into the room and to the fireplace. Upon calling a meeting of the residents of the Hundred-Acre Wood, he questions Tigger, the bouncy tiger, who confesses to bouncing into the Roo household, closing the door, grabbing the kangaroos, and trying to bounce up the chimney with them. But they got stuck.

The final of the three main stories in the collection is "The Tell-Tale Tigger." This tale features the most Pooh-the-man-like of all the characters, but he is identified as Mr. Saunders, the narrator. Mr. Saunders was in the employ of a Mr. Tigger, who had a baleful glint in his one cataract-covered eye. He steals into Tigger’s room each night, shining a lantern onto his master’s sleeping face, trying to work up the courage to destroy both the old Tigger and his horrid eye. Finally, one night, the eyelid of the "milky white" eye opens, and Mr. Saunders slaughters the sleeping Tigger, cutting his corpse into pieces and burying them under the floorboard. Unfortunately, someone heard Tigger’s last scream, and the police were called. They questioned Mr. Saunders, who answered all of their questions, professing to know nothing. However, during the interview, he becomes aware of a quiet "Boing!" noise, which slowly but surely grows in volume. Finally, unable to stand it any more,

" ‘Villains!’ I shrieked, ‘dissemble no more! I admit the deed! – tear up the blanks! Here, here! – it is the Boing!ing of his terrible tail!"

These tales comprise the core of the collection, but there are others worth enjoying, including "The Piglet and the Pendulum," "Eeyore and the Maelstrom," "The Pooh of the Perverse," "Eeyeoria!" and "The Purloined Honey-Pot."

Any true aficionado of American Literature will find these stories invaluable for their collection.

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