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 tales, as The gold Bug or The descent into the Maelstrom, in certain stories in which he combines his analytical gift with the imaginative and inventive gift, as The Cask of Amontillado and William Wilson, or in certain studies of the pure imagination, as The fall of the House of Usher and The Masque of the red death. In all of these he displays a skill of construction and of condensation surpassed by few if any other workers in his field. In some—as in The Masque of the red death, or in Eleonora, or in his landscape studies—he shows himself a master of English style; and in two of his briefer studies— Shadow and Silence—he approaches the eloquence and splendour of De Quincey. His main limitations as a writer of the short story are to be found in the feebleness and flimsiness of his poorer work; in his all but complete lack of healthy humour; in his incapacity to create or to depict character; in his morbidness of mood and grotesqueness of situation.1 He suffers also in comparison with other leading short-story writers of America and England in consequence of his disdain of the ethical in art (though neither his tales nor his poems are entirely lacking in ethical value); he suffers, again, in comparison with certain present-day masters of the short story in consequence of his lack of variety in theme and form; and he was never expert in the management of dialogue. By reason of his fondness for the terrible and for the outre;, he is to be classed with the Gothic romancers: he makes constant use of Gothic machinery, of apparitions, cataleptic attacks, premature burial, and life after death. In several of his stories—as also in his long poems, Tamerlane and Al Aaraaf —he follows in the steps of the Orientalists. On the other hand, in some of his tales of incident he achieves a realism and a minuteness of detail that betray unmistakably the influence of Defoe. And it is easy to demonstrate an indebtedness to divers
1 His friend, P. P. Cooke, wrote of him in 1847: ‘For my individual part, having the seventy or more tales, analytic, mystic, grotesque, arabesque, always wonderful, often great, which his industry and fertility have already given us, I would like to read one cheerful book made by his invention, with little or no aid from its twin brother imagination, ... a book full of homely doings, of successful toils, of ingenious shifts and contrivances, of ruddy firesides—a book healthy and happy throughout’ (Southern Literary Messenger, January, 1848, p. 37).
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