Thomas Beale Treasure...An Application of the Poe “Formula” to The Beale Papers
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In many of my stories, I used a formula to develop my characters. I would describe the character’s FAMILY, WEALTH, EDUCATION AND MENTAL STATE. I frequently also described DISPOSITION, COMPLEXION and MANNERS. A close examination of The Beale Papers reveals a continued use of this “formula” approach to character development. Perhaps the best example of the application of this “formula” can be seen in The Gold Bug.

The Gold Bug

 More than any of my stories, The Gold Bug demonstrates the application of the Poe “Formula”, my customary method of describing characters, and its connexion to The Beale Papers. First, it is necessary to closely examine the words used in The Beale Papers and those used in The Gold Bug. As the identification of similar words begins to show a relationship between the stories, one must than review similar phrases, spellings, placement in sentences and meaning. Next, note the method used to introduce a particular character and the description of that character. Finally, look to the action of the stories. Observe how they move from scene to scene in an almost parallel fashion.  Only by establishing these connexions will the reader begin to recognize the relationship between The Beale Papers and my work, particularly The Gold Bug. Many of my observations in this monograph are of this type and from these detailed observations one may develop a pattern that results in the conclusion that I indeed, was the author of The Beale Papers. The evidence is in the details!

First, let us observe how I describe the FAMILY, ECONOMIC STATUS and EDUCATION of Legrand, the main character in The Gold Bug, Beale and the anonymous author in The Beale Papers: 

First Legrand:

 “He was of an ancient HUGUENOT FAMILY, and had once been wealthy, but a series of misfortunes had reduced him to WANT…”

“…this soon ripened into friendship-for there was much in the recluse to EXCITE INTEREST and esteem. I found him WELL EDUCATED, with unusual powers of mind…”

Now the anonymous Beale author:

 “It can be readily imagined that this course was not determined upon at once; regardless of the entreaties of his FAMILY and the persistent advice of his friend, who were formerly as sanguine as himself, he stubbornly continued his investigations, until absolute WANT stared him in the face and forced him to yield to their persuasions.”  “Until the writer lost all hope of ultimate success, he toiled faithfully at his work, unlike any other pursuit with practical and natural results, a charm attended it, independent of the ultimate benefit he expected, and the possibility of success lent an INTEREST AND EXCITEMENT to the work not to be resisted.”  Finally Beale and his companions:

“Such a man was Thomas J. Beale, as he appeared in 1820, and in his subsequent visit to my house. He registered simply from Virginia, but I am of the impression he was from some western portion of the State. Curiously enough, he never adverted to his FAMILY OR TO HIS ANTECEDENTS, nor did I question him concerning them, as I would have done had I dreamed of the interest that in the future would attach to his name.”  “They all appeared to be GENTLEMEN, WELL BORN, and WELL EDUCATED, with refined and courteous MANNERS and with a free and independent air, which rendered them peculiarly attractive.”  My readers may recognize in these descriptions of LeGrand and Beale my own background; my early years as a Southern aristocrat and adult life spent in or near poverty. The description of Robert Morriss as an “old Virginia GENTLEMAN” of gentle and courteous manner who accumulated a “comfortable independence” but lost all in a moment that left him “nothing save his honor and the sincere sympathy of the community with which to begin the battle anew”, hints at the fall from wealth that I experienced in my own life.   I often created characters who had fallen from wealth. This pattern can be seen in my introduction of C. Auguste Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue:

 “This young gentleman was of an excellent-indeed of an illustrious family, but, by a variety of untoward events, had been reduced to such poverty that the energy of his character succumbed beneath it, and he ceased to bestir himself in the world, or to care for the retrieval of his fortunes.”  Thus, in three stories, The Beale Papers, The Gold Bug and The Murders in the Rue Morgue, five protagonists, Dupin, Legrand, Morriss, Beale and the anonymous Beale author, are all gentleman, well educated and from good families. Dupin, Legrand Morriss and the anonymous author were well off at one time but suffered financial misfortune. A pattern, very tenuous to be sure, begins to emerge, a pattern that establishes a connection between the Beale mystery and my writings.

 Other stories in which I introduce main characters by describing their family history, wealth and/or education include Ms. Found in a Bottle, The Assignation, Bernice, Ligeia, The Fall of the House of Usher, William Wilson, A Tale of the Ragged Mountains and The Premature Burial.

Similarity of Plot and Description of Action

Observe the similarities in plot and description in the The Gold Bug and The Beale Papers when the treasure is found, dreamed about, valued, moved and exchanged.

In The Beale Papers, I describe the moment of discovery as one of “much excitement” with “the excitement intense” and “everyone was diligently at work with such tools and appliances as they had improvised”. I used similar language to convey the joy of Legrand, Jupiter and the narrator upon discovering Captain Kidd’s treasure chest in The Gold Bug:

“We set to work again with spades…I had become most unaccountably interested-nay, even excited…We now worked in earnest, and never did I pass ten minutes of more intense excitement…Legrand appeared exhausted with excitement”.

Both groups are intensely excited and hard at work and I make an effort to describe, or at least mention the tools and appliances used to dig in the earth.

Note how I next describe the visions of wealth entertained by the members of both parties of treasure seekers. In The Beale Papers, “all the pleasures and temptations which had lured [the men] to the plains were now forgotten, and visions of boundless wealth and future grandeur were the only ideas entertained”. The Gold Bug party looked upon “a treasure of incalculable value” and were “amazed…stupefied and thunder-stricken”.

 After the initial shock of discovery, Beale’s men began a frenzied effort to mine the gold. Once Beale arrived at the site of the discovery and observed the confusion he organized the party. Note my choice of words:

 “Though all were at work, THERE WAS NOTHING LIKE ORDER OR METHOD in their plans, and my first efforts were to systematize our operations, and REDUCE EVERYTHING TO ORDER.”

 In The Gold Bug, this same state of disorder occurs when the treasure chest is first examined by Legrand’s party. Again note my word selection:

 “The chest had been full to the brim…THERE HAD BEEN NOTHING LIKE ORDER OR ARRANGEMENT…Every thing had been heaped in promiscuously…HAVING ASSORTED ALL WITH CARE, we found ourselves possessed of even vaster wealth than we had at first supposed.”

 In both stories, I create an urgency to remove the treasure quickly and safely, and a discussion of how and where this removal should be accomplished. “The question of transferring our wealth to some secure location was frequently discussed” by the Beale party while they mined the gold and silver. Likewise, the treasure seekers in The Gold Bug, upon finding Captain Kidd’s treasure chest, “spent much time in deliberation-so confused were the ideas of all”.

 I next caused the parties in both stories to remove their treasure from the place of discovery to a secure location BY MAKING TWO TRIPS. In The Gold Bug, the treasure is too heavy for three men to carry. They hide one third of the pirate booty, “deposited among the brambles, and the dog left to guard them”. The men are able to secure the entire treasure in one night because the distance is miniscule. Note how the men FINALLY lightened the box, reached the hut in SAFETY and DEPOSITED their golden burthens.

 Though the miles between treasure site and secure location are much greater in The Beale Papers, the story is essentially the same. The men accumulate their horde and make two trips to Virginia to bury their treasure. When they FINALLY decided that it should be sent to Virginia, Beale was selected to make the transport, he arrived SAFELY with his charge and DEPOSITED the precious metal. My choice of words in describing these actions is, in some cases, identical, in both stories.

Other points of similarity between the two stories include my use of animals and jewels. Compare how Beale’s men tethered the horses at the gold site while Jupiter left the dog to guard the remainder of the treasure, with strict orders neither to stir nor to open his mouth. Note also that both parties retained jewels after extracting their treasure from the earth. In The Gold Bug, the men were pleased to learn, “upon subsequent disposal of the trinkets and JEWELS (a few being retained for our own use), it was found that we had greatly undervalued our treasure”. The Beale party deposited thousands of pounds of gold and silver and “JEWELS, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at $13,000.”

Many of my stories addressed the subject of intense mental feelings, created in The Beale Papers and The Gold Bug to describe the feelings at the moment of the discovery of the treasure, but addressed in more horrifying detail in much of my other work. I will not list a detailed comparison here, but the comparison is valid, however, particularly the similar word choices I make again and again to develop a feeling of excitement.

Other “Poe Formula” descriptors which I frequently used in my stories included complexion and disposition. Take, for example, my use of complexion to describe a character. In The Beale Papers, Beale has a dark, swarthy complexion. Compare Beale to the “seaman” in The Mystery of Marie Roget, “Let me pause to observe that the complexion of this man is dark and swarthy; it was no common swarthiness…” and the gamblers in The Man of the Crowd, “Still all were distinguished by a certain sodden swarthiness…” Bedloe in A Tale of the Ragged Mountains had an “absolutely bloodless” complexion.

Disposition was another of my favorite descriptors. Robert Morriss was “courteous and gentle, but when occasion demanded, could be stern and determined”. Beale was “reverentially tender and polite” to the ladies and “affable and courteous” to other gentlemen. But when “the lion was aroused” woe to the man who offended him. Again, my description of Beale and Morriss is somewhat superficial in The Beale Papers. Legrand was “subject to perverse moods of alternate enthusiasm and melencholy.” In other stories, William Wilson, for example, I explore much more deeply the disposition of my characters.

My Virginia Connexions