This is a superior example of Poe's work in a journalistic mode. The foolish plot is there to provide a fictional framework in which Poe can present interesting and unusual information of the sort one used to see in Sunday supplements or the Reader's Digest. Scientific wonders and modern technology impress the mummy not at all; things were better in ancient Egypt. "Some Words with a Mummy" suggests how very strong were Poe's ties to his time and place; it shows that he was both fascinated by the things that fascinated his readers and that he had a certain detachment from them. Like Twain, he was at once caught up in the excitement of new technology and new science, and, in another mood, skeptical that "progress" meant anything.
Poe's frame story itself was very topical. A burst of exciting Egyptological archeology and scholarship followed Napoleon's campaigns in Egypt. Interesting new information was newsworthy for decades--to a lesser extent, it is so even today. (See, for example, Figure 9, page 276.) So Poe is playing on a topic he knows will interest his readers. "Some Words with a Mummy" is filled with local New York City jokes, references to popular subjects, and even humor based on making fun of advertisements; details are in our notes.
A note of explanation: Poe simply lifted his technical information from handy sources; a lot of it came from the Encyclopedia Americana(King).
|The American (Whig) Review, April 1845|
|The Broadway Journal, November 1, 1845|
The symposium of the preceding evening had been a little too much for my nerves. I had a wretched head-ache, and was desperately drowsy. Instead of going out, therefore, to spend the evening as I had proposed, it occurred to me that I could not do a wiser thing than just eat a mouthful of supper and go immediately to bed.
A light supper of course. I am exceedingly fond of Welsh rabbit. More than a pound at once, however, may not at all times be advisable. Still, there can be no material objection to two. And really between two and three, there is merely a single unit of difference. I ventured, perhaps, upon four. My wife will have it five;--but, clearly, she has confounded two very distinct affairs. The abstract