Linus is my hero. I mean the character from the Peanuts comic strip and television cartoons. In It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Linus reveals himself to be a steadfast believer in an obscure doctrine holding that the Great Pumpkin will appear before and reward the individual with the most sincere pumpkin patch. (I’m tempted to describe the Great Pumpkin as having the powers of a demi-gourd, but even amateur botanists would quickly squash that pun.) Each year, Linus observes this ritual. Each year, he maintains his faith, despite the ridicule of friends and family. Each year, he ends up disappointed, but he finds renewed strength in the promise that next year will prove him right.
And remember that Linus — this martyr for what might well be called a pagan belief* — is the same character who, a couple of months later, reminds the apparently Christian community that surrounds him of the original reason why they celebrate the birth of their Savior. He even quotes Scripture by memory! Not just a verse or two — a passage of considerable length!†
Of course, Linus hasn’t aged since several years before 1966, when Great Pumpkin was first aired. Perhaps this begins to explain why he’s so steadily devoted to his marginalized, squash-based belief system. I, on the other hand, waver much more in my convictions as time passes. In fact, I’m starting to lose faith that my purchase of a manuscript purported to be 100 limericks written by Edgar Allan Poe was a wise decision. That manuscript — sold to me by a man calling himself Bertram Lucius Zachery Bubb, who signed our payment contract: B.L.Z. Bubb — cost me the equivalent of three years’ salary! Bubb explained that it wasn’t the sum total that mattered to him so much as the commitment of the buyer. He wanted someone truly invested in the manuscript.
And I signed the contract. I believed that — maybe, just maybe — evidence that Poe truly had written the limericks would arise and reward me. It was my Great Pumpkin.
However, it’s been over a year-and-a-half since I put The Lost Limericks of Edgar Allan Poe before the public. I have come no closer to discovering if these often silly, sometimes spooky, occasionally serious poems were actually penned by Poe. And I haven’t heard from anyone better qualified than myself to make that determination. Lamentably, the question of authorship lingers unanswered.
Nonetheless, I am pleased that putting those same limericks into publishable form prompted me to study Poe himself. The not-infrequent footnotes that I added to the limericks serve as a nice overview of the famous author’s lesser known works, the highlights and oddities of his life, and some curious aspects of the world in which he lived.‡
But did Poe write the limericks? Ultimately, I simply don’t know. Decide for yourself. For more information and some samples limericks, click here: The Lost Limericks of Edgar Allan Poe.
*I mean pagan, not in the sense of a particular religion, say, one tracing its roots to pre-Christian Celtic culture, but in the sense of any non-mainstream religion (much as the Yiddish word goyum means non-Jewish), which can apply to a wide diversity of faiths.
†There’s a clear sense of theatricality given to Linus’s recitation when he calls for a spotlight. From this, I conclude that Linus is probably not Christian himself, yet he’s familiar enough with the Bible to assume the role needed to remind the Christian community of its own core creed. You gotta love Linus!
‡In addition, in the book’s Introduction, I give a more detailed account of my experience with Bubb and then present arguments both in favor and against the claim that Poe wrote the limericks. There are also a few drawings, which are very nice.