Sunday, March 25, 2012

In Which Poe Becomes a Soap Star

On this day in 1845, the New York "Evening Mirror" ran an advertisement headlined "The Craven: by POH!" It is one of my favorite examples of how, mere weeks after the first publication of "The Raven," Poe and his bird of yore had already become what we would call pop culture icons. The ad read:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while with toil and care quite weary,
I was pondering on man's proneness to deceitfulness and guile,
Soon I fell into a seeming state 'twixt wakefulness and dreaming,
When my mind's eye saw a scheming fellow counterfeiting soap--
Yes! counterfeiting GOURAUD'S matchless Medicated Soap;
Twisting sand into a rope!

Of all the littlenesses that weak human nature presses
Surely no disgrace like this is noted on the page of yore;
There could be no concealing, while this craven thus was stealing,
That he knew no kindly feeling, but disgraced the form he wore;
And it wrung my bosom's core!

The heart of this same craven was as black as any raven,
Though nicely shorn and shaven was the hair and phiz he wore;
As cold he seemed, and callous, as a sculptured bust, of Pallas--
And his intellect was dull as the boards upon my floor,
Or the bricks above my door!

I said--"thou man of evil (I will not call thee devil,)
Get thee back into the darkness and the night's Plutonian shore!
By my fame thou hast a token, that the spells which thou hast spoken,
Are scattered all, and broken! Craven, wilt thou now give o'er,
And never counterfeit my Soap or Poudres any more?"
Quoth the craven--"Never more!"

Dr. F. FELIX GOURAUD, of 67 Walker street, again deems it necessary to caution the public against purchasing any imitations of his matchless Italian Medicated Soap, incomparable Poudres Subtiles and marvellous Grecian Hair Dye.

All one can say is, the mind reels at the thought of what the good doctor could have done with "Ulalume."

(Image via the delightful blog The Virtual Dime Museum, which contains in the archives a nifty account of Dr. Gouraud's very messy divorce, if you have a hankering--and who does not?--for Victorian-era bad company.)

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