Poe's last tale, built on the story of an editor failing to establish a new paper out west, has baffled commentators and been filed away as an indifferent, if a little strange, comedy—a diagnosis that runs against the fact that it stages a "devil" (Poe's long-term associate) turning O's into X's (or the poetical letter into the problematical one, Poe's art of the tale, exactly). Now, three discoveries, opening hidden depths, led to this article. 1) In the tale, Poe plays with his own surname and its central O, making his text intensely, though secretly, personal. 2) The structure of the tale points to the staging by Poe of his resignation from tale-writing. 3) At about that time, Poe was offered the editorship of a literary magazine to be printed and published in the West. Inquiries into postal matters make "X-ing a Paragrab" appear as Poe's first, indirect, and negative answer to his western correspondent. Together, with inquiries into literary matters ranging from "The Literati of New York City" in 1846 to "The Light-House" in 1849, they invite us to accompany him into his growing consciousness of his own disappearance and death.


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pp. 107-133
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