April 5th—I am almost devoured by ennui. Pundit is the only conversible person on board; and he, poor soul! can speak of nothing but antiquities. He has been occupied all the day in the attempt to convince me that the ancient Amriccans governed themselves!—did ever anybody hear of such an absurdity? —that they existed in a sort of every-man-for-himself confederacy, after the fashion of the “prairie dogs” that we read of in fable. He says that they started with the queerest idea conceivable, viz: that all men are born free and equal . . . Every man “voted,” as they called it —that is to say meddled with public affairs—until , at length, it was discovered that what is everybody’s business is nobody’s, and that the Republic (so the absurd thing was called) was without a government at all.
Edgar Allan Poe, from “Mellonta Tauta”
I went to high school in Virginia, and the kids there said that Edgar Allan Poe had visited the school in 1849 to speak to the students, and that he had died a few days later from food poisoning; something he ate at the school had killed him. Though I was in the sixth grade at the time, I completely believed the story. I liked the food at my school, and often wondered how a sloppy joe sandwich could have buried the sad, square-headed man.
Reading Edgar Allen Poe suggests the wearing of mail-order, hooded cloaks and fringed boots. Okay, get dressed. “Mellonta Tauta” takes place on board Balloon Skylark in the year 2828. The rest of the story is easily found online. Along with entering the black velvet cloakroom, Poe has wandered into the public domain.