Poe, “A Tale of Jerusalem” (1832)

Neither of Jerusalem nor a tale, more like a Poe equivalent of a Saturday Night Live skit spoofing another story called “Zillah, a Tale of Jerusalem,” by Horace Smith, published in 1828. Three Jews are awaiting payment of some sort from Romans at Pompei–money or tasty meat of some sort. They get a hog instead, “the unutterable flesh.” Along the way the language is offensive, the portrayal of the Jews ridiculous, the whole setting anachronistic. But so is our reading: shorn of its Zillah context, it can’t possibly make sense, as so much of early Poe does not.

Broadway Journal, September 20, 1845

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