Mystery stories are very popular, especially when sold at sixpence; but that is because the author of a mystery story reveals. He is enjoyed not because he creates mystery, but because he destroys mystery. Nobody would have the courage to publish a detective-story which left the problem exactly where it found it. That would rouse even the London public to revolution.
No one dare publish a detective-story that did not detect. There are three broad classes of the special things in which human wisdom does permit privacy. The first is the case I have mentioned that of hide-and-seek, or the police novel, in which it permits privacy only in order to explode and smash privacy.
In the true detective-story as Poe conceived it in the 'Murders of the Rue Morgue, it is not in the mystery itself that the author seeks to interest the reader, but rather in the successive steps whereby his analytic observer is enabled to solve a problem that might well be dismist as beyond human elucidation.
It seemed that he had; but he had it in his pocket, as it chanced, and dug it out, soiled and frayed from long confinement. Stooping forward to introduce it into the penumbra of lamplight, he read over the detective-story message: "Make friends: mingle with people and learn to like them. This is the earnest injunction of Your father."
But the history of the detective-story begins with the publication of the 'Murders in the Rue Morgue, a masterpiece of its kind, which even its author was unable to surpass; and Poe, unlike most other originators, rang the bell the very first time he took aim.
I've been through a course of Gaborieau, and the rest of the detective-story men, and I want to come out with something fresh. Of course, what I need is real experience. I suppose I ought to have served my term as a criminal reporter; do murders and forgeries, and all that kind of thing. But, then, I haven't. I must trust to luck and chance.
In other words, Poe, while he availed himself of the obvious advantages of keeping a secret from his readers and of leaving them guessing as long as he pleased, shifted the point of attack and succeeded in giving a human interest to his tale of wonder. And by this shift Poe transported the detective-story from the group of tales of adventure into the group of portrayals of character.
Even tho the detective-story as Poe produced it is elevated far above the barren tale of mystery which preceded it and which has been revived in our own day, it is not one of the loftiest of literary forms, and its possibilities are severely limited.
The thing has really some of the dark qualities of a detective-story; though I suppose that Sherlock Holmes himself could hardly unravel it now, when the scent is so old and cold and most of the actors, doubtless, long dead. This old pageant included a series of figures from the eighteenth century, and I was told that I was just like Dr. Johnson. Seeing that Dr.
And among the detective-stories, standing on a lower plane as they do, because they were wrought by invention rather than by the interpreting imagination, the foremost position may be given to the 'Murders in the Rue Morgue. In this tale Poe's invention is most ingenious and his subject is selected with the fullest understanding of the utmost possibilities of the detective-story.