On this date in 1841 Edgar Allan Poe’s Murders of the Rue Morgue was published for the first time, in Graham’s Magazine. The image to the left is not it. Rather that’s the cover for the 1932 Photoplay edition, evidently a tie-in the Universal’s movie released the same year. It was the most lurid cover I could find.
The tale is one of the most famous and influential short stories in literature. However, I must say that as a “tale” Murders of the Rue Morgue is lacking. For me, anyway. I never cared for stories where the monkey did it.
That aside, it is the first detective story, although when Poe wrote it, the word “detective” did not yet exist. What Poe created was the persona of the detective, the private ones and amateurs. A character whose traits and methods became the model for many a detective character to come. This is the character of C. August Dupin, the master of ratiocination.
Dupin is the father of Sherlock Holmes. He’s an eccentric genius who uses his powers of observation and deduction to solve crimes. Dupin’s cases are chronicled by his admiring and nameless companion. With Dupin and his brilliant reasoning, Poe established the basis for the detective-as-aesthete “school,” that would dominate crime fiction well into the 1920’s and beyond.
Sherlock Holmes, the most famous detective of all time, called Dupin “a very inferior fellow,” Yet, Holmes was not above using Dupin’s methods or copying his lifestyle. Dupin is interesting because he is mysterious. As for Holmes, I have never really understood the appeal. He’s so insufferable, that were I Dr. Watson, I would throw the know-it-all out the window.