by Bill Nye
Public Domain Books
Alfonso Quanturnernit Dowdell, Frumenti, Ohio, writes to know something of the effects of alcohol on the brain of an adult, being evidently apprehensive that some day he may become an adult himself He says:
“I would be glad to know whether or not you think that liquor stimulates the brain to do better literary work. I have been studying the personal history of Edgar A. Poe, and learned through that medium that he was in the habit of drinking a good deal of liquor at times. I also read that George D. Prentice, who wrote ’The Closing Year,’ and other nice poems, was a hearty drinker. Will you tell me whether this is all true or not, and also what the effect of alcohol is on the brain of an adult?”
It is said on good authority that Edgar A. Poe ever and anon imbibed the popular beverages of his day and age, some of which contained alcohol. We are led to believe these statements because they remain as yet undenied. But Poe did a great deal of good in that way, for he set an example that has been followed ever since, more or less, by quite a number of poets’ apprentices who emulated Poe’s great gift as a drinker. These men, thinking that poesy and delirium tremens went hand in hand, became fluent drunkards early in their career, so that finally, instead of issuing a small blue volume of poems they punctuated a drunkard’s grave.
So we see that Poe did a great work aside from what he wrote. He opened up a way for these men which eradicated them, and made life more desirable for those who remained. He made it easy for those who thought genius and inebriation were synonymous terms to get to the hospital early in the day, while the overworked waste-basket might secure a few hours of much needed rest.
George D. Prentice has also done much toward weeding out a class of people who otherwise might have become disagreeable. It is better that these men who write under the influence of rum should fall into the hands of the police as early as possible. The police can handle them better than the editor can.
Do not try, Alfonso, to experiment in this way. Because Mr. Poe and Mr. Prentice could write beautiful and witty things between drinks, do not, oh do not imagine that you can begin that way and succeed at last.
The effect of alcohol on the brain of an adult is to congest it finally. Alcohol will sometimes congest the brain of an adult under the most trying and discouraging circumstances. I have frequently known it to scorch out and paralyze the brain in cases where other experiments had not been successful in showing the presence of a brain at all.
That is the reason why some people love to fool with this great chemical. It revives their suspicions regarding the presence of a brain.
The habits of literary men vary a good deal, for no two of them seem to care to adopt the same plan.
I have taken the liberty of showing here my own laboratory and methods of thought. This is from a drawing made by myself, and represents the writer in his study and in the act of thinking about a poem.
Last summer I wrote a large poem entitled, “Moanings of the Moist, Malarious Sea.” I have it still. The back of it has a memoranda on it in blue pencil from the leading editors of our broad land, but otherwise it is just as I wrote it.
The engraving represents me in the act of thinking about the poem, and what I will do with the money when I get it.
I am now preparing a poem entitled, “The Umbrella.” It is a dainty little bit of verse, and my hired man thinks it is a gem. I called it “The Umbrella” so that it would not be returned.
By looking at the drawing you will see the rapid change of expression on the face as the work goes on.
I give the drawing in order also, to show the rich furniture of the room. All poets do not revel in such gaudy trappings as I do, but I cannot write well in a bare and ill-furnished room. In these apartments there is also a window which does not show in the engraving. I have tried over and over again to write a poem in a room that had no window in it, but I cannot say that I ever wrote one under such circumstances that I thought would live.
You can do as you think best about furnishing your room as I have mine. You might, of course, succeed as well by writing in a plainer apartment, but I could not. All my poetical work that was done in the cramped and plainly furnished room that I formerly occupied over Knadler’s livery stable, was ephemeral.
It got into a few of the leading autograph albums of the country, but it never got into the papers.
I would not use alcohol, however. Poe and Prentice could use it, but I never could. After a long debauch, I could always work well enough on the street but I could not do literary work.