The ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than analytic

face in shadow

Between ingenuity and the analytic ability there exists a difference far greater

The analytical power should not be confounded with simple ingenuity; for while the analyst is necessarily ingenious, the ingenious man is often remarkably incapable of analysis. The constructive or combining power, by which ingenuity is usually manifested, and to which the phrenologists (I believe erroneously) have assigned a separate organ, supposing it a primitive faculty, has been so frequently seen in those whose intellect bordered otherwise upon idiocy, as to have attracted general observation among writers on morals. Between ingenuity and the analytic ability there exists a difference far greater, indeed, than that between the fancy and the imagination, but of a character very strictly analogous. It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than analytic.

by Edgar Allen Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849)
from The Murders in the Rue Morgue
image – procristination

Early Crime Fiction

Before Raymond Chandler did it succinctly, there was Poe, doing the detective mystery in flowing Victorian style. A hundred years before Raymond Chandler’s hard boiled detective Philip Marlowe, Poe was exploring the then-new genre with the help of his own detective, C. Auguste Dupin. True to Poe, this detective thriller includes a non-human red herring, and the death of a beautiful woman.

In today’s quote, Poe’s description suggests that a great detective needs to understand both fanciful ingeniousness and the truly imaginative. Chandler’s description of a detective’s ability to walk on both sides of the street is pithier, and, like Poe, speaks to a duality: “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”

The Murders in the Rue Morgue was the first truly scary story I read over and over again.

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