Anna’s Anachronisms: Ep1 – Edgar Allen Poe versus the Light Bulb

In a cabin, somewhere in the midst of a dark woods, I had the pleasure of meeting with Edgar Allen Poe to show him something he’d find revolutionary: a lightbulb. The team had built this makeshift cottage, with full plumbing and electricity, for the explicit purpose of this interview. I was delighted to find he’d arrived before me, and had put tea on while he was waiting. I exchanged quiet pleasantries as I whipped myself up a quick cuppa, before settling down to speak with the infamous poet.

Edgar seemed slightly impatient as he asked me: “What foddery have you brought me here for?”

“I have something to show you,” I’d replied while rising to my feet and crossing the small kitchen to the lightswitch on the wall, fixed above the sink he’d just filled the kettle from. “It’s called a ‘lightbulb’.”

As the filaments behind the glass bulb’s smooth exterior glowed to life, Edgar was spooked. “Harken!” He cried as he shifted back in his chair, the yellow light reflecting in his wide eyes. “Curious, very curious. What do you call this strange contraption again?”

“A lightbulb. It’s sort of like a lantern, but it never needs flame. It never needs kerosene. It only ever needs electricity, a natural power that runs through this whole house.”

Poe’s jaw was agape incredulously “You harnessed lightning to fashion a permanent lantern?”

“Exactly! Well, in basis. It’s the simplest way to explain it.” It warmed my heart to see him so caught off-guard. His airs of education-bordering-on-arrogance were completely washed out at this point. “And we can control it with this switch on the wall, here.”

He stood up and quickly crossed the panelled floor to inspect the fixture, flicking the switch up and down and checking back over his shoulder to marvel at the effects. “One doesn’t even touch the light itself. How does this ‘lightswitch’ control the lamp?”

“It’s a ‘lightbulb’, but the light has wires running between this switch and that bulb. When we turn the switch off, it breaks the circuit of electricityㅡ!”

“Thus smothering the light in its shell.” Poe finished, a awestruck glint creeping into his dark-and-usually-dead eyes.

“Exactly.”

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