Friday, November 27, 2009

Three Sundays in a Week

"A Succession of Sundays" was first printed in the November 27, 1841 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. The story, now known as "Three Sundays in a Week," depicts a grumpy Uncle Rumgudgeon who refuses to grant his nephew Bobby permission to marry his daughter and, therefore, inherit a portion of Rumgudgeon's estate. The uncle, being sly, says he would only offer his blessing when "three Sundays came together in one week."

Determined, with comedic effect, the traveling nephew finds a way to have three Sundays fall in one week. Two sea captains are confused by the date, both having come from different time zones and because of how they travel. One swears that yesterday was Sunday, while the other swears that's tomorrow. In fact, the day of their conversation was a Sunday. In other words, bringing these perceptions together, even Rumgudgeon admits these are "Three Sundays all in a row!"

Certainly not one of Poe's greatest, but it's another example of his humor. In this case, it's mixed in with a little of that version of science fiction that Poe plays with (to greater degrees of success) in more well-known works like "The Balloon-Hoax." It also shows a tiny bit of ratiocination, that imaginative problem-solving that refuses to dismiss the unusual. It calls to mind his essay on "Maelzel's Chess-Player," for example.

"Three Sundays in a Week" became the standard title when it was republished with that name in the May 10, 1845 issue of the Broadway Journal. It was translated into Spanish and published i February 1857 in Madrid's El Museo Universal. That publication is considered the first of Poe's works translated into Spanish. This light-hearted tale was almost certainly an influence on Around the World in 80 Days (1873) by Jules Verne — an admitted Poe fan. As in Poe's story, characters in Verne's novel lose a day by traveling west around the world or gain a day by going east.

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