Edgar Allan Poe : America’s First Writer

Edgar Allan Poe, Baltimore, MD, USA | Addresses – 515 W Fayette Street – MAP

Poe’s Passion | Mysterious Death | His Body | Ghost

Edgar Allan Poe was born on the cusp of Capricorn and Aquarius, this Bostonian was born in 1809.

January 19th, David and Elizabeth Poe welcomed their baby boy Edgar. Believed to be named by the acting couple after a character from Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Orphaned – –
Edgar Poe was a year old when his father left. An angry man, an alcoholic, not hesitating to bring down his family. Which means leaving could have been his one good act.

David Poe was supposed to be a lawyer, his rich family setting up a perfect life. This changed when he met Elizabeth the actress. He abandoned law for acting and being with her. He failed, which led to resentment and drinking and leaving.

History lost track of David Poe, his character only being questioned once in 1835 when Edgar Allan Poe wrote in a letter, “My father died in the second year of my age”. That’s it.

Elizabeth Poe, Edgar’s mother and a talented actress, continued on. Critics called her an “interesting figure with a sweet melodious voice”. She moved to New York and flourished.

Edgar Allan’s mother, Elizabeth (Eliza)

In 1811 she was staying at a boarding house in Richmond, Virginia for a performance. That’s where she started coughing up blood.

The public took interest in this beautiful and talented young woman. A mother, has talent, people wanted to save her. Benefits held with much money raised. In December, only 2 months later, she was dead.

Edgar was split from his siblings and taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond.

Failure leads to his Passion

Less than 10 years after Thomas Jefferson founded it, Edgar Allan Poe attended the University of Virginia. It’s 1826.

Edgar Allan Poe studied languages as the Allan’s paid his way. He did very well, but sorrow deep down led Poe to his first addiction of gambling.

Debts piled up, and stress led to his second addiction of drinking. Just like his real father David, the drink would drag Edgar down.

In 1827, Poe dropped out of school and went back to Boston. Would do odd jobs to survive, and along the way find his passion while working as a clerk for a Boston paper.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote a collection of poems called “Tamerlane and Other Poems” under a fake name, simply “by a Bostonian”. Readers loved it.  That’s when he ran out of money.

An 18 year old Poe joined the army, calling himself Edgar A. Perry saying he was 22.

The army suited him, reaching the ranks of Sergeant Major before tragedy. His adoptive mother, Frances Allan, died.

Poe hesitant, but would return and reconcile with John Allan. The relationship remains tense, then ending when he wants out of the military and to become a poet.

John Allan is disgusted. Takes away all his financial support and Edgar hates him for it.

John Allan -- Edgar's foster father
John Allan — Edgar’s foster father

Arguments and many things were said. Edgar confronting John on his infidelity, which was true because just 3 years after Frances died, John married a woman named Louisa Patterson.

John disowned Edgar, who was then kicked out of the army, and later told his brother Henry was dead.

If pain fuels a writer’s passion, these events created a legend.

Edgar Allan Poe : The Writer

“Tamerlane” and 1831’s “Poems” proved Poe could write. The timing was wrong as the new American’s longed for their British writers.

America is new and filled with former Brits who want a piece of the home they abandoned.

American book publishers make money by pirating the works of established British authors like Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. They put no time or money in discovering American talent.

Edgar Allan Poe had to be perfect, dropping his dream of unpopular poetry for popular prose. He went away from rhythmic writing, but not too far.

Poe’s style was new and unique, eventually making him one of the first well-known American authors.

He won a writing award in 1833, but still made little money. Poe took an editor’s job at the Southern Literary Messenger magazine in 1835.

He was fired for being drunk on the job.

Marrying his 13 year old cousin – –
His alcoholism came back just as Poe wanted to settle down.

September of 1835 he married the daughter of David Poe’s sister. Virginia Clemm was Poe’s first cousin, and she was only 13 years old.

Virginia Clemm-Poe, painted after her death
Virginia Clemm-Poe, painted after her death

We don’t know if it was an intimate relationship or just for convenience. We do know they were in love.

Only 7 years later, Virginia was playing and lost in her piano, her singing cut short as she started coughing. Warm dripping down her chin. It was blood.

His wife’s sickness didn’t stop Poe. Motivation found through supporting the ailing girl, he would write all the time. As they came closer to her death, the couple moved in 1844 to New York City.

The Raven

One year later Edgar Allan Poe publishes “The Raven” in the New York Evening Mirror and he was a house-hold name.

If you’re looking for hidden parallels’ with Poe’s life, veiled messages to his tragedy, don’t. It’s not there. Poe easily admitted in every interview that, “Raven was logically written for the fans in mind”.

He borrowed popular styles from Dickens and Elizabeth Barrett and it worked.  To this day “The Raven” influences books, TV and movies.

Death comes for Poe

In 1847 Virginia succumbs to her tuberculosis and Poe spirals down. Alcohol was there and Poe was rarely found sober for 2 years, when he was in the city of Baltimore.

On the night of October 3, 1849 Poe was stumbling in the streets of Baltimore.

A local named Joseph Walker found Poe in a gutter as a man in distress. Rushed to Washington Medical College, he remained unconscious for days.

Edgar Allan Poe never woke up. Never told the police, doctors or nurses anything before dying on Sunday October 7th at 5am.

Post-Mortem Photo of Edgar Allan Poe -- Lying in his coffin
Post-Mortem Photo of Edgar Allan Poe — Lying in his coffin

A mystery was born…

  • How did he end up in that gutter?
  • Why was he wearing someone else’s clothing?
  • Who was “Reynolds”, a name he called out at night in the hospital?

Maybe with modern technology we could figure out the answers. If only we had any evidence from his death.  All medical records have been lost, including Poe’s death certificate.

But there’s a theory.

The Cooping Conspiracy – –
Poe was found near a polling station on the night of a voting day.

Cooping was a scam perpetrated by hired thugs trying to rig an election.

They’d kidnap or trade drugs/drinks for volunteers, intoxicating the man before parading him around the city. Different polling stations, switching clothes, adding and removing fake facial hair and a new name every time until as many votes for a chosen candidate were obtained.

Then dumping the victim in a gutter.

It explains why Poe drank too much, maybe mixing with drugs and why he was wearing another man’s clothes.

His Body

Poe was buried in the Old Western Burial Ground in Baltimore, site of today’s Westminster Church.

The church was built right over top the burial ground in 1852. A graveyard became catacombs, but fame lifted him into new ground.

Catacombs under Westminster Church Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Catacombs under Westminster Church — where Poe was buried

Locals didn’t like having a great author hidden under the building. A committee formed, money collected, and in 1875 Poe was dug up and moved.

Today, a large beautifully carved monument sits close to the road for all to see.

Unrest at the Horse You Came in On

Fells Point, the historic waterfront neighbourhood of Baltimore was a favourite hangout for the living Poe.

It was in a Pub called “The Horse you Came in On” where Poe took his last drink before heading out into the streets on Oct 3rd.

Edgar’s ghost

And it’s here he may have returned.

The employees say the cash register opens on its own, and the largest chandelier always swings just before closing time.

They believe its Poe and want him to be happy.

On many nights a glass of whiskey is put out in his honour, left on the bar they clean up.

Poe created the modern detective story

Detective Story

The Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin was first featured in Poe’s story “Murder in the Rue Morgue”.

This chivalrous man would be first to solve a locked room mystery, to outwit local police, and even solve the case of an animal murdering people.

If these story lines sound familiar, they are.

It’s the genre of detective mystery was inspired by Poe.

Proof is when the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, once said…

“Poe was a model for all time”

Read about other infamous ghosts : Real DraculaLizzie Borden | Ambrose Small | Marie Laveau