Edgar Allan Poe, Baltimore, MD, USA | Addresses – 515 W Fayette Street – MAP
Edgar Allan Poe was a born a Bostonian on the cusp of Capricorn and Aquarius, January 19th 1809. To an actor and actress named David and Elizabeth Poe. It’s believed they named him after a character in Shakespeare’s King Lear.
Orphaned – –
Edgar was a year old when his father David left. An angry man, and an alcoholic. Most likely leaving the boy was his one good act. No doubt growing up with an alcoholic father would have changed him.
David Poe had a rich family. He was supposed to be a lawyer, his family setting up a perfect life. All changed when he met Elizabeth, an budding actress.
He abandoned law for her, and his own love of acting. But he failed, didn’t have the ability she did. Elizabeth took off, which led to resentment. Then David’s drinking, and eventually his leaving.
History lost track of David, only noting him in 1835. A letter written by Edgar himself. Just one simple line, “My father died in the second year of my age”. That’s it.
Elizabeth Poe, Edgar’s mother, was a talented actress. Critics called her an “interesting figure with a sweet melodious voice”. She moved to New York and flourished in stage shows.
In 1811, for a performance she stayed at a boarding house in Richmond, Virginia. Playing a character named Countess Wintersen in a play called The Stranger.
It’s here she got sick. Started coughing up blood.
The public took an interest in this beautiful, and very sick, young woman. She was a loving mother and talented actress. People wanted to save her.
During this time she continued to act. With acting and sickness her priority, the caring of Edgar went to a Mr. and Mrs. Usher. The name later inspiring a story called The Fall of the House of Usher.
Benefits held, money raised. But none of it mattered. Only 2 months after getting sick, in December 1811 she was dead.
Edgar was split from his siblings and taken in by a childless couple named 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. This is in 1826.
Poe studied languages. John Allan refusing to give the boy a free ride, only covered a part of his tuition. This led Poe to his first addiction of gambling.
Attempted to pay off his school debt with winnings failed. Debts from school and gambling piled up, the stress of which led to his second addiction, drinking.
Just like his real father David, the drink dragged Edgar down.
In 1827 Poe dropped out of school and returned to Boston. Worked odd jobs to survive. Then destiny took over, pushing the young Poe to his passion.
While working as a clerk for a Boston paper Edgar wrote a collection of poems called “Tamerlane and Other Poems”. Used his own money to get it printed and distributed. For some reason not wanting his name out there it was published simple as “by a Bostonian”.
Readers loved it, gaining him some fame… and that’s when he ran out of money. 18-year-old Edgar Allan Poe joined the army. Under the fake name Edgar A. Perry, telling the officers he was the legal age of 22.
Surprisingly the army suited him. Working as an artificer, considered a tradesman who prepared shells for artillery. Poe reached the rank of Sergeant Major.
Beloved Frances Dies
Then tragedy struck. Frances Allan died from a “long and painful” illness. Not being there for his beloved foster mother when she died, he needed to return for her afterwards.
Poe returned and reconciled with John Allan. The relationship remained tense, but it’s said John softened a bit. He respected Poe’s decision to join the army. So… when Edgar told him he was leaving the military, old angers returned.
John Allan was disgusted with the idea. Took back all his financial support and Edgar hated him for it. Arguments and many things said.
Edgar confronted John on his infidelity while Frances was still alive, which by the way, was true. Proven when just 3 years after Frances’ death, John remarried a woman named Louisa Patterson.
IMPORTANT LIFE EVENT :: It begins
That’s when John disowned Edgar. Maybe reconsidering his decision to leave the army, it would be decided without him. They found out Poe was only 18 when joining. He was discharged.
And one final shot of tragedy to poor Poe… soon after that his beloved brother Henry died.
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. But the timing was wrong. All the former Brits, now called Americans, longed for their beloved British writers.
INTERESTING FACT :: First popular American author
Because of a ban on British books, American publishers made lots of money off pirating the works of such authors as Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. No money was put into discovering American talent.
Poe had to be perfect, dropping his dream of unpopular poetry for popular prose. Walking away from rhythmic writing, but not too far. Poe’s style was unique.
Maybe one of the main reasons why he’d become the first truly popular American author.
He won a writing award in 1833 but still made little money. In 1835 Poe took an editor’s job at the Southern Literary Messenger magazine.
From the outside everything seemed fine. Until 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.
In 1829, shortly after the death of Frances, Poe reconnected with his aunt Maria. Maria was the sister of David Poe. And at 20 years old, he met his 7 year old cousin Virginia.
6 years later they reconnected in a different way, when in September 1835 he married her. Virginia Clemm was Edgar Allen Poe’s first cousin and only 13 years old.
There’s no proof this was an intimate marriage. Might have been just out of loneliness or convenience. We don’t know. What we do know is they loved each other.
7 years together. And then with shades of his own mother’s death, the creative Virginia was playing a piano when her throat blocked up. She started to cough. Then spit up, something dripping down her chin.
Embarrassed, she wiped it away to see on the handkerchief not spit, but blood.
His wife’s sickness didn’t stop Poe. Motivation found through sadness. He wrote more and more as she came closer to her death.
Then wanting a change, in 1844 Poe moved them to New York City.
One year later he published “The Raven” in the New York Evening Mirror. Going from an obscure cult author, to a house-hold name.
If you’re looking in this story for hidden parallels to Poe’s life… say veiled messages derived from his wife’s sickness… don’t waste your time.
It’s not there. Poe openly said in many interviews that, “[The] Raven was logically written for the fans”. Borrowing popular styles from Dickens and British poetess named Elizabeth Barrett.
It worked. To this day “The Raven” influences books, TV and movies.
Death comes for Poe
In 1847 Virginia dies of tuberculosis. Edgar takes this hard, spiraling down, and finding his old friend again, alcohol.
While living in Baltimore for 2 years he was rarely found sober. Then on the night of October 3rd in 1849, Poe was seen stumbling in the streets.
A local named Joseph Walker found what he thought was a transient lying in the gutter. This strange and distressed man was Poe.
They rushed him to the Washington Medical College where he remained unconscious for days. Poe never woke up. Never told the police, doctors or nurses anything before dying. Then on Sunday October 7th at 5 am, it’s said he uttered the final words of “Lord help my poor soul” before succumbing to death.
Then 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 some type of evidence from the medical records of Washington College. We don’t. All records were lost in a fire, including Poe’s death certificate.
However, there’s a theory!
The Cooping Conspiracy – –
Poe was found in the gutter near a polling station. This was at the end of a voting day.
“Cooping” is term used for a voting scam. Usually perpetrated by hired thugs to rig an election.
They’d kidnap men or trade them drugs and alcohol. Get them intoxicated before parading them around the city. Different stations, switching clothing, attaching and removing fake facial hair. Using a new name every time to garner votes for a chosen candidate.
Then dumping the victim in a gutter.
This would explain…
- Why Poe was drunk in a gutter.
- Why he was wearing another man’s clothes.
- And why he was saying “Reynolds”, maybe one of the fake names.
Either way, tragically the great author was dead.
Poe interred in the Old Western Burial Ground. Located in Baltimore at the site of today’s Westminster Church.
The once open graveyard now covered. In 1852 they stuck the church right on top of it. The burial ground became a catacomb under it, but Poe’s fame lifted him to new ground.
Locals hated knowing the great author hidden under the building. A committee formed and money collected. Then in 1875 they dug up and moved his body. Put by a large, beautifully carved, monument closer to the road.
Unrest at the Horse You Came in On
Fells Point… the historic waterfront neighborhood in Baltimore was a favorite hangout for the living Poe.
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. And it’s here he may have returned.
Employees say the cash register opens on its own. Also the largest their chandeliers swings, usual just before closing. They believe it’s Poe. Leaving well enough alone to make him happy.
A manager named Rob went from skeptic to believer. Telling the Huffington Post about one night when closing. He was talking with another bartender, walking to lock the front door.
At the end of the bar he jumped. A crash. Spun to see glass shards spread over the bar. The other bartender stood still, staring at the broken mug. Rob yelled him back to reality.
The bartender took out his phone. Showed Rob a photo. Was from the night before when he heard a similar crash. And there in the center of the bar… a shattered mug. Makes sense why they’re careful to keep Poe happy. Which includes on many nights, leaving a glass of whiskey out, to honor him as they clean up.
Poe created the modern detective story
Le Chevalier (Chev-ah-li-a) C. Auguste Dupin (Dupe-ah) was featured in Poe’s story “Murder in the Rue Morgue”. About a man who solves the murder of two woman in Paris.
As Poe himself described his character like this… “He makes in silence a host of observations and inferences”
His style emphasizes clues, from newspapers and reports. Engaging the reader to follow along. This character was the first to solve what they called “a locked room mystery”. Also outwitting local police.
Familiar genre? It is. The detective mystery was inspired by Poe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, proved this by once saying…
“Poe was a model for all time”