Edgar Allan Poe was a born a Bostonian on the cusp of Capricorn and Aquarius on January 19th in 1809. To actor and actress David and Elizabeth Poe, who (it’s believed) was named after a character from Shakespeare’s King Lear.
Orphaned – –
Edgar was a year old when his father David Poe left. An angry man, an alcoholic, thought to be a bad man. Means leaving was his one good act.
David Poe had a rich family. He was supposed to be a lawyer, his rich family setting up that perfect life. It changed when he met Elizabeth, an actress. He abandoned law for acting and her. He failed, which led to resentment, drinking and leaving.
History lost track of David, only noting him in an 1835 letter written by Edgar. His quote, “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 in stage shows.
In 1811 she stayed at a boarding house in Richmond, Virginia. Down there for a performance when she started coughing up blood.
The public took interest in this beautiful and sick young woman. She was a mother and actress. People wanted to save her. Benefits were held, much money raised. However in December 1811, 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 and the Allan’s paid his way. He did well but sorrow led Poe to his first addiction, gambling.
Debts piled up and stress led to his second addiction of drinking. Just like his real father David Poe, the drink dragged Edgar down.
In 1827 Poe dropped out of school and returned to Boston. Odd jobs to survive and along the way he found 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, he gained some fame… and that’s when he ran out of money.
18 year old Edgar Allan Poe joined the army under the name Edgar A. Perry. Said he was 22 years old.
The army suited him, reaching the ranks of Sergeant Major before tragedy struck. His adoptive mother Frances Allan had died.
Poe returned and reconciled with John Allan. The relationship remains tense until ending when Edgar wanted to leave the military and become a poet. John Allan was disgusted. Took away Edgar’s financial support and the boy hated him for it.
Arguments and many things said. Edgar confronting John on his infidelity which was true. Just 3 years after Frances’ death John married a woman named Louisa Patterson.
IMPORTANT LIFE EVENT :: It begins
John disowned Edgar. Soon after the army found out about his lies. He was kicked out. Then 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. The timing was wrong as all the new American’s longed for their loved British writers. America is filled with former Brits who want a piece of the home they abandoned.
INTERESTING FACT :: First popular American author
Book publishers in the US make money off pirating the works of Brits like Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. They put no 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 unique, eventually making him one of the first successful 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. Soon later 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 September 1835 he married the daughter of David Poe’s sister. Virginia Clemm was Edgar Allen Poe’s first cousin, and was only 13.
Nobody knows if it was intimate or just convenience, but we do know they were in love.
Only 7 years later Virginia was playing her piano. Her throat closed up and she started to cough. She spit up, warm, dripping down her chin. But not spit… it was blood.
His wife’s sickness didn’t stop Poe. Motivation found through sadness for his ailing love. Edgar Allan Poe wrote all the time as she came closer to her death.
That’s when they moved to New York City in 1844.
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 from tragedy… don’t.
It’s not there. Poe openly said in most interviews that, “Raven was logically written for the fans in mind”
He borrowed popular styles from Dickens and Elizabeth Barrett. It worked as to this day “The Raven” influences books, TV and movies.
Death comes for Poe
In 1847 Virginia succumbs to her tuberculosis and Edgar Allan Poe spirals down. Alcohol was his friend. While living in Baltimore for 2 years he was rarely found sober.
Then on the night of October 3, 1849 Poe was stumbling in the streets of Baltimore.
A local named Joseph Walker found a man lying in the gutter. The strange and distressed man was Poe. They rushed him to Washington Medical College where 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.
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 evidence from his death.
We don’t. All medical records were lost in a fire, 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 voting scam perpetrated by hired thugs to rig an election.
They’d kidnap or trade drugs/drinks for volunteers, intoxicating the men before parading them around the city. Different 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.
- Why Poe was drunk in a gutter
- Why he was wearing another man’s clothes
- And why he was saying “Reynolds”, maybe one of his fake names
Poe was buried in the Old Western Burial Ground in Baltimore, site of today’s Westminster Church. The church was built right over the burial ground in 1852. The graveyard became catacombs but fame lifted him to new ground.
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 to a large beautifully carved monument closer to the road.
Unrest at the Horse You Came in On
Fells Point, the historic waterfront neighborhood of Baltimore was a favorite 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. 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 honor. Left on the bar they clean up.
Poe created the modern detective story
The Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin was 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 solve the case of an animal murdering people.
Familiar? They are. The popular genre of detective mystery was inspired by Poe.
The creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, proves this when once saying…