Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From My AOL Archives: The Life, Death and Burial of Edgar Allen Poe

and Since 1949, a mysterious person enters Presbyterian Cemetery in Baltimore, each year on the night of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. The stranger leaves 3 roses and a partial bottle of cognac on Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. The roses are believed to represent the three individuals buried in that plot; Poe, his wife Virginia and her mother Maria Clemm. What the cognac represents, no one is sure of except for that stranger. Several of the bottles are on display at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Baltimore.
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and Poe is possibly best known for his poetry, and in particular, The Raven. He is also known for his short stories and tales of the macabre. He has taken the detective story in a new direction with Murder in the Rue Morgue. Rather than concentrating on the act of murder itself, Poe’s character, Detective Dupin, solved his crimes by analyzing the evidence before him. Dupin appeared in The Mystery of Marie Roget and The Purloined Letter. Dupin was later said to have been the ancestor of such characters as Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, and Earle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason. Poe also wrote several humorous stories, science fiction, and well as one novel, which made a bigger splash in England than in the United States.
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and Quickly, Edgar Poe was born on January 19, 1809. His mother Elizabeth Arnold Poe died in 1811. His father, David Poe, Jr., died or disappeared before that. Both parents were actors. Poe was raised by John and Frances Allan. John Allan was a tobacco merchant by trade. Part of Poe’s upbringing took place in England. Although never adopted, Poe recognized his foster father’s influence by taking the name Allan as his middle name.
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and Poe attended the University of Virginia and excelled at Latin and French studies. He was forced to withdraw because of unpaid gambling debts. At that point his foster father disowned him. Poe then spent two years in the military as a soldier, and then one year at West Point. He was expelled because he refused to do his duty.
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and He then moved in with his father’s sister, Maria Clemm, and Clemm’s daughter, Virginia. He and Virgina, then age 13, married in 1836. Poe supported himself, his mother-in-law, her cat Cattrina, and wife, by writing and working as a literary critic. He edited the works of many of the day’s most famous writers, and offered written advice in the Philosophy of Composition
. This work didn’t pay well and Poe was often concerned with the possibility of going to debtor’s prison. Poe lived in Richmond, Virginia until 1837. He moved to New York, and very soon after that to Philadelphia. He left there in 1844. His Philadelphia years were considered his most prolific. He tried to publish his own magazine, but failed.
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and Life changed when Virginia suffered a burst blood vessel in 1842, causing her to become an invalid. She contracted tuberculosis during that time, and passed away in 1847. After her death, Poe fell apart, succumbing to drugs and alcohol.

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and In his last years, he reportedly suffered from depression and bouts of madness, and attempted suicide in 1848. He was in Baltimore in 1849. One story has it that he was offered a drink at a birthday celebration. That was September. Three days later he was found in dire straights, in a Baltimore gutter.
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According to his attending doctor, John J. Moran, Poe was sent by carriage to Washington University Hospital on October 3, 1849. He was taken to the ‘tower’, a place where patients went to overcome the affects of alcohol without disturbing the other patients. It was later decided that Poe had not been drinking, but because of the state of his dress, he might have been mugged and robbed. It was even reported that Poe refused a drink of brandy, which was offered to him as a stimulant. He passed in and out of consciousness repeatedly. According to Dr. Moran, Poe uttered long monologues during his hospitalization. Poe reportedly said, “Language cannot tell the gushing well that swells, sways and sweeps, tempest-like, over me, signaling the 'larm of death'." And later, "My best friend would be the man who gave me a pistol that I might blow out my brains." Moran claimed that Poe called for “Reynolds.” Who Reynolds was, no one was certain. Poe died at 5AM on Sunday, October 7th. Moran reported that his last words were, “Lord, help my poor soul.” The official cause of death was ‘congestion of the brain.’ His doctors were unaware of a previous diagnosis of a weak heart and lesions on the brain. Moran made a career later in life writing and lecturing about Poe’s passing, and with each telling, the tale became more involved.
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It seemed that Poe’s burial was just as questionable as the way he led his life and the manner in which he died. He was buried in a family plot in an unmarked grave in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Baltimore. In 1860, mother-in-law and aunt, Maria Clemm wrote to cousin Neilson Poe of Alexandria, Virginia. She said, “A lady called on me a short time ago from Baltimore. She said she had visited my darling Eddie’s grave. She said it was in the basement of the church, covered with rubbish and coal. Is this true? Please let me know. I am certain both he and I have still friends left to rescue his loved remains from degradation"
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On her bidding Neilson Poe ordered a headstone, and Hugh Sisson carved it. It was a 3 feet high, Italian marble tablet. The epitaph read "Hic Tandem Felicis Conduntur Reliquae. Edgar Allan Poe, Obiit Oct. VII 1849." ("Here, at last, he is happy. Edgar Allan Poe, died Oct. 7, 1849.") The reverse read, "Jam parce sepulto" or "Spare these remains". Before it could be moved and installed, a train used to move stones from the monument yard, derailed and destroyed everything in sight. Nielson Poe could not afford a second stone.
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In 1865, Miss Sara Sigourney Rice began a movement, collecting pennies from school children, and seeking other gifts from Poe‘s friends, to remember ‘Baltimore’s forgotten poet.’ Half of the money had been raised by 1871. The rest was given by Mr. George W. Childs of Philadelphia in 1874. A headstone designed by George A. Frederick, the architect for Baltimore's City Hall, was executed by the same Hugh Sisson who had designed the first stone. It simply read his name and the dates he was born and died, although his birthday was recorded as January 20, 1809 rather than January 19th. Poe was moved from his spot in the family plot, to the front of the cemetery. His wife, Virginia, was exhumed from where she was buried in New York, and reburied with him. Later Maria Clemm was buried with them.

1 comment:

CATHY said...

You've certainly done some research. Did you know he was almost fanatic about his fear of being buried alive? He was adamant that anyone pronouncing his death do extra, rather odd tests to insure his demises. AND he even had a special coffin built, with bells, an air mask, little clasps for opening the lid without having to lift your arms, etc. Even a light source. Fact is, he actually died away from his birth home, Boston, something he also feared greatly. As you note, he died and was buried in what he feared most, a foreign place, Baltimore. Love this guy. http://cathy-daretothink.blogspot.com/