- Books, Literature, and Writing
Edgar Allan Poe And How He Is Viewed Today
Edgar Allan Poe was an interesting individual. I studied a bit about him in middle school, around 7th grade. My reading teacher assigned all of us to pick a famous author to study so Edgar was my choice. Later on, when I had completed my freshman year of high school, I was able to travel to Baltimore which was of course where Edgar is buried. Unfortunately when I was visiting Baltimore as a high school student, I did not know that Edgar had a Baltimore connection, so when I visited Baltimore, I did not visit Edgar’s grave. Truthfully at the time I visited Baltimore, I was more concerned with sports. I visited Camden Yards. I visited the Babe Ruth Museum. I even got to see the Baltimore ESPN Zone! At the time I went, the Baltimore ESPN Zone was featured on Monday Night Football on ABC!
Nevertheless, I have gone on to discover that Edgar had some peculiar traits about him. First of all he got married to his 13 year old cousin! He also seemed to penetrate the newspapers and journals of his time with “out there” stories that have still survived to this day. He may have been a troubled individual, but he sure made his mark on history!
The Downward Spiral and Lack of Real Success
The Tell Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, The Raven and others are among names of Poe’s works that most Americans might be familiar with. Other titles you may have heard of include The Fall of the House of Usher, the Masque of the Red Death, The Black Cat, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Edgar did a number of works in his life, but his ultimate claim to fame seems to have been in his short works or short essays and short stories. Edgar had an eye for the “dark side” of things, and really that seems to be what he is known for. If you did not read the stories but instead just glanced at the titles that I mentioned, you might be able to get the impression that there is a recurring theme of dark and odd macabre type subjects. In essence, his own life appeared to be dark, with depression, alcoholism, and even suggested incest with his wife (who was a cousin) among the things that were featured in his life time. Although he might be considered a great poet or author today, it seemed as if he did not taste or feel success while he was still alive. While The Raven was successful during its time, it did not earn Edgar much money. Despite the fact that Edgar was now well known for this poem, it still almost seemed as if Edgar still was bogged down by the fact that he had failed as a cadet at West Point among other things. For example, he also had been a college dropout who did not see eye to eye with his stepfather John Allan. Edgar had drifted between Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York while trying unsuccessfully to eventually produce his own journal. Almost exactly two years to the day after The Raven was published, Poe’s wife died. The loss of his longtime companion caused him to engage into periods of depression and alcoholism, losing out on the opportunity to be with poet Sarah Helen Whitman because of his drinking. Alcohol had been a problem before in Poe’s life before however. He was fired from an editing job in his past because of his drinking, and even lost out on the opportunity to work as an aide to President John Tyler because of his drinking.
The Demise of EAP
After his wife’s death, Edgar lasted for about two and a half more years before being found wandering the streets of Baltimore in a delirious manner and in need of help. He was taken to a hospital but he was not coherent enough to explain to anyone what had happened to him. Poe ultimately died at the hospital. Perhaps the strangest thing is that he was not even wearing his own clothes at the time he was taken in for medical assistance! His actual cause of death is debatable, and his death certificates and records cannot be found as of this day.
What we do know though is that a man by the name of Rufus Griswold was an enemy of Poe’s. Shortly after Poe died, Rufus had published an obituary about Poe which did not paint him in a good light. Rufus also wrote another article later on that depicted Poe as a drunk and drug addled madman. While Poe did drink, he is highly unlikely to have had a drug habit. The possibility that Poe was murdered seems remote to some, but it seems a bit more likely when you consider the continuous mystery surrounding how Poe got to the state he was before he died. Nobody will ever know what really happened, but we do know Poe was in a sad state when he ultimately met the end of his life, and how he eventually got to his final demise has not been determined, and probably never will be.
Ultimately, Poe was a man who was disturbed. He had a bad childhood, and he definitely raised a few eyebrows with his selection for a wife. He failed in many ventures, but he did keep writing and he kept trying to make a name for himself. In the minds of Americans today, his success or works as an author are probably overshadowed by his depression, alcoholism and general dark life. However, one very unique thing that happened was the fact that the Baltimore Ravens football team was named after the work of Edgar Allan Poe! One thing is certain; there will definitely never be another author or personality quite like his!