Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What's Halloween Without a little Edgar Allen Poe


"This place gives me the creeps!" Vincent Price, 1977

Poe and Baltimore

"He pointed to my garments;-they were muddy and clotted with gore. I spoke not, and he took me gently by the hand:-it was indented with the impress of human nails." Berenice, 1835.
Edgar Allan Poe has been dead since October 7, 1849 and yet his ghost continues to haunt us. Poe was one of Baltimore's greatest writers. He was a poet, short story writer, literary critic, editor, publisher and lecturer. His life was filled with tragedy, poverty, and illness. Writers in his time could hardly make a living from writing and had to turn to other employment that could afford them some leisure time to write. If they were lucky enough to have a patron or an inheritance, their prolificacy was assured. Poe was not that fortunate.

Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809, he was the grandson of Baltimore Revolutionary War patriot, David Poe Sr., he was orphaned at age 3 and, though never legally adopted, made his home with Mr. and Mrs. John Allan in Richmond. Poe, was never really accepted by Allan as his son. Tension grew as he got older, and, after many unfortunate incidents, he left Allan's household and enlisted in the Army.

In 1829, after his discharge, Poe arrived in Baltimore and lived with his widowed aunt, Maria Poe Clemm. At that time, Maria Clemm's home was located in what is now called Little Italy, just east of the Inner Harbor. After a brief stint at West Point, he returned to Baltimore in 1832 to live with Maria Clemm again. By this time, Maria Clemm was living at No. 3 Amity Street in west Baltimore. The tiny household consisted of Maria, her daughter Virginia Eliza, her son Henry Clemm, and Elizabeth Poe, Edgar's grandmother. It was during this time period that Poe decided to write short stories instead of poetry. Poe won a $50 prize offered by a Baltimore newspaper for best short story. The winning story was called, "MS Found in a Bottle."
It was probable that the following stories were composed at this time: "Berenice," "Morella," "King Pest," "Shadow," "Mystification," and "Hans Pfall." Other tales that date from this time period are: "Metzengerstein," "Duc de L'Omelette," "A Tale of Jerusalem," "Loss of Breath," "BonBon," "Siope," "Lionizing," "The Visionary," and "A Decent into the Maelstrom."
One tale in particular, "Berenice", created a sensation for Poe. Many editors received complaints the story was too gruesome. Poe censored his own story by deleting several offending paragraphs. He defended writing this story by claiming he was giving the public what they wanted. He promised not to err again by writing such sensational stories.

In 1835, Elizabeth Poe died. Poe moved to Richmond where in 1836 he sent for Maria and Virginia Clemm, Henry Clemm vanished and was never heard from again. Poe never returned to Baltimore to live for any extended period of time.

In 1836, Poe married his 13 year old cousin, Virginia, in Richmond. Poe was devoted to his wife. When she finally died a tragic death from consumption in 1847, Poe outlived her by only two years. The cause of his death remains a mystery. Despite many theories surrounding his death, no exact cause has ever been proven. He rests with his wife and aunt under the monument erected to him in Westminster Graveyard in downtown Baltimore.

(Source)

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