Artist of the day 3/1/12: Dark Writers 2: Edgar Allan Poe (Part two)


Edgar Allan Poe (Part two)

Edgar Allan Poe

Part one contained Early Life and Military Career.

Publishing Career

After the death of his brother Poe began more earnest attempts to kick start his writing career. He chose a difficult time in American publishing to do so. He was the first well known American to try to live by writing alone, but hampered by the lack of an international copyright law. Publishers would often pirated copies of British works rather then pay for new works by American writers. The industry was also particularly hurt by the Panic of 1837 (The Panic of 1837 was a financial crisis or market correction in the U.S. built on a speculative fever. The end of the Second Bank of the United States had produced a period of runaway inflation, but on May 10, 1837 in New York City, every bank began to accept payment only in specie (gold and silver coinage), forcing a dramatic, deflationary backlash. This was based on the assumption by former president, Andrew Jackson, that the government was selling land for state bank notes of questionable value. The Panic was followed by a five-year depression, with the failure of banks and then-record-high unemployment levels.) Despite a booming growth in American periodicals around this time period, fueled in part by new technology, many did not last beyond a few issues, and publishers often refused to pay their writers or paid them much later then promised. Throughout Poe’s attempts to live as a writer he had to repeatedly resort to humiliating pleas for money and other assistance.

After Poe’s early attempts at poetry he turned his attention to prose. He placed a few stories with a Philadelphia publication and began work on his only drama ‘Politian’. In October 1833 Poe was awarded a prize for his short story ‘MS. Found in a Bottle’ by The Baltimore Saturday Visiter. The story brought Poe to the attention of John P. Kennedy, a Baltimorean of considerable means. Kennedy helped Poe place some of his stories, and introduced him to Thomas W. White the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. August 1835 Poe became assistant editor of the periodical, but within a few weeks discharged for being caught drunk by his boss. He returned to Baltimore and secretly married his cousin Virginia Clemm on September 22, 1835. At the time he was 26 and she was 13, though she was listed as being 21 on the marriage certificate. After promising good behavior White reinstated Poe, He returned to Richmond with both Virginia and her mother. He remained at the messenger untill January 1837, claiming that it’s circulation increased from 700 to 3,500 during his two year there. He published several poems, book reviews, critiques, and stories in the paper. On May 16, 1836 Poe and Virginia had a second wedding ceremony in Richmond, this time in public.

Virginia Clemm Poe

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was published and widely reviewed in 1838. In the summer of 1839 Poe became the assistant editor of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. He published numerous articles, stories, and reviews enhancing his reputation as a trenchant critic that he had established at the Southern Literary Messenger. Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was published in two volumes in 1839 as well, though he made very little money off it and it received mixed reviews. Poe left Burton’s after about a year and found a position as assistant at Graham’s Magazine.

In June 1840 Poe published a prospectus announcing his intentions to start his own journal ‘The Stylus’. Originally he had intended to call the journal ‘The Penn’ as it would have been based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Poe bought advertising space for his prospectus in the June 6, 1840 issue of the Philadelphia’s Saturday Evening Post : “Prospectus of the Penn Magazine, a Monthly Literary journal to be edited and published in the city of Philadelphia by Edgar A. Poe.” The Journal was never produced before his death. Around this time Poe attempted to secure a position with the Tyler administration, Claiming he was a member of the Whig Party. He hoped to be appointed to the Custom House in Philadelphia with the help of President Tyler‘s son Robert, an acquaintance of Poe’s friend Fredrick Thomas. However Poe failed to show up for a meeting with Thomas to discuss the appointment in mid September 1842, claiming he was sick, though Thomas believed he was drunk. He was promised an appointment, but all positions were filled by others.

One evening in January 1842 while singing and playing the piano Virginia showed the first signs of consumption, now known as tuberculosis. Poe described it as breaking a blood vessel in her throat. She only partially recovered. Poe began to drink heaver under the stress of Virginia’s illness. He left Graham’s and attempted to find a new position, for a time angling for a government post. He returned to New York, where he briefly worked at the Evening Mirror before becoming editor of the Broadway Journal, and later sole owner. There he alienated himself from other writers by publicly accusing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of plagiarism, Longfellow never responded. Poe’s poem ‘The Raven’ appeared in the Evening Mirror on January 29, 1845 becoming a popular sensation. Though it made Poe a household name almost instantly he was only paid $9 for it’s publication. It was concurrently published under the pseudonym ‘Quarles’ in The American Review: A Whig Journal.

Poe Cottage

The Broadway Journal failed in 1846. Poe moved to a cottage in the Fordham section of The Bronx, New York. That home is known today as the ‘Poe Cottage, located on the southeast corner of the Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge Road. There Virginia died on January 30, 1847. Biographers and critics suggest Poe’s frequent theme of the “death of a beautiful woman” stems from the repeated loss of woman throughout his life, including his wife.

Increasingly unstable after the death of his wife Poe attempted to court the poet Sarah Helen Whitman, who lived in providence, Rhode Island. Their engagement failed, purportedly because of Poe’s drinking and erratic behavior. However there is also strong evidence that Whitman’s mother intervened and did much to derail their relationship. Poe then returned to Richmond and resumed a relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster.


Edgar Allan Poe's Grave

On October 3, 1849 Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, “in great distress, and…. in need of immediate assistance”, according to Joseph W. Walker who found him. Poe was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849 at 5:00 in the morning. He was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition, and oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. It was said that Poe repeatedly called out the name ‘Reynolds’ on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. Some sources say Poe’s final words were “Lord help my poor soul.” All medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost. Newspapers at the time reported Poe’s death as ‘congestion of the brain’ or ‘cerebral inflammation’, common euphemisms for deaths from disreputable causes such as alcoholism. The actual cause of death remains a mystery; from as early as 1872 cooping was commonly believed to have been the cause, and speculation has included delirium tremens, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningeal inflammation, cholera and rabies.

Griswold’s “Memoir”

The day Edgar Allan Poe was buried a long obituary appeared in the New York Tribune signed “Ludwig”. It was soon published throughout the country. The piece began, “Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it” “Ludwig” was soon identified as Rufus Wilmot Griswold, an editor, critic, and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since 1842. He somehow became Poe’s literary executor and attempted to destroy his enemy’s reputation after his death.

Rufus Griswold wrote a biographical article of Poe called “Memoir of the Author”, which he included in an 1850 volume of collected works. He depicted Poe as a depraved, drunk, drug-addled madman and included Poe’s letters as evidence. Many of his claims either lies or distorted half-truths. For example, it is now known that Poe was not a drug addict. Griswold’s book was denounced by those who knew Poe well, but it became a popularly accepted one. This occurred in part because it was the only full Biography available and was widely reprinted and in part because readers thrilled at the thought of reading the works of an “evil” man. The letters that Griswold presented as proof of this depiction of Poe were later revealed as forgeries.


About artfulhelix

I'm a mother to three beautiful boys, 8 years, 2 years, and 1 year old, all there birthdays in April with mine (very busy month). I am a wife to a wonderful man who supports every thing I want to do. I have 10 piercings and 11 tattoos, more tattoos coming soon. I am an artist, painting, tattooing, sculpting (haven't done that for a long time), poetry, and a few small crafts. As an artist I felt writing was the next logical step for me. I am enjoying every minute of it, writing, blogging (never thought I would blog), and critiquing. I not only want to talk about my book and the writing proses, but art in general in my blog. I would like to share a poem I wrote a few years ago, but is so me. I came up with it when a very old woman came up to me on the side walk and said " Do you know you are going to hell?" laughing a little inside I said "No, why am I going to hell?" "Because you have desecrated the lords temple with all your piercings and tattoos!" She looks so serious when she said this. I said "I'm not desecrating, I'm decorating!" well that made her mad of course, and she stomped off. later I wrote this: You look at me that way in disgust and disdain I’m pierced and tattooed I must be insane But who are you to judge when you kneel down and pray Just because our beliefs are not the same We are not so different you and I for we are all the same when we die This is nothing against religion, merely about judgment in general. Can't wait to share more of what I love and who I am.

2 responses »

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