We're coming up on the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's 1849 death, which is rather fitting since we're coming up on Halloween. I know; Poe was more than the Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Raven, but undoubtedly he is best known for his chilling tales. But I thought we'd delve a little deeper into Mr. Poe to celebrate his upcoming deathday. I somehow think he would prefer that people celebrated that instead of his birthday anyway.
Tamerlane and Other Poems
If you're looking for an almost one-of-a-kind Poe collectible, keep an eye out for Tamerlane and Other Poems. Poe was a mere 18 when it was released in 1827; only 50 copies were published, credited to "a Bostonian". The 40-page collection was paid for by Poe himself and definitely showed his age - most of the poems were about youth and the trials of it. At this point in time, it's thought that only 12 copies of Tamerlane still exist. You can find one at the Poe Museum in Richmond, Va., and most of the others in private collections. It has fetched as much as $125,000 at an auction.
In 1835, Poe married his first cousin. Here's how that happened: after Poe was discharged from the Army in 1829, he went to live with his aunt and her family. For a while Edgar was pretty taken with the girl next door, a Miss Mary Devereaux. Virginia played Cupid for a while and carried messages back and forth between the two of them. It didn't pan out, though, and eventually Poe moved to Richmond to take a position at the Southern Literary Messenger. He hadn't forgotten about Virginia, though, and started to make plans to marry her. Another cousin heard about this and was not happy about the prospect and pleaded with Virginia's mom to consider the girl's education instead of letting her marry Edgar.
Edgar was devastated and wrote a letter to his aunt, begging her to let Virginia decide her future for herself... she was only 13 at the time, but maybe 13-year-olds were more mature then. The clincher was probably when he offered to financially support not only Virginia, but also her mom and brother. The family was living in almost total poverty, so no doubt that was pretty appealing to the Clemms. They ended up getting married either in 1836... or it may have been 1835. They filed for the license in 1835 and it's believed that they may have quietly been married at the same time, but they didn't actually have a public ceremony until 1836. It definitely wasn't a normal relationship - Poe referred to his wife/cousin as "Sis" and "Sissy".
Some biographers think their relationship was more of a companionship sort of a thing, and that their marriage was never actually consummated. Regardless, they seemed very supportive and devoted to one another (despite some infidelity rumors), so when she died of tuberculosis at the young age of 24, Edgar was devastated. It's assumed by a lot of Poe followers that his famous poem Annabel Lee is based on her. As she was dying, she asked her mother to "take care of my poor Eddy - you will never never leave him?" And her mother made good on the agreement - she did stay with Edgar until he died in 1849. And how did that happen??
On October 3, 1849, Poe was found wandering the streets of Baltimore, an absolute mess and completely delirious. It would appear that he was wildly drunk, and he was definitely wearing someone else's clothes. He was taken to the hospital, but never came to enough to explain what had happened, and his death certificate is missing so we don't even know what the official cause is, but newspapers reported "congestion of the brain" and "cerebral inflammation".
So what really happened? I Think the most interesting theory is this one: he was caught in cooping scam. In today's day and age, cooping doesn't happen. Gangs would kidnap drunks, homeless people and other innocent bystanders and hold them in a room (a "coop") during elections. They would force these people to vote for their man over and over again, beating them if they wouldn't comply and making them change clothes to vote over and over again in the same place. Was Poe a victim of this? We don't know for sure, but it's possible. The flaw in this theory, though, is that Poe was well-known in Baltimore at the time and would surely have been recognized if he tried to vote over and over again. But if he was dirty and beaten to a pulp, maybe not. Image from krichter
The Poe Toaster
This isn't an obscure fact about Poe, but it's interesting nonetheless. Since 1949, a mysterious person nicknamed "The Poe Toaster" has appeared at his grave in Baltimore to toast him with cognac. He also leaves three roses. The Edgar Allan Poe Society in town has helped hide the secret of the Poe Toaster's identity for years, although a man did confess to being behind the annual tribute. However, his story apparently has a lot of inconsistencies and holes in it, so it's believed that his "confession" may not be entirely true.