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[Text: Anonymous, “The Monument to Edgar Allan Poe,” New York Herald, October 28, 1875.]


The Monument to Edgar Allan Poe

    It is fitting that some memorial should mark the grave of the greatest of American poets -- one who in some of the very highest elements of genius has never been surpassed. The gentlemen who conceived the idea of the monument which will be dedicated in Westminster churchyard, Baltimore, deserve much credit for the zeal and modesty with which they have performed their duties. It gratifies a natural feeling that this tribute shall be paid to the unconscious sleeper. Everywhere throughout the world it will please those who have felt the magical spell of his genius to know that he is thus honored by his countrymen.

    Poe has suffered much from the slanders and the injudicious praises of his biographers, and everything that throws light upon the facts of his life becomes more important as the greatness of his place in English literature is appreciated. The reminiscences of his last hours, which Dr. J. J. Moran, of Baltimore, published for the first time to-day, will therefore be read with profound interest. It has always been said that Poe died in Baltimore from the effects of a prolonged debauch, but Dr. Moran intimates that his death was caused by an overdose of opium, taken to subdue excessive nervous excitement. But one story is not inconsistent with the other. The facts narrated by Dr. Moran do not contradict, but rather support, the supposition that Poe had been drinking to excess in the few days preceding his death. The dying words of the poet seem inspired by a terrible remorse, not justified, in the opinion of the world, by the wrongs he had committed, but a remorse inevitable to his proud and sensitive soul, as the result of vast powers abused and mighty opportunities neglected. “Poetry to me,” he said in the brief preface to his poems, “has not been a purpose, but a passion, and the passions may not be trifled with.” The dialogue which Dr. Moran reports shows that his physical sufferings were not to be compared with his mental agony. Of its substantial accuracy there is no question, but it is no reflection upon Dr. Moran, who watched over the dying man with fidelity and tenderness, to express the opinion that the exact words of Poe are not in all cases given. We cannot imagine Poe, even if delirious, constructing such a sentence as that beginning, “Language cannot tell the gushing wave,” &c.; or uttering in the hour of his death the abstraction about “the arched heavens.” But independently of the verbal exactness of this report in ono or two cases, in which the memory might easily err, it is a picture of Poe’s deathbed which makes a deep and solemn impression on the reader’s mind. There is nothing more tragic even in his own poetry than his own end. He died, in remorse and misery, just before the day appointed for his marriage, and thus repeated in actual fate the story told in his poem of “Ulalume,” where the poet, wandering at night in the month of October, follows in joy the mystical splendor of the star of love, and in the moment of his rapture and bliss is stopped by the door of a tomb.


[Dr. Moran's account was published in the same issue.]

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[S:0 - NYH, 1875, C-I]