Text: J. J. Moran, “Official Memorandum of the Death of Edgar A. Poe,” Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, MD), vol. LXXVII, no. 143, October 29, 1875, p. 1, cols. 5-6


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The Last Hours of the Poet — official Memoranda of his Death in Baltimore — Narrative by Dr. J. J. Moran.

Dr. J. J. Moran, who was for seven years resident physician of the Washington University Hospital, in Broadway, now the Protestant Episcopal Church Home and Infirmary, has written what he designates “Official Memoranda of the Death of Edgar A. Poe,” who died while in his charge at that institution, on the 7th of October, 1849, twenty-six years ago. Dr. Moran is at present a resident of Fairfax county, Va. The “official memoranda” is prefaced by some account of the monument lately erected ter the poet’s memory over his grave in Westminster churchyard in this city, and then goes onto give a record of the fourteen closing hours of Poe’s life, about which there has been much contradictory statement.

Dr. Moran’s “official” record is interesting, but it ignores wholly the long-believed and well-attested evidence that Poe was to some extent the victim of political partisans, who had “cooped” him, plied him with liquor and voted him while drugged a number of times during a pending election. Some days ago, when Dr. Moran was in Baltimore in regard to this publication, it was understood from him then that there was “no truth in this election story.” It would be well if there was no foundation for it; but there is such evidence corroborative of its truth in Baltimore that many will still entertain doubts on that point. The record of the closing hours of the poet, as given by Dr. Moran, is as follows:


Edgar A. Poe was brought in a hack to the Washington University Hospital, situated on Broadway, north of Baltimore street, Baltimore city, on the 7th of October, 1849. He had been found lying upon a bench in front of a large mercantile house on Light-street wharf. He was in a stupor, whether from liquor or opium was not at first known. A gentleman passing along the pavement noticed several persons collected about the spot, and looking in through the crowd was suddenly impressed with the face, and on close inspection recognized the poet. He had been there since early dawn.

A policeman sent for a hack and directed the hackman to convey him to the above named hospital, which was in my charge, being the resident physician and living in the dwelling attached thereto. It was about ten o’clock in the forenoon when he entered the house. He was immediately placed in a private room, carefully undressed and critically examined. I had not then any knowledge of his previous condition or what were his habits. There was no smell of liquor neon hie parson or breath. There was no delirium or tremor. His skin was pallid, with slight nausea at the stomach and a strong disposition to sleep. His condition was more of a stupor. He was sponged with lukewarm water, sinapiems applied to the feet, thighs and abdomen, and cold applied to the head.

I had the room darkened and he was otherwise made as comfortable as he could have been in his own room at home. I placed an experienced nurse at the threshold of his room door, with orders to watch him closely and prevent the slightest noise from without, and give me notice of say sign of wakefulness or consciousness. Is half an hour after I left him he threw the cover from his breast, opened his eyes and said —

“Where am I?”

The nurse gave me the signal and 1 was immediately at his side. I drew a chair close to the bed, took his hand in my own. and with the other smoothed his forehead, pushing back the dark raven curls that covered it, and asked him how he felt?

He said, “Miserable.”

“Do yon suffer any pain?”


“Do you feel sick at the stomach?”


“Are you thirsty?”


“Does your head suffer — have you pain there?” putting my hand on his head.


“Does it feel heavy or dull?”

“Heavy; mind cloudy,” he said.

“How long have you been sick?”

“Can’t say.”

“Where have you been stopping?”

“In a hotel on Pratt street, opposite the depot.”

“Have you a trunk or a valise or anything there which you would like to have with you?”

“Yes, trunk with my papers and manuscripts.”

“If you order it I will send for it.”

He thanked um and said, “Do so at once,” remarking, “You are very kind — where am I, Doctor?’

“You are in the care of your friends;” to which he replied, “My best friend would be the man who would blow my brains out with a pistol.”

“Try and be quiet, Mr. Poe; we will do all we can to make you comfortable and relieve your distress.”

“Oh, wretch that I am Sir, when I behold my degradation and ruin, what I have antlered and lost, and the sorrow and misery I have brought upon others, I feel that I could sink through this bed into the lowermost abyss below, forsaken by God and man, an outcast from society. Oh, God, the terrible strait I am in! Is there no ransom for the deathless spirit?”

“Mr. Poe, do try and compose yourself, and take this draught; it will soothe and revive you.”

He reached out his hand to take the glass, the nurse raising his head, while I administered the cordial. He drank it and was laid down, closing his eyes as though going to sleep.

I remained by his side, watching closely every breath, manner of breathing and trying to make out his case and my diagnosis. I had been impressed that he was suffering from the too free use of alcoholic drink only from what I could gather from those who saw him on the wharf and did not know how long he had been in this state, but he did sot manifest symptoms to justify their suspicions. He had no tremor, was not fidgetty with his hands or impatient, but answered all my questions calmly and rationally. There was great pallor of face, no injection of the coats of the eye, and pulse sharp and quick. I noticed some twitching of the eyelids while closed, also of the muscles of the face, and slight jerking of the limbs. He remained in this state about one hour, when he again waked up, and doily opening his eyes.

I said to him, both to beef service and to ascertain whether he would be inclined to take liquor, for with intemperate subjects who have delirium tremens It little of the hair of the dog that bites them ofter produces a cure:

“Will you take a little toddy?”

He opened wide his large eyes and fixed them so steadily upon me, and. with each anguish anthem that I looked from him to the Wall beyond the bed. He said:

“Sir, if its potency would transport me to the. Elysian bowers of the undiscovered spirit world, ‘I would not taste it. I would not taste it. Of its horrors who can tell.

“I must administer an opiate to give you sleep and rest.”

Then he rejoined: —

“Twin devil and spectre of crazed and doomed mortals of earth and perdition!”

“Mr. Poe, it is very necessary that you should be quiet and free from excitement; you are in a critical condition, and excitement will hasten your death.”

“Doctor, I am ill. Is there no hope?”

“The chances are against you.”

“How long, oh, how long, before I see my dear Virginia? My dear Lenore! I would like to see my love, my dear love!”

“I will send for any one you wish, to see.”

I knew nothing of his family, and asked: “Have you a family?”

“No, my wife is dead, my dear Virginia; my mother-in-law lives. Oh, how my heart bleeds for her! Death’s dark angel has done his work. I am so rudely dashed upon the storm without compass or helm. Language cannot tell the gushing wave that swells, sways and sweeps, tempest-like, over me, signaling the ‘laram of death. Doctor, write to my mother,. Maria Clemm. Tell her her Eddie is here. No, too late! too late! I must lift, the pall and open to you the secret that sears the heart, and, dagger-like, pierces the soul was to have been married in ten days.” (Here he stopped to weep.) “Shall I send for the key?” I asked,. supposing she lived in the city.

“Too late! too late!”

I said, “Oh no; I will send my carriage immediately.”

No, write, write to both. Inform them of my illness and death both at the same-time.”

“Give me their address.”

“Mrs. Shelton, Norfolk, Va., and Maria Clemm, Lowell, Mass.”

Noticing the color rising to his face and the blood vessels filling up on his temples, and the eyes becoming congestive and inclined upwards, I asked no more questions, hut ordered ice to his head and beat to his extremities, repeating the cordial with an anodyne, and waited with the nurse outside the door for fifteen minutes. No further charge, except that his pulse had in-greased in frequency, and was feeble and flying. I kept a name in his room, and another outside to prevent Ms being disturbed and to notify me of any change that might take place.

I had sent for his cousin, Neilson Poe, having learned he was his relative, and a family named Reynolds, who lived in the neighborhood of the hospital. These were the only persons whose names I bad heard him mention living in the city. Mr. W. N. Poe came, and the female members of Mr. Reynolds’s family. He continued in an unconscious state for more than an hour. On again examining his pulse I found it very feeble, sharp and irregular — 120 to the minute. I proceeded to give him a febrifuge mixture and a stimulant. He partially aroused while getting the draught and seemed to stare, the wens of his eyes dilating and contracting alternately. I sat down by his bedside, took his hand and placed my fingers upon his wrist, mad felt assured, from all the symptoms, thee nature was yielding. I had beef tea administered with ammonia. My particular friend, Prof. John C. S. Monkur — who gave mush of his time to the inmates of the hospital, and particularly, when specially called upon, was always ready, and cheerfully attended, the summons night or day when within reach — had been sent for two or three times previously, but being out attending to his generic patients had just returned and came in at the moment. As soon as he axed his eyes upon him he said, “Doctor, he’s dying.” I replied, “Yes, I fear it is all over.”

I carefully examined his case, and, being in [column 2:] possession of all the facts in regard to the agents employed and symptoms presented — which were carefully noted down in a record book of the hospital — he save it as his opinion, which I was fully prepared to corroborate, that Pees death was caused by excessive nervous excitement from exposure, followed by loss of e’en’s.” power. The most appropriate name for his disease is encephalitis.

The doctor advised free use of wine, beef teas and gentle cordials, while using ice to the head. The patient raised his hand to his mouth, as though he wanted drink. A email lump a ice was placed upon his tongue. I then gave him a mouthful of water to see whether he could swallow freely. He took it, swallowing with some difficulty; but he drank a wine glass of beef tea. He seemed to revive, and opened Ms eyes, fixing his gaze upon the transom over hit room door, each room having transoms over the door for ventilation and air. He kept them unmoved for more than a minute. He was lying directly opposite this transom. He seemed trying to articulate, but was inaudible. At last he spoke feebly:

“Doctor, it’s all aver. Write ‘Eddie is no more.’”

“Eddie” was a term used by Mrs. Clemm, his mother-in-law.

“Mr. Poe, permit me to say that you are near your end. Have you any wish or word for friends?”

He said, “Evermore!”

I continued: “Look to your Saviour. There is mercy, for you and far all mankind. ‘God is love.’”

“The arched heavens,” he rejoined, “encompass me, and God has His decrees legibly written upon the frontlets of every created human being; and demons incarnate, their goal will be the seething waves of black despair.”

“Hope and trust Him.”

“Self-murderer, there is a gulf beyond the stream. Where is the buoy, lifeboat, ship of fire, sea of brass? Rest, shore no more?”

His eyes turned upward until the white balls were all that could be seen. Muscular twitching and jerking set in, and with one general tremor all was over.

This occurred about twelve o’clock, midnight, 7th October, 1849.

I had meantime learned from him, and afterward from the porter at the hotel on Pratt street, then Bradshaw’s, now called the Maltby House, that he arrived there on the evening of the 5th; was seen to go to the depot to take the cars for Philadelphia, and that the conductor, on going through the cars for tickets, found him lying in the baggage car insensible. He took him as far as Havre de Grace, where the cars then passed each other, or as far as Wilmington, I forget which, and placed him in the train coming to Baltimore. He had left in a trunk at the hotel in Baltimore. Arriving on the evening train he was set seen by any person about the hotel when he returned to the city. The presumption is he wandered about during the night, and found a bench some time before morning to sleep upon on Light-street wharf, where he was seen and taken from about nine o’clock the next morning.

A short time before his death I received his trunk from the hotel, as per order, and put it in the care of Mr. Nelson Poe, for his mother-in-law, Mrs. Maria Clemm. I have her letters to me, after his death, thanking me for attention, kindness, &c., to her darling Eddie.

After death he was washed and carefully laid out, dressed in a suit of black cloth and placed in state in the large rotunda of the college building, where hundreds of friends and admirers came in crowds to pay their last tribute of respect to the deceased. Not less than fifty ladies were each furnished, at their earnest solicitation with a small look of his beautiful black hair. His body was kept in the rotunda for one whole day. On the morning of the 9th he was buried in the Westminster burying ground, corner of Fayette and Green streets, Baltimore, it being the old family burial ground of the Poes.

A large number of our citizens, many of the most distinguished and prominent literary and professional men, followed his remains to their sepulture. But of all the crowds of citizens and mourners that wept over the lamented poet there was one mourner not visible. Yet the depth of her sincerity and grief could not be measured by mortal eyes, and would defy the most sceptical doubt. I mean his mother-in-law, Mrs. Maria Clemm, who was his Aunt as well, he having married his first cousin. I had communicated, as soon as his death occurred, to her the sad intelligence of his fate; to which she replied in strains of the deepest sorrow and thanking me for my attention and communication, and in her own language, the letters being in my possession yet:

“My prayer is that God may bless you for soothing the dying hours of my precious, darling Eddie. Please get Mr. N. Poe to return his last letter to me, for I prize it above rubies. It is a hundred tunes more precious. He was the most affectionate of tons to me. It, was a devotion he had gained and kept Until death.”

Poe’s appearance had not materially changed. His face was calm, and a smile seemed to play around his mouth, and all who saw him, exclaimed, “How natural he looks!” There was no discoloration of the skin. He looked to be in a natural sleep.

He was a handsome man, elegantly dressed, and but few could claim advantage over him in this regard. His head was exquisitely modeled, forehead very prominent and largely developed, its measurement corresponding to that of the great Napoleon Bonaparte, a cast of which was in my possession. His skin was fair, hair raven black and inclined to curl, teeth perfectly good and eyes gray. His weight was about 145 pounds, and height five feet ten inches. His hands were as delicate as a lady’s. His shroud was made by my wife and a few of her lady friends, who considered it an honor to contribute in anywise to the distinguished poet. A gentleman from Europe, a celebrated physician, was with him a few minutes before his death, and wept over the deceased. He said he considered him the greatest critic and best American poet living. He had read all his works and sought eagerly for everything relating thereto.

J. J. MORAN, M. D.






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