Text: Anonymous, “The Poet Edgar Allan Poe,” Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, MD), vol. LXXVIII, no. 2, November 17, 1875, p. 1, cols. 4-5


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Sketch of His Life and Writings — Some New Facts of His History — Interesting Reminiscences, etc.

[Reported for the Baltimore Sun.]

Public interest in Edgar Allan Poe, the American author and poet, seems to be greater everywhere than in Baltimore, owing in a measure, no doubt, to long familiarity here with details of his history, as there can be no charge of any want of proper appreciation of his genius. The monument erected to his memory has been a work of love, pursued quietly, and brought to successful completion in the old graveyard of Westminster Church, where the ashes of the poet have reposed for the past twenty-six years.

Edgar Allan Poe, though, it is believed, not actually born in Baltimore, was the descendant of a family long settled in this city, and is therefore generally regarded as a Baltimorean. He was born, it is supposed, in Boston, January, 1809, and he died in Baltimore October 7, 1849, aged 40 years. His ancestors emigrated from the north of Ireland about the year 1745, settling near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. where they purchased a farm. Before the revolutionary war they removed to Cecil county, Maryland, Where Mr. David Poe, the grandfather of the poet, and a great uncle of Mr. Neilson Poe, of Baltimore, married Miss Cairnes.

Before the revolution Mr. David Poe and his family removed to Baltimore, where he went into mercantile business. During the revolution Mr. David Poe became a deputy quarter-master of the Maryland line, and is called in. some of the older chronicles Major, and sometimes General Poe. He occupied for his quartermaster’s office a part of the building owned by him at the time, in which Armstrong, Cator & Co. now have their store, on Baltimore street. It was at this office that he received General Lafayette, Count Rochambeau, Count DeGrasse and other prominent French officers, when the troops of out revolutionary ally were in this vicinity. Long after the French had departed cuirasses of metal and bridle-bits of lingum vitæ wood were found in the cellars of the building, souvenirs of the war.

In this connection it may be interesting, as a scrap of history connected with the Poe family, to state that Niles’ Register, Oct. 23, 1824, recording the visit of the nation’s guest, Gen. Lafeyette, to Baltimore, presents the following “grateful remembrance:” “After an introduction of the surviving officers and soldiers of the revolution who resided in and near Baltimore to General. Lafayette, he observed to one of the gentlemen. near, have not seen among these my friendly and patriotic commissary, Mr. David Poe, who resided in Baltimore when I was here, and out of his own very limited means supplied me with $500 to aid in clothing my troops, and whose wife, with her own hands, cut out 500 pairs of pantaloons and superintended the making of them for the use of my men.’ The general was informed that Mr. Poe was then dead, but his widow was still living. He expressed an anxious wish to see her.” The Register then goes on to state that when the good old May heard the intelligence she shed tears of joy, and, the next day visited the general, by whom she was most affectionately received, &c. This, however, is an error, as Mrs. Poe was, by her infirmities, unable to leave her house, in the western portion of Baltimore, and General Lafayette, escorted by a company of horse, visited her, and spoke in grateful terms of the friendly assistance he had received from her and her husband. “Your husband,” said he, pressing his hand on his breast, “was my friend, and the aid I received from you both was beneficial to ‘me and my troops.”

The poet’s father was David Poe, Jr., son of the deputy quartermaster of revolutionary memory. His mother was Mrs. Hopkins, an actress, an English woman by birth, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Arnold. David Poe adopted his wife’s profession and went on the stage. They both died in 1815, within a few weeks of each other, at Richmond, Va., leaving unprovided for three children — Henry, Edgar and Rosalie.

Many authorities designate Baltimore as the place of nativity of Edgar, but it is very difficult to determine the fact. On the death of his parents Edgar, when he was an infant, was adopted by Mr. John Allan, a rich and childless citizen of Richmond, whose wife became passionately attached to the beautiful and attractive child. It was mainly her love for she boy that led to his adoption by Mr. Allan, who gave him every opportunity for education. He was placed at school in England with the Rev. Dr. Bransby. Afterwards he was sent to the University of Virginia, where among his classmates were St. George W. Teackle, the late Judge B. Collins Lee, and Hon. R. M. T. Hunter, of Virginia. On account of some irregularities he left the Univerity [[University]]. His classmates have denied that his courses were dissolute while there. He was afterwards sent as a cadet to West Point, but was- unfitted for the discipline of a military school, and did not remain long. Mrs. Allan his steadfast friend, having died, and Mr. Allan having married a lady who was much younger than himself; there was a disagreement with Edgar, the result of which was that young Poe left the house and threw himself on his own resources, having at school and on various other occasions displayed remarkable fertility of genius and precocious readiness with the pen. The scandal growing out of his abrupt severance of the connection with Mr. Allan’s family, is known to most readers of his works through the agency of Griswold, one of his first biographers. It is believed that this story had no other foundation than a disagreement with the new wife of his adopted father, which may have resulted in Poe’s expulsion from the house as a crowning act of a series of distasteful acts in the young man’s wayward career. The lady, whose maiden name was Patterson, it is understood still lives in Richmond at this date, and it is stated that Edgar A. Poe never saw her, but on one occasion after her marriage with Mr. Allan, and that was on the occasion of their disagreement. It has been stated that immediately after this occurrence Poe went abroad with the view of embarking his fortunes with those of Greece, then struggling for independence, and that he was found in a destitute condition in St. Petersburg, Russia, from whence he was sent back home by the American minister. This is another mistake. Poe’s, brother was in this case confounded with the poet. The brother had been engaged in mercantile pursuits, and was regarded by some members of the family as possessing at the time more brilliancy than Edgar. Mr. Allan died in 1834 without mentioning Poe’s name in his will. Poe then gave his attention to literature, publishing in Baltimore, in 1829, his first volume of poems, Tamerlane and Al Aaraff [[Aaraaf]], claiming to have written them at sixteen years of age. In 1833 a committee, consisting of John P. Kennedy, J. H. B. Latrobe and James H. Miller, awarded prizes for the best poem and story offered for the Baltimore Saturday Visitor. The names of the competitors were not known until the prizes had been awarded, when it was found that Poe was the successful competitor for the story. He had offered six tales, the”MSS. Found in a Bottle” being selected. The committee stated that “these tales are eminently distinguished by wild, vigorous and poetic imagination, a rich style, a fertile invention, and varied and curious learning.”

Poe was successively editor of the southern Literary Messenger, at Richmond; of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, in Philadelphia, and assisted with Morris and Willis on the Home Journal. He had also other literary irons in the fire, and soon became widely known as one of the most unrelenting and keenest of critics among all American writers.

He married while in Richmond, in 1836, his cousin, Virginia Clemm, and removed to New York, residing in a cottage at Fordham. After a chequered career, and becoming known as the author of “The Raven,” his wife died, and in 1849 he returned to Richmond. He there met a lady, Mrs. Shelton, to whom he had been attached in early life. Now he had become a widower, and the lady had lest her husband. Their old partiality was revived, and it was arranged that they should be married. He started early in October, 1849, for New York, to make arrangements for his second marriage, He left Norfolk by steamer and arrived in Baltimore. His movements from the time of arrival are shrouded in doubt. There had been an election for members of Congress and House of Delegates in the State of Maryland on Wednesday, October 8, 1849, On the Sunday following, October 7, Poe died at the old Washington University Hospital, on Broadway, new the Church Home end Infirmary. His death is announced in the editorial columns of The Sun of Monday, October 8, 1849. It has been stated, and there are reasons to suppose that after his arrival in Baltimore Poe indulged in a glass or two of drink, and was captured and “cooped” to be used as a voter at the election. This supposition is apparently corroborated by the belief expressed in after years by a well-known citizen and politician of Baltimore, who is now dead, and who felt some remorse and reproached himself with the possibility of having been in some way concerned in the death of Poe, through the debauching and “cooping” of voters, practiced in those days previous to an election. It is certain that for one or two days Poe’s whereabouts cannot be definitely traced. Dr. Moran, resident physician of the hospital, says he was brought to the institution in a hack, on the 7th of October; that he had been found lying on a bench in front of a large mercantile house on Light street; that he was in a stupor, whether from liquor or opium was not at first known; that he returned to consciousness in fifteen minutes after his arrival at the institution, and remained so until he died the night of the same day. Dr. Snodgrass, who knew Poe, and found him in the tap-room of a tavern, always adhered to the election cooping belief, and it has obtained current belief in Baltimore, not questioned by some of Poe’s immediate relatives. There is, however, much room to doubt, as well as some reason to believe the theory.

In his personal appearance Poe was singularly interesting. He had an erect and somewhat military bearing, with a pale, intellectual face and habitually sad expression. His conversational powers were of a high order, and his attainments were considerable in literature and in various branches of science, as indicated in his works. His tales have rhetorical merit, and exhibit a very subtle faculty of analysis, and a wild, sombre, morbid imagination, with an absence of moral sentiment almost unexampled in literature. They abound in elaborate and vivid descriptions of fantastic scenes, frequently sketched with wonderful power, but possess little human interest or sympathy, their subjects being as grotesque and wierd [[weird]] as their treatment. The most remarkably of these [column 5:] strange productions are “The Gold Bug” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Purloined Letter Descent into the Maelstrom,” and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” They have been translated into French, and are greatly admired in France. His poems are few and short, and their tone is very similar to that of the tales. They were written, according to account, with the utmost care and elaboration, and their most obvious characteristics are ingenuity, melody, taste, and a persistent selection of gloomy, unreal and fantastic topics.




The statement that Dr. Joseph Evans Snodgrass always endorsed the idea that Poe had died as a result of election “cooping” is unsupported by any other evidence. Indeed, the two published recollections by Snodgrass, rightly or wrongly, both attribute Poe’s death to maniua-a-potu. It is possible that the unnamed author of this article knew or had spoken with Snodgrass personally, but a more likely explanation is that Snodgrass has been confused with John R. Thompson, who did lecture the 1860s about Poe, attributing his death to “cooping.” His lecture was delivered in Baltimore as early as 1859. Thompson died in 1873, but Snodgrass was still alive in 1875 and would be present on the stage for the dedication of the Poe momument on November 17, 1875.



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