Text: Susan Archer Weiss, “Chapter 10,” Home Life of Poe (1907), pp. 61-63


[page 61:]



When Poe, after leaving Mr. Allan’s door, crossed the lawn and passed out of the gate, can any one realize how momentous was the instant of time in which the gate closed after him, or what a woeful human tragedy was in that instant inaugurated? The closing of the gate meant the shutting out forever of his past life; the clang of the iron latch was the knell of all that had been bright and pleasant and prosperous in that life, now lost to him forever. There he stood, homeless, penniless, friendless, utterly alone in the world, with a pathless future before him, shadowy, dim, no hand to point him onward and no star to guiden. From this moment commences the true history of Edgar A. Poe.


On leaving the Allan house, Poe went directly to the Mackenzies, the only place to which he could turn, and spent several days [page 62:] with these kind friends, discussing what would be best for him to do, now that he had his own way to make in the world. They advised him to begin by teaching, until he could see his way more clearly; but Richmond was at present no place for him, and he decided to go to Baltimore, where his relatives, knowing the city so well, might be able to assist him. The Mackenzies gave him what money they could spare, and Miss Valentine, on hearing where he was, sent more.

But in Baltimore Poe found himself coldly received by his relatives. Since his miserable failure at West Point, when his prospects had seemed so bright and all conspiring for his good, they had lost all faith in him, and did not propose to trouble themselves on his account. On his last visit, Neilson Poe, at whose house he was staying, had obtained for him a place in an editor’s office, which after a brief trial Poe threw up. He now again applied for that place, but failed; as also in his application for the position of assistant teacher in some academy. And now commenced that wretched life of wandering, and penury, and, according to Mr. Kennedy, of actual starvation, which is as sad as any other such history in literature, with the exception of that of poor Chatterton. [page 63:] His days were passed in roaming about the streets in search of employment — anything by which he could obtain food and at night a miserable place where to rest his weary limbs. He wrote a few stories which he endeavored to dispose of to editors, but met with no success.

Many stories have been told in regard to this unhappy period of Poe’s life. One, related by a Richmond man, stated that, being in Baltimore about the time in question, he one day had occasion to visit a brick-yard, when there passed him by a line of men bearing the freshly moulded bricks to the kiln. Glancing at them casually, he was amazed to recognize among them Edgar Poe. He could not be mistaken, having been for years familiar with his appearance. Whether Poe recognized him, he could not say; but when he returned next day he was not there, nor did any one know of the name of Poe among the laborers. It was the opinion of this man that he had merely picked up a day’s job for a day’s need.

He was said to have been recognized in other equally uncongenial occupations, but relief was at hand in the time of his sorest need.






[S:0 - HLFP, 1907] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Home Life of Poe (S. A. Weiss) (Chapter 10)