Poe Week: Fascinating Facts

Much mystery surrounds several facts surrounding Poe, largely in part to the time period and all that is lost between then and now, but a good deal was also distorted due to a smear campaign from his rival. Here are some interesting facts I found while browsing about this infamous writer.

Interesting Biographies Collection from Biography.com

1. Poe was buried twice. Poe's funeral was small, with nine people in attendance. Years later a critic and poet, Paul Hamilton Hayne, visited Poe's grave to become appalled by the neglected condition. He responded by posting a newspaper article about it, which struck into the heart of a schoolteacher, Sara Sigourney Rice. She began soliciting funds and donations for the cause, and as a result of their combined efforts and that of many others, Poe's body was reburied closer to the church and with a more visually pleasing monument.

2. Yes, Poe's wife really had been his thirteen year old cousin.  Poe fell in love with his cousin quite young, and when she was 13 they became married. He was 27 at the time, and it was reported that they abstained from any sexual conduct for two years following their marriage. It was said in famous reports they would spend a lot of time playing together in the yard, including a game of Leapfrog. When she was diagnosed with Tuberculosis years later, Poe was beside himself with grief. She suffered off and on for years, to finally pass away at the young age of 24. A happy marriage from all reports, Poe was in depression for years and expressed much love of his wife and grief in his writings. He was saddened he hadn't had a portrait of her done when she was alive, so hired a man to paint the picture of her corpse. They were too poor to afford her a proper burial (she was buried in a vault owned by the landlord), but her body was removed to be by Poe's after his dead.

3. Poe created the detective story - A lot of people may assume it was a great such as Arthur Canon Doyle who created the detective story, but Poe was actually the first one with his legendary Murders in the Rue Morgue. Many of the features in the story were almost pre-Sherlock Holmes, such as using methodical logic to solve the crime. Poe passed away in 1849, and Doyle was born in 1859. His stories birthed the ideas for many genres.

4. Rufus Griswold led a smear campaign against Poe. A fellow critic rival, he wrote an unsympathetic obituary following Poe's death, using the pseudonym "Ludwig". Claiming to be Poe's literary executor, which has been highly challenged, he published a posthumous editions of Poe's working, keeping the monies for himself and not sharing any with Poe's living relatives. He also wrote a Memoir, filled with many inaccuracies, which helped bring Poe's name through the mud for  years to come, even today. Poe made many other enemies in the literary world by his desire to be a strict, sarcastic critic.

5. Poe's family was a mess.  Poe's father abandoned his family when he was a year old. His mother raised the three children the best they could, as she was an actress who was well thought of and struggling. She died in a boarding house of tuberculosis, where young Edgar watched helplessly as she coughed up blood and became delirious. Ironically she was 24 years old, the same age as Poe's wife when she died.
 He was taken in to a well-to-do family (his siblings taken by other families), but never got along with his stepfather. Mrs. Allan was very affectionate of Poe, having cared for his mother.  Allan was frustrated by Poe's gambling and drinking, failing from school and education he paid for. Poe was devoted to his stepmother and angered on her behalf when his stepfather kept cheating on her. It is reported that she lay dying of tuberculosis while he slept with other women in the house. It was well-known and perhaps accepted at the time, but Poe was a sensitive sort who had much passion for women and thought they should be respected. This created the big drift they were never able to heal from.
Poe's first love died of brain cancer when he was fifteen years old.

6. Poe entered the military due to extreme debt and no help from his stepfather when he begged for assistance. He tried to cover debt by gambling, but ended up worse in the hole. After two years in the military he arranged for himself to be dismissed by court martial. While in the army he did excel and rose to high ranks, but it was not a long-term goal of his.

7. Ever since 1949, someone has left a bottle of cognac and some roses on Poe’s grave. No one knows who.

8. The Raven made him truly famous. He was only paid $14.00 for it (some sources say $9.00). Children would follow him for years waving their arms like the raven, and he would turn around and tell them, Nevermore, nevermore. He apparently loved the attention with the children. The Raven became his nickname.