This Day in History – October 7th, 1849

PoeOn this day 165 years ago, a frail man, haunted by his imagination, lost a four day battle with an alcohol induced delirium that consumed him. Reportedly, in his fevered and tormented last days of life, all he could muster to say was repeated cries of “Reynolds,” until his last breath uttered “Lord help my poor soul.” On October 7th, 1849, American author, poet, editor, literary critic, and dreamer of dark shadows Edgar Allan Poe died.

Poe is famous for his gothic works and explorations of the macabre, but he also accredited as being the inventor of detective fiction and the mystery genre of literature which then went on to inspire the creation of Sherlock Holmes. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.

On January 19th, 1809, Poe was born to two actors, but a year later his father abandoned the family and his mother died; baby Edgar was sent to Richmond, Virginia into the care of John and Frances Allan. The relationship between Edgar and John grew very strained during Poe’s adolescence after Edgar incurred gambling debts and generally lived his life in a fashion to which John Allan disapproved. Poe spent a semester at the University of Virginia, join the army under a false name, but it was after Poe failed as an officer’s cadet at West Point that he declared that he would seek his living as a writer.

The RavenStarting with poetry, Poe later switched his focus to prose and spent the next several years working for literary journals and periodicals, becoming known for his own style of literary criticism. His work forced him to move among several cities, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City. In Baltimore in 1835, he married Virginia Clemm, his 13-year-old cousin. In January 1845 Poe published his poem, “The Raven“, to instant success. His wife died of tuberculosis two years after its publication. For years, he had been planning to produce his own journal, The Penn (later renamed The Stylus), though he died before it could be produced.

In true fashion to his writing and imagination, Poe’s death is still shrouded in an unsolved mystery; the cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other agents. However, 169 years after the publication of “The Raven” Edgar Allan Poe still remains the exemplar of American Gothic horror and mystery . . .

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