Poe's Short Stories


On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance", according to the man who found him, Joseph W. Walker.[69] He was taken to the Washington Medical College, where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849, at 5:00 in the morning.[70] Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition, and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. Some sources say Poe's final words were "Lord help my poor soul."[70] All medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost.[71] Newspapers at the time reported Poe's death as "congestion of the brain" or "cerebral inflammation", common euphemisms for deaths from disreputable causes such as alcoholism.[72] The actual cause of death remains a mystery.[73] Speculation has included delirium tremens, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningeal inflammation,[3] cholera[74] and rabies.[75] One theory, dating from 1872, indicates that cooping—in which unwilling citizens who were forced to vote for a particular candidate were occasionally killed—was the cause of Poe's death.[76]

Griswold's "Memoir"

The day Edgar Allan Poe was buried, a long obituary appeared in the New York Tribune signed "Ludwig". It was soon published throughout the country. The piece began, "Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it."[77] "Ludwig" was soon identified as Rufus Wilmot Griswold, an editor, critic and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since 1842. Griswold somehow became Poe's literary executor and attempted to destroy his enemy's reputation after his death.[78]

Rufus Griswold wrote a biographical article of Poe called "Memoir of the Author", which he included in an 1850 volume of the collected works. Griswold depicted Poe as a depraved, drunk, drug-addled madman and included Poe's letters as evidence.[78] Many of his claims were either lies or distorted half-truths. For example, it is now known that Poe was not a drug addict.[79] Griswold's book was denounced by those who knew Poe well,[80] but it became a popularly accepted one. This occurred in part because it was the only full biography available and was widely reprinted and in part because readers thrilled at the thought of reading works by an "evil" man.[81] Letters that Griswold presented as proof of this depiction of Poe were later revealed as forgeries.[82]

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