Maintaining your reputation post-mortem, lesson the first: Take steps in life to assure that a man you have written of, “It is a pity that so many of these biographies [for Graham’s Magazine] were entrusted to Mr. Griswold. He certainly lacks independence, or judgment, or both,” does not become your biographer. Be sure that your biographer is not a literary blackmailer known to make a fair sum in exchange for not writing a scathing review of one work or another. In particular, counsel family members not to sell the rights to publish any of your works posthumously or to cooperate in biographical investigations of you by anyone who has written as your obituary in the New York Tribune, “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.”
Rufus Wilmot Griswold, Poe’s first biographer and one on whom many subsequent biographers relied, was not a fan. Was Poe a mad womanizer? Was he a drunk?
Yes. Griswold said he was. Does he fit the the mold of a true P.O.E.T.S. Day debauchee?
Poe was acidic in his reviews of a great many of his contemporaries. No one should be too surprised that his defenders were few and the record is not too clear. Character assassination is not unheard of in literary circles. We can only speculate. If I may be allowed to act the prosecution:
– Was the son of actors, which is thoroughly disreputable.
– Left the University of Virginia because of gambling debts.
– Was kicked out of West Point for non-academic reasons. Admittedly cool in a biography, but disreputable to society.
– Married his cousin!
– Last words: “Lord help my poor soul.” He practically confessed.
The circumstances of his death are a little vague. While on a trip from Richmond to Philadelphia he was found in poor condition in Baltimore and taken to the hospital where he shortly died. Congestion of the Brain is the official cause of death but alcohol abuse, rabies, and foul play all have been suspected. Bad things can happen to people in Baltimore.
In all, that’s a pretty decent P.O.E.T.S. day resume for a non-syphalitic. By a unanimous vote of 1-0, I deem him appropriately disreputable.
So sneak out the back door, fake a call from the day care, or set off the fire extinguisher. Leave work and start the weekend early by going to your local watering hole and raising a glass to the inventor of the modern mystery story, the author of The Raven, and a despiser of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s work.
In spring of youth it was my lot
To haunt of the wide world a spot
The which I could not love the less-
So lovely was the loneliness
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
And the tall pines that towered around.
But when the Night had thrown her pall
Upon that spot, as upon all,
And the mystic wind went by
Murmuring in melody-
Then-ah then I would awake
To the terror of the lone lake.
Yet that terror was not fright,
But a tremulous delight-
A feeling not the jewelled mine
Could teach or bribe me to define-
Nor Love-although the Love were thine.
Death was in that poisonous wave,
And in its gulf a fitting grave
For him who thence could solace bring
To his lone imagining-
Whose solitary soul could make
An Eden of that dim lake.
By Edgar Allan Poe