The last days of Edgar Allan Poe’s life are shrouded in mystery, much like his own work. And to arrive at those last fateful days, you must go back in Poe’s life to set the scene. He was an orphan, adopted by the Allan family. He grew up well educated and well off, but once he left home for college, his relationship with his foster father grew tumultuous and he was – as they say - cut off. Poe also had a taste for alcohol and women… and could never seem to balance the two.
Broke, Poe ended up moving in with his Aunt Maria Clemm, whom he called Aunt Muddy, and her daughter, virginia, whom he married. He settled down for a bit as a writer, reviewer, and lecturer, well known and respected. But, when his wife Virginia died of consumption, his life took a downward slide from which he would never recover. At rock bottom, he attempted suicide, but failed. The one thing that kept him afloat after that was writing.
Eventually, Poe was offered the chance to start a literary magazine in Richmond, Virginia…and that is where our story begins. As part of the big read, Brian Hackert chronicled the final days of Edgar Allan Poe – and possible causes of his death – in a presentation earlier this month at the Peterborough Town Library, where he is reference librarian. Brian also paid a visit to our studio to tell me the story in person.
We at Word of Mouth have been considering whether Poe's collected tales and poems still scare like they used to. In our conversations, it has been mentioned more than once that it’s all in the presentation. As one NHPR volunteer put it, if Vincent Price is reading Poe, it’s still scary. And when we asked Salman Rushdie, he said the exact opposite.
We wanted to put one of Poe’s most potent classics to the test, so we asked our favorite storyteller, Sean Hurley, to read an excerpt from The Raven…