Saturday, January 17, 2009

Happy 200th Edgar

On January 19th, Edgar Allen Poe’s 200th birthday will be observed. He is the man who invented the detective story (Poe’s creation of C. Auguste Dupin predates Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes). He worked his craft in short fiction, poetry and being a literary critic. He died when he was 40 under unknown circumstances. Wikipedia, my favorite second brain, has much to say on Mr. Poe and his life and it can all be found here: It seems an utter disservice to Poe that “Ludwig” (R.W. Griswold) spun so many lies about him after his death. History continues to remember Poe but has forgotten Griswold all together. The Hop Frog in me likes to believe that this omission is the universe healing itself from poison of such a man. “Hop Frog”, by the by, remains for this reader one of the best tales of revenge and madness ever written. When one considers Poe, you really have many options to choose from – there are many “favorites” when it comes to his body of work. “The Mask of the Red Death”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, “The Tell Tale Heart”, “The Black Cat”, and “The Fall of the House of Usher” are all prime examples of Poe at his best.

It is easy to automatically think of Baltimore when you consider Poe, his work and his life (and his death for that matter) but some of his best and most prolific work took place right across the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Again from Wikipedia, “While living in Philadelphia, Poe published some of his most well-known works, including "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and "The Gold-Bug". It has been called his most prolific period. In all, Poe published 31 stories during his time in Philadelphia as well as several literary criticism pieces, including his February 1841 review of Charles Dickens's novel Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty. In reviewing the novel, which later inspired Poe's poem "The Raven", he correctly predicted the novel's resolution before its final serialized installment was published. Dickens is said to have remarked, "The man must be the devil". Poe's five years in the city have been described as the happiest of his life.” The Edgar Allen Poe National Historical Site in Philly is just about to reopen to celebrate Poe’s 200th Birthday (those gory details can be found here: I’m looking forward to taking the girls. We have already shared the reading of some of his tales.

So, Gentle Reader, the dreary midnight hour draws close at hand. I am weak and weary and I have been pondering over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore… It is with a spirit of kinsmanship that I join the Poe Toaster ( from right here in South Jersey in raising a glass and laying down one more rose at his grave.

Happy 200th Edgar.


Pax Romano said...

Picture it, New Jersey, 1975: a young Pax Romano takes a poetry class in his small South Jersey high school. The first poem assigned is , Annabelle Lee by Mr. Poe. I was entranced by the morbid, yet lovely piece. A few months later in an English class we read The Tell Tale Heart which pretty much becomes one of my all time fave stories.

I raise my cup of Starbucks to EAP this morning ... nevermore.

Merci said...

I'm with Pax - I love the poem Annabelle Lee. And I love the tintinnabulation of the bells, bells, bells...

Kelly said...

Yes! Happy 200th, Edgar. I spent many happy hours retelling Poe stories to Linda, J, and the neighborhood gang. I'm really happy to know that your daughters are getting to know Poe too ...

You may have heard me say this ad nauseum (or OK, maybe only once), but I think "Masque of the Red Death" is one of the most vivid and chilling allegories ever written.

Here's to Poe, and Philly!

Evil Chicken said...

Poe strikes a nerve just the skin. You are all spot on the money with your assessments and memories and I couldn’t agree more.

Pax, “The Tell Tale Heart” became a favorite in my class too. The murder, the madness, and the shear volume of that beating heart just under the floorboards… I can still hear it thumping.

Merci, it’s been years since I read “Annabelle Lee” and I had to give it another once over (which I did here:; you’re right, I love it too.

Kelly, you are so right when you said that the, “’Masque of the Red Death’ is one of the most vivid and chilling allegories ever written.” What an amazing piece of storytelling. What an amazing allegory.

Well, I’m in the mood to open a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

…now where’d I put that Poe book of ours?