Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe's raven perched above the door

January 29, 1845: The New York Evening Mirror prints “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. It has become Poe’s most famous poem. It was widely reprinted and Poe became famous as a result. He did not gain great wealth, however. He was paid around $15 overall for the poem. That would be a little less than $350 today. The sensational poem inspired the author’s work, “The Philosophy of Composition.” In this essay, Poe wrote about writing in general and this poem in particular. Poe was 36 when the poem first saw print.

Poe’s life is shrouded in mystery – from birth to death. He was born in Boston in 1809 but his birth is sometimes given as occurring in Baltimore in 1811. Once, Poe claimed to have been born in 1813, two years after his mother’s death. Poe was known as a practical jokester and spread tales about himself and his “grandfather,” Benedict Arnold, especially inflammatory since Poe was attending West Point at the time. There are some who read Poe’s body of work as an autobiography hoping to gain insight into the author’s life.

While details of his birth remain hidden, details of his death are even more mysterious. In June 1849 Poe began an early book tour of sorts, trying to gain support for a magazine he hoped to publish. Poe arrived in Baltimore on September 28. Details are sketchy at best and his movements are unknown. The next fact available to history is a letter from Joseph W. Walker sent to Dr. J.E. Snodgrass on October 3 asking for the doctor’s help. Snodgrass, a friend of Poe’s, arrived and Poe was sent to Washington College Hospital. He was in and out of consciousness and died on the morning of October 7 at either 3 or 5 AM. There is no indication he was found drunk in a gutter. There are several theories regarding cause of death. The local paper unhelpfully listed the cause as “congestion of the brain.”

“The Raven is a narrative poem probably written in late 1844 while Poe was staying at Patrick Brennan’s farm in New York. The poem is noted for its musical qualities, stylized language, and hints of the supernatural. The poem tells the story of a young man’s descent into madness after losing his love, Lenore. He is further tormented by a talking raven perched on a bust of Pallas and chanting “Nevermore.” The young man, bereft, yearns both to forget and to remember his adored lost love.

Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.

The true genius shudders at incompleteness – and usually prefers silence to saying something which is not everything it should be.

Stupidity is a talent for misconception.

Science has not yet taught us if madness is or is not the sublimity of the intelligence. – all from Edgar Allan Poe

Also on this day:

Oh, No – O-Three – In 1978, Sweden became the first nation to ban certain aerosols to protect the ozone layer.
Honorable – In 1856, the Victoria Cross medal was established.
“Nevermore!” – In 1845, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe was printed for the first time. (I appear to have lost my mind and wrote about the same thing twice, but they are different looks at the same event.)

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