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.)


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2011

Edgar Allan Poe

January 29, 1845: The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe reaches print for the first time in the New York Evening Mirror. Poe was a poet, a short story writer who dabbled in science fiction and virtually created the detective and crime fiction genres, an editor, and a critic of other’s work. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in 1809, his father abandoned the family in 1810, and his mother died of tuberculosis in 1811. John Allan, a successful businessman in Richmond, Virginia, took Poe in.

The Raven is a beautifully worded, musically cadenced, narrative poem told in an eerie and dark manor. The narrator, a man who has lost his love, Lenore, is visited by the black bird that sits above the door speaking only one word – nevermore. The bird watches and exacerbates the man’s slow and irrevocable descent into madness.

Many of Poe’s poems are a study in guilt or “perverseness.” This is not the guilt associated with law or morals. It isn’t based on right or wrong. It is the guilt that, in Poe’s words, speaks to “the human thirst for self-torture.” The narrator continually asks the bird questions that would best be served by a positive answer while knowing full well that the only response is the negative, “Nevermore!” The poem illustrates the man’s physical terror and describes the psychological torture of the doomed.

In his essay “Philosophy of Composition” Poe explains that self-destruction and self-induced anguish already exist in the heart of his protagonists. The death of beautiful women, left unexplained as to cause, is the most poetic of all topics, according to Poe. In this poem, as in many others, we are not told the cause of Lenore’s death because to Poe it made no difference. Beauty has died. The torture remains. The man must choose between the pain of remembrance and the pain of forgetting. When will the anguish end? Nevermore.

“Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door! / Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door! / Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’” – from the poem, The Raven

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”

“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.
Victoria Cross – In 1856, Queen Victoria established the Victoria Cross.



Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 20, 2010

Murders in the Rue Morgue movie poster

April 20, 1841: The first mystery story is published – “Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe. The short story saw print in Graham’s Magazine. This story was followed by others centered on the intellectual conquests of C. Auguste Dupin. The story is a locked room case focusing on the intellectual pursuit of the detective rather than the eerie setting of the crime. Dupin is a Paris intellectual, he is not a detective. But by ratiocination, the term Poe used, Dupin placed himself via his vivid imagination into the mind of the criminal. He seemed to read the criminal’s mind and could therefore solve the case. He went on to solve “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and “The Purloined Letter.”

Sherlock Holmes carried on the tradition of reasoning out a solution to a crime. Gathering evidence, finding clues, taking the reader along on the chase and befuddled by red herrings strewn along the path to discovery.

Agatha Christie wrote more than 80 novels in more than 50 years of publishing and gave us both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. She was, perhaps, the best known author during the Golden Age of the Mystery. However, Dorothy L. Sayers, a contemporary of Christie, was also a major contributor. Both of these authors were British.

In America, Ellery Queen was thrilling audiences with 33 novels written over a 40 year span. Erle Stanley Gardner gave us Perry Mason, the lawyer who solved mysteries with Paul Drake and Della Street’s help. Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe rarely even left his house to solve the mysteries brought to his door. Today’s famous series writers are Sue Grafton with her alphabet of cases for Kinsey Millhone and Robert B. Parker’s Spencer, chasing down the bad guys in Boston. P.D. James has her British policemen solving crimes while Dick Francis uses a backdrop of horse racing while solving mysteries.

“At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable.” – Raymond Chandler

“I’ve always believed in writing without a collaborator, because where two people are writing the same book, each believes he gets all the worry and only half the royalties.” – Agatha Christie

“Send it to someone who can publish it. And if they won’t publish it, send it to someone else who can publish it! And keep sending it! Of course, if no one will publish it, at that point you might want to think about doing something other than writing.” – Robert B. Parker

“Sherlock Holmes is a massive figure in people’s minds. More massive than a lot of real historical characters – these figures have real weight. They might be just made out of words and paper, but their effect in the world can be massive, if they’ve got the right kind of mass, the right kind of gravity and momentum.” – Alan Moore

Also on this day, in 1862 Louis Pasteur proved his pasteurization process making us all safer.

Edgar Allan Poe

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 6, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe

March 6, 1831: Edgar Allan Poe is removed from West Point. Poe (1809-1849) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He had an older brother and a younger sister. His mother, an actress died from consumption in 1811, one year after the father had abandoned his family. Edgar was taken in by a merchant from Richmond named John Allan. Poe was never legally adopted, but he took Allan’s name as his middle name.

At 17, Poe attended the University of Virginia in 1826 and was expelled for nonpayment of gambling debts. He quarreled with Allan and was disowned by him over this breach of etiquette. Unable to support himself, Poe then joined the army under an assumed name while lying about his age. He also began his published life with the release of a 40-page collection of poems called Tamerlane and Other Poems.

In 1830 he entered West Point and on this date of 1831 he was expelled for neglect of duties. Over the next several years he worked for several publications all the while writing some of his most famous short stories. Poe is credited with writing the first detective stories. He also contributed to the newly emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American author to try to make a living from his writing but found international copyright laws detrimental to his income stream. In 1836, Poe married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. Clemm became ill and remained an invalid for the last five years of her life, dying in 1847.

A devastated Poe turned to alcohol and drugs. He struggled with depression and outright madness. He was found in Baltimore, “delirious and in great distress” on October 3, 1849. He was taken to Washington College Hospital where he died at 5 AM on October 7. He did not revive enough between those two dates to give a coherent explanation regarding his condition. He was not wearing his own clothes at the time he was found. All records have been lost and we do not know what was his cause of death.

“I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it.” – Edgar Allan Poe

“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.” – Edgar Allan Poe

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” – Edgar Allan Poe

“Why do an infinite number of monkeys always want to type “Hamlet”? What’s wrong with “Macbeth”? Why not something by Dickens or Poe?” – Tom Knapp

Also on this day, in 1820 the Missouri Compromise was signed by President James Monroe

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