In 1849 author Edgar Allan Poe traveled alone from
Richmond, Virginia to . He disappeared for nearly a week. He was
next seen drunk and unkempt in clothes clearly not his own in New
York City .
He was taken to a hospital. In and out of delirium, unable to clarify where he
had been or what he had done, he died four days later. The then generic cause
of death “congestion of the brain” was given, though most assumed drunkenness
and debauchery were at the root of it all, and in the years since many other
theories have been advanced including epilepsy, rabies, diabetes, heart
disease, hypoglycemia, cerebral hemorrhage, meningitis, and violence at the
hands of thugs attempting to rig an election.
The author of this fascinating little book focuses on Poe’s lost week. He also makes a good case for Poe being a binge drinker rather than a habitual one, meaning something would send him over the edge, he would drink and drink, and then feel like hell as he slowly recovered from his excesses. He tells us how after the loss of his young wife, Virginia, to consumption, Poe hoped to start a new literary magazine and was seeking investors, and had begun to woo his childhood sweetheart, Elmira Shelton, a now very well-to-do widow. He also unearths some tantalizing clues about Poe’s lost week and puts forward a theory of his own about the author’s demise.