Sunday, September 8, 2013

Midnight Dreary The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe by John Evangelist Walsh

In 1849 author Edgar Allan Poe traveled alone from Richmond, Virginia to New York City. He disappeared for nearly a week. He was next seen drunk and unkempt in clothes clearly not his own in Baltimore, Maryland. 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.

Although this is not a cradle to the grave biography of Edgar Allan Poe, the author provides enough information for anyone not familiar with Poe’s life to gain a good understanding of the man, and for those intrigued by the mystery surrounding his death this is the only book I’ve seen that focuses solely upon the mystery and explores the various theories in detail. Whether you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or just mysteries in general, this is a great little book to read “upon a midnight dreary.”

1 comment:

librarypat said...

I had never heard much about Poe 's death. This post raises some interesting questions and possibilities. This book should be a good read.