Poe’s Death Day: OCT 7, 1849, What Happened?

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22525 – 859

Here’s the haps:

January 19, 1809 – Oct 7, 1849, 40 years old. He wrote approximately seventy stories, sixty-nine poems and I don’t know how many non-fiction articles about writing and literary criticism.

Many of you know that I am something like a fan of Edgar Allan Poe. If you have only read The Raven and The Black Cat because that’s what they made you read in school you are missing out on a lot of great stories. Besides horror and poetry, there is early science fiction, pirate treasure, one of the first detective characters, and humor. In fact, he only wrote fifteen horror stories out of about seventy.

A strange man, who led a strange life, an alcoholic womanizer, to be sure, but he was a genius.  It is said that he died in an alcoholic stupor, but if you read the book “Midnight Dreary: The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe” by John Evangelist Walsh, Michael Flamini (Editor), you will see that it is possible he was murdered. That book isn’t really taken too seriously by actual “hard” Poe historians but I think it makes a somewhat valid case.

If you are interested in everything or anything Poe I would suggest the Edgar Allan Poe society website:

For a look at nine different theories about how he died, you can read an article Smithsonian Magazine ran on Oct 7, 2014, called The (Still) Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. Rabies? Mercury Poisoning? Alcoholism? Most of the cases make good points but each has a drawback or two. I think it might be a challenge for Auguste Dupin himself to conclusively solve the mystery.

I leave you with this quote of the first paragraph of The Fall of the House of Usher:

DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country ; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was – but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable ; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me – upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain – upon the bleak walls – upon the vacant eye-like windows – upon a few rank sedges – and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees – with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium – the bitter lapse into everyday life – the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart – an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it – I paused to think – what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher ? It was a mystery all insoluble ; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion, that while, beyond doubt, there are combinations of very simple natural objects which have the power of thus affecting us, still the analysis of this power lies among considerations beyond our depth. It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression ; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down – but with a shudder even more thrilling than before – upon the remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.

Nevertheless, in this mansion of gloom I now proposed to myself a sojourn of some weeks. Its proprietor, Roderick Usher, had been one of my boon companions in boyhood;

The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allan Poe
Happy Deathday


  1. Fascinating, Herb. I haven’t read Poe for about 50 years and the extract you gave has wet my appetite. He certainly wrote with “style”. I didn’t realize how “few” horrors stories he wrote compared to his total. And he died 100 years before I was born (not to the day)!

  2. Good stuff And what you say is true. My favorite is a favorite short poem is Lenore Have you ever read it? because of it and The Raven I wander who She may have been.?
    Just Laugh. Forget the other details

  3. Oh, love his stories although I only read a few. Black cat is definitely one of his best. It is said he had a very sad childhood and his mother really was not very nice to him, which made him who he was later in life. Now you quote one of his most popular stories, I think I want to re-read him for the Halloween.

    • “For the love of God, Montressor!”
      “Yes. For the love of God.”
      The Tell-tale Heart is really psychological horror, in my opinion.

  4. My most recent experience with Poe was finally reading “The Pit and the Pendulum,” which unfortunately for me did very little to redeem itself as an embodiment of the gross exaggeration history has made of the Spanish Inquisition. But I still appreciate Poe as the first great American literary voice (though in a horse race with Washington Irving (or, if you’re of the < I>Catch-22 persuasion, Irving Washington) (something a college professor of mine had no idea about, all the more pity to her and her sad ignorance). (It’s still not remarked enough how fascinated early America was with horror stories, which for whatever reason my home state of Maine, as represented by Stephen King, has best embodied in the modern age.)

    • Yes, your Mr. King is truly the king of the genre. I expect that early Americans were fascinated because in their surroundings there was a lot of room for imagination.

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