Mr Poe: Time Traveller

He was a rum, one, though, wasn’t he?

I have just officially freaked myself out during my research into Edgar Allen Poe.

I googled a picture of him and found one above which does that ‘your country needs you’ direct follow-you-round-the room stare. I found my gaze locked by a dome-forheaded sepia pair of eyes: and I found myself getting more and more discomforted.  I cyberfled, pressing anything at all to get away from that direct, disconcerting glare.

An eccentric of genius, Edgar Allen Poe’s story is gothically magical in the telling. When he was one year old in 1810 his father, an actor, deserted Poe and his mother. She, an actress, died of consumprion a year later: so Poe went to live with a wealthy merchant who sold tobacco, wheat, cloth, slaves and, wait for it, tombstones.

In flights of fancy I can see the little boy wandering round the warehouse taking in these little monoliths of death, weaving stories already, at a time when the world was rather taken with the paranormal.

But I am just fantasising.

You  know the trail of Mr Poe’s life: he had five odd, unsettled years in England starting around his sixth year, schooling in Irvine,Scotland, and Chelsea, and Stoke Newington in London. He returned to Virginia and when old enough started at the state’s university, running up huge debts and falling out with his stepfather over the amount of money with which he equipped him for his studies.

He dropped out of the University of Virginia after a year, and went to Boston, clerking and working as a journalist to make ends meet; and  it is said he began to call himself Henri Le Rennet.

Then he became someone else: Edgar A. Perry, aged 22 (an extra four years for good measure), a private in the U.S. Army earning five dollars a month. His story meanders through Charleston, Carolina, where Poe reached the highest rank a noncommissioned officer can achieve; but after two years he wanted out.

Tragedy dogged him, really: he married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia only to have her die two years after The Raven was published. The poem rendered  Poe finally – after three books of poems and a host of appearances in other journals- an overnight success.

The thing is, somehow, he knew things.

He wrote about the Big Bang theory 80 years before it was touted by scientists, as part of his prose poem Eureka. And there was the strange business of Richard Parker.

On July 25, 1884 a ship left Southampton with a 17-year-old cabin boy, named Richard Parker, as part of the crew. The ship was 1,600 miles away from land when the ship was overtaken by a hurricane and sank, leaving the crew in lifeboats with scant supplies. The cabin boy drank sea water and became delirious: and the crew decided to kill him and survive on the proceeds until help could be found.The trial was a sensation in Victorian England.

Gruesome. And so very Poe.

In 1837, almost half a century earlier,Mr Poe had written a story.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket dealt with the very same plot. And the name of the cabin boy in his story?

Richard Parker.

And his death, now. Poe was erratic: he drank. But how did he end up on the streets of Baltimore in someone else’s clothes, in dire physical and mental distress?

A lonely figure toasted the anniversary of Poe’s death annually, beginning in 1949, leaving cognac and three roses to remember him. The tradition carried on for about 60 years.

I’m going out on a limb here: but what if that figure were Poe himself?

Me, I think Poe knew how to time travel. And his death? It was one temporal journey too far.

But I am just fantasising.

Picture source here


54 thoughts on “Mr Poe: Time Traveller

  1. Well, if I ever come across a Poe story with my name in it, I shall avoid ships or whatever it was that led to my namesake’s no doubt gruesome (being Poe) end!

  2. Thanks for the great post – I love his stories! You seem to know what good stuff to blog about – keep it up, Kate 🙂

  3. I enjoy learning more about Poe through your fascination with the man. I didn’t know much about his early life, but do wonder how it influenced his writing. Perhaps he’d have had a penchant for the dark and eerie regardless of tragedy–I don’t think Stephen King had a turbulent past. Time traveler…if anyone could, he’d be a candidate. He certainly is a character out of his own writings, and at times he is too creepy for me. I believe that is a high compliment! 🙂

    1. A character out of his own writings: you are clever, debra, that expresses him perfectly. Next project: to read the biography by Kenneth Silverman which my friend Madame Weebles recommended. I can’t wait!

  4. I love the idea of Edgar being the one leaving cognac at his own grave. If only!

    Poor Edgar, he had a very rough life. I read Kenneth Silverman’s great biography of him, and it’s so so sad.

  5. On a clear day, I can see Fort Moultrie (where he served in Charleston, out on Sullivans Island) from the bridge I walk. Thanks for reminding me that part of him haunts us here. 🙂

  6. Fascinating, Kate. Poe really gave me the fright in high school readings.

    You might be interested in this older post about him and his ladies:

  7. I fancied Poe’s writing in my teens . . . The Tell Tale Heart, among others. These days my tastes are less “grim.”

    But your theory of Poe as Time Traveler holds infinite appeal with me. Thanks for a wonderful read, Kate. 😀

    1. Pleasure, Nancy: I have loved Poe since my teens when I found some of his in a book entitled “A Century Of Creepy Stories.” He had a way of getting under your skin…

  8. When we were in Baltimore years ago, we visited Poe’s grave. He certainly did have a tragic life and that probably did influence his writing.

    You’ve provided some fascinating info about Poe. Kate, I rather like the idea of him being a Time Traveler.

    Another fact, he “had a keen interest in cryptography. He had placed a notice of his abilities in the Philadelphia paper Alexander’s Weekly (Express) Messenger, inviting submissions of ciphers, which he proceeded to solve.[126] In July 1841, Poe had published an essay called “A Few Words on Secret Writing” in Graham’s Magazine. Realizing the public interest in the topic, he wrote “The Gold-Bug” incorporating ciphers as part of the story.” (wikipedia)

  9. Kate darling girl you are so bloody Good at this stuff.. I love reading what you write, and mercy that Poe! My mother used to have a thing for him so we grew up on his abject misery.. we lived by the sea too .. poor chappie.. have a lovely day.. c

    1. He can get rather oppressive if you read a lot, can’t he? Like Stephen King. I always have to have a breather and a spot of Pride and Prejudice in between stretches of Poe. Thanks, Celi 🙂

  10. I believe this Jake Offenhartz has plagiarized your work: “”

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