The Tell Tale Heart of Edgar Allan Poe

Alfred Tennyson said of Poe, “The literary glory of America.  No Poet, certainly no modern poet, was so susceptible to the impressions of beauty of he.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning said of Poe, “fascinated and stirred by his power, this vivid writing! This power which is felt.”

Conan Doyle said of Poe, “The inventor and pioneer whom he has humbly followed. The readers of Gaborieau will find in his writings the strong incense of the deep worship which shows itself in imitation.”


Edgar Allan Poe was born to travelling actors in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809 at a house on 2 Carvel Street.  According to notices in The Boston Gazette, Mrs. Poe appeared on November 28, 1808, as Lydia in “The Sixty-Third Letter” – a musical afterpiece.  It wasn’t until February 9, 1809, when in a theatrical announcement declared, ‘We congratulate the frequenters of the theatre upon the recovery of Mrs. Poe . . . This charming little actress will make her appearance tomorrow night as Rosamunda in the popular play of ‘Abaellino, The Great Bandit.

Edgar was the second of three children. His other brother, William Henry Leonard Poe would also become a poet before his early death. Poe’s sister, Rosalie Poe would grow up to teach penmanship at a Richmond girls’ school.  Within three years of Poe’s birth, both of his parents had died and he was taken in by the wealthy tobacco merchant, John Allan and his wife Frances Valentine Allan in Richmond, Virginia while Poe’s siblings went to live with other families. Mr. Allan would rear Poe to be a businessman and a Virginia gentleman. However, Poe had dreams of being a writer in emulation of his childhood hero, the British poet, Lord Byron. Early poetic verses found written in a young Poe’s handwriting on the backs of Allan’s ledger sheets reveal how little interest Poe had in the tobacco business. By the age of thirteen, Poe had compiled enough poetry to publish a book, but his headmaster advised Allan against allowing this. 

Poe moved to Philadelphia, in 1838, and wrote for a number of different magazines. He served as editor of Burton’s magazines while continuing to sell articles to Alexander’s Weekly Messenger and other journals.  In spite of his growing fame, Poe was still barely able to make a living. For the publication of his first book of short stories, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, he was only paid with twenty-five free copies of his book. He would soon become a champion for the cause of higher wages for writers as well as for an international copyright law. To change the face of the magazine industry, he proposed starting his own journal, but he failed to find the necessary funding.  Poe writes to Dr. Creed Thomas, ‘For the last three or four months I have been working fourteen or fifteen hours a day, hard at it all the time and yet, Thomas, I have made no money, I am as poor now as ever I was in my life except in hope, which is by no means bankable.’

Virginia Clemm Poe

In the face of poverty, Poe was still able to find solace at home with his wife, Virginia Clemm, and mother-in-law. Though, tragedy struck in 1842 when Poe’s wife contracted tuberculosis. A disease that had already claimed Poe’s mother, brother, and foster mother. She would suffer from this until her death in January, 1847.

Always in search of better opportunities, Poe moved to New York again in 1844 and introduced himself to the city by perpetrating a hoax. His “news story” of a balloon trip across the ocean caused a sensation, and the public rushed to read everything about it—until Poe revealed that he had fooled them all. 

Edgar's Cafe located at 255 W. 84th St., New York, NY (Now closed down)

During the summers of 1843 and 1844 Edgar Allan Poe spent time with his friend Patrick Brennan at a grand apartment in a building located at Eighty Fourth Street and Broadway in New York City.  It extended 200 feet west of Central Park to the Hudson River. It was a picturesque spot which was considered a summer resort where people would gather during the hot weather.

Edgar's Cafe interior as described below. In 1843/44 this was the building site where Poe wrote The Raven

'The house was a two story building, low to the ground, without a porch, piazza or any ornamentation. Above the door opening into the hallway, stood the pallid bust of Pallas. It was a little plaster cast, and occupied a shelf nailed to the door casing immediately behind the bust, and occupying the space between the top casing and the ceiling; a number of little panes of smoky glass took the place of the partition.  Patrick’s wife recalls, ‘Poe read ‘The Raven’ while I would lie on the floor at Poe’s feet arranging his manuscript and always carefully reversing it from the way he preferred to have it, placing it with the written side toward the floor.’

1884 edition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven illustrated by Paul Gustave Dore

The Broadway Journal failed in 1846.  Poe moved to a cottage in the Fordam section of The Bronx, New York. That home, known today as the "Poe Cottage", is on the southeast corner of the Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge Road. Virginia died there on January 30, 1847.

Increasingly unstable after his wife's death, Poe attempted to court the poet Sarah Helen Whitman, who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. Their engagement failed most likely due to Poe's drinking and erratic behavior. However, there is also strong evidence that Whitman's mother intervened and did much to derail their relationship. Poe then returned to Richmond, Virginia, and resumed a relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster before his death of mysterious circumstances in a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland on October 7, 1849. 

1850s daguerrotype of Sarah Elmira Royster

Edgar Allan Poe A Centenary Tribute, by William P. Trent,Oliver Huckel, John Prentiss Poe, Lizette Woodworth Reese and Mrs. John C. Wrenshall; ed. by Heinrich Ewald Buchholz, Published 1910 by For the Edgar Allan Poe memorial association by Warwick & York, inc. in Baltimore .

Please feel free to leave any comments, 


Stanley said…
I just discovered your blog and have been reading your great reviews and poignant articles!
Edgar Allan Poe is such a mystery and an enigmatic figure but you have shed light on him and I loved reading this!
Kimberly Eve said…
Thanks for stopping by, commenting, and for your kind words, Stanley!
Anonymous said…
Glad I read this and learned something about Poe. I believe his house is still in the W. 80s. gigigirl
Kimberly Eve said…
Yes, I'm glad too. Sadly, Edgar's Cafe is gone now but the building remains.