This is an unfinished research paper I did during my Junior year of High School. There is a finished copy somewhere, however I lost it to time. It's not even on electronic format anymore.
Certain historical figures have encountered death in mysterious ways. Edgar Allen Poe was one of them. Enjoy what I have to say about his death.
The True Death of Edgar Allen Poe
by Matthew Pitaro
May 7th, 2004
One of America’s best-known and most recognizable writers, Edgar Allan Poe, has produced some of the most entertaining, frightening and often time’s mysterious tales in literature. His stories have been the topic of many classic movies and have appield to both children and adults throughout the last century and a half (Edgar). Though his literature prospers even to present day, his life was tragically cut short when he was found dead outside a bar in Baltimore at the relatively young age of 40. The true cause of his death has been under debate for the past 154 years. Perhaps understanding the circumstances surrounding his veiled death may shed some light into how the horrific incident would characterize and declassify the deep and profound nature of Edgar Allan Poe.
Several biographers have made extensive research into the life of Poe. Much of the time, in conducting their research, the biographers would often contradict each other based on different accounts of what happened according to personal interviews or the personal beliefs biases of the biographer (Poe’s Problematic).
It is indeed ironic that many of his stories pertained to the mysterious and that many aspects of his life remain a mystery even today. The actual place, day, and even year of his birth is uncertain. He has no birth certificate. Many believed he was born in Baltimore in 1811. Today however, it is generally accepted by all that he was born in Boston on January 19th, 1809. Poe himself was quoted as being born in 1813, two years after his mother’s death. (Edgar).
Regardless of the exact date he was born, he lived. But the life he lived was a difficult one to say the least. At the vulnerable age of two, his father left the family and the mother soon died in poverty. Mister and Mrs. Allan, friends of Poe’s mother, then cared for him. This is where he adopted the middle name of Allan. Though Mrs. Allan was found of Edgar, Mr. Allan and Poe often had quarrels. Occasionally, when Poe was becoming an adult, he and his father set apart their difference for Mrs. Allan, but when she died, so did their relationship.
Poe started his literary career as an editor at the Southern Literary Messenger, a reputable magazine, in 1835. This was the first of his many journalistic occupations. Because he was such a brilliant and dedicated editor, he often got into arguments and quarrels with contributors and the staff (McDougal 176).
In 1840, Poe left another journalistic job at the Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine under animosity. Burton claimed that Poe was fired for bad behavior. Poe said that he left because of bad company ethics. Whichever side is believed, there is no denying the fact that confrontations with people have followed Poe throughout his life (Poe’s Problematic).
Poe’s social problems may have proved to be fatal as the years went on.
On October 3rd, 1849 Poe was found by Joseph Walker in a somewhat incompasitated state on a street in Baltimore. Walker wrote a note to Dr. John J. Moran which read, “Dear Sir, -- There is a gentleman, rather the worse for wear, at Ryan's 4th ward polls, who goes under the cognomen of Edgar A. Poe, and who appears in great distress, & he says he is acquainted with you, and I assure you, he is in need of immediate assistance, Yours, in haste, Jos. W. Walker."
Edgar Allan Poe died in the hospitol somewhere between the hours of 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. on October 7, 1849 (Poe’s Death).
There are three major theories involving Poe’s death. The first being that he died of alcohol poisoning. The second being that he may have simply died from natural illness. The third theory was that he was beaten to death by thugs for political reasons. This is generally known as the “Cooping” Theory.
The instigator of the theory that Poe died of alcohol poisoning is Dr. J. Evans Snodgrass. He carried Poe to the hospital on a carriage. He maintained that Poe was very intoxicated when found dead. Dr. Snodgrass “…was a radical temperance man and saw in Poe's death a means of persuading others to abandon alcohol entirely.” This disposition adversely affects the credibility of this witness.
Dr. John J. Moran claims that Poe was sober. Dr. Moran was Poe’s personal physician. Because he was Poe’s personal physician, this also greatly affects the credibility of his testimony. He may have been side barred by personal feelings towards his fallen companion. It was Dr. Moran who said that Poe was “probably” beaten by thugs (Poe’s Problematic). This probability is not unsubstantiated.
Poe wanted to seek a higher education to pursue his literary talents at his young adult age. Mr. Allan did not financial support Poe’s college career and he was often times stuck with not enough money live. At this point in his life Poe turned to gambling (McDougal 176). Poe’s difficult childhood and vices are most defiantly a cause for his recurring social delema with his peers in the media. Making confrontations came naturally to Poe.
Edgar may have just simply been walking down the street and collapsed. According to some, who attended his lectures a few days before, have claimed that Poe appeared sickly and pale. Dr. Moran diagnosed him as having “Brain Fever” long before the time of his death. What ever that disease may be today, or in today’s standards could have caused the sudden passing of Poe.
However, the most logical explanation for Poe’s death is the Cooping Theory. This is true because it ties in the other two theories closely. Also, it supports the peculiarity of the way Poe was found on the street. Poe was not wearing his own clothes, but that of a tattered beggar’s garments.
At that time in Baltimore, political elections were held in the same building where alcohol was served. Often times, political parties would have thugs forcefully persuade voters either through alcohol seduction, or a method known as the Coop. The Coop is a interrogation room where the thugs would beat you into submission for making a certain vote. Often times the voter would be made to change clothes to make multiple votes for the same party.
At that stage in his life, Poe was in a very vulnerable condition. He was suffering from the recent death of his wife and numorous unknown ailments.
“Edgar Allan Poe.” The Internet Movie Database. May 4th, 2004. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000590/
McDougal, Little. “Edgar Allan Poe.” American Literature. Evanston, Il: McDougal, Little & Company, 1989.
Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991.
“Poe’s Death.” The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. Novemver 13th, 1999. The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. May 5th, 2004. http://www.eapoe.org/geninfo/poedeath.htm
“Poe’s Problematic Biography.” The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. May 10th, 1999. The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. May 4th, 2004. http://www.eapoe.org/geninfo/poebiog.htm