The Real Edgar Allan Poe (not the one they taught you in school)

Edgar Allan Poe was somebody so different than who historians have painted him to be. We have a poor image of him seared into our minds. But he is a fascinating man. a brilliant genius.  A beautiful man. Temperate. Gentle. Kind.

This blog comes from the book A Defense of Poe by Dr. Moran. 1885.

The reason for the book:  Poe biographer, critic, fellow poet, and all around jerk (strong language censored) Rufus Griswold publishes a piece in the Harper’s Monthly Magazine hours after Poe’s death slandering him. It simply reads:

Edgar Allan Poe is dead.  Thousands will hear of it, but none will regret it.  He died in an unknown, out-of-the-way hospital in the city of Baltimore, in a fit of delirium tremens.

Au contraire says Dr. Moran, the doctor who cared for Poe from the time he came into the hospital till 16 hours later when he died, say his friends, say neighbors, say passerby, say colleagues, says fiancee, says mother-in-law, say employers.

The author of the book, Dr. Moran litters the pages with testimony from all of these people. They write about Poe’s kindness and generosity, about his temperance, his thoughtfulness, his quietude, his gentle spirit.    How Griswold’s blurb in the magazine and subsequent biography which completely defamed and misrepresented him have become so widely accepted and believed is bizarre when there are so many who have written in refutation.  I believe (though Dr. Moran never alludes to this) that Edgar Allan Poe was murdered by Rufus Griswold, a fellow poet who had a disdain for Poe’s success.  For the sake of brevity, I’m not including these quotes, but there is at least one on almost every page of Dr. Moran’s book.  You should read it.


A brief recap of the life of Poe as told in the story:

-orphaned at 6

-adopted by a wealthy couple

-gets a solid education in Europe

-Is madly in love with a Miss Royster, his childhood sweetheart

-returns home from a stint in the army after a falling out with his dad to find her married. Miss Royster (now Mrs. Shelton) is Poe’s “Annabel Lee.”  Writing the poem “Annabel Lee” before Mrs. Shelton is dead would maybe garner the interpretation that she is figuratively “dead,” because she is now off limits. But, oh how he loves her.

-consumes himself in writing and in his work. edits newspapers. works himself up to the top. writes columns. wins literary contests.

-marries his cousin, Virginia.  Virginia is “Lenore.”

-Virginia dies, sending the poet into a depression that he never quite recovers from

-goes back to his hometown to find that Mrs. Shelton is a recent widow.  Love is rekindled.  They become engaged.

-dies ten days before they are to be married.


Exactly how Edgar dies is not clear, but Dr. Moran gives us a clear picture of what happened to him in the hours leading up to his death relying on eyewitnesses and his state upon entering the hospital.

Poe leaves his fiancee to head up North for business and is in the process of switching boats when he is dragged to an alley, beaten, stripped of his clothing (he was dressed very nicely) and re-clothed with beggar’s clothing. It is at this point that Moran assumes he is drugged.  Accounts from the ship’s captain note that he saw two suspicious men sitting behind Poe who followed him off the ship.  The captain is fairly certain these men were responsible.  Poe is thrown out on the dock and is at this point in and out of consciousness.  Somebody recognizes who he is despite his condition and has him immediately rushed to the hospital.  The doctor, not really knowing anything about Poe, puts him in the wing with the drunkards.  However, upon further investigation realizes Poe is not drunk at all; he’s been drugged.  He has no smell of alcohol on his breath. He is not in a drunken stupor, and when the doctor pours him some alcohol to ease the hurt, Poe adamantly refuses any liquor.  The doctor tragically recounts his dying requests and pens his wishes.

A random snippet:

His dying words, though not the last he uttered, were: “O, God! is there no ransom for the deathless spirit?”

To which Dr. Moran replies that there is rest in Christ, the Maker who gave his Son as a ransom for all (Amen).


After reading Dr. Moran’s rebuttal of Griswold’s slanderous writings, words I will now use to describe Edgar Allan Poe are:

gentle. kind. compassionate. true. honest. virtuous. respectable.

Let this memory live on. The true memory.

May he be slandered nevermore.


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