Edgar Allan Poe - Raven, Poems & Quotes - Biography

Poe, who died this month (Oct 7) .  Can you see the smile?

1. Poe’s Gambling Problem. Of these three writers, which one did not constantly beg for money from their parents well into middle-age?  Edgar Poe, T.S. Eliot, or Ezra Pound?

Answer: Poe.   Poe was a mere boy when he was short of money, sent at 17 to the University of Virginia without enough funds for room and board. (Poe’s guardian John Allan was unfaithful to his wife and the boy poet took her side—this was the source of the friction between Poe and Allan.) Poe supposedly gambled and drank away Allan’s money.  No. In the early days of Thomas Jefferson’s institution, every student gambled and drank (and routinely fired pistols).  Poe excelled academically, lucky to survive the school’s violence and his shortage of basic funds, thanks to a sulky, half-mad guardian. Poe headed north, without a degree, without a penny, and succeeded in the army—at 18.  By 20, he published poems that would make him famous, by 21 he had entered West Point, and had nothing more to do with Allan, or the estate in which he was raised.

2.  The Macabre Myth  Was Poe macabre?

Answer: Poe never wrote of vampires, zombies, werewolves and none of his works can be classified as scary.  Just as Shakespeare wrote comedies, histories, and tragedies, as well as songs and poems, Poe, America’s Shakespeare, wrote in every style under the sun—even as he invented whole genres of literature.  To narrowly ascribe “the macabre” as the essence of Poe is the height of ignorance.

3. The Narrow View of Poetry Myth  Did Poe think all poems should resemble his “Raven?”

No. Poe’s famous poem, “The Raven,” and his essay, “The Philosophy of Composition” were scientific achievements, and because they were scientific achievements, we find in them specific results.  With Poe, the experiment, in which he proceeded to create a popular poem within material, laboratory conditions, reflected a series of concretized suppositions—he did not simply proclaim a generality, which is always safer to believe in, especially when the vagueness produces the illusion of freedom.  Modernist pronouncements, such as “make it new,” or “no ideas but in things,” or “poems must be difficult,” are essentially poetic behaviors  one ought to follow—the advice of a priesthood seeking to artificially create for itself a certain authority, unlike the more scientific outlook grounded in material conditions we get from Poe: “a long poem does not exist,” for instance.

4. The Humorless, Friendless, and Tragic Life Myth.  Was Poe hopelessly morbid and oppressed?

Poe was a happy man. He reveled in his literary abilities. “As the strong man exults in his physical ability, delighting in such exercises as call his muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral activity which disentangles.” (The Murders in the Rue Morgue)  One has to remember that Poe did not revel in the gruesome, like a Stephen King, but in the mind that triumphs over the gruesome.  Poe presents murders to be solved, never as mere causes of mayhem.  Poe never indulged in the gruesome for its own sake. Poe’s stories sometimes travel a dark path, but always with fortitude and hope, and even a sunny disposition:

“They were fearfully—they were inconceivably hideous; but out of Evil proceeded Good; for the very excess wrought in my spirit an inevitable revulsion.  My soul acquired tone—acquired temper. I went abroad. I took vigorous exercise. I breathed the free air of heaven. I thought upon other subjects than death. I discarded my medical books. “Buchan” I burned.  I read no “Night Thoughts”—no fustian about church yards—no bugaboo tales—such as this. (The Premature Burial)

His tale, Some Words With A Mummy, is a comedy. Poe escaped many of the agonies of his contemporaries, such as James Russell Lowell, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley, and Abraham Lincoln, having never lost a child—because Poe had none. By that measure alone, Poe was happier than most of his fellow men. Longfellow lost his wife in circumstances at least as tragic as Poe’s. Poe was not a back-slapping, uproarious man, but it is wrong to assume he had a predisposition to misery. He was as happy as it is possible for any sensitive genius to be, no more, no less.  Poe’s handwriting reveals the steady, the neat, and the clear, with a certain exquisite delicacy in the flourishes; there is no sign of rashness, impulse, or pain.  Poe had plenty of friends, but they aren’t interesting to biographers, because they were not tongue-waggers, and only had nice things to say about Poe. And, lastly, I swear, when I study Poe’s famous photographic portraits, I can detect the faintest trace of a smile.

5. The Inevitable Death Myth   What are the real facts of Poe’s death?

We don’t know the real facts of Poe’s death itself, but we do know many facts surrounding Poe’s death, and these plainly indicate murder.  The fact that we don’t know the facts of Poe’s death is a fact in Poe’s death. The unkindness of Griswold’s obituary in Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune is often cited, but what is never remarked upon is the Tribune’s failure, and the failure of any newspaper at the time, to report the facts of Poe’s death.  Who were the men that found Poe, and where did they take him, and why?  What was his condition when found?  Where is the autopsy? Horace Greeley’s Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, and other papers had a duty and an obligation to ask these questions.  None did. The contemporary reportage, if it can be called that, amounted to ‘that poor miserable fellow—his name was Poe—is dead. It’s a pity.’  The reportage since has taken its cue from that initial injustice. The whole history of Poe’s death has been merely the repetition of hearsay, without any investigation whatsoever—when any investigation ought to begin with whatever surrounding evidence is at hand—such as, why was the death completely covered up in the first place?  The fact is, “friends” did not find Poe half-dead in Baltimore, and a “friend” did not circulate the silly rumor, known as the ‘cooping’ theory.  This is where any investigation must start—with the behavior of the press itself, and the behavior of Poe’s so-called “friends,” including his cousin, Neilson Poe, and Snodgrass, the Baltimore Sun employee, and a former intimate correspondent of Poe’s.  Oh, by the way, the rabies theory was long ago discredited.  There’s also no evidence that Poe was declining mentally or physically in the last year of his life, when he turned forty, and was still writing in a lively manner, having just published Eureka, his remarkable scientific essay.

6. The Drunkard/Druggy Myth  Was Poe A Drug Fiend?

Once and for all, no.  This myth helped Poe become famous, but the ‘evidence’ comes to us from a tiny portion of Poe’s letters, and first, we must remember that Poe’s slanderer, Rufus Griswold (who actually fits in his actual person the persona created for Poe) somehow became Poe’s sole literary executor—and was caught altering and forging Poe’s papers.  The biographical question can clearly be seen as Poe’s friends saying he was sober on one hand, and his enemies, including recent biographers like Kenneth Silverman, saying he was not.  Looking at the evidence of Poe’s handwriting, and the material fact of his constant literary output, and the chaste, heroic, ratiocinative, clever nature of his writings in general, the side one comes down on says more, probably, about the reader, than Poe himself.

7.  The Southern Poe Myth   Did Poe aspire to Southern gentry?

No.  John Allan raised Poe as Southern gentry, and to the swaggering, adulterous John Allan’s chagrin, the ungrateful Poe decided to become a poet instead. Poe spent most of his highly successful working life in the North.  Poe was not part of the rancor which grew between North and South and eventually almost destroyed the United States in the 1861-1865 war.  Poe sought a healthy balance between the two regions—New York and Boston cliques dominated the scene and Poe’s sense of fairness was acute.  In Poe’s voluminous writings, we find no defense of slavery, or the usual racial myths which dominated the discourse of his day.  Poe was universal, not regional, in his approach, and this, in fact, was at the heart of his writing, and his personal life.  He was probably the least fanatical, and least provincial person, who ever lived.

8. The Nasty Critic Myth  Was Poe a harsh critic?

Poe does rough up an author occasionally.  He did a number on Emerson’s friend, the poet William Ellery Channing—nephew to the famous Unitarian minister and friend to T.S. Eliot’s grandfather—a review that led directly to Emerson’s “jingle man” remark in conversation with a young William Dean Howells, years after Poe’s death.  Poe’s review of Channing’s is not only highly correct, but highly funny, and we forgive Poe as we read it today in direct ratio to how he was not forgiven by those affected by the harsh review in Poe’s day.  But Poe always said good things—even in the Channing review he quotes what he likes—when he could, and wrote many a favorable review of good writers, like Elizabeth Barrett and Nathaniel Hawthorne; it is true he always pointed out what he thought were flaws—that was his nature; he decried ‘the puff’ and never wrote one himself.  He was certainly no back-scratcher or blurbist, and this ought to be seen, especially, in our day, as highly meritorious.  Finally, Time has shown his judgments to be astute—in whatever work he may have happened to be reviewing.

9. The Whitman Myth  Is Whitman really more relevant than Poe?

This idea was established by Harvard professor F.O. Matthiessen in the 1940s.  It’s rubbish.

10. The Harold Bloom Myth  Why were 20th century critics so unkind to Poe?

The answer lies with the transatlantic Modernist movement, led by Ford Madox Ford, Eliot, Pound, and their New Critic allies like Ransom and Tate, who founded the Writing Program era in America.  The Modernists’ anti-Romantic animus targeted Poe, but Poe was an even greater enemy, since he was a Writing Program to himself, and the Writing Program era was all about selling the freedom to be a writer to anyone willing to enroll and participate in mutual puffing.  Poe was poison to those who reveled in the Pound era and the Writing Program era—and he still is.  As for Harold Bloom, I assume Bloom resents Poe for being too scientific for Bloom’s fustian taste.


  1. Undine said,

    October 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Very nice, thanks. Particularly liked #2, and #4. I don’t know why it’s so difficult for people to realize Poe had a sense of humor.

    • thomasbrady said,

      October 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks, Undine.

      Yea, ‘Humorless Poe’ may be the dumbest myth of all.


      • Ashu अशु said,

        February 12, 2015 at 4:20 am

        Don’t try to combat it with another dumb myth, the “scaryless Poe”. Of course there’s scary stuff in Poe, even if there aren’t any werewolves, zombies (not exactly, anyway), and vampires. In fact, much or most of Poe can be reasonably classified as terrifying, in one way or another.

  2. Anonymous said,

    September 29, 2012 at 2:39 am

    please make it more interesting thank you XD

  3. Anonymous said,

    September 29, 2012 at 2:41 am

    add more……..how do you say it as in…… more exciting, awesome, spooky, interesting stuff in it will you thank you XD

  4. thomasbrady said,

    September 29, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Thank you, XD. You are right. It needs to be more “awesome and spooky.”


  5. September 10, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    […] be more familiar with his most popular work.  I’m not the only one who is captivated by the mythology of Poe and if you’re equally interested, I’d recommend adding Lynn Cullen’s novel to your reading […]

    • thomasbrady said,

      September 10, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      Thanks for linking this Scarriet post to your review!

      By the way, the novel, Poe and Fanny by John May covers the same ground.

      Poe is somewhat like Shakespeare—very little is known of Poe’s intimate life. To read “The Sonnets” as biography doesn’t work. The same is true with Poe’s writings, even his letters. It takes a great detective to know Poe at all.

  6. Frank Avon said,

    November 1, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    I’m new to your site, still finding my way around. (I am hard-wired to need a Rand-McNally Road Atlas, so I’m trying to draw my own. I think I have a rough idea of where Main Street is, and I’ve found a dozen or so back alleys and side streets, but I’m still seeking the four-directional system.)

    Your comments on W.C. Williams first attracted me (and Edgar Lee Masters and Edna St. Vincent Millay), but you really won my alliance with statements about the Academic Movement such as this one: “The Modernists’ anti-Romantic animus targeted Poe, but Poe was an even greater enemy, since he was a Writing Program to himself, and the Writing Program era was all about selling the freedom to be a writer to anyone willing to enroll and participate in mutual puffing. ” What I call the Academic Movement maintains itself across the decades in several inter-connected ways: (1) AM poets write for each other, NOT the Common Reader. (2) AM poets accept each other’s poems in the numerous “reviews” they edit. Not to mention the Best American Poetry series. (3) AM poets serve as judges (usually one at a time, never a panel of three – and never a Common Reader) for their numerous awards. (4) AM poets hire each other to “teach” in their Writing Workshops, patterned after Iowa’s. (5) AM poets have persuaded all colleges and universities that a reputable college or university MUST have a Writing Workshop to produce more AM poets. (6) AM poets have determined that US Poets Laureate must be AM poets. (7) Above all, AM poetry must be oblique, obscure, and “self-contained,” requiring AM critics to tell the Common Reader how to read it, providing employment to numerous English professors, associate profs, assistant profs, PhD students, and TAs. So forget about Wm. Wordsworth, John Keats, Robert Browning, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, even the Whitman/Ginsberg lineage, and of course EA Poe,

    I’m playing around now with a series called: “Free To Be: American Poets and American People.” Some American poets free themselves to write for their readers (e.g., the Fireside Poets); some free themselves to require their readers to “rise to their level” – a kind of elitism; some; some free themselves to be themselves (e.g., Whitman, the Confessionals, Ginsberg). I would appreciate anyone’s suggestions.

  7. Frank Avon said,

    November 1, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Someone just asked me what I mean by Common Reader. Perhaps the briefest explanation is by Virginia Woolf herself, whose essays on literature she called ‘The Common Reader’: “He is guided by an instinct to create for himself out of whatever odds or ends he can come by, some kind of whole–a portrait of a man, a sketch of an age, a theory of the art of writing.” According to Doctor Samuel Johnson, who may have originated the term, this common reader rises above “all the refinements of subtlety and the dogmatism of learning.” The common reader is neither a professional critic nor scholar, but reads for his own personal satisfaction and self-regeneration.

    [By the way, how do I edit my own comments on this site – other than providing an addendum like this? ]

  8. thomasbrady said,

    November 1, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks, Frank. I hear your AM comments loud and clear. Unfortunately, you can’t self-edit. I’m happy to help. Tom

  9. Anonymous said,

    November 5, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    hello u am a student and i wanted to know where you got these sources?

    • thomasbrady said,

      November 5, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      Dear Student,

      The sources I use are simply everything available: Poe’s works, biographies, the Letters, the handwriting, the more you read to get a bigger picture, the better. “Midnight Dreary” (2000) by John Walsh is a good investigation of Poe’s murder, even though I don’t agree with the conclusion…but that’s not the point…take the facts available and draw your own conclusions.Some facts are hidden so we’ll never know the whole story. James A. Harrison’s 1901 biography is actually pretty good. eapoe.org is a great site.


  10. Anonymous said,

    November 28, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    nice story

  11. Jeff Jerome said,

    December 3, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    I don’t know how I missed this! I think it’s great! However, people who believe all the myths about Poe will continue to believe in them. I’m going to post this on my Poe Facebook page for all to see. Thank you for a good article!! Jeff Jerome, Curator Emeritus, formerly with the Poe House in Baltimore.

  12. Alfred "Ed Moch" Cota said,

    December 4, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Being raised in The Fordham Section of The Bronx, I was intrigued by the myth, but the myth I came to embrace was the real neighborhood stories of Poe and His Family. My intuition felt that here was far much more to and in spite the opinions, I would discover that most of what I believed was much more accurate.
    This conclusion would culminate over the years, when I would discover a personal family secret between the pages and in my looking around my Fordham neighborhood, that was hiding in plain site… Me!
    To my surprise, I would find that I was A Cousin to both The Clemm and Poe Families. No big deal, except that my defending Cousin Edgar and The Family of Fordham is one that was, is, and will be a part of me.
    So… what was written here come pretty close to what I knew, in spite the nay sayers that still try to whitewash Cousin Edgar into a macabre comic book image, when in fact, he was a adept genius of body mind and soul.
    To this day… I question the words of Dr. John Moran… if Cousin Edgar really died in Balimore or was it made to look that way? A possible family secret that only a few can share.

    Rev./Dr. A. Edward Moch (aka: Alfred Cota)
    Actor-Director/Writer-Historian, Etc.

    • Diane Roberts Powell said,

      February 11, 2015 at 1:32 am

      The Fordham area of the Bronx–the most dangerous and disgusting place I have ever been! I had a child walk up to me, in broad daylight, and threaten to cut my throat.

      • Diane Roberts Powell said,

        February 11, 2015 at 1:37 am

        That was terribly rude of me to say that. But it’s absolutely true and it scared the hell out of me.

    • phil said,

      February 12, 2015 at 3:25 am

      “The Bells” is said to have been written about Keating tower on Fordham’s campus

  13. thomasbrady said,

    December 4, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    The sneering falsehoods raining down from every quarter in the United States, blotting out Poe’s legacy, is perhaps the most shameful thing in the universe. Let the truth be shouted from the rooftops.

    Thank you, Jeff Jerome. You’ve caused an avalanche of visits to our Scarriet piece.

    Yes, “macabre comic book image.” Exactly. I don’t trust Dr. Moran any more than I trust Neilson Poe (cousin) or Snodgrass. Poe confessed to Snodgrass in a letter that he reviled Neilson. Poe and Snodgrass had a rather lively correspondence, which then abruptly ended. How strange, years later now, that Poe is found, many miles out of the way from his destination and his journey, a few blocks from the house of Snodgrass (who was caught red-handed doctoring the Walker note to have it look like Poe was “intoxicated”)…and then Neilson quickly shows up…and then: mysterious coverup and mysterious death. And yet every report says Poe was found by “friends” as he was dying in Baltimore.

    • Ashu अशु said,

      February 12, 2015 at 4:38 am

      Of course “the most shameful thing in the universe” is child prostitution. No, wait, it’s colonialism. Or racism. Or the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. Or Arundhati Roy getting the Booker Prize.

  14. mcmc said,

    February 11, 2015 at 1:03 am

    Your comments about Dr. Snodgrass and Neilson Poe are intriguing. Where can their “rather lively correspondence” be referenced?

    • thomasbrady said,

      February 11, 2015 at 4:13 am


      Get Poe’s letters. I have a bound copy of them somewhere…

      What I find intriguing are these simple facts:
      1. Poe and Snodgrass of the Baltimore Sun correspond and Poe tells S. that he strongly dislikes Neilson Poe, Poe’s cousin.
      2. When Poe is found near death, and miles from his destination, in the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, it is a short distance from Snodgrass’s residence, and who also shows up, quickly thereafter? Neilson Poe.
      3. Poe dies, the Baltimore Sun covers up the circumstances, none of Poe’s friends are notified while he is dying, and he’s buried quickly by Snodgrass and Neilson.

      This is practically a smoking gun.

      Why none of Poe’s biographers have been all over this is one more added mystery. I think because biographers have simply assumed Snodgrass was a “friend,” they haven’t followed the story of Poe’s death out to its logical conclusion.

  15. Jeff Jerome said,

    February 11, 2015 at 5:01 am

    You are most welcome Thomas.

  16. thomasbrady said,

    February 11, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Good to see you, Jeff.

    And that strange note to Snodgrass, written by that fellow Walker, an aasociate of Snodgrass, some lowly typesetter (a hired goon?) who also happened to work for the Sun and who initially “found” Poe in distress. That note probably existed only so it could appear that Poe was asking for Snodgrass to help him.

  17. Regina said,

    February 11, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Congratulations, Scarriet, for this wonderful, accurate redress of Poe’s personality!

  18. February 11, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    What luck to happened upon this Poe’s Poetry Post. In college, I had a quarterly magazine on poets, but could never leave out Poet for a moment. I always discovered more, like in this article. And given his permission to rewrite them in a satirical fashion. I have much to thank Edgar Allen Poe for, I love his playing with words.

  19. phil said,

    February 12, 2015 at 3:51 am

    This is great. I’m glad to have come across it. I’ve seen many accounts of his passing in museums and traveling galleries and few have been anywhere near clear. Being from Boston, having attended Fordham and having a sister in Richmond (across the street from the Poe Museum) I feel I have crossed paths with my favorite writer many moons later and I love it!

  20. thomasbrady said,

    February 12, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Here is Scarriet’s more detailed look at Poe, Snodgrass, Neilson, and Herring, the uncle…


  21. December 21, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    FINALLY!!! The True Reason For The Death Of Edgar Allan Poe. The Mystery Of “Reynolds” Revealed.

    Previously, we proposed that Poe based his famous short story, “The Cask of Amontillado” on the infamous 1804 duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Poe knew that his demise was attributable to his unflattering portrayal of Hamilton as the “Fortunato” character in his revenge tale. Now, the true reason for Poe’s death is unveiled.

    As Poe lay near death in a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, he left with his dying breaths, a clue for all posterity, as to the reason for his murder. In his final extremity, Poe cried out, repeatedly, the name, “Reynolds.” Poe experts have theorized for more than a century and a half about the identity of Reynolds. Was he a witness? Was he the person responsible for Poe’s condition? Was he Poe’s murderer?

    Alexander Hamilton would have known very well the name, “Reynolds.” Hamilton’s political aspirations were destroyed by his illicit affair with one, Maria Reynolds! Aware of this fact, Poe used the name “Reynolds” to leave for all time, this Hamiltonian clue to the reason for his death!

    More @ http://www.erbyonpoe.com.

    Copyright © 2015, Cranston Erby. All rights reserved.

  22. thomasbrady said,

    December 21, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    Thank you, Cranston.

    The Cask of Amontillado: Burr vs. Hamilton. I would not suspect this. Evidence?

    From what I know of Poe politically, it is my belief Poe would have been on the side of Hamilton, not Burr.

    I’m not sure why he would write Hamilton as Fortunato, unless he was telling a tale of warning for his friends and allies. So in that case it would make sense.

    Poe’s enemies were certainly trying to bury Poe!

    • February 22, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      Hi, Thomas,

      The evidence you seek comes by way of such striking similarities (too numerous to list, here) between Poe’s Cask of Amontillado and the Burr – Hamilton duel that, it was immediately apparent to me, Poe based his revenge tale on this historical fact. Then, of course, there is the name, “Reynolds” connecting Poe and Hamilton.

      Thomas, you may view my work on Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” @
      http://www.erbyonpoe.com (downloads are temporarily free). I am certain you will become convinced, as am I.

      As they say, Thomas; “Once you rule out all other possibilities, what you are left with is the truth!” (Need more similarity? see: “The Poe Shadow Secret Chapters Matthew Pearl Series 3: para. 1 @ wwwmatthewpearl.com).

      • thomasbrady said,

        February 22, 2016 at 10:18 pm

        Thanks, Cranston!

        I have downloaded and will peruse!


  23. mcmc said,

    February 26, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Interesting theory on the Burr-Hamilton duel.

    You might have a look also at the literary sources Poe would have known when writing his tale, as well as his running feuds with contemporaries, Thomas Dunn English chief among them in this context.

    • thomasbrady said,

      February 26, 2016 at 8:31 pm

      Thanks mcmc.

      Poe sued English and won. Yet biographers, like Kenneth Silverman (Mournful, Never-Ending Remembrance 1991) will skip the actual story and simply use libel and slander produced by people like English against Poe as if it were fact. It’s “Ludwig” (Griswold) all over again. Poe knew Winfield Scott. I don’t know about Hamilton and Burr, but “Cask of Amontillado” is clearly about the Masons (the “spade” reference) which was big news in Poe’s day. I think Poe was like a double double agent, for the U.S. and against the British.

  24. February 29, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Hi Thomas and meme,

    Interesting Poe conversation. I’d like to make it a bit more so. Two things:

    First, consider Poe’s use of the number 11 for the number of tiers needed to entomb “Fortunato” (“I had finished a portion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone…”( The Cask of Amontillado). Why 11?

    Now, consider the following:

    Alexander Hamilton, born January 11, 1755 (1757 according to Hamilton); orphaned at age 11 (if one believes Hamilton); first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury on September 11, 1789; mortally wounded by Aaron Burr July 11, 1804. Think Poe would have overlooked something like that? (if so, you haven’t read, Poe: “The Philosophy of Composition”).

    Second, and finally, Poe’s final sentences in “Cask,” “For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!” (May he rest in peace). Hamilton died in 1804. Poe wrote his famous short story in 1846. That’s 42 years difference. Close enough to half of a century for me. How about you guys?

  25. February 29, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    Sorry, mcmc, at first blush it appears to be meme.

  26. thomasbrady said,

    March 1, 2016 at 1:08 pm


    Philosophy of Composition says pick an “effect,” not facts from life. Eleven is a fact. Granted, Poe could have been having fun, sending a secret message to readers ‘in the know.’ I’m not denying your thesis, I’m just saying this Dupin needs a little more. Poe was a patriot. I don’t think he would have liked Burr. Connection between Burr/Hamilton and the Masons. Is there anything?

  27. March 1, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Yes, Thomas, there is. You can view my take on the Freemason angle under my posts on my LinkedIn profile @ Cranston Erby @ http://www.erbyonpoe.com. Leave no stone unturned!

    As for your observations on Poe’s political sympathies, Edgar A. was frigid, and starving when he published “Cask.” Under such circumstances, it becomes a matter of, “give the people what they want!”

    By the by, Aaron Burr represented Maria Reynolds in her divorce proceedings!

  28. March 1, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    Thomas, an aside; though Poe, as you stated, expressed a preference for “effect” over facts, it must not therefore be assumed that he was unaware of what the intended audience was buying, at the time. Poe’s acknowledgement of this awareness is found at Para. 3 of “The Philosophy of Composition.” Once again, “give the people what they want!”

  29. thomasbrady said,

    March 1, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    My feeling is that Poe would not have libeled Hamilton, and would not have been killed for libeling Hamilton.

    Poe may have been sending a warning to his friends, associates and allies: don’t be like Fortunato! This is what will happen to you! Don’t be a fool like Hamilton!

    Again, Poe would have hated Burr, for Poe is on the record of calling out the British and their treachery in public. My belief is that Poe is on the side of Hamilton, not Burr. If Reynolds was an operation to bring down Hamilton, Poe would have been the victim of the same sorts of schemes, since Poe was an American patriot and would have been despised by those British forces eager to retake their colony. The evidence of ‘hits’ and libel/slander against Poe, his mysterious death, which was most likely murder, puts him in the same cross hairs as Hamilton.

    So this would be very exciting if, for the first time, there’s some plausible explanation for Poe crying out “Reynolds!” If Reynolds was part of the operation to destroy Hamilton, perhaps there’s some sort of connection to the operation which killed Poe. This is still a stretch, but worth a look.

  30. mcmc said,

    March 2, 2016 at 6:54 am

    The Reynolds question is problematic, given the source. It originated with Dr. Moran in 1849, but he dropped any mention of Reynolds in the “official” accounts he gave of Poe’s death in the 1870s and 1880s.
    It’s quite possible, as W.T. Bandy suggested, that the Reynolds story is a simply a “myth” and a false trail that has led Poe researchers astray. An enticing trail, but false nonetheless. I wouldn’t build a theory around it. You have to presuppose that Moran is credible, and that’s a far leap in itself.

  31. thomasbrady said,

    March 2, 2016 at 2:02 pm


    Very correct. Moran is NOT reliable, a loony, really, of the hospital (really a prison) where Poe was “stored” by his abductors/murderers Neilson and Snodgrass and Herring.

    And the word could have been something else, and misheard as “Reynolds.”

  32. March 2, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    Calling Poe’s deathbed “Reynolds” references a “myth” years after the name was reportedly uttered, repeatedly, according to reports contemporaneous to Poe’s death does not make the ‘myth’ theory a more believable representation of the event. In fact, Brady’s myth theory does not stand in the face of evidence that investigations were undertaken immediately after Poe’s death to discover the identity of Poe’s “Reynolds.” Most Poe experts/scholars accept as fact that, Poe did indeed cry out, repeatedly, the name “Reynolds” for hours, prior to his death!

    It is understandable that pundits, experts, and scholars will hold, tenaciously, to their pet theories about the basis for Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado,” and, the mystery of his death. However, to do so in the face of irrefutable, factual evidence is fallacy and denial.

    More food for thought: Poe was found, dressed in “motley” (as was “Fortunato”) except for an expensive sword cane he appropriated from a friend (Poe’s dress and the cane effectively rules out the drunk, cooping, and rabies theories). This manner of dress suggests that Poe’s murderers were familiar with Poe’s” “Cask” and the methodology for taking revenge contained at Para. 1, therein. His killers wanted Poe to know, with specificity, the reason for his murder. Yes, Poe knew the reason for his death, and he left a clue, for all time, as to that reason! The factual evidence in my works cannot be refuted. I challenge ANYONE to do so (See: http://www.erbyonpoe.com)!

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 2, 2016 at 11:36 pm


      Let’s grant he cried out, “Reynolds.” That’s fine.

      But too many times in Poe studies, people take at face value a fact and don’t look deeper into the source. For instance, Walsh’s great book “Once Upon A Midnight Dreary,” which I don’t entirely agree with, traced the cooping theory to a person—White, So. Lit Messenger editor, who did not like Poe. Snodgrass and Neilson who found Poe are always referred to as Poe’s “friends.” But no, we shouldn’t assume this! Always look deeper. Find out the story behind the story.

      One person, Moran, heard “Reynolds,” correct? That’s Moran’s story, right?

      So saying, “most Poe experts/scholars accepts as fact…”

      Let’s stop right there.

      Was it only Moran who heard it, or not? And if so, “experts” have nothing to do with it.

      I’m not denying your thesis. But we need to proceed with care.

  33. March 3, 2016 at 12:23 am

    To refuse to accept Dr. Moran’s evidence that Poe cried out, repeatedly and for hours, the name “Reynolds” before his death is to imply that Moran was somehow complicit in Poe’s murder. Moran would have no reason to create a so-called “Reynolds myth,” absent his own complicity in a Poe murder scheme. At best, this would be a stretch of credulity. How does one mistake the name “Reynolds” heard repeatedly, for hours, with the name “Herring?” Another huge stretch of belief! Such would imply that Baltimore was waiting and awash in conspirators bent upon Poe’s death (I don’t believe this for one second), when Poe was supposedly bound for New York upon leaving Richmond, VA. How far is one willing to proceed with such a possibility? Not very far, hopefully.

    Again, notwithstanding all other theories, I stand behind the most reasoned, irrefutable conclusions to be drawn from my own Poe research and works developed therefrom.

  34. thomasbrady said,

    March 3, 2016 at 2:37 am


    I’ve done some research.

    Poe confessed to Snodgrass in a letter he hated his cousin, Neilson.
    What a coincidence that Poe, way off track, is found near death a couple blocks from Snodgrass’ residence. And then Neilson shows up, and these two men “help” Poe. Herring is an uncle by marriage, who didn’t like Poe. These aren’t random people in Baltimore out to get Poe. Moran is an unreliable witness. But, again, “Reynolds” may have been on Poe’s lips. I’m not ruling it out.

  35. March 3, 2016 at 3:24 am

    Snodgrass, Neilson, and Herring as conspirators to murder Poe; let’s examine the possibility. First, these men would need to know Poe would debark in Baltimore, notwithstanding the fact that Poe was bound for Philadelphia, and New York. Next, the conspirators kidnap Poe upon his landing in Baltimore. Poe is then held by these men for nearly a week during which time they poison him, undress and redress Poe in “motley” clothing. The conspirators then drop off Poe near Snodgrass’ residence, and send their “man” to discover Poe and write the note leading to Moran’s care of Poe. Does that about do it? How does that scenario sound to you? I won’t embarrass anyone with my opinion of this scenario. Suffice it to say, I think it much more likely that Poe’s murderers boarded with him, in Richmond, and seized their opportunity when Poe debarked in Baltimore.

  36. mcmc said,

    March 3, 2016 at 4:29 am

    Cranston, beware of cherished myths.

    Dr. Carter’s sword cane is another one. It’s a stubborn weed in the garden of truth.

    Poe did not have the cane with him in Baltimore. The story made its way into one Poe biography and then infected all the others. Ask yourself how such a fine and expensive item stayed with Poe through his final travels and travails.

    And as far as “Reynolds” goes, there is exactly one souce — the notoriously unreliable Dr. Moran, who came up with the story in 1849 and then never mentioned it again in his various accounts of Poe’s death. How was it that he forgot such a singular fact?

  37. Anonymous said,

    March 3, 2016 at 7:16 am

    Glad to see you’re still a part of the conversation. I agree, the reports about Carter’s cane are disputed, however, how that makes Dr. Moran “notoriously unreliable” is beyond me. Apparently, Moran was reliable enough to match Snodgrass’ description of Poe’s clothing, exactly. Or, do you also hold to the theory of Baltimore conspirators.

    One point of clarification; my work on Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” was written in 2013 (download a free copy @ http://www.erbyonpoe.com). “Reynolds” is a 2015 confirmation of what I already knew.

  38. thomasbrady said,

    March 3, 2016 at 1:41 pm


    You’re mixing facts with your own scenario. The two are not the same. No biographer before me has ever cast any suspicion on Snodgrass and Neilson. How did they know Poe would debark in Baltimore? You tell me. I wasn’t there. Were you? I’m just trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

  39. thomasbrady said,

    March 3, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    See my 1/19/2010 post The Lion and the Little Dog for more info.

    Poe had all sorts of enemies. I don’t rule anything out. Greeley. Emerson. Fuller. The Hamilton one is interesting.

  40. March 3, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    I have yet to compose a scenario for Poe’s death. To date, all I have attempted is a comparison of Poe’s “Cask” to the facts of the historical account of the 1804 Burr – Hamilton affair and duel. The events portrayed in Poe’s story are so strikingly similar that I have no doubt, Poe based his revenge tale on the “Duel” history. Poe’s deathbed cries of “Reynolds” is another similarity I refuse to ignore.

    I am in the process of creating a book/screenplay outline based on my work. As I stated, elsewhere, mine is the most reasoned explanation for Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” and, for the explanation for Poe’s cries of “Reynolds.” In any case, future commentators on Poe will be obliged to include my works for the sake of legitimacy as to the thoroughness of their research on the subject. Yes, my works are destined for prominence in the Poe conversation! I submitted my original work on Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” for peer review, to the world’s preeminent Poe scholars and institutions of higher learning. You may have seen a portion of comment on my work from world renowned Poe scholar Dr. Scott Peeples (expert advisor for the film, “The Raven) on my website @ http://www.erbyonpoe.com. Dr. Peeples also kindly advised me on publication of my work in scholastic Poe journals, however, that would necessitate I give up first North American distribution rights to my work. I made the conscious decision not to do so., thereby preserving all rights.

  41. mcmc said,

    March 3, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Cranston, I applaud your enthusiasm and novel theory, but I’ll be honest: I don’t find it persuasive that Poe based his story on the Hamilton-Burr affair.

    As Thomas noted, Poe had any number of his own feuds to choose from in working out a revenge story. Most immediate would have been the literary attacks on him earlier in 1846 by Hiram Fuller and Thomas Dunn English. Why would Poe have to reach back to 1804 for inspiration, and to what practical end? And is Poe’s plot line really so “strikingly similar” to the duel? Montresor carried out his revenge in secret, and with impunity (setting aside any debt of conscience paid over 50 years.) Burr killed Hamilton in a public way, and public condemnation was swift and severe.

  42. March 3, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    You appear prepared to dismiss, out of hand, my work on Poe. Have you read it? It’s currently available for free download @ http://www.erbyonpoe.com. I don’t possess the requisite insights into Poe’s psyche to make an educated determination as to his choice of Burr – Hamilton as his artistic muse for “The Cask of Amontillado.” I don’t think anyone has that capability. However, the similarities between the two are so striking and numerous that reasonable persons are left with the impression that Poe probably made that specific choice.

    I don’t discourage dissent about my observations on Poe and his tale, to the contrary, I welcome such dissent. However, I am satisfied, to a certainty that the “Duel” was Poe’s background for fashioning the revenge motif for “The Cask of Amontillado.” This is irrefutable! Anyone is welcomed to try. One thing is beyond any doubt, hereafter, no reputable Poe correspondent may ignore my own work on Poe.

  43. mcmc said,

    March 3, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    I read it twice. I didn’t find it persuasive, especially considering the more likely sources arising from Poe’s own literary milieu. That’s not the same thing as being dismissive.

    Couldn’t any duel be shoehorned into your revenge theory? Why Hamilton and Burr? Wouldn’t Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson or countless other duelists fit the same bill?

    What exactly are the striking similarities that make your theory “irrefutable”?

  44. thomasbrady said,

    March 3, 2016 at 9:40 pm


    I, too, applaud your efforts.

    So much of Poe is shrouded in mystery; any effort that moves away from crass libel (drug addict) and towards an understanding of this great writer (our Shakespeare) is welcome.

    “Cask” features a spade (Masons) not a dueling pistol, and burial by ambush.

    Not the same thing as a face-to-face duel.

    It seems to me these are rather different:

    “Sir, you have offended me. I hereby notify you…”

    “Please, my dear friend, if you would, come down to my wine cellar…”

  45. March 4, 2016 at 2:58 am

    Had Poe intended an exact retelling of the historical account of the Burr – Hamilton duel, he could easily reprinted previous accounts. Where lies the art in that? Poe utilized “artistic license” in his retelling of the infamous event from half a century ago (Poe’s time)! The artistry lies in creating something new, yet, the same. It’s called “historical fiction!” Poe was the first to use the duel artistically. Thus his statements in “Cask” “I re – erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them.”

  46. August 25, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Reblogged this on Quaerere Propter Vērum.

    • thomasbrady said,

      August 25, 2017 at 9:57 pm

      Thank you, Joseph!

  47. Ethan Zawadzke said,

    April 25, 2018 at 10:48 pm


    I’m doing a paper for class about “The Cask of Amontillado” and came across this blog. The comments were very interesting and gave me a lot of good leads.

    Since this is really the only discussion I’ve seen on the subject, I figured I’d ask here.

    Is it possible that this short story was written about Poe’s friend and the man who “discovered” him, John Pendleton Kennedy? Kennedy was a judge that awarded Poe first prize in a competition and subsequently introduced him to a newspaper owner who brought him onboard.

    In October 1845, Poe became sole proprietor of “The Broadway Journal” and wrote Kennedy a letter asking for a loan of 50 dollars to finance him for a month to get his new business off the ground. In November, exactly a year before Amontillado was published, Kennedy replied, denying Poe’s request for support. That letter was their last correspondence.

    Considering Kennedy was an influential statesman during that time, we could probably assume that he was a member of the Freemasons, as were many of the men Poe associated with and worked with.

    Now, my question is, could Amontillado have been written about Poe’s animosity for Mr. Kennedy after having been slighted for the last time?

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 26, 2018 at 3:58 pm

      Hello Ethan,

      Difficult to link John Pendleton Kennedy to the Freemasons and therefore difficult to link Kennedy to Poe’s tale, I’m afraid. More research needed. John Kennedy was almost Lincoln’s running mate, an influential statesman who helped raise money in Congress for Morse’s telegraph—Kennedy exhibited the kind of politics and policies which are similar to Poe’s: scientific, far-seeing, common sense, but not overly radical. Kennedy was a man of letters, as well, and quietly published fiction—the rivalry between Poe the genius and other gentlemen who fancied themselves writers could be intense; I don’t know if Kennedy spurned Poe in this instance on that account, or not.

    • thomasbrady said,

      October 9, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you! It is with great care we nourish the memory of Poe which is true.

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