I’m currently working on a novel that features the late and great Edgar Allan Poe. My novel is the narrative of a fictional character named, Louisa Bligh. She and her slaves are the fictional neighbors of Edgar Allan Poe. My story follows Louisa throughout her life, dealing with her mentally ill and oft cruel father, a growing emotional distance between herself and the slave that raised her (June) and an unrequited love affair with her neighbor, Edgar Allan Poe.
Louisa grows up neighbors with the Allan family and her journey begins, much where Poe’s does. The story follows the same timeline that Edgar Allan Poe’s life follows. Moments pertaining to Poe are well researched and they help to guide Louisa’s story along. It’s a blend of non-fiction and fiction. It’s a love story, but without conventions. I love writing it, especially because it means I get to spend time with one of my childhood heroes, Edgar Allan Poe.
Edgar Allan Poe is a strange cat, to say the very least. In biographies written just after his time, he was painted as a very creepy, dark man. Rufus Griswold wrote that Poe preferred the company of dense fogs over actual people. Many would expect this as his writing is often dark and perplexing; however, it wasn’t actually the case. Rufus Griswold was a writer himself and often jealous of Poe’s success. His greatest irony is that he’s most famous for writing a scathing biography on Edgar Allan Poe and not for any of his own work. I’m incorporating a lot of this into my novel, but for this post I wanted to share some little known facts about the amazing Poe. These are things I’ve used to create his character for my novel and also that I thought any Poe enthusiast would find entertaining.
- Poe hardly, if ever, signed the name Edgar Allan Poe. Typically he used Edgar A. Poe or E. A. Poe. Edgar Allan Poe was attributed to him via Rufus Griswold. Rufus Griswold did more for Poe’s postmortem career, than he ever did for his own career. It’s funny because he hated him so.
- Poe was a fierce gambler and drinking during his time at the University of Virginia, and teachers even stated he showed up drunk for classes and examinations. Yet, he had the highest grades in the entire school. What can you do drunk?
- Edgar Allan Poe wrote for a number of literary publications and his most famous work of the time were scathing reviews he wrote on other fiction writers. Most prominently he wrote about Rufus Griswold, which is likely what incited his hatred toward Poe.
- Edgar’s first publishing was the small book of poetry, “Tamerlane and Other Poems.” You can read it for free here: http://www.eapoe.org/works/editions/taopc.htm. There is much debate over titles of these poems. They make an early appearance in my novel. Poe published these poems in 1827.
- Edgar Allan Poe’s real parents were travelling actors and like Poe and his own wife, they met a tragic and early end. Poe was around three years old when he was taken in by the Allan family, although they never officially adopted him. It’s widely known that Poe loved his foster mother, but never got along with Mr. Allan.
- Poe is considered the father of the Detective Story. Some have even suggested that Sherlock Holmes is based on Poe’s own, C. Auguste Dupin. This is why the Mystery Writers of America have named their awards for excellence in the genre, “Edgars.”
- Poe was buried in an unmarked grave, which was strange enough considering that he had a great many friends and supporters. When many had taken up that a stone was needed, that stone was destroyed in a train accident. Some believe Poe haunts his own grave.
- Beginning in 1949, a shrouded figure has left a bottle of cognac and roses on Poe’s grave. This mystery figure has never come forward. Sadly, the roses and cognac stopped in 2010 and we’ve yet to see a repeat. For 60 years, every single year, this gift was left on his grave, on Poe’s own birthday.
- Some have suggested that Poe was paid as little as $9.00 for The Raven, even despite it being wildly popular upon release. Other sources suggest the actual amount was somewhere between $15 and $30. If he’d published The Raven in 2004, he would have been paid roughly $375 for it.
- Poe was well versed in cryptography. He had published a notice in a paper asking for submission of ciphers, which he then worked to solve. Although he wasn’t the best at it, he was a great influence on cryptography. William Friedman, a famed cryptographer, was most influenced by Poe, above all. See any of this in Poe’s own writing?