Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Poetic Principle

Edgar Allan Poe The Poetic Principle"The Poetic Principle" was Poe's last major prose work. It was a lecture he delivered several times in 1848 and 1849, although it was not published until after his death. While ostensibly merely an analysis on his pet theories about verse, it is also, like "Eureka," and "The Domain of Arnheim," an exploration of his most deeply-held personal philosophies.

He began with his famous claim that "a long poem does not exist." While verses should not be so brief that they "degenerate into mere epigrammatism," a poem "deserves its title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul...But all excitements are, through a psychal necessity, transient...After the lapse of half an hour, at the very utmost, it flags--fails--a revulsion ensues--and then the poem is, in effect, and in fact, no longer such."

Anyone who had to read "The Faerie Queene" in school can't disagree.

His next dictum was that the sole effect of a poem should be to "elevate the soul," that "the value of the poem is in the ratio of this elevating excitement." Again, he made the point that a long poem would necessarily be a failure because "that degree of excitement which would entitle a poem to be so called at all, cannot be sustained throughout a composition of any great length."

Thirdly, he called for poetry to have unity, a "totality of effect or impression." In other words, one part of a poem should not clash in style or mood with another. This unity, Poe believed, was impossible with lengthy poems.

Most importantly, he said, the poet had to discard what he called "the heresy of the didactic." "It has been assumed, tacitly and avowedly, directly and indirectly, that the ultimate object of all Poetry is Truth. Every poem, it is said, should inculcate a moral; and by this moral is the poetical merit of the work to be adjudged...We have taken it into our heads that to write a poem simply for the poem's sake, and to acknowledge such to have been our design, would be to confess ourselves radically wanting in the true poetic dignity and force."

Poe was having none of that. He stated that the enforcement of the True required severity, simplicity, preciseness, coolness--in other words, the exact opposite of the poetic spirit. The aim of all genuine poetry was not Truth, but Beauty; to invoke an instinctive response that awakens the reader to a sense of his or her own divinity--an "elevation of the soul." His description of this goal is impossible to paraphrase:

"An immortal instinct, deep within the spirit of man, is thus, plainly, a sense of the Beautiful. This it is which administers to his delight in the manifold forms, and sounds, and odors, and sentiments amid which he exists. And just as the lily is repeated in the lake, or the eyes of Amaryllis in the mirror, so is the mere oral or written repetition of these forms, and sounds, and colors, and odors, or sentiments, a duplicate source of delight...We have still a thirst unquenchable...This thirst belongs to the immortality of Man. It is at once a consequence and an indication of his perennial existence. It is the desire of the moth for the star. It is no mere appreciation of the Beauty before us--but a wild effort to reach the Beauty above. Inspired by an ecstatic prescience of the glories beyond the grave, we struggle, by multiform combinations among the things and thoughts of Time, to attain a portion of that Loveliness whose very elements, perhaps, appertain to eternity alone."

Poe saw this human instinct to connect with the world of the spirit as taking various forms--painting, sculpture, dance, architecture, landscape gardening (a look back at "The Domain of Arnheim,") but particularly in music, where "the soul most nearly attains the great end for which, when inspired by the Poetic Sentiment, it struggles--the creation of supernal Beauty." He saw poetry and music, with their similar modes of rhythm and rhyme, as virtual partners in this creation. (Although one wonders how much of the Beautiful he would find in your typical Top 40 playlist of today. But I digress.) The true artist acts as a guide for the rest of humanity in their unconscious need to transcend the earthly bodies which cage our souls, and unite with God--a God whose spirit is within every object and creature in our world. "The struggle to apprehend the supernal loveliness--this struggle, on the part of souls fittingly constituted--has given to the world all that which it (the world) has ever been enabled at once to understand and to feel as poetic."The Poetic Principle a lecture by Edgar Allan PoeHis description of the "Human Aspiration for Supernal Beauty" should be read by everyone who accepts with the utmost seriousness all the legends of his many bizarre romantic entanglements. One finds it hard to reconcile the man depicted in, say, "Poe's Mary," or the libels of John Evangelist Walsh with the writer of these lines:

"...the manifestation of the Principle is always found in an elevating excitement of the Soul, quite independent of that passion which is the intoxication of the Heart--or of that Truth which is the satisfaction of the Reason. For, in regard to Passion, alas! its tendency is to degrade, rather than to elevate the Soul. Love, on the contrary--Love--the true, the divine Eros--the Uranian, as distinguished from the Dionæan Venus--is unquestionably the purest and truest of all poetical themes."

At the end of the essay, Poe gave us his conception of true Poetry by listing some of the elements "which induce in the Poet himself the true poetical effect." It is among my favorite passages in any of his works, and if I ever get my hands on a time machine, one of the first places I'm going is Richmond in the summer of 1849 to hear them recited by their author. This peroration, in the opinion of Arthur H. Quinn, was where "Poe's true self flashed out." If he was correct, it would serve as proof for what I have argued on practically every post on this blog--that the Edgar Allan Poe depicted in most of his biographies never existed, that nearly all we think we know about him is based on some of the most shameless lies imaginable.

The Poet, Poe said, "...recognises the ambrosia which nourishes his soul, in the bright orbs that shine in Heaven--in the volutes of the flower--in the clustering of low shrubberies--in the waving of the grain-fields--in the slanting of tall, Eastern trees--in the blue distance of mountains--in the grouping of clouds--in the twinkling of half-hidden brooks--in the gleaming of silver rivers--in the repose of sequestered lakes--in the star-mirroring depths of lonely wells. He perceives it in the songs of birds--in the harp of Æolus--in the sighing of the night-wind--in the repining voice of the forest--in the surf that complains to the shore--in the fresh breath of the woods--in the scent of the violet--in the voluptuous perfume of the hyacinth--in the suggestive odor that comes to him, at eventide, from far-distant, undiscovered islands, over dim oceans, illimitable and unexplored. He owns it in all noble thoughts--in all unworldly motives--in all holy impulses--in all chivalrous, generous, and self-sacrificing deeds. He feels it in the beauty of woman--in the grace of her step--in the lustre of her eye--in the melody of her voice--in her soft laughter--in her sigh--in the harmony of the rustling of her robes. He deeply feels it in her winning endearments--in her burning enthusiasms--in her gentle charities--in her meek and devotional endurances--but above all--ah, far above all--he kneels to it--he worships it in the faith, in the purity, in the strength, in the altogether divine majesty--of her love."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Two Questionable Poe Poems [Updated]

Complete works of Edgar Allan PoeOver the years, many works that have either disappeared or that were published anonymously have been "attributed" to Poe. Some of these attributions are credible, but far too many writings have been attached to his name due to sheer reckless disregard for any standards of normal scholarship. Two of the best-known examples of the latter category are two "lost" poems, "Lines on Ale," and "The Beloved Physician."

The responsibility for anointing "Lines on Ale" as a Poe composition rests upon Thomas O. Mabbott. In 1939, he published in the journal "Notes and Queries" the claim that on one of Poe's visits to Lowell, Massachusetts, he visited a local tavern and was inspired to pen the following lines:
Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain--
Quaintest thoughts--queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.
This so-called poem was quoted to Mabbott by a man who claimed to be a former bartender at this establishment. Supposedly, the manuscript hung on the wall of the tavern for some years, but this Poe relic disappeared, as Mabbott vaguely put it, "before 1920." Despite the lack of any sort of corroboration of this man's story, as well as the inherent implausibility that Poe would have written such puerile doggerel, Mabbott--as was his habit in many matters--fell for it with a gullibility that almost defies belief. Simply because he chose to give this poem his official seal of approval, it is widely accepted as a genuine Poe work. However, it is far more likely that this bartender was enjoying a good joke at Mabbott's--and Poe's--expense.

"The Beloved Physician" may be an even more astonishing attribution. In 1875, Marie Louise Shew Houghton wrote Poe's biographer John H. Ingram that the late poet had written a ten-stanza poem in her honor. She was, as usual with her, unable to provide any proof of this assertion--as was the case with "Lines on Ale," the manuscript of the poem was conveniently "lost"--but she supplied Ingram with some stray lines that she claimed to remember from the composition:
The pulse beats ten and intermits;
God nerve the soul that ne'er forgets
In calm or storm, by night or day,
Its steady toil, its loyalty.

The pulse beats ten and intermits;
God shield the soul that ne'er forgets.

The pulse beats ten and intermits;
God guide the soul that ne'er forgets.

...so tired, so weary,
The soft head bows, the sweet eyes close,
The faithful heart yields to repose.

If Poe wrote these lines, I'm Rufus Griswold's grandma.

It's hard to even know what else to say about these poems. You might say they speak for themselves. It has long been a marvel to me how Poe specialists, even more than most other historians, seem utterly incapable of judging evidence. As Josephine Tey observed in "The Daughter of Time," historians "have no talent for the likeliness of any situation." What is worse, they usually appear indifferent to the fact that the need for such scrutiny even exists. And poor old Edgar has certainly paid the price for this indifference.

Update: Vindication!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Marginalia: Special J.H. Whitty Memorial Edition

Zolany bust of PoeIn 1911, Poe enthusiast J.H. Whitty published what he said were previously unknown recollections of Poe written by the poet's close friend Frederick W. Thomas (who died in 1866.) These lengthy, detailed reminiscences have been used as source material by Poe biographers ever since. There are, however, certain obvious problems with these "Thomas Reminiscences":

1. All we have of Thomas' alleged acount is what Whitty published. The actual manuscript is not extant, and there is no record of it being seen by anyone other than Whitty. (His long-time associate Thomas O. Mabbott wrote that Whitty became "evasive" when Mabbott asked to see the document.)

2. We have only Whitty's word that he even acquired this previously unknown MS., and he was very vague about how they came into his hands. (He also claimed to have acquired proof-sheets of "late drafts" of several of Poe's poems that also somehow came into Thomas' hands, but these have similarly vanished.)

3. Whitty was, as one acquaintance described him, a "crank." He was an extremely peculiar fanatic who, like so many of the more unbalanced amateur Poe specialists, had an egomaniacal obsession with showing the world "new and previously unknown" material related to his idol. And--again like others of his type--it seems to have been unimportant to him if this material was genuine or not. During his long career, he came up with many other examples of "previously unknown" Poeana--much of which proved to be, as other Poe scholars were forced to admit, completely imaginary. The editors of the published collection of Poe's letters wrote tactfully that Whitty was "inclined to make exaggerated claims without documentation, and prone to romantic fancies." They admitted that Whitty's "veracity" has been questioned. Mabbott nonchalantly conceded that Whitty was "eccentric," "often wrong," "far from reliable," and inclined to mix fact with colorful fiction. He also wrote that Whitty "brought himself into disrepute by farfetched claims to 'discoveries about Poe'."

Given all of this, why in the world is this "Thomas manuscript" accepted unreservedly?

Incidentally, there are a number of other Whitty "discoveries" that are also, inexplicably, still used as source material, such as his completely lunatic--and completely undocumented--claim that Poe wrote two poems that appeared anonymously in "Graham's Magazine" in 1845, "Stanzas," and "Divine Right of Kings." Whitty claimed his source for this attribution was an old volume of "Graham's" in his possession, where Frances S. Osgood had written Poe's name at the bottom of these two poems. When asked to bring forth this volume, Whitty flatly refused, and to this day it has yet to be seen. Despite this highly self-incriminating refusal to prove his claims, these two dreadful poems are still to this day--for reasons that frankly baffle me--often republished as Poe's work, an attribution that undoubtedly would mortify the poor man. (Mabbott, who is largely responsible for these poems being accepted as Poe's, claimed that years after Whitty's "discovery" of these verses, a volume of "Graham's" was discovered in the Boston Public Library, with annotations in an unknown handwriting--definitely not Osgood's--assigning them to Poe. As I have pointed out before, it never occurred to Mabbott that we have no idea who wrote these notations and when it was done. It was undoubtedly the work of someone who had heard of Whitty's claims--or even Whitty himself. In any case, anonymous notations to anonymous poems can hardly be considered scholarly proof of anything.)

This attribution also ignores the fact that what evidence we have on the subject indicates that the poems in question, which were signed merely "P," were authored by Charles J. Peterson, who was then on the staff of "Graham's." Thomas O. Mabbott even admitted that signing poems with a single initial of a surname was "usually an editor's prerogative," which made his agreement to attribute these poems to Poe, rather than editor Peterson--who is accepted to have written other poems for "Graham's" signed "P"--utterly incomprehensible.

Incidentally, it was also Whitty who first posited the curious notion that Poe and Mrs. Osgood conducted a poetic "literary flirtation" in the pages of the "Broadway Journal." Until he began weaving this strange yarn in the early 1900s, no one had ever taken the least notice of these poems as any sort of biographical source material. (He also devised the even more ridiculous idea that Osgood's story "Ida Grey" reflected their relationship.) There really is little basis for his assertions, but Poe's biographers, charmed by the implied salaciousness of it all, have automatically parroted Whitty's fantasies ever since. All in all, if Whitty, like Susan Archer Talley Weiss, had not displayed the complete humorlessness that characterizes the true crackpot, I would seriously suspect that everything they wrote about Poe was an elaborate prank on history.

Edgar and Virginia PoeIt is exasperatingly typical of Poe that even details about his wedding are uncertain. His Richmond marriage to Virginia, which took place on this date in 1836, (happy anniversary, kids!) is usually described as having taken place in the parlor of the boardinghouse run by a Mrs. Yarrington, where he and the ladies Clemm were then living. It is also accepted that the young couple enjoyed a brief honeymoon in Petersburg, Virginia, as the guests of a local newspaper publisher named Hiram Haines. These claims, as well as nearly all the other details we have about the wedding, were first publicized in 1926, in Mary E. Phillips' "Edgar Allan Poe: The Man." Phillips' source for her account of the marriage and honeymoon was--wait for it!--none other than James Howard Whitty, who cited a "Jane Foster" who was supposedly one of the wedding guests.

However, F. B. Converse, the son of Amasa Converse, the minister who married the pair, told a journalist years later that the wedding was held in the parlor of his father's home. Dr. Converse added, "There were very few persons present at the wedding; my mother and the members of the family, and perhaps one or more companions, whom they brought with them." A Mrs. Mallory, who also lived in Mrs. Yarrington's boardinghouse, described Mrs. Clemm inviting her and some other ladies into her room, where she offered them cake and wine in celebration of the marriage, but this witness said nothing about the ceremony itself being held in the house. (Mrs. Mallory indicated that Mrs. Clemm's little impromptu party was the first she or any of the other women had heard of the marriage.)

If these accounts are true (and they at least have the virtue of being first-hand) it would discredit everything Whitty said this Jane Foster--who makes no other appearances in Poe's history--told him about the Poe wedding. I am not aware of any other independent source that verifies this alleged honeymoon--if anyone out there has found any such documentation, I would certainly like to know about it. (We also have nothing directly from Jane Foster herself.) Having Whitty's fingerprints on the tale is alone enough to make me uneasy about practically everything we think we "know" about the wedding, including Poe and Virginia's supposed Petersburg sojourn--as much as I'd like to think this star-crossed pair had at least one pleasant vacation during their union. The story of their honeymoon may well be true--at least, we know of no evidence that directly disproves it. (I emphasize this point in order to keep the good citizens of Petersburg from coming after me with the feathers and tar.) However, as is usual with Poe's history, it comes with a bit of a question mark. In any case, I hear that Petersburg's "Hiram Haines Coffee House," located in the building where the Poes supposedly resided during their honeymoon, is a charming place, and well worth a visit if you're ever in the area.

(Images of Poe bust and antebellum wedding courtesy NYPL Digital Gallery)

Update 12/10/11: While researching the "Raven's Bride" plagiarism case, blogger Archie Valparaiso unearthed a bit of historical information that not only refutes Lenore Hart's claims to have done original "historical research" on her now-discredited novel, it demolishes the legend of the entire Petersburg trip. Read of his discovery here, and savor the pure comedy gold.

If the railway from Richmond to Petersburg was only built after Edgar and Virginia were married, it, of course, renders the Whitty/Foster story about the newlyweds traveling by train an impossibility. And if that detail is false, it naturally discredits all of Whitty's account about the wedding and alleged honeymoon--a story that has been endlessly and trustingly repeated to this day.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Quote(s) of the Day

Edgar Allan Poe biography
"'The Legend of Edgar Allan Poe' would not be an inappropriate title for his biography. The most striking of the few things that the narratives of Poe's life have in common is a mythological strain, as if some subtle influence were at work in the minds of men to transform his career into a story stranger than truth, and to make his memory a mere tradition. It appears in that first newspaper article which Griswold wrote before the earth had chilled the body of the dead poet: 'He walked the streets, in madness or melancholy, with lips moving in indistinct curses, or with eyes upturned in passionate prayer for their happiness who at the moment were objects of his idolatry; or with his glances introverted to a heart gnawed with anguish and with a face shrouded in gloom, he would brave the wildest storms, and all night, with drenched garments and arms beating the winds and rains, would speak as if to spirits that at such times only could be evoked by him from the Aidenn.' It is as plain to be seen in Baudelaire's declamatory eulogy over him as the martyr of a raw democracy. In Gilfillan he is the archangel ruined; in Ingram he is the ruined archangel rehabilitated; in all the biographies there is a demoniac element, as if Poe, who nevertheless was a man and an American, were a creature of his own fancy."
-George Woodberry, "Poe's Legendary Years," The Atlantic Monthly, December 1884

Woodberry certainly had his flaws as a Poe biographer. He was commissioned, against his inclination, to write a life of the poet, even though he made no secret of the fact that he detested Poe personally and thought little of most of his writings. It was rather like choosing me to write a biography of Fanny Osgood. He never understood Poe, and made it clear he did not want to even try. (In what Edward Wagenknecht delightfully described as "one of the most beautiful examples of New England snobbery on record" which "goes far toward justifying even Poe's attitude toward that region," Woodberry sighed that the difficulty with describing Poe's history is "that it is a life led outside of New England.")

After his biography was completed, Woodberry even had to flee to Italy for a spell simply to try and get the taint of Poe out of his system!

Despite all that, the first version of his biography, published in 1885, has value. It was certainly the first truly professional book about Poe, and would prove to be the last until Arthur Quinn's 1941 work. Unfortunately, his subsequent, heavily revised editions are increasingly riddled with factual errors, absurd, utterly unfounded speculations, and painfully damaging misconceptions (particularly when he began relying heavily upon Susan Talley Weiss as a source.) With all that, however, he was still more scholarly and readable than the average Poe biographer, and he often came up with interesting observations and conclusions. The above passage is one of them.

Of course, so far as Poe's posthumous reputation goes, I think the man himself said it best, in a well-known quote from "Marginalia," published in the "Southern Literary Messenger" in June 1849:

"I have sometimes amused myself by endeavoring to fancy what would be the fate of any individual gifted, or rather accursed, with an intellect very far superior to that of his race. Of course, he would be conscious of his superiority; nor could he (if otherwise constituted as man is) help manifesting his consciousness. Thus he would make himself enemies at all points. And since his opinions and speculations would widely differ from those of all mankind--that he would be considered a madman, is evident. How horribly painful such a condition! Hell could invent no greater torture than that of being charged with abnormal weakness on account of being abnormally strong.

In like manner, nothing can be clearer than that a very generous spirit--truly feeling what all merely profess--must inevitably find itself misconceived in every direction--its motives misinterpreted. Just as extremeness of intelligence would be thought fatuity, so excess of chivalry could not fail of being looked upon as meanness in its last degree:--and so on with other virtues. This subject is a painful one indeed. That individuals have so soared above the plane of their race, is scarcely to be questioned; but, in looking back through history for traces of their existence, we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."

I believe that's the closest anyone has ever gotten to writing an honest account of Poe's life.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Interview With Edgar

"The mysteries of his [Poe's] life were never revealed to anyone, but his intimates well understood that to mystify his hearer was a strong element of his mind."
-George Rex Graham

Studying Poe's life is not recommended for anyone who likes their history uncomplicated. The man is, quite simply, one long exercise in frustration. From his birth until his death, we are confronted with what seems to be one unanswerable mystery after another. If I could somehow interview Poe personally, my list of questions would probably take days to discuss, but these are some of the top items I'd wish to have him truthfully explain. I think I know the answers to a few of these riddles; with others I'm completely in the dark. In either case, I'd certainly like his side of these stories:

1. The obvious one: After he left Richmond late in September 1849, where was he during those five days or so before he turned up in Baltimore, what was he doing, and what led to his death?

2. In a letter Poe allegedly wrote Sarah Helen Whitman, dated Nov. 24, 1848, there is the statement that "You will now comprehend what I mean in saying that the only thing for which I found it impossible to forgive Mrs. O[sgood] was her reception of Mrs. E[llet.]"

What did that mean, "her reception of Mrs. Ellet?" Why did he find that made it "impossible to forgive Mrs. Osgood?" What, exactly, were these two women up to? Were they somehow in collusion? By stating that it was "the only thing" she did that he could not overlook, does that mean she committed other offenses of some sort? If Mrs. Osgood did do something Poe found unforgivable--and the fact that he refused to have any contact with her for the last few years of his life appears to confirm this--how can all his biographers assume he retained a friendly affection for her?

3. Would he truly, in the end, have been willing to marry Sarah Helen Whitman or Sarah Elmira Shelton? If so, why? (You won't convince me for a moment that love had anything to do with it.)

4. "Ulalume" is his one work that truly gives me the shivers each time I read it, all the more so because we can only speculate what, exactly, Poe was telling us. Sarah Helen Whitman's interpretation of the poem--that Poe is depicting his struggle between memories of the dead Virginia and his longing to find new love--is generally accepted. Although I think it is possible that Virginia is represented by Psyche, the "sweet sister"--Sissy?--who tries in vain to save the narrator from doom, I feel that Whitman gave an overly simplistic explanation for such an esoteric and menacing creation. (And the inimitable John Evangelist Walsh's typically lunatic idea that the poem is an elegy for little Fanny Fay Osgood simply makes me ill.) This poem generates a sense of true evil that simply does not appear in his other works (even his most Grand Guignol tales, such as "The Black Cat," or "Hop-Frog," have a strong element of dark humor or satire that is utterly missing here.) I'd very much like to have Poe's own explanation of his most peculiar and ominous piece of writing.Ulalume by Edgar Allan Poe5. Did he really want Rufus W. Griswold to be his literary executor? If so, did that mean he anticipated that he would die soon? If not, what, if any, plans had he made for his literary estate?

6. We know that a great uproar was touched off in January 1846 when Virginia Poe--evidently on her own initiative--confronted Elizabeth F. Ellet with a letter written by Frances S. Osgood. What was in this letter, why did Virginia show it to Mrs. Ellet, and to whom was Osgood's letter addressed--Edgar or Virginia?

7. Did Virginia write any poems besides her 1846 Valentine to her husband? Did she--as I have speculated--have anything to do with the Valentine poem addressed to Frances Osgood?

8. While we're on the subject of Mrs. Osgood, what did Edgar and Virginia really think of that lady? And was my interpretation of Osgood's Poe reminiscences accurate?

9. Did he and Virginia secretly marry in 1835? If so, why was it a secret? If not, why did they take out a marriage license on September 22 of that year and not use it?

10. Which of the "lost" or anonymous writings that have been "attributed" to Poe were actually written by him?

11. Which of the extant letters written by Poe are genuine, and which are forgeries?

12. Was he--as both George W. Eveleth and I believe--"Outis?" (Cf. his surreal, hilarious unpublished essay, "A Reviewer Reviewed.")

If "Outis" truly was a case where Poe--in Eveleth's words--"defied himself," that would prove he did not take his infamous "Longfellow War" half as seriously as many of his biographers do--although his charges were indisputably accurate. As sincere as his outrage may have been, Poe likely saw his whole noisy public campaign to expose Henry Wadsworth's misdeeds as a playful and instructive stunt. (That is, actually, a crucial point to understanding many of Poe's actions--he loved to, as he would put it, "kick up a bobbery" almost as much as he loved hoaxes.)

13. Did he regret the fact that he never had children? Did Virginia?

14. Did he really regret his final estrangement from John Allan? Or did he feel that, despite all the struggles he endured afterwards, he was still better off away from a guardian he had obviously come to despise? Whatever miseries he endured in his adult life, did he think he would have been any happier leading a staid businessman's life as the heir to John Allan and the husband of Sarah Elmira Royster or some similar dull, ultra-conventional Richmond girl?

15. Did he really--as he wrote to Eveleth--have "inside information" about the Mary Rogers murder? Is the story related here about him and John Anderson at all accurate?

16. Was he engaged to Miss Royster in 1826?

17. What was the truth about Rosalie Poe's parentage?

18. In the 1846 newspaper column that inspired Poe's libel suit, Thomas Dunn English wrote of Poe that "...the 'Tombs' of New York, has probably a dim remembrance of his person..." implying that he once did a stint in prison. (English did not indicate the crime Poe allegedly committed.) Poe never addressed that specific charge, which, so far as I know, was never referred to again by anybody. Was English--for once--telling the truth, or was this just among his more outrageous libels? I find it hard to believe there was any basis to the story, (or that, if there was, English would be the only one of Poe's enemies to mention it.) However, if there was anything to English's strange statement, could that help explain the "blank period" in Poe's history when he lived in New York from 1837-38?

19. Of all his many, many reputed romantic interests, was he genuinely emotionally attached to any of these women, other than his wife? Did he even know all of them?

20. Did he, as Dr. Moran once claimed, repeatedly cry out, "Reynolds!" soon before his death? If so, what did it mean?

21. We only have one letter of Poe's written to Virginia alone, which is dated June 1846. Unfortunately, it exists only in the form of a copy made by Marie Shew Houghton, which she sent to John H. Ingram. We have no record of the original manuscript of this letter having been seen by anyone other than Mrs. Houghton. (She claimed that she found the letter hidden inside the frame of a miniature portrait of Poe Virginia gave her. This alleged portrait--which Mrs. Houghton, in her typically addled fashion, alternately described as a painting or as a daguerreotype--has also disappeared without a trace.) Is this letter genuine?

22. What were the answers to the questions I raised here and here regarding Poe's libel suit?

23. Did he really attempt suicide in 1848?

24. Just how frequent, and how serious, were his drinking bouts?

25. I'd like to know how deep was his interest/involvement with alchemy and its related mystical arts--an interest evident in such stories as "The Fall of the House of Usher," "Ligeia," "Von Kempelen," and arguably poems such as "Ulalume" and "For Annie." I'd also have a possibly related question--what exactly were those "odd chromatic experiments" he mentioned undertaking in 1835?

26. And finally, who, in his opinion, was the more deranged forger--Rufus Griswold or his son William?

I'm sure anyone reading this has their own list of questions for Poe. Séance, anyone?

interview with edgar allan poe