Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why Poe Blogging Makes You Old Before Your Time

To quote Maria, “Edgar has a new daddy!”

Open Letters Monthly, a normally eminently sane (and quite good) publication, recently published an article suggesting that—wait for it!—actor/writer John Howard “Home Sweet Home” Payne fathered both Edgar and Rosalie Poe. Yes, this appeared in August, not, as you would assume, in their April 1 issue. The many gaps in historical records always require a certain amount of “what-if” speculation, but this piece may top even John Evangelist Walsh in piling fantasy upon fantasy. The article is so lightweight I’m surprised it didn’t just float off my computer screen. You’ve heard of “bricks without straw?” I failed to see even one slab of brickwork in this piece.

I posted my (probably overlong and overheated) rebuttal in the comments, so I won’t go into the details of why I found this article such a waste of space. Suffice to say that I could not see that the author found one speck of proof for what is a very serious allegation, but he went ahead and presented it to the public anyway. I’m drawing attention to this otherwise insignificant piece because it is only a small part of an increasingly widespread plague of allowing idle (and usually horribly defamatory) speculation to grow and flourish with few or no facts to support them, to the point where they often replace the actual historical record in people’s minds. Never underestimate the persuasive power of seeing a statement in print, no matter how ludicrous it may be. As my eloquent blog colleague Kathryn Warner said with succinct perfection: “Don’t Defame the Dead.”

John Howard Payne was not Edgar Allan Poe's father

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