Edgar Allan Poe

Connavar

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Ouch!:rolleyes:

I suppose that depends on what you mean by that phrase. I would call her more a symbol of the idea of a beautiful woman, passionately loved, and lost through death; in some ways representing Poe's own fears concerning his wife Virginia, who had been in fragile health for some years, and was in fact to die within a year or two, at the very young age of twenty-four.

Incidentally, as I have mentioned elsewhere, that is one of the sad yet macabre elements in Poe's life. He doated on Virginia, who was also his cousin (this was in an era where marrying one's first cousin was still fairly common), but for some reason they had never had a likeness of her made, either in painting, sketch, or daguerreotype. It wasn't until she died that Poe realized this oversight and, panic-stricken at the thought of not having anything to represent his beloved lady, asked a friend who was also an artist, to make a likeness of her. So the only authentic image of Virginia Clemm Poe we have, was actually a piece done of her corpse on her deathbed....

File:VirginiaPoe.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Maybe its what literary scholars has been telling me but i think historical backround for an artist,writer is not needed to analyse his work. Lenore can be analysed,seen for what Poe says in his poem and not look for his cousin,real love as the clear inspiration. Poetry would be one sided if it could be decoded with the writers biographical backround all the time.


"the death... of a beautiful woman" is "unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world"

That famous qoute and The Raven was written before the death of his wife.

Have you read all Poe's poetry J.D ? He has written few poems for being one of the most rated poets. In today class that wasnt suppose to mention him talked alot about how much influence,inspiration he was for modernist poetry,French Symbolism,Modernist Swedish greats.

I find it fascinating coming across one of my fav authors in academical circles. The teachers raving about his ability.
 

j d worthington

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Maybe its what literary scholars has been telling me but i think historical backround for an artist,writer is not needed to analyse his work. Lenore can be analysed,seen for what Poe says in his poem and not look for his cousin,real love as the clear inspiration. Poetry would be one sided if it could be decoded with the writers biographical backround all the time.


"the death... of a beautiful woman" is "unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world"

That famous qoute and The Raven was written before the death of his wife.

Have you read all Poe's poetry J.D ? He has written few poems for being one of the most rated poets. In today class that wasnt suppose to mention him talked alot about how much influence,inspiration he was for modernist poetry,French Symbolism,Modernist Swedish greats.

I find it fascinating coming across one of my fav authors in academical circles. The teachers raving about his ability.

First: Yes, I've read all of Poe's poetry at this point. Recently I read a few minor pieces I'd never heard of before, collected together by Prof. Mabbott. Most of those are of little consequence, but one at least, though extremely brief, is quite powerful:

Deep in earth my love is lying
And I must weep alone.

This was written around the time of Virginia's funeral; yet, even had it not been connected to any such occurrence, as Mabbot says, "it is simple, direct, lofty, and complete".

However... on the idea that a writer's biographical details are not "needed" to analyze his or her work -- true, you can devise a number of readings without such. Otherwise, little could be said about such a poem as "Deor" or Beowulf. But... the idea that such should necessarily be eschewed when they are available, when it comes to analyzing, is frankly foolish. When it comes to literary analysis, there is no single "correct" reading, that is true; texts waver, shift, and metamorphose with the reader's experience, insight, and knowledge. But to deliberately avoid this level of information, which can indeed inform one's reading of a work, deepening the layers of its significance, expanding one's understanding and appreciation (even of a flawed work), is to hobble oneself from the outset. It is placing undue limit on ourselves, limiting in turn our horizons on how to appreciate or understand a work of art. It is also extremely presumptuous to think that we have it right where this is concerned, when critics throughout the ages have managed to do quite well without such a restriction, writing pieces which themselve are works of art and which have illuminated other art for generations or even centuries.

So while I would agree one should not restrict oneself to such details when it comes to interpretation (save where one is claiming "this is what the author meant" and such details flatly contradict any such assertion), I am glad to see that there is a gradual movement away from this academic stance into once more allowing such (as well as authorial intent) to be a part of such analyses. After all, no work of art evolves in a vacuum; it is the result of the artist's experience, deep thought, emotional state, his or her milieu, and a thousand-and-one other factors which come together as clay to be molded according to the desired effect of the artist at that point. The more one is armed with knowledge of these variables, the more insight one can bring to possible layers of meaning and interpretation in said work.
 

Connavar

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It depends on the poem, that small one you qouted about my love is dying, i must weep alone says alot. Even if you didnt know his wife was dead as you say. Thats what i meant you dont always need to know his real personal life. You can analyse many poems like that. Then there are ones where historical backround helps of course. Otherwise alot of my literary class wouldnt be so much about the writers backrounds.

Of course there is no correct reading, there are many personal interperations. I like the idea of when the writer write art like poetry,realeses out in the world its not his own work anymore. Its up people to read in different ways. Doesnt matter if they are critics,scholars,regular readers.

Thats the beauty of poetry to me atleast. I dont follow blindly the literary scholar POV.
 

J Riff

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I've slugged through all the Poe poetry but the stories are more memorable.
Also - this Poe guy...and HPL too, it must not be forgotten, ever...when it came down to it, the nitty-gritty is - they were loons. Wacky comedians given half a chance. Sarcastic, sniping, probable abusers of this and that every chance they got.
Very educated and verbosely vocabulated loons.. but a bit wacko nonetheless.
 

j d worthington

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I must say that I don't see them at all that way, myself. Unique individuals, yes, but hardly "loons". That, to me at least, implies a strong mental/emotional imbalance and, while both Lovecraft and Poe certainly had their nervous afflictions, I would argue that, if anything, they maintained an amazingly stable balance through sheer force of personality and intellect. In very few ways were they all that different in any personal manner or behaviors from the majority of writers of their time.

The point about them being comedians, though... on that I'd be in full agreement with you. Both of them had a keenly developed sense of humor, and a with which could be either quite broad or incisive; and, for all that he sometimes deprecated the practice, Poe was quite capable of punning atrociously; Lovecraft didn't even protest the practice, and his letters, poems, and the like, are often peppered with examples of it.

Connovar: I tend to agree, as I noted above, that one should not restrict oneself to such details, but approaching a writer's work from a biographical perspective is as perfectly valid as any of the numerous other approaches; and I for one think that the more levels one can appreciate such things on, the better.

Incidentally... while I agree that "The Raven" was not directly tied to Virginia's death in any way, indirectly I think the theme may well have been. Her health had been quite delicate for many years, and there were times when her life had been despaired of, especially following her rupturing a blood vessel in her throat (while singing), during which time it was expected she would not live. (She never really recovered full health after.) Add to this Poe's loss of his mother at such a young age, where (iirc) he nevertheless saw her decline and was made aware of what it meant... and the attachment to such a theme as the "most poetical" takes on an added dimension.
 

Connavar

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Connovar: I tend to agree, as I noted above, that one should not restrict oneself to such details, but approaching a writer's work from a biographical perspective is as perfectly valid as any of the numerous other approaches; and I for one think that the more levels one can appreciate such things on, the better.

Incidentally... while I agree that "The Raven" was not directly tied to Virginia's death in any way, indirectly I think the theme may well have been. Her health had been quite delicate for many years, and there were times when her life had been despaired of, especially following her rupturing a blood vessel in her throat (while singing), during which time it was expected she would not live. (She never really recovered full health after.) Add to this Poe's loss of his mother at such a young age, where (iirc) he nevertheless saw her decline and was made aware of what it meant... and the attachment to such a theme as the "most poetical" takes on an added dimension.


I tend to get fascinated about a biographical perspective, want to read books about authors like Poe who is a big literary favs. Most writers i just dont care for more than the work. Might use bio info to analyse their works but not enough to read books about them. Its hard to seprate the man/woman behind the writer when its the ones you like to read alot.

J.D have you read biography about Poe ?

About Poe,Virginia yeah reading about all the tragedy in his life he had a challenging life even for a man of his times. I dont think he deserves dark,gloomy loon reputation. I respect authors like him too much buy into the myths about them.
 

j d worthington

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J.D have you read biography about Poe ?

I have, but it has been many, many years since I last read a full-scale biography, rather than a biographical sketch (albeit some of those have been of considerable length). However, what I'm getting from reading Mabbott's commentary and notes in his edition of Poe, coupled with reading the available correspondence (not only from Poe himself but from a number of his contemporaries to him) and the various essays and scraps he wrote... has actually amounted to a good deal more than anything I've ever encountered before. I'm very glad I invested in Mabbott's edition of Poe, as it has proved to be enormously enlightening.

I will say this: as a young man, I'm glad I didn't know Poe; we'd have probably come to blows more than once. But as he matured, while he still had his faults, he became someone I would have been proud to call a friend....
 

j d worthington

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Connavar: You may find this of interest... not just in connection with the discussion of "The Raven" above, but also as an absorbing human document in itself. It is from another letter to George W. Eveleth, dated 4 January 1848:

You say —”Can you hint to me what was the terrible evil” which caused the irregularities so profoundly lamented?” Yes; I can do more than hint. This “evil” was the greatest which can befall a man. Six years ago, a wife, whom I loved as no man ever loved before, ruptured a blood-vessel in singing. Her life was despaired of. I took leave of her forever & underwent all the agonies of her death. She recovered partially and I again hoped. At the end of a year the vessel broke again — I went through precisely the same scene. Again in about a year afterward. Then again — again — again & even once again at varying intervals. Each time I felt all the agonies of her death — and at each accession of the disorder I loved her more dearly & clung to her life with more desperate pertinacity. But I am constitutionally sensitive — nervous in a very unusual degree. I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. During these fits of absolute unconsciousness I drank, God only knows how often or how much. As a matter of course, my enemies referred the insanity to the drink rather than the drink to the insanity. I had indeed, nearly abandoned all hope of a permanent cure when I found one in the death of my wife. This I can & do endure as becomes a man — it was the horrible never-ending oscillation between hope & despair which I could not longer have endured without the total loss of reason. In the death of what was my life, then, I receive a new but — oh God! how melancholy an existence.
 

J Riff

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I remember getting very serious about Poe for a while back in the seventies, and had actually forgetten studying 'The Raven' at that time - the importance of nothing supernatural, the issue of Lenore etc.
Heard a lot more through the book trade, being around people knowledgeably obsessed in particular with HPL, well before such time as he was even vaguely well-known outside the genre, and of course that's where JD and others in here are coming from.
Think though, of being the introverted intellectual type that Poe or HPL were- in a time of truly superstitious idiots. The masses - who they often wrote rantingly about - were uneducated to the max. They believed in pacts with the devil and other fun stuff, Houdini had this problem too, and the disparity w/ Eap or HPL was probably extreme if they walked out onto a city street.
No ignoring the drug use, neither. Woo-woo! *
Biographies written about famous people are, in my book highly suspect off the git-go. Still, it's been winnowed down over the years to the point where a discussion like this, about an already over-analyzed person, is still interesting!- and that's because of people like JD and Wilum and other maniacs continuing to read and write and probe relentlessly, and the fact that people keep picking up the books and discovering the greatness.
I can't even argue technical points - pick up and read some HPL or Poe and before you know it, it's yipes! There's a patch of brilliant writing, then another and another.
I have trouble getting past that- but these discussions are filling in a lot of what I didn't know or had forgotten.
Excuse me, I have to go to work at my new job... I'm a Cur-Spatterer*
 

Connavar

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I have, but it has been many, many years since I last read a full-scale biography, rather than a biographical sketch (albeit some of those have been of considerable length). However, what I'm getting from reading Mabbott's commentary and notes in his edition of Poe, coupled with reading the available correspondence (not only from Poe himself but from a number of his contemporaries to him) and the various essays and scraps he wrote... has actually amounted to a good deal more than anything I've ever encountered before. I'm very glad I invested in Mabbott's edition of Poe, as it has proved to be enormously enlightening.

I will say this: as a young man, I'm glad I didn't know Poe; we'd have probably come to blows more than once. But as he matured, while he still had his faults, he became someone I would have been proud to call a friend....

Do you know if there is a complete tales collection that has commentary,notes like your Mabbott collection ? I would like complete stories and more critical,commentary edition at the same time. If i remember correctly the Mabbott edition you mention are out of print. I dont care what it cost.

His letters,contemporaies of his letters sound very interesting too. The letter you posted made him sound so human,another perspective of his troubles.

Your Poe experience makes me hungry to read more about him. I want to know the young,older Poe and get past the popular myths about him.
 

j d worthington

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No ignoring the drug use, neither. Woo-woo!

Poe? Alcoholism, certainly. Drug-use, on the other hand, is extremely doubtful. There is one source which makes it possible, but even there it is dubious. This is one of those thing which came from Griswold & Co. (actually, it began earlier than that with speculations about that and Poe's supposed insanity). Unfortunately, this is one of those things which has clung to Poe (even in works by people who should know better), even to this day.

HPL, of course, never used either drugs or alcohol (on the latter: an amusing story by Samuel Loveman to the contrary notwithstanding... this also seems apocryphal, which is a shame, under the circumstances).

In both instances, a lot of what they have about the effect of, say, opium, is taken from De Quincey and others, who did use opium in differing guise (most often laudanum).

Connavar: As far as I am aware, the Mabbott edition is still in print, from the University of Illinois, albeit it is much cheaper to get it in trade paperback (the hardbound edition is quite expensive). Unfortunately, he didn't live to complete the set, so his edition is missing Poe's longest works (Pym, "Hans Phaall", Julius Rodman, Eureka), but these can be found in various other editions. I would hesitate, though, when it comes to the Penguin annotated edition of Pym and The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe. While each of these have their merit, the editor/commentator also has an axe or two to grind, and that sometimes causes an overemphasis on a particular aspect at the expense of many others. Still, this is, I believe, one of the few worthwhile annotated editions of Eureka, so you may want to invest in that, either new or used.

Collections of Poe's letters aren't that common, and are generally pretty costly; but a huge number of them are available online at such places as The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, which also offers an enormous amount of his criticism, various other documents by him, and a considerable amount of critical commentary on Poe as well as a biography or two... not to mention the entire contents of different editions (such as Griswold's) which are no longer in copyright. Griswold's edition, oddly, is in many instances much closer to Poe's final intent, as Poe himself made the auctorial emendations and changes on many of the tales for it, just before his death. But I'd advise gritting your teeth before reading Griswold's own commentary.....

Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - The Life and Writings of Edgar Allan Poe

Amazon.com: Complete Poems (9780252069215): Edgar Allen Poe, Thomas Ollive Mabbott: Books

Amazon.com: Tales and Sketches, vol. 1: 1831-1842 (9780252069222): Edgar Allen Poe, Thomas Ollive Mabbott, Eleanor D Kewer, Maureen C Mabbott: Books

Amazon.com: Tales and Sketches, vol. 2: 1843-1849 (9780252069239): Edgar Allen Poe, Thomas Ollive Mabbott, Eleanor D Kewer, Maureen C Mabbott: Books

And it looks as if there is an edition of Eureka on the same level:

Amazon.com: Eureka (9780252028496): Edgar Allan Poe, Stuart Levine, Susan F. Levine: Books

I'll need to pick that one up a little later on myself.....
 

No One

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J.D's quoted letter certainly gives us an insight into the personal torture Poe went through. I'm not sure I've ever seen that before, but I know of Poe's insistence that his mental turmoil lead him to drinking and not the other way round as many critics of his time proposed.

Also the subject of knowing an author outside of his work is one that I've been back and forth on for years. I struggle to see a right or wrong approach, although J.D's points about not using any existing material to study an author that you're striving to better understand are completely on the mark. Obviously, if I was intending to study certain authors, as J.D is, then there's no question that the details of the men and women behind the book have to be taken into consideration for the reasons he mentioned.

Personally though, I do prefer going into any book knowing nothing about the author. Then, if I'm particularly taken with the book and intend to re-read it, I'll probably be inclined to learn at least a little about the author (especially when it comes to the classics).
 

j d worthington

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Agreed. If you are going into a work simply to read and enjoy the work in vacuo, that's most likely the best way to do it. If, on the other hand, you want to appreciate any work on as many levels as possible, then such things as annotated editions, with their references to various critical interpretations, biographical information, literary influences, folkloric references (as, e.g., the significance of the different types of flowers in Poe's "For Annie", which illuminates a great deal concerning the choice of those particular plants, and how they support what Poe is attempting to convey) are tremendously helpful. And, from my own perspective, they not only add to one's appreciation of that particular work or author, but they also broaden one's perspective on literature in general, and greatly enhance one's appreciation of a vast variety of writings.

However, either approach certainly has its value, and either is worth exploring....

Incidentally... a correction (of sorts). There is a letter to that very same Annie, written just a few months before Poe's death, where he himself remarks on taking laudanum. However, the very things he says make it almost certain that this was the first and only time he ever did so (at least, voluntarily... more on that in a moment). It was also not to experience any sort of drug euphotia, but apparently an attempt at suicide; and it failed in part because he was so unfamiliar with the drug that he took too much at once, causing his body to eject it; however, it did have the effect that a large drug dose is likely to have of causing some quite severe problems mentally and emotionally while it was in his system. He also had another drug have some similar effects shortly after this; but this was when he was prescribed some medication, as he was suffering from cholera while on a lecture tour.

Now... about that "voluntarily". Most are probably aware of this, but some may not be. Poe's death (or rather its cause) has remained a mystery for more than 150 years now. He disappeared briefly, then was found wandering the streets in a dazed condition, incoherent, and dressed in clothes which were not his own. He soon lapsed into a coma from which he never fully recovered (making the often quoted "God have mercy on my poor soul" comment, supposedly his final words, most likely apocryphal), before dying. A number of causes have been advanced for this, including something which was possibly related to the medication I just mentioned -- or, rather, a condition such as that medication seems to have induced. However, quite a few scholars over the years have leaned toward what was called "cooping":

Cooping - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Given Poe's political proclivities, and the fact that he did tend to make enemies easily at times, as well as some other factors, I'm inclined toward this explanation myself. If this was the case, it makes things, to me, even more tragic. But in any event, the least we can say is that the final days of Edgar Allan Poe were anything but pleasurable.....
 

dask

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AnnotatedEAPoe.jpg
 

dask

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Sorry, don't know how I got two of these. Only remember doing it once.:eek: If a moderator would like to delete one of them that would be fine with me.
 
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j d worthington

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Having finished my reading of Poe, I feel I may have to alter my views on a couple of things. Mabbott, bless him, was extremely meticulous in providing sources for his statements; better than just about anyone I've seen on this subject; and he pretty much explodes the idea that Poe was "cooped", tracing this back to its (apparently) original source and throwing doubt on it not only because of the unreliability of that source on other things, but via other evidence. It isn't absolutely certain this didn't happen, but it is, given the evidence he presents, extremely unlikely. He also had lucid intervals during those final days, something which goes against most of what I've read on the subject before this, and Mabbott references the statements of doctors and others who nursed Poe during that period to substantiate this, as well as other things.

On the subject of his possible drug addiction, however, Mabbott also references medical sources as well as statements by those who knew Poe (and were not enemies vindictive enough to smear his personal name, as did Griswold for instance, even if they were on the outs with him); and the evidence is extremely strong that Poe had no such addictions... though in his day, he might have picked up laudanum quite easily, as it was sold over the counter for various ailments real and perceived. But for all that, he never showed any signs of addiction to anything save alcohol, and that he showed in abundance; nor is that shied away from by even his nearest and dearest, however it pained them.

In all, a fascinating journey through the mind of one of our greatest poets and writers of prose, and I've come away from this with a much greater appreciation for both his strengths and his faults as a writer and a man....
 

dask

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I saw these at the used bookstore this morning:
THE TELL-TALE HEART by Julian Symons, a biography of Edgar Allan Poe, $5.
THE RETURN TO THE HOUSE OF USHER by Robert Poe, who claims to be a descendant of Poe via tryst, $3.75.
Anyone know whether these are worth having and whether the price is right?
 

bookemist

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my favorite Poe is the Tell-Tale Heart. That was my introduction to horror as a genre.
 

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