Today marks 212 years since the birth of Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 - October 7, 1849), one of the most recognizable literary figures of the 19th century. Much like the ghostly figures of his prose, he lives on and continues to influence - and haunt, if you like - generations of writers and readers of the macabre. He was a poet, essayist, novelist, editor, literary critic, and lecturer. He wrote fiction and nonfiction alike, and his work appeared in bound collections, magazines, annuals, and periodicals. He was viewed by many contemporaries as a nitpicking editor and literary critic; this earned him the nickname “the man with the tomahawk,” along with a few enemies. Through it all, nothing distinguished him more than his predilection for horror and suspense. He was a pioneer in the science fiction genre and in detective stories, serving as an inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, and most famously, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Poe’s untimely death, just as his life’s works, is shrouded in mystery to this day. Also shrouded in mystery is the peculiar legend that at least at some point in its history, the Mercantile Library possessed Poe’s headstone. While the Mercantile may not actually hold Edgar Allan Poe’s headstone, we do have plenty of his published handiwork - in The American Whig Review, Sartain’s Union Magazine, and The Southern Literary Messenger, which he edited from December 1835 to January 1837. These periodicals can be found in the Mercantile Library Special Collections.
- Alyssa Persson, Aubash Collections Access Librarian