The house where Edgar Allan Poe lived in Philadelphia is offering a special evening performance from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., Friday, Oct. 17, 2014. The event, In the Mind of Poe, recreates some of the 19th-century writer’s most haunting tales. As visitors tour this National Historic Site, staff and volunteers present Poe himself reciting portions of his iconic works of mystery and horror. The free tours also explore the personal and professional triumphs and tragedies of this prolific writer.
Poe was born, the second of three children, in Boston in 1809 to parents who were actors. His father left the family in 1810 and his mother died when he was three years old. He was separated from his older brother and younger sister, and raised by a financially successful tobacco merchant couple, John and Frances Allan, in Richmond, VA. John Allan and Poe repeatedly clashed over money and career choices. The writer had two books of poetry published before he entered West Point in 1830. After one year, he was kicked out even though his academic work was excellent. His decision to be a writer and poet led to his foster father permanently severing ties with him.
Before moving to Philadelphia, he lived in Baltimore with his aunt and his cousin, Virginia Clemm, who was his inspiration for many of his stories. The two were married when she was 13 years old. He returned to Richmond for a brief time, writing blunt, cut-throat reviews of fellow writers for a magazine and publishing some of his own works. He left Richmond after two years.
Philadelphia was the literary capital of the U.S. in the mid-1800s. Poe, his wife and his aunt “Muddy,” or Maria, arrived in 1838 and lived there until 1844. Those six years in the City of Brotherly Love were the most prolific and happiest of his life. The family lived several places within the city but the house that is the National Historic Site was the last of his residences there. It is also the only Philadelphia home of his still standing.
Many of his most memorable stories were written during that six-year period including the first modern detective story, Murders in the Rue Morgue. Other famous fictional detectives later employed the same tactics Poe used in solving the murder. The narrator is a friend of the detective and the mystery is solved before the details are revealed and explained. Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie were very successful using these techniques.
Edgar Allan Poe is best known for his horror stories. The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Pit and the Pendulum, to name a few, account for a part of his success in Philadelphia. Such classics are read every October on Halloween and at other events recreating these haunting tales. He also wrote prose and poetry about romance and served as an editor for a magazine.
The Raven His wife suffered a ruptured blood vessel in January 1842. She went through periods of recuperation and relapse. His own mood swings fluctuated depending on Virginia’s health. She also suffered from tuberculosis. There are no written records of exactly when they moved into the house on North 7th Street, but they lived there approximately one year. He rented the house but had trouble paying the rent. He started writing his most famous work, The Raven, while living there but left Philadelphia in 1844. The couple moved to the Bronx, NY, to a cottage, where his wife died at the age of 24 in 1847. The Raven had been published in New York in 1845. It is, to this day, considered one of his greatest works.
The three-story house, complete with cellar, illustrates the poverty, sadness, his wife’s illness, and his battles with alcohol and other personal demons. He died Oct. 7, 1849, in Baltimore under mysterious circumstances but the years Edgar Allan Poe spent in Philadelphia will be celebrated in a special event recreating his haunting tales. Free tours will leave every 30 minutes and are limited to groups of 25 people. For more information about Poe or this National Historic Site, the websites are listed below.
By Cynthia Collins