10 Surprising Facts About Edgar Allan Poe

The man wasn’t all madness and premature burials. An exhibit at the Morgan Library & Museum explores the writer’s life and widespread literary influence.

1. Edgar Allan Poe’s stories of an aristocratic French detective, C. Auguste Dupin, served as a model for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

The Morgan Library & Museum

“Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?” Doyle said.

2. Poe sat for this daguerreotype four days after he attempted suicide.

The Morgan Library & Museum.

He attempted suicide by laudanum overdose on Nov. 5, 1848, and got engaged to Sarah Helen Whitman later that month. They would never marry.

3. He wrote that the daguerreotype was “perhaps the most extraordinary triumph of modern science.”

The Morgan Library & Museum

4. Poe wrote one of his short stories on a 22-foot-long scroll made of little pieces of paper attached by sealing wax.

The Morgan Library & Museum

“The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” was recently reassembled.

(Above is a linocut portrait of Poe by Eduard Prüssen.)

5. Humbert Humbert’s lost childhood sweetheart in Lolita, Annabel Leigh, is named for Poe’s “Annabel Lee.”

Olympia Press / Via

“I was a child and she was a child, / In this kingdom by the sea, / But we loved with a love that was more than love— / I and my Annabel Lee,” Poe writes. Poe likely modeled Annabel Lee on his wife, Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe.

6. Virginia Poe married the writer, also her first cousin, when she was 13 and he was 27.

She died of tuberculosis in 1847, when she was 24. “Annabel Lee,” Poe’s last poem, was published in 1849, after her (and, incidentally, after her husband’s) death.

7. Oscar Wilde called Poe a “lord of romance.”

Library of Congress / Via

8. Charles Baudelaire was a great admirer of Poe’s work and spent years translating it into French.

Étienne Carjat / Via

The French poet translated Poe’s short stories and only four of his poems.

9. Joyce Carol Oates wrote her short story “The Fabled Light-House at Viña del Mar” in the style of the macabre man.

Shawn Calhoun / Via Flickr: shawncalhoun

“Your ‘forbidden’ passions are likely to be the fuel for your writing,” Oates writes in The Faith of a Writer; she goes on to cite the “fear of going mad in Edgar Allan Poe and committing an irrevocable, unspeakable act — murdering an elder or a wife, hanging and putting out the eyes of one’s ‘beloved’ pet cat. Your struggle with your buried self, or selves, yields your art…”

10. The first thing Poe published was a pamphlet of poems. Most of the poems were written when he was 14.

The Morgan Library & Museum

“Tamerlane,” a hand-written selection of which is pictured above, was written in 1827, the year he turned 18.

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