Henry Poe – Part 6
June 6, 2008
Not critically but with pride I suggest that for his third book, Poems, Edgar had copied some of my stanzas. I also concede I might have borrowed some of his. I couldn’t guarantee much in the spring of 1831. Once, I had appeared an impressive big brother, donning the uniform of a merchant marine and sailing to South America, Europe, and Asia, and later writing about those places for a doomed magazine. Now I was too sick to return to sea and at any rate no longer wanted to be cramped with men on long voyages. They forced me to drink, and I did so rather more than most, especially after tuberculosis attacked. For the first time since infancy, Edgar and I were living together, in Baltimore on the second floor of a small house with tall and stout Aunt Maria Clemm, her daughter Virginia, and our stroke-ravaged grandmother. Aunt Maria said drink was killing me just like it did her brother, who was Edgar’s and my father. Edgar agreed. He wasn’t always sober, either, but felt righteous since he could walk.
I was assuredly relieved, and sensed others would be too, when I expired in August 1831. The funeral was held in Aunt Maria’s house. A couple dozen people came. I wish they’d visited when I was alive. In death my name was useful to Edgar. Later that year in letters to John Allan he claimed to have been jailed as a debtor, begged for eighty dollars, in a manner too abject to detail, and emphasized the debt was as much my responsibility as his. That isn’t true. And though half the prisoners in Baltimore’s jail were debtors, I doubt Edgar was one of them.