We got some laughs in here. And joining us now in studio is Chris Semtner. He's the curator of the Poe Museum in Richmond, Va. Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for having me. Great to be here. So we've been talking about all Baltimore's claims to Poe, but certainly Richmond has a lot of him as well. Poe's Pub is one of my favorite restaurants down there, but there's so much history in Richmond. Tell us a little bit about his life there and how he's tied to Richmond, Va. He wrote a letter where he famously referred to himself as a Virginian.
And he was orphaned there at the age of two. He grew up in Richmond with foster parents, John and Francis Allan who gave him Allan as a middle name. It was in Richmond that he began his career in journalism that really shaped the rest of his life. He first fell in love there. He was married there. His sister lived there during all of his lifetime. He was engaged with her at the time of her death and her house is still standing on Church Hill. The burial sites of his mother, his foster parents are all still there. The house where he gave his last reading of "The Raven" is still standing there.
And of course the Poe Museum. For Halloween we're having Poe Goes to the Movies. And Vincent Price's daughter will be in town. And then the day after Halloween, November 1, Vincent Price was a big foodie. So he even wrote a cookbook. We're having Vincent Price-inspired foods inspired by his cookbook prepared by different chefs in town from Can-Cans and the Berkeley Hotel. So there'll be a wine tasting and you'll be able to sample different -- Vince Price's favorite foods. All these links are up at kojoshow. And of course join our conversation. Tell us what Poe has meant to you if you studied it in school.
Give us a call at One thing that's interesting and some of your favorites works, Chris, are actually not the spooky works. So he was really a literary first critic and wrote many other works. Some of his best-selling novels had nothing to do with scaring people. So tell us a little bit about that. He wrote that to be appreciated you must be read. They're not going to appreciate your work unless they read it. And he really wanted to stand out from the crowd. And part of that was writing book reviews. It just tore apart the northern writers.
And another part of it was creating a persona about himself. He -- we actually have an autobiographical memo in our museum where he came up with fansical tales about him fighting the Greek wars of independence and going to St. Petersburg, Russia. And it really drew attention to him. SEMTNER But another way that attracted this attention was by writing totally new things like inventing the detective story and pioneering science fiction and of course the horror stories. And he wrote about 70 short stories.
And only about 15 of them were horror stories. So there were a lot more comedies and satires. Thank you very much for joining us. Thank you very much for taking my call. And my question is, I have read Edgar Allan Poe short stories, you know, years ago. And I enjoyed most of his short stories and the topic or the issue that he raised and then, you know, tried to convey to the readers.
But my question is, I remember his short stories are not -- are a little bit different. And then he called them short, short stories. And that was a new genre during that time. And then I would like your guests to comment on the difference between short stories and short, short stories and basically in relation to Edgar Allan Poe's works. And thank you very much for Chris Semtner of the Poe Museum in Richmond, do you have some thoughts on that? He grew up loving poetry and wanting to write poetry.
His hero growing up was Lord Byron. So today you might idolize a basketball star or a rock star, but he idolized Lord Byron, the man who was mad, bad and dangerous to know. And he published three books of poetry before he even published his first short story. So he found out later that these didn't pay the bills. But he started entering his short stories in contests and found out he won a big contest for his adventure story "Manuscript Found in a Bottle. And that segued into him getting a job at the Southern Literary Messenger. And before then a lot of writers thought short stories should be used to edify or to enlighten or to give you a moral example.
But Poe thought that the idea of poetry should have a single unified emotional impact on the reader, that the poem should be beautiful for its own sake, that art exists for art's sake and is really ahead of its time. So he thought with his stories he should build them up so that every element leads up to that emotional impact he's trying to get. You just have to make sure it springs at just the right time and all the parts work together. So you see it really effectively in the "Tell-Tale Heart.
You don't even know the names of the characters because it's not important. You don't even know if the narrator's a male or female because that's not what's important to him. He's just trying to get that emotional impact that just rises to the end with that confession. Tear up the planks here, here, here to the beating of his heart.
It's still spooky even not hearing the words. It's not something that you'd expect, right? A piece of hack work he did. He was -- early in his career he had moved to New York and the magazine he was going to work there failed. He had written one novel but "The Conchologist's First Book" was just a deal he'd made with a professional conchologist who wanted a cheaper version of his own book to sell at lectures.
And his publishers wouldn't allow him to do that. So there was more of a market, they thought, for seashells than there was for the tales, the grotesque and arabesque. So Richmond lays claim to him, Baltimore lays claim to him, Philadelphia, Boston obviously. And I was -- what really intrigued by the Vincent Price wine aspect and the wonderful things you have in Richmond. But it shows his influence and enduring influence that the cities that he spent the most time in or had the most emotional attachment to really claimed him. And I think that if you are a Poe aficionado to actually be on this side of the United States, you could go to Richmond in one day, go up to Baltimore, all of that and have quite a day.
He moved around. His works are read everywhere. So we really consider Poe's home to be anywhere his works are read. His works are read in Paris, France. He was a big hit over there even during his lifetime. So everywhere you go as long as you're reading Poe's works, you're keeping his memory alive. And that's where he is at that time. He's the first one who really changed the face of world literature. Before him there were popular writers in Europe like Washington Irving, but Poe's the first one who invented new literary genres, who came up with this idea of art for art's sake who really changed the way we thought about art and literature.
So his impact is just enormous. So give us a call at and tell us your favorite Edgar Allan Poe short story or poem. And we will be right back after a short break.
The Life And Legacy Of Edgar Allan Poe
So we know a lot about Poe's darker side and that spookiness, but I'm wondering, Chris, how did romance shape Edgar Allan Poe's work and life? And a lot of his poetry has that romantic theme. We actually had an exhibit at the museum about Annabel Lee back in January. And it was about the different women who thought they were the real Annabel Lee. Even growing up in Richmond his sister went to a local girls' school and he would use his sister to sneak notes to the different girls and send them love poetry.
And they really liked it until they figured out it was just the same poem over and over again. The problem was, he was 14, she was his best friend's mother so he'd have to worship her from afar. She probably thought he was a nice weird kid. And then at 15 he fell in love with Elmira Royster, who was from a pretty wealthy family.
And Edgar and Elmira would sneak away to be together. Her father just disapproved of Edgar. Edgar was this orphan, this actress' kid. He had never been legally adopted by the Allans. So they decided to become secretly engaged to get married. As soon as he graduated from college he could take care of himself. Broke his heart. He ran away from home. He published his first book "Tamerlane" about that heartbreak and that loss. Didn't find out until later what had happened was when he would send her love letters, her father intercepted them and burned them and convinced her Poe had forgotten all about her so she'd marry somebody more suitable.
And Elmira was with her husband at a party and she saw the young couple. And she said in one of her letters later that she got so jealous that seeing them together was agonizing. And she instantly had to remind herself she's a married woman and chase those thoughts as if they were venomous reptile.
He's 39, she's She's lost her husband and she's gone through the whole multi-year mourning process so she's good to go. She can remarry now.
And he just showed up at her door one day. And after all these years he looked up and saw her and says, Elmira, is that you? And she said, go away. I got to go to church. But he kept coming back in spite of her reservations. Her husband left her a fortune but he left a stipulation in his will to discourage gold diggers so that if she ever remarried she's lose two-thirds of that.
And she's willing to give up that fortune to be with Edgar. He pledged never to touch alcohol again. And they've tested some of his hair and it looks like just based on his hair we know at least for the last couple months of his life he seemed to have stayed true to that pledge. The alcohol had a lot of lead in it and the lead levels just dropped about that time.
Clemm talking about that time as she said, I remember seeing Edgar and his lovely wife very soon after they were married. I met them. I shall never forget my feelings at the time. Desperate for money but unwilling to ask his father, David Poe traveled south to Stockertown, fifty miles north of Philadelphia, to the house of his cousin George Poe. Arriving at night, he called George to the door, told George that the most awful moment of his life had come, pleaded for an urgent meeting the next day, insisted he had not come to beg and strode off in a tragic manner.
George kept his appointment the following day but failed to find David, who then sent him an "impertinent note. Be assured I will keep my promise at least as well as you did yours, and that nothing but extreem distress would have forc'd me to make this application. But which I would most willingly quit tomorrow if it gave satisfaction to your family provided I could do any thing else that would give bread to mine.
In late February, after this emotional plea had failed, the Poes left the five-week-old Edgar in Baltimore with his paternal grandparents, "General" David and Elizabeth Poe, and continued their theatrical tour. They returned to fetch him in late August, when the season was over, placing Edgar and later his sister Rosalie in the care of an old nursemaid. A friend reported that the two children "were thin and pale and very fretful. To quiet them their old nurse We can only speculate about the the reasons for David's disappearance.
Eliza had a successful career; David, after many mediocre performances and harsh reviews, was discouraged, frustrated and professionally jealous. Known for his heavy drinking, both onstage and off, David may have been dismissed for incompetence. There may have been recriminations about their impetuous marriage and his inability to take responsibility for three small and perhaps unwanted children.
Illness and poverty certainly intensified the couple's problems and undermined their relationship. Five months later, on about December 11, , David seems to have died, alone, in Norfolk. From his father Edgar inherited family pride, incongruous gentility, histrionic habits, a volatile temperament, sensitivity to criticism, self-pity, instability, a perverse self-destructive tendency and an Irish weakness for drink.
David Poe had lost caste and alienated his family by abandoning law for the stage as Edgar later would do by abandoning his university education to become a common soldier and, when plunging into the uncertain waters of literature, by giving up his career as a West Point cadet to join the destitute writers of Grub Street.
The desertion of her husband, the arduous demands of her profession, the constant movement from one cheap lodging house to another, the sole responsibility for her young children, her life of hardship and poverty, undoubtedly contributed to the early death of Eliza Poe. She made her last appearance onstage on October 11, Three weeks later a Richmond neighbor told his sister that Eliza was being patronized by Richmond Society: "Mrs.
Poe, who you know is a very handsome woman, happens to be very sick, and having quarreled and parted with her husband is destitute. That same day the Enquirer reported her hopeless condition and asked for urgent help: "On this night, Mrs. Poe , lingering on the bed of disease and surrounded by her children, asks your assistance and asks it perhaps for the last time. Her obituary notice observed that "the stage has been deprived of one of its chief ornaments; and to say the least of her, she was an interesting actress, and never failed to catch the applause and command the admiration of the beholder.
Luke Usher who gave their name to Poe's most famous story , older, actor friends, who had been Eliza's protectors after the death of her mother, took care of Edgar and Rosalie during Eliza's last illness. Poe later said that he had never known his mother nor enjoyed the affection of his father, for they had died within three days of each other. The desertion of his father and death of his mother must have had considerable emotional impact on the nearly three-year-old child.
Closeted with his mother in their cramped quarters, he must have remembered something of the melancholy atmosphere, poignant silence and hopeless despair as the attendants passed in and out of the sickroom; he surely retained some memory of the racking coughs, the spitting of blood, the sudden crimson hemorrhages and the pallid figure extended on her deathbed.
He would also share her itinerant way of life, her impoverished existence and her dreary death. Two weeks after Eliza's death, on December 26, , seventy-two people were burned to death during a disastrous fire at the Richmond Theater and the entire city joined the small orphan in mourning. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Textbooks. Read an excerpt of this book! Note: Citations are based on reference standards.
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Write a review Rate this item: 1 2 3 4 5. Preview this item Preview this item. The archetype of the suffering artist, he lived from one extreme to the other: he knew fame and obscurity, wealth and destitution, and the loss of everything he cherished. His fevered imagination brought him to great heights of creativity and the depths of paranoiac despair. Yet although he produced a relatively small volume of work, he virtually invented the horror and detective genres and his literary legacy endures to this day.
Edgar Allan Poe : His Life and Legacy (ExLib) by Jeffrey Meyers | eBay
Jeffrey Meyers here charts Poe's life in astonishing detail, from its inauspicious beginnings through the mysterious events of his last weeks. He explores Poe's pathological need to ruin everything he strived for - in journalism, friendship and marriage. He also reveals Poe as a man of infinite paradox: a Virginia gentleman and the son of itinerant actors, the heir to a great fortune and a disinherited outcast, a university man who had failed to graduate, a soldier bought out of the army, a husband with an unapproachable child-bride, a brilliant editor and low-salaried hack, a world-renowned but impoverished author, a temperate man and uncontrollable alcoholic, a materialist who yearned for a final union with God.
As he turns from the life to the works, Meyers combines psychological insight with critical acumen. Finally, through lively anecdote, Meyers gives Poe's literary legacy its due, covering his three distinct reputations - in America, England and France - and his powerful influence on modern writers from Nietzsche to Nabokov.