Edgar Allan Poe, Paul, Longfellow discussed on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory
Welcome back to coast to coast AM on October third eighteen forty nine Edgar Allan Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious and in great distress and in need of immediate assistance. According to the man who found him he was taken to the Washington college hospital where he died early on the morning of October. Seventh hole was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition and wearing clothes that were not his own. Some sources say Poe's final words were quote. It's all over now. Right. Eddie is no more referring to his tombstone. Others say his last words were Lord help my poor soul. We're going to delve into the life and times of America's master of mystery in the Macab, Kevin j Hayes is emeritus professor of English at the university of central Oklahoma. He's the author of several books about American, literature and culture, including Edgar Allan Poe. He lives in writes in Toledo, Ohio. Kevin welcome to coast to coast AM. How are you? Good. Thank you for having me. Why for you is Edgar Allan Poe such an amazing writer. Why are you? Why do you write about him? Why are you? So enamored of him. Well, one thing I really like about as he was an ultimate craftsman. I mean, he was someone when when he wrote a sort story he believed that every word counted and not only that every word counted. But also that the position of every word counted. And this was a kind of craftsmanship that poll brought to the writing of short stories that the no one had ever really done before. Now how much of his his his is. Interest in the macabre and horror stems from the tragedy in his early. Life is his is his mother died. His father abandoned him his mother died. I think of tuberculosis later, he had a cousin who who died of tuberculosis. How much of that influenced his writing? Well, I I think it had a big influence on on his writing. Although in my opinion, I think it's been over emphasized. I want to thank you for mentioning my my book at growl in pole. That's a it's a little a poll that I wrote, but why structured it differently than most other biographies because if you if you structure it strict chronological way, you have to start off with then his mother dying. And then he, you know, he gets gets taken in by the foster family, and and I just didn't want to start with that same story over and over again. And so I started with with some short stories, and then I did a flashback to his his early days. And so that was kind of by way of saying that his this emphasis on his mother's death. You know has been overemphasized. But on the other hand, I mean, he did say in his critical writings that, you know, the death of a beautiful woman is is the most. Appropriate subject for poetry. Yes. That is one of his famous quotes, and his I know, you know, he didn't think that he may maybe some of the tragedies. Life is over emphasized, but one particularly profound and poignant moment. His cousin Virginia clam who by all accounts. Had this beautiful voice and one day. She singing for Edgar Allan Poe, and she begins to cough in this tiny drop of blood appears under lip and that was the first sign of the debris kilos which would make her an invalid and eventually take your life. But was that not sort of a period when he really started to drink heavily? Well, I mean, it was an in terms of his. In terms of his personal habits are the different thing than than his is writing. I think now his his writing was already pretty well developed by the time that that. His wife Virginia showed signs of tuberculosis. But he he was really I mean her death, really. Made him distraught. And he did start to start drinking more after that. The one of my favorite works are poems by Paul, and I'm sure many feel the same way is the raven. Which I think first appeared in a in a New York newspaper, but but where did that with the inspiration for that come from? It came from came from posed mind. I mean, that's that's the first thing that comes to my mind. Of course, it's more complicated than that. But it really makes use of a lot of motif that were part of kind of dark literature all already by that time. And in terms of his his verse form, I mean, he he bought the form of the poem from a poem by the pair, brownie. Oh, I didn't know tell me more about that. Well, that may be a bothers. As much as I know about. Now voted follow Browning. Because one of the things that he tried to do in his poetry was to come up with new verse forms and to try different. Way of structuring individual lines in different ways of. Organizing stanzas in rhyme schemes to make his work as original as possible. And that was always an emphasis with him is to try and trying to do something that no one else had done before trying to be original. Now was that was the public on the upon the publication of that poll? I mean that was that was later in life had he to that point achieves any sort of commercial success. Well, I would say commercial success because he never never really was able to live very well on his writings now he did have some success earlier than that. Now, the raven came on eighteen forty five now earlier about five years early or no. A couple of years earlier. He published short story called the gold bug. And that that story won a an award for him. And that was really his biggest his biggest success up until that point until the raven. And then when the raven when he published the raven and that was a big success. He he said that the bird beat the bug. The bird beat the bug. Indeed. There's a famous incident. When he was in New York, he had a a noisy public feud with with Henry Wadsworth longfellow. What was that about? Well. He always born in Boston. I don't know you're just by pure chance because his parents were actors, and that's where they were performing at that time. But he always resented it. And he always kind of looked down his nose at the Boston Brahmins, the literary leader Boston and his his animosity toward longfellow was fell into that same that same animosity. But he he picked a fight with longfellow in the pages of the Broadway journal, which was the magazine he was editing at that time. And I'm not sure how much they're really was behind it. I think Paul was. But someone who recognize the controversy sells newspapers magazines, and you know, he he picked this fight with longfellow. Mainly as just to kind of disturb controversy. It's he's been he's been cited as as really the the the founder, I guess of the of the genre called detective fiction. Tell me tell me more about that give me an example of of detective fiction by Paul. Well, he did a story called the murders in the room more, which is considered the first detective story. And if you read that story, and then ego and read Sherlock Holmes or exit Christie, and you'll see an amazing coincidence of all the years, so many of the different motifs that we now consider as part of detective fiction are already there president in the murders in the room more. So we have the the eccentric consulting detective until he's not a part of the police force, but he often consults with the police force. And you know, he's he has a sidekick just like Dr Watson Sherlock Holmes had Dr Watson. And you know, there's the in in the story itself is a is a sealed room mystery, which would become another famous motif of of this. And also to that pose detective Mischer Japan is someone who's. Was fascinated with the crime scene and looks for a tiny little clues in pieces of evidence in the crime scene. And and try to interpret what they mean? And so virtually every major motif of detectors on RAs president in that one story. You know, we often think of PO the depiction of PLO as those that the bag is and kind of that wild look. Some might even use the word a little bit creepy looking. But that's really not who he was. I understand. He was quite the sportsman quite the athlete. Yes. He wasn't very good athlete. And there's this story about him swimming for like four miles in the James river. And then he was also a good runner too. And he I mean he had to walk. Oh, walk FRA walk for transportation. But but also I mean, it kept them kept in thin and wiry. Now, one of the things that I wrote a little article a few years ago about pose that daguerreotype images of there. The first successful photographic process. And I argue anyways, very very carefully shaped his public image to project this. I mean, so if he looks creepy in those pictures, I mean, it was a deliberate intent one of the things that was kind of big pseudoscience at that time was phonology and the idea that the the shape of your skull and the bumps on your head. How can determine your? Your personality. And so one of the tenants of for knowledge was that a big forehead was a sign of poetic genius. And so, you know, you look at the pictures of PO and he's got this big forehead while I think he'd he deliberately posed for the camera to emphasize his forehead. He was also very interested in cryptography. You mentioned the gold bug earlier the incorporated a lot of sort of ciphers as an essential part of the story. Where did he where did he get that interest in in in cryptography, and what kind of cypher city employees in the Goldbach? I'm not exactly sure where he he I picked up the interest in cryptography. But it's it's not doesn't surprise me. Because oh was fascinated with what's interpreting signs? Now, it's in cryptography is pretty basic way of doing that. Because you have. Individual typographic characters that symbolize other other letters. And it's it's the. A person's responsibility to figure out what those things mean. Now, something that even before he wrote the gold bug post was fascinated with those kinds of puzzles, and when he was working on one magazine challenged readers to send in ciphers, and he'd try to figure them out. And he he did. I mean, if he pretty much figured out all the ones that people send him, but. They were sending him so many that he just had to quit doing it. Because it was taking too much time. But even the other aspects of of the culture of his interests. I think that the interpretation of signs was something that he was very much fascinated with for -nology is one. I mean, he was also interested in handwriting, and what a person's handwriting men, and and even things like clothing, and and the way that they walked I mean, he would interpret all those things and see how how external self is a reflection of the internal self. His another set of misconception is that he had. Deep psychological issues, and that he was sort of a raging alcoholic that was sort of all born out of another few. We mentioned the the the the other feud with longfellow, but yet another feud with another rival that that sort of spawned a lot of these exaggerated stories tell me about that. Well, there was a there was this guy named Rufus Griswold and Griswold published a book called the poets and poetry of America. And this was a kind of anthology of of early American, poet and. He gave a copy of it and said, okay. Could you write a nice review for me posted? Oh, I'd be glad to review it. And this gave the book. I mean, it was just gave it a very cutting review, and you know, Griswold was was very disappointed by that. And in part of what you know, what was going on there is that there's this. Yeah. Kind of just good old boy network back then in one author would review another one and you'd say good things about him. And he'd say good things about you. And and you know, every everyone would sell more books and PO was I had a scrupulous integrity when it came to reviewing books. And if you read a book, he read a book that was a bad book. He would he would say it was a bad book in in the reviews, and even as a reviewer he became known as that the Tomahawk man, I just for his cutting reviews. Well, anyway, and so that ever since he made gave Griswold a bad review for his book. I mean, there was this animosity between those two and then after Paul's death Griswold published a of him, and it's called the he didn't he signed it Ludwig. So he didn't sign his own name to it. But it was this terrible review. It said what a drunken propogate the poll wasn't that? He.