Photo of Edgar Allen Poe's Grave in Baltimore, Maryland

Weekly Gem #174 "Scary" doesn't begin to describe Poe

Published 10/27/2018

Location: This hidden gem is located in the graveyard of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, in Baltimore, MD (see the  Clue Me! Map). This is Poe's second burial site in this graveyard, the first being an obscure and poorly marked plot out back.

Most of us think of Edgar Allen Poe and immediately think "scary." True enough, Poe has kept multitudes awake, suddenly feeling a great anxiety about shadows and noises that they hadn't noticed before.

However, Poe was extremely versatile and influential in both storytelling and authorship as a career path.

Poe is credited with creating the "detective" genre, in part based on his "Murders in the Rue Morgue" (which was also scary). Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot followed the lead of Poe's Mr. Dupin.

Poe had one of the first "science fiction" works, called "The Balloon." This was published in the Sun Newspaper, and caused such an uproar that the paper had to publish a retraction. The paper made lots of money, but didn't pay Poe.

Poe was influential in creating a path and expectation that authors would be paid. For most of his life, he lived in poverty while publishers gained wealth from his fame. That's just the way it was done in the early 1800's. As Poe became more famous he demanded fair pay, but also led the creation and enforcement of international copyright, so other authors would have some protection and ownership of their own works.

Poe was a very active and innovative critic ... some would say "scathing." He is one of the first to focus on quality of the story, how well it was written, as opposed to the "moral" of the story. After all, what's the value of a strong moral if nobody reads about it? If he thought a story was poorly written, his critiques would leave no doubt about his opinion ... which in a backhanded way led Poe to gain far greater fame after his death. Poe had little positive to say about the writings of one Rufus Griswold ... Rufus being an acquaintance who Poe worked with now and then. After Poe died, Griswold wrote an obituary (under a false name) that blatantly lied about Poe, aiming to trash him after his death in retaliation for his harsh critiques in life. He also conned Poe's aunt into giving him Poe's writings as executor, whereupon he hid behind closed doors while he blatantly rewrote and forged Poe's own letters and other writings to make Poe look like an egocentric, drug-addled madman. While Griswold's smear campaign caused much consternation at the time, it seemed to actually add to Poe's intrigue, and led people to read even more of Poe's writings. In the end, Griswold gave Poe far more exposure than he had gained in life. And Griswold's smear campaign was uncovered easily enough, because he had modified many writings that had already been published (i.e. he was changing copies, not originals). Poe was clearly imperfect, perhaps a result of being human, but he was also an undeniably creative and skillful author.

"All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream."

~~ E A Poe  


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.




Edgar Allen Poe's Grave

Why It's Interesting

The final resting place of Edgar Allen Poe, being his second grave in the Westminster Hall graveyard. His first grave (from 1849) is in the family plot on the south side of Westminster Hall, but it was poorly marked and unkempt. Upon learning this, his mother-in-law raised enough fuss that efforts and fundraising began to prepare a new monument ... which was too large to fit at the original grave site. Poe and the new monument were placed here in 1875.

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