|Poe's portrait found in the house.|
Have you ever gotten a chance to check something off your bucket list?
Recently, I had that opportunity. My family and I were visiting Philadelphia. We’d seen the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin’s print shop and Betsy Ross’s cottage and I noticed that Edgar Allan Poe’s house was within walking distance.
I’ve been a fan of Poe even before my American Literature classes in High School because of my love of horror flicks, so I was excited to see where he lived. And if you know me even a little, you probably know that my interests inspire research. Here are some facts I discovered about his early life and the events that led up to his renting the home at 234 North Seventh St.
1.On January 19, 1809, Edgar Poe was born. His was the middle child of three. He had an older brother, William who was called “Henry” and later his sister named Rosalie arrived.
2. Edgar’s father left his family when Edgar was about two-years-old. It’s believed he died soon after.
3. Edgar’s mother, Eliza, was an actress and theater-goers thought she was good. They described her performances as “enchanting” and “pleasing.” Unfortunately, Eliza had tuberculosis and she died when she was only twenty-four-years old and Edgar was two.
4. John and Fanny Allan became Edgar’s parents. They sent Edgar to a private school, when he turned five. He was a good student. Teachers remembered him loving writing and poetry.
5. Edgar moved to England with his new family. Unfortunately, the business John Allan hoped would take off in England didn’t, so the family returned to America.
6. Edgar attended the University of Virginia, but he ran out of money and had to leave after a year.
7. He entered the U.S. Army and maybe because he had been such a good student, the army admitted him to the military academy at West Point. Edgar didn’t like it and began to disobey orders and neglect his duties. Needless to say, his behavior didn’t go over well. The academy kicked him out.
8. When his foster father found out, he was so upset he disowned Edgar.
9. In 1831, Edgar went to live with his father’s mother, which of course, would be his grandmother, Elizabeth Cairnes Poe, and his brother, Henry. Henry was sick with tuberculosis. They also lived with Edgar’s aunt, Maria Clemm, and her daughter, Virginia. He grew very close to his cousin, Virginia.
10. Edgar knew he had to get a job to support his family. He wanted to be a writer and in 1831 he got Elam and Bliss in New York to publish his second book called, Poems of Edgar A. Poe. He had to pay for the publishing, so he asked his fellow cadets to help him. When they did, he dedicated the book to them.
11. In 1833, Edgar won a writing contest for a story called Manuscript Found in a Bottle. He earned fifty dollars. His writing career was growing. Soon he landed a job as an editor.
12. In 1836, Edgar’s grandmother died and rather than being parted from Virginia, he married her. She was only twelve or thirteen at the time, but Edgar and Virginia listed her age as twenty-one.
13. In 1843, the couple moved to Philadelphia and rented a house in a neighbor that used to be called the Spring Garden district. They lived there with Maria Clemm. It’s this house that I visited and here are a couple of pictures I snapped.
|This is one of the closets. Notice the photo of Maria Clemm, Poe's mother-in-law and aunt.|
|This is the stairs to the basement, which may have been the inspiration for the poem The Black Cat.|
Unlike other houses turned into museums, this house is almost empty—no curtains, beds, dressers, desks or tables or chairs to speak of. I was told that Poe sold most of the furniture to finance his family’s move to New York. One online site described the house as being maintained in “arrested decay.” This means that historical society that cares for it allows the paint to peel and the house to age. The caregivers perform just enough upkeep so that the house is safe. The house’s arrested decay actually seems to make it an appropriate setting for the poem, The Black Cat, which authorities believe Poe penned there.
|Offerings in the gift shop|
Binns, Tristan Boyer. Edgar Allan Poe: Master of Suspense. New York: F. Watts, 2005. Print.
Gigliotti, Jim, and Tim Foley. Who Was Edgar Allan Poe? N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Lange, Karen E. Nevermore: A Photobiography of Edgar Allan Poe. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2009. Print.