Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston; a fact often overlooked because he’s so often associated with Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore makes an industry of him too, which is interesting because I’m in the city of his birth, standing on the corner of Boylston and Charles streets in front of a burrito place that bears a little plaque that says the house he grew up in stood on this very spot.
The original structure and the street on which is stood was demolished utterly in 1960 in the midst of a housing restructure project. A cab driver put up the plaque in ’89, shocked that there was no efforts towards preservation. Later, the city renamed the square abutting the burrito place to Edgar Allen Poe Way.
There’s talk of a statue being erected for him, here, the place where he wrote his first book, despite the fact that he often lied about where he came from and he disparaged the Boston publishing elite. He called native Bostonians “Frogpondians.”
Born to actors, Poe’s father left the family early on and his mother died when he was three. He left Boston to live with John and Frances Allan, a successful tobacco merchant and his wife, in Richmond, Virginia. John, being business-minded, couldn’t seem to influence Edgar into the trade. Edgar preferred using the back of his business papers to write poetry.
Poe attended the University of Virginia in 1826, but Allan didn’t provide him with enough funds to cover all his costs. To cover the difference, Poe turned to gambling, but ended up in debt. He returned to home only to face another personal setback—his neighbor and fiancée Elmira Royster had become engaged to someone else. Heartbroken and frustrated, Poe left the Allans for Boston in 1827.
Also in 1827, he published his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems. Around the same time, he joined the army and was stationed at Fort Moultrie until 1828. It was during this time that he overheard a story, told to him in confidence, about a man bricked into a cell in the old fort. The story would later become the inspiration for the Cask of Amontillado.
A body was later exhumed from the fort, after an examination of the plans revealed that one cell was missing and a suspicious, brick wall was standing in its place.
The Man Himself, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe
The Cask of Amontillado
The Tell Tale Heart, narrated by James Mason
The Raven, read by Christopher Walken