Today is the birthday of American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849).
Born into a family of traveling actors, Poe was orphaned when he was just three years old. He was taken in and raised by a Virginia family, the Allans.
Although Poe was an editor, literary critic, poet, novelist, and writer of short stories, he constantly struggled financially — a struggle that was no doubt fueled by his habits of drinking and gambling. Not until after his death, at just forty years of age, was his work recognized for its genius. His short stories “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Cask of Amontillado” have become classics, and his poem “The Raven” is one of the most recognized and recited poems in the English language. In fact the poem is so well recognized that when the city of Baltimore, the site of Poe’s death in 1849, acquired its NFL franchise in 1996, they chose the Ravens as their name. (The team’s three costumed raven mascots are named “Edgar,” “Allen,” and “Poe.”).
Known for the tales of macabre and mystery he wrote during his life, one specific mystery became associated with Poe after his death.
For sixty years, beginning in 1949 (the centennial of his death), an anonymous admirer visited Poe’s cenotaph — a monument erected at the site of Poe’s original grave at Westminster Burial Ground in Baltimore, Maryland. To commemorate Poe’s birthday each January 19th this mysterious individual — known as the “Poe Toaster” — left three roses, a bottle of French cognac, and occasionally a note. The clandestine visits ended in 2009, the bicentennial of Poe’s birth (1).
Today’s Challenge: Gone But “Nevermore” Forgotten
What object would you leave at the grave of an author or other famous person you admire, and what would you write in a note to that person? Write an explanation of what you would leave at the grave of a person you admire along with an explanation of the object’s significance. Also include the contents of a note you would leave along with the object. (Common Core 2 – Expository)
Quotation of the Day: Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?”— Arthur Conan Doyle, at a Poe Centennial Celebration Dinner in 1909