Happy Birthday to Edgar Allan Poe!

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1. “The Raven” made him a star. Almost overnight, Americans were chanting the catchword ‘nevermore.” Parodies popped up in newspapers across the country and kids followed him down the street, flapping their arms

2. He was a cat fancier. In spite of his tale about the murdered black feline, Poe loved cats and they loved him. His devoted tortoiseshell, Caterina, went into a depression whenever Poe traveled. Upon his death, their psychic tie was broken. She died two weeks later.

3. He couldn’t afford to pay the rent. He cleared around $400 in 1845, the year of “The Raven”–a banner year for his wallet. Most years he made far less, forcing him to constantly beg friends and family for “loans.”

4. He was a looker. Forget the images of baggy-eyed lunatic so familiar to us all. They were taken in the year of his death, when he was ill, never a good time for one’s close-up. His portraits from the time of “The Raven” depict a dapper and handsome ladies’ man. Said one admirer, “Gentleman was written all over him.”

5. He was as athletic as he was handsome. Besides holding a record for swimming six miles up the tidal James River in Virginia, he enjoyed rowing around Turtle Bay in New York City and hiking through the countryside. He was a champion long jumper, bursting his only pair of shoes during a contest. He won.

6. He attended his local book club. In 1845, literary fan Anne Charlotte Lynch invited writers and other artists to her New York City home to discuss books and ideas. She kept it casual, unlike other hostesses, offering only tea and Italian ices for refreshment and insisting that guests dress informally. The guests entertained themselves with their discussion. Lynch’s Saturday night conversation was a hit. Poe went often–until the Frances Osgood scandal (aka: having a mistress) got him promptly uninvited.

*PRHS has a book club you can join anytime, JUST SAYIN’!

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