Edgar Allan Poe:
In Baltimore and at the Enoch Pratt Free Library
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was a poet, literary critic, and fiction writer who pioneered the mystery story in America and still haunts the American imagination with works such as "The Raven" and "The Masque of the Red Death." His legacy of great literature and his mysterious death in Baltimore at age 40 are still debated and discussed today.
Poe had connections to most major cities on the eastern seaboard of the United States, such as Boston, Philadelphia and Richmond, but few as close as those to Baltimore. Although he was born in Boston, he had been known to cite Baltimore as his birthplace. Since the 1930s, the Enoch Pratt Free Library has collected materials and memorabilia about Poe.
This guide is intended to help those interested in the life and works of Poe as regards Baltimore.
Poe in Baltimore
The Poe family's history in
Baltimore dates to 1755. Poe's grandfather played an integral role
in the Revolutionary War and fought again in the War of 1812. His cousin
Neilson was a prominent lawyer. A number of Poe's early successes were in
Baltimore. Here is a brief chronology.
Poe at the Enoch Pratt Free Library/State Library Resource Center
Since 1934, when the Poe Room opened on the second floor of the Central Library, the Enoch Pratt Free Library has been a center of scholarship about Edgar Allan Poe. View our virtual exhibit, where you will find such items as:
- A letter from Poe to Maria and Virginia Clemm, professing his love for Virginia.
- A letter of condolence upon Edgar's death to Maria Clemm from his cousin Neilson Poe.
- A poem written in a letter by Virginia for Edgar, which included a lock of her hair.
Poe's poetry, along with his critical writings, and biographical and critical works about him, are available from the Humanities Department. Some of these books include:
The Poe Room was dedicated on January 19, 1934, the 125th anniversary of Poe's birth. It was intended to be a "living memorial to the great genius, who stimulated American literature." It now functions as a meeting room, but does contain an exhibit of letters, memorabilia, and a portrait of Poe copied from a daguerreotype by Thomas Corner for the Pratt Library. Among the books in the Poe Room are:
- Poe, Edgar Allan. The Raven: Illustrated by Gustave Doré; with Comment by Edmund C. Stedman. New York, Harper & Brothers, 1884. PS2609.A13F 1884
Doré, a 19th century engraver, was known for his dramatic portrayal of literary works. Here is a wonderful example with "Lenore" appearing on nearly every page, ghostly and beautiful.
- Rice, Sara Sigourney. Edgar Allan Poe: A Memorial Volume. Baltimore, Turnbull Brothers, 1877. PS2633.R5
Rice, a Baltimore schoolteacher, was a leader in obtaining a monument to Poe and moving his remains from the back of the Westminster Hall cemetery to a prominent place in front.
The Special Collections Department, housed in our Annex, is an exciting center for scholarship, with books, manuscripts, artworks, and other items. Books about Poe in our Special Collections include:
Poe lives on today in cyberspace.
- Maryland Public Television, has an interactive site, Knowing Poe, which introduces students to the "Literature, Life, and Times of Edgar Allan Poe . . . In Baltimore and Beyond."
The cause of Poe's death remains a mystery to this day. Theories range from murder to carbon monoxide poisoning. The following Web sites talk about these theories:
If you would like to learn more about Edgar Allan Poe's life and writings, e-mail us through our Ask-A-Librarian service, call us at (410) 396-5487, or mail your questions to:
Enoch Pratt Free Library
State Library Resource Center
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201