Monday, October 08, 2018

Edgar Allan Poe Museum

Last time I was in Richmond, I finally visited the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. The young tour guide breathed life into the antiques and artifacts with stories of Poe's life, even more intriguing than his writing.

Orphaned by his actor parents as a child, he and his two siblings were taken in by different families. John and Frances Allan of Richmond reared Edgar — Frances was fond of him, but John and Edgar did not get along.

On his own as a young adult, Poe struggled at various professions and found his way into writing. At 27, he married his much younger first cousin, Virginia Clemm. The following years were the happiest time in his life, with some writing success and family life with his wife and aunt in Baltimore and later New York.

Edgar Allan Poe's desk
Virginia died young of tuberculosis, after 11 years of marriage. Poe floundered after that, with less success in his writing career and a failed courtship.

Around 1849 he found work in Richmond and renewed a relationship with a childhood sweetheart. He planned a trip to New York to move his aunt/mother-in-law to Richmond to live with him. Mysteriously, he was found in Baltimore, disoriented and delirious.

After a few incoherent days in the hospital, he died on October 7, 1849. The cause of death remains a mystery. (The 2012 movie The Raven gives a fictional account of Poe's death as murder by poison.)

Poe's childhood home no longer exists, but its original staircase and other artifacts belonging to the Edgar Allan Poe Shrine (now Foundation) found a home with Richmond's oldest house, built ca. 1737.

The buildings are also home to two black cats, Edgar and Pluto. I only snapped photos of Edgar, who was patrolling the courtyard (Pluto was lounging at the bottom of a dark staircase), but I got to pet both of them.

The gift shop added to my wish list, including the book The Poe Shrine: Building the World's Finest Edgar Allan Poe Collection, a book about finding artifacts for the museum, including first editions of Poe's poems and books.

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