I need articles on E.A. Poe's fear of death or premature burial

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I need articles and/ or commentary on E A Poe's fear of being buried alive and his fear of premature death. Thanks! Joan J

-- Anonymous, November 21, 1999


Check out Susan Archer Talley Weiss's book The Home Life of Poe.

-- Anonymous, November 29, 1999

I've read a pretty few about the great author's life, and i think that his fear of being burried alive was a result of his wife's disease (i don't actually remember its name) which makes her - in many cases - fall in a deep, long comma that renders her as if dead. And since he loved his wife so much, he always feared that this might put her in grave while she is still alive. Another point is that when his beloved wife actually died, he kept a long time thinking that this might be a comma after which she's gonna wake up...

-- Anonymous, January 29, 2000

I don't have the answer to this question, but I would be very interested to find out what Tis has to say about this. Thanks Missey

-- Anonymous, November 08, 2000


First of all, thank you for your confidence. I have responded to this question before on the forum and what follows is a copy of that response. I hope you find it useful.

Of course one cannot speak of Poe's motives with first hand knowledge and his use of this theme (premature burial) differs somewhat from story to story. In the tale "The Premature Burial", Poe begins by reciting several actual accounts that had been noted in local newspapers of the time. This is consistent with his technique of using a general truth or facts, however incidental, to support or enhance the fictional elements in the story. This is a very effective technique and is used even today, especially in mystery and science- fiction stories. How many times have we heard the line, "Stranger than fiction" while watching advertisements for some up-coming mystery show on television.

Add to this the fact that a general fear of "accidental burial" did exist in the early 19th century and your readership is all but assured. Medicine was advancing but slowly, epidemics were frequent by today's standards and autopsies were rare if required at all. According to Kenneth Silverman in his book, "Edgar Allan Poe - Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance", he mentions two works dealing with this fear during the period. One was, "On the Signs of Death" in 1834 that went through numerous re-printings and discussed how specific afflictions could mimic death. The other was "The Dangers of Premature Burial" in 1816 by Joseph Taylor. This work opened the subject to public discussion and knowledge by the time Poe's story appeared but it was poorly understood. This made a good recipe for a horrific tale and there is little doubt Poe recognized this. If you were unfortunate enough to find yourself in a coma or catatonic state, in the public mind, there was no assurance your heart beat or breathing would or could be detected nor your condition recognized as anything other than your, shall we say, "final departure."

I do not mean to say that your interpretation is in error, nor would I attempt to voice an opinion in judgement of the merit of your interpretation of Poe's use of this theme. After some forty years of reading his prose, his poetry, lectures, essays, commentary and even his personal correspondence, I have come to see Poe as little different than his contemporaries with, perhaps, a single variation. That variation would be in the expression of his extraordinary genius.


-- Anonymous, November 08, 2000

Thanks Tis! As usual your answer is both interesting and informative.


-- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

HAHA- TIS to the rescue again. i wonder if is possible that poe himself is alive today under the alais of tis

-- Anonymous, February 04, 2001

what was the fear of the 19th century europeans

-- Anonymous, June 10, 2004

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