E. A. Poe and carbon monoxide poisoning

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Is it at all possible that Edgar Allan Poe suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning? I heard that this could be one of the reasons that his works are so dreamlike, as vivid dreams are a symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning. Any thoughts?

-- Anonymous, January 17, 2000


It is possible I suppose, but, I think, highly improbable. Poe once said that at a moments notice, he could recall the method of construction of each and every one of his poems and in his Philosophy of Composition, he itemizes the construction of The Raven. Whether he was actually being candid with the reader, well never really know. Frankly, it matters very little. Poes works, his poems, short stories, literary criticisms, his satire, his essays, all of them, demonstrate a consistent clarity and continuity of thought, exquisitely combined with a masterful understanding and firm grasp of the language. George Bernard Shaw once said of Poe that,

America has been found out; and Poe had not; that is the situation. How did he live there, this finest of fine artists, this born aristocrat of letters? Alas! he did not live there: he died there, and was duly explained away as a drunkard and a failure... He was the greatest journalistic critic of his time... His poetry is exquisitely refined... In his stories of mystery and imagination Poe created a world record for the English language: perhaps for all languages... unparalleled and unapproached... Poe constantly and inevitably produced magic where his greatest contemporaries produced only beauty... There is really nothing to be said about it; we others simply take off our hats and let Mr. Poe go first.

Carbon Monoxide poisioning? I'd prefer to think it was genius and extraordinary talent. What do you think Kate?

-- Anonymous, March 27, 2000

Certainly, GBS had a point... but the quality of the work doesn't prove anything about CO poisoning one way or the other. Sometimes a great poetic talent can feed off madness or hallucinations - just look at the work of Coleridge!

-- Anonymous, March 02, 2001

I think it's possible.

-- Anonymous, November 30, 2004


-- Anonymous, January 10, 2005

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