Poe.....an alcoholic....?????

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Was poe really an insane alcoholic? I know he had written some very well written works, but did he write them while he was drunk?????? Also, did he die of alcoholism or rabies???????????

-- Anonymous, April 03, 2000



The answers to your questions depend heavily upon who you ask. There are many differing opinions out there but I offer these for your consideration only. I suggest you do some research before reaching a final conclusion. The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore has an excellent website at http://www.eapoe.org/.

Following some 40 years of study of Edgar Allan Poe, his literary works, his correspondence, his essays and reading multiple representative biographies, I have, over the years, developed my own personal views relative to the man and his literary creations. The biography that I feel is most accurate and best represents sound research and accurate interpretations of historical fact was written by Authur Hobson Quinn in his book Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Nevertheless, be aware that the following merely reflects my personal opinions and, in no way, do I attempt to represent myself as an authority.

First and foremost, is your question of his sanity. Hmmmm. Honestly, at least to my knowledge, there is no one person that participates on this forum that would be qualified to render an accurate diagnosis of sanity and I would be highly suspect of the conclusions if the attempt was made. Insanity clearly infers a deranged state of mind or some specific mental disorder that would preclude rational understanding, thought and behavior. Absent a face to face interview of Mr. Poe or some period of direct observation of Poes behavior by a qualified psychologist, we are compelled to judge his sanity from the evidence he has left behind, his works. There is no evidence that Edgar Allan Poe suffered from insanity and, frankly, I think the idea is absurd.

Was he an insane alcoholic? If the first is an improbability, the second is left as a mere possibility. The definition of an alcoholic is; a complex chronic psychological and nutritional disorder associated with excessive and usually compulsive drinking. There is ample evidence that Edgar Allan Poe drank to excess and much to often for his own good. As you may know, there are any number of reasons people consume alcohol but the one most important in this context is its compulsive and habitual use. We know that in the latter years of his life following the loss of his wife, Virginia, Poe suffered numerous fits of severe depression and recurring illness. It was during this period when he most exhibited behavior most consistent with habitual drinking. It was also in this period that he was known to have joined a temperance group as well. However, he appears to have indulged more often in intermittent excess as opposed to the long, successive bouts of drinking and lounging in a drunken stupor. I am reluctant to use the term binge drinking here because the term seems more modern rather than the traditional he went on a binge. Is this an indication of an addiction, a physical or psychological dependence on alcohol? I cant say with any degree of certainty and, frankly, neither can anyone else. I will say . It is possible, his behavior seems to loosely fit the definition.

Did he write while under the influence of alcohol. As I said in a previous response, I can and will say that I have never read any poem, tale, critique, essay, lecture note or personal correspondence executed by the hand of Poe that would lead me to believe that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of its commission. His brilliance; his clarity of thought; his verbal illustrations; his descriptive character and setting construction; his verbal manipulation of the readers senses and his unparalleled command of the language simply does not waver and its consistent execution is inconsistent with persistent intoxication. Ill stand by that until the evidence demonstrates the contrary.

As regards the issue of his death as a result of rabies, you can read my response to a similar question on another thread in this forum. The url address is: http://greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl? msg_id=002pzv and is titled Ideas about Poes DEATH

So Stacey, strictly speaking. No he was not an insane alcoholic but he did exhibit some characteristics of an alcohol abuser. No, there is no evidence that he wrote while under the influence, in fact, his genius and brilliance demonstrates the opposite. Finally, my opinion is NO, he most likely died of other causes and until there is more factual evidence, I will stick to the Cooping theory.


-- Anonymous, April 06, 2000

Poe was not an alcoholic.......i read a biography that has been published in 1999 and it clearly states that poe was allergic to alcohol. It was given to him often as a child by his alcoholic father and he became allergic to it. Everytime poe would take a sip of alcohol he would faint. As a result of the fainting everyone figured he drank a lot and was drunk. The rumor came about of poe being an alcoholic from the man who wrote his obituary.....i forgot his name. The man, did not like poe at all because when poe was a critic, he gave a bad review for the man's book and no one purchased it. So, the guy hated poe's guts and basically got back at him by writing false info in his obituary, which, of course everyone read.

-- Anonymous, November 21, 2000

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