How did Edgar Allan Poe die? : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread


How did Edgar Allan Poe Die?

-- Anonymous, August 23, 2000



The facts behind Edgar Poe's death remain mysterious only in that his actions and whereabouts prior to his admission to Washington College Hospital are in question. He was found unconscious in the street in front of the 4th Ward Polls in Baltimore on October 3, 1849 by a local printer. He was taken to Washington College Hospital that same afternoon by his friend, Dr. J. E. Snodgrass and his Uncle, Henry Herring who had been summoned by the printer. Poe's appearance was uncharacteristically disheveled and he was, at times, incoherent.

At the hospital, he was attended by Dr. John J. Moran for 4 days. During this period, he experienced periods of lucidity and appeared to be recovering somewhat but continued to suffer fits and heavy sweating. Poe died between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on October 7, 1849 and Dr. Moran attributed his death to "congestion of the brain".

There are several theories but none can offer any definitive factual evidence to fully support the conclusions. He is also said to have died of rabies, however, this diagnosis was made in 1996, more than 150 years after his death and based on the 1849 notes and observations of Dr. Moran. Hardly conclusive, don't you think.

For some interesting reading on the subject and different theories, you may wish to try the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore web site.

Best Regards,

-- Anonymous, August 26, 2000

What my English teachers have always told me is that Edgar Allan Poe died with a liver disease and a hemorage in the brain caused by drinking to much. He was a very bad alcholic.

-- Anonymous, August 30, 2000


Generally speaking, Angela, the view that Edgar Allan Poe died from drinking too much has its origins in the first biography of Poe by Rufus Wilmont Griswold (18151857).

Griswold was a well educated and devoutly religious man that had failed as a Baptist minister and turned to editing. He and Poe first met in 1841 and throughout their literary careers, appeared to alternate periodically between a mutual admiration and utter loathing for one another. By 1841 Poe had already establish himself as a well known, intrepid and bold literary critic. However, Griswold saw Poe as a barely educated boor from Virginia, unschooled in the finer arts of literary society and unworthy of the admiration he received for his originality. Poe viewed Griswold as a second-rate writer whose only path to success was the result of his social connections to the wealthy Northern literary circles.

While there was usually an atmosphere of civility between these two men, at least in public, it was their concurrent relationship with Francis Sargent Osgood, a poetess and socialite of the period, that became the breaking point for Griswold. She was known as an vocal and unabashed admirer of Poe and his work and she and Edgar were said to have carried on a public exchange of poetry that has been referred to as a courtship of sorts. If accurate, it was likely platonic and was most probably born of mutual admiration and respect than heartfelt devotion. Mrs. Osgood was married, as was Poe and she was also considered a friend of Virginia, Poes wife. Regardless, given Griswolds infatuation with Mrs. Osgood and her public exchange of poetry with Edgar, it must have rankled and infuriated Griswold.

Then, following Poes death on October 7, 1849, Griswolds pernicious acknowledgment of Poes passing in the New York Tribune on October 9, 1849 clearly revealed the hostility he must have held for Poe. I use the term acknowledgement because, by definition, it cannot be labeled an obituary. He wrote. Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it." Then, afraid that this contemptible insult would be attributed to him, Griswold signed it with the name Ludwig. Revealed later to be the author, he ultimately admitted as much to Sarah Helen Whitman in a letter toward the end of 1849 when he said "I wrote, as you suppose, the notice of Poe in The Tribune, but very hastily. I was not his friend, nor was he mine."

Unrepentant until the end, Griswold produced even more perfidious books and articles regarding Poes life in the years to come. Although Poes reputation and character suffered years of derogatory inferences from these works, it is Poes genius and the value of his works to American literature that has survived the test of time. With the exception of very few biographical authors such as John H. Ingram and William F. Gill, most biographers seemed to rely too heavily on the works of Griswold. It is my view that the most well researched and documented biography was by Authur Hobson Quinn.

There is substantial evidence that Poe suffered from alcohol abuse and frequently alternated between long periods of sobriety and habitual drinking. That he died of alcohol poisoning is still being debated back and forth today. In addition, there is some evidence from those that knew Poe personally that he was possessed of an exceptionally low tolerance for alcoholic beverages and would become intoxicated rather quickly and easily. That he died of liver disease as a result of drinking, there is no evidence at all and, I suspect, was simply an assumption on the part of your teacher(s). There was no autopsy following Edgars death and, therefore, no way to evaluate the condition of his liver or his brain. He was removed from Washington College Hospital after a brief viewing period and buried on the 9th of October, 1849.

George Bernard Shaw once said, 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.

There is more to read on this subject at the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore website at


-- Anonymous, August 30, 2000


-- Anonymous, October 01, 2000

It is unknown how Poe died, but there are 3 main theories, rabies, alcohol, or heart peroblems.

-- Anonymous, October 29, 2000

I had heard from a Poe scholar that he was likely beaten by a group of thugs who commonly wandered the streets and asked the derelicts who they intended to vote for. If the answer was not to their liking, the would try to "discourage" the prospective voter from choosing that candidate, typically by making him incapable of reaching the polls. However, this may have been suggested because of where he was found. Certainly his fondness for alcohol and opiates, and the hard living he was apparently prone to endure must have contributed to his demise.

-- Anonymous, June 08, 2001

ALL OF YOU HAVE IT WRONG; Edgar Allan Poe was not an alcholic, he had alcohol dehydrogenase deficiency syndrome, basically which means a glass of wine would have intoxicated him as much as 10 glasses of wine for a normal person.

-- Anonymous, October 27, 2001

Umm... I know only as much as you do... But a comment about "sdfasdf dafsdf" and his/her answer...

Considering the age of time that Edgar Allan Poe lived and died in, do you think that doctors at that time could have diagnosed alcohol dehydrogenase deficiency syndrome?

When posting a guess, or a theory, please don't call others wrong. It's wrong. I'm just saying I doubt they could tell the difference between alcohol dehydrogenase deficiency syndrome and just a liking for drinking.

-- Anonymous, December 06, 2001

Actually, it's a little more complicated than that. When Poe died there were, naturally, many rumors circulating about his drinking habits. Some of his friends, in order to quieten such gossip, wrote that he had an intolerance to alcohol and became drunk after only one glass.

It has to be remembered that 1849 was one of the high-points for the temperance movement, and so whether or not Poe was an alcoholic was very important for his standing as an artist. The move by his friends was simply to clear his name.

Of course it is difficult to know the truth about the matter now, especially as we no longer (in theory at least) rate an artist by the morality of the life they led. Perversely, we actually like our artists to have been a bit degenerate because it seems to make their work more interesting.

So, was he an alcoholic or did he merely have some sort of adverse reaction to alcohol? Either way, when you think about it, it makes little difference. We know that he was inclined to get drunk and occasionally embarrass himself. What matter if it was one glass or ten?

-- Anonymous, December 06, 2001

there have been many thories about how Mr.poe died many say he died of a drug over dose and of liqor but i feel the two most realistic would be of diabites or of rabies but i think many peaple reject his work becease he dran often and i feel that is short sighted

-- Anonymous, January 16, 2002

this shit really sucks dick

-- Anonymous, May 08, 2002

All i know is that after he died his family didnt have the money to pay 4 a tombstone. A while later a distant relative bought one 4 him. When it was ready for delivery it was hit by a train and destroyed. When sum people tried to make a monument for him the clay cast caught on fire before it could be bronzed. I know that another monument was made but I'm not sure if it's been destroyed yet.

-- Anonymous, October 17, 2002

this shit is gay

the person were sucking a bong and then git high and fell backwards and then he died that is a true storie


who eva owns this site ur fuckin sad mother fucker

-- Anonymous, December 08, 2002

this shit is gay

the person were sucking a bong and then go high and fell backwards and hit his head on his dildo and died that is a true storie


who eva owns this site ur fuckin sad mother fucker

-- Anonymous, December 08, 2002

nirvana/ pussy 4 u this ones for u

your an idiot and u have issues dont talk shit on Poe...he's tight

-- Anonymous, December 09, 2002


-- Anonymous, March 27, 2003

hahhaha all of u r funny poe was some crazy horny guy who married his 13 year old cossin

-- Anonymous, November 02, 2003

u all are a bunch of fags!!!

-- Anonymous, November 19, 2003

First of all, to all you people out there that said this site sucks, well then why are you visiting it? And secondly, you didn't need to voice your opinion, no one really cares if you have something that immature to say. And Edgar Allan Poe most likely died of too much drinking. There were no doctors at the time, so no one could really take "good" care of him. He was said to have a drinking problem, and with his depressing life, I wouldn't doubt it. As for the really sad, and depressed people that always need to voice their immature opinion, you really need to get a life.

-- Anonymous, November 28, 2004

I think that Edgar Allan Poe killed himself cuz i think hes a crazy lunatic...and i also think that you guys should get a life and get off this damn website....BYE!!!

-- Anonymous, December 01, 2004

I think that he inhaled his own throw-up like Jimmy Hendrix...and hi s wife came back from the dead and she had sex with his best friend and HIPPIES ROCK!!! all are a bunch of academic assholes!! and go suck your mommys cock....HEHEHE..i love the COCK!!!

-- Anonymous, December 01, 2004

Thanks to the people who actully posted helpful responses here- it really helped me gather some info for my essay. And to the rest of you posting rude comments- why? People here are just trying to post some theories on Poe's death they're not here to argue with or put up with your rudeness.

-- Anonymous, December 09, 2004

word to gwen

-- Anonymous, January 18, 2005

He was old so when you are old your body is weak and tired until finall y you die duh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-- Anonymous, March 09, 2005

He was forty. That isnt very old. And him only being able to drink a single alcohol beverage is bull shit. Poe was hardcore. It was probably rabies that got him. Everyone who gets rabies dies unless they get treated, and the symptoms matched. A weak heart, liver disease, or getting so intoxicated you can't speak all have different symptoms.

-- Anonymous, March 15, 2005

Moderation questions? read the FAQ