I have to do a summery of the death of Edgar Allen Poe. . . does anyone know what happened to him or how he died?

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If anyone knows how he died or has theory's please email me with them by Sunday September 17, 2000

-- Anonymous, September 15, 2000



This question has been asked and answered several times on this forum so in order to keep from retyping the same old stuff, below is a compilation of some the previous responses.

Perhaps I am just playing with semantics here but, technically speaking, there is very little confusion over the death of Edgar Allan Poe. I will say that there is an abundance of supposition, speculation, presumption and books full of sheer guesswork. But there is very little confusion.

Edgar Allan Poe died in Washington College Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on October 7, 1849 and had been attended by Dr. John J Moran who indicated that he had died of congestion of the brain. No autopsy was performed and his remains were removed for burial on the 9th of October, 1849 to the Presbyterian Church Cemetery, known today as the Westminster Burying Grounds in Baltimore

Currently, there are three theories based on varying degrees of research. The first is the Alcohol theory, second the Medical Illness theory and the third is the Cooping theory. You can read about these three at the URL address:


Personally, I lean toward the Cooping theory but only because I find it palatable for now. Quite frankly, no one really knows for sure. There is a fourth of more recent origin. In 1996, Dr. R. Michael Benitez, after a case study of Poes condition, symptoms and behavior as recorded 150 years ago by Dr. John J Moran during Poes four day stay in the hospital, feels that Edgar Allan Poe most likely died of rabies.

Most of my information related to the 1996 diagnosis of Dr. R Michael Benitez comes from news articles of the time by the University of Maryland Medicine News and Publications. Dr. Benitezs opinions are apparently the result of a case study provided him at a weekly conference called the Clinical Pathologic Conference at the University of Maryland Medical Center. It seems Dr. Benitez was unaware that the case was that of Edgar Allan Poe and was asked to determine the cause of death.

His conclusions were based largely on his access to the information related to the patients condition, his symptoms and historical accounts and records of Dr. John J. Moran, Poes attending physician at his death. Dr. Benitezs diagnosis leans heavily on these notes and personal accounts that were 147 years old and while his medical expertise is clearly not at all in question, it is inherently dependent upon information as reported from another century. It is these symptoms characterized in the 19th century and used to diagnose a cause of death in the 20th century that causes me reluctance to accept them with any measure of precision. In fact, Dr. Benitez himself was quoted as saying, No one can say conclusively that Poe died of rabies, since there was no autopsy after his death. But the historical accounts of Poes condition in the hospital a few days before his death point to a strong possibility that he had rabies.

Frankly, I find it to be a fascinating theory but lean more to the Cooping theory for Poes demise. I would rather have had Dr. Benitez, with his modern technology, climb aboard the nearest time machine, zip back to October 3rd, 1849 and render his own first hand account and diagnosis or, better yet, save his life. Yet, I fear it may be difficult to persuade him to do so! I simply have a difficult time reconciling presumptuous interpretations of 147 year old symptoms with a definitively accurate medical certainty and Dr. Benitez seems to agree. If you are interested, there are two websites where you can read about this study.

Again, the first is at http://www.eapoe.org/geninfo/poedeath.htm and is on the EAP Society of Baltimore website and the second is http://www.umm.edu at the University of Maryland Medicine.

Generally speaking, 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 many teachers and historians. 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 http://www.eapoe.org


-- Anonymous, September 15, 2000

I do believe some say he was drugged. and he was found in clothes that were not his that did not fit him and were soiled. also i read somewhere his last words were "God help my soul" soon after saying this he died. also i read it was around 7 a.m. he died

-- Anonymous, September 17, 2000

i don't think any of you people know what you're talking about

-- Anonymous, February 06, 2001

I have been studying Edger Allen Poe and this is what I found.... He was put into a mental instatution for a year and a half and he died 1849 between 3am and 5am, Oct.7. Some of the causes of death I have heard of... Rabies is the #1 and then theres Alcohole posining, Lead poisoning,congestion of the brain,and he killed himself! Hope I helped you out!

-- Anonymous, October 20, 2001

Poe was never put in a mental institution for even a day, let alone a year or more. Far from being the #1 theory, the idea that Poe died of rabies is one of the least likely ones. Why do people insist on offering false information when they just don't know what the answer is?

-- Anonymous, October 21, 2001

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