Occurring in a time of primitive medicine and inconsistent record-keeping, Poe’s death has become one of the enduring mysteries of American literature. David F. Gaylin’s book marks the first attempt to offer a comprehensive and balanced study of this historical event. After chronicling the circumstances that may have contributed to the poet’s death, the book examines key details about the story. It traces Poe’s movements and personal encounters before also exploring how Poe was handled and treated by others who attempted to come to his aid. Proceeding with the liveliness of a detective story, the discussion sheds new light on these events, and it offers new information about the burial of Poe’s body and the subsequent relocations of his tomb. With the addition of supplementary reference materials including a register of formally proposed causes of death, a timeline of relevant events, and a map of Poe’s final movements in Baltimore, this book is an essential resource for both scholars and general readers seeking answers to the mystery of Poe’s death.
David F. Gaylin is president of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore and author of Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore (2015).
Chapter 1Peaks and Pits, and Pendulum Swings
Chapter 2On to Richmond
Chapter 3Missing in Mobtown
Chapter 4“The Worse for Wear”
Chapter 5Beware the Ward Heelers
Chapter 6Hospital on the Hill
Chapter 7The Island of Dr. Moran
Chapter 8“Congestion of the Brain”
Chapter 9Premature Burials, an Epilogue
AProposed and Popular Causes of Poe’s Death
BTimeline of Poe’s Final Days
CNotes on Relevant Individuals Mentioned in the Text
DDr. Moran’s Letter to Maria Clemm, November 15, 1849
David F. Gaylin has set out to solve the greatest literary mystery of the nineteenth century—the cause of Edgar Allan Poe's death. In the process, Gaylin has sorted through dozens of strange and contradictory accounts of Poe's final days, and he has scrutinized an eccentric cast of eyewitnesses. This investigation offers a readable, well-paced detective story that will appeal to both Poe scholars and the general public.
This book makes an important contribution to studies of Poe by weaving the varied accounts, opinions, and scholarly theories about Poe's death into a coherent narrative. While Gaylin proposes an answer to the mystery, the book's greatest value lies in its presentation of material allowing for the specialist and the amateur to make their own informed decisions.