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The Strange Tale of Edgar Allan Poe - Part 8: The Lover
Duncan Johnstone, Literary Correspondent
View of Baltimore by William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854)
Baltimore was proud of its celebrity, published poet and writer Edgar A. Poe.

As a biographer comments: "...the dark, handsome, Byronic poet did all those things which handsome Byronic poets are expected to do."

The young ladies of the town were fascinated by this strange figure to whom self-invented 'legends' were attached and whose hypnotic eyes looked into theirs.

One such pair of eyes belonged to Mary Devereaux who, in an interview for "Harper's" some 57 years later recalled her meetings with Poe, which continued for about a year from Autumn 1832.

She described him as "passionate in his love", as one of whom her friends were a little afraid - and finally wrote of a conflict with her uncle who had written to Poe against the relationship whereupon the poet had gone to the uncle with a horse whip and threatened to beat him!

On one occasion Mary declares that he had told her mother "She is my wife now in the sight of Heaven", but it seems in fact unlikely that the words meant what we might think they meant. Indeed, Poe's sexual relationships with women remain somewhat of a mystery. It seems that later he was impotent, possibly due to the effects of opium, and that he may never have consummated any sexual relationship.

Also by Duncan Johnstone...
The Strange Tale Of Edgar Allan Poe: Part 7: West Point and Beyond
The Strange Tale Of Edgar Allan Poe - Part 6: An Officer And A Gentleman
The Strange Tale Of Edgar Allan Poe - Part 5: The Army, and Another Death
The Strange Tale Of Edgar Allan Poe - Part 4: Leaving Home
The Strange Tale Of Edgar Allan Poe. Part 3: The Early Years
Part of Mary's description of him runs: "When he looked at you it seemed that he could read your thoughts. His voice was pleasant and musical but not deep. He always wore a black frock-coat buttoned up, with a cadet or military collar, and a black cravat tied in a loose knot. He did not follow the fashions, but had a style of his own. His was a loose way of dressing as if he didn't care. You would know that he was very different from the ordinary run of young men."

In April 1832 Poe attempted another visit to his foster father, John Allan. He went to the house in Richmond where he was met by Allan's new wife who sought to send him away, but then sent for her husband who was out of the house. But as he returned Edgar took fright and left.

The new Mrs Allan had taken an instant dislike to him - no doubt based in part on what her husband had told her - and spread stories of his drunkenness and madness.

In fact it seems that Poe was not often drunk at this period - and on the few occasions when he was it would only take very little alcohol to affect him. But he was well on the way to developing an addiction to opium - and some believe that many of his stories shows signs of the influence of this drug.

Back in Baltimore with Mrs Clemm the family somehow eked out a living. In July 1832 the Baltimore Saturday Visitor, a popular weekly, offered a prize of $50 for the best tale, & $20 for the best poem. Edgar entered several stories.

More articles in this series...
The Strange Tale Of Edgar Allan Poe - Part 6: An Officer And A Gentleman
The Strange Tale Of Edgar Allan Poe - Part 5: The Army, and Another Death
The Strange Tale Of Edgar Allan Poe - Part 4: Leaving Home
The Strange Tale Of Edgar Allan Poe. Part 3: The Early Years
The Strange Tale Of Edgar Allan Poe. Part 2: Birth & Death
The Strange Tale Of Edgar Allan Poe - Part 1
The Strange Tale of Edgar Allan Poe - Part 8: The Lover, 6th November 2017, 14:46 PM