Poe’s Philadelphia Legacy
[Post by Edward Pettit] Philadelphia was the crucible for Edgar Allan Poe’s imaginative genius. The time he spent living and writing in Philly was vitally important to the development of Poe’s work. A couple years ago, I stated this case in a piece in the Philadelphia City Paper (Read it here). And I went on to defeat other claimants to the Poe Legacy last January in the Great Poe Debate (Listen to it here). Yet, there are still some who haven’t heard (or they’ve heard, but refuse to acknowledge it). So here are six reasons that Poe is a Philadelphia writer:
- Poe wrote most of his greatest works of fiction while living in Philly: Tell-Tale Heart, Black Cat, Fall of the House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum, William Wilson, Man of the Crowd, The Gold Bug. The list goes on and on.
- Poe was inspired to write and began writing his most famous work, “The Raven,” while living in Philly. The Free Library of Philadelphia is also home to the actual talking raven that inspired him, Charles Dickens’ pet, Grip, now stuffed for all to see in the Rare Book Department. The Library also has the only copy of the poem in Poe’s own hand
- Philadelphia, during the time of Poe’s residence, was the magazine publishing center of the United States. It was the magazine literary culture that provided the most ideal platform for Poe’s fiction.
- Poe invented the mystery/detective story with “Murders in the Rue Morgue” in Philadelphia. Criminal life in Philly at the time was out of control and this was the most violent time in the city’s history. Poe even covered some of the murders and riots for the local newspapers. The library also owns the manuscript copy of this story.
- The city itself— the atmosphere, culture, social fabric— in all its tumbling mess of democracy, strife, toil and glory, was the kind of place where the greatest American writer needed to be, to hone his vision, to perfect his craft. Poe had already tried Baltimore, Richmond and New York. None of those places worked for him. He came to Philadelphia and became the writer we still read and revere.
- It’s the law. When the National Park Service took over the management of Poe’s House at 7th and Spring Garden Sts, The US Congress, needed to pass an act declaring the “Philadelphia home” of Poe as the place where Poe’s Legacy would be perpetuated for the American people.
Haunted Poe is a production that celebrates the Philadelphia Legacy of Poe. Come celebrate with us.
In my next post, I’ll shine some light on the dark world of Philadelphia Gothic, the city’s literary tradition which seemed tailor made for Poe’s imagination.