Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dr. J.J. Moran to Maria Clemm


November 15, 1849

Baltimore, November 15, 1849

Mrs. Clemm,

My dear Madam.
I take the earliest opportunity of responding to yours of the 9th last, which came to hand by yesterday’s mail.
Your deep solicitude, Madam, in reference to the "last moments" of him of whom you write, does not surprise me.
It falls to the lot of but few, to enjoy the extensive popularity that was unquestionably his. Wherever talent – mental worth, nay Genius, was prized, there "E. A. Poe" had warm friends. To his rarely gifted mind are we indebted for many of the brightest thoughts that adorn our literature – to him is Belles Lettres indebted for the purest gems her Casket Contains.
"Poe is gone"! How many hearts have heaved a sigh in uttering these three words! How many thousands will yet, and for years to come, lament the premature demise of this truly great man! Nor can there be found, in the list of his enemies (and what great man ever lived without them?) one individual, who will withhold from him the mead of praise to which you refer – when you speak of his "nobility of soul." Posterity will not hesitate to award him a place in the Catalogue of those whose pens have strewn flowers in the pathway of life – flowers too, whose fragrance will last for the enjoyment of unborn millions, thereby preserving a memorial more lasting than the Sculptor’s Chisel or the Art of the Statuary could ever fabricate or invent - But now for the required intelligence.
Presuming you are already aware of the malady of which Mr. Poe died I need only state concisely the particulars of his circumstances from his entrance until his decease.
When brought to the Hospital he was unconscious of his condition – who brought him or with whom he had been associating. He remained in this condition from 5 o’clock in the afternoon -- the hour of his admission – until 3 next morning. This was on the 3rd of October.
To this state succeeded tremor of the limbs, and at first a busy, but not violent or active delirium, constant talking and vacant converse with spectral and imaginary objects on the walls. His face was pale and his whole person drenched in perspiration. We were unable to induce tranquility before the second day after his admission.
Having left orders with the nurses to that effect. I was summoned to his bedside so soon as consciousness supervened, and questioned him in reference to his family, place of residence, relatives, etc. But his answers were incoherent and unsatisfactory. He told me, however, he had a wife in Richmond (which, I have since learned was not the fact), and that he did not know when he left that city or what had become of his trunk of clothing. Wishing to rally and sustain his now fast sinking hopes I told him I hoped, that in a few days he would be able to enjoy the society of his friends here, and I would be most happy to contribute in every possible way to his ease and comfort. At this he broke out with much energy, and said the best thing his best friend could do would be to blow out his brains with a pistol, and that when he beheld his degradation he was ready to sink into the earth". Shortly after giving expression to these words Mr. Poe seemed to dose and I left him for a short time. When I returned I found him in a violent delirium, resisting the efforts of two nurses to keep him in bed. This state continued until Saturday evening when he commenced calling for one "Reynolds", which he did through the night up to three on Sunday morning. At this time a very decided change began to affect him. Having become enfeebled from exertion he became quiet and seemed to rest for a short time, then gently moving his head he said, "Lord help my poor Soul" and expired!
This, Madam, is as faithful an account as I am able to furnish from the Record of his case.
He lacked nothing, which the utmost effort of nurses and myself could supply. Indeed we considered Mr. Poe an object of unusual regard. Medical men and Students of the House sympathized earnestly with him.
Your imperative request urges me to be candid, else I should not have been this plain. Rather far would I cancel his errors than even hint a fault of his.
His remains were visited by some of the first individuals of the city, many of them anxious to have a lock of his hair. Those who had previously known him pronounced his corpse the most natural they had ever seen. Z. Collins Lee, Esquire and Nelson Poe with many other respectable individuals attended his funeral. The Reverend Mr. Clemm of this city, a distant relative of yours I believe, attended officially on the occasion.
I have, thus, complied with your request, Madam, and therefore subscribe myself respectfully yours,

J. J. Moran, Resident Physician
Washington Medical College

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