Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"The Premature Burial" Published 1844

"The Premature Burial" is a horror short story on the theme of being buried alive, written by Edgar Allan Poe and published in 1844 in The Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper. Fear of being buried alive was common in this period and Poe was taking advantage of the public interest.

Plot summary

In "The Premature Burial," the first-person unnamed narrator describes his struggle with "attacks of the singular disorder which physicians have agreed to term catalepsy," a condition where he randomly falls into a death-like trance. This leads to his fear of being buried alive ("The true wretchedness," he says, is "to be buried while alive."). He emphasizes his fear by mentioning several people who have been buried alive. In the first case, the tragic accident was only discovered much later, when the victim's crypt was reopened. In others, victims revived and were able to draw attention to themselves in time to be freed from their ghastly prisons.

The narrator reviews these examples in order to provide context for his nearly crippling phobia of being buried alive. As he explains, his condition made him prone to slipping into a trance state of unconsciousness, a disease that grew progressively worse over time. He became obsessed with the idea that he would fall into such a state while away from home, and that his state would be mistaken for death. He extracts promises from his friends that they will not bury him prematurely, refuses to leave his home, and builds an elaborate tomb with equipment allowing him to signal for help in case he should awaken after "death."

The story culminates when the narrator awakens in pitch darkness in a confined area - he has been buried alive, and all his precautions were to no avail. He cries out and is immediately hushed; he realizes that he is in the berth of a small boat, not a grave. The event shocks him out of his obsession with death.


Fear of burial alive was deeply rooted in Western culture in the nineteenth century,[1] and Poe was taking advantage of the public's fascination with it.[2] Hundreds of cases were reported in which doctors mistakenly pronounced people dead.[3] In this period, coffins occasionally were equipped with emergency devices to allow the "corpse" to call for help, should he or she turn out to be still living.[4] It was such a strong concern, Victorians even organized a Society for the Prevention of People Being Buried Alive.[5] Belief in the vampire, an animated corpse that remains in its grave by day and emerges to prey on the living at night, has sometimes been attributed to premature burial. Folklorist Paul Barber has argued that the incidence of burial alive has been overestimated, and that the normal effects of decomposition are mistaken for signs of life.[6] The story emphasizes this fascination by having the narrator state that truth can be more terrifying than fiction, then reciting actual cases in order to convince the reader to believe the main story.[7]

The narrator in "The Premature Burial" is living a hollow life. He has avoided reality through his catalepsy but also through his fantasies, visions, and obsession with death. He does, however, reform—but only after his greatest fear has been realized.[8]

Burial while alive in other Poe works

"The Cask of Amontillado"
"The Fall of the House of Usher"


The Premature Burial is a 1962 film starring Ray Milland and Hazel Court and directed by Roger Corman. A novelization of the film was written by Max Hallan Danne in 1962 adapted from Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell's screenplay and published by Lancer Books in paperback.

The film Nightmares from the Mind of Poe (2006) includes "The Premature Burial" along with "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Raven."

"Premature Burial," a song on Siouxsie and the Banshees 1979 album, Join Hands, is based loosely on Poe's story.

Jan Švankmajer's 2005 Lunacy is based on "The Premature Burial" and "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" (also by Poe).

The Fred Olen Ray film Haunting Fear (1991) starring Brinke Stevens is loosely based on "The Premature Burial." The onscreen credits actually call the movie "Edgar Allan Poe's Haunting Fear" despite significant differences with the Poe story, including being set in the present day, the main character being female, and ending with her being intentionally put inside a coffin with the purpose of scaring her to death.


1.^ Meyers, Jeffrey: Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. Cooper Square Press, 1992. p. 156.
2.^ Kennedy, J. Gerald. Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing. Yale University Press, 1987. p. 58-9
3.^ Premature burial in the 19th century
4.^ Meyers, Jeffrey: Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. Cooper Square Press, 1992. p. 156.
5.^ Premature burial in the 19th century
6.^ Barber, Paul. Vampires, Burial and Death: Folklore and Reality. Yale University Press, 1988.
7.^ Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. ISBN 0801857309 p. 418
8.^ Selley, April. "Poe and the Will" as collected in Poe and His Times: The Artist and His Milieu, edited by Benjamin Franklin Fisher IV. Baltimore: The Edgar Allan Poe Society, Inc., 1990. p. 96 ISBN 0961644923

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mary Cecilia Rogers Found Floating in the Hudson 1841

Mary Cecilia Rogers, also known as the "Beautiful Cigar Girl," was a 19th-century murder victim whose story became a national sensation and was fictionalized most notably by Edgar Allan Poe as "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" (1842).


Mary Rogers was probably born in 1820 in Lyme, Connecticut, though her birth records have not survived.[1] Her father died in a steamboat explosion when she was 17 and she took a job as a clerk in a tobacco shop owned by John Anderson in New York City.[2] Anderson paid her a generous wage in part because her physical attractiveness brought in many customers. One customer wrote that he spent an entire afternoon at the store only to exchange "teasing glances" with her. Another admirer published a poem in the New York Herald referring to her heaven-like smile and her star-like eyes.[3] Some of her customers included notable literary figures James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, and Fitz-Greene Halleck.[4]

First disappearance

On October 5, 1838, the New York Sun reported that "Miss Mary Cecilia Rogers" had disappeared from her home.[2] Her mother Phoebe said she found a suicide note which the local coroner analyzed and said revealed a "fixed and unalterable determination to destroy herself".[5] The next day, however, the Times and Commercial Intelligence reported that the disappearance was a hoax and that Rogers only went to visit a friend in Brooklyn.[2] The Sun had previously run a story known as the Great Moon Hoax in 1835, causing a stir.[6] Some suggested this return was actually the hoax, evidenced by Rogers's failure to return to work immediately. When she finally resumed working at the tobacco shop, one newspaper suggested the whole event was a publicity stunt overseen by Anderson.[7]


On July 25, 1841, Rogers told her fiancé Daniel Payne that she would be visiting her aunt and other family members.[8] Three days later, on July 28, police found her body floating in the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey.[9] Referred to as the "Beautiful Cigar Girl", the mystery of her death was sensationalized in newspapers and received national attention. The details surrounding the case suggested she was murdered. Months later, the inquest still ongoing, her fiancé was found dead, an act of suicide. By his side, a remorseful note and an empty bottle of poison were found.

The story, heavily covered by the press, also emphasized the ineptitude and corruption in the city's watchmen system of law enforcement.[10] At the time, New York City's population of 320,000 was served by an archaic force, consisting of one night watch, one hundred city marshals, thirty-one constables, and fifty-one police officers.[11]

The popular theory was that Rogers was a victim of gang violence.[12] In November 1842, Frederica Loss came forward and swore that Rogers's death was the result of a failed abortion attempt. Police refused to believe her story and the case remained unsolved.[8] Interest in the story waned nine weeks later when the press picked up on a different murder.[13]

In fiction

Rogers' story was fictionalized most notably by Edgar Allan Poe as "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" (1842). The action of the story was relocated to Paris and the victim's body found in the Seine.[12] Poe presented the story as a sequel to "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841), commonly considered the first modern detective story, and included its main character C. Auguste Dupin. As Poe wrote in a letter: "under the pretense of showing how Dupin... unravelled the mystery of Marie's assassination, I, in fact, enter into a very rigorous analysis of the real tragedy in New York."[14] In the story, Dupin suggests several possible solutions but never actually names the murderer.[15]


1.^ Stashower, Daniel (2006). The Beautiful Cigar Girl. New York: PenguinBooks. pp. 20. ISBN 052594981X.
2.^ Sova, Dawn B. (2001). Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z (Paperback ed. ed.). New York: Checkmark Books. pp. 212. ISBN 081604161X.
3.^ Stashower, Daniel (2006). The Beautiful Cigar Girl. New York: PenguinBooks. pp. 22. ISBN 052594981X.
4.^ McNamara, Joseph. The Justice Story: True Tales of Murder, Mystery, Mayhem. Sports Publishing LLC, 2000: 99. ISBN 1582612854
5.^ Stashower, Daniel (2006). The Beautiful Cigar Girl. New York: PenguinBooks. pp. 22–23. ISBN 052594981X.
6.^ Maliszewski, Paul. "Paper Moon", Wilson Quarterly. Winter 2005. p. 26
7.^ Stashower, Daniel (2006). The Beautiful Cigar Girl. New York: PenguinBooks. pp. 23. ISBN 052594981X.
8.^ Sova, Dawn B. (2001). Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z (Paperback ed. ed.). New York: Checkmark Books. pp. 213. ISBN 081604161X.
9.^ Thomas, Dwight & David K. Jackson (1987). The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849. New York: G. K. Hall & Co. pp. 336–337. ISBN 0783814011.
10.^ Lardner, James, and Thomas Reppetto (2000). NYPD: A City and Its Police. Owl Books. pp. 18–21.
11.^ Lankevich, George L. (1998). American Metropolis: A History of New York City. NYU Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0814751865.
12.^ Silverman, Kenneth (1991). Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance (Paperback ed. ed.). New York: Harper Perennial. pp. 205. ISBN 0060923318.
13.^ Nelson, Randy F. The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981: 183. ISBN 086576008X
14.^ Rosenheim, Shawn James (1997). The Cryptographic Imagination: Secret Writing from Edgar Poe to the Internet. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 68–69. ISBN 9780801853326.
15.^ Meyers, Jeffrey (1992). Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy (Paperback ed. ed.). New York: Cooper Square Press. pp. 135. ISBN 0815410387.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Deathday: Poe "Busy-body," Feminist & Journalist Margaret Fuller 1850

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli, commonly known as Margaret Fuller, (May 23, 1810 – July 19, 1850) was an American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. She was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major feminist work in the United States.

Born Sarah Margaret Fuller in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she was given a substantial early education by her father, Timothy Fuller. She later had more formal schooling and became a teacher before, in 1839, she began overseeing what she called "conversations": discussions among women meant to compensate for their lack of access to higher education. She became the first editor of the transcendentalist journal The Dial in 1840, before joining the staff of the New York Tribune under Horace Greeley in 1844. By the time she was in her 30s, Fuller had earned a reputation as the best-read person in New England, male or female, and became the first woman allowed to use the library at Harvard College. Her seminal work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, was published in 1845. A year later, she was sent to Europe for the Tribune as its first female correspondent. She soon became involved with the revolution in Italy and allied herself with Giuseppe Mazzini. She had a relationship with Giovanni Ossoli, with whom she had a child. All three members of the family died in a shipwreck off Fire Island, New York, as they were traveling to the United States in 1850. Fuller's body was never recovered.

Fuller was an advocate of women's rights and, in particular, women's education and the right to employment. She also encouraged many other reforms in society, including prison reform and the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Many other advocates for women's rights and feminism, including Susan B. Anthony, cite Fuller as a source of inspiration. Many of her contemporaries, however, were not supportive, including her former friend Harriet Martineau. She said that Fuller was a talker rather than an activist. Shortly after Fuller's death, her importance faded; the editors who prepared her letters to be published, believing her fame would be short-lived, were not concerned about accuracy and censored or altered much of her work before publication.

One of Fuller's most important works, "The Great Lawsuit", was written in serial form for The Dial. She originally intended to name the work The Great Lawsuit: Man 'versus' Men, Woman 'versus' Women; when it was expanded and published independently in 1845, it was instead named Woman in the Nineteenth Century. After completing it, she wrote to a friend: "I had put a good deal of my true self in it, as if, I suppose I went away now, the measure of my footprint would be left on earth." The work discussed the role that women played in the American democracy and Fuller's opinion on possibilities for improvement. It has since become one of the major documents in American feminism. It is considered the first of its kind in the United States.

Fuller was also involved in a scandal involving fellow literary critic Edgar Allan Poe, who had been carrying on public flirtation with the married poet Frances Sargent Osgood. At the same time, another poet, Elizabeth F. Ellet, became enamored of Poe and jealous of Osgood and suggested the relationship between Poe and Osgood was more than just innocent flirtation. Osgood then sent Fuller and Anne Lynch Botta to Poe's cottage on her behalf to request that he return the personal letters she had sent him. Angered by their interference, Poe called them "Busy-bodies." A public scandal erupted and continued until Osgood's estranged husband Samuel Stillman Osgood stepped in and threatened to sue Ellet.

Despite his personal issues with Fuller, the typically harsh literary critic Edgar Allan Poe wrote of Woman in the Nineteenth Century as "a book which few women in the country could have written, and no woman in the country would have published, with the exception of Miss Fuller," noting its "independence" and "unmitigated radicalism."


In the beginning of 1850, Fuller wrote to a friend: "It has long seemed that in the year 1850 I should stand on some important plateau in the ascent of life ... I feel however no marked and important change as yet." Also that year, Fuller wrote: "I am absurdly fearful and various omens have combined to give me a dark feeling ... It seems to me that my future upon earth will soon close ... I have a vague expectation of some crisis—I know not what." A few days after writing this, Fuller, Ossoli, and their child began a five-week return voyage to the United States aboard the ship Elizabeth. The ship was an American merchant freighter carrying cargo that included mostly marble from Carrara as well as a statue of John C. Calhoun sculpted by Hiram Powers. After a short delay due to rain, the Elizabeth set sail on May 17. At sea, the ship's captain, Seth Hasty, died of smallpox. The child, Angelino, contracted the disease as well, though he recovered.

Possibly because of the inexperienced first mate, now serving as captain, the ship slammed into a sandbar less than 100 yards from Fire Island, New York, on July 19, 1850, around 3:30 a.m. Many of the other passengers and crew members abandoned ship. The first mate, Mr. Bangs, urged Fuller and Ossoli to try to save themselves and their child as he himself jumped overboard, later claiming he believed Fuller had wanted to be left behind to die. On the beach, people arrived with carts hoping to take advantage if any cargo washed to shore; none made any effort to rescue the crew or passengers of the Elizabeth, though they were only 50 yards from shore. Ossoli and Fuller, along with their child, were some of the last on the ship; most others had attempted to swim to shore. Eventually, Ossoli was thrown overboard by a massive wave and, after the wave had passed, a crewman who witnessed the event said Fuller could not be seen.

Henry David Thoreau traveled to New York, at the urging of Emerson, to search the shore but neither Fuller's body nor that of her husband was ever recovered; only Angelino had washed ashore. Few of their possessions were found other than some of the child's clothes and a few letters. Fuller's manuscript on the history of the Roman Republic was also lost. A memorial to Fuller was erected on the beach at Fire Island in 1901 through the efforts of Julia Ward Howe. A cenotaph to Fuller and Ossoli, under which Angelino is buried, is in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The inscription reads, in part:

By birth a child of New England
By adoption a citizen of Rome
By genius belonging to the world

Within a week after her death, Horace Greeley suggested to Emerson that a biography of Fuller, to be called Margaret and Her Friends, be prepared quickly "before the interest excited by her sad decease has passed away." Many of her writings were soon collected together by her brother Arthur as At Home and Abroad (1856) and Life Without and Life Within (1858). He also edited a new version of Woman in the Nineteenth Century in 1855. In February 1852, The Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli was published, edited by Emerson, James Freeman Clarke, and William Henry Channing, though much of the work was censored or reworded. It particularly left out details about her love affair with Ossoli and an earlier relationship with a man named James Nathan. The three editors, believing the public interest in Fuller would be short-lived and that she would not survive as a historical figure, were not concerned about accuracy. Even so, for a time, it was the best-selling biography of the decade and went through thirteen editions before the end of the century. The book focused on her personality rather than her work and, as a result, detractors of the book ignored her status as a critic and instead criticized her personal life and her "unwomanly" arrogance.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Venture Brothers: Escape to the House of Mummies Part II (2006)

"Escape to the House of Mummies Part II" is an episode of the animated television series The Venture Bros., the fourth episode of the second season. Parodying old adventure series, the episode is intentionally convoluted, full of non sequiturs and open ended digressions, with key plot elements purposefully omitted. The "Part II" in the title is a joke; there is no Part I. The next episode preview at the end of the episode (a first for the series) promises an equally non-existent part III.


Previously on "The Venture Bros." ... the team found themselves involved in a convoluted time travel epic involving an Egyptian cult of Osiris and historical figures such as Dr. Sigmund Freud and Caligula, with plenty of various adventure and action clichés in abundance.

After the "recap" of the nonexistent episode "Escape to the House of Mummies Part I," we join the team who are now trapped in a room deep within a pyramid, apparently in the present day. The only possible exit is through the head of a jackal sculpture on one wall, but even Dean's slender shoulders are too broad for him to squeeze through. Exasperated, Dr. Venture heaps derision on his sons' shortcomings as boy adventurers, and begins to crawl through the opening himself. However, he is stopped when the walls, from which spikes now protrude, suddenly begin closing in.

The team is out of ideas, until Hank suggests they call Dr. Orpheus for help. Venture balks at the idea, and Brock sarcastically tells the boys to prepare for death since their father would rather let them all die horribly than make a simple call. Fuming, Dr. Venture contacts Orpheus (who is using his magic to rake leaves in the compound's yard) and explains the situation, although he cannot provide their exact location. Without explanation, Orpheus urges Dean to imagine his daughter Triana, naked and tongue-kissing him. When Dean complies, Orpheus uses the strong emotional response to locate them and disable the trap's mechanism, as well as their wrist communicator watches. Dr. Venture then crawls through the jackal's head, leaving the rest of the team in the momentarily-safe room while he seeks help.

Dr. Venture flies the X-1 back to the Venture Compound (damaging the statue out front when he hurriedly lands) and rummages through his laboratory for the equipment he needs to rescue his sons and Brock. Orpheus enters, and Venture's irritation towards the necromancer leads them into another debate on the relative merits of science versus magic. Completely forgetting the urgency of the current situation, they agree to settle the issue with a bet: whoever can shrink themselves the most proves his method is "better." They agree to meet back in the lab the next day to hold their contest. As he leaves, Orpheus reminds Venture he sold Jonas Sr.'s shrink ray to Pete White and Master Billy Quizboy at the tag sale. Venture, clearly having forgotten this, is rather unsettled.

Brief scenes show the progress of Brock and the boys, who have managed to escape the cell on their own. The boys have adopted a "friendly" mummy, and Dean is decapitated but remains alive (apparently through "pyramid power"). Brock, Dean, and Hank, presumably stealing the cult's time machine, abruptly end up in the 1800s. Brock puts Edgar Allan Poe in a headlock, apparently out of amusement over Poe's large head. Just as abruptly, Poe travels back to the present day with Hank, Dean, and Brock.

In search of the shrink ray, Dr. Venture breaks into the Conjectural Technologies mobile home and trashes the place. White and Quizboy catch him in the act and berate him for not simply asking for the object. At Quizboy's prompting, White admits that he disassembled the shrink ray: he couldn't get it to work, and somehow concluded that "a treasure map or something" was jamming its components. Venture initially despairs at the small paper bag that contains the parts, but the three resolve to work together to reassemble it.

Meanwhile, Triana enters her room to find her father standing in front of the closet, from which unearthly light pours out. Stunned and upset, Triana berates him for not telling her that her closet was actually a portal to Hell (a necropolis, as Orpheus phrases it). Not only did she think she was going insane, but her resulting fear of the closet has prevented her from changing clothes for a long time. Orpheus says that he just thought it was a phase that teenagers went through, like Archie and Jughead. When her anger fails to fade, Orpheus casts a sleep spell on her and erases the event from her memory.

"Meanwhile," if that has any meaning, Brock and the boys have used the time machine again... but thanks to Hank, have only traveled to the previous morning. As a result, they (along with Poe and Sigmund Freud, who has joined the proceedings without explanation) witness their own capture by the Osiris cult.

In the otherworldly necropolis beyond Triana's closet, Dr. Orpheus approaches the throne of his master. Sitting on the throne however, is a three-headed dog which snarls at Orpheus, prompting the necromancer to strike it with a fireball. The dog (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) complains to Orpheus about the attack, revealing that it is actually Orpheus's teacher in animal form. They begin a long discussion about Orpheus' lack of friends while the master sorcerer licks his own crotch with another of his heads (and pontificates on the pleasures thereof).

Back at the compound, Venture, White and Quizboy have become distracted from fixing the shrink ray by a "guilty pleasures" questionnaire whose intent Quizboy apparently misunderstands. After finally reassembling the device, they test it on H.E.L.P.eR. and successfully shrink him to an inch or so tall. Deciding that they need to test a human subject, Venture claims that his family needs him and White cites his albinism as an obstacle. Quizboy attempts to beg off due to his virginity, but the others force him to "volunteer" himself. The ray seems only partially successful: successive shots first shrink his lungs, then his head.

Brock, the boys, and their time-lost companions Poe, Freud, and the similarly-unexplained Caligula have apparently teamed up with an earlier version of Brock and are planning an assault on the Osiris cult.

Orpheus and his teacher now lie on the ground, looking up at the stars and pondering how insignificant the sight makes them feel. With a few more words of encouragement, the master admits that Orpheus is one of his best students and urges him to win the "incredibly gay" contest against Venture.

White, Quizboy and Venture finally conclude that trying to repair the shrink ray is a hopeless effort. Venture glumly acknowledges that he is unable to even repair anything his father built, and that he has always been a failure. Quizboy, however, shows him an old "Rusty Venture" lunchbox that he bought on eBay. The front depicts the young Rusty in his boyhood adventurer days, riding a pterodactyl. Venture reflects that he might not be a very good super scientist, but he was a darn good boy adventurer. White agrees and Quizboy admits that Rusty inspired him to become a boy genius.

Orpheus approaches and states that he can make himself no smaller than he already is, and concedes the contest to Venture. Grudgingly, Venture admits that he did no better. In sudden camaraderie, the group leaves for Orpheus' section...but Orpheus mentions a nagging feeling that they have forgotten something. As Venture returns to turn off the lights in the lab, he steps on the still-miniaturized H.E.L.P.eR.

After the credits is a teaser for the (supposedly) upcoming episode "Escape to the House of Mummies Part III": somewhere/when, Hank is shivering in an Arctic wind, begging Brock to kill him. Brock turns to his other self, and tells him to cut open the body of Poe so they can stuff Hank inside and save him from hypothermia. The other Brock slices open the carcass of Poe, recoiling with the comment "and I thought he smelled bad on the outside!" The first Brock stands with the shivering Hank in his arms, and lets out an anguished scream of "DOOOOOC!"

Friday, July 13, 2012

Deathday: Poe Editor & Publisher George Rex Graham 1894

George Rex Graham (January 18, 1813 – July 13, 1894) was a journalist, editor, and publishing entrepreneur from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He founded the journal Graham's Magazine at the age of 27 after buying Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and Atkinson's Casket. His journal became very popular and it was known for its generous payment to contributors.

Graham worked with notable literary figures like Edgar Allan Poe and Rufus Wilmot Griswold, and possibly sparked the enmity between the two. After Poe's death, Graham defended him from Griswold's accusations and character assassination.

Life and work

Graham was born on January 18, 1813; his father was a shipping merchant who had lost much of his money in early in the 19th century. Graham was raised by his namesake and maternal uncle, George Rex, a farmer from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. At age 19, Graham became an apprentice for a cabinet-maker before deciding to study law.[1] After being admitted to the bar in 1839, Graham became interested in publishing at a time when Philadelphia stood neck-and-neck with New York City as leader of the book and periodical publishing industry in America.[2]

Publishing career

Graham first began his publishing work with an editorial position with the Saturday Evening Post.[1] Its owner Samuel C. Atkinson announced on November 9, 1839, that he had sold the Post to Graham and John S. Du Solle.[3] He then became the proprietor of Atkinson's Casket.[1] At the age of 27, Graham combined the fledgling publication with Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in December 1840. The acquired publication had 3,500 subscribers, bringing his total list to 5,000. In its first year, that number jumped to 25,000. Success was partially owed by Graham's willingness to include brand new engravings and illustrations at a time when most monthly publications were re-using old plates from other magazines. He also paid his freelance writers very well. In fact, in later years, a "Graham page" was the new standard of payment for magazine work.[4]

Edgar Allan Poe was hired as an editor and writer in February 1841. Graham agreed to help Poe with his planned journal The Penn if Poe worked for him for six months.[5] By all accounts, Poe and Graham got along very well and had a good working relationship. Poe was paid $800 per year while Graham boasted $25,000 in profits.[6] Poe originally called this salary "liberal" but later referred to it as "nambypamby" when compared to Graham's profits.[7] Graham's Magazine was the first to publish many of Poe's works, including "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Colloquey of Monos and Una." Poe left the magazine in April 1842.

Graham would hire Rufus Wilmot Griswold, Poe's rival, as his next editor. Griswold was paid a salary of $1000 per year, more than he had paid Poe, lending some additional venom to the animosity between the two men. To his credit, Griswold was able to contract with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to write for Graham's exclusively for a time.[7]

Allegedly, Poe had offered first publication of "The Raven" to Graham, who refused. He may have given $15 to Poe as a friendly charity, but did not like the poem. Graham made it up to Poe a short while later by publishing the essay "The Philosophy of Composition" in which Poe tells of his inspiration for his famous poem and the technique of writing well.[8]

After Poe's death, Graham defended him against critics like Griswold. In March 1850, he published in his magazine "Defense of Poe" and, four years later in February 1854, "The Genius and Characteristics of the Late Edgar Allan Poe."[6]

Graham and his magazine worked with many other notable authors including William Cullen Bryant, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Russell Lowell and others.[9]

Graham invested in copper, a decision that left him in severe financial difficulty. In 1848, he sold his magazine to Samuel Dewee Patterson, though he retained the title of editor.[10] A year later, artist John Sartain, whose engravings had become a major selling point of Graham's, left to found his own journal, Sartain's Union Magazine.[10] By 1850, Graham was able to buy back his interest in Graham's Magazine with the help of friends who sympathized with his financial woes.[11] However, competition with Harper's New Monthly Magazine caused significant drops in subscriptions, as did the lack of an international copyright. Charles Godfrey Leland took over when Graham left the magazine in 1853 or 1854 and Graham's Magazine ceased publication in 1858.[12]

Later life

At the age of 70, Graham lost his eyesight though it was partially restored in an operation. He was assisted financially by George William Childs before dying on July 13, 1894, at a hospital in Orange, New Jersey.[12] He was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.[13]


1.^ Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. The Literary History of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs and Co., 1906: 263.
2.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991: 141. ISBN 0060923318.
3.^ Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson. The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809-1849. Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1987: 276. ISBN 0816187347.
4.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991: 162–163. ISBN 0060923318.
5.^ Bittner, William. Poe: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962: 160–161.
6.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 99. ISBN 081604161X.
7.^ Silverman, Kenneth: Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991: 216. ISBN 0060923318.
8.^ Hoffman, Daniel. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press: 79–80. ISBN 0807123218.
9.^ [1] "Cooper's Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief as a Defense of Authorship" by Steven P. Harthorn
10.^ Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. The Literary History of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs and Co., 1906: 277. ISBN 1932109455
11.^ Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. The Literary History of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs and Co., 1906: 282. ISBN 1932109455
12.^ Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. The Literary History of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs and Co., 1906: 284. ISBN 1932109455
13.^ Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. The Literary History of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs and Co., 1906: 285. ISBN 1932109455.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Spirits of the Dead" Published 1827

Spirits of the Dead (1827)
by Edgar Allan Poe


Thy soul shall find itself alone
'Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone —
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy:


Be silent in that solitude
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead who stood
In life before thee are again
In death around thee—and their will
Shall then overshadow thee: be still.


For the night—tho' clear—shall frown—
And the stars shall look not down,
From their high thrones in the Heaven,
With light like Hope to mortals given—
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever:


Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish —
Now are visions ne'er to vanish—
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more—like dew-drop from the grass:


The breeze—the breath of God—is still —
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy—shadowy—yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token—
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries! —

Spirits of the Dead (1827)

"Spirits of the Dead" was first titled "Visits of the Dead" when it was published in the 1827 collection Tamerlane and Other Poems. The title was changed for the 1829 collection Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. The poem follows a dialogue between a dead speaker and a person visiting his grave. The spirit tells the person that those who one knows in life surround a person in death as well.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"To My Mother" Published 1849

To My Mother (1849)
by Edgar Allan Poe

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of "Mother,"
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you
In setting my Virginia's spirit free.
My mother—my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.

To My Mother (1849)

A heartful sonnet written to Poe's mother-in-law and aunt Maria Clemm, "To My Mother" says that the mother of the woman he loved is more important than his own mother. It was first published on July 7, 1849 in Flag of Our Union. It has alternately been published as "Sonnet to My Mother."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Evening Star" Published 1827

Evening Star (1827)

by Edgar Allan Poe

'Twas noontide of summer,
And mid-time of night;
And stars, in their orbits,
Shone pale, thro' the light
Of the brighter, cold moon,
'Mid planets her slaves,
Herself in the Heavens,
Her beam on the waves.
I gazed awhile
On her cold smile;
Too cold—too cold for me—
There pass'd, as a shroud,
A fleecy cloud,
And I turned away to thee,
Proud Evening Star,
In thy glory afar,
And dearer thy beam shall be;
For joy to my heart
Is the proud part
Thou bearest in Heaven at night,
And more I admire
Thy distant fire,
Than that colder, lowly light.

Evening Star (1827)

This lyric poem by Poe was first collected in Tamerlane and Other Poems early in Poe's career in 1827. In the poem, a stargazer thinks all the stars he sees look cold, except for one "Proud Evening Star" which looks warm with a "distant fire" the other stars lack. The poem was influenced by Thomas Moore's poem "While Gazing on the Moon's Light."

The poem was not included in Poe's second poetry collection, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, and was never re-printed during his lifetime.

"Evening Star" was adapted by choral composer Jonathan Adams into his Three Songs from Edgar Allan Poe in 1993.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

"The Imp of the Perverse" Published 1845

"The Imp of the Perverse" is a short story that begins as an essay written by 19th century American author and critic Edgar Allan Poe. It discusses the narrator's self-destructive impulses, embodied as the Imp of the Perverse. The narrator describes this spirit as the agent that tempts a person to do things "merely because we feel we should not."

Plot summary

The narrator explains at length his theory on "The Imp of the Perverse," which he believes causes people to commit morally questionable acts. This essay-like discussion is presented objectively, though the narrator admits that he is "one of the many uncounted victims of the Imp of the Perverse."[1] He then explains how his act of murder was the result of this.

The narrator murders a man using a candle that emits a poisonous vapor. The victim enjoyed reading in bed at night and, using the candle for illumination, dies in his poorly-ventilated room. No evidence is left behind, causing the coroner to believe the man's death is an act of God. The narrator inherits the man's estate and, knowing he can never be caught, enjoys the benefits of his murderous act for many years.

He remains unsuspected, though he occasionally reassures himself by repeating under his breath, "I am safe." One day, he notes he will remain safe only if he is not foolish enough to openly confess. In saying so, however, he begins to question if he is capable of confessing. He fearfully runs through the streets, arousing suspicion. When finally stopped, he feels struck by some "invisible fiend." He reveals his secret with "distinct enunciation," though in such a hurry as if afraid of being interrupted. He is quickly tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hangman.


"The Imp of the Perverse" begins as an essay rather than as a work of fiction, a format which Poe previously used in "The Premature Burial."[2] It is, therefore, less about plot and more about theory.[3] As Poe describes this theory:

"We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss—we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink away from the danger. Unaccountably we remain... it is but a thought, although a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones with the fierceness of the delight of its horror. It is merely the idea of what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a fall from such a height... for this very cause do we now the most vividly desire it."

The work theorizes that all people have self-destructive tendencies, including the narrator, and that this "perversity" is also the narrator's attempt to avoid moral responsibility for his actions.[4] The narrator's ultimate confession as a murderer is not inspired by any feelings of guilt but, instead, from a desire to publicize his actions despite knowing that he should not.[1]

Poe's theory of the Imp of the Perverse may also be an early notion of the subconscious and repression which would not be fully theorized until Sigmund Freud.[5]

Many of Poe's characters display a failure to resist the Imp of the Perverse—including the murderer in "The Black Cat"[3] and the narrator in "The Tell-Tale Heart."[4] The opposite of this impulse is seen in Poe's character C. Auguste Dupin who exhibits reason and deep analysis.[6] One of the earliest examples, which predates "The Imp of the Perverse," was in Poe's novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. In one scene, the title character is overcome by an overwhelming desire to let himself fall off a steep cliff.[7]

Additionally, scholars and critics suggest that Poe had his own "imp of the perverse." Poe biographer Jeffrey Meyers suggested that Poe wrote it to justify his own actions of self-torment and self-destruction.[3] James M. Hutchisson says that the work reflects Poe's jealousy and sense of betrayal which lead to his public feud with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and New England; the so-called "Longfellow War" was occurring at the same time Poe wrote "The Imp of the Perverse."[8] Three months after the story was published, Poe lashed out against Boston's literary circle by trying to hoax them by reading his obscure poem "Al Aaraaf" at a lecture. Biographer Daniel Stashower suggests Poe's purposeful attempt to provoke his audience and alienate himself further was inspired by his Imp of the Perverse.[9]

Publication history

"The Imp of the Perverse" was first published in the July 1845 issue of Graham's Magazine.[4] A slightly revised version appeared in the Boston-based gift book May-Flower for 1846.[10]

Critical response

Poe reported in the Broadway Journal in December 1845 that the Nassau Monthly at Princeton College harshly criticized "The Imp of the Perverse." Calling it a "humbug," the reviewer noted that the author's line of reasoning about this philosophical idea was difficult to follow. "He chases from the wilderness of phrenology into that of transcendentalism, then into that of metaphysics generally; then through many weary pages into the open field of inductive philosophy, where he at last corners the poor thing, and then most unmercifully pokes it to death with a long stick."[11]


1.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 114. ISBN 0-8160-4161-X
2.^ Peeples, Scott. Edgar Allan Poe Revisited. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998: 147. ISBN 0-8057-4572-6
3.^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992: 58. ISBN 0815410387
4.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 113. ISBN 0-8160-4161-X
5.^ Hoffman, Daniel. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1998: 12. ISBN 0807123218
6.^ Hutchisson, James M. Poe. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005: 202. ISBN 1-57806-721-9
7.^ Peeples, Scott. Edgar Allan Poe Revisited. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998: 57. ISBN 0-8057-4572-6
8.^ Hutchisson, James M. Poe. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005: 201. ISBN 1-57806-721-9
9.^ Stashower, Daniel. The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder. New York: Dutton, 2006: 274. ISBN 0-525-94981-X
10.^ Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson. The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–1849. Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1987: 571. ISBN 0-7838-1401-1
11.^ Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson. The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–1849. Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1987: 602–603. ISBN 0-7838-1401-1