During the early stages of this project, creator Wally Coberg was supported by several consultants who contributed significantly to his efforts to write, submit and ultimately secure the original NEH Development Grant that helped launch the project. Among them were:
PAUL DAY CLEMENS
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A towering figure in American literature, Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on January 9, 1809, the son of actors. Orphaned when he was three, Poe was taken in by a wealthy Virginian, John Allan and his wife, Frances, of Richmond. Although childless, Allan never formally adopted Poe.
Initially fond of his foster son, John Allan became increasingly hard, fault-finding, and miserly. Finally, after one particularly acrimonious argument, Poe and John Allan parted ways. Raised to be a Southern gentleman, Poe's inexorable descent into poverty had begun.
My determination is at length taken - to leave your house and endeavor to find some place in this wide world, where I will be treated - not as you have treated me.
-- Edgar Poe to John Allan
Poe sought refuge in Baltimore with his aunt, Maria Clemm, and her daughter, Virginia. Although destitute, Poe wanted nothing more than to keep the only family he had ever known together. And so he married Virginia, his 13 year-old cousin. Eventually, his child-bride would die of consumption, the same disease that had claimed the life of Poe's mother.
I am blinded with tears while writing this letter - I have no wish to live another hour. My last, my only hold on life is cruelly torn away. I love - you know I love Virginia passionately, devotedly. Pity me my dear Aunty, pity me.
- Edgar Poe to Maria Clemm
In search of a successful literary career, Poe moved between Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia, and New York as editor for some of America's most prestigious literary journals. An acknowledged virtuoso of the macabre, Poe achieved his greatest triumph in 1845 when his poem The Raven was published. It was an instant hit.
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door ---
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door ---
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Despite his literary success, Poe remained impoverished and destitute, drinking to deaden his deepening melancholia. In 1849 he returned to Richmond with the intent of starting his own literary journal, The Stylus. It was during this sojourn that Poe renewed his courtship of a childhood sweetheart, now a wealthy widow. In time, he proposed and she accepted. Intending to bring his aunt back for the wedding, Poe left for New York. But just when it seemed as if fortune had smiled on him at last, disaster struck in Baltimore, where he died under mysterious circumstances on October 7, 1849.