Looking Back – Edgar Allan Poe

Photo from the Library of Congress' Photos, Prints, Drawings Collection

Photo from the Library of Congress' Photos, Prints, Drawings Collection

Today we celebrate the 208th anniversary of the birth of the “Master of Macabre,” Edgar Allan Poe. Born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts, and orphaned at the age of three, Poe led a life of relative poverty, unhappiness, and solitude. Yet, he managed to eke out a living as a writer, publishing short stories and becoming a relentless critic of some of the most celebrated writers of his time, including one Rufus Griswold. Although he realized some literary renown with his short stories and book reviews, Poe achieved perhaps his greatest success with his poem The Raven, first published in 1845.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Poe should indeed be pleased that his most celebrated of works has had such a profound effect on not only those in the literary world, but also those in the realm of jurisprudence. Judge A. Jay Cristol from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida was inspired to draft his own poetic version of The Raven as his opinion in the case of In re Love, 61 B.R. 558 (1986). (This case was also highlighted in one of a series of Ex Libris Juris blog posts dedicated to the Poetry of the Bench & Bar during National Poetry Month in April 2016).

Sadly, four years after The Raven was published, Poe died on October 7, 1849, in Baltimore. Interestingly, his relationship with the law did not end with his death. After his passing, Poe became the victim of a libelous obituary written by none other than Rufus Griswold, one of the writers most severely critiqued by Poe. However, Poe had the last laugh. Despite all of the defamatory statements contained in the obituary and a subsequent memoir, Poe’s legend and popularity only flourished.

For more information about Edgar Allan Poe, visit the website of the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia.