With the publication of three short tales in the 1840s, Poe "invented" the detective story. Then his own sudden and bizarre death, still unsolved after 150 years, created a real-life mystery as tantalizing as any of his famous stories. Was it epilepsy? Lawless thugs? A diabetic coma? His heart? Alcohol? Poe departed this life in the best mystery-novel style. While travelling alone from Richmond, Virginia, to New York City, he disappeared for nearly a week. When seen again, he was terribly drunk and nearly dead in the Baltimore. Taken to a hospital, he never said what happened to him, where he'd been all that time, or who he'd been with. A few days later, after alternating periods of silence and raving delirium, he died. The immediate cause of death given was "congestion of the brain" or "inflammation of the brain", serviceable phrases in a day that knew little of internal medicine. At first no one seriously questioned the verdict that the culprit was liquor, that Poe died as a result of complications arising form drunken debauchery. Inevitably, as the years passed and his fame grew, efforts were made to clear him of what seemed weak, wanton self-destruction. While many theories of a physical nature about precipitating causes have been suggested - ranging from rabies to a blow on the head - no one has seriously probed the mystery of that missing week. This volume examines the last days of one of America's most admired authors, aiming to untangle more than a century of speculation and finally putting to rest on its 150th anniversary what may be the greatest Poe mystery of all.
About John P. Walsh
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Published October 1, 1998
by Rutgers University Press.
Biographies & Memoirs, History, Literature & Fiction.