Text: J. E. Snodgrass, “E. A. Poe’s Death and Burial,” Spiritual Telegraph (New York), vol. IV, no. 39, January 26, 1856, p. 155


[page 155:]


THE spiritual improvisation of Mr. Harris, some time since published in the TELEGRAPH, wherein a description of the dying experiences of the lamented author of “The Raven” were given, has naturally enough awakened a fresh interest in the facts of his death and burial; and we therefore give from the New York Women’s Temperance Paper (a spirited little monthly, edited by Mrs. Mary C. Vaughan), the following statement by Dr. Snodgrass, of this city — formerly of Baltimore — where Mr. Poe entered the Spirit-world:

On a chilly and wet November afternoon, I received a note, stating that “a man, answering to the name of Edgar Allan Poe,” who claimed to know me, was at a drinking house in Lombard-street [[Lombard Street]], Baltimore, in a state of deep intoxication and great destitution. I repaired immediately to the spot. It was an election day. When I entered the bar-room of the house, I instantly recognized the face of one whom I had often seen and knew well, although it wore an aspect of vacant stupidity which made me shudder. The intellectual flash of his eye had vanished, or rather had been quenched in the bowl; but the broad, capacious forehead of the author of “The Raven,” as you have appropriately designated him, was still there, with a width, in the region of ideality, such as few men have ever possessed. But perhaps I would not have so readily recognized him, had I not been notified of his apparel. His hat — or rather the hat of somebody else, for he had evidently been robbed of his clothing or cheated in an exchange — was a cheap palm-leaf one, without a band, and soiled; his coat of commonest alpacca, and evidently “second hand;” and his pants of grey-mixed cassimere, dingy, and badly fitting. He wore neither vest nor neckcloth, if I remember aright, while his shirt was sadly crumpled and soiled. He was so utterly stupified with liquor, that I thought it best not to seek recognition or conversation, especially as he was surrounded by a crowd of drinking men, actuated by idle curiosity rather than sympathy. I immediately ordered a room for him, where he could be comfortable until I got word to his relatives — for there were several in Baltimore. Just at that moment, one or two of the persons referred to, getting information of the case, arrived at the spot. They declined to take private care of him, assigning, as a reason, that he had been “very abusive and ungrateful on former occasions, when drunk;” and advised that he be sent to a hospital. He was accordingly placed in a coach, and conveyed to the Washington College Hospital, and placed under the care of the competent and attentive resident physician of that institution. So insensible was he, that we had to carry him to the carriage, as if a corpse. The muscles of articulation seemed paralyzed to speechlessness, and mere incoherent mutterings were all that were heard.

He died in the hospital, after some three of four days, during which time he enjoyed only occasional and fitful seasons of consciousness. His disease, as will have been anticipated, was mania-a-potu — a disease whose finale is always fearful in its maniacal manifestations. In one of his more lucid moments, when asked by the physician whether he would like to see his friends, he exclaimed: “Friends! My best friend would be he who would take a pistol and blow out my brains, and thus relieve me of my agony!” These were among his last words.

So much for the manner of the death of Edgar A. Poe. It has not been called forth by anything in your “Women’s Temperance Paper,” but in other papers that have published a statement hinting that he had died “by his own hand.”

Now for the manner of his burial:

The remains of the author of “The Raven” do not “lie moldering in a corner of the Potter’s Field, at Baltimore.” The truth, as I remarked, is bad enough, and discreditable enough to his relatives, not to say the city where he died. He was interred in an old Presbyterian burying ground in Green [[Greene]] Street, which has not been much used for many years. On a portion of it a church has since been erected, but not over his grave. In the removal of the dead, which will sooner or later take place, it is quite probable the bones of “Poor Poe” will be collected among the remains of the friendless and the unknown, and removed beyond recognition, for nothing but a couple of pine boards were placed at his grave, in lieu of grave-stones. But, worse than this, and far more discreditable to relate, there were no planks placed over the coffin, as is usual in all “decent burials,” and the earth was thrown directly upon it!

This was a most harrowing circumstance to my feelings. The impression of it has never been erased from my memory. Even now, as I write this hurried letter, I seem to hear the clods rattling upon that unprotected coffin, in contemptuous derision of the transcendent genius of its occupant! It must have been equally so to the two relatives, the single other attendant, besides the officiating clergyman, who was himself a relative of the deceased, and who, with the undertaker, the two coachmen and myself, made up the entire funeral cortége.



Mary C. Vaughan was a worker for the Daughters of Temperance.

Mr. Harris is presumably the Rev. Thomas Lake Harris (1823-1906), who was an ardent spiritualist and contributed frequently to the Spiritual Telegraph. The specific item to which the introductory comments refer is uncertain.

The Poe Society is indebted to Michael Powell for a black and white photograph of the original article.


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