Edgar Allen Poe and “The Raven” cover

Edgar Allen Poe and “The Raven”

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Edgar Allen Poe, born January 19 1809, was an American writer, poet, and critic during the romantic era and is perhaps best known for his stories of mystery and horror. He published many short stories during his career and is said to have invented the genre of detective fiction. One of his most famous works, the poem “The Raven,” was first published 170 years ago in January 1845 of which the beginnings are almost as enigmatic as the man.

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Edgar Allen Poe and “The Raven”

The Raven Begins

”Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore–

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door–

Only this and nothing more.”

I was probably 5 or 6 years old when I first heard this poem, after demanding that my parents read me a bedtime story from the massive volume The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe.

Heavy Reading

Heavy Reading

Image by Lori Russell (Author's Mom!)

Bragging Rights

Since then, I’ve always found his works to be captivating (albeit terrifying if read as a bedtime story at a young age), and I still find myself paging through the book (still on my parents’ bookshelf) for something new every time I’m home for a visit.

Poe lived and worked in a number of cities–including Richmond, Boston, Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia–and many of them have consequently claimed Poe as their own. Poe lived in Philadelphia from 1838 to 1844, and his residence there has been preserved as the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. A mural of Poe is visible on a house adjacent to the Poe house in Philadelphia, PA.

Larger Than Life

Larger Than Life

“Sign for Poe’s House in Phila.”

Image by RTLibrary. (CC BY 2.0)

Mysterious Origins

Working here in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room, I’ve come across many popular poems printed in serialized form in newspapers and periodicals of the day before being published in book form.

“The Raven” itself was first accepted for publication in the February 1845 (vol. 1, no. 2) edition of the journal The American Review under the pseudonym Quarles.

Although first accepted for publication in The American Review, the poem may have first been published in New York’s The Evening Mirror on January 29, 1845 (see the Notes for “The Raven” on the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore website for more details on the poem’s first publication)

The Evening Mirror

The Evening Mirror

The Evening Mirror, p. 4. Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

Image by Amber Paranick

Rave(n) Reviews

Rave(n) Reviews

The poem was well received in popular serial literature as evidenced by the introduction to the poem by the editor of The Evening Mirror itself (image above).

Editor’s introduction to “The Raven,” The Evening Mirror, January 29, 1845. Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

Image by Amber Paranick

Spreading the Word

The poem was next reprinted in the February 4, 1845 issue of the New York Daily Tribune. It was also published in the February 1845, issue of The Broadway Journal (a weekly periodical edited by Poe himself).

It was republished again in the March 1845 issue of The Southern Literary Messenger and subsequently in many other sources.

A myriad of other newspaper articles written about Poe are just waiting to be discovered in ‘Chronicling America’, the Library’s collection of selected digitized American newspapers. See, for instance “The True History of Edgar Allan Poe: Child of Destiny” a biography of Poe appearing in the July 7, 1903 Sunday Edition of the Washington Times. Want more specifics about Poe’s relationships with women? See “Stories of the Women Who Loved Edgar Allan Poe” in the January 17, 1909 edition of The Washington Herald.

‘The Broadway Journal’

‘The Broadway Journal’

Page 90, The Broadway Journal, 1845. Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

Digging Deeper

Looking for more online information about Poe from the Library of Congress? You can:

• discover ways to integrate Poe’s and other 19th century writers’ work into the classroom through our “American Authors in the Nineteenth Century” primary source set.

• read a From the Catbird Seat blog post on depictions of Poe in film.

• read a digitized edition of Selected Poems and Tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

And, if you are impressed by the Philadelphia mural art depicting Poe, you may want to take a look at my previous blog post on found poetry in street art.

Hometown Pride

On a final note, I grew up near Pittsburgh, PA and by default have long been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

My friends and family for many years have held a (mostly friendly) rivalry between those who support the Baltimore Ravens.

My feelings on the rivalry are captured in the following broadside:

Sports Fan?

Sports Fan?

Broadside compliments of artist Fred Carrow, family friend of the author.