We all know Edgar Allan Poe as the guy who wrote that one poem about a raven we had to dissect in a school. Turns out, there’s a little more to his story and it doesn’t leave him smelling like roses.
When he was 27, Poe married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia. The marriage certificate was filed with an affidavit stating that Virginia was 21. Sketchy, am I right? Well, it gets worse. Virginia’s father had died young and her mother had remarried but at the time of the wedding they were a very poor family and the mother was very ill. On hearing about the proposal, Virginia’s half-sister’s husband offered to sponsor her education so she wouldn’t have to marry young but Poe wrote a letter to Virginia’s ill mother, pleading her to ‘let Virginia make her own choice’. He claimed the half-sister’s husband as his bitter rival because he was apparently trying to ‘break the bond’ between them. If I saw a 27-year-old and a 13-year-old bonding non-platonically, I’d try and break it too. Hello, 911? I think I’m witnessing a crime.
They remained married until she died of tuberculosis (known as consumption at the time) at age 24. Poe would have been 38. She didn’t even reach the age her husband was when they married, which is wild. He’d also just been fired from his job for being drunk on duty so I have no idea how Virginia’s mother let the marriage happen. Or anybody actually. Then again, they did elope. Like, Poe is known as the inventor of detective fiction. He married a baby, was he just writing down scenarios he could have been caught in himself? Virginia used to ferry letters from him to the neighbouring house where his crush (who was his age, thankfully) lived.
He also once got himself kicked out of military school by just not attending drills for a week. Suffice to say young authors, the desire to shut yourself off from the world to write seems to be an age-old tradition for you guys. Don’t take too many tips from Poe though, he was super in debt because of his gambling addiction, and alcohol and drug abuse. Biographers claim that Poe and Virginia’s bond was that of siblings, and I’m wondering if I could borrow their rose-coloured lenses for a bit. They didn’t have any kids but that’s nowhere close to proof that it was a non-sexual relationship. He started drinking more after Virginia fell sick, which I imagine was very helpful for her mental state and their finances.
So there you have it, folks. If The Telltale Heart was your favourite short story, now you know where Poe’s very realistic description of guilt could be coming from! I’m not saying we should boycott him because there’s a lot to learn from his works and dead people don’t get royalties, but if you’re thinking of rereading, try some analysis along with it.