Today, January 19, we celebrate the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, an editor, writer and poet, who wrote touching lyrics to the macabre.
Most known for poems such as The Raven and short stories such as The Pit and the Pendulum, he also wrote The conchologist’s first book: a system of testaceous malacology, arranged expressly for the use of schools, in which the animals, according to Cuvier, are given with the shells, a great number of new species added, and the whole brought up, as accurately as possible, to the present condition of the science (Philadelphia, 1839) For a better understanding of this head scratcher of a title, check out this blog from the Smithsonian. There are copies of the book at the University of Wyoming.
Poe’s great hoax
Another lesser-known work of Poe’s is the novel, The Journal of Julius Rodman: Being an Account of the First Passage Across the Rocky Mountains of North America Ever Achieved by Civilized Man (Philadelphia, 1840).
From the Edgar Allan Society of Baltimore (scroll down to Notes): “This tale is a prime example of Poe’s interest in maintaining a sense of realism in his fiction. The presentation here, uncredited to Poe in the tale itself or in the title page, must have fooled many readers into accepting what they read as fact. Indeed, an extract from the story appeared in government documents as authentic (26th Congress, 1st session, 1839-1840, vol 4. no. 174, pp. 140-141). Though it is certainly not among Poe’s more popular works, and received very little attention in his own time, it must certainly be accepted as one of Poe’s more successful hoaxes. Although Poe specifically claims that Rodman’s journeys predate those of Lewis and Clarke, their journals are the single most important source for the tale. By drawing the reader’s attention to Lewis and Clarke, even while denying any influence, Poe is intentionally, if only indirectly, acknowledging the source.”
Learn more with GoWYLD.net
There are good sources of information on Edgar Allan Poe in GoWYLD.net: Britannica Library, Literature Online (LION), Biography (Gale In Context), and, a great resource for kids and adults, Proquest Learning: Literature. All are available to every Wyoming resident, accessible with a library card from any public or community college library.
In Proquest Learning: Literature you will find a biography of his life and works, reference, a bibliography (including the items listed above), and criticism. This database also includes KnowledgeNote Study Guides.
Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849
- KnowledgeNote™ Study Guide – The Black Cat
- KnowledgeNote™ Study Guide – The Oval Portrait
- KnowledgeNote™ Study Guide – The Pit and the Pendulum
- KnowledgeNote™ Study Guide – The Raven
- KnowledgeNote™ Study Guide – The Tell-Tale Heart
Each Study Guide contains an author and plot overview, character notes and detailed summaries offering students guidance on literary style, themes and motifs.
In this same resource, you can also find the following Poe poems read by other poets:
- Annabel Lee read by Susan Howe 2 min 19 sec
- The Conqueror Worm read by Susan Howe 2 min 10 sec
- To Helen read by Richard Wilbur 58 sec