Arts & Entertainment

Poetic License (and Leases)

by Mallory Passuite, 02/15/2012

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  • Edgar Allan Poe (1809­­­­–1849)
    Edgar Allan Poe moved to New York in 1844 in pursuit of literary success. He arrived at 35, broke, with his wife, Virginia—his first cousin, whom he'd married in 1836 when she was just 13—in Greenwich Village. When downtown rents at the couple's home near Washington Square Park (130 Greenwich St., to be exact) were too high, they moved uptown, to what was then considered countryside, into a farmhouse on West 84th Street. The plaque outside the site of his former abode (currently 215 W. 84th St., or Edgar Allan Poe Street) declares that it's where Poe completed one of his most famous works, "The Raven." When it was first published in The New York Evening Mirror in 1845, "The Raven" brought him instant fame and success. A few blocks over, the rocky hill known as Mt. Tom in Riverside Park (Riverside Drive and West 83rd Street) was supposedly one of Poe's favorite spots.

    The Poes moved back downtown by 1845 and lived in several locations throughout the Village, including 85 Amity St. (now 85 W. 3rd St.), on which New York University School of Law's Furman Hall, at 245 Sullivan St., currently stands (with the facade of the poet's home preserved). But as Virginia's health waned—along with the couple's finances—they moved to the Bronx countryside in 1846, into a small cottage overlooking the shores of Long Island. Poe wrote several classics there—including "The Bells" and "The Cask of Amontillado"—but it was also there where he suffered the loss of Virginia, who died in 1847 at 24. Poe's devastation is evident in his final poem, also written while living in the cottage:

    "And this was the reason that, long ago / In this kingdom by the sea / A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling / My beautiful Annabel Lee / So that her highborn kinsman came / And bore her away from me / To shut her up in a sepulcher / In this kingdom by the sea."

    The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage was recently renovated to its original appearance and regular tours offer a look at Poe's final years. He died mysteriously in Baltimore in 1849 at age 40.

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