It’s a tantalizing legend, that the building that now houses Il Buco in New York City was the macabre inspiration in Poe’s life for the setting of The Cask of Amontillado. The places Poe touched in Manhattan and the Bronx can still be found, though in most cases the surroundings are unrecognizable from his day. So with the promise of rustic Italian dining along the way, I wandered the streets of Manhattan to find the poet’s footprints.
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I pull into a parking space on a deserted street just off Poe Park in the Bronx. There are no signs restricting parking, lines drawn for parking spaces on the street. A lady comes rushing up, telling me I can’t park there, I’ll surely be ticketed. “Don’t park there, don’t park there!”
I’ve lived in the New York metro area long enough to know that it’s not good to argue with a screaming native. Plus I figured she knew the neighborhood. She told me to park down the street, next to St. James Park, I found a parking place there, surprisingly enough, and set off towards the little house just across the Grand Concourse, the most important site in Poe’s New York City,
Poe’s life changed with a second move to New York City in 1844. His star was on the rise, as a writer, an editor and a critic, but it was fame without fortune. Then his fame skyrocketed.
The Raven was an earworm for its day, sticking in the head like a pop song would now. Albeit The Raven supped on darker worms than most pop songs.
It’s not a long poem, but it crams a lot of words into into its length. It’s the story of a man in solitude, in the dark of night, the bleak of winter, searching books of magic and the occult for an answer to find his Lenore. A Raven flitters in and taunts him with his one word answer to his quest … nevermore. The author goes from curiosity at this interloper, to irritation, to fear and finally madness. It’s not the terror of the bird that does the narrator in, but the loss of his love. That was story Poe knew well, and almost a year to the day later would know even better. Once again, Poe’s life was to mirror his art.
On January 29, 1845 The Raven was published in the New York Evening Mirror. Poe probably wrote it the summer before, and it seemed to go through a few different versions before he was finally satisfied with it. In its introduction in The Evening Mirror, it was written that The Raven was “unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent, sustaining of imaginative lift … It will stick to the memory of everybody who reads it.”
It was an instant hit and reprinted in periodicals all over the country, and no doubt it changed Poe’s life. A book of his short stories was rushed to press, his first book to be published in half a decade. A book of his poems, the first in fourteen years came shortly afterwards. The reaction from fellow writers varied. Yeats and Emerson hated it, though Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote to Poe that “Your ‘Raven’ has produced a sensation, a fit o’ horror, here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by ‘Nevermore’.”
It was a critical success and suddenly Poe was a household name and a celebrity of national, and to an extent world renown. The poem was so popular it even inspired parody.
He was suddenly in demand for lectures and recitals of The Raven, which was one of the few lucrative benefits of his newfound fame. One person who witnessed Poe reciting The Raven described it, “He would turn down the lamps till the room was almost dark, then standing in the center of the apartment he would recite … in the most melodious of voices … So marvelous was his power as a reader that the auditors would be afraid to draw breath lest the enchanted spell be broken.”
He was only paid $9 for the first run of the poem, not enough to help the crushing weight of the troubles in Poe’s life. In fact, it was turned down by another newspaper, but the editor took pity on Poe’s plight and gave him $15 out of charity, six dollars more than he was paid for the poem’s publication.
But it’s a mistake to say that Poe only received $9 for The Raven. The financial rewards were paltry for certain, but it did bump him up a level, brought him some financial reward and sealed his reputation that continues to grow to this day. Poe himself wrote “I have made no money. I am as poor now as ever I was in my life—except in hope, which is by no means bankable“.
A visit to Poe’s Bronx house in Fordham
It was in 1846 that Poe left the metropolis for Fordham in the Bronx. Virginia, his wife wasn’t doing well, her tuberculosis getting worse. His aunt Clem, Virginia’s mother moved with them to help care for her when Poe was traveling or looking for work.
This was countryside when Poe lived here. A stream flowed through the area, heavily wooded, not far from what is now Fordham University, but at the time was St. John’s College where he would visit the library and talk to the professors. It was almost idyllic, till his young wife, Virginia, and Poe’s life took a turn for the worse,
At some point it became apparent she wasn’t going to recover, and Poe’s spirit broke. By all accounts he turned to drink. The success of The Raven had brought him fame, notoriety, friends and enemies alike, but little money. The family was suffering from poverty, Virginia was dying and Poe grew increasingly desperate.
Today his idyllic farm is in the middle of the Bronx. The city finally reached his haven and surrounded it, But it remains a city block of green, with the little farmhouse where Virginia Poe died intact.
I crossed the Grand Concourse and made my way across Poe Park to the Poe House. It was undergoing restoration and so was closed, but I was fine with that. It’s small enough you can see most of the rooms through the windows, and I appreciated the solitude. There’s a certain voyeuristic thrill about looking at a life through a window, and it fit well with this mission, to look for the fingerprints of Poe’s life in the place of his greatest horror.
I’d seen the photos enough to recognize the rooms, the bed where Virginia lay dying, the house freezing, her on her deathbed with Edgar’s coat and the cat Caterina on top of her for warmth. Edgar would sit at her side, crying so fiercely his aunt would beg him to leave the room.
I didn’t need a tour guide, the empty room slowly filled with the vapors of the poet and his family and the tragedy of watching yet another of the women in Poe’s life, the one most important to him, taken from him by death, a year and a day after the publication of The Raven. I finally turned and walked away from the tragic scene and made my way back to St. James Park and my car.
In the Bronx, away from the financially forced gentrification of Manhattan, I noticed from the people I shared the sidewalk with that this is truly the melting pot of America. I had a seat on a park bench, watching the crowds go by and pondered. Manhattan has people from the outlying area there to work, but the natives now tend to be rather well off. The Bronx had every nationality imaginable every ethic group, from all levels of society, many in full costume, walking the sidewalks of their home. It was more laid back than I expected. These weren’t tourists, but people whose lives are lived here.
It seemed strange to sit there and look out on all that life, when behind lay Poe’s house, essentially a tribute to a death and the wicked period of mourning which came after, where Edgar Allan Poe well and truly lost his mind.
I made my way back to the car and I found a parking ticket under the windshield wipers. I looked at the ticket which simply read illegal parking and a $100 fine. I read the signs once more which listed when and where you could park. I saw nothing I did wrong. There was a car parked in front of me, a car parked behind me, neither of them had tickets.
Bumfuzzled, bewildered and a bit pissed off, I got in the car and decided since I was moving from New York quite soon, the ticket cold go unpaid. I still get notices from the some non descript agency in the greater New York metro area, now asking for $250, which I respond to with a simple one word answer … nevermore.
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Running down the legend of Il Buco and The Cask of Amontillado
It was a week later, the weekend before I was to leave New York for good, following in the footsteps of Poe himself. After Virginia’s death he certainly went off the rails. It didn’t take a lot to get Poe drunk, but it’s certain he was exceeding that limit almost constantly. His Aunt Clem worried about him, as did his friends, confidants and admirers.
General Winfield Scott, a noble name from America’s past and one of the people who helped Poe get into West Point gave $5 to a collection taken up at the Union Club in New York City, after Virginia’s death. He said that Poe had been “belied” and had “noble and generous traits which belonged to a gentleman of the old and better school, and that true‐hearted Americans ought to take care of her poets as well as her soldiers.”
It was with a short list of Poe related sites on Manhattan that I got off the train from Long Island at Penn Station and stepped out into the April morning. Most of those sites would go unvisited, as they had so little to do with him as to be a waste of leg to seek them out.
Poe’s reputation for drinking has been blown far out of portion, the fallacy of opium addiction added to the mix and other debaucheries thrown in as well. Poe’s life started becoming a caricature almost from the time of his death. But there is little doubt that on occasion did take advantage of the excitement that New York City had to offer, including drink and the attentions of his female friends. It’s possible that Poe was already thinking of the future and life after the death of his wife, even before that death which led him to befriend women who tended to be a part of wealthy families. At one point he found himself at the other end of punches thrown by the defenders of one of these ladies, who thought Poe had besmirched her reputation.
In the eight years I lived on Long Island, a quick train ride into Manhattan, I hadn’t exactly experienced much in the way of debauchery on that small island. So I reckoned as I would soon be leaving it, in addition to tackling and photographing Poe locations, I should at least get twisted myself, the kind of night where you find yourself walking down the sidewalk using parking meters as walking sticks.
My usual habit, unless I had need to do otherwise consisted of getting out at Penn Station and heading down Manhattan, having a nice sit in Battery Park overlooking the Statue of Liberty in the Upper Bay then making my way back up the island.
This time I took a short excursion into the Bowery. The first time I came to city, back in 1979 we found ourselves lost, late at night and in the Bowery. I remember seeing a men in a long, battered trench coats with newspapers for shoes, the sewers belched steam into the night. This was the old Bowery. The Bowery today has been cleaned up quite a bit.
There’s a prevailing rumor about the building which houses Il Buco Italian restaurant in the Bowery. It’s classy, a beautifully restored interior, outside sidewalk dining and then there’s the basement, now given over to parties and overflow from the main dining area. It’s lined with wine bottles and rumor’s about Poe’s life.
The story had it that it was in this basement, that Poe found his inspiration for the setting of A Cask of Amontillado, the tale of revenge where the narrator entombs his nemesis in the walls of a wine cellar, alive.
The rumor has it that in Poe’s day, this building was a tavern, a hangout for famous artist, writers and poets, and that the author was a frequent patron. One night he finds himself in the basement with all those casks and inspiration strikes.
The truth doesn’t match the story.
The dates are plausible, though some believe that he wrote A Cask of Amontillado when Poe’s life was in Philadelphia, prior to moving to New York City.
But in looking at the inspiration behind the story, the most plausible theory has Poe writing it in response to caricature of himself written by Thomas Dunn English, then a write and later a congressmen. English portrayed Poe as a drunkard, liar, and an abusive lover. They had been friends, but it was the affair mentioned above that led to Poe’s thrashing that caused the falling out. English believed the letters of the lady in question, a writer by the name of Elizabeth F. Ellet, contained content which was a very private in nature and shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands. So she wanted them back. There’s confusion over exactly what happened next, her brother was sent to retrieve them and was told they had already been returned, Poe went to English to borrow a pistol to defend himself against said brother, but English refused and backed the other side. It ended with English pummeling Edgar, his ring slicing up Poe’s face, though Poe claimed to have gotten the better hand in the brawl. Not many people believed him, and it was another low point in Poe’s life.
It’s thought, and with good reason that Poe wrote A Cask of Amontillado in response to English’s novel on the subject of revenge, 1844, or, The Power of the S.F. In Poe’s story, the protagonist and antagonist find their roles reversed, and the victim in English’s novel finds his counterpart in Poe’s short story as the one extracting revenge.
It is quite likely that Poe had been in the building at 47 Bond Street in the Bowery that now houses the Il Buco restaurant. Il Buco is a perpetually trendy New York City dining spot, specializing in Mediterranean cuisine. It’s upscale, which in NYC means as much of an emphasis on preparation, ambiance and reputation as there is on the food itself. Which in a way is a metaphor for Manhattan today. As it was on my way down to Battery Park, and the most oft tale told about Poe in New York City, I figured it had to be where I ate.
Learning to make reservations in advance
I unfortunately didn’t plan this trip far in advance. In other words I got the idea when I woke up that morning, so I didn’t have time to make reservations. It was late in the afternoon when I arrived and they were already full. It was turning chilly, the cafe seating outside was empty, and the fellow at the door said I could eat there if I chose. I needed this review for these stories, so there was little choice. And besides, I was sure they had the necessary libations to warm me up if need arose.
Need arose. I opted with a red wine recommended by the waiter along with an appetizer, Salumi, which is of course a salami platter. At $18 I thought it would likely make for supper as well, as it came with a selection of breads and cheese. It was however, as the menu said, a selection, and for someone used to cutting salami off the roll with a pocket knife, it was certainly more high falutin’ than I’m used to. By the time it arrived I was on my second or third glass of wine, and decided my future could lie in restaurant reviews and so I should order a main dish.
I settled on the slow cooked pork.
I’m not saying New York City diners aren’t used to simple cuisine, which is what Il Buco lists as it’s underlying philosophy. But they did feel the need to list in the description that the pork came with a thin layer of fat on the edge, to add moisture to the meat. Where I come from, slow cooked pork is a staple, though usually slow cooked over a wood or charcoal fire. We’re used to a bit of fat, but unless it’s fried, we don’t eat it. I didn’t know if I was supposed to or not, but I left it, embarrassingly on the plate.
It was tasty, the portions were about right, and between dinner and the wine, I had certainly kept the chill at bay. A couple wandering in, also without reservations saw me sitting there and decided they would sit outside as well and wait for a table. They hurriedly finished their drinks and set off looking for a restaurant with a table available indoors.
By this time by buzz was instated, and I decided it was time to move on. But first I had to sneak inside for some photos, including that famous basement, which may or may not have been the inspiration for Poe’s story.
The place is gorgeous inside, no doubt about that. Copper pots hang from the patterned tin ceiling, the tables and chairs are rustic, with much of the main dining room consisting of communal tables, for those who like to eat as part of a crowd, even if they don’t know the crowd. I’m not into that, as I find too often the main topic of conversation I hear whilst eavesdropping is the food. I’m there to eat, drink perhaps, look into the eyes of my loved one, I don’t need to talk about, nor hear about what I’m fucking eating.
So no, perhaps a career as a food writer isn’t in my future.
I made my way to the basement, which was arranged for a private party and smiled to myself at the chosen decor, which was dominated by wine bottles from floor to ceiling, lining the brick walls. It’s charming, downright romantic, and far removed from the horror filled wine cellar of A Cask of Amontillado. But yeah, it’s possible in it’s primitive 19th century state, that it could have inspired that tale’s setting. That part of the legend could be true.
But what exactly was 47 Bond St in Manhattan’s Bowery, when Edgar Allan Poe lived in the metropolis?
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What was the role of Marie Louise Shew in Poe’s life, angel or devil?
One of Poe’s admirer’s in New York City was Marie Louise Shew. When Poe would stay on Manhattan, with Virginia dying in the Bronx, he would visit Mary Louise, a widow, at her home, the same building which now houses Il Buco, where she lived with her brother-in-law and future husband, Joel Shew. Often Poe would arrive drunk, bereaved over the hopelessness of his situation and the sorrow of his sick wife. Mary Louise would offer comfort and a place to sleep it off.
Eventually she became Virginia’s nurse, and cared for her during the final bouts of her illness, providing a stabilizing influence in Poe’s life.. Accounts vary on exactly how involved she was in her role as nurse, but there is reason to believe she cared for Virginia with love and compassion. Edgar certainly thought well of her, enough to pen the following poem:
To Marie Louise (Shew)
Of all who hail thy presence as the morning –
Of all to whom thine absence is the night –
The blotting utterly from out high heaven
The sacred sun – of all who, weeping, bless thee
Hourly for hope – for life – ah, above all,
For the resurrection of deep buried faith
In truth, in virtue, in humanity –
Of all who, on despair’s unhallowed bed
Lying down to die, have suddenly arisen
At thy soft-murmured words, “Let there be light!”
At thy soft-murmured words that were fulfilled
In the seraphic glancing of thine eyes –
Of all who owe thee most, whose gratitude
Nearest resembles worship, – oh, remember
The truest, the most fervently devoted,
And think that these weak lines are written by him –
By him who, as he pens them, thrills to think
His spirit is communing with an angel’s.
Unfortunately, most of the details of this time come from Marie Louise herself, in correspondences with Poe’s biographer, John Henry Ingram, who had set out to reclaim’s Poe’s reputation after it had being maligned by another, more diabolical biographer, Rufus Wilmot Griswold. Even Ingram remarked that by the time he was in communication with Marie Louise, well after Poe’s death, that she was more than a bit balmy. It’s often thought she was in no small part trying to portray herself as the angel Poe desperately needed during this time, as well as following Virginia’s death.
It’s also possible he wanted Marie Louise in Poe’s life on a more amorous footing, as she was at the time a widow. But she ended up with her brother in law and Poe seemed to lose interest in her after that.
At Virginia’s death, Marie Louise Shew provided the linens in which Virginia was buried, as well as mourning clothes for Edgar, and paid for the coffin.
While her letters provide no clues about A Cask of Amontillado, she did lay claim to providing the inspiration for one of his most famous poems, The Bells. According to Marie Louise, Poe paid her a visit, complaining of being too tired to write, or even think of a subject. She picked up a pen and began to mimic the poet by providing the title and then wrote “The Bells, the little silver Bells.” Poe completed the stanza, she suggested the next verse’s first line, he completed that stanza, copied out the finished poem, listed her as author and went to bed and slept for twelve hours. If her story is to be believed, Poe evidently thought her work was good enough to attach his name to.
But as noted, there’s not a lot you can take of her letters later in life as gospel. She also claimed Poe had lesions of the brain and she had been informed by his doctor that he didn’t have long to live. That turned out to be true, but there is no evidence that the rest of the story was.
That’s typically where Marie Louise’s story ends. But there was more.
Marie Louis Shew after her exit from Poe’s life
Her marriage to Joel Shew didn’t last long. The house was ran as a kind of boarding house, as well as the site of Shew’s famous water treatments. It was a form of new age medicine well before new age was new. Marie Louise was involved as well, and her writing on the subject can still be read. That most people at the time and certainly later thought the whole concept was a fraud, could cast doubts on the sincerity of her character.
She and Shew was a part of the Transcendental movement, which Marie Louise was a devotee of. At the extremes of Transcendentalism you find such things as free love popping up, and there is evidence that Mrs. Shrew was a part of that as well, which is surprising as Poe saw the movement as one of the evils of the world in his day. She ended up divorcing Shew and marrying one of their boarders, Rolad Stebbins Houghton with whom she had a child while still living with Joel Shew. Though it’s also possible the father of that child was yet another boarder of theirs.
The child grew up to be a bit of handful, went west for a time and came back to New York City to escape his reputation if not the law, as he was known or accused of adultery, mule thievery, swindling, and “open and notorious lewdness.” With him he brought a woman, his partner in crime and love interest who was pregnant at the time and married to another man.
Marie Louise took care of her during the pregnancy, but she died unexpectedly in child birth. In a letter the woman had written, she spoke of Marie Louise Shew wanting to perform an abortion on her, and other fears she had about her lover’s mother. It turned out that Marie Louise had pushed to have the woman buried before a death certificate has been issued, and the doctor who wrote it admittedly had never provided treatment to the woman. When the letters were delivered to the authorities after her death, Marie Louise was arrested and charged with murder. She escaped conviction and execution when the woman’s death was surprisingly put down to natural causes.
Later, 47 Bond Street was owned by P.T. Barnum, the circus promoter. He ran it as a boarding house, but when a murder took place there and it was discovered to be a brothel, Barnum claimed to have no knowledge of it.
So even without no real ties to A Cask of Amontillado, the home of Il Buco restaurant has real and deep connections to Poe’s life, as well as its own macabre and tawdry history.
Let’s get hammered like Poe, shall we?
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After dinner I made my way down to Battery Park, then started back up to Penn Station.
Traces of Poe’s life on Manhattan are few and have relatively little to do with the author’s life. One place frequently pointed to is the Northern Dispensary, a curiously shaped, three sided building tucked into the fork of Wavery Place, Grove and Christopher’s streets in Greenwich village. At the time they were known for treating the poor, and when Poe lived in New York City on a previous occasion, he was believed to have been treated there for a head cold.
As I said, there isn’t a lot of depth to these stories, but it’s interesting to walk up to a door which Poe himself might have walked up to as well, and so I dutifully sought it out, where it stands now, empty except for the last occupant’s furnishings of dusty dental equipment.
While poking around Greenwich Village I stopped into the White Horse Tavern, built in 1880 and once known as a poet’s watering hole. Dylan Thomas, out to beat his own record, downed eighteen shots of presumably Irish whiskey, stumbled outside and collapsed on the sidewalk. He was taken to his apartment in the nearby Chelsea Hotel, immortalized by Leonard Cohen as the site of a blow job by Janis Joplin, and where Syd killed Nancy, amongst countless other New York City artist stories. It was there that Thomas fell into a coma the next morning, and never recovered. Other writers and poets associated with the White Horse Tavern included
Norman Mailer, Anais Nin, James Laughlin, James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg and Kerouac from the beat generation, and countless more.
While I was there in this acclaimed historical drinking ground I was struck by the truth of New York City.
A city lays claim to its fame by the names of those who live and work there. New York City has an enviable past, and there were times that they could lay claim to those two titles which you so often hear bandied about by its current residents, the center of the world and the greatest city on Earth.
But in reality, though there are countless famous names living in the city, their names aren’t particularly attached to it. John Lennon for instance, is immortalized in Central Park, but the act he’s most known for relating to New York City is being murdered there.
When Lou Reed died, perhaps New York lost the last of its world famous poets. Granted, there are countless poets still living in New York City, some of some renown even. But they aren’t really part of a scene whose importance echoes around the world.
Broadway is mainly known for revival shows, the same basic show you see traveling to any city in the United States, and one of the most popular shows is an adaptation of a fucking cartoon for fuck’s sake. That makes it hard to lay claim to the most important city for the theatre in the world, or if it is, it shows a sad state of affairs for that particular art form.
The last real music scene to emerge from New York City was likely punk and and to some extent, New Wave. But CBGBs is gone now, and hadn’t been the center of America’s musical universe for ages. Its museums are stocked with the famous art of the past, but the art of the present doesn’t resound with the public the way The Raven did.
New Yorkers still make the claims that applied fifty or even a hundred years ago, or any time in between. But New York has become a stereotype, and it’s voice is the loud, abrasive bravado filled voice so often caricatured, a caricature which so many of its residents embrace. I once was intimidated by that loud, fast talking voice myself. But after almost eight years on those islands, I learned that the volume and speed is to quite often hide the fact that there is no substance behind it, that it belies the same lack of knowledge, the same close mindedness you find throughout the world.
It’s an aggressive, me above all others way of belief that makes it hard for mere mortals to survive now on Manhattan.
Are there exceptions? Absolutely. But then again, if you come looking for me you find me in the Bible belt, where I’m an exception to the norm as well. New York is now, sadly enough, no different than any other major U.S. city. Just a lot bigger than most, and so contains a lot more back stories which have already reached their end and fallen into the realm of legend.
And so I found myself back at Penn Station, my journey at an end. Or so I thought.
A black man, quite a few years my junior stopped me as I reached the entrance. He asked if I had a rolling paper … I guess there’s something about me that makes a person think I might be carrying one. I wasn’t, and told him so. He made me a deal, that if I would buy him a pack, he’d give me something to go with it.
I was in town for debauchery after all, so I took him up on his offer. He sweetened the deal, toss in a six pack and he’d really make it worth my while. I took him up on that as well. And so fifteen minutes later I found myself accompanying this gentleman on a walk around beautiful midtown Manhattan, sharing a joint and a surprisingly interesting conversation. He left me with a small packet to take back to the midwest with me when I left, to soften the pangs of leaving a dream behind.
It had been a dream. I longed to live on the east coast my whole life. I managed it longer than I imagined I would, and lived through it. I had arrived in New York with almost no cash and very little room on my credit cards. I ended up leaving with slightly more room on the cards, almost $200 in cash and a bag of change which added up to even more than that. So I turned a profit, albeit a small one.
Most important I got experience, I became a photographer, a writer and learned the skills I’d need to start my own business and stop working for assholes, who were only in it for the buck.
I made it into Penn Station and found I’d just missed my train, so I had an hour to kill.
Penn Station is known around the midwest for a chain of delis of the same name, capitalizing on the famous train station’s reputation. I laugh when I hear that. In reality, the real Penn Station is a lousy place to eat. It’s the first place I had a $20 cheeseburger, $10 fries and $10 beer. The cheeseburger was greasy, even by cheeseburger standards, the fries were soggy and the beer warm. Yet midwesterners flock to the name.
I opted for Ruby Tuesday’s, another chain but one with a bar. There I found an unlikely cadre of companions, a couple of fellows older than myself, and four young people. They turned the older fellows on to Jager Bombs, shots of Jaegermeister mixed with Red Bull. I opted for my Red Bull on the side, We took turns buying rounds, and soon I had missed the next train. By the time I boarded the train after that, I had done what almost a decade in that area had never done. I became a New Yorker.
Two days later I started my way back to the midwest and a new life. I’d lived within a short walk of the ocean for years now, and it struck me that the cities in Poe’s life were almost always on the ocean. We don’t equate Poe much with the sea, but he never ventured far from its shores.
After his wife Virginia died, and his aunt Clemm went back to the cottage in Fordham where they’d lived for the last of their boxes, she looked for the cat, Caterina. The cat had like Edgar, had went somewhat mad following Virginia’s death. In one of her letters, Mary Louise Shew, who called the cat possessed, recounted this along with the news that Aunt Clem had found the cat dead. It was a portend of the darkness in Poe’s life which even then, had yet to reach it’s climax.