Poe - Obituary by Rufus Griswold

Rufus Griswold wrote this obituary about Edgar Allan Poe.  It was published in the New York Tribune on October 9, 1849.

Among the unflattering words, of this Griswold-authored obituary, are these:

Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it…

He was at times a dreamer, dwelling in ideal realms, in heaven or hell, peopled with creations and the accidents of his brain…He seemed, except when some fitful pursuit subjected his will and engrossed his faculties, always to bear the memory of some controlling sorrow.

He had made up his mind upon the numberless complexities of the social world and the whole system was with him an imposture. This conviction gave a direction to his shrewd and naturally unamiable character. Still though, he regarded society as composed of villains, the sharpness of his intellect was not of that kind which enabled him to cope with villainy, while it continually caused him overshots, to fail of the success of honesty.

Passion, in him, comprehended many of the worst emotions, which militate against human happiness…Irascible, envious, bad enough, but not the worst, for these salient angles were all varnished over with a cold repellant cynicism while his passions vented themselves in sneers.

There seemed to him no moral susceptibility. And what was more remarkable in a proud nature, little or nothing of the true point of honor. He had, to a morbid excess, that desire to rise which is vulgarly called ambition, but no wish for the esteem or the love of his species, only the hard wish to succeed, not shine, not serve, but succeed, that he might have the right to despise a world which galled his self-conceit.

For many years these words, written by an ersatz admirer of Poe, did much to damage the legacy of the famous American poet.

For more information on the obituary, follow this link.

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Media Credits

Image of Poe's obituary, by Rufus Griswold, online courtesy National Archives. Originally published in the New York Tribune on October 9, 1849.



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