Have you ever wondered what it was like – the 1830’s/1840’s – when Poe was alive and walking around the streets of Boston or Richmond?
I’ve imagined the dark nights with gas street lights to guide the people at night. I’ve thought about his mother rushing him home after her show at the theater in the billowing cold of a frosty October, as she burned with fever, desperately fighting for breath.
Or Edgar, as an adult, leaving the pub on a similar cold winter night.
in the 1830’s, there were 12 million people in all of the United States. Now, there are 10 million in LA County alone!
In the 1840’s, the latest medical invention was a mechanical leech – let that sink in for a moment.
Boston grew phenomenally – from 1830 to 1840, the population grew from 60,000 to over 90,000. Today, Boston has nearly 700,000 people.
Poe lived in a town (Richmond) with 16,000 people. It was a growing metropolis with plans for paved streets (paved with wood, by the way). Richmond now boasts over 200,000 living souls.
These thoughts inspired the first lines of Eddy:
He stumbles from the pub, slips and falls on the iced over bricks of Boston’s November streets. Save for the muddled voices beyond the closed door, the street is quiet as his body thuds to the ground. His breath billows in front of him as he gasps and grumbles and struggles to his knees, then to his feet to regain his drunken balance…
I wanted to tell an imaginary tale of Edgar Poe the night he nearly took his own life… what saved him? what changed him? But the details needed to support the time, to place the reader in the 1800’s with a sick mother, a dying wife, a bottle of poison. When I read this at the Poe Museum in Virginia a few years ago, the employees complimented the personal grasp on Edgar’s life.
It serves still as a source of pride. And I come back to it – I want to write more about Poe, his life, not the dry biographies, but a more personal investment in a man who is still very much admired for his literary accomplishments in the face of his personal challenges.