FORT LEE, Va. (Aug. 21, 2014) -- Edgar Allen Poe is widely regarded as the greatest American horror and mystery novelist of all time. He spent the majority of his life in Richmond where the Museum of Edgar Allen Poe is located. It is home to the finest collection of Poe’s manuscripts letters, and personal belongings.
Poe relocated to Richmond at the age of three after the death of his parents. His time in Richmond was riddled with misfortune and became the inspiration for many of his works. The Edgar Allan Poe Museum at 1914-16 E. Main St. is housed in “The Old Stone House,” the oldest building in Richmond. Visitors to the museum can to find out more about what haunted the mind of Poe and the millions who have read his works.
The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and on Sunday from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Military members save a dollar off the $6 entry fee.
Many people have likely encountered his work at some time throughout their lives – “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Raven,” “The Fall of the House of Usher” and the “Cask of Amontillado.” These are some of the most influential works of American literature, all crafted from the mind of one author. In reading his masterpieces, it’s worthwhile getting to know the man behind the pages.
Edgar Allen Poe Museum curator Christopher Semtner has a good understanding of what Richmond meant to the life of Poe.
“It’s where he grew up and spent more of his life than any other city,” he said. “It shaped his life and you will find influences throughout his literature.
According to Semtner, Poe arrived in Richmond as a child and was raised by John and Frances Allen. Things turned bitter between son and dad when John Allen helped Poe gain entrance into the University of Virginia, but did not give him enough funding to complete his studies there. Poe started gambling and the relationship with his foster father began its steady decline. He then turned to West Point, but was court-martialed before deciding to become a poet.
Those who visit the museum will get a close look at Poe’s time with the Allens. “It’s the only place in the world that has any of Poe’s clothing – vest, socks, bed, chair, trunk and walking stick. It also includes a rich collection of 1st edition manuscripts, portraits, pop culture and memorabilia from movie posters to bobble heads,” said Semtner, “Over 200 years of Poe’s artifacts and memorabilia.”
Poe’s works were only appreciated after his death, and he lived most of his life in poverty. The death of his wife, secretly his cousin, led him to become a heavy drinker. Even though Poe died at the age of 40, his works still have influences in modern day culture.
“Poe marks a turning point in many ways. He invented literary genres like the detective story, modern science fiction and psychological terror. Some of his plot devices are copied by many authors,” said Semtner. “Think of the private detective and sidekick, false clues to cast suspicion, etc. A wide variety of plot devices go back to Poe. He reasoned that art and literature didn’t have to teach you anything and that art could be there for art’s sake. A story could be just chilling or just beautiful. That led to modern art; we wouldn’t have abstraction or modern paintings without the concept. Also, this idea that the story didn’t have to have a moral or lesson and the bad guy could win: could have an antihero. He popularized ideas relevant today.”
The Edgar Allen Poe Museum provides a unique learning experience. “You will encounter Poe and learn about his life through the world’s largest collection of his possessions,” said the curator. “Many guests are surprised to find the center of the building is a garden based on his poetry.
“The enchanted garden laid out in 1922 as Virginia’s first literary memorial. The whole layout is based on his works. Walkways and walls came from different buildings where Poe worked,” he added, “This is the place where they can really come face to face with Poe – not the caricature but the actual face. Here is where fans of the author can realize just how far reaching his contributions have been and that his influence is still being felt today.”
To find out more about the Edgar Allen Poe Museum visit http://www.poemuseum.org/index.php.