Today marks the birth of Russian-born novelist Vladimir Nabokov, born April 23, 1899. He missed interacting with Poe by 50 years, but the influence Poe had on Nabokov serves as a reminder of Poe's far-reaching posthumous legacy.
Nabokov published one of his most (in)famous works, Lolita, in 1955. The book, which contemporary reviews called "sheer unrestrained pornography," is built around a character named Humbert Humbert, who lusts after young women he calls "nymphets" - and, by young, I mean pre-teen. Humbert falls for a 12-year old named "Annabel Leigh." Who seduces who becomes a twist in the novel - and I'll stop there.
The point is, the book used Poe's poem "Annabel Lee" as a starting point, taking full advantage of the line "she was a child." In fact, the original title for the novel made the reference much more obvious. As Nabokov wrote to critic Edmund Wilson in 1847 (a full eight years before publication): "I am writing... a short novel about a man who liked little girls - and it's going to be called The Kingdom by the Sea."
Well, the name eventually changed and, because of the controversial content, it took quite some time before a publisher was found. Now, it's considered a modern classic, though I doubt it often ends up on high school summer reading lists. Frankly, I haven't read it, and it's not high on my "must-read" list!
Nevertheless, it shows Poe's far-reaching influence, and the interest in the poem "Annabel Lee" in particular. I dispute, of course, that Poe's poem has anything to do with pedophilia (or his marriage, for that matter), and perhaps one could argue that even that theme is only a small device in Lolita, to present a more tragic story about obsession, love, guilt, and gender-based/age-based manipulation. I think Poe would have appreciated at least some of that.
Happy birthday, Nabokov!