Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Poe arrives in South Carolina

Under the pseudonym Edgar A. Perry, an 18-year old Poe was ordered, along with the rest of his regiment, to Sullivan's Island near Charleston, South Carolina. After an eleven-day journey on a boat named Waltham, they arrived on November 18, 1827.

During his time on Sullivan's Island, Poe/Perry distinguished himself as an enlisted soldier. Six months after his arrival, Poe was promoted to "Artificer." Eight months after that, he was promoted to Sergeant Major, the highest rank a non-commissioned officer could make.

Sullivan's Island would later serve as the setting for "The Gold-Bug." Like many places which Poe made home, even for short periods of time, Charleston has come to truly embrace the writer. The town has named its public library for Poe and streets are named for "The Raven" and "The Gold-Bug."

But, the question is, considering how accomplished Poe was as a soldier, why did he not complete his enlisted term? Instead, he promised a high payment for another man ("Bully" Graves) to finish his term for him. When he tried to become a commissioned officer, why did he purposely get himself kicked out of West Point?

It was only about four months before he left for South Carolina that Poe gave a bundle of manuscripts to a Boston printer named Calvin F. S. Thomas. Thomas issued the first edition of Poe's poems ever published: the 40-page Tamerlane and Other Poems, credited only "by a Bostonian." It is estimated that only 50 copies were printed, and the book made no impact at all, critically or financially.

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