Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I have made up my mind not to die

Edgar Poe watched his wife slowly die over about five years. Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe was no longer the "child-bride" incessantly referred to by Poe biographers and middle school teachers. She was twenty years old when she had her first major tuberculosis-induced coughing fit. She had been married to Poe for over six years. She and Poe were quite in love... And Poe watched her deteriorate at what should have been the prime of her life.

After the final stage of his wife's illness was made public, several literary friends tried to make an appeal for her support. It wasn't entirely clear what was happening, but most people would have likely known the death sentence of "consumption." It was reported that Poe himself was also suffering from his own illness. Poe took it upon himself to write a letter in response to the great but perpetually convalescent Nathaniel Parker Willis (pictured at right) on December 30, 1846: "I am getting better... The truth is, I have a great deal to do; and I have made up my mind not to die 'til it is done."

At this stage in his life, Poe had published several books, become well-known as a fierce literary critic, had become one of the most well-known (yet underpaid) poets of his generation, had watched the Broadway Journal fail under his leadership, but he was determined to start a new journal, The Stylus, and become financially stable. He had every reason to be resolute and optimistic.

Nevertheless, exactly one month after his letter to Willis, Virginia Poe died in New York. The Stylus was never produced. And Poe himself died less than three years after he made his conviction not to die.

1 comment:

S.J. Chambers said...

But it did lead to Eureka.