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Edgar Allan Poe’s European Legacy

by Tatiana Sandlewood
Edgar Allan Poe

It was in Richmond, Virginia, one hundred years ago that the Edgar Allan Poe Museum was established. Poe’s pocket watch, which he wore while writing his short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” just before he moved to New York City, where he spent his final years, was given as a gift to the museum in honor of the anniversary by Susan Jaffe Tane, an author and the foremost collector of items related to Poe.

The evil narrator of this story draws parallels between the beating of his victim’s heart and the ticking of a clock.

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was the first widely acclaimed author from the United States. Particularly since the French took up his work after his untimely death in 1849. When Harper & Brothers in New York released a new edition of The Raven in 1884, they hired Gustave Doré, a French engraver, to produce a number of pictures. The presence of Doré’s engravings emphasized Poe and France’s relationship.

Poe’s work was widely adapted, whether in poetry or fiction, and thus marked the beginning of the export of American literature to Europe. Paris and London had a big impact on the process of reception, which led to different histories.  

Philadelphia

Poe’s childhood was tumultuous. He was fostered in Richmond, Virginia, by businessman John Allan after becoming an orphan at the age of three. Allan never formally adopted him. He attended the University of Virginia for a short time in 1825 before running out of money. Afterward, he enrolled at the Military Academy at West Point, but he did not complete it. He published two unnoticed books of poetry in 1827 and 1829. Later, he moved to New York, where his book of poems was released that year but did not find an audience.

Poe arrived in Baltimore penniless and was taken care of by his aunt, Maria Clemm. As the editor of Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine in Philadelphia, he fell in love with her thirteen-year-old daughter, Virginia, and married her. He contributed his short story, The Murders in Rue Morgue, to the newspaper in April 1841.

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Poe never visited Paris, so this street is imaginary. The narrative describes the double murder of Mme L’Espanaye and her daughter there, and it introduces the reader to the detective Auguste Dupin. The Mystery of Marie Rogêt, the story’s follow-up, was published by him in 1842, and Dupin made a comeback in 1845 with The Purloined Letter. In these later stories of “ratiocination” (logical reasoning), Auguste is able to solve the puzzle (the “locked-room mystery”) by questioning witnesses, investigating crime scenes, and using deductive reasoning. Poe exposed his audience to a completely new type of storytelling.

Dupin was undoubtedly the first literary investigator, and his presence would have a lasting and global impact. At the time of publication, the word “detective” didn’t exist yet. Charles Dickens used it for the first time in his books Household Words (1850) and Bleak House (1852), which came out almost a decade later. 

New York

Edgar Allan Poe

Poe and Virginia lived in Philadelphia for seven years before relocating to New York, where they initially rented a second-floor room at Brennan’s Farmhouse near the current intersection of West 84th Street and Broadway (then known as Bloomingdale Road). When they first came in, the neighborhood was primarily made up of farmland, gravel streets, a few dispersed residences, and not much else. The actual house was a dilapidated two-story building set on a hill.

Poe wrote The Raven there, which was originally published in The New York Evening Mirror on January 29, 1845, where he was working as a critic. Poe’s own room served as the inspiration for the poem’s location. After the farmhouse was destroyed in 1888, its mantelpiece (known as the “Raven Mantel”) was spared. Columbia University finally received it and installed it in the Butler Library.

After only a few months on the Upper West Side, Poe moved around the city for the next several years before, in May 1847, signing a lease for a cottage in the Fordham neighborhood of The Bronx. Before disaster hit, he produced a lot of well-known poetry there. Virginia passed away in the cottage the same year from TB.

Poe vanished in Baltimore two years later while en route to Philadelphia and was discovered days later in a pub, barely alive and unable to speak. He passed away by himself at a nearby hospital in October 1849, under mysterious circumstances.

Paris

When Charles Baudelaire, a French poet, came upon Poe’s writing in 1846, he knew he had found a kindred spirit. Given that he called American literature “un bouillonnement de médiocrité,” this was all the more amazing. He criticized America for having a culture of illiteracy. Baudelaire’s assessment of American culture as being inferior was widely accepted in France. The poet also enjoyed going against the trend and directing his fury onto his peers. Only a “lunatic” in Paris would sing an American author’s praises.

Baudelaire’s mission as a poet was rekindled by the discovery of Poe’s writing. The two men got along well. Both people struggled with drug addiction and despair, lived in relative poverty and solitude, and had a strong attraction to the macabre and otherworldly themes.

Baudelaire published numerous translations of Poe’s works between 1852 and 1865, demonstrating his fondness for a writer he had never met or spoken to. Making Poe a “great man in France” was his mission, and he was successful. Europe as a whole followed. Early translations of Poe’s works into languages including Spanish, Romanian, and Russian were based on Baudelaire’s Poe translations.

Edgar Allan Poe

In a letter to the critic Théophile Thoré dated June 20, 1864, Baudelaire talked about how much he liked Edgar Allan Poe’s work and how the first time he read one of his books, he had a “shock of recognition.” He wrote, “The first time I opened the book he had written, I saw with equal parts horror and fascination not only the things I had dreamed of, but also actual phrases that I had designed and that he had written twenty years.

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Starting in 1848 with the story Mesmeric Revelation, Baudelaire’s translations mainly concentrated on Poe’s short stories, with the exception of four poems. He translated the Tell-Tale Heart as well. His work comprised the two story collections Histoires extraordinaires (1856) and Nouvelles histoires extraordinaires (1857).

In a culture that was primarily focused on moral or ideological generalizations, Poe supported “pure” stylistic values. He criticized people who promoted literature’s practical importance. In his article on Edgar Allan Poe, Baudelaire used Poe’s words to attack individuals who equated literature with utility, or “la grande hérésie” of didacticism. Art should be practiced for art’s sake; nothing else.

Edgar Allan Poe

The Raven (Le Corbeau) was translated by Baudelaire and initially appeared in the magazine L’Artiste in March 1853. Michel Lévy then published the book in Paris under the title Histoires grotesques et sérieuses (1871). Baudelaire won Stephane Mallarmé’s admiration. He also made the decision to accept the challenge of translating The Raven, which was printed in 1875 and had pictures by Édouard Manet. It was creative competition at its finest: two outstanding French poets battling it out over a work they both adored.

The collaboration between the poet and the painter could have been a commercial disaster, but it was warmly received in avant-garde circles (presented in English and French). Poe served as the ideal inspiration for symbolist poets who desired to depart from reality and turn toward the realms of mysticism and dreams while favoring the uncanny. Fear influenced French culture. Manet responded to this tendency in his lithographic illustrations. He created a mood of profound sadness by emphasizing the conflict between the raven and the narrator.

London

Jules Verne, the “Father of Science Fiction” and a lifelong admirer of Poe, was the first to use modern scientific discoveries in fiction. Many stories and books, notably in Britain, were influenced by Auguste Dupin. When Arthur Conan Doyle first introduced Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet (1887), some forty years later, his devoted sidekick Dr. Watson compares Holmes’ (greater) mind to Dupin’s brains—one fictional giant honoring another.

Edgar Allan Poe

The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, founded by Georges Nagelmackers, a Liège native, opened a route from Paris to Constantinople in October 1883. The Orient Express was the name given to it by the press, and the owner liked it. Agatha Christie visited the city in 1928. She is said to have written part of Murder on the Orient Express while staying in Room 411 of the beautiful Pera Palas.

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The most well-known book in the Hercule Poirot series, it was published in January 1934. Both in his daily routine and work style, the book’s main character is a carefully organized individual. He wears nice clothes, spins a waxed moustache, uses Turkish cigarettes, carries a cane, and wears make-up. The stolid representation of Englishness and Poirot’s sidekick, Captain Hasting, emphasize the detective’s foreignness. It was an unavoidable stereotype.

In September 1914, the British government extended its hospitality to Belgian war victims. They came in large numbers. Public concern for the relocated families’ plight at the beginning of hostilities quickly faded. Anti-Belgian prejudice was widespread.

Christie, a Torquay, Devon, native who now lives in London, saw a “colony” of immigrants who had taken asylum in the West Country. She observed the discomfort among the locals regarding these arrivals’ “ingratitude” and resistance to assimilating. She created her detective’s personality from these jumbled observations. Poirot’s demeanor is meant to be emblematic of French-speaking Belgium.

Source : Wikipedia

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