Boston’s Claim To Edgar Allen Poe To Be Decided

The Boston Globe carried the news this morning that Harry Lee Poe, distant cousin to the famous Edgar Allen Poe, will soon make a decision on the “home” of the famously itinerant poet.

Boston has laid a claim to poet as the site of his birth in 1909.

Poe’s parents, David and Eliza, the Duke of Albany and Cordelia respectively on this theatrical playbill from 1808, were traveling actors. The couple played roles in Boston for three consecutive seasons, beginning in 1806, and their second son, Edgar, was born there just months before the family picked up and moved to New York.

The Massachusetts Historical Society offers further damage to Boston’s claim to the writer, in the form of Poe’s 1845 assessment of the city, made after an unsuccessful appearance at the Boston Lyceum:

We like Boston. We were born there — and perhaps it is just as well not to mention that we are heartily ashamed of the fact. The Bostonians are very well in their way. Their hotels are bad. Their pumpkin pies are delicious. Their poetry is not so good. Their Common is no common thing — and the duck-pond might answer — if its answer could be heard for the frogs.

While convenient and of course, newsworthy, it’s tough to pin an eventful life down in retrospect to one particular location. Other cities on the list of available options include London, Philadelphia St. Petersburg, and of course of Baltimore, site of his death in 1849 and of his remains.

The final decision on the poet’s home will be made today . As the AP’s writer points out: “Exactly what that means, of course, is another question.”

Edgar Allen Poe’s time in Boston and disputes with its various literary characters is on display at the Boston Public Library through March 31st. This playbill appears in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.


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