Making it up to PoeIT'S NOT A good idea, getting treacly...


September 26, 1998|By James Bready

Making it up to Poe

IT'S NOT A good idea, getting treacly over Edgar A. Poe. Memorable sadness transfigures his poetry, but in a prose mood, he could have a great ape, stuff you up a chimney, or he could brick you up inside a wall without even a cell phone.

It is also hard to think of him as partial to Baltimore. Poe came here, that last time, not expecting to stay, let alone die in Baltimore at age 40 and in agony. We have tried and tried to make it up to him -- monument, statue, house, Pratt Library room, other good stuff -- but Poe simply had happier times in other cities.

All this, trying to soften a blow. Next month, the anniversary of Poe's death recurs; as usual, the Poe Society of Baltimore will gather by the grave. Next year, same thing only more so, 1999 marking an even 150 years since that mournful Baltimore occurrence. The Poe Society of America has sounded the call for an International Poe Conference. Somehow, that death-weekend conference is going to be in Richmond, Va.

While on the subject, anyone thinking to mollify his ghost need only stop misnaming him.

The fulsome three-parter, Edgar Allan Poe, is posterity's idea. (So is misspelling Allan.) In college, Poe did briefly give himself a middle name, after his foster father, John Allan; but ceased spelling it out after quarrels with Allan.

His entire professional life, he signed his letters, and bylined his books and magazine work, Edgar A. Poe.

AC and civil rights

Last May, Johns Hopkins University Press defied the fates. It published "Air Conditioning America," by Professor Gail Cooper of Lehigh University. The New York Times, enjoying this scholarly survey, speculated that civil rights and air conditioning might have led to the century's two largest sets of change in everyday life.

Then summer began, a rather hot summer. JHUP's citadel, at 2715 North Charles St., is old, roomy, renovated and four stories high. Last fall and winter, its lone elevator -- the elevator being a principal achievement of the 19th century -- never moved.

Autumn finally arriving, this is to report that the air conditioning did not break down.

Pub Date: 9/26/98

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