Edgar Allan Poe was a poet, writer, editor, and literary critic from the United States. He is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly those revolving around mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a pivotal figure in American Romanticism and American literature. While his career seemed to be quite a success, many are baffled by his death and the reason behind it.
According to common belief, Edgar Allan Poe died of alcoholism. However, modern doctors disproved this theory and stated that his symptoms, were more consistent with rabies.
Who was Edgar Allan Poe?
Edgar Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts, to English-born actress Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and actor David Poe Jr. He had a younger sister named Rosalie and an older brother named William Henry Leonard. Their roots in the United States started in the 1750s when their grandpa, David Poe Sr., immigrated from County Cavan, Ireland.
Poe’s first name is said to have been inspired by a character from William Shakespeare’s King Lear. In 1810, his father abandoned the family, and his mother died of consumption a year later. Poe was then taken to the home of John Allan, a prosperous businessman from Richmond, Virginia. He dealt with a wide range of items, including cloth, wheat, tombstones, tobacco, and slaves. Though the family never formally adopted him, the Allans functioned as his foster family and gave him the moniker Edgar Allan Poe. (Source: Britannica)
How Did Edgar Allan Poe Die?
Poe had been spotted disheveled and incoherent in a pub on Lombard Street, but it is commonly known that he died in the hospital. By the time he was admitted to Washington College Hospital, he was already in a coma. He was sweating profusely the next day, hallucinating, and shouting at imaginary companions. He appeared better the next day, but he had no recollection of becoming ill. Poe became confused and violent again on his fourth day in the hospital, then quieted and died on October 7, 1849.
Poe’s death was almost certainly not caused by alcohol poisoning or withdrawal as it was assumed. Although he was a heavy drinker in his early years, and his sensitivity to alcohol caused him to become violently unwell for days after just one glass of wine. He nearly never drank alcohol in his senior years. He was offered alcohol while in the hospital, which was a standard medical cure at the time, but he refused it and could only sip water with difficulty.
Hydrophobia is an older name for rabies that refers to the disease’s painful throat spasms that cause human and animal victims to be unable to eat or drink and to refuse water despite their thirst.
There was no evidence that Poe had been bitten by a rabid animal. However, according to ost reports, approximately 25% of rabies victims do not recall being bitten, and symptoms can appear up to a year after infection. When symptoms do appear, the vast majority of patients die within a few days. Only six people have survived a rabies infection after showing symptoms, even though it is still a swift and brutal killer. (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)