Coffee with Poe: A Novel of Edgar Allan Poe's Life
A finalist in the Best Book Awards historical biography category, "Coffee with Poe" brings Edgar Allan Poe to life as never before.
Orphaned at the age of two, Poe is raised by John Allan—his abusive foster father—who refuses to adopt him until he becomes straight-laced and businesslike. Poe, however, fancies poetry and young women. He becomes engaged to Elmira Royster as a teenager, but the engagement is broken after her father intercepts Poe’s letters. The contentious relationship with John Allan culminates in a violent altercation, which causes Poe to leave his wealthy foster father’s home to make it as a writer. Poe tries desperately to get established as a writer but is ridiculed by the "Literati of New York."
The Raven subsequently gains Poe renown in America yet he slips deeper into poverty without the support of John Allan, only making $15 off the poem’s entire publication history. Desperate for a motherly figure in his life, Poe marries his first cousin who is only thirteen. John Allan has remarried by this time and when Poe visits him on his deathbed, he is refused an interview because his second wife believes Poe is after an inheritance. Thereafter, Poe lives his last years in abject poverty while suffering through the deaths of his foster mother, grandmother, and young wife.
Poe’s health begins failing and he has bouts of paranoid delusions. In a cemetery Poe becomes engaged to Helen Whitman, a dark poet who is addicted to ether, wears a small coffin about her neck, and conducts séances in her home. Her mother thinks the impoverished poet is after her money and demands that Poe sign a rare prenuptial agreement. The engagement is soon broken off because of Poe’s drinking. In his final months Poe is again engaged to Elmira Royster after a joyful reunion, yet his health is in a downward spiral. Just before their marriage Poe disappears and is later found delirious and wearing another person’s begrimed clothes. He dies a few days later, whispering his final words: "God help my poor soul."
- Andrew Barger, April 2010
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