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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Edgar Allan Poe as Innovator

I am reading The Beautiful Cigar Girl by Daniel Stashower. The book follows one of New York's most notorious unsolved murders of the 1800's and links it to the involvement of Edgar Allan Poe. Mary Rogers was a well known figure in the Big Apple, working behind the counter of a popular Tobacco shop as a Cigar Girl. Andersen's Emporium boasted a clientel of literary and political figures, as well as other customers who came to pass the time with the oddly beautiful girl behind the counter.

Considering how morbid and dark some of Poe's writing is, you might be surprised to find that he was actually attempting to solve the crime using a method of criminology he developed in The Murders in the Rue Morgue. His fictional detective Dupin later went on to star in several other works, as well as Poe's analysis of the Mary Rogers case. You can read them here: The Murders in the Rue Morgue/the Mystery of Marie Roget/the Purloined Letter: The Dupin Stories (Classic Literature with Classical Music)

I expected this book to be full of Poe insight. It is written in a dry manner, and focuses more on the people prominent in New York and how their lives are intertwined with Mary Rogers and Edgar Allan Poe. However, it is also quite fascinating. Edgar Allan Poe developed a template for the first real detective story, and later Hercule Piorot and Sherlock Holmes were patterned after Poe's Dupin. He used a method he called ratiocination, or what we would call deductive reasoning. Many of his observations actually were adopted by investigators of the day. But what his Detective Dupin did, was create a new genre of literature.

The police in New York at the time were considered lazy, corrupt, inefficient and fairly useless. Gangs of immigrants ran amok however they wished. If you have seen the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Gangs of New York, it should bring the scenario home. Poe offered an alternative to using brawn. His character used his brain to solve "unsolvable" crimes.

Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19, 1809 at 1:00 am in Boston, MA. You can see his chart from AstroTheme here. It was interesting researching Poe as I came across no less than 3 different charts for him. This seems to have been because several sites used the noon birth time for a flat chart, but did not alter the house systems to compensate. AstroTheme goes through great lengths to arrive at accurate birth dates and times, so I went with their chart.

Fairly everyone has either read or know of Edgar Allan Poe's work, such as The Raven and Annabel Lee. I had a friend who was obsessed with writing a musical based on the "missing time" before Poe's odd death (more on this later). But there are many things we don't learn about in High School Literature.

Poe was orphaned at a very young age. His mother's first marriage was very financially advantageous to the family, but her second marriage meant she gave up claim to her first husbands money, and left the family far from affluent. His brother had already gone to live with a relative, but by the time his mother passed away, they had hit hardship and could not take in young Edgar. Instead he was taken in by a wealthy couple, John and Frances Allan, who lived in Richmond, Virginia. Although they never legally adopted Edgar, he did take the Allan name in addition to keeping Poe. Their relationship was confusing, at best. At first, little Edgar was spoiled beyond all measure, however when John Allan did not support some of Edgar's ventures, their relationship was full of harsh conflict. John Allan often expressed the feeling, as Edgar grew older, that Poe did not appreciate his foster parents. This might be true in a way, since many of Poe's letters as an adult seem fraught with a sense of entitlement. Edgar, for his part, being financially spoiled, was ill equipped to actually deal with reality.

In fact, his foster father sent him off to University of Virginia, where Poe did very well as a student. As he showed interest in creative pursuits, however, Allan would do little things to create struggle for Poe. He gave him far less money to live off of while at the University, instead of the recommended amount. This may have been an attempt at getting Edgar to work for the things he wanted, but what it created was a feeling of victimization in Poe. In response, he wracked up heavy gambling debts and had to drop out.

Poe also dropped out of the Army and later West Point, when he realized the time commitment. In the end, John Allan died and left Poe nothing. They never fully reconciled.

Throughout his life, it seems clear he was made more for creativity than structured work. He made most of his money writing scathing editorials and criticizing the works of other writers. This did not win him many "friends" in literary circles, but despite that he cobbled together a good reputation for some of his short stories and poems. He also showed editorial talent, but found being tethered to a position challenging.

Although born with his Sun in 28.49 degrees Capricorn, his greatest astrological influence is water. He has very little air, and yet became a master at what he lacked, air indicating the intellect and communication. Rising in Scorpio (3.32), Moon, Venus, Pluto and Jupiter all are clustered in Pisces in the 5th House. It is also interesting to note that Juno, an asteroid often used in indicating the marriage partner, is also in the 5th house. The 5th house is pleasure, fun, creativity, games, gambling, art and children. Poe married his cousin when she was under aged. Some accounts say she was 13, others 15, but in all reports, her mother lied about her age on the marriage certificate. I have read she was stated to be 18, and also 21. How literal astrology can be! His marriage partner is in the house of children, and she was a child herself.

My astrological investigation of Poe's chart, however, was fairly single minded. I wanted to see how his other talents were reflected. As I stated earlier, he developed a method of solving crimes based on deductive reasoning. He also seems to have had great insight into the universe, as stated in his longest essay, Eureka. In Eureka, he tries to explain the meaning of spirituality and the universe. He word played many notable figures in his essay, ascribing them names that read like puns. And, not being a "scientist", he got many scientific points wrong. However, he also seems to have had the foresight to get some items, not yet known in the 1800's, right, like the existence of black holes. Poe also ran a series of articles on cryptography. Soon, readers were writing to him in coded messages.

Poe as a revolutionary? Of course I was looking for significant indications with Uranus. Uranus sits at 9.24 degrees of Scorpio, in Poe's first house. It has no less than 3 close trines (Moon, Venus, Pluto), and one wide (Jupiter) in Pisces. Uranus is Poe's most dominant planet (see chart - compliments of AstroTheme) followed by Pluto and the Sun. This indicates someone whose life is ruled by original thought, the tendency to intellectualize situations, one who has revolutionary ideas and also is tossed by unpredictability.

As to Poe's death? He disappeared for a time, and was found by a stranger on the streets and taken to a hospital. It is a mystery where he was, and what exactly he died from. When he was found, he was incoherent and in disarray. He was wearing some one else's clothes and could hardly explain what had befallen him. However, he kept muttering "Reynolds" over and over. My friend, the one who I mentioned earlier, would like to think it had to do with absinthe. It was well noted that instead of indulging in the ritual of adding water poured over a sugar cube, Poe would shoot absinthe straight. Absinthe is an anise based liquor that includes wormwood as one of the ingredients. It was made illegal in the United States and many European countries due to the belief it had addictive psychoactive properties that caused "criminal action". In the 1990's there was a resurgence of interest in absinthe and you can now find domestic production of it, as well as "do it yourself kits". The European Union has also begun to manufacture and produce absinthe again. The closest thing we have that is mass produced is the French drink, Pernod. Ouzo (Greek) and Sambuca (Italian) also share the anise base. Pernod actually held one of the last absinthe distilleries in Spain, where it was still legal after a ban in France. They share the same anise base, the same green color and the same characteristic of turning milky with the adding of water.

Considering that Poe is an absolute incarnation of one who has plumbed the depths and raked the skies, constantly recreating himself through self destruction, it casts even more mystery on his last few days.

Did Poe manage to solve the murder of Mary Rogers? No one can say. He set his version of the story in France, with the murder of Marie Roget.

Curious about Edgar Allan Poe? Or did this spark an idea in your mind?

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At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you that was fascinating.

At 7:22 PM, Blogger Velvet Blade said...


Your welcome! Glad you enjoyed it!


At 3:41 AM, Anonymous ande spenser said...

I have heard that Poe died from a bite of a rabid creature.

I share the same birthday with Poe and have been influenced by his work from a very young age, even before I knew he had the same birthday as me. On 10/7/10 I will be the same age as he was when he died (only 40) and hope to be able to visit his grave.

I have read that many considered him handsome and wish he had taken the time to have even a sketch done of himself in a happy mood. He would have been mischevous as well, and there should be a naughty sparkle in the eye instead of that gloomy picture we always see.

Oh well. Thank you for the kind words about the dark man who haunts my thoughts from time to time.

At 8:57 PM, Blogger Velvet Blade said...

Ande - I have always loved Poe's work myself. He was deeply contemplative, but also very revolutionary. It's a pity that during life he didn't have the financial rewards that I am sure "his estate" (or whoever owns the copyright to his material) has seen since his death.

I think your idea of a pilgrimage sounds like a fabulous one. Keep in mind, however, that depending on the year, place and time of your birth, your chart can be quite different from Poe's.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you hear again soon!

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