Poe's Mysteries

This website has grown out of six years of fulltime research into the life and writings of Edgar Allan Poe. The goal is to introduce the reader to my ongoing Poe research, providing information and hints as to what's to come in my upcoming books about Poe, to be published by Synastry Press. This site introduces the reader to the kind of in-depth analysis into Poe biography and portraiture that will be the hallmark of my first book.

A large part of this site is a presentation and analysis of art from the American Renaissance, which was in full swing by the time Poe moved to Philadelphia in 1838. We uncover the strong bonds that existed between Edgar and Virginia Poe to the greatest artists and writers of this key period in American History.
Poe bust, by Jesse D'Angelo
Poe bust, by Jesse D'Angelo
Perhaps, the best way to describe this website would be to call it a compendium of insights into Poe's world, as well as a look at some important 'gaps' and faux pas in the story of Poe's life. The concept of this site is to provide illuminating insights into Poe's place in the cultural phenomenon that was the American Renaissance in Philadelphia. Along with this goes the advancement of 'connections' between people who may be known to have played a role in Poe's life, but the extent of their connection has remained uncovered or obscured. Much of the art on this site has never been seen publically; other pictorial images haven't been seen for over a hundred years. While some of these portraits/photographs may also be included in the book, the 'new portraits' of both Edgar and Virginia Poe that I have discovered will not be found on these online pages, because they will be addressed with detailed analysis in our new book, Unknown Portraits of Edgar Allan Poe and Virginia Poe.

Many of the mysteries connected with Poe's life will be addressed on this site, but this website does not purport to 'solve' the mysteries of Edgar Allan Poe! How could it? Poe was Mystery itself. Poe's life, Poe's death and everything in between is shrouded in fog, lies and utterly contradictory and even preposterous fibbing and speculation.

Poe's fame reached an all time high at the Poe Bicentennial in 2009, and has sparked a timely indepth reassessment of Poe's life and writings.

The 'beauty of Poe' is that no matter how deeply we delve, how hard we try to unravel the mysteries of Poe's life, death and writings, ultimately, Poe is unknowable, ungraspable. Even years of research, unearthing new information about Poe's personal and professional life, uncovering 'new' pieces of art representing Edgar Allan Poe, as well as many stunning unknown writings by Poe, - Poe is still, if anything, more complex than ever. None of these revelations in any way 'spoil' the Mystery that is Edgar Allan Poe. They only make us more aware of Poe's complexity.

The first full-length Poe biographies: by John Henry Ingram, William Fearing Gill, Eugene Didier, J.W. Whitty, Mary E. Phillips, and George Woodberry, were written at a time when many who had been close to Poe still lived, or at least, when the children of those who'd been close to Poe still lived. People who claimed 'firsthand knowledge' of Poe were very reluctant to 'tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.' Instead, their statements were half-truths at best, designed to protect and enhance their own characters. Often, these friends or enemies to Poe were looking to protect the prestige and pride of their own families. In other cases, their goal was either to enhance, or to cast aspersions upon, Poe's posthumous reputation.

For generations after Poe's death families with close ties to Poe 'stuck to their family stories.' In most cases these families did not want to jeopardize the reputations of their late family member who actually knew Poe. Some of the most flimsy stories about Poe are still being presented as 'fact,' when in truth, the stories are greatly exaggerated, taken out of context or patently false. A few of the most blatant examples of this tendency can be seen in statements made by Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton's daughter, who did not want 'the world' to know that her mother had been close to Poe in any way in "Poe's last year." Supposed 'elucidations' presented by Ella Warden, Henry Herring's daughter, also throw us completely off track. Comments ostensibly made by William Henry Hirst late in life, when he was confined to a mental hospital and clearly not of sound mind, have also confused many a Poe biographer.

Poe, by Jesse D'Angelo
Poe, by Jesse D'Angelo
All in all, testimonies provided by those who did not want certain facts to surface about their relations with Poe must be reappraised. Unfortunately, most recollections of Poe fit into this category, especially those given by Poe himself! It is fitting that in these years surrounding Poe's Bicentennial, new revelations about Poe's life will be brought into the light and will hopefully take their rightful place in the new biographies published during that time.

Poe himself enjoyed nothing more than concocting mysteries, not only in his mystery stories, but in his personal life. Like his idol, Lord Byron, Poe created an impenetrable mythos for himself as 'No Man,' the Ultimate Enigma. As all the materials presented here only prove Poe's enduring power as an Enigma, one hopes that Poe himself would have been rather tickled by this website.

Cynthia Cirile
Synastry Press

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