11 October, 2018
Research Final Draft
Edgar Allan Poe was drifting in and out of consciousness at Washington College Hospital, where he later died on October 7th 1849 . Before arriving at the hospital, Poe was found in a ditch wearing clothes that weren’t his. As his cause of death remains unknown to this day, theories about Poe’s end started forming. These theories include cooping, beatings, and alcoholism.
Cooping was a form of electoral fraud in the United States during the 19th century by which unwilling participants were forced to vote, often several times over, for a particular candidate in an election. This theory is a reasonable explanation for why Poe was found in a ditch outside a polling station in clothes that weren’t his. On the other hand there’s a high chance this theory isn’t true due to Poe being a well known and recognizable figure in Baltimore .
Other theories mention “ruffians,” or violent persons, who had beaten Poe senseless before his death. Poe ran into some friends from West Point in Baltimore who convinced him to join them for drinks. Unable to handle his liquor, Poe became drunk after a single glass of champagne. As Eugene Didier wrote in his 1872 article The Grave of Poe, while in a drunken state, Poe “was robbed and beaten by ruffians, and left insensible in the street all night.”
Months before his death, Poe became a vocal member of the temperance movement, eschewing alcohol, which he’d struggled with all his life. Susan Archer Talley Weiss had written in Poe’s biography “The Last Days of Edgar A. Poe,” an event that might be relevant to theorists that concluded a “death by drinking”. Poe had gotten sick in Richmond, and after making a somewhat miraculous recovery, was told by his attending physician that “another such attack would prove fatal.” According to Weiss, Poe’s response was “if people would not tempt him, he would not fall,” suggesting that this illness was brought on by drinking..
There are a few theories that might seem like they explain his death, however, none of the theories fully explain Poe’s curious end. Perhaps his untimely death is a combination of theories. His penchant for alcohol may have caused his death, and cooping may explain his strange attire. Or maybe his death was the result of a mugging gone wrong by a couple of “ruffians.” So how did Edgar Allan Poe die? Like the number of licks to the center of tootsie pop, the world may never know.