Edgar Allan Poe’s Real Life

Tuberculosis was a dreaded disease in the 19th century, one to which not only Poe’s wife succumbed, but also his mother.  When Virginia Poe came down with this disease, there were no sanitariums or antibiotics with which to cure her. It was not even known at this time that tuberculosis was highly contagious.

As Virginia’s condition worsened, Poe moved his family in 1846, from crowded New York City, which he disliked, to the rural village of Fordham, which was then a part of Westchester County.  It was hoped that the country air and  healthier environment would bring about an improvement in Virginia’s health.  He rented a cottage that had been built around 1812, which was owned by one John Valentine. The yearly rent was $100.00.

Virginia’s health did not improve and she died in the small bedroom of the cottage on January 30, 1847.

The poet and his mother-in-law continued to stay at the cottage, which still exists and has been restored in many respects to the period of time when the Poe family lived there.  Poe died in 1849 in Baltimore while on a trip and Mrs. Clemm returned to Baltimore herself, after selling Poe’s meager possessions.

Home Remedies in the 19th century

Some of the remedies touted as cures for tuberculosis in Poe’s time included using opium (not yet illegal), eating a meat diet, smoking cow dung, drinking a mixture of elephant’s blood and milk, and eating mice boiled in salt and oil. Since the disease was considered fatal, victims were desperate. Some people believed that the disease was a punishment from God. Other home remedies of the time included:

  • Onion syrup. Onions were boiled to a concentrated solution and sugar was added to sweeten it. This was used for colds.
  • Cod Liver Oil was used to cure rickets, a condition caused by lack of vitamin D.
  • Snake oil was used as a liniment for aches and pains.
  • Other interesting Poe topics

    Poe’s Feud with Longfellow: One target of Poe’s critical pen was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whom Poe accused of plagiarism, among other misdeeds.  Longfellow did not reciprocate in kind, and in fact, after Poe’s death,  he purchased several volumes of Poe’s works in order to help Poe’s mother-in-law.

    Edgar Allan Poe’s Publishers Row in New York City – a tour through Poe’s world in New York City

    The World of Poe – All about Poe’s real world, debunking many myths, lies and fantasies.

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