JACKSON, Tenn. – April 20, 2009– A new book by Union University’s Harry Lee (Hal) Poe seeks to correct some of the misconceptions about his ancestor, Edgar Allan Poe.
“He’s generally thought of as a gloomy, dark loner, obsessed with death and that sort of thing, said Hal Poe, the Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union. “Actually, he was a rather cheerful, witty, friendly person who enjoyed music and singing with his friends around the piano.”
In the new book, “Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories,” Poe provides some biographical information about Edgar Allan Poe, who was his great-great grandfather’s cousin. The popular picture of Edgar Allan Poe as brooding and depressed was created by one of his literary enemies, Rufus Griswold, after Poe’s death.
Though scholars have long since discredited Griswold and the fabrications he created about Poe’s life, Hal Poe said such scholarship seldom makes its way to the public.
“So essentially, what this book is doing is popularizing the 20th century scholarship about Poe,” Hal Poe said.
In the book, Hal Poe also discusses some of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, and traces his spiritual development. Hal Poe said Edgar Allan Poe became a Christian before his death.
“It’s a story of Poe’s spiritual experience and how he came to believe in the God who created the universe, and how he came to go forward at a revival meeting five weeks before he died,” Hal Poe said. “The book discusses all of his stories in light of the spiritual questions he was asking.”
The book includes dozens of images and removable memorabilia, including a portion of Edgar Allan Poe’s handwritten manuscript for the poem, “A Dream Within a Dream,” contentious letters he exchanged with his foster father, John Allan, and his controversial obituary as it appeared in the New York Daily Tribune.
Published by Metro Books and available for purchase at Barnes and Noble, the book was commissioned by Barnes and Noble for the bicentennial of Poe’s birth in 1809.
Hal Poe will be the guest speaker at the Union Auxiliary’s annual spring luncheon April 21. He will talk about his new book and about the family life of Edgar Allan Poe. The event begins at noon in the Carl Grant Events Center. Tickets are $12.