A One-Act, One-Actor Play
For Theaters, Libraries and Schools

Available for any season, especially celebrating Halloween, Poe's birth January 19,
his death October 7, and National Poetry Month in April

Rick Heuthe in

Murder and Madness and Poe

Written and Directed by David Houston


Quotations and full readings within the play:
“A Dream Within a Dream”;  “The Cask of Amontillado”;  “Murders in the Rue Morgue”;
“The Philosophy of Composition”; "Annabel Lee”; “To F__s S. O__d”; “The Bells”; “The Black Cat”; “The Raven”


Edgar paces impatiently in the office of booking agents in New York City in 1848. He proposes a lecture tour with readings of his controversial stories of murder and madness, all the while professing his sanity, his reliability, and his fame—citing examples from his turbulent life, which is finally on the mend after years of tragedy and anxiety. He needs the money badly: to finance a magazine venture and to allow him to marry the woman he loves (not the woman with funds).  Poe has with him a portfolio of the prose and poetry he proposes to read. In a last attempt to convince them, he resolutely steps to a podium and presents dark, melancholy, spell-binding readings—while his hourglass measures his heartbeats.


scroll down or jump with these links

Contact Information
Schedule of Performances
Bios and Photos

References and Reviews

Classroom Study Guide
Vocabulary for Classroom Study
Poe's notes on the writing of "The Raven"
Edgar Allan Poe lifeline

contact information

David Houston
(516) 293-2638; DH@davidhouston.net
700 Fulton Street, M-1, Farmingdale, New York 11735

$350 package includes:
actor, music equipment, stage manager, small stage setting, and travel
Long Island and Queens; fees for other locales, contact David Houston);
acility is asked to supply an acting space at least 8' x 12'
and, if room is large, a wireless clip-on microphone;
resentation is about
65 minutes

2016 performances

[Rick Heuthe as Poe]
Planting Fields Arboretum, Coe Hall—Sunday, October 16, 2016, 2:00 p.m.
Bronx Library Center—Saturday, October 29, 2016, 2:30 p.m.
Deer Park Public LibrarySunday, December 4, 2016, 1:00 p.m.

Previous performances
[Michael Bertolini as Poe]
Seniors Over 60, Commack YJCC—Thursday, May 21, 2015, 3:00 p.m.
North Shore Public Library, Shoreham
Friday, October 16, 2015, 7:00 p.m.

Planting Fields Arboretum—Sunday, October 18, 2015, 2:00 p.m.

Queens Library, Douglaston—Tuesday, October 20, 2015, 3:00 p.m.
Hillside Public Library—Friday, October 23, 2015, 7:00 p.m.
Queens Library, Glen Oaks—Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 2:00 p.m.
Queens Library, Forest Hills—Thursday, October 29, 2015, 6:00 p.m.
Bronx Library Center—Saturday, October 31, 2015, 2:30 p.m.
Middle Country Public Library
—Friday, October 17, 2014, 7:00 p.m.
Coe Hall at Planting Fields Arboretum—Sunday, October 19, 2014, 1:00 p.m.
Elmont Public Library—Friday, October 24, 2014, 12:30 p.m.
Bronx Library Center—Saturday, October 25, 2014, 2:30 p.m.

Garden City Public Library
—Thursday, October 30, 2014, 1:30 p.m.

[Rick Heuthe as Poe]
Huntington Library, Station Branch—Saturday, October 22, 2011, 1:00 p.m.
Garwood Public Library, Garwood, New Jersey—Thursday, October 14, 2010 7:00 p.m.
Malverne Public Library—Monday, October 25, 2010 7:00 p.m.
Hicksville Public Library—Tuesday, October 26, 2010, 7:00 p.m.
Elwood Public Library—Thursday, November 4, 2010, 2:00 p.m.
Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library—Saturday, November 20, 2010, 2:00 p.m.
Middle Country Library, Centereach—Thursday, August 21, 2008, 4:00 p.m.
The Bryant Library, Roslyn—Wednesday, October 29, 2008, 2:00 p.m.
Jericho Public Library, Friday, October 31, 2008, 2:00 p.m.
Lynbrook Public Library—Saturday, October 28, 2006, 2:00 p.m.
Elmont Public Library—Sunday, October 29, 2006, 2:00 p.m.
Manhasset Public Library—Monday, October 30, 2006, 1:00 p.m.
Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton—Tuesday, October 31, 2006, 12:00 p.m.
West Babylon Junior High School—Friday, January 19, 2007, 9:30 a.m.
Fresh Meadows Public Library, Queens—Saturday, October 15, 2005, 3:00 p.m.
Comsewogue Library, Port Jefferson—Monday, October 24, 2005, 7:30 p.m.
Garden City Public Library—Sunday, October 30, 2005, 2:00 p.m.

St. Joseph's College—Sunday, October 24, 2004, 3:00 p.m.
Copiague Memorial Library—Wednesday, October 27,
2004, 7:00 p.m.
Northport East Northport Public Library—Friday, October 29,
2004, 7:30 p.m.
Longwood Public Library, Middle Island NY—Sunday, October 31, 2004,
2:00 p.m.
C.W. Lewis Middle School, Blackwood, NJ—Wednesday, November 10, 2003,
12:00 p.m.
North Shore Library in Shoreham—Friday, October 10, 2003, 7:00 p.m.
Nassau County Library Association—Wednesday, October 15,
2003, 11:00 a.m.
Mineola Memorial Library—Wednesday, October 22,
2003, 7:00 p.m.
Jericho Public Library—Friday, October 24, 2003, 2:00 p.m.
John Jermain Library in Sag Harbor—Saturday, October 25, 2003, 7:00 p.m.
East Meadow Public Library, Sunday, October 26, 2003, 7:30 p.m.
Mineola Middle School—Monday, October 27, 2003, 11:00 a.m.
Port Jefferson Free Library—Monday, October 27, 2003, 7:30 p.m.
Sewanka High School, Rocky Point—Thursday, October 30,
2003, 9:30 a.m.
Bellmore Public Library—Thursday, October 30, 7:00 p.m.

Port Washington Public Library—Friday, October 31,
12:15 p.m.
Brentwood Public Library—Saturday, November 1, 2003,
2:00 p.m.
Merrick Middle School, Merrick—Wednesday, November 5, 2003, 1:00 p.m.


RICK HEUTHE, Edgar Allan Poe, is an accomplished character actor and singer with more than 25 years' theatrical experience.  His diverse leading roles include Norman in The Dresser, William Detweiler in How the Other Half Loves, Sancho in Man of La Mancha, Amos in Chicago, Sir Joseph in H.M.S. Pinafore, Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace, Ernie Cusack in Neil Simon's Rumors, and Paravaccini in Christie's The Mousetrap. He toured with an ensemble of six in Gilbert and Sullivan a la Carte, featuring Rick performing the famous patter songs. He also had major roles in the world-premiere productions of The Mummy Musical (published by Dramatist's Play Service) and the popular cabaret revue Hollywood Exposed. He is Hercule Poirot in Houston's On The Case: Christie Mysteries, and plays Cole Porter in Houston's Let's Do It! and Lorenz Hart in A Rodgers and Hart Audition.

DAVID HOUSTON, Writer/Director
is a published and produced writer of fiction and non-fiction. His Joan Crawford biography Jazz Baby (St. Martin's Press), was optioned for movie production, as was his mystery novel Shadows on the Moon (Leisure Books). As an actor, David has appeared in leading roles in scores of plays and musicals, including Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, Major Bouvier in Grey Gardens, Ben in Death of a Salesman, Herr Shultz in Cabaret and Horace Giddens in The Little Foxes. In addition to directing productions of his own plays—The Ghost of Dorothy Parker, Great Scott and Zelda, Mark Twain Telling Tales, and others—he directed The Belle of Amherst, The Odd Couple Female Version, Sylvia, and Social Security for theaters and schools.

                    RICK HEUTHE                                                                           DAVID HOUSTON                               

references and reviews

With Rick Heuthe as Edgar Allan Poe
Robert Cognato, Head of Reverence, Deer Park Public Library: Excellent (5) in all categories: (audience response, literary content, performance, set and costume); and "Our patrons enjoyed the performance."  Irene Heckert, Film Historian, Huntington Station Library: Excellent in all categories, and "Very well done. Appropriate readings and a receptive audience." Evelyn Pusinelli, Program Director, Hicksville Public Library: Excellent in all categories (audience response, literary content, performance, setting and music) and "Always a pleasure to have you perform at the library." Carol A. Lombardo, Director, Garwood Public Library, Garwood NJ: "Very entertaining and informative. The music interludes added a nice touch to Poe's works. Set decoration added to the atmosphere."  Penelope Wright, Adult Programs, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton: "Edgar Allan Poe came alive in this sympathetically portrayed, finely acted, brilliantly written dramatic presentation. David Houston never fails to present great offerings at our library." Tracey Simon, Program Coordinator, Lynbrook Public Library: "Very good audience response, excellent performance; totally professional as always, well prepared." Maureen Chiofalo, Nassau County Library Association (performance at Reference and Adult Services brunch)
: "It was a very enjoyable program; the staging and dialogue were very appealing. We received enthusiastic feedback from the membership." Karen Jaffe, Librarian, Comsewogue Public Library, Port Jefferson Station: "Very good audience response, script, and performance. Very professional." Pat Lackner, Reference Librarian, Mineola Memorial Library: Excellent literary content, performance quality, appropriateness of set and costume; would recommend the program to others. Patricia Brandt, Librarian, John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor: "Audience comments: 'Great writing.' 'Very well done; I couldn't get over the amount of dialog the actor had to memorize and how well he did it.' 'Engrossing.' 'Spooky!' 'When are you having another program by Mr. Houston?'" Jude Schanzer, director of PR and Programs, East Meadow Public Library: "Well done.  Absolutely perfect for a library or school."  Phyllis Cox, Program Coordinator, Jericho Public Library: "Wonderful program; the audience loved it."  Debbie Starker, in Deb's Web LI Theatre Newsletter: "A 70-minute, tour de force in which Edgar Poe auditions for a reading tour.  I have always loved Poe and did a college thesis on Poe as the Father of the modern detective mystery. This presentation is perfectly suited to the Halloween season. See it if you love Poe, poetry, the macabre, etc." Joseph Sterniolo, Program Coordinator, Brentwood Library: "Wonderfully done; quite literate.  The audience was affected."

With Michael Bertolini as Edgar Allan Poe
Suzanne Molczan, Adult Program Coordinator, Hillside Public Library
: "The content, set design, acting ability, and aura all combined to produce a spellbinding program that made for a most enjoyable evening."  Lorene Doherty, Adult Program Coordinator, North Shore Public Library: "Superb! This performance exceeded my expectations. The set, the props, the music created an effective 'suspension of disbelief.' Michael Bertolini magically carried this 'suspension' 10-fold by his portrayal of Edgar Allan Poe. Excellent!" Tina Holinski, Assistant Library Manager, Douglaston Little Neck Library, Queens: "The David Houston productions are well-scripted, well performed, and researched extensively. Superb! Our customers are clamoring for more! [excellent in all evaluation categories]"  Linda White, Program Coordinator, Elmont Public Library: "Patrons loved it. Murder and Madness and Poe was one of your best presentations at our library. The performance was superb."  Andrea Crivello, Curatorial Assistant, Planting Fields Arboretum: "I took note that the 80+ audience were captivated the entirety of Michael's performance as Poe. The perspective of the drama (script), along with the skills of the actor, and perfectly coordinated musical insertions, made it a wonderful experience. I heard only positive feedback and compliments as guests exited the event." Barbara Minerd, Program Coordinator, Garden City Public Library: "Michael Bertolini was perfect. The audience paid many compliments on his performance. The music background added an extra mood of spookiness." Audience member at Garden City: "You kept the audience riveted, creeped out, intrigued, horrified . . . amused by your character and even sympathetic to his condition, sorrow and needs. Nobody got up even to go to the bathroom. How you did it, with just the right degree of a southern gentlemanly accent to boot, for a solid hour or so, was incredible. Thank you for a fun show!"

sources, suggestions for study

History, Biography, Works by Edgar Allan Poe

  • Allen, Hervey.  Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe.  New York, Rinehart, 1949.
  • Haining, Peter, ed; Forward by Robert Bloch. The Edgar Allan Poe Scrapbook.  New York, Schlocken Books, 1978.
  • Hammond, J.R. An Edgar Allan Poe Companion: A Guide to the Short Stories, Romances, and Essays.  New Jersey, Barnes and Nobel Books, 1981.
  • Kennedy, Gerald J. Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing, Yale University Press, 1987
  • LeVert, Suzanne. Edgar Allan Poe. New York and Philadelphia, Chelsea House Publishers, 1992.
  • Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York, Cooper Square Press, 2000.
  • Poe, Edgar Allan.  The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.  New York, Vintage Books, 1975.

    Dead Brides: Vampire Tales by Edgar Allan Poe, James Havoc, ed.  London, Creation Books, 1999.

    — The Annotated Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen Peithman, ed.  Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1981.
    — The Portable Poe, Phillip Van Doren Stern, ed.  New York, Viking Press, 1945.
    — Tales of Mystery and Imagination.  New York, Buccaneer Books, 1986
    — Poe: Essays and Reviews, G.R. Thompson, ed., New York, Literary Classics of the United States, 1984
  • Quinn, Arthur Hobson.  Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography.  Baltimore and London, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1941.
  • Silverman, Kenneth.  Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York, Harper/Collins, 1991.
  • Walsh, John Evangelist.  Midnight Dreary: The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe.  New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 1998
  •  Walsh, John Evangelist.  Poe the Detective: The Curious Circumstances Behind "The Mystery of Marie Roget."  New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 1968

Video and Film

  • A&E Biography: Edgar Allan Poe, VHS # AAE-10463, Greystone Communications, 1994
  • Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul (biography) PBS Home Video, 1995
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (from Poe fiction), with Vincent Price, VHS and DVD, MGM, 1960
  • The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (biography), Shepperd Strudwick as Poe, 20th Century Fox, 1942
  • The Man With the Cloak (biography), Joseph Cotton as Poe, MGM, 1951
  • The Pit and the Pendulum (from Poe fiction), with Vincent Price and Diana Rig, VHS and DVD, MGM, 1961
  • .
  • Spirits of the Dead (aka Trois Histoires Extraordinaires di Edgar Allan Poe) Jane Fonda, Peter Fonda, Brigitte Bardot, Terrance Stamp.  In English/French. 
  • Three Poe tales: "Metzengertstein," "William Wilson," and "Toby Dammit." American International Pictures 1968
  • The Spectre of Edgar Allan Poe (biography), Robert Walker Jr. as Poe, Cinerama, 1974
  • Tales of Terror ("Morella," "The Black Cat," and "The Case of M. Valdemar"), Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Vincent Price, VHS and DVD, MGM, 1972

Audio Recordings

  • Edgar Allan Poe, The Dupin Stories: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Mystery of Marie Roget," "The Purloined Letter," read by Kerry Shale, Naxos AudioBooks NA427614, 2002
  • The Edgar Allan Poe Audio Collection, Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone.  Harper Audio CD 4148 (A 5-CD set), 2000
  • Poe’s Greatest Hits, Norman George.  Logofon Recordings L948CD (A 2-CD set), 2001


  • http://www.comnet.ca/~forrest/library.html — Poe's Weeping Willow (highly recommended links)
  • http://www.bronxhistoricalsociety.org — Poe exhibits
  • http://www.eapoe.org — Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore
  • http://www.poedecoder.com — The Poe Decoder
  • http://www.poedecoder.com/PreciselyPoe — valuable Poe links
  • http://www.poemuseum.org — Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Richmond Virginia
  • http://www.poetogo.com — Norman George, actor/playwright

    study guide

    (choose tasks and questions appropriate to grade levels)

    Discussion and Activities—before seeing Murder and Madness and Poe

    1.   Discuss daily life for average citizens in the Poe era – 1809-1849.  There were no cars, telephones or electricity; what other technological advances have we come to depend upon?  What about plumbing?

    2.   Who else, now famous in the world of great literature, lived when Poe did?  Did Poe know them?  Did he review their works?  What did Poe think of them?

    3.   Discuss the differences between live theater and movies/TV.  (For example: a camera can point out what you should be thinking about, while on stage, words and action must focus your attention.)

    4.   Discuss the popularity of the works of Poe during his life and today.  Why do you believe his works are considered classics?  What innovations in literature was Poe responsible for (the detective story and science fiction) and what stories introduced them?

    5.   Study briefly the Vocabulary list included here to become somewhat familiar with unusual words and phrases used in Murder and Madness and Poe.

    6.   Schedule a classroom viewing of one or more of the movies and TV shows about Poe or based on his work (see the list of Sources in this Study Guide).

    7.   Search the Internet for subjects and sources relating to Edgar Allan Poe history and biography.  Find a list of all of the plays, movies, musicals, cartoons, and TV shows of based on his stories (see the list of Sources in this Study Guide).

    Discussion and Activities—after seeing Murder and Madness and Poe

    1.   In the short story “The Black Cat,” what is Poe saying about addiction and alcoholism?  About human nature?  About excusing one’s own immoral behavior?  What clues do we have that he used his own psychology and beliefs for the fictional main character?  How is Poe like, and not like, his invented narrator?

    2.   In “Annabel Lee,” and in “The Raven,” identify the elements of fantasy that are combined with factual reality to make the poems more effective, more emotional?  Write down, in a single paragraph for each poem, the “facts” alone, without the fantasy or imagery, rhymes or rhythms.  In story and mood, how are the two poems similar and how are they different?

    3.   Choose any Poe short story that is not a part of Murder and Madness and Poe and prepare a vocabulary list of its obsolete and unusual words and phrases.  Find the definitions.   

    4.   Regarding the monologue (play) portion of Murder and Madness and Poe:  When in the course of Poe’s life does this event occur?   (Refer to the Poe Lifeline included here.)  Which of Poe’s famous work had already been written?  What was written after the time of his imaginary interview in 1848?  Did lectures and public readings in fact solve his financial problems? 

    5.   Poe’s death is considered a mystery to this day.  Do some research to uncover several different accounts (in various biographies) of the probable circumstances.  Was it murder, accident, or illness?

    6.   Compare the ingredients of Poe’s detective fiction – “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” and “The Purloined Letter” to the Sherlock Holmes Stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  How much that Doyle is famous for did Poe invent first?

    7.   Read some of the critical essays and literary reviews of Edgar Allan Poe.  What was his reputation as a critic?  Research his attacks on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; were they justified, how long did they go on, and what did they do to the reputations of both Poe and Longfellow?  How did Longfellow respond to the attacks?

    8.   There have been numerous audio recordings made of Poe dramatic readings – by Basil Rathbone, Vincent Price, Norman George, and others.   Some libraries carry them.  Obtain one and play portions for the class.  Have the class write reports on what they’ve heard.  Have them compare the experience of reading versus hearing or seeing the same work.

    9.   [ADVANCED] Ask students to write a poem and then, using Poe’s essay on the writing of “The Raven” as a guide, to set down all of the mental processes that went into selecting the subject, mood, size and shape, imagery, rhyming scheme, and verbal effects of his or her poem.  [Applicable notes from the Poe essay appear in this Guide, below; and the complete discussion can be found in Poe’s essay “The Philosophy of Composition,” available in Poe Essays and Reviews (see the list of Sources for particulars) which is available in many libraries.]

     notes by Edgar Allan Poe
    on composing “The Raven”

    rom Poe's 1846 essay “The Philosophy of Composition”

     I decided first to compose a poem of melancholy, and to limit it to a length appropriate for a reading at a single sitting—because longer works lose continuity of atmosphere and the accumu­lation of poetic effects.  I next knew I’d need some pivot, some artistic piquancy which might serve me as a key-note in the con­struction of the poem. I immediately perceived that no theatrical effect has been so universally employed as the refrain. I thought that the refrain should be brief, and that a single word would be best.  In such a search it would have been impossible to overlook the word nevermore—and in fact it was, I swear to you, the very first which presented itself. 

    Next I required a pretext for using the word nevermore and a plausible reason for its continuous repetition. The difficulty lay in reconciling this monotony with the exercise of reason on the part of the person repeating the word.  Here, then, immediately arose the idea of a non-reasoning creature capable of speech. A parrot suggested itself but was superceded forthwith by a raven—as equally capable of speech and infinitely more in keeping with the intended melancholy tone of the poem. I now had a raven—the bird of ill omen, according to mythology—monotonously repeating the one word "Nevermore" at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone, and in a one-sitting length of about 100 lines.

    Now to content.  Of all the melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind is the most melancholy?  Death.  And when is this most melancholy topic most poetical?  When it closely allies itself to Beauty.  The death, then, of a beautiful woman may be the most poetical topic in the world!  And the lips best suited for such a topic are those of a bereaved lover.

    I had now to combine the two ideas: a lover lamenting his deceased mistress and a Raven continuously repeating the word "Nevermore."  The only intelligible mode of such combination is that of imagining the raven employing the word in answer to the queries of the lover. I saw that I could make the first query a commonplace one, the second less so, the third still less, and so on, until the lover is at length excited to superstition and despair asking questions in order to hear the expected answer from the raven.

    Perceiving the opportunity thus forced upon me in the progress of construction—I first established in mind the climax—that to which "Nevermore" should be in the last place an answer to a question involving the utmost conceivable amount of sorrow and despair.   

    Here, then, the poem may be said to have its beginning—at the end, where all works of art should begin—for it was here, at this point in my preconsiderations that I first put pen to paper in the composition of the stanza:

    “Prophet,” said I, “thing of evil! prophet still if bird or devil!
    By that heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore,
    Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if within the distant Aidenn,
    It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
    Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    I composed this stanza, at this point, first that, by establishing the climax, I might the better vary and graduate, as regards seriousness and importance, the preceding queries of the lover—and, secondly, that I might definitely settle the rhythm, the meter, and the length and general arrangement of the stanza—as well as graduate the stanzas which were to precede, so that none of them might surpass this in rhythmical effect. 

    vocabulary for classroom study

    Almost all of the words used by Poe are in today’s dictionaries.  However, he wrote more than a century ago, and some of his choices and meanings are not in common use today.  Here are words and phrases from Murder and Madness and Poe that might seem unfamiliar to students. 

    Abstain – resist, to hold oneself back.

    Acumen – keen insight, shrewdness.

    Aidenn – an Arabic word for Paradise.

    Alchemy – an ancient study of chemistry and sorcery devoted to turning cheap metals into gold, to finding a universal solvent, and creating a substance to prolong life.

    Aperture – an opening or gap.

    Apparition – supernatural appearance of a person or thing, a ghost, phantom.

    Arch-Fiend – the devil, Satan.

    Atrocity – a wicked, cruel or brutal act.

    Balm in Gilead – a mystic quality that heals or soothes pain, to be found in the Holy Land.

    Bas-relief – flat sculpture in which the figures project slightly from the background.

    Beguile – to trick by deception or flattery.

    Betook myself to – gave myself the task of.

    Brazen – like brass in sound, color or strength; also bold, loud, shameless.

    Catacombs – an underground cemetery.

    Chimera – (pronounced “kimera”) in mythology, a fire-breathing creature with a lion’s head, a goat’s body and a serpent’s tail; also a delusion, a monster of the imagination.

    Clamorous – loud voicing of demands or complaints.

    Cohesion – the state of sticking together, unification, containing links to similar ideas.

    Conflagration – an extensive and destructive fire.

    Crudity – statement that is unrefined, lacking intellectual subtlety, raw.

    Crystalline – clear, transparent.

    Debauch – wanton self-indulgence.

    Demoniacal – possessed by an evil spirit, raging, frantic.

    Dissever – to separate, divide into parts.

    Docile – easily managed, readily taught.

    Doting – excessively fond, overly attentive.

    Duplicitous – dishonest.

    Eccentric – not customary, odd, erratic.

    Evinced – showed clear evidence of.

    Expostulation – earnest and energetic reasoning against something a person intends to do.

    Fancies – illusions, fantasies, ideas not based on fact.

    Forbore – declined, avoided, decided against.

    Franc – a unit of French currency.

    Hogshead – a cask containing 63-140 gallons of a liquid, also any large cask.

    Homely – suited to ordinary daily life; also unattractive, unrefined.

    Impotent – lacking power, especially sexual ability.

    Impunity – exemption from punishment, freedom from unwanted effects.

    In pace requiescat – Latin for “rest in peace.”

    Incendiary – flammable, able to ignite fires.

    Indiscretion  – shortcoming, failing, a result of bad judgment.

    Inebriated – intoxicated, drunk.

    Intemperance – excessive indulgence in alcoholic beverages, drugs, food, etc.

    Intemperate – not moderate, not softened, inconsiderate.

    Laudanum – opium or a sleep aid containing opium (illegal today).

    Loath – reluctant, unwilling, not eager.

    Maltreating – mistreating.

    Mercenary – acting merely for money or other reward.

    Mesmerism – hypnotism as developed by Austrian physician Franz Mesmer.

    Mundane – commonplace, earthly, as opposed to heavenly or ideal.

    Nefarious – extremely wicked or villainous.

    Nepenthe – a drug mentioned by ancient writers as having the power to bring forgetfulness of sorrow.

    Obeisance – (pronounced “o-baysance”) a bow or curtsy expressing homage, as before a superior or royalty.

    Onomatopoeia – a word that imitates the sound it refers to (buzz, bang, tinkle and thud, for example).

    Pallas – hero of Greek mythology.

    Pallid – deficient in color, lacking in vitality.

    Palpitate – flutter, quiver, to breathe rapidly from exertion, fear, or disease.

    Paraphrase – restatement of a text to give its meaning a new form.

    Peevish – cross, fretful, annoyed.

    Perverseness – a determination to go against the accepted or desired course of action.

    Phantasm – apparition or specter, ghost.

    Pluto – Roman god of the underworld, of hell (planet Pluto was discovered in 1930). 

    Plutonian shore – the edge of death, the darkest night.

    Prestigious – honored, having a high reputation.

    Procuring – buying, obtaining.

    Protagonist – main character, hero.

    Ratiocination – the process of logical reasoning.

    Rationalization – the process of assigning superficial justification to a statement or action, sometimes for the purpose of hiding the real causes.

    Regardless – showing a lack of consideration for others.

    Resolute – firmly determined, set in purpose.

    Resonate – to echo, to have the property of a returning or fluctuating sound.

    Respite – a delay or pause, especially of anything distressing.

    Reverie – a state of dreaminess or musing, a daydream.

    Runic rhyme – a poem with a secret or mysterious meaning.

    Sagacious – intelligent, having a good sense of the practical.

    Scarce – barely, faintly.

    Sepulcher – tomb, burial place.

    Seraph – member of the highest order of angels, a being hovering above God’s throne.

    Seraphim – angels (plural of seraph)

    Sonata – musical term, a composition for one or two instruments.

    Stanza – in music and poetry, an arrangement of a certain number of lines.

    Stylus – an instrument used by the ancients for writing on wax or clay tablets, also any writing instrument.

    Surcease – finality, an ending.

    Tinctured – affected by a slight amount of some element or quality, a trace or smattering.

    Transcendental – beyond ordinary experience, idealistic.

    Underwrite  – to contribute a sum of money to an enterprise.

    Uplift – to raise higher in the air.

    Upraise – to raise higher in the air.

    Waistcoat – (sometimes pronounced "wescut") vest, sleeveless coat.


Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849

1809-1810. Born in Boston, January 19, 1809, second of three children, to actors David and Eliza Arnold Hopkins Poe. Father abandons the family a year later.

1811. Mother Eliza dies in Richmond, Virginia, leaving the children to become wards of different foster parents. John Allan, a Richmond merchant, and wife Frances, informally adopt Edgar, who is renamed Edgar Allan.

1815-1820. John Allan moves family to London, where Edgar attends school. Family returns to Richmond.

1821-1825. Edgar is secretly engaged to Elmira Royster, despite objections from both families.

1826. At U. of Virginia, Poe distinguishes himself, but is sent insufficient funds by Allan and resorts to gambling. Allan refuses to back his debts, and Poe returns to Richmond to find that Allan and the Roysters have ended his engagement to Elmira.

1827. Enlists in U.S. Army as "Edgar A. Perry." First book, Tamerlane and Other Poems published, but is not reviewed. Transfers with his unit to Fort Moultrie in Charleston, South Carolina.

1828-1829. Rank of Sergeant Major. Foster mother Frances Allan dies. Poe reconciles with John Allan. Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems is published under Poe's name, sells poorly.

1830-1831. Enters West Point. John Allan remarries, severs relations with Poe. Edgar skips classes and roll-calls, is expelled. In New York, he publishes Poems: Second Edition with money raised from fellow cadets. Resides in Baltimore with paternal aunt, Maria Clemm, called “Muddy,” and her daughter Virginia. Household includes Poe's brother, William, who dies of tuberculosis.

1832-1833. Enters stories and poems in Baltimore Saturday Visitor contest; "MS. Found in a Bottle" wins first prize for best tale, and "The Coliseum" places second for poetry. Both appear in Visitor.

1834-1835. "The Visionary" published in Godey's Lady's Book. John Allan dies and leaves Poe nothing. Richmond's Southern Literary Messenger prints "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall," the first modern science fiction story.

1836. Marries 13-year-old Virginia Clemm, his cousin, and moves to Richmond as editor of Messenger; writes book reviews, stories and poems for Messenger.

1837-1838. Resigns from Messenger, takes family to New York but is unable to find editorial post. Harper's publishes The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Poe's only completed novel. Moves family to Philadelphia, considers giving up literary work.

1839-1840. In financial straits, but "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "William Wilson" appear in Gentleman's Magazine.   Lea and Blanchard publish Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (two volumes). "The Man of the Crowd" appears in Graham's Magazine.

1841-1842. Becomes editor of Grahams Magazine; contributes "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," the world’s first detective story, with other new stories, poems and articles; and by year's end, Grahams subscriptions more than quadruple.  Virginia exhibits first signs of tuberculosis. Poe meets Charles Dickens. Publishes "The Masque of the Red Death." Resigns from Graham's.  Publishes "The Pit and the Pendulum."

1843. "The Tell-Tale Heart," "Lenore," and "The Rationale of Verse" appear in The Pioneer. Goes to D.C. to be interviewed for a government post, gets drunk and ruins his chances. Resumes writing but is forced to borrow money. "The Gold Bug" wins $100 prize in newspaper contest, is reprinted widely then dramatized on the Philadelphia stage. Enters lecture circuit with "The Poets and Poetry of America."

1844. Moves family to New York, creates a sensation with newspaper publication of "The Balloon Hoax," which purports a transatlantic crossing by air.

1845. "The Raven" appears in Evening Mirror and gathers national popularity. Graham's publishes Poe's Tales, then The Raven and Other Poems. Poe acquires controlling interest in The Broadway Journal. Initiates campaign against plagiarism, with Longfellow the most eminent of those accused. Campaign alienates friends. Virginia Poe's illness becomes acute.

1846. Depression and hardship force Poe to abandon Broadway Journal. Moves to Fordham, NY; Virginia is a semi-invalid. Poe mentioned as a charity case in the New York press. Publishes "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Philosophy of Composition." Satirical sketch of Thomas Dunn English draws attack on Poe's morality and sanity. Poe sues and collects damages.

1847. Virginia Poe dies of tuberculosis. Poe falls gravely ill. Nursed back to health by Mrs. Clemm.  Completes revised version of "The Landscape Garden" and writes "Ulalume." Interest in cosmological theories leads to preliminary notes for Eureka.

1848. Lecture on "The Universe" in New York surveys themes for Eureka, published by Putnam. Forms attachment to "Annie" (Mrs. Nancy Richmond), who becomes his confidante. Proposes to poet Sarah Helen Whitman; when she delays answering because of his "unprincipled" character, their brief engagement is broken off. Reads "The Poetic Principle" as lecture to 1,800 in Providence. Writes "Annabel Lee" and "The Bells."

1849. Goes to Richmond to seek support for his magazine, The Stylus. Stops in Philadelphia, sick, confused and apparently suffering from persecution mania. Recovers during two months in Richmond, joins temperance society, becomes engaged to boyhood sweetheart, widow Elmira Royster Shelton. Sails for Baltimore where, a week after arrival, he is found semiconscious and delirious outside a tavern and polling place on October 3. Dies October 7.