A noticeable man clad in black, the fashion of the times, close-buttoned, erect, forward looking, something separate in his bearing ...a beautifully poetic face.
-Basil L. Gildersleeve to Mary E. Phillips, 1915 (his childhood recollection of Poe)
Many of Edgar Allan Poe's contemporaries described him as he appears in this portrait: a darkly handsome and intelligent man who possessed an unorthodox personality. Despite being acknowledged as one of America's greatest writers of poetry and short stories, Poe's life remains shrouded in mystery, with conflicting accounts about poverty, alcoholism, drug use, and the circumstances of his death in 1849.
This daguerreotype was made several months before Poe's death at age 40. After his wife died two years earlier, Poe met Annie Richmond at a poetry lecture that he gave when visiting Lowell, Massachusetts. Although she was married, they developed a deep, mutual affection. Richmond is thought to have arranged and paid for this portrait sitting. Poe is so forcibly portrayed that historians have described his appearance as disheveled, brooding, exhausted, haunted, and melancholic.
Like his life, Poe's poems and short stories are infused with a sense of tragedy and mystery. Among his best-known works are: The Raven, Annabel Lee, and The Fall of the House of Usher.