WPI Professor Explores the Roots of Edgar Allan Poe's Love-Hate Relationship With Boston

Professor Kent P. Ljungquist

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809. The 198th anniversary of this milestone was marked recently in a number of cities, from Baltimore, where he lived for many years and where he died somewhat mysteriously in 1849, to Richmond, Virginia, where he worked for a time as a magazine editor, to the Bronx, where the cottage in which he spent the last few years of his life is maintained as a historic monument. In the city of his birth, however, the giant of American Literature has been largely ignored; a small plaque marking the spot where his birthplace once stood is the only tribute to Poe in the city, the Boston Globe recently reported.

According to Kent. P. Ljungquist, professor of English at WPI, Boston’s indifference to Poe, and his to Boston, may stem from some unpleasant experiences he had in the city, including a disastrous poetry reading in 1845, as well as Poe’s disdain for the Boston literati, particularly Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. One of the world's leading authorities on Poe’s life and works, Ljungquist is the author of several books on American literature, including The Grand and the Fair: Poe's Landscape Aesthetics and Pictorial Techniques.

In 1991, Ljungquist determined that an unsigned review of Poe's series Autography that appeared in 1841 was, in fact, written by Poe himself. In this review, Poe responded to harsh assessments of his works by critics in Boston newspapers. More recently, Ljungquist edited and wrote about two newly discovered letters written by Poe to Abijah M. Ide Jr., a Massachusetts farmer who went on to some success as a poet and newspaper editor. In a 2004 article in Resources for American Literary Study, Ljungquist was the first to identify Ide as the author of an anonymous tribute to Poe published after his death in the Taunton (Mass.) True Democrat. A member of the American Antiquarian Society and an Honorary Member of the Poe Studies Association, Ljungquist is also a member of the editorial boards of Gothic Studies, Poe Studies: Dark Romanticism, The Edgar Allan Poe Review, and Literature of the Early American Republic, a new journal.

In an essay titled "'Valdemar' and the 'Frogpondians': The Aftermath of Poe's Boston Lyceum Appearance," Chapter 10 of the 1997 book Emersonian Circles: Essays In Honor of Joel Myerson, edited by Robert Burkholder and Wesley Mott (professor of English at WPI), Ljungquist , chronicled Poe’s stormy relationship with Boston. The essay is linked here with permission from the publisher, the Rochester University Press.

February 1, 2007

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