Poe on Drunk History: Fact -vs- Fiction

poe vs griswold

Edgar Allan Poe on Drunk History:

Fact -vs- Fiction

On July 22nd, 2014 Comedy Central aired their “Baltimore” episode of their wildly popular show, Drunk History. Though I have strong feelings (both positive and negative) on this short, I have decided to leave a review of the show for another post. In this entry it is my hope to share with you what the intoxicated historian got right, and what he got wrong. In the spirit of brevity, I will list these facts in short summaries that I will number. At the bottom of each I will include links, should you be interested in further reading upon this subject. –Which I highly recommend! It is fascinating!



1} The over-all theme of the show. Did Poe in fact have a rivalry with Griswold?


He did. However, like many things, their relationship was multi-faceted! It could be, perhaps, better explained in today’s term, “frenemy”. I mean, Griswold did visit Poe’s house once and Poe did make him his literary executor after all…

.::Visit The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore for more info::.

2} Was Poe completely disrespected by everyone he knew?


No, he was not! He had a very strong, loyal, group of friends. Many of which, stood up for him in his lifetime, as well as after his death. One being his ex-fiancé, Sarah Helen Whitman!

.::A link to Mrs. Whitman’s biography on Poe::.


3} Did Griswold ask Poe if he wanted to be in his collection, The Poets and Poetry of America?


Nope! Poe actually submitted, what he felt, were his best three poems at the time. Poe was upset about the focus, in the collection, on the New England Literati and the lack of talented poets outside of that circle. He was not upset about the number of his poems inside. Also, he was featured many more times in later volumes. (this was the first volume which sparked the tension between the two of them)

.::Refer to the Poe Society page::.

4} Did Griswold bribe Poe to write a good review?


Well……….kinda. He paid Poe his usual fee upfront. –Which was believed to be about $10. The way that Griswold approached Poe caused him to believe it was a bribe. The fact that Griswold was also known to push his weight around a bit in the literary world didn’t help his case much!

.::Refer to the article attached above. Also interesting account of this all is inside of Kenneth Silverman’s bio on the Poet::.

5} Did Poe write a nasty review of The Poets and Poetry of America?

Fiction (?)

Kinda not…..There are a few layers to this one as well! Poe did write a review, however it wasn’t nasty by any measure of the word! He did critique a few points, but he also gave Griswold some pretty high praise. The whole article is not free from negative points, however it’s overall theme is pretty good! It appears to be a pretty honest review. As a matter of fact, Griswold was the one who had the article printed. So he didn’t not read the review later angrily with his friends as shown in the short. There was a really nasty review that came out in the Philadelphia Saturday Museum which was written by an anonymous person. It was later linked to a friend of Poe. Griswold was likely to believe it came from Poe.

.::I am having a difficult time locating an online posting of this review, however I have a hard copy. If you can get your hands on one, I recommend it. The listed link to The Poe Society’s page has great info on this as well::.

6} Did Griswold take Poe’s job, and get paid more?


Days after The Poets and Poetry of America was published, George Rex Graham (owner of Graham’s magazine where Poe worked) asked Griswold to work as the book review editor (Poe’s job). It is reported that he paid Griswold $1,200 more than Poe and he gave him more power over the magazine. However, in a letter from Poe, it appears that Poe left the magazine and was not fired. He certainly did not walk into his office to find Griswold at his desk!

.::Silverman’s bio covers a lot of this. I also found a letter inside of Ben Fisher’s book Poe in his own time (great read!)::.

7} Did they talk trash about each other?


Griswold used his new job at Graham’s to slight Poe whenever he had a chance. And Poe did go on tour and he did mention Griswold in his lectures. Poe had high hopes for the American literary scene and The Poets and Poetry of America did not, necessarily, line up with his vision. Also, feeling the sting of Griswold’s words, Poe did paint Griswold in a negative light. Letters written by the two men also show their bitter feelings towards one another.

8} Did Poe booze it up and take laudanum after he left Graham’s?


Let’s begin with the laudanum. Poe only ingested the drug once. And it was an attempted suicide in 1848. Now, drinking… this is a big question with Poe and I will do my best to summarize it shortly here. Poe was known to have been allergic to alcohol. It was said that one glass of wine hit his system like a bottle would hit a normal person’s. This does not mean he refrained from it, however he did not drink as much as so many think he did. He, like so many of us, would turn to alcohol when in times of stress or fear. In 1842 his wife, Virginia, began to show signs of Tuberculosis. Fear and severe anxiety possessed Poe often during her sickness and he would turn to alcohol on occasion because of all of this.

.::So many great links for info on Poe. I recommend http://eapoe.org/ and http://www.poemuseum.org/index.php . As well as the listed books::.

9} Did Virginia die shortly after Griswold took over at Graham’s?


Nope. She died 5 years later. Poe did a lot of great things between these two events. He was absolutely not living at the bottom of a bottle!

.::Great Poe Timeline!::.

10} Was Poe found in a gutter before he died?


He was actually found at a Tavern which was being used as a polling venue.

.::Watch this video::.

11} Did Griswold really write such a slanderous, false, biography of Poe?


Boy did ol Griswold ever do a number on Mr. Poe! His attempts to make Poe into a villain really did just solidify his, almost, Rock Star-like status in the American psyche. Griswold wrote Poe’s obituary under the name “Ludwig” which was cruel and full of slander! He also embellished a lot of Poe’s bios in later installations of collections that he published.

.::Here’s the famous note from Ludwig::.

12} Did Griswold die of Tuberculosis?


He actually showed signs of it around the same time as Poe’s wife Virginia. Though, he lived much longer. (he died in 1857) It was said that he did have a picture of Poe, as well as himself, and poet Frances Osgood in his room at his death. The events surrounding his death and what came of his remains are quite tragic.

.::Visit this for more::.

poe fight

{Image from the show}

*The truth of Poe’s life is my passion! If I have left out any good information or misrepresented facts in anyway, I would ask my fellow Poe Historians to let me know so I may make the necessary adjustments! Though, my research has been vast, I realize that the mysteries of Mr. Poe’s life are great and the veritable “rabbit holes” are practically never ending!

Many thanks to those who have read this!




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5 responses to “Poe on Drunk History: Fact -vs- Fiction

  1. I love this! Fact or Fiction de-mythification! Thanks, I learned something new

    Liked by 1 person

  2. PoeMyG*d

    Very informative! I like the format you chose. Just the right amount of information. Thanks for taking the time to enlighten us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. WitchMerle

    Well done!! I always cringe at some of he history out there… whether the “truth” or “just for fun”… I whole heartily believe in digging for the deeper truths, asking questions and telling the world what you’ve discovered. We need more of this ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous

    loved this article. I love Poe and I love Drunk History:> But what I love most
    of all are facts so thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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