PHILADELPHIA REFLECTIONS
Musings of a Philadelphia Physician who has served the community for six decades

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Critic of Darkness

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Edgar Allan Poe

In a way, Edgar Allan Poe's brutally scathing book reviews are even more frightening than his dark tales of supernatural murder. Poe describes the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson, by then quite a well-respected contemporary thinker and author, as "bad, sprawling, illegible and irregular although sufficiently bold." He adds, "This latter trait may be, and no doubt is, only a portion of his general affectation." Clearly Poe was unafraid of creating enemies among those with clout in the literary world of the United States. Edgar Allan Poe dedicated his life to the pursuit of literary perfection, and his life in Philadelphia provided him the opportunity to hold others to his often frighteningly high standards.

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Poe's House on Spring Garden

Poe is known as one of the first authors to make a full-time living from writing, but that living did not come easily; to help sustain this craft, Poe took up work as an editor and Book Reviewer for several magazines in Philadelphia. After failing to make a name for himself in New York, Poe moved south in 1838 to what was known as a quiet Quaker town and finally settled in a small yet comfortable house on seventh and Spring Garden streets. The city, although losing dominance as a cultural center of the United States, was still well known for its vibrant printing and publishing industry. It is here that he published and composed some of his most famous work, including "Leigia," "The Black Cat," and "The Fall of the House of Usher." The house has since been transformed into a museum dedicated to the life of Poe. The airy, empty rooms and whitewash walls of his old home do not evoke the claustrophobic spaces in Poe's work. But it is worth a visit, if only to learn more about the exacting mind and tortured personal life that produced such haunting work.

(2035)

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