Five Fascinating Facts about Edgar Allan Poe

1. He was the first person to use the term ‘short story’. At least, Poe’s use of the term is the earliest that has yet been uncovered, from 1840 – nearly 40 years earlier than the current OED citation from 1877. This is fitting, given that Poe was a pioneer of the short story form. Poe wrote ‘I have written five-and-twenty short stories whose general character may be so briefly defined’ in his preface to Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. This fact was discovered by Martin Greenup – see his ‘Poe and the First Use of the Term “Short Story”‘, Notes and Queries, 60.2 (2013), 251-254.

Poe12. Poe carried on writing even after he’d died. At least, if you believe the rather outlandish claim of Lizzie Doten, the psychic medium whose 1863 book, Poems from the Inner Life, included poems which Doten claimed to have received from the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe. (We must confess to being, er, sceptical here at Interesting Literature…) Perhaps Doten spied a chance to increase the popularity of her own rather mediocre verses by attaching Poe’s name to the project!

3. The American football team the Baltimore Ravens are named in honour of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem ‘The Raven’. This is the only example of a sports team being named after a work of literature – at least, to our knowledge. We’d be interested to hear of any others…

4. Poe often wrote with his Siamese cat on his shoulder. Poe would place the cat on his shoulder before he commenced writing a poem.

5. Poe coined the word ‘tintinnabulation’ to describe the sound made by the ringing of bells. This word was invented by Poe in his poem ‘The Bells’, where he writes, ‘Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells  From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.’ You can read the whole poem here.

If you enjoyed this post, check out our previous post on Edgar Allan Poe and some of the things which he correctly predicted.

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Image: Cropped image from the famous E.A. Poe daguerreotype, W.S. Hartshorn (1848 daguerreotype),
C.T. Tatman (1904 photo of a c. 1848-1860 photo of daguerreotype missing since 1860) public domain.

69 thoughts on “Five Fascinating Facts about Edgar Allan Poe

  1. Great article! But I’m not sure about the Siamese cat. I know Catterina, the cat he had in Philadelphia and New York, was a tortoise-shell cat. I’m also not sure we can categorically say he wrote his poetry with the cat. I’ve never seen a primary source which even suggests it, though he certainly seems to like cats.

  2. I had never heard of the ‘writing after death’ fact before. I wonder how many symphonies Mozart has possibly finished up till now? Interesting stuff though. I find it hard to write with my cat on my lap – I wish he would sit on my shoulder.

  3. Do teams named after works of oral literature such as mythology count? If so, the Tennessee Titans should qualify, the name borrowed from Greek Mythology: Nashville at the time known as the Athens of the South.

  4. Reblogged this on Jeremy Podolski and commented:
    I don’t usually reblog to Unlikely Storytelling, but my admiration of the work of Edgar Allan Poe trumps convention in this case. I’m sure I’ll contribute an original post about Poe in the future, but in the meantime, enjoy this one about the man who coined the term “short story.”

  5. Thank you for liking my post, Tradition.
    Regarding Poe, it is not such an unusual fact, but the Fugitive Poets considered him their forebear or cousin, to some degree in their advocating for a new voice for Southern literature. I have lived in both Philadelphia and Baltimore. Both lay claim to Poe and both are about equidistant from the Mason Dixon line. My vote is with Baltimore. I wonder, though, if a bit of Poe’s anguish was from that historical “border state” environment — not quite fitting here nor there.
    Best wishes for your continued inspiration for your blog.

    • I had no idea about the Fugitive Poets – this is great, and I think you may have a point with the ‘border state’ environment. Especially in the US, this tends to be a feature, and especially among fantasy writers? Something to look into, I think. Thanks!

  6. Love Poe’s creation of new words! “The tintinabulation of the bells”. We need to create a new word for the sound of blog posts being reblogged around the blogosphere–the reblog-blog-blog-bloggings of the blogs

  7. I loved this post! Whenever I feature Poe on my tales of terror blog (his short stories), I get lots of views. Poe can still draw people to his work and so many of us love to reread the stories and poems. My favorite poem of his is Spirits of the Dead. Short but so powerful.

    • Thanks, Paula! It’s a great idea to feature Poe’s short stories, as so many of them are archetypal tales which helped to influence later genres (science fiction, domestic Gothic, detective fiction). Some of his best are his shortest tales – ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ is one of my favourites, and that’s only three or four pages. So much in it though!

  8. When Edgar Allen Poe married his cousin Virginia, he was twenty-seven, and she was thirteen (and consumptive).

    At his wife Virginia’s funeral, standing beside her grave, Poe wore the very same gray West Point military jacket which had previously been used as a blanket for Virginia on her deathbed.

    Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe were pen pals (if you want to call it that), and they even met once, in Philadelphia, when Poe was about 34-years-old and Dickens was about 31. Dickens, incidentally, had a pet raven named Grip, and in his novel Barnaby Rudge, which Poe had read, there is featured a talking raven.

    • Thanks for these! I knew about the sad story with his cousin, but not about the jacket. Very sad.

      I think Barnaby Rudge was one of the two chief influences on Poe’s ‘The Raven’, the other being a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning titled ‘Lady Geraldine’s Courtship’. I’ve not read that one, though!

  9. I am in awe! This is my first visit to your blog, but it will not be the last! (I wouldn’t have known of the blog but for your visit (and like, thank you!) to mine! Though your piece and mine were different, I was struck to note your quote (fact #5) of the very same words from The Bells. Such a master he was! I look forward to reading many more posts.

  10. Pingback: Let’s Talk Poe(sy) | Wise Blood

  11. Only obliquely literary, I know, but rugby union club Harlequins got their name from the Commedia Dell’Arte character, didn’t they; while the amateur Welsh football team from Haverfordwest The Wizards are thus named from nearby Merlin’s Bridge, supposedly from the Geoffrey of Monmouth character (we’ll pass over the fact that Merlin’s Bridge was formerly Magdalene or Maudlin’s Bridge, from a local religious house).

    • I think that’s true – another wise commenter suggested that team names derived from Greek myth are in one sense ‘literary’ as well, which I agree with. Didn’t know that about the Wizards – apparently Geoffrey of Monmouth believed that Stonehenge was built by Merlin, so he evidently credited that man with a fair amount of stuff he didn’t deserve the credit for!

  12. Reblogged this on The imAgine RooM and commented:
    The title says it all. Five Fascinating facts! Did you know that Poe was the first person to use the term ‘Short Story’? And as for ‘tintinnabulation’ … the license of the writer to reinvent the language from some of the best!

  13. Pingback: Scurte #193 | Assassin CG

  14. Pingback: Five Fascinating Facts about Edgar Allan Poe | robertbyron22

  15. This was a lot of fun to read! I’m currently in the process of reading every single one of Poe’s works (short stories, Narrative of A. Gordon Pym, all of his poetry, and his essays), so it was cool to see all of the extra little details about him. I never would of guessed Poe would own a Siamese cat…. then again, I think he’d stay far, far away from black ones, haha!

  16. Love this! Also, I’d like to thank you for liking my post “Underneath the Cherry Tree”. I have a little poll going for my own amusement and was wondering if you could tell me what it was you liked about the song? I am just starting to explore your blog but so far it’s pretty interesting. Look forward to seeing more from you and hearing your thoughts on that song….thanks again,….Annabel

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