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Customer Review

on 17 May 2008
Mary Devereaux - `Baltimore Mary' - thought to have had a passionate love affair with Poe. She didn't, and all the stories grown up around her were based on a single magazine article written when she was in her seventies. Among many other similar stories, this was discredited and laid to rest. Until, that is, Peter Ackroyd came along.
In this short book, Mary pops up on several occasions, and it is such a lack of serious research which makes this book especially disturbing. `For some reason', he says, Poe called his wife's mother `Muddy' - ignorant that `Muddy' was diminutive for `mother'.
Bit other errors are less trivial. During Poe's entire journalistic life he was involved in a war to promote American literature against the literature Mafia of the day - the Northern cliques. This brave and exciting battle is ignored in this book.
Errors of detail abound. Near the end of his life we see him wooing Helen Whitman, Annie Richmond and Elmira Shelton, even though Poe did not come across Elmira again until the love affair with Helen was well and truly over.
Again, Ackroyd paints Poe as a waster and a alcoholic, unaware that Poe actually fought hard against his drink problem, even enrolling in the Richmond Temperance Society in his last year.
The growing North- South divide and its effects on Poe is not even touched upon - even though soon after Poe's death it had escalated to the proportions of Civil War.
The appearance of Poe in the middle of the magazine golden age is not discussed.
The Longfellow War is sketchily touched upon, and Ackroyd insists that Poe wrote the articles penned by `Outis' - even though Poe spent months of venom attacking Outis' comments in the press.
Poe's friends are mentioned in passing by name only and his strong relationships with them are ignored.
Griswold's treachery - or the extent of it - is (unbelievably) barely touched upon. The important events after Poe's death are ignored. His background is the merest sketch.
These are just a few of the points which make this book a `public imposition'. There are more. Suffice it to say that this work has been hastily cobbled together - possibly on request - and gives a coloured and highly distorted picture of Poe. Anyone interested in his life should avail themselves of the excellent book by Professor Quinn and leave this dreadful trash well alone.
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