On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance", according to the man who found him, Joseph W. Walker. He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849, at 5:00 in the morning. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition, and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. Some sources say Poe's final words were "Lord help my poor soul." Poe suffered from bouts of depression and madness, and he may have attempted suicide in 1848. The precise cause of Poe's death remains a mystery.
The day Edgar Allan Poe was buried, a long obituary appeared in the New York Tribune signed "Ludwig". It was soon published throughout the country. The piece began, "Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it." "Ludwig" was soon identified as Rufus Wilmot Griswold, a minor editor and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since 1842. Griswold somehow became executor of Poe's literary estate and attempted to destroy his enemy's reputation after his death.
Rufus Griswold wrote a biographical "Memoir" of Poe, which he included in an 1850 volume of the collected works. Griswold depicted Poe as a depraved, drunk, drug-addled madman and included forged letters as evidence. Griswold's book was denounced by those who knew Poe well, but it became a popularly accepted one. This was due in part because it was the only full biography available and was widely reprinted, and in part because readers thrilled at the thought of reading works by an "evil" man. Letters that Griswold presented as proof of this depiction of Poe were later revealed as forgeries.
1860s portrait by Oscar Halling after an 1849 daguerreotype
In his essay "The Poetic Principle", Poe argued that there is no such thing as a long poem, since the ultimate purpose of art is aesthetic; that is, its purpose is the effect it has on its audience, and this effect can only be maintained for a brief period of time (the time it takes to read a lyric poem, watch a drama performed, or view a painting). He argued that an epic, if it has any value at all, must be a series of smaller pieces, each geared towards a single effect or sentiment, which "elevates the soul". He also disagreed with didacticism in poetry, a sentiment often extended to his fiction. In his criticism, Poe said that meaning in literature should be an undercurrent just beneath the surface, and that works whose meanings are too obvious cease to be art.
Poe's essay "The Philosophy of Composition", an overview of his method in writing "The Raven", is one of his most complete discussions of his literary theory. In it, Poe claimed he worked with extreme precision and care, believing that in writing every sentiment and idea must be carefully conceived and calculated. Such work should focus around a specific single effect. It has been questioned, however, if Poe really followed the system he described. T. S. Eliot said: "It is difficult for us to read that essay without reflecting that if Poe plotted out his poem with such calculation, he might have taken a little more pains over it: the result hardly does credit to the method." Biographer Joseph Wood Krutch described the essay as "a rather highly ingenious exercise in the art of rationalization than literary criticism".
In his own fiction, Poe often included elements of popular pseudosciences such as phrenology and physiognomy. Much of his work deals with questions of death, including its physical signs, the effects of decomposition, concerns of premature burial, the reanimation of the dead, and mourning. Though known as a masterful practitioner of Gothic fiction, Poe did not invent the genre; he was following a long-standing popular tradition.
Much of Poe's work has been read as allegorical, though he himself disliked allegory: "In defence of allegory, (however, or for whatever object, employed,) there is scarcely one respectable word to be said. Its best appeals are made to the fancy - that is to say, to our sense of adaptation, not of matters proper, but of matters improper for the purpose, of the real with the unreal; having never more of intelligible connection than has something with nothing, never half so much of effective affinity as has the substance for the shadow."
Main article: Edgar Allan Poe's literary influence
Poe was one of the first American authors of the nineteenth century to become more popular in Europe. Poe is particularly respected in France, in part due to early translations by Charles Baudelaire. Baudelaire's translations quickly became definitive renditions of Poe's work throughout Europe.
Poe's early detective fiction tales starring the fictitious C. Auguste Dupin laid the groundwork for future detectives in literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said, "Each [of Poe's detective stories] is a root from which a whole literature has developed.... Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?" The Mystery Writers of America have named their awards for excellence in the genre the"Edgars". Poe's work also influenced science fiction, notably Jules Verne, who wrote a sequel to Poe's novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket called The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Le sphinx des glaces. Science fiction author H. G. Wells noted, "Pym tells what a very intelligent mind could imagine about the south polar region a century ago."
Like many famous artists, Poe's works have spawned innumerable imitators. One interesting trend among imitators of Poe, however, has been claims by clairvoyants or psychics to be "channeling" poems from Poe's spirit beyond the grave. One of the most notable of these was Lizzie Doten, who in 1863 published Poems from the Inner Life, in which she claimed to have "received" new compositions by Poe's spirit. The compositions were re-workings of famous Poe poems such as "The Bells", but which reflected a new, positive outlook.
Even so, Poe has not received only praise. William Butler Yeats was generally critical of Poe, calling him "vulgar". Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson reacted to "The Raven" by saying, "I see nothing in it." Aldous Huxley wrote that Poe's writing "falls into vulgarity" by being "too poetical" - the equivalent of wearing a diamond ring on every finger.
Physics and cosmology
Eureka, an essay written in 1848, included a cosmological theory that anticipated the big bang theory by 80 years, as well as the first plausible solution to Olbers' paradox. Poe eschewed the scientific method in Eureka and instead wrote from pure intuition. For this reason, he considered it a work of art, not science, but insisted that it was still true and considered it to be his career masterpiece. Even so, Eureka is full of scientific errors. In particular, Poe's suggestions opposed Newtonian principles regarding the density and rotation of planets.
Poe had a keen interest in the field of cryptography. He had placed a notice of his