Celebrating the famed writer’s arrival on Sullivan’s Island
A young Edgar Allan Poe; (below) a 1921 edition of “The Gold Bug”
On November 18, 1827, Edgar Allan Poe reported for duty at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. Although he wouldn’t depart until December 1828, Poe never mentioned Charleston in his autobiographical writings, claiming untruthfully that he had been traveling the world instead of soaking up the Lowcountry atmosphere that he eventually used in his tales “The Gold Bug,” “The Balloon Hoax,” and “The Oblong Box.”
The author’s presence here was not verified until the 1880s, long after his death in 1849 at age 40. In his brief life, he wrote obsessively of melancholy, premature death, and a love of spectral beauty. Perhaps he was influenced by the ever-changing scenery of Sullivan’s Island. Without a doubt, he had influence of his own upon those who began claiming him for Charleston in the 1920s. That has continued over time: local scholars publish on him; diners eat in a place named for him; and ghost tours conjure his memory. This itself is Poe-esque—his life after death, as we continue to admire one of the great writers of the 19th century.
Photograph courtesy of (Poe) Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin