The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science, by John Tresch

August 21, 2021 at 1:07 pm (Book review, books)

   I don’t usually write about a book I’m still reading, but I’m going to now. Because I must.

As soon as I heard of it,  knew I wanted to read The Reason for the Darkness of the Night. Written by John Tresch, subtitled Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science, This book promised to reveal much about the life and work of one of America’s most celebrated authors. And of course, Poe is of special interest to me, as he should be to anyone interested in the birth of the American detective story.

This is all very well – what I wasn’t prepared for were the revelations concerning Poe’s life as a child and a young adult, particularly the latter. Poe was the foster son of Frances and John Allan. While Edgar and Frances had a close and loving bond, his relationship with John Allan was something else altogether.

You’ll notice that I used the word ‘foster,’ not ‘adopted.’ The reason is that  the Allans never took that further step toward securing Edgar’s status as a family member. This, despite the fact that the boy, newly orphaned, came to live with them when he was two years old.

I don’t want to say any more at this point, except that John Allan’s actions – or lack thereof – display a degree of callousness that I find difficult to fathom. In fact, he made me so angry that as I reached page 71, I had to lay the book aside for a time and calm myself down.

How dare he! That – that –

Okay. Enough. One slender light does, after all, shine in the darkness: Poe’s genius – his utter indisputable genius – is at last  being recognized. It starts to bring with it remuneration which is so desperately needed. As he is about to be undone by severe destitution, good people reach out to help him.

I think of Robert Schumann’s exclamation upon hearing a composition by Chopin: “Hats off, gentlemen, a genius!”

And now I must read on…(to be continued)



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