Thursday, January 19, 2012

Poe's Birthday

Today is the birthday of Edgar Allen Poe. He was born in Boston in 1809. As a physician I can’t help but wonder how Poe’s life would have turned out if we had developed anti-mycobacterial therapy a century or so earlier. Firstly he may have never become an orphan. As his mother would not have died of tuberculosis when he was two years old. He would not have been adopted by the Allen family, therefore he would be, simply, Edgar Poe. Not being raised by a well-to-do family in Richmond, it is unlikely that he would have ever attended the University of Virginia to receive the tools to become a writer. In his adult life, his young wife Virginia would not have contracted the same disease that had killed his mother, he would not have had to endure her debilitating illness and therefore would have never produced “The Tell-Tale Heart”, or her subsequent death which led to the tone of his work for the remainder of his life.

So, from his birth came the man, and from the scourge of tuberculosis came his art. Happy Birthday Ed,I think that’s what we would have called him if INH or Rifampin would have changed his life. But we would all be less, for there would be no resonance when we heard the word “nevermore”.