One hundred sixty years ago, the beleaguered, impoverished Poe was found, delirious and in distress outside a Baltimore tavern. He was never coherent enough to explain what had befallen him since leaving Richmond, Va., a week earlier. He spent four days in a hospital before he died at age 40.
Poe’s cousin, Neilson Poe, never announced his death publicly. Fewer than 10 people attended the hasty funeral for one of the 19th century’s greatest writers. And the injustices piled on. Poe’s tombstone was destroyed before it could be installed, when a train derailed and crashed into a stonecutter’s yard. Rufus Griswold, a Poe enemy, published a libelous obituary that damaged Poe’s reputation for decades.
But on Sunday, Poe’s funeral will get an elaborate do-over, with two services expected to draw about 350 people each – the most a former church next to his grave can hold. Actors portraying Poe’s contemporaries and other long-dead writers and artists will pay their respects, reading eulogies adapted from their writings about Poe.