A Gentleman “Rather the Worse for Wear” in Baltimore

(Daguerreotype of Poe taken by William Pratt in Richmond, Virginia three weeks before Poe’s untimely death)

It was on this day, October 3, in 1849 that Poe was found outside Gunner’s Hall Tavern in Baltimore by a printer named Joseph Walker. Poe was able to tell Walker his name and a friend that he knew in the city. Walker described Poe as being “rather the worse for wear” and “in need of immediate assistance” when calling upon that friend, Joseph Evans Snodgrass. When Snodgrass arrived at the Tavern, he recounted:

“When I entered the bar-room of the house, I instantly recognized the face of one whom I had often seen and knew well, although it wore an aspect of vacant stupidity which made me shudder. The intellectual flash of his eye had vanished, or rather had been quenched in the bowl; but the broad, capacious forehead of the author of “The Raven,” . . . was still there, with a width, in the region of ideality, such as few men have ever possessed. But perhaps I would not have so readily recognized him had I not been notified of his apparel. His hat — or rather the hat of somebody else, for he had evidently been robbed of his clothing, or cheated in an exchange — was a cheap palm-leaf one, without a band, and soiled; his coat, of commonest alpaca, and evidently “second hand”; and his pants of gray-mixed cassimere, dingy and badly fitting. He wore neither vest nor neckcloth, if I remember aright, while his shirt was sadly crumpled and soiled. He was so utterly stupefied with liquor that I thought it best not to seek recognition or conversation, especially as he was surrounded by a crowd of drinking men, actuated by idle curiosity rather than sympathy. I immediately ordered a room for him, where he could be comfortable until I got word to his relatives — for there were several in Baltimore. Just at that moment, one or two of the persons referred to, getting information of the case, arrived at the spot. They declined to take private care of him, assigning as a reason, that he had been very abusive and ungrateful on former occasions, when drunk, and advised that he be sent to a hospital. . . . So insensible was he, that we had to carry him to the carriage as if a corpse. The muscles of articulation seemed paralyzed to speechlessness, and mere incoherent mutterings were all that were heard.”

Poe was taken to Washington College Hospital where he received care under the attending physician, Dr. John J. Moran. Snodgrass was a fervent supporter of the temperance movement, and it was for this reason (among Poe already having a reputation as an alcoholic) that Snodgrass assumed Poe was under the influence. However, Dr. Moran claimed Poe was NOT intoxicated at all.

Poe only lived another four days after these events took place. What ever was ailing Poe and how he came to be in the circumstances he was in that day remain a mystery. Poe was never coherent enough to explain what had happened to him.

(Washington College Hospital. Poe’s room was located on the far left of the building, third window up from the ground)

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