In Pace Requiescat

On this day, October 8, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe’s body was available for viewing at the Washington College Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. His funeral attire was donated by some of the students of the college and included a black suit with a white cravat. Poe’s shroud was sewn by his physician’s wife. His coffin was a plain one of simple mahogany. The coffin had no lining, no handles, no nameplate, and not even a cushion for his head. His body was visited by numerous ladies of the city so they could acquire a lock of his hair as a souvenir of the great poet. His funeral procession left the Washington Medical College en route to the Westminster Burial Grounds around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It was a lugubrious day. Poe’s “cold-blooded” and “unchristian-like” funeral lasted about three minutes. The Reverend William Clemm (a relative of Poe’s) didn’t even give the eulogy he had prepared partly because of the poor weather, but mainly because there were so few people in attendance. The attendees included Poe’s cousin Neilson Poe, his uncle Henry Herring, his cousin Elizabeth Herring and her husband, his friend Joseph Snodgrass, his friend and classmate Z. Collins Lee, his early school teacher Joseph H. Clarke, the sexton George Spence, and of course the undertaker Charles Serter. It was said that Poe was buried like a dog. He was hastily lowered into the ground, and the wet earth was shoveled right upon the lid of his coffin. Poe’s closest loved ones such as his Aunt Maria Clemm, his fiancee Sarah Elmira Royster, or his sister Rosalie Poe were not even notified of his death before he was already buried in the ground.

Pictured here is an early rendering of the Westminster Church and Burial Grounds, circa 1857. The church wasn’t built until after Poe’s interment. His grave was located in back of the church in his family’s plot until 1875, when funds were raised to erect a monument to properly mark the grave of the great American poet. Poe was exhumed, and placed in the front of the the graveyard where he remains today.

4 thoughts on “In Pace Requiescat

  1. Jeff 8 Oct 2020 / 11:31 am

    Wondering what happened to the eulogy? Betting that Neilson Poe and Henry Herring were relieved that Poe was gone!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Levi L. Leland 8 Oct 2020 / 7:30 pm

      I would place my bets with you, Jeff! It’s no secret that Poe detested his cousin Neilson. The way Poe’s Baltimore relatives handled his death was certainly a reflection of that. They did the bare minimum, and apparently that was enough for them.


      • Jeff 9 Oct 2020 / 9:09 am

        Henry Herring despised Poe! He made it very clear to whomever was listening. Poor Neilson! He thought once Poe was buried he was done with him. HA! Poe’s fame kept pulling him back into talking about him. The very fact that Neilson ignored Gill’s inquiries about Virginia’s remains is ample proof of how he felt about Poe.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ken 5 Jul 2022 / 10:56 am

    Jeff, I had not heard that Neilson ignored Gill’s inquires about Virginia’s remains? I’m very interested to learn more. Since Neilson died on January 4, 1884 and Virginia was re-buried in 1885, one might assume that her burial only went forward after his death? Do you have a source for that? Thanks in advance.


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