A very gentle, thoughtful, refined and modest man - how came he then to be so abused even when he was dead and could not speak for himself?
- Rev. Charles Chauncey Burr - February 1852
The Edgar Allan Poe we know today is largely the work of one man: The Right Reverend Rufus Griswold. Gnawed by envy of a far greater talent, Griswold quietly stored up his venom and waited until after Poe's death to strike and wound. The assault began with his obituary of Poe in which he wrote, "The poet was well known, personally or by reputation, but he had few or no friends." Expanding his obituary into a Memoir of the Author, the only authorized biography available for over two decades, Griswold firmly established Poe as the quintessentially dissolute and immoral man, one easily confused with the depraved characters of his fiction.
Griswold employed lies, plagiarism and forgery in an all out attack upon the poet's reputation. Thus, with the stroke of a pen, the Poe Legend was forged. To turn Griswold's own words back upon their author, "There is not another instance in the literature of our language in which so much has been accomplished without a recognition or manifestation of conscience."
In life Poe had been lionized; in death he was vilified and despised. Poe's most self destructive act, then, was appointing the vengeful and unrelenting Griswold as the guardian of his legacy. He created the distorted image of Poe that is now so firmly entrenched in the mind of the public, not only in America but around the world.
It is the intent of The Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe to right that wrong.