1809 – 1849
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.
Hailed as the father of modern mystery, skilled weaver of the darkest gothic horrors and inarguably the foremost pioneer of detective fiction, Edgar Allan Poe continues to stand not only as a benchmark of the unearthly and macabre, but also as a catalyst for the deepest and direst fears of the human consciousness.
A life littered with tragedy even from his earliest years and the death of his parents, to a downward spiral of debt, alcohol and excess; inconsolable grief over the demise of Virginia Clemm – his wife and first cousin; and an eventual, miserable end in the gutters of Baltimore, it seems that Poe’s legacy was always destined to be one shrouded in horror and uncertainty.
By capturing the dread of his own, personal demons of death, mourning, and even the afterlife in written word, he continues to effortlessly arrest the imaginations of readers over a hundred years after his most famous works first appeared in published form. It is not for his madness and debauchery that Alchemy wishes to remember Poe, but rather to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of a man who not only helped to reshape literature, but through his iconic themes and imagery, allowed us to take a closer look at the most forbidden corners of our psyches.
The enduring impression of a pale-blue vulture’s eye serves well enough to chill the bones and unsettle even the most solid of convictions. Taken from his grizzly short story, The Tell-Tale Heart, Poe certainly dipped into his more gruesome sensibilities; recounting the tale of an old man’s murder as delivered by the demented executioner himself.
That clouded ocular held the source of all his madness, all compulsion driven to remove it and hide the elderly body beneath floorboards... until the incessant pound of the dead’s still-beating heart tears out an enraged confession.
Here, as with many of Poe’s gothic creations, captivation lies entwined with mystery; vague and disordered, steeped in itching paranoia and desperate guilt – the darkest shade of Edgar Allan Poe’s perceptions and one that coloured his writing throughout the stretch of his tragically short life.