Edgar Allan Poe, procrastinator
“I know too well the unconquerable procrastination which besets the poet.”
Welcome to the latest issue of Subtle Maneuvers. Previously: advice for a people-pleaser.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)
After the news broke that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s White House reception on September 26 may have been a coronavirus super-spreader event, a number of people have pointed out the similarities between recent developments and Edgar Allan Poe’s 1842 short story “The Masque of the Red Death.”
Over the weekend, I read Poe’s story, which is quite on-the-nose indeed. In it, one Prince Prospero has retreated with “a thousand hale and light-hearted friends” to a secure location, while a deadly pestilence ravages the general population. But, Poe writes, the Prince and his entourage feel that they “might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think.” (Sound familiar?) Naturally, they are proven wrong. At an elaborate masked ball, Red Death himself appears and “one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel.”
Melodramatic? Well, yes—it is Poe after all, who could never resist lavish, macabre set pieces. After reading the story, I was inspired to look into Poe’s writing habits—and was not surprised to learn that this expert in torture and guilt was a confirmed procrastinator. In an 1846 letter to his fellow poet P. P. Cooke (what a name!), Poe wrote: