Edgar Allan Poe: New York’s first bohemian?

He eked out a living as a writer, drank and scored drugs, and resided in a succession of Village apartments. Oh, and he seemed to wear a lot of black.

Poe as the first bohemian is an idea put forth by Ross Wetzon in his 2002 book on Greenwich Village, Republic of Dreams.

After referencing Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Stephen Crane, and O. Henry, Wetzon wrote: 

“None of these writers could be considered more than semi-bohemians, but the Village could put in a partial claim to America’s first true bohemian, Edgar Allan Poe. In the late 1830s and early 1840s, Poe lived at 85 West Third Street, 1131/2 Carmine Street, 137 Waverly Place, and 130 Greenwich Street—at all of which he is said to have written ‘The Raven’ and at none did he live abstemiously.”

Bohemianism in the U.S. was born in the 1850s at Pfaff’s, a bar at either 653 or 647 Broadway (sources list both addresses), where artists, writers, and freethinkers hung out. 

Poe was dead by the time these early bohemians emerged, but scholars credit him as their inspiration. He’s been nicknamed the “spiritual guide” of bohemia and called its patron saint.

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2 Responses to “Edgar Allan Poe: New York’s first bohemian?”

  1. Edgar Allan Poe’s Upper West Side farmhouse « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] Allan Poe—arguably New York City’s first Bohemian—lived in a bunch of different places when he arrived in Manhattan in the [...]

  2. WHAMMO! Says:

    Apparently a Freemason I see…

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