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Edgar Allan Poe's letter pleading for $40 from a Philadelphia editor sells 173 years later for $125,000

By Stephanie Farr, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

PHILADELPHIA - Once upon a year so dreary, while Poe lay dead and the living weary

Appeared a quaint and curious letter of forgotten lore.

In the middle of a pandemic and a vote, suddenly there came a note

Of a long ago anecdote, between Poe and a Philadelphia man of yore.

A handwritten letter in which author Edgar Allan Poe politely pleads for $40 from a Philadelphia editor sold at an online auction this month for a sum that would make even the tell-tale heart skip a beat: $125,125.

Bobby Livingston, executive vice president of RR Auction, the Boston-based auction house that conducted the sale, said the document was among the finest of Poe's letters, given its excellent condition, the content, and "the insight it gives you into this iconic figure."


"Here he's writing to a magazine editor basically begging for money," Livingston said. "The person behind these incredible psychological thrillers and macabre tales was in fact struggling and could maybe relate to the chaos around him."

We here in the year 2020 feel you, Poe.

The letter, dated Aug. 31, 1847, was addressed to Robert Taylor Conrad, a Philadelphia lawyer, playwright, and editor of the popular Graham's Magazine, who went on to become the first post-consolidation mayor of Philadelphia after the city and the county became one in 1854.

"It is now a month since I wrote you about the two articles I left with you - but, as I have heard nothing from you, I can only suppose that my letter has not reached you - or, at all events, that, in the press of other business, you have forgotten it and me," Poe wrote to Conrad.


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