Did Edgar Allan Poe say, “The best things in life make you sweaty”?

Brief Answer: No!

Longer Answer: If you do a search for the phrase, "The best things in life make you sweaty," you'll find quite a few sites (facebook and tumblr pages especially) attributing this quotation to Edgar Allan Poe. There's even a short article at the Richmond County Daily Journal which uses this supposed Poe quotation as its lead.

Of course, Poe never said this. Nor was it the kind of thing he would have said. I doubt Poe was a big fan of sweating. His greatest passions were writing and drinking. Neither of those activities make you sweat much.

I'm not sure where the quotation (and its attribution to Poe) originated. Nor am I sure whether the people posting it actually think Poe said it, or whether it's just a joke. If it's a joke, that suggests the people posting the quotation know enough about Poe's life to realize it's absurd. Is that a safe assumption to make? Probably not.


Posted on Tue Jun 12, 2012


Of course, Opium (and especially the lack thereof) DOES tend to make one sweat.. So do the booze DTs...

But are these really 'The best things in Life?' I wonder...
Posted by richelieu jr  on  Wed Jun 13, 2012  at  02:30 AM
The "drinking" thing seems to be a hoax, too. Alex, you might want to research that: one book I've read claimed that Poe wasn't much of a drinker. The stories about his terrible binges all end up sourced to a biography written by an enemy years after his death.
Posted by Carl  on  Wed Jun 13, 2012  at  03:24 AM
Carl -- do you have a title for this Poe bio? Given the culture Poe was in, in which heavy drinking was very common, I'd be really surprised if it turned out that Poe didn't drink much. I'd want to see the argument that this biographer makes.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Wed Jun 13, 2012  at  05:50 AM
Alex, I've been teaching Intro. to Lit. off and on since 1996, and most theories about Poe lean towards what Carl wrote. One of the theories is that Poe was allergic to the impurities in alcohol (if true, he'd been fine in Germany). After one glass of sherry, Poe acted nuts for weeks.

I don't have either of these books in front of me but from notes, I think you can get the info from Killis Campell's The Mind of Poe and Other Studies (1969) and Arthur Quinn's Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (1963).

These theories have been floating around for decades but are getting more popular. I'm not sure how much of it is wishful thinking and how much is history but Poe's enemies definitely made his reputation boozier.
Posted by mark  on  Thu Jun 14, 2012  at  03:07 PM
I believe that the book which Alex was referencing could be The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Castle Books with a intro/biography by Wilbur S. Scott. From what I've read I don't think that Poe drank very much, there are a lot of factors involved in something like this but the biggest one appears to be the fact that a man named Rufus Wilmot Griswold wrote the obituary for Poe and somehow became Poe's literary executor and attempted to destroy Poe's reputation after his death. Rufus was "an editor, critic and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since 1842." Poe and Rufus were both poetry critics at various times and Poe criticized some of Rufus' poems which really upset the man. All of the quotes here are from wikipedia but they are sourced and most of them also appear in the book I mentioned previously.

Also, some people theorize that Poe had a seriously low tolerance to alcohol so on the occasions when he did drink he became intoxicated after drinking only a small amount.

Griswold's "Memoir"

The day Edgar Allan Poe was buried, a long obituary appeared in the New York Tribune signed "Ludwig". It was soon published throughout the country. The piece began, "Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it."[75] "Ludwig" was soon identified as Rufus Wilmot Griswold, an editor, critic and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since 1842. Griswold somehow became Poe's literary executor and attempted to destroy his enemy's reputation after his death.[76]

Rufus Griswold wrote a biographical article of Poe called "Memoir of the Author", which he included in an 1850 volume of the collected works. Griswold depicted Poe as a depraved, drunk, drug-addled madman and included Poe's letters as evidence.[76] Many of his claims were either lies or distorted half-truths. For example, it is now known that Poe was not a drug addict.[77] Griswold's book was denounced by those who knew Poe well,[78] but it became a popularly accepted one. This occurred in part because it was the only full biography available and was widely reprinted and in part because readers thrilled at the thought of reading works by an "evil" man.[79] Letters that Griswold presented as proof of this depiction of Poe were later revealed as forgeries.[80]
Posted by Matt  on  Sun Aug 26, 2012  at  02:06 PM
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