This is the final instalment of the Posthumously Famous Authors series.
Henry David Thoreau
(July 12th 1817 – May 6th 1862)
Notable works: Civil Disobedience, Walden, The Works of Henry David Thoreau, Cape Cod.
An author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, environmentalist and transcendentalist, the multi-dimensional Henry David Thoreau’s prodigious writing output consists of nearly twenty volumes of writing. Thoreau was well known as a transcendentalist, naturalist and ardent abolitionist during his lifetime and even succeeded in having two books published, neither of which were very popular. He famously self-published A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, but only sold three hundred of the one thousand copies that he had printed.
It was only after Thoreau’s death in 1862, aged forty-four, from tuberculosis, that the respected but largely under-appreciated writer began to receive the attention that he deserved. The event that was to herald this transformation was the publishing of his journal in 1906. Thoreau’s works were to become increasingly popular over the course of the twentieth-century.
Today Thoreau is recognised as being one of the greatest writers America has ever produced. His views on politics and nature, in addition to his modern prose style having assured him of a place in history. Thoreau’s memory is honoured by The International Thoreau Society, which is both the largest and oldest society dedicated to an American author.
Edgar Allan Poe
(January 19th 1809 – October 7th 1849)
Notable works: The Raven, The Masque of the Red Death, Tamerlane & Other Poems.
Edgar Allan Poe was an author, poet, literary critic and editor who flirted with fame for much of his working life. If it were not for his rather premature death, the cause of which is debated to this day, with theories ranging from tuberculosis to rabies, Poe might indeed have become famous.
Poe relished the macabre, a reoccurring theme in much of his writing. Unfortunately there was little appetite for the genre during his lifetime. However he did achieve a degree of popularity though not financial success with his poem, The Raven. (Poe was reportedly paid $9 for The Raven, a very modest sum even in the 1840s).
Today Poe is remembered not only as being one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story, but is also generally considered to be the inventor of the detective fiction genre. Evidence of the writer’s endearing popularity is the fact that an original copy of Poe’s Tamerlane and Other Poems sold at Christie’s in New York for $662,500, a record price for a work of American literature.