Imagine my excitement at the prospect of dining with one of my literary heroes, Edgar Allan Poe. I took great care in planning the menu. Mr. Poe was known to have a very delicate constitution and was susceptible to a number of ailments. He was partial to roast chicken (and alcohol truth be told), so I prepared a plain, inoffensive meal designed to soothe the most contentious stomach.
He arrived promptly at eight o’clock, garbed entirely in black, bearing a bouquet of roses and carrying one of my novels under his left arm. Slips of paper protruded from the pages of my work, a grim reminder that my guest was one of the preeminent literary critics of his day. My hand trembled as I reached for his. Surely he would savage my poor efforts as he had so many others. This towering intellect, a genius in both poetry and prose would dismiss romantic suspense as a poor cousin to real mysteries. I greeted him in a wispy, wavering voice that was quite unfamiliar to me.
Poe was taller than expected and rail thin, a stark reminder that consumption—Tuberculosis to us—was a constant companion to those of his age. He had lost his foster mother and beloved wife to that scourge.
His greeting was gentle, his manner courtly. We sat in my living room, which he called a parlour, and sipped Sherry, wretched stuff, but all that I had to offer.
His conversation confounded me. He neither railed against his critics nor damned his detractors. Instead, the genius in my midst spoke of love and his quest to honor it. He quoted his hero Byron, and laughed at the description “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” The lost Lenore, and the beautiful Annabel Lee each made an appearance, wrapped in a shroud of memory.
Before he left, he handed me my novel and a priceless memory. “Keep writing,” he said. “You have the gift.”

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