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In 1845, Edgar Allan Poe published his acclaimed poem “The Raven,” becoming the overnight darling of New York literary society, and fell in love with a beautiful—and equally famous—poet. It was the year that ruined him forever.

John May’s perfectly imagined novel brings New York’s giddy pre-Civil War social scene into brilliant focus as it unfolds the spellbinding story of a doomed man and the great love that sealed his fate. By the end of what should have been his crowning year, Edgar Poe was reviled by the same capricious circles that had gathered adoringly at his feet to hear him recite “The Raven” again and again. Swept up in the fervor, Frances Sargent Osgood, then separated from her husband, arranged to be introduced to Poe to offer her fealty and her friendship. But what eventually transpired between them was far more than two poets’ mutual admiration. Over the course of their brief liaison, the two lovers wrote and published (under pseudonyms) many not-so-veiled love poems and soon enough, New York’s literati were abuzz with their affair.

While Poe dallied, his dying wife Sissy and her mother were humiliated. And while he despaired, drinking himself into oblivion, Poe’s dream of owning his own magazine in New York died on the vine. At the turn of the year, the Poes left New York in disgrace. Deeply in debt and spurned by former fawning admirers including Horace Greeley, N.P. Willis, William Cullen Bryant, Richard Henry Dana and Maria Child, America’s most renowned writer was a ruined man. He had wrecked two women’s lives. Even so, both Fanny and Sissy loved him unremittingly to the bitter end. He died at the age of forty, alone and having never fathered a child. Or had he?

Told with special empathy for Fanny’s warm, impulsive generosity as it shimmered alongside Edgar’s dark genius, Poe & Fanny follows the lovers’ story to its logical conclusion: Fanny Osgood’s third child was Edgar Allan Poe’s.

John May not only makes us see and believe the drama of these lives acted out against the backdrop of nineteenth-century New York’s vibrant literary swirl, he makes us care.

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"The best word for Poe & Fanny is—mesmerizing. John May's brilliant novel offers not only a sharply perceptive portrayal of America's most striking literary figure but also a warm and generous and highly dramatic appreciation of the wonderful Frances Osgood. The knowing overview of antebellum New York society is a rich bonus. I hung on every word of this brightly intuitive book."
—Fred Chappell, author of Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You, I Am One of You Forever, and Look Back All the Green Valley



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