On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death today, I was struck by the similarities between her and Edgar Allan Poe, inspiration for The Tell-Tale Tarte, my latest mystery.
1. Mark Twain dissed them both, and in a single sentence. Twain said of Poe: “To me his prose is unreadable—like Jane Austen’s.”
2. Both are honored with action figures, as is Shakespeare, but not Mark Twain (only a bobble head).
3. Both died young: Austen at 41, Poe at 40.
4. Both published in the first half of the 19th century: Jane Austen’s major works came out in the 1810s, Poe’s in the 1830s and 1840s.
5. Both had difficulty getting published and earning a living from their writing. Poe needed money more desperately than Austen, whose poverty was genteel.
6.Both published anonymously at first: Sense and Sensibility was BY A LADY, Tamerlane and Other Poems was BY A BOSTONIAN. Jane Austen’s name did not appear on any of her works until after her death. While Poe later published under his own name, he also used several pseudonyms.
7. Both were influenced by Gothic literature, with its gloomy settings, haunted castles, and supernatural elements, but in different ways: Austen poked fun at Gothic fiction in Northanger Abbey, whereas Poe took it to new heights, though depths might be a better word given the frequency of live burial in his writings.
8. Both created models for genre fiction: Austen for the modern romance novel, Poe for horror, psychological suspense, and the detective story.
9. Their works fetch the highest prices at auction. A first edition of Poe’s Tamerlane and Other Poems set a record for an American book with an auction price of $662,500 in 2009. A manuscript of Austen’s unfinished work, The Watsons, went for approximately $1.5 million at auction.
Can you think of any other parallels between Austen and Poe? To win a copy of my Poe-themed mystery, The Tell-Tale Tarte, leave a comment by July 25th.
Read more about Poe on this site: Poe's Invention of the Detective Story, Poe and Lincoln, and Poe Trivia.