On this day in 1792, George Mason died with the satisfaction of having helped to pressure Congress into adopting a Bill of Rights. A half century later, as we anticipated earlier this week, Edgar Allan Poe also died. And while Mason has fared relatively well in the afterlife of history, Poe has been something of a victim of his first biographer, Rufus W. Griswold. The two knew and didn’t like each other, and one imagines Griswold—in painting Poe as a death-obsessed, drug-addled debaucher—filling up his own “Cask of Amontillado.”
The thousand injuries of Poe I bore as best I could …
Also on this day, in 1598, a fellow called Richard Haklutyt (the younger), not to be confused with his elder cousin of the same name, published the first volume of the second edition of his ambitiously titled Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation, Made by Sea or Over-land, to the Remote and Farthest Distant Quarters of the Earth, at Any Time within the Compasse of These 1500 Yeeres. (Here’s an excerpt.)
Think of it as the Best American Travel Writing of its day, only what modern tale could possibly match the pathos of that moment—brought to the world by Hakluyt in this edition—when John White returns to Roanoke Island after three years looking for the colonists, including his daughter, son-in-law, and their child.
But we could perceive no sign of them …
It was young Virginia’s third birthday.
A version of this post was originally published on October 7, 2011.