Why Edgar Allen Poe Liked the Jesuits

Church historian Pat McNamara writes about how the Jesuits at St. John’s College (later Fordham University) befriended Edgar Allen Poe in the last years of his life.  The poet, grief-stricken and depressed after the death of his wife, found companionship with the Jesuits.

One of them remembered Poe as a “familiar figure at the college . . . It seemed to soothe his mind to wander at will about the lawn and the beautiful grounds back of the college buildings.” Another wrote: “It was one of Poe’s greatest gifts that he could make friends wherever he went. To know him was to love him… It was a pleasure to see him and still more to listen to him.”

For his part, Poe liked the company of Jesuits.  He told a friend they were “highly cultivated gentlemen and scholars, they smoked and they drank and they played cards, and they never said a word about religion.”

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. The Fordham campus is a walk away from the cottage where Poe lived in the Bronx and the legend is that the church bells inspired his poem “The Bells.”

  2. In my experience, the Jesuits whom I know often don’t say “a word about religion” but they do live their faith. That gives a much more powerful message.

  3. Nice to hear about Poe. The general impression was that he was such a sad, moody person. I’m a Fordham grad so am glad the beautiful campus brought Poe some peace.


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