Got a bit of time tonight, so I thought I read this.
Story: Ah, singing your heroes, are you? Great, I love it. Poe's one of my heroes, too. And then you tie his death with the beginning of the Civil War, very well done. Great plotting. The genre "the opus that was never published" is a tricky one, and you master it well. Great, great job!
Plot: The first scene is masterfully done. You start with the news of Pennsylvania's secession and then introduce the poet's. It's all done smoothly, and I was eager to read on.
The following scene gives the background on the poem, and I think it's the weakest scene in the story. Partly it has to do with your style in the journals, and partly it is because I don't believe Laughton's reactions. Do you get goosebumps because you read the words of a dead tormented soul? I didn't, and that is probably why I don't believe Laughton. And if he's so hard-headed and mercenary, wouldn't he reason that goosebumps away? Wouldn't he reason that the wind brought in a chill, that it has nothing to do with the poem?
Writing the journal of a real, though deceased poet is a dangerous undertaking because it's difficult to avoid the false notes. You'll have read your Poe, and so have I. So, this is probably my interpretation of Poe's character that clouds my judgment.
So, this is how I see him: Clearly, Poe was obsessed. He had periods of alcohol abuse and depression, and he often felt he wasn't in control of his life. "The Imp of the Perverse", he called it, not only in fiction, but in real life, too. But on the other hand, there was a stunning rationality about him. Isn't "The Raven" an example for his depressive, obsessed mind? I've read an essay by Poe in which he argues that it didn't come from inside at all, that he had aesthetic criteria for describing the feeling of melancholia. He even argues the woman in the poem had to be called Leonore because the the syllable -ore could convey melancholia best.
The rational part of Poe is the one I missed. I'd have expected him to analyze himself painstakingly. If he'd written a poem without ever correcting it, I believe it would have been a disconcerting experience for him.
I liked his change of feeling toward the poem though. I recognize him in your style.
I like the in-between scene mostly because it changes the mood. It's light and easy, even though the sky foretells trouble.
The church scene is of course my favorite. It's wonderfully gothic. All that lightening - though (nag,nag) I thought sometimes you were overdoing it a little. I'll get to it when I get to the language part.
There's one plot point though. Why is the church the place Laughton thinks of? You haven't introduced it earlier, and I didn't find that point compelling. What's Poe's connection to that place? Maybe you could come up with something.
In the end, you committed my pet peeve again (you know which one, so no spoilers). Could you soften the blow by identifying your final character with Laughton? If you began the final scene with the concrete fear that ends the last one, the transition could be smoother. Just a thought.
Character: I think you could do a bit more on Laughton. He's in for the money - and changes. That is really good. But I'd like to know a little more how his mind works. You do that rather by telling than by showing. I think I've mentioned it before, but I think there's room in that journal reading scene. Maybe, you could set up some inner conflict for Laughton, so the scene could be more than just the background for the poem.
Description: Splendid job with the weather. You've really used the outside to create the atmosphere of the story. My favorite sentence is: Morning dawned dry but dark. Poe-eske.
Maybe, you could leave out a lightening or two. I love them. They are so gothic. But (don't you hate that word) even there, you could have a look again to avoid repetition. You use once again several times, and to me that is a warning signal that you are repeating yourself.
Language: You know the drill. Nagging and cutting.
Edward Laughton knew all this as he entered the crowded Fells Point pub,...
My discontent centers around the pronoun because the antecedent is the whole paragraph. It's not precise, and it doesn't tell much. You want to introduce Laughton as a poet, but I think you can do without the first sentence.
Edward Laughton entered the crowded Fells Point pub,...
Laughton knew the truth about the poem, however, though he’d never tell Davis.
That's like a double but. I think it would be better if you restructured it.
Laughton would never tell Davis the truth about the poem.
Rising, he turned on the gas lamp and went over to the desk by the window, turning on that lamp as well and sitting down
In your stories, a lot of things happen at the same time. Of course, he has to get up in order to get to the desk, but I can supply it, can't I? I'm not going to assume he moved in his bed. So, I'd leave the beginning out. Then there's the second lamp. Yes, he would have two lamps, but I hate getting information twice. You think you could find a way to make this sentence more compact?
Annabelle (I love that poem.)
The Fall of the House of Escher.
Usher. Oh, and is there a reason why you quoted stories and poems in a different manner? Is it a standard I'm unaware of?
Laughton couldn’t understand it. When he’d found his friend’s journal later that week, however, it became clearer.
The "why" is enough to introduce the journal. And I don't think you need the "however".
hoping to “gain surcease from sorrow”,
That's a no-no. I don't think that any poet would quote from his most famous poem in his journal. Quoth the reviewer: "Nevermore."
icy fingers lay themselves along my spine as a cold sweat moistens my brow.
That's Lynn McKenzie, not Edgar Allan Poe. I'd try "and"
How could I have done this? I can’t even remember what I wrote as I wrote it.
The format error. The end is not in italics.
I had thought I was free. I had burned that poem before Christmas, and did not rewrite it. All seemed well.
We know that. Don't repeat it. Leave it out.
Frederick Lee cleared his throat, rose and ascended the steps to the pulpit as the crowd quieted, fixing their collective eyes on him.
On of your ases. It should be the other way around. The crowd quits as he climbed the pulpit, so I'd start a fresh sentence.
Frederick Lee cleared his throat, rose and ascended the steps to the pulpit. The crowd quieted, fixing their collective eyes on him.
It is perhaps the most unsettling poem hitherto discovered by Mr. Poe,...
This is ambiguous. I think you've got to move Mr. Poe ahead.It is perhaps the most unsettling poem by Mr. Poe hitherto discovered,...
As if to punctuate, light flashed brightly through the windows with a crash of thunder almost simultaneously.
I dislike the comment. I think the effect of the lightening would be stronger without. And I'd cut out the lightening before. It spoils the effect.
And as he spoke, the sharp scent of smoke tinged the air as a beam cracked in the ceiling.
I'd leave it out.
...summoning all his strength as he flung it at the glass.
There are more ways to construct the sentence.
...summoning all his strength to fling it at the glass.
Laughton stared at the mayhem as women screamed, darting back and forth like wild horses.
We've been with Laughton for the whole time. i think you can leave it out.
Don't mind all my nagging. This story is very strong.
This is my personal take on your story. You are the best judge of your story. If you think I'm wrong, then I probably am.