Edgar Allan Poe

Poe signature Born: January 19, 1809, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Died: October 7, 1849, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

American poet, writer, editor and literary critic, one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and the inventor of the detective-fiction genre, best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre.

Edgar Allan Poe Biography

Edgar Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809, the second child of actor David Poe, Jr and actress Elizabeth Poe. His father abandoned their family in 1810 and his mother died in 1811. Then Edgar Poe was taken into the home of John Allan, a successful merchant in Richmond, Virginia. The Allans served as a foster family but never formally adopted edgar Poe, though they gave him the name Edgar Allan Poe.

John Allan aggressively disciplined his foster son. The family, including Poe, sailed to England in 1815. Poe studied at the grammar school in Irvine, Scotland, at a boarding school in Chelsea and at the Reverend John Bransby’s Manor House School at Stoke Newington in London suburb. Poe moved back with the Allans to Richmond in 1820. In 1826 he registered at the one-year old University of Virginia to study languages. During his time there Poe became estranged from his foster father over gambling debts. Poe claimed that Allan had not given him sufficient money for classes, textbooks and a dormitory. Poe gave up on the university after a year and moved to Boston, sustaining himself with odd jobs as a clerk and newspaper writer.

Unable to support himself, in 1827, Poe enlisted in the US Army as a private. He first served at Fort Independence in Boston Harbor for five dollars a month. That same year, he released his first book, a collection of poetry "Tamerlane and Other Poems". The book received virtually no attention. Poe was promoted to "artificer", an enlisted tradesman who prepared shells for artillery. After serving for two years and attaining the rank of Sergeant Major for Artillery, Poe sought to end his five-year enlistment early. He was discharged on April, 1829, and traveled to West Point and matriculated as a cadet on July, 1830. Poe decided to leave West Point on February, 1831.

He left for New York and released a volume of poems, simply titled "Poems". The book once again reprinted the long poems "Tamerlane" and "Al Aaraaf" but also six previously unpublished poems including early versions of "To Helen", "Israfel", and "The City in the Sea". Poe returned to Baltimore in March, 1831, and began more earnest attempts to start his career as a writer. He was the first well-known American to try to live by writing alone and was hampered by the lack of an international copyright law. Publishers often pirated copies of British works rather than paying for new work by Americans. Despite a booming growth in American periodicals publishers often refused to pay their writers or paid them much later than they promised. Poe would be forced to constantly make humiliating pleas for money and other assistance for the rest of his life.

Poe placed a few stories with a Philadelphia publication and began work on his only drama, Politian. A Baltimore paper "The Saturday Visitor" awarded Poe a prize in October 1833 for his short story "MS. Found in a Bottle". Poe became an assistant editor of the "The Southern Literary Messenger" in Richmond in August 1835 but within a few weeks, he was discharged after being found drunk repeatedly. Returning to Baltimore, Poe secretly married his cousin Virginia, 13, in September, 1835. Reinstated as an assistant editor after promising good behavior, Poe went back to Richmond with Virginia. He remained at the Messenger until January 1837. During this period he published several poems, book reviews, criticism, and stories in the paper.

"The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" was published and widely reviewed in 1838. In the summer of 1839, Poe became assistant editor of "Burton's Gentleman's Magazine". He published numerous articles, stories, and reviews, enhancing his reputation as a trenchant critic. In 1839, the collection "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque" was published in two volumes. Poe left Burton's after a year and found a position as assistant at "Graham's Magazine".

In January 1842 Virginia showed signs of tuberculosis. Poe began to drink heavily under the stress of Virginia's illness. He left Graham's and attempted to find a new position. He returned to New York, where he worked briefly at "The Evening Mirror" before becoming editor of "The Broadway Journal" and, later, sole owner. In January, 1845, his poem "The Raven" appeared in "The Evening Mirror" and became a popular sensation. Though it made Poe a household name almost instantly, he was paid only $9 for its publication.

"The Broadway Journal" failed in 1846. Poe moved to a cottage in the Fordham section of The Bronx, New York. That home, known today as the "Poe Cottage", is on the southeast corner of the Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge Road. Virginia died there in January, 1847. Increasingly unstable after his wife's death, Poe attempted to court the poet Sarah Helen Whitman. Their engagement failed, purportedly because of Poe's drinking. Poe then returned to Richmond and resumed a relationship with a childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster.

On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious. He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition. All medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost. The actual cause of death remains a mystery and speculation has included cooping, delirium tremens, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningeal inflammation and cholera.


Selected Edgar Allan Poe Works

Tales

Berenice
The Black Cat
The Cask of Amontillado
The Fall of the House of Usher
The Gold-Bug
Hop-Frog
Ligeia
The Man of the Crowd
The Masque of the Red Death
The Murders in the Rue Morgue
The Pit and the Pendulum
The Purloined Letter
The Tell-Tale Heart
The Oblong Box
The Premature Burial
The Oval Portrait

Poetry

A Dream within a Dream
Annabel Lee
The Bells
The City in the Sea
The Conqueror Worm
Eldorado
The Haunted Palace
Lenore
The Raven
Ulalume

Edgar Allan Poe portrait


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