Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe, son of the actress Eliza Poe and actor
David Poe Jr., was born January 19,1809. After his mother
died, his father deserted the family and Edgar at the age
of three was left homeless. He and his sister were taken in
by John and Fanny Allan who lived in Richmond,VA.
John Allan was a successful tobacco exporter and Edgar was
able to attend a fine private school in England. Even
though he was athletic and smart, he did not feel good
about himself and felt very lowly in comparison to the
other boys. As a teenager, he fell in love with Jane
Stanard. Her parents disapproved of the relationship, and
broke it off.
After this incident, his foster father did not want him to
continue with his schooling and expected him to go into the
business. Somehow, Edgar managed to persuade Allan to let
him go to the University of Virginia in 1826. There, he
studied French, Spanish, Italian and Latin and could read
Byron and Cambell.
Even though he did well in school, he was in financial
trouble from the day he started as Mr. Allan had not given
him enough money to pay for his expenses. He took to
gambling and drinking and reached a point where his debt
was up to $2,000. His "father" refused to pay these debts
so his education ended. After a bitter quarrel, Poe left
home for Boston in March 1827. There, he enlisted as a
common soldier under the name of Edgar A. Perry. He was
stationed at Charleston for over a year and adapted well to
the military discipline. He moved through the ranks
quickly, but soon became bored of military life and decided
to leave. He was honorably discharged in 1829 and moved to
Baltimore to live with his aunt. In 1830, Poe entered the
U.S. Military Aacademy in a final effort to gain Allan's
good will. After Frances Allan died, and after a brief
period of mourning, Allan decided to remarry. Poe concluded
that he would never be reconciled with Allan or receive an
inheritance, so he deliberately broke regulations to force
his dismissal from West Point.
In 1831, more desperate than ever, he published a new set
of poems entitled Second Edition. He had settled in NY, but
he couldn't find a job. He asked Allan for help, but got no
answer. In desperation, he went back to his aunt, Mrs. Clem
in Baltimore. He had failed as a poet but he was determined
to succeed as a writer and turned to story writing .
In 1833 The Saturday Visitor of Baltimore announced a
literary contest with prizes of fifty dollars for best
short story. Poe sent in many stories and "MS. Found in a
Bottle" won the prize. It was not much money but a novelist
took an interest in Poe and helped him get a job at a
magazine, The Southern Literary Messenger. Once his job was
set, he invited his aunt and her daughter to come to live
with him. Later he married his cousin, Virginia, who was
much younger than he.
He was good at his job and made a name for himself and the
magazine. Despite his success, Poe was so underpaid that he
and his family often went without enough food. They then
moved to NY where Mrs. Clemm opened up a boarding house to
support them. Poe couldn't find a job but he published a
story called "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym". This
story was so convincing that critics thought that it was a
record of a real voyage.
When he still could not find a job, they moved again to
Philadelphia where he started editing Burton's Gentlemen's
magazine. A contract said that he had to write one story of
suspense or horror per month. These stories were collected
and published under the title "Tales of The Grotesque and
Arabesque" in 1840. When Burton's was sold, Poe became the
editor of the new one called Graham's magazine. His first
detective story, The Murders in Rue Morguewas printed in
it. This story attracted attention for his detective Dupin
and his method of "logical deduction". In 1843 The Golden
Bug won $100 prize from the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper.
Feeling a bit successful, he once again left his job and
moved to New York. At about this time he wrote the poem
"The Raven" which is one of his best. With this poem, Poe
reached the height of his fame, but his reputation brought
him little money. He got another editorial job and wrote
sketches for Godey's Lady's Book. Alcoholism and a mental
disorder led to Poe being quarrelsome and unreasonable and
he again lost his job.
The last years of Poe's life were marked by tragedy. His
wife died of tuberculosis in 1847 after five years of
illness. In 1849, Poe became engaged to marry the widowed
Mrs. Sarah Royster Shelton, his boyhood sweetheart. On his
way to bring Mts. Clemm to the wedding Poe stopped in
Baltimore. There are various theories about the events of
the next few days. All that is known is that Poe was found
lying outside a voting place on October 3. He died in a
hospital four days later, without regaining consciousness.
The cause of his death remains unknown.
Poe perfected the art of short stories and many famous
authors were influenced by him. He has remained the best in
creating a dreary atmosphere of horror and suspense. This
comes out most in "The Pit and the Pendulum and The
Tell-Tale Heart". This poetry has not yet been matched.
Poe was a disturbed man with spurts of genius. Poe's life
is best described by the quotation from Francis Bacon,
"There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in