You have to wonder where some authors get their ideas or how their work relates to their own life, but you don't have to wonder with Edgar Allan Poe. First, his father abandoned the family; then his mother died when he was very young, and his foster father, John Allen, erratically swung between lenience and extreme discipline; finally, Poe married his much younger cousin Virginia, who died at an early age. Is it any wonder, then, that Poe's work focused on the macabre, the bizarre, and the outcast? No. The wonder is that he found a way to make such striking art from his suffering. Before his death at age 40, Edgar Allan Poe raised the American short story to a new level, writing works that completely modernized detective fiction, science fiction, and, of course, the horror story.
- Poe attended the University of Virginia...until he had to drop out due to lack of money. It seems that Poe had a gambling problem, and his foster father got tired of bailing him out.
- Broke, Poe lied about his age and joined the army. He served two years...and then got himself dismissed by court martial.
- Poe’s short stories featuring C. Auguste Dupin shaped the modern mystery story so much that Arthur Conan Doyle compared Sherlock Holmes to Dupin, and the Mystery Writers of America give an award named the Edgar—after Poe, of course.
- Poe’s bizarre life didn’t stop just because he died in 1849. He was buried in an unmarked grave, and when gossip finally led to a stone being ordered, it was destroyed in a train accident.
- Ever since 1949, someone has left a bottle of cognac and some roses on Poe’s grave. Who is leaving these things? And why?
Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts. His mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, was a talented actress from an English theatrical family. Because Poe’s father, David Poe, Jr., a traveling actor of Irish descent, was neither talented nor responsible, the family suffered financially. After apparently separating from David Poe, Elizabeth died in Richmond, Virginia, in 1811. The young Edgar, though not legally adopted, was taken in by a wealthy Scottish tobacco exporter, John Allan, from whom Poe took his middle name.
For most of his early life, Poe lived in Richmond with the Allans, with the exception of a five-year period between 1815 and 1820 which he spent in England, where he attended Manor House School, near London. Back in America, he attended an academy until 1826, when he entered the University of Virginia. He withdrew less than a year later, however, because of various debts, many of them from gambling; Poe did not have the money to pay, and his foster-father refused to help. After quarreling with Allan about these debts, Poe left for Boston in the spring of 1827; shortly thereafter, perhaps because he was short of money, he enrolled in the United States Army under the name “Edgar A. Perry.”
In the summer of 1827, Poe’s first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems, published under the anonym “A Bostonian,” appeared, but it was little noticed by the reading public or by the critics. In...
(The entire section is 2032 words.)
Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809. His parents, David and Elizabeth Arnold Poe, were actors at a time when the profession was not widely respected in the United States. David was making a success in acting when alcohol addiction brought an end to his career. He deserted his family a year after Edgar’s birth; Elizabeth died a year later in 1811, leaving Edgar an orphan in Richmond, Virginia. There, he was taken in by John Allan, who educated him well in England and the United States. Poe was a sensitive and precocious child; during his teens, his relations with his foster father declined. Stormy relations continued until Allan’s first wife died and his second wife had children. Once it became unlikely that he would inherit anything significant from the wealthy Allan, Poe, at the age of twenty-one, having already published a volume of poetry, began a literary career.
From 1831 to 1835, more or less dependent on his Poe relatives, he worked in Baltimore, writing stories and poems, a few of which were published. In 1835, he secretly married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, when she was thirteen. From 1835 to 1837, he was assistant editor of The Southern Literary Messenger, living on a meager salary, tending to drink enough to disappoint the editor, publishing his fiction, and making a national reputation as a reviewer of books. When he was fired, he moved with his wife (by then the marriage was publicly acknowledged) and her mother to New York City, where he lived in poverty, selling his writing for the next two years. Though he published The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym in 1838, it brought him no income. He moved to Philadelphia that same year and for several months continued to live on only a small income from stories and other magazine pieces. In 1839, he became coeditor of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. Before drinking led to his losing this job, he wrote and published some of his best fiction, such as “The Fall of the House of Usher.” He took another editing position with Graham’s Magazine that lasted about a year. He then lived by writing and working at occasional jobs. In 1844, he went with his family back to New York City. His wife, Virginia, had been seriously ill, and her health was declining. In New York, he wrote for newspapers. In 1845, he published “The Raven” and Tales, both of which were well received (“The Raven” was a popular success), though again his income from them was small. In the early nineteenth century, an author could not easily earn a satisfactory income from writing alone, in part because of the lack of international copyright laws. He was able to purchase a new weekly, The Broadway Journal, but it failed in 1846.
After 1845, Poe was famous, and his income, though unstable, was a little more dependable. His life, however, did not go smoothly. He was to some extent lionized in literary circles, but his combination of desperation for financial support with alcoholism and a combative temper kept him from dealing well with being a “star.” Virginia died in 1847, and Poe was seriously ill for much of the next year. In 1849, he found himself in Richmond, and for a few months he seemed quite well. His Richmond relatives received and cared for him kindly, and he stopped drinking. In October, however, while on a trip, he paused in Baltimore, became drunk, was found unconscious, and was carried to a local hospital, where he died on October 7, 1849.
Biography (Critical Survey of Mystery & Detective Fiction, Revised Edition)
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809. When his parents, David Poe, Jr., and Elizabeth Arnold Poe, indigent actors, died when he was two years old, Poe was taken in by a wealthy tobacco exporter, John Allan. In 1826, Poe entered the University of Virginia but withdrew after less than a year because of debts Allan would not pay. After a brief term in the Army, Poe entered West Point Academy, argued further with Allan about financial support, and then purposely got himself discharged. In 1831, he moved to Baltimore, where he lived with his aunt, Maria Clemm, and her daughter Virginia.
After winning a short-story contest sponsored by a Philadelphia newspaper, Poe was given his first job as an editor on the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, Virginia. During his two-year tenure, he gained considerable public attention with his stories. With the end of that job, Poe, who had by this time both a new wife (his cousin Virginia) and his aunt to support, took his small family to Philadelphia, where he published some of his best-known works—The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), “Ligeia,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “William Wilson.”
At this point, Poe discovered a new way to capitalize on his popularity as a critic, writer, and generally respected man of letters. He joined the lecture circuit, delivering talks on poetry and criticism in various American cities. Poe...
(The entire section is 354 words.)
Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Edgar Allan Poe was born to parents who were professional actors. Poe always believed that he inherited his talents as a reciter of verse especially from his mother, and it is not farfetched to see his lifelong concern for the effect of the poem on the reader as an outgrowth of this early exposure to the stage. One of the most important events of his early life was the death of his mother when he was not yet three, and his poetry bears the imprint of his various attempts to find an ideal woman adequate to her memory. Because his father abandoned the family about this time and probably died shortly thereafter, young Poe was taken into the family of John Allan, a merchant from Richmond, Virginia. It was from Allan that Poe took his middle name. From 1815 to 1820, the family lived in England, where Poe acquired much of his early education as well as his first exposure to the gothic style that figures so prominently in the atmosphere and settings of his work. Back in Richmond, Poe studied the classics in several schools and entered the University of Virginia, where he seems to have impressed his teachers and fellow students with his knowledge of languages. He ran up large gambling debts that Allan refused to pay, however, forcing Poe to drop out of school. Thus began an estrangement from Allan that lasted until Allan’s death six years later. At eighteen, Poe enlisted in the U.S. Army, rising within two years to the rank of sergeant-major. Already at eighteen, he had...
(The entire section is 743 words.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Few American writers have been and remain as widely appreciated, misunderstood, and influential as Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was the second of three children born to David Poe, an actor, and Elizabeth Poe, an actress. Following his mother’s death in 1811, young Edgar became a member of the childless family of John Allan, a Scottish tobacco merchant in Richmond, Virginia. He was given the name Edgar Allan and treated as the son of the family.
When John Allan sailed for England to establish a branch of the firm, Edgar went with him and his wife. He was kept in an English school most of the time until the Allans returned home in 1820. After further schooling in Richmond, Poe was taken to Charlottesville, where in February he was entered as a student in the University of Virginia. He continued as a student for the more than ten months’ session. He excelled in his classes, but he also accumulated some debts, over which he and Allan quarreled; as a result Poe left Richmond, a penniless youth.
Why Poe chose to go to Boston is unknown. He arranged there for the publication of a brief volume of poems, Tamerlane, and Other Poems, and on May 26, 1827, he enlisted under the name Edgar A. Perry in the United States Army. In 1829 he secured a discharge from the Army and entered West Point in 1830 as a cadet. Meanwhile, after the death of his first...
(The entire section is 918 words.)
Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents, David Poe, Jr., and Elizabeth Arnold Poe, were struggling actors who died while Poe was a small child. The young Edgar was taken in by a wealthy Scottish tobacco exporter, John Allan, from whom he took his middle name.
For most of his early life, Poe lived in Richmond, Virginia, with the exception of a five-year period between 1815 and 1820 when the Allan family lived in England. Back in the United States, Poe attended an academy until 1826, when he entered the University of Virginia. He withdrew less than a year later because of various debts, many of them from gambling, which his foster father refused to help him pay. After quarreling with Allan about these debts, Poe left for Boston in the spring of 1827, where he enlisted in the Army under the name Edgar A. Perry.
In the summer of 1827, Poe’s first book, Tamerlane, and Other Poems, signed anonymously as “A Bostonian,” appeared, but neither the reading public nor the critics paid much attention to it. In January, 1829, Poe was promoted to the rank of sergeant major and was honorably discharged at his own request three months later. Near the end of 1829, Poe’s second book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, was published and was well received by the critics.
(The entire section is 1140 words.)
Edgar Allan Poe, one of America's most influential writers, was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents, both struggling actors, died when he was only three-years-old. Poe was raised—though never officially adopted—by John and Frances Allan in Richmond, Virginia. Allan, a prosperous tobacco merchant, sent Poe to the finest schools, including the University of Virginia, where Poe immediately gambled away all of his money, racked up a massive amount of debt, and drank his first semester away. Even so, he managed to do well in his classes and earn the highest university honors.
This pattern of producing good work under unfavorable circumstances continued throughout Poe's life. Allan pulled Poe out of school because of Poe's dilettante habits, and the already distant relationship between the two went sour. Poe went to Boston, where he attempted to earn his living by writing. Sales were small, however, and he joined the army to earn his living expenses. He performed well in the army but did not enjoy the experience. After receiving an honorable discharge, Poe entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. Lack of financial support from Allan led to Poe's court-martial and dismissal.
Poe, then in his mid-twenties, married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia, and began to support Virginia and her mother. Poe's stories started to sell, but his financial situation never greatly improved. In the following years, he edited and published his work in several journals, which showcased his prodigious talent and innovation in the short story genre, in poetry, and in literary criticism. His work for these journals raised his stature in the literary community, but inevitably, he was fired from each of these jobs, as a result of either a bad economy or his cantankerous disposition.
Poe is often remembered for his short fiction, much of which he published while living in Philadelphia in the 1830s and 1840s. These stories include Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, which contains many of the supernatural and horror tales that people associate with the author. In 1845, he published his last story collection, Tales by Edgar A. Poe, which featured ‘‘The Purloined Letter,’’ considered by many critics to be one of the first detective stories. In addition to his short stories, Poe is well-known for his poetry, most notably ‘‘The Raven.’’
After his wife's death from tuberculosis in 1849, Poe took a trip to Baltimore for unknown reasons. He was found unconscious, and died a short time later on October 3, 1849. A brain lesion is the presumed cause of his death, but many critics and fans have speculated otherwise. Like the stories that Poe wrote, the exact cause of the author's death and the circumstances surrounding his last days remain a mystery.
Edgar Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of indigent actors. At age three, when his parents died, Poe was taken in by John Allan, a merchant from Richmond, Virginia. He attended a private school in England where he lived with the Allans between 1815 and 1820. After returning to America, he continued private schooling until 1826, when he entered the University of Virginia. However, he was forced to leave after less than a year because of gambling debts which John Allan refused to pay.
After quarreling with his guardian, Poe went to Boston where, under an assumed name, he joined the army. A few months later, at the age of eighteen, his first collection of poems, privately financed, was published. In 1829, after the death of John Allan's wife, Poe was discharged from the army. He reconciled with his guardian and received an appointment to West Point. However, because Allan would not support him adequately (and because he did not like military life) he purposely neglected his duties to get himself dismissed from the academy.
Poe then went to Baltimore, where he took up residence with his impoverished aunt and her young daughter Virginia. In 1832 he began his career as a writer of bizarre and romantic short stories by publishing "Metzengerstein," a tale about feuding families and supernatural revenge. However, his first real success came the following year when his "MS. Found in a Bottle," an eerie tale about a...
(The entire section is 562 words.)
Poe was born in Boston in 1809, the son of Elizabeth Arnold Poe and David Poe, both minor professional actors. Both his parents died before he was three years old, and he was subsequently raised in the home of Frances Keeling Valentine Allan and her husband John Allan, a prosperous exporter from Richmond, Virginia. As a youth, Poe attended the finest academies in Richmond, his step-father overseeing his education, and he entered the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in 1825. He distinguished himself academically at the University but was forced to leave due to inadequate financial support from his step-father. Poe returned to Richmond in 1827 but soon left for Boston. There he enlisted in the army and published his first collection of poetry, Tamerlane, and Other Poems. Poe was discharged from the army in 1829, the same year he published a second volume of verse. Neither of his first two collections attracted much attention. After briefly attending West Point, Poe went to New York City and soon after to Baltimore. He married his cousin Virginia Clemm in 1836 after receiving an editorship at The Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. Poe thereafter received a degree of recognition, not only for his poetry and fiction, but as an exceptional literary critic. He also occasionally achieved popular success, especially following the publication of his poem “The Raven.”
Poe’s wife Virginia died from tuberculosis in 1847. After a period in which he was involved in various romantic affairs, Poe planned to remarry, but in late September, 1849 he arrived in Baltimore for reasons unknown. In early October he was discovered nearly unconscious; he died on October 7, never regaining sufficient consciousness to relate the details of the final days of his life. Since his death Poe’s work has been variously assessed, with critics disagreeing on its value. Today, however, Poe is acknowledged as a major literary figure, a master of Gothic atmosphere and interior monologue. His poems and stories have influenced the literary schools of Symbolism and Surrealism as well as the popular genres of detective and horror fiction.