Edgar Allan Poe Biography

Biography (History of the World: The 19th Century)

ph_0111201268-Poe.jpgEdgar Allan Poe Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Early Life

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 January, 1829, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant major and was honorably discharged at his own request three months later. In December, 1829, Poe’s second book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, was published, and it was well received by the critics. Shortly thereafter, Poe entered West Point Military Academy, possibly as a way to get into his foster-father’s good graces.

After less than a year in school, Poe was discharged from West Point by court-martial for neglecting his military duties. Most biographers agree that Poe deliberately provoked his discharge because he had tired of West Point. Others suggest that he could not stay because John Allan refused to pay Poe’s bills any longer, although he would not permit Poe to resign. After West Point, Poe went to New York, where, with the help of some money raised by his West Point friends, he published Poems by Edgar A. Poe, Second Edition. After moving to Baltimore, where he lived at the home of his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, Poe entered five short stories in a contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Saturday Courier. Although he did not win the prize, the newspaper published all five of his pieces. In June, 1833, he entered another contest sponsored by the Baltimore Saturday Visiter and this time won the prize of fifty dollars for his story “Ms. Found in a Bottle.” From this point until his death in 1849, Poe was very much involved in the world of American magazine publishing.

Life’s Work

During the next two years, Poe continued writing stories and trying to get them published. Even with the help of a new and influential friend, John Pendleton Kennedy, a lawyer and writer, he was mostly unsuccessful. Poe’s financial situation became even more desperate when, in 1834, John Allan died and left Poe out of his will. Kennedy finally persuaded the Southern Literary Messenger to publish several of Poe’s stories and to offer Poe the job of editor, a position which he kept from 1835 to 1837. During this time, Poe published stories and poems in the Messenger, but it was with his extensive publication of criticism that he began to make his mark in American letters.

Although much of Poe’s early criticism is routine review work, he began in his reviews to consider the basic nature of poetry and short fiction and to develop theoretical analyses of these two genres, drawing upon the criticism of A. W. Schlegel, in Germany, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in England. Poe’s most important contribution to criticism is his discussion of the distinctive generic characteristics of short fiction, in a famous review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales (1837). Poe makes such a convincing case for the organic unity of short fiction, argues so strongly for its dependence on a unified effect, and so clearly shows how the form is more closely allied to the poem than to the novel that his ideas have influenced literary critics ever since.

In 1836, Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm, a decision which, because of her age and relationship to Poe, has made him the subject of much adverse criticism and psychological speculation. In 1837, after disagreements with the owner of the Messenger, Poe moved to New York to look for editorial work. There he completed the writing of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), his only long fiction, a novella-length metaphysical adventure. Unable to find work in New York, Poe moved to Philadelphia and published his first important short story, a Platonic romance titled “Ligeia.” In 1839, he joined the editorial staff of Burton’s Gentlemen’s Magazine, where he published two of his greatest stories, “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “William Wilson.”

In 1840, Poe left Burton’s and tried, unsuccessfully, to establish his own literary magazine. He did, however, publish a collection of his stories, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), as well as become an editor of Graham’s Magazine, where he published his first tale of ratiocination, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” In this landmark story, he created the famous detective Auguste Dupin, the forerunner of Sherlock Holmes and thus of countless other private detectives in literature and film. A biographical sketch published at that time described Poe as short, slender, and well-proportioned, with a fair complexion, gray eyes, black hair, and an extremely broad forehead.

In 1842, Poe left Graham’s to try once again to establish his own literary magazine, but not before publishing two important pieces of criticism: a long review of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in which he established his definition of poetry as being the “Rhythmical Creation of Beauty,” and his review of Hawthorne, in which he defined the short tale as the creation of a unified effect. Between 1842 and 1844, after Poe moved to New York to join the editorial staff of the New York Mirror, he published many of his most important stories, including “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Black Cat,” and two more ratiocinative stories, “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and “The Gold Bug.” It was with the publication of his most famous poem, “The Raven,” in 1845, however, that he finally achieved popular success.

Poe left the New York Mirror to join a new weekly periodical, the Broadway Journal, in February of 1845, where he continued the literary war against Longfellow begun in a review written for the Mirror. The series of accusations, attacks, and counterattacks that ensued damaged Poe’s reputation as a critic at the very point in his career when he had established his critical genius. Poe’s collection of stories, Tales, was published in July, 1845, to good reviews. Soon after, Poe became the sole editor and then proprietor of the Broadway Journal. In November, he published his collection, The Raven and Other Poems.

The year 1846 marked the beginning of Poe’s decline. In January, the Broadway Journal ceased publication, and soon after, Poe was involved in both a personal scandal with two female literary admirers and a bitter battle with the literary establishment. Moreover, Poe’s wife was quite ill, a fact which necessitated Poe’s moving his family some thirteen miles outside the city to a rural cottage at Fordham. When Virginia died on January 30, 1847, Poe collapsed. Although he never fully recovered from this series of assaults on his already nervous condition, in the following year he published what he considered to be the capstone of his career, Eureka: A Prose Poem, which he presented as an examination of the origin of all things.

In the summer of 1849, Poe left for Richmond, Virginia, in the hope, once more, of starting a literary magazine. On September 24, he delivered a lecture, “The Poetic Principle,” at Richmond, in what was to be his last public appearance. From that time until he was found semiconscious on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, little is known of his activities. He never recovered, and he died on Sunday morning, October 7, in Washington College Hospital.

Summary

Edgar Allan Poe is important in the history of American literature and American culture in two significant ways. First, he developed short fiction as a genre that was to have a major impact on American literature and publishing throughout the nineteenth century. His stories and criticism have been models and guides for writers in this characteristically American genre up to the present time. No one interested in the short-story form can afford to ignore his ideas or his fiction. Poe was influential in making American literature more philosophical and metaphysical than it had been before.

Second, and perhaps most important, Poe helped to make periodical publishing more important in American literary culture. American writers in the mid-nineteenth century were often discouraged by the easy accessibility of British novels. Lack of copyright laws made the works of the great English writers readily available at low cost. Thus, American writers could not compete in this genre. Periodical publishing, and the short story as the favored genre of this medium, was the United States’ way of fighting back. Poe was an important figure in this battle to make the United States a literary force in world culture.

The problem with Poe, however, is that he is too often thought of as the author of some vivid yet insignificant horror stories. Moreover, Poe’s personality is often erroneously maligned: He has been called a drunk, a drug-addict, a hack, a sex pervert, and an exploiter. As a result of these errors, myths, and oversimplifications, it is often difficult for readers to take his works seriously. The truth is, however, that Edgar Allan Poe, both in his criticism and in his dark, metaphysically mysterious stories, helped create a literature that made America a cultural force not to be ignored.

Bibliography

Allen, Hervey. Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe. 2 vols. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1926. Reprint. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1956. A romantic narrative of Poe’s life, valuable for the information drawn from letters between Poe and John Allan.

Buranelli, Vincent. Edgar Allan Poe. 2d ed. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1977. A somewhat sketchy study of Poe’s fiction, poetry, and criticism, but still a good introduction to his work.

Carlson, Eric W., ed. The Recognition of Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Criticism Since 1829. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966. A valuable collection of some of the most influential critical remarks about Poe by artists, writers, and critics.

Hoffman, Daniel. PoePoePoePoePoePoePoe. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1972. An idiosyncratic and highly personal account of one critic’s fascination with Poe that echoes the fascination of countless readers. Often Freudian and sometimes farfetched, the book provides stimulating reading and suggestive criticism.

Jacobs, Robert D. Poe: Journalist and Critic. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969. An extensive study of Poe’s career as editor, reviewer, and critic. Shows how Poe’s critical ideas derived from and influenced periodical publishing in the mid-nineteenth century.

Moss, Sidney P. Poe’s Literary Battles: The Critic in the Context of His Literary Milieu. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1963. A well-researched study of Poe’s controversial battles with Longfellow and the many literary cliques of nineteenth century American publishing.

Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1941. Reprint. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1969. Although this book is somewhat outdated in its critical analysis of Poe’s works, it is the best and most complete biography, informed by Quinn’s knowledge of Poe’s literary milieu and his extensive research into Poe’s correspondence.

Quinn, Patrick F. The French Face of Edgar Poe. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1957. Ironically, Poe’s fiction, poetry, and criticism had more influence on French literature in the nineteenth century than on American literature. Quinn’s book explains why.

Edgar Allan Poe Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

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.

Edgar Allan Poe Biography (Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery 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 continued to present lectures on literature for the last five years of his life, with varying degrees of acclaim and success, but never with enough financial reward to make his life comfortable. Even the immediate sensation created by his poem “The Raven,” which was reprinted throughout the country and which made Poe an instant celebrity, still could not satisfy the need for enough funds to support his family.

On a trip from Richmond to New York, Poe, a man who could not tolerate alcohol, stopped in Baltimore and began drinking. After he was missing for several days, he was found on the street, drunk and disheveled. Three days later, he died of what was diagnosed as delirium tremens.

Edgar Allan Poe Biography (Poets and Poetry in America)

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 managed to have a slim volume of verse published, followed by another when he was twenty. At about that time, he requested (with Allan’s approval) a discharge from the Army so that he could apply to West Point. He entered the academy in 1830 and did well, but when Allan again refused him necessary financial support, he felt that he had no choice but to get himself expelled to find a job. He left West Point with enough material for a third volume of poetry, which appeared that year (1831) when he was still only twenty-two. Poe now set himself to making a career in the world of professional letters, which he pursued with mixed success until his death eighteen years later. His financial circumstances were often desperate as he moved from one eastern city to another looking for work as a writer or editor of literary magazines. In 1836, he married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, and in 1839, he received his first job as an editor. In 1841, he became editor of Graham’s Magazine, the first of two periodicals whose circulation he increased dramatically while in charge. Sometimes erratic behavior and frequent problems with alcohol cost him jobs even when his actual performance was adequate. The journalistic world of the 1830’s and 1840’s was characterized by fiercely polemical writing, full of vituperation and personal attacks—a style that Poe practiced with great zest and ability. Despite his attacks in print on his fellow writers, some of them aided him in times of unemployment and stress.

In 1842, Poe’s young wife burst a blood vessel, and her deteriorating health over the next five years added greatly to the anxiety caused by lack of money. Poe’s mother-in-law was an important source of strength to the couple during these years. Amazingly, he was able to turn out dozens of first-rate poems, reviews, and stories for the magazines even while fighting off problems of health and finances. The publication of his poem “The Raven” in 1845 made him famous, enabling him to begin earning good money as a public reciter of poetry. When Virginia finally died in 1847, Poe himself became desperately ill, and even after recovering, he never regained his old resiliency. In 1848, he became engaged to one of several women whom he was seeing, Mrs. Sarah Whitman, who attempted with some success to help him conquer his problems with drinking. In what was to be the last year of his life, he felt more secure with Mrs. Whitman, with a regular income from lecturing and writing, and with his popularity in Richmond society. In the early fall of 1849, on his way to Philadelphia to help a woman edit her poems, he stopped off in Baltimore and began drinking. He was found senseless in a polling place and taken to a hospital, where he died a few days later on October 7 at the age of forty.

Edgar Allan Poe Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical 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 wife, John Allan married again. Soon afterward there was a final rift between Allan and Poe. Poe was also dismissed from the academy. He had published Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems in 1829, and upon leaving West Point he published Poems in 1831. There followed an obscure period in Baltimore before he went to Richmond in 1835 to work on the Southern Literary Messenger until the end of 1836. He had married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, in 1836, and he took her and his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, to New York. Soon he removed to Philadelphia where he became first an associate editor of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and later editor of its successor, Graham’s Magazine. In April, 1844, he returned to New York, and in 1846 he rented the little cottage in Fordham, just out of the city, where Virginia died on January 30, 1847, and where Poe and Mrs. Clemm continued to live until Poe’s death. He had published stories and articles in various magazines and had worked on the New York Mirror and edited the Broadway Journal.

The publication of his prize-winning story “The Gold Bug” in the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper in 1843 had brought him some recognition, but he became famous in 1845 with the printing of “The Raven” in the Evening Mirror and the Whig Review. In 1849, the year in which appeared “Annabel Lee,” “The Bells,” and other of his best-known poems, Poe visited Norfolk and Richmond on a lecture tour. He had broken his engagement to marry the poet Helen Whitman, and in Richmond he became engaged to his former sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster, now the widow Shelton. From the time of his leaving Richmond his movements are unknown until he was found in an unconscious condition in Baltimore. He died in a hospital on October 7, 1849. He was interred the next day in the churchyard of the Westminster Presbyterian Church. His wife, Virginia, was later removed from the vault of the Valentines, owners of the Fordham cottage, to a place beside his grave.

Edgar Allan Poe—poet, critic, short-story writer, and mystic theorist—is as important for his influence on the literature of the world as he is for the works in themselves. He was an innovator in the field of pure poetry and of symbolism. Of lesser importance was his mastery of certain technical devices, such as assonance, rhythm, and rhyme, as evidenced in “The Raven,” “The Bells,” and “Ulalume.” His influence was especially great in France through Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, and the Symbolists. “To Helen,” “Annabel Lee,” “The Haunted Place,” “The Raven,” “Israfel,” “The City in the Sea,” and “Ulalume” are probably among the most universally admired short poems in the English language.

At the time of his death, Poe was perhaps best known in the United States as a literary critic. He is today credited with developing a theory of what has come to be known as “pure poetry,” with articulating the first definition of the short story as a distinct literary form, and with inventing the detective story.

His prose tales were unique for his day. Aside from his detective stories, namely “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter,” his most characteristic stories were tales of impressionistic effect. Many of them contained a psychological theme, often the theme of obsession or monomania, such as “The Black Cat,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Cask of Amontillado.” Others were built on a study of conscience, such as “Ligeia” and “William Wilson.” Almost all of Poe’s themes and techniques coalesce in what is perhaps his most-discussed story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

The magic of Poe—his power to arouse terror in his readers and to make them partake of the sensations he evokes as though they had lived them—are the effects of his conscious art. His poems are remarkable for their beauty and melody, his tales for the intensity with which the artist brings readers under his spell. He is associated especially with his dark and terror-filled stories; he is, perhaps, the world’s master of the macabre.

Edgar Allan Poe Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

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.

Shortly thereafter, Poe entered West Point Academy. After less than a year, however, either because he tired of the academy or because John Allan refused to pay his bills any longer, Poe got himself discharged from West Point by purposely neglecting his military duties. He then went to New York, where, with the help of some money raised by his West Point friends, he published Poems in 1831. After moving to Baltimore, where he lived at the home of his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, and his cousin Virginia, Poe entered five short stories in a contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Saturday Courier. Although he did not win the prize, the newspaper published all five of the pieces. In June, 1833, he entered another contest sponsored by the Baltimore Saturday Visiter and this time won the prize of fifty dollars for his story “MS. Found in a Bottle.”

During the following two years, Poe continued to write stories and to try to get them published. Even with the help of a new and influential friend, lawyer and writer John Pendleton Kennedy, Poe was mostly unsuccessful. His hopes for financial security became even more desperate in 1834 when John Allan died, leaving him out of his will. Kennedy finally succeeded in getting the Southern Literary Messenger to publish several of Poe’s stories and to offer Poe the job of editor, a position that he kept from 1835 to 1837. During this time, Poe published stories and poems in the Southern Literary Messenger. It was, however, with his extensive publication of criticism that he began to make his mark in American letters.

In 1836, Poe married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, a decision that, because of her young age and her relationship to Poe, has made him the subject of much adverse criticism and psychological speculation. In 1837, after disagreements with the owner of the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe moved to New York to look for editorial work. Here he completed the writing of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), his only long fiction, a novella-length metaphysical adventure. Unable to find work in New York, Poe moved to Philadelphia and published his first important story, a Platonic romance titled “Ligeia.” In 1839, he joined the editorial staff of Burton’s Gentlemen’s Magazine, in which he published two of his greatest stories, “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “William Wilson.”

In 1840, Poe left the magazine and tried to establish his own literary magazine, which did not meet with success. He did, however, publish a collection of his stories, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840). He became an editor of Graham’s Magazine, where he published “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” in which he created the detective Auguste Dupin, the forerunner of Sherlock Holmes and numerous other private detectives in literature and film. In 1842, Poe left Graham’s Magazine to try once again to establish a literary magazine but not before publishing two important pieces of criticism concerning other nineteenth century American writers: a long review of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in which Poe established his definition of poetry as being the “rhythmical creation of Beauty,” and a review of Nathaniel Hawthorne, in which Poe proposed his definition of the short tale as being the creation of a unified effect.

Between 1842 and 1844, after Poe moved to New York to join the editorial staff of the New York Mirror, he published many of his most important stories, such as “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Black Cat,” and two more ratiocinative stories, “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and “The Gold Bug.” It was with the publication of his most famous poem, “The Raven,” in 1845 that he finally achieved popular success.

Poe left the New York Mirror to join a weekly periodical, the Broadway Journal, in February, 1845, where he continued a literary war against the poet Longfellow, begun in a review he had written earlier for the New York Mirror. The series of accusations, attacks, and counterattacks that ensued damaged Poe’s reputation as a critic at the very point in his career when he had established his critical genius. Poe’s collection of stories, Tales, was published in July, 1845, to good reviews. Soon after, Poe became the sole editor of the Broadway Journal. In November, 1845, he published his collection The Raven, and Other Poems.

The year 1846 marked the beginning of Poe’s decline. In January, the Broadway Journal ceased publication, and soon after Poe was involved in both a personal scandal with two female literary “groupies” and a bitter battle with the literary establishment. Moreover, Poe’s wife was quite ill, a fact that necessitated Poe’s moving his family some thirteen miles outside the city to a rural cottage at Fordham. When Virginia Poe died on January 30, 1847, Poe collapsed. Although he never fully recovered from this series of assaults on his already nervous condition, in the following year he published what he considered to be the capstone of his career, Eureka, subtitled, A Prose Poem, which he presented as an examination of the origin of all things.

In the summer of 1849, Poe returned to Richmond, once more in the hope of starting a literary magazine. On September 24, he delivered a lecture on “The Poetic Principle” at Richmond in what was to be his last public appearance. From this time until he was found semiconscious on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, little is known of his activities. He never recovered and died on Sunday morning, October 7, in Washington College Hospital.

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