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Virginia Clemm was Edgar Allan Poe's cousin and wife. She was a child bride, thirteen years younger than Poe; she married him when she herself was thirteen. They remained married until her death eleven years later from consumption (tuberculosis).

There is little definitive evidence as to whether or not the union between Poe and Virginia was a happy one, and Poe was rumored to have had affairs. Poe's on-and-off drinking (the extent of which has always been a subject of controversy) probably was exacerbated by Virginia's illness and death, and Poe himself died only two years and nine months after Virginia.

The assumption by literary commentators and general readers is that Annabel Lee is a fictionalized version of Virginia, and though the setting of the poem and its details are quite different from real life, it's difficult to believe that Poe wasn't thinking of her when he wrote it:

I was a child and she was a child....

Poe metaphorically invokes both the envy of the gods (or angels) and a chilling wind as the cause of Annabel's death. Like much nineteenth-century poetry, "Annabel Lee" has a medieval, fairy-tale atmosphere, with its references to Annabel's "high-born kinsmen" in this "kingdom by the sea." It also has the sing-song quality of a folk ballad, and, like most of Poe's verse, the words create a kind of musical sound that Poe valued as much as he did the actual meaning of the words.

Part of the poignancy of "Annabel Lee" derives from the knowledge most of us have that it is partly autobiographical. If it has been an aesthetic ideal for some critics that an artwork must stand by itself and that its appreciation rests upon its own qualities in isolation, this poem seemingly refutes their point of view.

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