Edgar Allan Poe Additional 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...

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(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.


(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...

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(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...

(The entire section is 915 words.)


(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...

(The entire section is 1137 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Edgar Allan Poe Published by Gale Cengage

Edgar Allan Poe, one of America's most influential writers, was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents, both...

(The entire section is 451 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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...

(The entire section is 562 words.)


(Poetry for Students)

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...

(The entire section is 340 words.)