Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The Haunted Palace: A Life of Edgar Allan Poe is what is generally referred to as a definitive biography. Frances Winwar covers her subject’s life in detail from his birth to death, attempting to arrive at the key that will explain his character. The book is heavily footnoted, with references not only to books and articles by and about Poe but also to letters and unpublished manuscripts, showing Winwar’s depth of study. The Haunted Palace contains many quotations from Poe’s works, with explications intended to relate their contents directly to incidents in Poe’s life. The book contains a four-page bibliography and is exhaustively indexed.

There are only eight pages of illustrations, all of them portraits. The most interesting are those of Poe himself; of his child bride, Virginia, and her long-suffering mother, Maria Clemm; of Poe’s coldhearted foster father, John Allan; and of Poe’s friendly enemy, Rufus Griswold. Most of the portraits are remarkable in their revela-tions of their subjects’ characters, and they help the reader visualize the strange array of people who figured in Poe’s life story.

Like many of her contemporary biographers, Winwar takes a rather Freudian approach to her subject. She stresses the notion that Poe’s turbulent and insecure childhood was responsible for his subsequent unhappiness and for the feelings of horror, despair, and doom so characteristic of his work. She places much of...

(The entire section is 484 words.)