Edgar Allen Poe was one of the most successful writers of all time. He is
known for his tales of the mysterious and macabre. He is reported to be the first
master of the short story form (Edgar Allen Poe). About 12 of his works are
known for their flawless literary construction. Poe had a rough childhood which
definitely contributed to his writing.
Poe was born in January 19th of 1809 in Boston. Poe was the son of David
Poe, an actor and Eliza Poe, an actress. Poe also had a sister. At age three Poe
was orphaned when he father disappeared one night and never returned and his
mother died of tuberculosis. Poe then went to a foster house where he was
adopted by John and Fanny Allen. Poe then at age six moved to England where he
attended private schools.
As a teen Poe was very gifted in foreign language. He wrote some of his
early works in both French an Latin. At age fifteen Poe had already written
enough works to publish a book but John would not allow it. Poe was also very fit
as a teen. Poe was supposedly a very fast swimmer and runner. It is reported that
Poe once as a teen swam the James river from Lundhams Wharf to Warwick Bar
which is six miles against a strong current (Woodberry 20). At 15 Poe was the
Lieutenant of the Junior Morgan Riflemen. Poe was then reviewed by the famous
Marquis De Lafayette. Poe's grandfather General Poe is where Poe most likely got
his military influence from.
In 1826 Poe enrolled into the University of Virginia. Poe wanted to become
a translator. Poe was considered to be "precisely correct" (Moldavia). Poe also
loved debating. The student life at the University of Virginia in 1826 was very
chaotic. In one student riot the students threw bottles and bricks at the professors.
In Poe's letters to John Allen he often talked of violence on campus. He once
wrote of how a student was struck on the head with a stone and then pulled out a
gun and killed his attacker(Moldavia).
By the end of the year Poe had started to develop gambling debts. Poe
blamed his gambling debts on John Allen saying that he did not provide enough for
him to live on. Therefore gambling was the only way to survive. I think that it
would have bean quite possible for Poe to get a job. Before the year was over Poe
had developed gambling debts exceeding 2,500 dollars (Moldavia).
When Poe went back to Richmond where John lived for the summer he
expected John to pay of his debts. John would not pay of the debts and made John
work as a clerk at his firm to pay them off. In 1827 Poe moved out of Johns house.
In a letter to John Poe wrote, "I have heard you say when you little thought I was
listening and therefor must have said it in ear that you had no affection for me"
(letters 203). Poe then resorted to gambling again and became even more into
debt. Poe then moved to Boston under the alias of Henri Le Renett (Moldavia).
Poe then managed to published his first book Tamerline and Other Poems under
the pen name of a Bostonian.
Later in 1827 Poe enlisted into the United States Army where he stayed for
two years. In 1829 Poe wrote his second book Aarat, Tamberline, and Other
Poems by Edgar A. Poe. After Poe left the Army Poe reconciled with Poe's father
and convinced John to send Poe to West Point Military Academy. Poe only stayed
at Westpoint for a year a which he was dismissed for neglect of duties. John then
disowned Poe forever.
In 1831 Poe moved back to Baltimore to live with his cousin and aunt. In
1831 Poe also wrote his third book Poems by Edgar A. Poe with financial help
from his friends at Westpoint. In 1832 Poe won a contest with "AMS found in a
bottle". Then in 1836 Poe married his cousin Virginia Clem whom Poe had bean
living with. Virginia was only thirteen when Poe married Virginia. Shortly after
Poe had married Virginia she contracted the deadly disease tuberculosis.
Virginia then died ten years later.
With the death of Poe's wife Poe became very depressed. Poe then became
addicted to many drugs, mainly opium and laudanum. It is also reported that he
used morphine (Mankowitz 259,729). It is said that Poe used these drugs and
drank so much because his nervous system was becoming extremely sensitive and
it would rid him of the pain (Black). Poe did try to quit drinking many times but
he was never successful. In a letter on July 22,1848 Poe wrote, "It has bean a long
while since any artificial stimulus has passed my lips" (Letters 239).
Poe also to go mad. Poe's madness was mainly credited to brain lesions or
scars in the brain. A good example of Poe breaking down is when he arrived at
John Sartains office begging him for protection from an imaginary Army. Poe then
shaved of his mustache so that they would not recognize him (Mankowitz 232).
Poe describes his illness in a letter on August 7, 1849, "I have suffered worse than
death-net so much from cholera as from its long continued consequences in
debility and compression of the brain" (Letters 365) Poe's condition continued to
Poe was brought to the Washington Hospital of Baltimore on the night of
October 6, 1849 after being found in the middle of the road (Moran 78). Poe then
recited his final poem.
Father I firmly do believe
I know, for death who comes for me
from the regions of blast afar
where there is nothing to deceive
hath left his iron gates ajar
and rays of truth you cannot see
are flashing through eternity
Poe died the following morning. It is reported that Poe ended up dying of
Lobar pneumonia complicated by transient retardation or depression which is
excessive nervous prostration affecting the brain and resulting from exposure and
encephalitis or inflammation of the brain (Scarlet 365).
With Poe's burial there has bean a lot of mix up. Poe was originally buried
next to his grandfather General Poe in Westchester. A headstone was not placed
on his grave because it had bean run over (Parker). Then in 1875 they decided to
move Poe to Baltimore where a monument would be erected over his grave. When
they went to dig up Poe to move him, since there weren't good markings on the
grave, they dug up Pvt. Philip Mosher who was on the opposite side of Poe's
grandfather and moved him (Parker). They know that Poe isn't buried in
Baltimore because when Poe was supposedly dug up the coffin description didn't
match the description of Poe's coffin. When Thomas G. Scarf first discovered of
the Poe burial mix up he questioned the church committee and they said, "Does it
matter, we did find a skeleton and some persons said it looked like Poe. We honor
the memory of Poe and his works" (Scarlet 373,374). Now all that lies on Poe's
headstone in Westchester is a number eight engraved on a stone.
Of Poe's entire life "The Raven" is said to be Poe's best known and written
work. It is said to have his favorite theme the death of a beautiful women. "The
Raven" was first published in the American Review on the first of February, 1845
on pages 143-145. It has also bean published in numerous other literary
The story of the Raven is about Poe and his lost wife. Poe uses a great amount of
symbolism in the raven to express his feelings. For start the raven is a symbol of
mournful and never-ending sadness. This is said to not only be a description of the
"The Raven" but the description of the majority of his work. Poe also talks of the
Balm In Gilead which is a fictitious place in the old testament where there is no
suffering. Poe also refers to a bust of pallas above his chamber door. Pallas was
the Greek God of Wisdom. Poe also refers to the Plutonium shores which is
referring to Hell.
There are also a lot of themes in "The Raven" that relate to Poe's life. In
"The Raven" Poe talks a lot of loneliness. Poe suffered from loneliness and
depression, both clinical and chemical. It is also said that Poe had a bust of Pallas
over his door when he lived in New York city (The Raven). Poe also writes of
imagining that there is someone at his door when he said, "Here I opened wide the
door, darkness there and nothing more". This can be incorporated with is
madness. Poe also talks of a beating heart when he writes, "to still the beating of
my heart". This can be compared to his own erratic heart.
Poe has also bean accused of plagiarism in writing "The Raven".
Supposedly he stole the purple curtains that appear in "The Raven" from Elizabeth
Barrel Browning. It is also said that Poe took the idea of a talking bird from
Charles Dickens Barnaby Ridge (A Look At The Raven). Whether these
accusations are true or not we will never no but certainly the majority of "The
Raven" is 0riginal work.
In Baltimore, Maryland, since 1949, Poe's grave has bean visited by a
mysterious man every year on Poe's birthday in the early hours. The man,
described as an elderly gentleman draped in black with a silver tipped cane, kneels
at the grave for a toast of Martel Cognac and leaves the half-full bottle and three
red roses. "He leaves quietly and we don't know who he is nor do we have any
intention. We're very careful to protect his anonymity" ,said Lou Marshal, a tour
guide at Westminister Hall cemetery. "In the last few years, It has bean a younger
man with a cane who tries to walk with a limp, but it isn't natural looking" ,said
Jamie Parker (Stephanie).
Edgar Allen Poe has bean dead almost 150 years. Despite so much time,
people are still fascinated by his life and work. Many scholars actively explore and
discuss his writings and the things that are known and unknown about his life.
Although he lived only forty years, Poe's work is still important to us today.
Moran, Dr. John. A Defense of Poe--Life, Character, and Dying Declarations of
the Poet. New York: William F. Bogher,1885.
Poe Society. A Look at The Raven, Internet, WISE, 3rd of April 1997.
Bronx Historical Society, Internet, WISE, 3rd of April, 1997.
Woodberry, George E. Edgar Allen Poe. New York: AMS Press, Inc.,1968.
Poe Society. Edgar's Teens and the Parting with John Allen, Internet, WISE, 3rd of
"Poe, Edgar Allen". Encarta 96. Washington: Microsoft Corporation,1993-1995.
Black, Midn A . How Did Poe Survive for Forty Years?, Internet, WISE, 3rd of
Scarlett, Charles Jr. "A Tale of Ratiocination: The Death and Burial of Edgar Allen
Poe". Maryland Historical Magazine. (1978),360-374.
Poe Society. Summary of Edgar Poe's Life, Internet, WISE, 3rd of April 1997.
Mankowitz, Wolf.The Extraordinary Mr. Poe. New York: Summit Books, 1978.
Poe, Edgar Allen. The Letters of Edgar Allen Poe. Ed. John Ward Ostrom.
Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press, 1948.
Poe, Edgar Allen. The Raven, Internet, WISE, 3rd of April 1997.
Griest, Stephanie. "Undying Devotion: Cemeteries Turn Down Celebrities Whose
Fans Won't Let Them Rest In Peace". The Washington Post., July 15, 1995, Sec:D
Parker, Jamie. Who Is Buried in Edgar Poe's Grave, Internet, WISE, 3rd of April,