Biography of Poe

American author, poet and literary critic Edgar Allen Poe, best known for his pioneering in the fields of short stories and detective fiction, was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massechussets.  Orphaned by his mother and abandoned by his father, Poe was brought up by John and Frances Allen – whose surname Poe adopted as his middle name – in Richmond, Virginia.

The family sailed to Europe in 1815, where Poe studied in Allan’s native Scotland for a short while.  After less than a year in Scotland, Poe transferred to a boarding school in London where he schooled until the Allan’s moved back to Virginia in 1820.

 

Poe and Allan became estranged around 1826 while Poe was attending the budding University of Virginia.  Although Allan had inherited a large sum of money a few years earlier, he would not help Poe pay off his increasing debt, and he was forced to drop out of school after  a year.  Broke, Poe left Virginia all together in 1827 and went back to Boston.

In May of 1827 Poe enlisted in the army, where he was stationed to Fort Moultre in Charleston, South Carolina, the site that would serve as the setting for his famous The Gold-Bug, published in 1843.

His military career went through a series of peaks and valleys.  He was voluntarily discharged in 1829, the year Frances Allan died.  In 1830 he enlisted, as per John Allan’s wishes, at West Point as a cadet, and a few months later Allan married his second wife, Louisa Patterson, further angering Poe.  Poe and Allen’s relationship detriororated for good in the coming months, leading Allan to officially disowned him.  It was at that point that Poe got purposely court-martialed and left the army for good.

It was only after leaving the army for good that Poe began his career as a full-time writer.  He was awarded prize money for the publication of his story MS. Found in a Bottle in The Baltimore Saturday Visitor in 1833, and eventually landed a position as an editor at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, Virginia, where he worked from 1835-1837.  During this time he married Virginia Clemm, his 13-year old first cousin.

 

Virginia got sick in 1842 with tuberculosis, and fought the disease for five years until her death in 1847.  It was during this period that Poe produced his darkest and most acclaimed works.  Short stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Black Cat”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, “The Mask of Red Death” and “Murders in the Rue Morgue” invented the genre of murder mystery and paved the way for modern detective fiction.  Similarly, poems such as “Lenore”, “Annabel Lee” and possibly Poe’s most famous work, “The Raven” – all written either during Virginia’s illness and after her death – all paint macabre portraits of unattainable love with beautiful young maiden’s dead too young.
Edgar Allen Poe died on October 7, 1849 a household name for his publishing achievement.  His cause of death is still unknown and debated.  Poe is credited as being the inventor of American detective fiction as well as for being the first writer to support himself solely with his words.  Throughout his life, Poe had a great understanding and interest in various fields, like cryptology (code-breaking) and economics.  He was especially interested and an expert in their social relevance, and used this knowledge to strategically market many of his works.  Poe is also one of the first examples of the tragically flawed writer cliche’.  Burdened by alcohol problems and impulsive – at times manic – behavior throughout his life, Poe exemplified the romantic conception of the delirious brilliant armed with only a pen to fight off a mind packed with demons.

 

 

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