Edgar Allan Poe Life Overview:
Edgar Allan Poe was a nineteenth-century American poet and short fiction writer. The tragedies and struggles Edgar Allan Poe faced during his early life, combined with the influence of Romantic literature, created a Gothic writing style unique to Poe. His morbid imagery and cadence-laced texts spoke to readers differently from any other American author of his time. As the father of the detective story, Poe created a new genre that engaged readers with its mystery, intrigue, and drama. Poe’s narratives have endured time and are still well-received today. His influence can be seen in the works of several modern authors, as well as in television and cinema.
Edgar Allan Poe’s History and Background:
Poe came of age in early 19th-century America. The United States was still a relatively new country, and American culture continued to be influenced by Europe’s writers, artists, and musicians. Large cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York became increasingly industrialized and crowded. The United States was thriving in its independence, and those who lived in the cities enjoyed frequenting theaters, bars, and other social venues.
Edgar Allan Poe Biography:
Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and returned there briefly after dropping out of the University of Virginia due to gambling debts. While in Boston, Poe began his writing career. Under the pseudonym “The Bostonian,” Poe published Tamerlane and Other Poems in 1827.
At this time, Boston was a bustling center of intellectualism, and it evolved into a hub of antislavery where politicians and activists penned their works. The first abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, was published by William Lloyd Garrison in Boston. The vocal antislavery proponent John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, also lived in Boston. At this time, Boston was considered a place of radical thought and forward-thinking change.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Date of Birth and Early Life:
Poe was born on January 19, 1809. He was the middle child of theater actors David and Elizabeth Poe. David left the family soon after Poe’s sister was born. Elizabeth died in 1811, leaving William, Edgar, and Rosalie orphaned. The siblings were separated, and Edgar was sent to Richmond, Virginia, to become a ward of the wealthy merchant John Allan and his wife, Frances. Though the Allans never formally adopted Poe, they changed his middle name to Allan. When Poe was six years old, the Allans traveled to England and Scotland, where Poe attended boarding schools. In 1820, the Allans returned to Virginia, and Poe continued his education while following the Richmond elite’s social events.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Education and Influences:
In 1826, Edgar Allan Poe attended the University of Virginia. John Allan had severely limited Poe’s allowance, and Poe, determined to increase his income, turned to gambling. His endeavors were unsuccessful, leaving the university with $2,000 in debt. He returned to Richmond, only to find that his fiancee had been persuaded by her father to become engaged to a different man.
Poe returned to his birthplace, Boston, where he lived for a few months before joining the military. Edgar Allan Poe served in the Army for two years, rising to sergeant major. In 1829, Frances Allan, who had taken on the role of Poe’s mother for most of his life, died. John Allan arranged for Poe to be honorably discharged from service and enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point. Poe excelled but needed to be more funded. Poe was forced to cause his expulsion through dereliction of duty and moved to New York City. While there, Poe published a well-received collection called Poems. The book included several pieces heavily influenced by the Romantic period in English Literature. Scholars suggest that these works were inspired by masters of the time, such as Shelley, Coleridge, and Keats.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Late Life and Death:
John Allan passed away in 1834, leaving Poe out of his will despite having no children. Poe was broke, and he left New York City to attempt to advance his career in Baltimore, where he lived with his aunt, her daughter, & Maria Clemm, Virginia. Poe shifted his focus to short stories and attracted the attention of several publishers with “MS. Found in a Bottle.” Despite being paid for his work, Poe continued to struggle financially. In 1835, he was hired as editor of The Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, Virginia. While at the Messenger, Poe continued publishing his work and reviewing other authors’ efforts.
In 1836, Poe married 13-year-old Virginia Clemm. The couple and Virginia’s mother, Maria, moved to Philadelphia. Some of Poe’s most famous works were written and published in the following years, including the 1st modern detective story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and the narrative poem “The Raven.” Poe’s writing became world-renowned, and he was paid for lectures and recitations. Poe was the first American writer to earn enough to make a living.
Poe’s wife, Virginia, contracted tuberculosis, which she battled for several years until she died in 1847 at 24. The emotional trauma from the loss of the major stabilizing force in Poe’s life quickly led to the deterioration of his physical & mental health. Poe’s already complicated relationship with alcohol was further exacerbated, and he began to travel unrooted from any particular home base. Poe pursued several platonic and romantic relationships with female writers. In 1849, Poe was engaged to a childhood friend, Elmira Shelton.
Two weeks before his death, Poe left Shelton in Richmond while he traveled to Baltimore to retrieve his deceased wife’s mother, Maria. One week later, an ill and drunk Poe appeared at a bar, wearing clothes that did not belong to him. He was taken to a hospital and spent the next four days intermittently screaming, incoherent, and hysterical. Poe died of unknown causes at 40 on October 7, 1849.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Writing Style:
Poe’s works are quintessential examples of Gothic literature. They invoke a feeling of terror while exploring death, despair, suspense, and the nuances of romance. Poe engaged readers through the utilization of imagery and suspense within vivid settings.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Themes:
Several themes were prominent throughout many of Poe’s works. Though many of Poe’s central themes reflect the influence of Romanticism, they also reflect events and emotions that Poe experienced himself.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Who is Edgar Allan Poe, and why is he important?
Edgar Allan Poe was a prolific early American writer. He was a poet and author of short fiction, nonfiction, a novel, and a play. Poe is also considered to be the father of the detective fiction genre.
What techniques does Edgar Allan Poe use?
Edgar Allan Poe utilized highly detailed imagery, symbolism, and simile in many of his works. He often used a ballad-like writing style incorporating cadence, rhythm, onomatopoeia, and alliteration.
What influenced Edgar Allan Poe's writing style?
The romantic authors of Europe influenced Edgar Allan Poe's writing style. Events and experiences from Poe's own life also impacted his writing, as is evidenced by his grasp of human emotion and motivation.
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