On January 19, 1809, Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Poe's father and mother, both professional actors, died before the poet was three and John and Frances Allan raised him as a foster child in Richmond, Virginia. John Allan, a prosperous tobacco exporter, sent Poe to the best boarding schools and later to the University of Virginia, where Poe excelled academically. After less than one year of school, however, he was forced to leave the University when Allan refused to pay his gambling debts.
Poe returned briefly to Richmond, but his relationship with Allan deteriorated. In 1827, he moved to Boston and enlisted in the United States Army. His first collection of poems, Tamerlane, and Other Poems, was published that year. In 1829, he published a second collection entitled Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Neither volume received significant critical or public attention. Following his Army service, Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy, but he was again forced to leave for lack of financial support. He then moved into the home of his aunt, Mrs. Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Poe began to sell short stories to magazines at around this time, and, in 1835, he became the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. He brought his aunt and twelve-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm, with him to Richmond. He married Virginia in 1836. Over the next ten years, Poe would edit a number of literary journals including the Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and Graham's Magazine in Philadelphia and the Broadway Journal in New York City. It was during these years that he established himself as a poet, a short-story writer, and an editor. He published some of his best-known stories and poems including "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and "The Raven." After Virginia's death from tuberculosis in 1847, Poe's life-long struggle with depression and alcoholism worsened. He returned briefly to Richmond in 1849 and then set out for an editing job in Philadelphia. For unknown reasons, he stopped in Baltimore. On October 3, 1849, he was found in a state of semi-consciousness. Poe died four days later of "acute congestion of the brain."
Poe's work as an editor, a poet, and a critic had a profound impact on American and international literature. His stories mark him as one of the originators of both horror and detective fiction. Many anthologies credit him as the "architect" of the modern short story. He was also one of the first critics to focus primarily on the effect of the style and of the structure in a literary work; as such, he has been seen as a forerunner to the "art for art's sake" movement. French Symbolists such as Mallarmé and Rimbaud claimed him as a literary precursor. Baudelaire spent nearly fourteen years translating Poe into French. Today, Poe is remembered as one of the first American writers to become a major figure in world literature.
Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827)
Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (1829)
The Raven and Other Poems (1845)
Eureka: A Prose Poem (1848)
The Fall of the House of Usher (1839)
Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1939)
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841)
The Black Cat (1843)
The Tell-Tale Heart (1843)
The Purloined Letter (1845)
The Cask of Amontillado (1846)
The Oval Portrait (1850) The Narrative of Arthut Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1850)
Curiosities about Allan Poe
Best known for his poem "The Raven," writer Edgar Allan Poe wrote compelling horror and detective stories as well. He put great emphasis on form and structure in his taut short stories. His short story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," published in 1841, is often called the first modern detective story.
Despite his skill as a writer, it is well known that Poe had a drinking problem, and letters reveal that he struggled with suicidal thoughts. The causes and circumstances around his death at 40 years old are unknown, but perhaps have to do with heart failure or his drinking. Based on her interpretation of Poe's letters, Kay Redfield Jamison speculates that Poe was a manic-depressive, a condition known today as bipolar disorder. In her book, she argues that creativity like Poe's can spring from states of mania. From the mind-sickness emerges a "cosmic" perspective that lets creative juices flow, she writes.
Edgar Allan Poe may have seen a connection between creativity and mental illness, himself. He wrote:
"Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence -- whether much that is glorious -- whether all that is profound -- does not spring from disease of thought -- from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect"
by Amanda Soares Aleluia