Edgar Allan Poe, a phenomenal American poet and short story writer known for his intricacies, has carved out a special place of his own in American literature. Apart from that, he also worked as a literary critic and editor. His academic studies in languages were at the University of Virginia and the United States Military Academy at West Point. However, Poe either discontinued his studies or was dismissed from these institutions before gaining a degree.
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston and spent time in Richmond, Philadelphia, and New York. But in spite of these various locations where he spent time, Baltimoreans were fonder of him and more possessive of memories about him. This might be due to the fact that he lived for some time in Baltimore and died there. People show their fondness by leaving pennies on his grave and go to the extent of leaving roses and a bottle of cognac on his birthday.
Many writers and thinkers were influenced by the writing of Edgar Allan Poe, including Charles Baudelaire, H. P. Lovecraft, and Jules Verne. He played a key role in the development of the literary genres of Science Fiction and Mystery. He has a diverse catalog that includes such classics as The Fall of the House of Usher, The Purloined Letter, and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.
Edgar Poe was born in 1809 to a family of actors. There is an assumption that his parents named him after the son of Gloucester in Shakespeare’s King Lear, which they were performing at the time of his birth. The initial turbulent days that surrounded Edgar inspired Angela Carter to write The Cabinet of Edgar Allan Poe. After the father’s desertion of the family, his mother passed away due to tuberculosis. It was the Allan family from Richmond, Virginia, who took in, not adopted, the younger Edgar Poe; and he was renamed Edgar Allan Poe to represent this new family relationship.
Even in his first year of attendance at the University of Virginia, Edgar Allan Poe accumulated large gambling debts. Such debts led to tensions and a rift with his foster family. To support himself, he indulged in some irregular work before joining the United States Army. This time period also marked the publication of his first book of poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems. On completion of two years in military services, he sought permission to leave the Army and seek an education at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Permission was granted with one conditionâ€”that Edgar Allan Poe would reconcile with his foster father, which he readily agreed to. It was a short-lived reconciliation because of financial issues. Poe spoiled his military career because of disobedience and neglect of duties. This led to a court-martial in 1831. Thereafter, he traveled to New York before returning to Baltimore.
There was professional and personal turmoil throughout his life. His inability to make a living could have been related to the reluctance of American publishers to publish new American writers because they were reprinting British books due to a lack of strong international copyright laws.
When he turned 26, Edgar Allan Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. She died of tuberculosis in 1847, which led to Poe’s excessive drinking. A few people think that this death and the loss of his mother resulted in the frequent theme in his works of a beautiful woman’s death. The Raven powerfully explores this theme. Poe’s story The Masque of the Red Death deals with a death due to tuberculosis.
Later, he renewed his friendship with Sarah Elmira Royster, who he loved during his youthful days. They were to be married, and this would have given him financial security and more time to concentrate on his own writing.
He died on October 8, 1849; he was traveling from Richmond to Philadelphia on business and stopped in Baltimore. What he did there is unknown, but he was found in an injured state and in ill health. There are many theories that prevail: drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, brain dysfunction, or disease ranging from epilepsy to rabies.
Killis Campbell labeled Edgar Allan Poe as â€œthe saddest and the strangest figure in American literary history.â€