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Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe[2†]

Edgar Allan Poe (born January 19, 1809, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.—died October 7, 1849, Baltimore, Maryland) was an American writer, poet, critic, and editor who is famous for his cultivation of mystery and the macabre[1†][2†]. His tale “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) initiated the modern detective story, and the atmosphere in his tales of horror is unrivaled in American fiction[1†]. His “The Raven” (1845) numbers among the best-known poems in the national literature[1†].

Early Years and Education

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts[1†][2†]. He was the second child of actors David and Elizabeth “Eliza” Poe[1†][2†]. His father abandoned the family in 1810, and his mother died the following year[1†][2†]. After the tragic loss of his parents, Poe was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia[1†][2†][3†]. They never formally adopted him, but he was with them well into young adulthood[1†][2†].

Poe and his newfound family moved to London, England, where he attended many prestigious schools and was first introduced to his love for literature[1†][4†]. In these early years, he was given a classical education that was continued in Richmond[1†]. He attended the University of Virginia but left after a year due to lack of money[1†][2†]. His gambling losses at the university so incensed his guardian, John Allan, that he refused to let him continue his education[1†][2†]. This led to a quarrel over the funds for his education and his gambling debts[1†][2†].

Despite these early hardships, Poe’s passion for literature remained undeterred. His experiences during these formative years played a significant role in shaping his literary career[1†][4†].

Career Development and Achievements

Edgar Allan Poe’s career was as diverse as it was influential. After leaving the University of Virginia, he enlisted in the United States Army under an assumed name[5†]. During this time, he published his first collection, “Tamerlane and Other Poems,” credited only to "a Bostonian"[5†][2†]. This marked the beginning of his literary career.

Poe’s work as a clerk, newspaper writer, and soldier in the US Army provided him with a unique perspective that greatly influenced his writing[5†]. He also spent time as a cadet at West Point, though he never completed his studies there[5†]. Despite these setbacks, Poe was determined to make a living through writing alone, which was a rare accomplishment at the time[5†][2†].

Poe later switched his focus to prose and spent several years working for literary journals and periodicals[5†][2†]. His work forced him to move between several cities, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City[5†][2†]. During this time, he became known for his unique style of literary criticism[5†][2†].

Poe’s work as an editor, poet, and critic had a profound impact on American and international literature[5†][6†]. His stories mark him as one of the originators of both horror and detective fiction[5†][6†]. Many anthologies credit him as the “architect” of the modern short story[5†][6†]. His tale “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) initiated the modern detective story, and the atmosphere in his tales of horror is unrivaled in American fiction[5†][1†]. His “The Raven” (1845) numbers among the best-known poems in the national literature[5†][1†].

Despite his financially difficult life and career, Poe’s influence on literature around the world, as well as specialized fields such as cosmology and cryptography, is undeniable[5†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Edgar Allan Poe’s literary career spanned a variety of genres, but he is perhaps best known for his contributions to the realms of mystery, the macabre, and early science fiction. Here are some of his most notable works:

These works, among others, have cemented Poe’s legacy as a master of horror and mystery. His unique blend of psychological insight, scientific curiosity, and a keen sense of the macabre has left an indelible mark on American literature[7†][8†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Edgar Allan Poe’s work is characterized by a unique blend of mystery, the macabre, and early science fiction. His keen intellect and vivid imagination have made him one of the most groundbreaking authors of early-nineteenth-century America[9†]. His stories, such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” are remembered for their atmospheric horror and psychological insight[9†].

Poe is often credited with inventing the modern detective story. His use of deductive reasoning to unravel the complexities of criminal behavior laid the foundation for the crime genre[9†]. His in-depth explorations of the interior lives of his characters also helped pave the way for psychological realism, inspiring later fiction writers, including Fyodor Dostoevsky[9†].

His critical writings, particularly those on the relationship between philosophical principles and artistic style, influenced the aesthetic theories of Charles Baudelaire, Stephane Mallarme, and other members of the French symbolist movement[9†]. Despite his far-reaching impact, Poe has also had his share of detractors. Henry James was intensely critical of Poe’s work, and T. S. Eliot famously dismissed his writings as "pre-adolescent"[9†].

However, the second half of the twentieth century witnessed a reevaluation of Poe’s legacy. Modern critics and theorists began to recognize his profound effect on modern literature and thought[9†]. His exploration of themes such as death, regret, and lost love invites further interpretation and analysis[9†].

Personal Life

Edgar Allan Poe’s personal life was marked by a series of tragedies and hardships. His father deserted the family early on, and his mother died of tuberculosis when he was only three years old[10†][11†]. Poe and his siblings were orphaned, and he was taken into the home of John Allan, a wealthy merchant from Richmond, Virginia[10†][1†][11†]. Although Allan never legally adopted Poe, he treated him like a son and ensured he received a good education[10†][11†].

However, Poe’s relationship with Allan was tumultuous. They had a major falling out when Allan refused to support Poe’s ambitions to become a writer[10†][11†]. This led to Poe leaving Allan’s home and setting out on his own[10†][11†].

Poe’s personal life was further marked by his marriage to his cousin, Virginia Clemm, who was only 13 at the time[10†][11†]. Their marriage was said to be more like that of a brother and sister rather than husband and wife[10†][11†]. Tragically, Virginia died of tuberculosis in 1847, plunging Poe into deep grief[10†][11†].

Despite these personal tragedies, Poe produced some of the most enduring works of literature in the American canon. His personal life, marked by hardship and loss, often reflected in his macabre and melancholic works[10†][11†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most influential figures in American literature. His works have had a lasting impact on the literary canon, and his influence can be seen in many aspects of modern culture. His work owes much to the concern of Romanticism with the occult and the satanic. It owes much also to his own feverish dreams, to which he applied a rare faculty of shaping plausible fabrics out of impalpable materials[12†]. His keen and sound judgment as an appraiser of contemporary literature, his idealism and musical gift as a poet, his dramatic art as a storyteller, considerably appreciated in his lifetime, secured him a prominent place among universally known men of letters[12†].

The outstanding fact in Poe’s character is a strange duality[12†]. With those he loved he was gentle and devoted. Others, who were the butt of his sharp criticism, found him irritable and self-centred and went so far as to accuse him of lack of principle[12†]. Much of Poe’s best work is concerned with terror and sadness, but in ordinary circumstances the poet was a pleasant companion[12†].

In many ways, Edgar Allan Poe’s story is sad—his life marked by tragedy and poverty, the harsh exigencies of the literary marketplace, and alcoholism[13†]. Yet it’s consequential and exciting as well, yielding achievements—including the invention of the detective story and early works of science fiction—that endured and shaped American literature[13†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Edgar Allan Poe: American writer [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Edgar Allan Poe [website] - link
  3. Poetry Foundation - Edgar Allan Poe [website] - link
  4. University of Alabama College of Arts & Sciences - Literary Landscapes - Edgar Allan Poe [website] - link
  5. Poetry & Poets - What kind of jobshas edgar allen poe had? [website] - link
  6. Academy of American Poets - About Edgar Allan Poe [website] - link
  7. The Poe Museum - Poe’s Complete Works [website] - link
  8. Discover Walks Blog - Exploring the 10 Most Famous Works of Edgar Allan Poe [website] - link
  9. Gale - Edgar Allan Poe [website] - link
  10. PBS - American Masters - Edgar Allan Poe biography - American Masters [website] - link
  11. Encyclopedia of World Biography - Edgar Allan Poe Biography [website] - link
  12. Britannica - Edgar Allan Poe - Gothic, Horror, Poetry [website] - link
  13. Gale Blog - The Life and Literary Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe [website] - link
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