Edgar Allen Poe Biography

Edgar Allen Poe biography: Mystique has always surrounded the life and death of Edgar Allen Poe. He battled depression and additions and mystery still surrounds his memory.

Often called the originator of the short story, and the man who is still able to put a healthy amount of fear into all of us was born on January 19, 1809. His birthplace was Boston, and his parents held employment as actors.

Edgar Allan Poe was the second child born to the Poes and had an elder brother. David Poe abandoned his family and died soon after the third child, Edgar's sister, was born. The elder Poe had engaged in heavy drinking, and Elizabeth Arnold Poe was left alone with the children. As fate would dictate, Elizabeth died shortly before Edgar's third birthday, succumbing to tuberculosis. Before young Edgar was even three years old, he was an orphan.

The life of this "master of the macabre" storyteller was never easy. Upon the death of his mother, Edgar was taken in by Mr. and Mrs. John Allan, but never formally adopted. By the time he was six years of age, the family had moved to England, and Edgar attended private schools. The family moved back to the United States when the child was 11.

At the age of 17, Edgar enrolled at the University of Virginia. His records and grades there were excellent, but he soon realized that he could not rely on his family to pay his expenses. The small amount of money that Mr. Allan gave to Edgar was used for gambling, in the hopes that the amount could be increased in this way.

Debts began piling up, Mr. Allan refused to help financially, and finally Edgar had to not only leave his college, but his home as well. Virtually penniless and homeless, Edgar turned to drinking. Gambling was also becoming a serious problem and his debts were mounting.

The year 1827 brought changes to Edgar's life. He managed to get a small booklet of his poetry published. The book was titled Tamerlane and Other Poems. In May of that same year, Edgar enlisted in the Army under the name of Edgar A. Perry. He continued with the Army for two years, performing well, but then decided, although he had reached the rank of Sergeant Major, that he wanted out of the Army to pursue his passion for writing. Another reason for his desiring discharge was to seek appointment at West Point Military Academy, which isn't fully understood since he had wanted to get out of the Army.

Edgar and his foster father, Mr. Allan, reconciled long enough for Mr. Allen to help Edgar accomplish these things. His West Point appointment occurred in 1830. It was short-lived, and Poe made sure to secure his dismissal from West Point in March of 1831 by planning to make sure he would receive a court martial. Mr. Allan was once again not supplying Edgar with enough money for his schooling.

After West Point, Poe lived in Baltimore with his aunt, Maria Clemm, and her young daughter, Edgar's cousin. He began weaving his tales and five of his stories were published in 1832.

By the end of 1835, Edgar Allan Poe was editing the Southern Literary Messenger. He soon married his very young cousin, Virginia Clemm. She had barely passed her 13th birthday and her husband was twenty-seven. The date of their marriage was May of 1836.



Edgar Allan Poe had more editing jobs over the next few years, but never was able to afford more than the barest of necessities for his family, including his mother in law, who lived with Edgar and Virginia. His drinking problem made it very difficult to keep employment for any substantial amount of time.

During this time period, Poe was writing some of his best stories and poetry. When his poem, The Raven, was published in 1845, fame came swiftly, but there was still never enough money to make his family financially secure.

The couple, no matter how distant their age difference, or the reasons for their marriage, were allowed to spend only ten and a half years together. Virginia died of tuberculosis in early 1847. Edgar is said to have wept continually and spent a lot of time at her gravesite. The only constant in his life, his wife, was suddenly gone, as had happened with everything else in his life.

Edgar continued writing for a short time, but his life was cut short in October of 1849. At the age of 40, Edgar Allan Poe died. The story surrounding his death has always been an enigma. Did he die in the streets of Baltimore? In a hospital after collapsing on the street? Rumors of both have circulated, but the true answer is unknown although most think he did indeed die in a hospital in Baltimore after being found in the street and being admitted. The cause of death has also never been determined. It is reported that Poe's last earthly words were "Lord help my poor soul."

The mystery does not end with Poe's death. At a certain point in time, his remains were exhumed and moved to another part of the cemetery, but even later, a scandal developed that seemed to prove they were not Poe's remains after all.

Where lies Edgar Allan Poe? No one knows, but to add still another element of mystification, someone who has become known as the Poe Toaster comes to the gravesite each year on the date of Poe's birth. The Toaster leaves half a bottle of cognac and three red roses at the grave. The act of tribute has been going on since 1949. Edgar would most likely smile to know that attempts to identify the Poe Toaster have not been made due to respect of his privacy as he pays tribute to Poe.

His stories have lived on, however. Edgar Allan Poe has delighted and frightened many generations with his tales and poetry. Many have been called masterpieces, and a few of the more famous are The Fall of the House of Usher, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Tell-Tale Heart. These were some of his tales of mystery, intrigue, and the macabre. Poetry includes the ever-famous The Raven, and Annabel Lee.

Edgar Allan Poe lived a life of heartache, addictions, and depression. In one of his quotes, his view of elusive happiness probably best explains the darkness residing within himself. He said, "I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active -- not more happy -- nor more wise, than he was 6,000 years ago."

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