Edgar Allan Poe is considered one of America’s great writers, but in his day he was eccentric, and somewhat of an outcast.
Edgar Allan Poe is best known as one of the great American poets. He had a tumultuous life, which could have inspired him to write such dark tales of suspense as “The Raven” and “Annabelle Lee.”
Poe’s Early Years
Poe was born on January 19th, 1809. His father, David, deserted the family just after the birth, and Poe’s mother died shortly thereafter, when he was only 2 years old. Poe had two siblings, a brother William, and sister Rosalie. After his mother’s death, Poe was taken in by a wealthy tobacco merchant named John Allan, and his family. Allan and Poe did not get along well, and Poe was never officially adopted.
When he was old enough, Poe enlisted in the army, as he was no longer able to afford school, thanks to many gambling debts. He served for two years, before returning home. His foster mother died in 1829, and Poe and his foster father reconciled, but only for a short time. That same year, Poe enlisted in the West Point Military Academy, but was discharged less than a year later. Finding that the life of a military man was not for him, Poe decided to focus on becoming a writer.
The Writer’s Personal Life
In 1836, Poe married Virginia Clemm, his cousin, and daughter to his Aunt Maria Clemm, whom he lived with for several years. They were quite poor, and often went hungry. Poe did odd jobs for magazines and fellow authors, and was a contributing writer to such publications as the Southern Literary Messenger.
Poe was an accomplished athlete, engaging in boxing more than any other sport, and had a fondness for animals, especially birds. He was known around town as an alcoholic, and could sometimes be violent. All in all, those who knew of him thought Poe was rather odd.
Writer and Poet
As Poe gained fame as a writer, he received a shock when his wife Virginia died in 1847. Following her death, Poe began exhibiting more erratic behavior than usual, often over-indulging in the drink and displaying violent tendencies. He started wooing many women, and reportedly courted four women at once, which was considered inappropriate. Just two years after his wife’s death, Poe became engaged to a former childhood sweetheart. They never married.
Edgar Allan Poe died on October 7th, 1849. The cause of death is still a point of debate. Some say it was the alcohol that did him in, others suggest various diseases may have been the cause. And still, others claim that Poe may have been murdered. Whatever the case, Poe was found unconscious, lying in the street, and was admitted to a local Baltimore hospital, where he died shortly after. Poe was buried in the Old Westminster Burying Ground of Baltimore. There was no ceremony, and his grave was unmarked. In 1875, Poe’s remains were moved to a more public corner of the cemetery, so tourists and fans of his works could walk by the graveyard and view his headstone. In the original burial site, another dedication headstone stands to mark the spot.
Today, Poe is still famous for his suspenseful works of literature and his short stories and poems are studied in schools and for pleasure around the world.
- Krull, Kathleen. Lives of the Writers. Harcourt Brace & Company. New York, 1994.