History

The life of Edgar Allen Poe

By Matt Williamson
Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allen Poe's stories are still among the most frightening ever written
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Edgar Allan Poe is perhaps one of the most intriguing and mysterious American authors. He is well known for his short stories and poetry; however, he achieved much contemporary acclaim for his literary criticism and essays. His works are often dark and speak of the tragedies of the human condition, and perhaps this comes as a result of Poe's troubled life.

The Life of Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was born to actor parents in Boston, Massachusetts. His father left the family when Poe was a year old, and his mother died a year later. Poe was taken in by a wealthy family in Richmond, Virginia, who never adopted him formally but gave him their name. After attending several boarding schools, Poe registered at the University of Virginia, where he racked up mounting gambling debts that his foster father refused to pay. He eventually dropped out and moved back to Boston where he wrote for a newspaper.

After holding several odd jobs, Poe enlisted in the army for a five-year term. He asked to be released after only 2 years, and his wish was granted by his foster father's string pulling. After leaving the military, Poe worked for several newspapers as an essayist while publishing short stories at the same time. He moved in with his aunt and cousin, Virginia, in Richmond. He soon married Virginia who was 13 at the time. Virginia died of tuberculosis (as had several members of Poe's family), and Poe was left alone.

He soon began to drink heavily, and his behavior became increasingly erratic. After courting several other women, among them an old childhood sweetheart, he was found apparently drunk on the streets of Richmond, mumbling, delirious, and wearing someone else's clothes. The details of his death remain a mystery. Throughout his troubled life, however, he continued to produce prose and poetry that has become an integral part of American Gothic literature.

Famous Works and Legacy

Many modern artists and authors list Edgar Allan Poe as one of their chief inspirations. Ray Bradbury often tells of his admiration for Poe, and has even used him as a novel character at times. George Bernard Shaw was greatly influenced by Poe, and even calls him "the greatest journalistic critic of his time" in the Poe Encyclopedia.

Edgar Allan Poe has often been labeled the Father of the Southern Gothic genre of writing. He was a master at suspense, and his tales continue to leave readers questioning the motives of everyone around them, or wondering just how many skeletons are in their friends' closets. Poe's works usually have very clear lessons that run through them: No cruel deed will ever go unpunished especially by those who were wronged. Many people have suggested that the tragic events in the life of Edgar Allen Poe gave him the material for his work, as well as a need to see evil avenged.

Among some of Edgar Allan Poe's most famous works include:

Poetry
  • "Annabel Lee" (in memory of his wife, Virginia)
  • "Eldorado"
  • "The Raven"
  • "Lenore"


Prose
  • "The Cask of Amontillado"
  • "The Fall of the House of Usher"
  • "The Pit and the Pendulum"
  • "The Mask of the Red Death"
  • "The Tell-Tale Heart"
  • "The Black Cat"

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