We can not end National Poetry Month without mentioning short story writer and poet, Edgar Allan Poe. His writings transformed horror fiction with short story classics such as “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Raven,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” He was one of the most influential writers of the 19th century whose legacy continues today. Many of his writings were inspired by the events in his life.
Poe was born into an acting family in 1809 in Boston. His parents were professional actors who were members of a repertory company. Because his father left the family and his mother died at a young age, Poe did not know his parents. He went to live with John and Francis Allan, a successful tobacco merchant and his wife in Richmond, Virginia.
In 1826, Poe went to the University of Virginia, however, when he could not receive the tuition costs from John, he returned home. When he returned, he was devastated to learn that his fiancée was engaged to someone else. Heartbroken, he moved to Boston were he enlisted in the army and published his first book, Tamerlane, and Other Poems.
Because his adopted father did not give him sufficient funds, Poe was dismissed from United States Military Academy at West Point.
After leaving, Poe focused full-time on his writing. He went to New York City where his third collection of verse, Poems was published in 1831.
Over the next few years, Poe’s short stories appeared in Philadelphia’s Saturday Courier. Facing financial hardship, he accepted an editorial position at Richmond’s The Southern Literary Messenger where he united with his cousin and future wife, Virginia Clemm. After their marriage in 1836, he supported himself by editing in various journals, developing a reputation as a fearless literary critic.
Despite his literary contributions, Poe was barely making a livable wage. For his first publication of short stories, Tales of Grotesque and Arabesque, he was paid with 25 copies of his book. This made him an avid supporter and champion for higher wages for writers.
In 1845, Poe’s publication of “The Raven” made him a household name. He become popular enough to attract large crowds to his lectures. Two years later, Virginia died from tuberculous. Devastated by the news, Poe returned to Richmond where he reunited with his first fiancée, who was now a widow. They become engaged. They intended to marry in Richmond after Poe’s trip to New York and Philadelphia. However, while on his way back, Poe stopped in Baltimore where he was found semi-conscious in a bar room in a public place. He pass away four days later. His death remains a mystery.
After his death, his literary rival, Rufus Griswold, wrote a libelous obituary as an attempt for revenge for the negative comments Poe made about him. Griswold’s attacks were meant to dismiss Poe and his reputation, but they actually had the opposite effect instead his remarks drove his books’ sales.
This article, featured in January 16, 1909 Perth Amboy Evening News, mentions numerous celebrations that will take place to honor the 100th year anniversary of Poe’s birth.
This article, featured in January 19, 1909 The Star and Newark Advertiser, mentions the importance of posthumously forgiving Poe and not criticizing his legacy. As stated, his contributions show how his understanding of emotions and workings of minds were marvelous.
“There’s so much good in the worst of us. And so much bad in the best of us, that is hardly behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us.”
This article, featured in January 17, 1913 Perth Amboy Evening News, shows an image of Poe Cottage in Fordham, NY where Poe and his wife Virginia spend several years of their lives together. It also includes a bust of Poe.
(Contributed by Kristi Chanda)
“Edgar Allan Poe.” (2021). Biography.com, A&E Networks Television. Received from www.biography.com/writer/edgar-allan-poe.
“Edgar Allan Poe.” (2021). Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation. Received from www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/edgar-allan-poe.
“Who Was Edgar Allan Poe?” (2021). Who Was Edgar Allan Poe | Edgar Allan Poe Museum. Received from www.poemuseum.org/who-was-edgar-allan-poe.