Skip to main content
Select Source:

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

Unquestionably one of America's major writers, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was far ahead of his time in his vision of a special area of human experience—the "inner world" of dream, hallucination, and imagination. He wrote fiction, poetry, and criticism and was a magazine editor.

Edgar Allan Poe was best known to his own generation as an editor and critic; his poems and short stories commanded only a small audience. But to some extent in his poems, and to an impressive degree in his tales, he pioneered in opening up areas of human experience for artistic treatment at which his contemporaries only hinted. His vision asserts that reality for the human being is essentially subterranean, contradictory to surface reality, and profoundly irrational in character. Two generations later he was hailed by the symbolist movement as the prophet of the modern sensibility.

Poe was born in Boston on Jan. 19, 1809, the son of professional actors. By the time he was 3, Edgar, his older brother, and younger sister had lost their mother to consumption and their father through desertion. The children were split up, going to various families to live. Edgar went to the charitable Richmond, Virginia, home of John and Frances Allan, whose name Poe was to take later as his own middle name.

A New Family

The Allans were wealthy then and were to become more so later, and though they never adopted Poe, for many years it appeared that he was to be their heir. They treated him like an adopted son, saw to his education in private academies, and took him to England for a 5-year stay; and at least Mrs. Allan bestowed considerable affection upon him.

As Edgar entered adolescence, however, bad feelings developed between him and John Allan. Allan disapproved of his ward's literary inclinations, thought him surly and ungrateful, and gradually seems to have decided that Poe was not to be his heir after all. When, in 1826, Poe entered the newly opened University of Virginia, Allan's allowance was so meager that Poe turned to gambling to supplement his income. In 8 months he lost $2, 000. Allan's refusal to help him led to total estrangement, and in March 1827 Poe stormed out on his own.

Poe managed to get to Boston, where he signed up for a 5-year enlistment in the U.S. Army. In 1827, as well, he had his Tamerlane and Other Poems published at his own expense, but the book failed to attract notice. By January 1829, serving under the name of Edgar A. Perry, Poe rose to the highest noncommissioned rank in the Army, sergeant major. He was reluctant to serve out the full enlistment, however, and he arranged to be discharged from the Army on the understanding that he would seek an appointment at West Point. He thought that such a move might cause a reconciliation with his guardian. That same year Al Araaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems was published in Baltimore and received a highly favorable notice from the novelist and critic John Neal. Armed with these new credentials, Poe visited Allan in Richmond, but another violent quarrel forced him to leave in May 1830.

The West Point appointment came through the next month, but, since Poe no longer had any use for it, he did not last long as a cadet. Lacking Allan's permission to resign, Poe sought and received a dismissal for "gross neglect of duty" and "disobedience of orders." His guardian, long widowed, had taken a young wife who might well give him an heir, and Poe realized that his hopes of a legacy were without foundation.

Marriage and the Search for a Place

During his early years of exile Poe had lived in Baltimore for a while with his aunt Maria Clemm and her 7-year-old daughter, Virginia. He returned to his aunt's home in 1831, publishing Poems by Edgar Allan Poe and beginning to place short stories in magazines. In 1833 he received a prize for "MS. Found in a Bottle, " and John Pendleton Kennedy got him a job on the Southern Literary Messenger. In 1836 Poe married his cousin Virginia—now 13 years old—and moved to Richmond with his bride and mother-in-law. Excessive drinking lost him his job in 1837, but he had produced prolifically for the journal. He had contributed his Politian, as well as 83 reviews, 6 poems, 4 essays, and 3 short stories. He had also quintupled the magazine's circulation. Rejection in the face of such accomplishment was extremely distressing to him, and his state of mind from then on, as one biographer put it, "was never very far from panic."

The panic accelerated after 1837. Poe moved with Virginia and her mother to New York, where he did hack work and managed to publish The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838). Then they moved to Philadelphia, where Poe served as coeditor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. In 2 years he boosted its circulation from 5, 000 to 20, 000 and contributed some of his best fiction to its pages, including "The Fall of the House of Usher." In 1840, furthermore, he published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. But there was trouble at Burton's, and in 1841 Poe left for the literary editorship of Graham's Magazine.

It was becoming clear that 2 years was about as long as Poe could hold a job, and his stay at Graham's confirmed this principle. Though he contributed skillfully wrought fiction and unquestionably developed as a critic, his endless literary feuding, his alcoholism, and his inability to get along very well with people caused him to leave after 1842.

Illness and Crisis

The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Man That Was Used Up emerged in 1843, and a Philadelphia newspaper offered a $100 prize for his "The Gold Bug, " but Poe was now facing a kind of psychological adversity against which he was virtually helpless. His wife, who had been an absolutely crucial source of comfort and support to him, began showing signs of the consumption that would eventually kill her. When his burden became too great, he tried to relieve it with alcohol, which made him ill.

After great struggle Poe got a job on the New York Mirror in 1844. He lasted, characteristically, into 1845, switching then to the editorship of the Broadway Journal. Although he was now deep in public literary feuds, things seemed to be breaking in his favor. The 1844 publication of the poem "The Raven" finally brought him some fame, and in 1845 the publication of two volumes, The Raven and Other Poems and Tales, both containing some of his best work, did in fact move him into fashionable literary society. But his wife's health continued to deteriorate, and he was not earning enough money to support her and Clemm.

Poe's next job was with Godey's Lady's Book, but he was unable to sustain steady employment, and amid the din of plagiarism charges and libel suits, his fortunes sank to the point that he and his family almost starved in their Fordham cottage in the winter of 1846. Then, on Jan. 30, 1847, Virginia Poe died.

The wonder is not that Poe began totally to disintegrate but that he nevertheless continued to produce work of very high caliber. In 1848 he published the brilliantly ambitious Eureka, and he was even to make a final, heart-wrenching attempt at rehabilitation. He returned to Richmond in 1849, there to court a now-widowed friend of his youth, Mrs. Shelton. They were to be married, and Poe left for New York at the end of September to bring Clemm back for the wedding. On the way he stopped off in Baltimore. Nobody knows exactly what happened, and there is no real proof that he was picked up by a gang who used him to "repeat" votes, but he was found on October 3 in a stupor near a saloon that had been used as a polling place. He died in a hospital 4 days later.

World of His Work

It is not hard to see the connection between the nightmare of Poe's life and his work. Behind a screen of sometimes substantial, sometimes flimsy "reality, " his fictional work resembles the dreams of a distressed individual who keeps coming back, night after night, to the same pattern of dream. At times he traces out the pattern lightly, at other times in a "thoughtful" mood, but often the tone is terror. He finds himself descending, into a cellar, a wine vault, a whirlpool, always falling. The women he meets either change form into someone else or are whisked away completely. And at last he drops off, into a pit or a river or a walled-up tomb.

Poe's critics interpret this pattern to represent the search of the individual for himself by going deep into himself and his ultimate arrival at the unplumbed mystery of his inner self. This search has come, of course, to characterize much of 20th-century art, and it is the distinguished accomplishment of Poe as an artist that his work looks forward with such startling precision to the work of the century that followed.

Further Reading

Arthur H. Quinn, Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (1941), is extremely reliable. Two very readable treatments are Hervey Allen, Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (1934), and William R. Bittner, Poe: A Biography (1962). A thorough study is Edward C. Wagenknecht, Edgar Allan Poe: The Man behind the Legend (1963). Two critical studies which supplement each other are Patrick F. Quinn, The French Face of Edgar Allan Poe (1957), which concentrates on the fiction, and Edward H. Davidson, Poe: A Critical Study (1957), which emphasizes the poetry. See also Killis Campbell, The Mind of Poe (1933); Haldeen Braddy, Glorious Incense: The Fulfillment of Edgar Allan Poe (1953); and Harry Levin, The Power of Blackness (1958). Perry Miller, The Raven and the Whale: The War of Words and Wits in the Era of Poe and Melville (1956), and Sidney P. Moss, Poe's Literary Battles: The Critic in the Context of His Literary Milieu (1963), discuss Poe in the context of his times. For a full list of Poe's works see Robert E. Spiller and others, eds., Literary History of the United States, vol. 3 (1948; 3d rev. ed. 1963). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Edgar Allan Poe." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Edgar Allan Poe." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/edgar-allan-poe

"Edgar Allan Poe." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/edgar-allan-poe

Poe, Edgar Allan (1809-1849)

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Source

Poet, author, and journalist

Career. The son of two impoverished actors and whose father abandoned the family, Edgar Allan Poe was raised as a foster child by the wealthy Allan family in Richmond, Virginia, following his mothers death and his fathers disappearance. He briefly attended the University of Virginia and West Point, never graduating from either institution, and served in the army from 1827 to 1829, when he was discharged. He drifted for several years, publishing volumes of poetry: Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (1829), and Poems (1831). In December 1835 Poe became the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, a position he was asked to leave in 1837 because of excessive drinking and differences with the magazines publisher. In 1839 he worked in Philadelphia as editor of Burtons Gentlemans Magazine, leaving in 1840 in order to begin his own periodical, to be called the Penn Magazine. Instead in 1841 he became editor of Grahams Magazine, leaving a year later, still hoping to establish his own journal (now to be called The Stylus ). Poe then moved to New York, where he would live for the rest of his life. In 1845 he published his best-known poem, The Raven (in The Raven and Other Poems ), which became an overnight success. He edited the Broadway Journal until it folded in 1846. He died in Baltimore on 7 October 1849. The circumstances of Poes death have always been unclear; he was found semi-conscious and was taken by acquaintances to Washington Medical College. John J. Moran, the physician who attended Poe, reported symptoms of delirium tremens, and others who knew him attributed his death to alcohol. Moran later disputed this, and some Baltimore newspapers attributed his death to congestion of the brain or cerebral inflammation, perhaps caused by exposure to the cold and rainy weather.

Literary Style. Poe was both a romantic and a rationalist. Influenced by the works of George Gordon, Lord Byron and Samuel Taylor Coleridge as well as by German Gothic writers Ludwig Tieck and E. T. A. Hoffmann, Poes own work presented unsettling images of death, madness, and terror in carefully produced and arranged forms. Fascinated with the world of dreams, trances, madness, and horror, Poe at the same time was strongly interested in scientific analysis and thought and sought-in his short stories to draw realistic portraits of particular mental states in ways that would appeal to mass audiences. Stories such as The Pit and the Pendulum, The Black Cat, The Tell-Tale Heart The Masque of the Red Death, and The Fall of the House of Usher all reflected Poes ability to portray the minds experience of terror and horror and his use of symbolism to carry those themes. Other stories focused on the world of crime: The Murders in the Rue Morgue, published in Grahams Magazine in April 1841, was the first American detective story, and its crime-solving C. Auguste Dupin was a forerunner of Sherlock Holmes. Poe published several other detective stories, some featuring Dupin, including the prizewinning The Gold-Bug, The Mystery of Marie Roget, The Purloined Letter, and Thou Art the Man. By focusing on the mental work involved in crime-solving, Poe emphasized the way intuition and logic worked together in the mind to form conclusions.

Art for Arts Sake. Significantly, Poe avoided any hint of moralism in these often disturbing stories, believing that arts chief responsibility lay in the transmission of beauty. In his lecture The Poetic Principle (delivered in 1848 and published posthumously) Poe warned against the heresy of The Didactic in art, arguing that art should not be expected to carry moral messages but should be pursued for its own sake. This belief in art for arts sake sharply separated Poe from the majority of nineteenth-century artists; Poes theories would later be embraced by the French Symbolists, particularly Charles Baudelaire.

Philosophy. Poe theorized more about poetry than about prose, and in addition to The Poetic Principle he published two essays explicitly about poetic composition, The Philosophy of Composition (1846) and Rationale of Verse (1848). In The Philosophy of Composition Poe explained how he had gone about composing The Raven, paying close attention to the musical and emotional effects he had determined the poem should have on its readers and how he composed with those effects always in mind. In this essay Poe famously asserted that since the most poetical feeling was melancholia, and the most melancholy of subjects was death, the death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world, a sentiment which may, perhaps, have reflected Poes own long-standing grief over the loss of his young mother and the wasting illness of his young wife, Virginia Clemm. With a similar emphasis on effect Poe argued that the best poetry should be short, in order to be an easily comprehended whole, and as closely imitative of music as possible since both music and poetry sought to capture an all but inexpressible eternal beauty. Ralph Waldo Emerson referred to Poe as the Jingle Man, reflecting Emersons resistance to Poes belief in art for arts sake and his sense of Poes poetry as being more rhythmic than meaningful. Many of Poes poems do carry a strongly marked rhythm and an attentiveness to soundfor example, his Ulalume, whose rhythmic force can be felt even in its title, and The Raven.

Editor and Critic. As an editor Poe published a significant amount of literary criticism, most of it sharply critical. Poe understood the critics task to be an examination of a work in terms of a particular set of standards; the critic would read, analyze, and judge the work before him. His attacks on New York writers in a series of reviews published in Godeys Ladys Book in 1846 earned him the nickname The Man with the Tomahawk. He was also hostile toward New England writers, often referring to Boston as Frogpondium and to the Transcendentalists as Frogpondian Euphuists. Poe accused Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on several different occasions of plagiarism, and in his review of Longfellows Ballads and Other Poems (1842) Poe attacked Longfellow for his didacticism. In return, literary critic Margaret Fuller in 1845 remarked that A large band must be on the watch for a volume of Poems by Edgar A. Poe, ready to cut, rend, and slash in turn. Not all of Poes reviews were hostile, however; he praised William Cullen Bryants Poems in 1846 and Nathaniel Hawthornes Twice-Told Tales in 1837. In 1842 he wrote a long review of Charles Dickenss Barnaby Rudge (1841), whose murder-mystery theme made it a story after Poes own heart. In this review Poe prefigured his most famous poem in suggesting how Dickens might have done more with the figure of a raven that appears in the story:

Its croakings might have been prophetically heard in the course of the drama. Its character might have performed, in regard to that of the idiot [character] much the same part as does, in music, the accompaniment in respect to the air. Each might have been distinct. Each might have differed remarkably from the other. Yet between them there might have been wrought an analogical resemblance, and although each might have existed apart, they might have formed together a whole which would have been imperfect in the absence of the either.

Source

Kenneth Silverman, Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance (New York: HarperCollins, 1991).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Poe, Edgar Allan (1809-1849)." American Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Poe, Edgar Allan (1809-1849)." American Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/poe-edgar-allan-1809-1849

"Poe, Edgar Allan (1809-1849)." American Eras. . Retrieved August 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/poe-edgar-allan-1809-1849

Poe, Edgar Allan

Edgar Allan Poe

Born: January 19, 1809
Boston, Massachusetts

Died: October 7, 1849
Baltimore, Maryland

American poet and writer

One of America's major writers, Edgar Allan Poe was far ahead of his time in his vision of a special area of human experiencethe "inner world" of dreams and the imagination. He wrote fiction, poetry, and criticism and also worked as a magazine editor.

Orphaned at three

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809, the son of David Poe Jr. and Elizabeth Arnold Poe, both professional actors. By the time he was three, Edgar, his older brother, and his younger sister were orphans; their father deserted the family, and then their mother died. The children were each sent to different families to live. Edgar went to the Richmond, Virginia, home of John and Frances Allan, whose name Poe was to take later as his own middle name. The Allans were wealthy, and though they never adopted Poe, they treated him like a son, made sure he was educated in private academies, and took him to England for a five-year stay. Mrs. Allan, at least, showed considerable affection toward him.

As Edgar entered his teenage years, however, bad feelings developed between him and John Allan. Allan disapproved of Edgar's ambition to become a writer, thought he was ungrateful, and seems to have decided to cut Poe out of his will. When, in 1826, Poe entered the newly opened University of Virginia, he had so little money that he turned to gambling in an attempt to make money. In eight months he lost two thousand dollars. Allan's refusal to help him led to a final break between the two, and in March 1827 Poe went out on his own.

Enlists in the army

Poe then signed up for a five-year term in the U.S. Army. In 1827 his Tamerlane and Other Poems was published at his own expense, but the book failed to attract notice. By January 1829, serving under the name of Edgar A. Perry, Poe rose to the rank of sergeant major. He did not want to serve out the full five years, however, and he arranged to be discharged from the army on the condition that he would seek an appointment at West Point Academy. He thought such a move might please John Allan. That same year Al Araaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems was published in Baltimore, Maryland, and it received a highly favorable notice from the novelist and critic John Neal.

Poe visited Allan in Richmond, but he left in May 1830 after he and Allan had another violent quarrel. The West Point appointment came through the next month, but, since Poe no longer had any use for it, he did not last long. Lacking Allan's permission to resign, Poe sought and received a dismissal for "gross neglect of duty" and "disobedience of orders." Poe realized that he would never receive financial help from Allan.

Marriage and editing jobs

Poe lived in Baltimore for a while with his aunt Maria Clemm and her seven-yearold daughter, Virginia. In 1831 he published Poems by Edgar Allan Poe and began to place short stories in magazines. In 1833 he received a prize for "Ms. Found in a Bottle," and his friend John Pendleton Kennedy, a lawyer and writer, got him a job on the Southern Literary Messenger. In 1836 Poe married his cousin Virginianow thirteen years oldand moved to Richmond with her and her mother. Although excessive drinking caused him to lose his job in 1837, he had written eighty-three reviews, six poems, four essays, and three short stories for the journal. He had also greatly increased its sales. Losing this job was extremely distressing to him, and his state of mind from then on, as one biographer put it, "was never very far from panic."

The panic increased after 1837. Poe moved with Virginia and her mother to New York City, where he managed to publish The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), his only long work of fiction. The family then moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Poe served as coeditor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. In two years he boosted its circulation from five thousand to twenty thousand and contributed some of his best fiction to its pages, including "The Fall of the House of Usher." In 1840 he published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. But there was trouble at Burton's, and in 1841 Poe left to work as the editor of Graham's Magazine. It was becoming clear that two years was about as long as Poe could hold a job, and though he contributed quality fiction and criticism to the magazine, his drinking, his feuding with other writers, and his inability to get along with people caused him to leave after 1842.

Illness and crisis

"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Man That Was Used Up" emerged in 1843, and a Philadelphia newspaper offered a one-hundred-dollar prize for his story "The Gold Bug," but Poe's problems were increasing. His wife, who had been a vital source of comfort and support to him, began showing signs of the consumption (or tuberculosis, an infection of the lungs) that would eventually kill her. When his troubles became too great, Poe tried to relieve them by drinking, which made him ill. Things seemed to improve slightly in 1844; the publication of the poem "The Raven" brought him some fame, and this success was followed in 1845 by the publication of two volumes, The Raven and Other Poems and Tales. But his wife's health continued to worsen, and he was still not earning enough money to support her and Clemm.

Poe's next job was with Godey's Lady's Book, but he was unable to keep steady employment, and things got so bad that he and his family almost starved in the winter of 1846. Then, on January 30, 1847, Virginia Poe died. Somehow Poe continued to produce work of very high caliber. In 1848 he published the ambitious Eureka, and he returned to Richmond in 1849 to court a now-widowed friend of his youth, Mrs. Shelton. They were to be married, and Poe left for New York City at the end of September to bring Clemm back for the wedding. On the way he stopped off in Baltimore, Maryland. No one knows exactly what happened, but he was found unconscious on October 3, 1849, near a saloon that had been used as a polling place. He died in a hospital four days later.

It is not hard to see the connection between the nightmare of Poe's life and his work. His fictional work resembles the dreams of a troubled individual who keeps coming back, night after night, to the same pattern of dream. At times he traces out the pattern lightly, at other times in a "thoughtful" mood, but often the tone is terror. He finds himself descending, into a cellar, a wine vault, or a whirlpool, always falling. The women he meets either change form into someone else or are whisked away completely. And at last he drops off, into a pit or a river or a walled-up tomb.

For More Information

Bittner, William R. Poe: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown, 1962.

Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1992.

Quinn, Arthur H. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. New York: Appleton-Century, 1941. Reprint, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

Walsh, John Evangelist. Midnight Dreary: The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Poe, Edgar Allan." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Poe, Edgar Allan." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/poe-edgar-allan

"Poe, Edgar Allan." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/poe-edgar-allan

Poe, Edgar Allan

Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–49, American poet, short-story writer, and critic, b. Boston. He is acknowledged today as one of the most brilliant and original writers in American literature. His skillfully wrought tales and poems convey with passionate intensity the mysterious, dreamlike, and often macabre forces that pervaded his sensibility. He is also considered the father of the modern detective story.

Early Life and Works

After the death of his parents, both of whom were actors, by the time he was three years old, Poe was taken into the home of his godfather, John Allan, a wealthy Richmond merchant. The Allans took him to Europe, where he began his education in schools in England and Scotland. Returning to the United States in 1820, he continued his schooling in Richmond and in 1826 entered the Univ. of Virginia. He showed remarkable scholastic ability in classical and romance languages but was forced to leave the university after only eight months because of quarrels with Allan over his gambling debts. Poverty soon forced him to enlist in the army.

Because of the deathbed plea of his foster mother, he achieved an unenthusiastic reconciliation with Allan, which resulted in an honorable discharge from the army and an appointment to West Point in 1830. However, when Allan remarried the following year Poe lost all hope of further assistance from him and was expelled from the Academy for infraction of numerous minor rules. Living in a time of frequent economic crisis and depressions, he was to be plagued by poverty throughout his life, a condition that was exacerbated by his chronic alcoholism. His first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems, was published in 1827. It was followed by two more volumes of verse in 1829 and 1831. None of these early collections attracted critical or popular recognition. Poe went to Baltimore to live with his aunt, Mrs. Maria Clemm, and her daughter Virginia. In 1835, J. P. Kennedy helped him become an editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. He contributed stories, poems, and astute literary criticism, but his drinking cost him the editorship.

Later Life and Mature Works

In 1836 Poe married Virginia Clemm, then only 13, and in 1837 they went to New York City, where he published The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), his only novel. From 1838 to 1844, Poe lived in Philadelphia, where he edited Burton's Gentleman's Magazine (1839–40) and Graham's Magazine (1841–42). His criticism, which appeared in these magazines and in the Messenger, was keen, direct, incisive, and sometimes savage, and it made him a respected and feared critic. Some of his magazine stories were collected as Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840). At that time he also began writing the mystery tales that earned him the title "father of the modern detective story." In 1844, Poe moved back to New York, where he worked on the Evening Mirror and later edited and owned the Broadway Journal.

The Raven and Other Poems (1845) won him fame as a poet both at home and abroad. In 1846 he moved to the Fordham cottage (now a museum) and there wrote "The Literati of New York City" for Godey's Lady's Book. His wife died in 1847, and by the following year Poe was courting the poet Sarah Helen Whitman. However, in 1849 he returned to Richmond and became engaged to Elmira Royster, a childhood sweetheart who was by then the widowed Mrs. Shelton. On his way north to bring Mrs. Clemm to the wedding, he became involved in a drinking debauch in Baltimore. This indulgence proved fatal, for he died a few days later.

Assessment

Poe's literary executor, R. W. Griswold, overemphasized Poe's personal faults and distorted his letters. Poe was a complex person, tormented and alcoholic yet also considerate and humorous, a good friend, and an affectionate husband. Indeed, his painful life, his neurotic attraction to intense beauty, violent horror, and death, and his sense of the world of dreams contributed to his greatness as a writer. Such compelling stories as "The Masque of the Red Death" and "The Fall of the House of Usher" involve the reader in a universe that is at once beautiful and grotesque, real and fantastic.

His poems (including "To Helen," "The Raven," "The City in the Sea," "The Bells," and "Annabel Lee" ) are rich with musical phrases and sensuous, at times frightening, images. Poe was also an intelligent and witty critic who often theorized about the art of writing. The analytical mind he brought to criticism is evident also in his famous stories of ratiocination, notably "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Purloined Letter." Poe influenced such diverse authors as Swinburne, Tennyson, Dostoyevsky, Conan Doyle, and the French symbolists.

Bibliography

See his collected poems and stories (3 vol., 1969–78); his letters, ed. by J. W. Ostrom (2 vol., 1948, repr. 1966); biographies by J. Symons (1981), D. Thomas and D. K. Jackson (1987), K. Silverman (1991), and J. Meyers (1992); studies by D. Hoffman (1972), B. L. Knapp (1984), J. G. Kennedy (1989), and D. Stashower (2006).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Poe, Edgar Allan." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Poe, Edgar Allan." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/poe-edgar-allan

"Poe, Edgar Allan." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/poe-edgar-allan

Poe, Edgar Allan

Poe, Edgar Allan (1809–49) US poet and short-story writer. Much of his finest poetry, such as The Raven (1845), deals with fear and horror in the tradition of the Gothic novel. Other works include the poem Annabel Lee (1849), and the stories The Fall of the House of Usher (1839), The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), and The Pit and the Pendulum (1843).

http://www.pambytes.com/poe/poe.html

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Poe, Edgar Allan." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Poe, Edgar Allan." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/poe-edgar-allan

"Poe, Edgar Allan." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/poe-edgar-allan