The Life of Edgar Allan Poe

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Is it any surprise that the work of Poe only emphasized on the bizarre, macabre or the outcast? The answer is in the affirmative. The surprise is that all the trials and tribulations cleared the socioeconomic barriers to his prosperity and the celebrity status he commands to date. From troubled childhood, irresponsible parenting that advanced to bad fortunes in marriage which later transformed into alcoholism, Edgar’s contribution to the Literature immortalizes his being. The objective of this paper is to evaluate the life of Edgar Allan Poe and the contribution that his lifestyle to his literary prowess.

Edgar Poe’s background enhanced his literary skills. Elizabeth Arnold Poe, Edgar’s mother, was a shrewd actress descendant of the English theatrical family (Meyers 5). David Poe, Jr. Poe’s father who adopted status of a traveling actor of Irish decent even though he lacked any talent thus music did not translate into financial gains. Subsequently, he was incapable of fending for the family exposing the family to massive financial strains. After an informal divorce, Poe’s mother later died in 1811, Richmond Virginia (Meyers 6). The trials and tribulation of Edgar became official from then. He was in the custody of John Allan, a prosperous Scottish exporter of tobacco from whom the growing Edgar adopted his family name, Allan.

Edgar Allan Poe attended Manor House School in London transferring to an Academy in the US where he succeeded to join University in Virginia (Meyers 21). His study was short-lived a year later due to lack of school fees and massive debts from gambling that he was engaged in to upkeep the high lifestyle he always wished for. The debts from gambling exposed him against his foster father, Allan, leading to their separation where he left for Boston. It was in Boston that he enrolled in the army to get formal employment and sustain himself. He lied about his age and was employed under the name Edgar A. Perry (Meyers 32).

Edgar’s first book Tamerlane and Other Poems under the “A Bostonian” anonym was published in the same year he was enrolled in the army. The book, nevertheless, did not get much readership or elicit much criticism. Two years later, he received a promotion to the sergeant major rank and, on personal request; he was discharged three months after promotion (Meyers 31). In the last month of 1829, he published another book Al Aaraaf, Minor Poems and Tamerlane which elicited much criticism and mass readership. He then joined West Point Military Academy, a move that was speculated to reunite with his foster father. He, nonetheless, was discharged from the military academy charged by neglecting his duties by the court-martial. Majority of the biographers are in agreement that Edgar provoked his termination from the military academy as he was frustrated in the academy. Some biographers propose that he could not stay since his foster father refused to settle his bills (Meyers 32).

After dismissal, he proceeded to New York armed with donations from friends and well-wishers from the West Point; he published Poems by Edgar A. Poe. In Baltimore, he lived with his aunt where he enrolled his five short stories in a contest under the Philadelphia Saturday Courier sponsorship (Meyers 150). Even though he never won, his poems were published in the newspaper.

Edgar continued to publish his stories at the same time running errands to get some income to subsidize his literary work. His financial woes grew worse when his foster father died in the year 1834 leaving nothing for Edgar, not even mentioning him in his will (Meyers 54).

A year before the death of his foster father, Poe engaged his thirteen years old cousin into marriage, a decision that evoked much criticism as well as doubts to his psychological well being due to the age of the spouse, a minor to be precise (Quinn 253). However, the year 1846 marked a turning point in Edgar’s advancement as he was engaged in a lot of personal scandals emanating from two female admirers in the literary establishment they were employed as editors as well as the management of the Broadway Journal with the company seizing the publication of his literary works. Worse still, his wife, Virginia Clemm fell ill making Poe relocate to Fordham, a rural cottage. The wife finally died on 30th January 1847, an occurrence that made Poe Collapse and develops a nervous problem (Quinn 253). Despite worsening health, he continued to publish his works. In the year to follow the collapse and the death of his wife, he published Eureka: A Prose Poem which was an evaluation of the origin of all things.

In the 1849 summer, he left for Richmond motivated by the idea of starting his literary magazine. On September the same year, he was fortunate to get an opportunity to deliver a public lecture on “The Poetic Principle” in the same country that marked his last appearance in public (Quinn 506).

Edgar Poe is described as an alcoholic, a trait that resulted in his dismissal at the Graham’s making his financial status drop drastically and reverts to work in cheap dailies to get some upkeep (Meyers 213). He strived to establish own magazine going an extra mile of organizing to seek the assistance of President Tyler in Washington but was failed by his aggression towards alcohol. According to various biographers, he was so much drawn to alcohol when he made his way through to the president that he forgot and wore his cloth inside out. Most of his biographers are in agreement that Edgar’s death was as a result of drinking with “brain congestion” suspected (Meyers 241). Nonetheless, a cardiologist R. Michael Benitez in 1996 deduced that Edgar did not die out of alcoholism but as a result of a rabies attack after undertaking a blind clinical, pathologic assessment. The physician continued to note that Poe had become very hypersensitive to substances with any amount of alcohol in his later years and developed complications for a couple of days after taking only a glass of wine. The doctor also rejects some of the myths as put forward by some biographers that Edgar Allan Poe was found dead in a gutter affirming that he died after he was admitted to the Washington College Hospital (Meyers 250).

Bizarre events did not end with the death of Edgar in 1849. He was laid to rest in an unmarked grave, and when the rumors of such went far and wide and reached the court with a stone ordered to mark the grave, train accident destroyed the stone leaving no trace of any grave (Meyers 258).

In conclusion, Edgar Allan Poe’s life is full of miseries. From troubled childhood, irresponsible parenting that advanced to bad fortunes in marriage which later transformed into alcoholism, Edgar’s contribution to the Literature immortalizes the man. The modern mystery stories borrowed much from Edgar’s short stories that feature C. Auguste Dupin. Arthur Conan Doyle, for instance, related Sherlock Holmes to that of Dupin. The US Mystery Writers gives award known as Edgar to the memory of Edgar Poe.

Works cited

Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: his life and legacy. Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.

Quinn, Arthur H. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. Print.

December 12, 2023



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