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Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Pass the bottle, nevermore!"Poe" during a snowstorm in Baltimore!  lol

a brief sketch


Edgar Allan Poe was a famous American poet, short story writer, journalist, and literary critic who lived from 1809-1849. He was born in Boston on January 19th, 1809 and was orphaned at an early age, after which he was sent to live with a foster family (The Allans) in Richmond. He was never officially adopted by the Allans and he was eventually disowned by the family.

Poe won a short story contest in 1833, and two years later became a literary critic for the magazine (The Southern Literary Messenger). Shortly after, he then married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia in 1836. He became nationally famous upon the publication of his poem The Raven in 1845.

His life was marred by infrequent but intense drinking bouts which gave him a bad reputation. However, he continued to produce excellent short stories (Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Gold Bug) which brought him acclaim in America, England, and especially in France. Many of Poe's stories take place in Paris. (The French poet Baudelaire translated many of Poe's works)

Unfortunately, after the death of Poe's wife (1847), he fell apart and died two years later on October 7, 1849. Poe's controversial life and reputation have earned him the following comments no less:

With the aid of his psychological stories, critics have proclaimed him necrophilic, dipsomanic, paranoid, impotent, neurotic, oversexed, a habitual taker of drugs, until all that is left in the public eye is an unstable creature sitting gloomily in a dim room, the raven over the door, the bottle on the table, the opium in the pipe, scribbling mad verses.  (Bittner, William. Poe : A Biography. London : Elek Books, 1962.  page 9)

For more detailed bio information, see the Biographies section in the Library.

Poe Controversies

Whether true or not, here are some Poe controversies. Some modern critics of Poe claim he had an intolerance to alcohol which agitated his poor health. Some also blame Griswold, a character who attempted to defame Poe by spreading stories giving Poe a bad reputation. Whether Poe was an alcoholic or opium taker is irrelevant, Poe's times were a different era that cannot be compared to our modern day society where our democratic lawmakers have banned things that were previously widespread and available. Poe himself liked to project a certain image (as any true poet) and the most important fact is that his memory lives on and his works have become classics.

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