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Edgar Allan Poe:
Master of Mystery and Macabre

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1809 to Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and David Poe, Jr. Three years later both of his parents died and he moved into the home of John Allan in Richmond, Virginia. He was given the name “Allan” by his new family.

Poe was schooled at the Manor School at Stoke Newington and Reverend John Bransby’s Manor House boarding school. He then moved back in with the Allans, served an apprenticeship in Pawtucket, and attended the University of Virginia. He attended the university only for one year due to gambling debts, which caused an estrangement from his foster father.

On May 26, 1827, Poe enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private under the name Edgar A. Perry. He was discharged after two years, during which his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems, was released.

Get the
Complete Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe
on CD

In 1829, Edgar Allan Poe became somewhat reconciled with John Allan when Frances, John’s wife died. This reconciliation was Frances’s dying wish. John got Poe an appointment at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Poe was soon dismissed from West Point for disobeying a direct order. After this incident all relations between John Allan and Poe was completely severed.

After Poe’s and John’s estrangement, Edgar Allan moved to Baltimore to live with his widowed aunt, Maria Clemm, and her daughter, Virginia Eliza. Virginia soon became Poe’s wife in May 16, 1836, when she was only thirteen years old.

Edgar Allan Poe’s literary career began to grow during this time. He worked for different newspapers and magazines, including Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, Southern Literary Messenger, and Grahams Magazine. On January 20, 1942, Poe’s wife started to bleed from the mouth while singing at their piano. It was the first sign of consumption, which is now known as tuberculosis. She never fully recovered and this prompted Poe to begin his bouts of heavy drinking.

In the January 29, 1845 issue of the Evening Mirror, Poe’s most famous poem, “The Raven,” was published for the first time. People all over the world loved it and read it. Within a month of the first printing, the poem was reprinted at least ten times. It was ideal for reading aloud and the popularity of the poem brought Poe wide acclaim and recognition. Poe’s newfound popularity mollified his lifelong desire for victory and acceptance.

Poe had been editor of Broadway Journal, which failed in 1846. He moved to the Fordham section of the Bronx in New York and, in 1847, Virginia died there. After her death, Poe became more and more unstable. He attempted to court Sarah Helen Whitman, who was then known as Sarah Elmira Royster.

Get the
Complete Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe
on CD

The dramatic downward spiral that Poe finally got caught up in finally ended on October 7, 1849. He died at the age of forty. Found on the streets of Baltimore, he was delirious and in need of serious medical attention, though there is still some speculation as to how he ended up in that condition. Dr. J.E. Snodgrass, a supporter of the temperance movement claimed that alcohol had killed him while Dr. John Moran, the man who attended Poe, did not think it was alcohol.

Some other speculations about Edgar Allan Poe’s death include syphilis, diabetes, a rare brain disease, the idea that he was drugged and used in a ballot box stuffing scam, enzyme deficiency, and rabies. The rabies speculation is based on the fact that many of the symptoms he exhibited before death are all evidence of rabies infection. It is likely, however, that the true nature of Poe’s death will never be known.

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