Edgar Allan Poe

by Tim Ballingall

Today, 202 years ago, Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston Massachusetts.

Orphaned at the age of three, Poe was sent to Richmond, Virginia to live with the wealthy tobacco merchant, John Allan and his wife, Frances Valentine Allan. Growing up, Poe showed an inclination for poetry, taking great interest in the works of the British Romantic, Lord Byron. But John Allan, a money-minded businessman, strongly disapproved.

In 1826, Poe did a one-term stint at the University of Virginia. Forced to drop out due to insufficient funds, Poe returned to Richmond only to find that his fiancée, Elmira Royster, had become engaged to somebody else. Poe then enlisted in the United States Army.

The death of his foster mother brought him home two years later. To somewhat makeup for sabotaging Poe’s chances at college, John Allan agreed to aid Poe in attending West Point. Eight months later, he had been court-marshaled.

To counter the hapless happenings of Poe’s life, there were his publications, three thus far—Tamerlane and Other Poems in 1827, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems in 1829, and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe in 1830.

For the next six years, Poe found work as a magazine writer and literary critic at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond and Burton’s and Graham’s Magazines in Philadelphia. He also published his first novel, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym” and his first collection of short stories called “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.” In 1835, Poe had secretly wed his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm, but in 1842, Clemm contracted tuberculosis. The disease had already killed Poe’s mother, foster mother, and brother.

The Simpsons' "The Raven" episode

Three years later, the Evening Mirror published “The Raven.” At last, Poe was a success. In October 1849, Poe died in the Washington College Hospital. The cause of death is unknown.

A litterateur of American Romanticism, Edgar Allan Poe penned such macabre classics as, of course, “The Raven” and short stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” The Pit and The Pendulum,” and “The Fall of The House of Usher.”

Visit the Rohrbach Library’s Films On Demand for a closer look at “The Tell-Tale Heart” or The Poe Museum for further biographical information.  Or go to JSTOR or EBSCO Host in the Library’s Articles and Databases for critical information.

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