Edgar Allan Poe portrait B

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), by Oscar Halling, late 1860s. Halling used the "Thompson" daguerreotype, one of the last portraits taken of Poe in 1849, as a model. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Edgar Allan Poe
Born Edgar Poe
January 19, 1809(1809-Template:MONTHNUMBER-19)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died October 7, 1849(1849-Template:MONTHNUMBER-07) (aged 40)
Baltimore, Maryland), U.S.
Nationality United States American
Spouse(s) Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 - October 7, 1849) was an American poet, short story writer, editor, and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement.


Edgar Allan Poe - Writer Mini Bio BIO

Edgar Allan Poe - Writer Mini Bio BIO

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Poe was born at Boston, where his parents, both actors, were temporarily living. He was left an orphan in early childhood in destitute circumstances, but was adopted by a Mr. Allan of Richmond, Virginia. By him and his wife he was treated with great indulgence, and in 1815 accompanied them to England, where they remained for 5 years, and where he received a good education, which was continued on their return to America, at the University of Virginia. He distinguished himself as a student, but got deeply into debt with gaming, which led to his being removed. In 1829 he published a small volume of poems containing "Al Araaf" and "Tamerlane." About the same time he proposed to enter the army, and was placed at the Military Academy at West Point. Here, however, he grossly neglected his duties, and fell into the habits of intemperance which proved the ruin of his life, and was in 1831 dismissed. He then returned to the house of his benefactor, but his conduct was so objectionable as to lead to a rupture. In the same year Poe published an enlarged edition of his poems, and in 1833 was successful in a competition for a prize tale and a prize poem, the tale being the "MS. found in a Bottle," and the poem "The Coliseum." In the following year Mr. Allan died without making any provision for Poe, and the latter, being now thrown on his own resources, took to literature as a profession, and became a contributor to various periodicals. In 1836 he entered into a marriage with his cousin Virginia Clemm, a very young girl, who continued devotedly attached to him notwithstanding his many aberrations, until her death in 1847. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym appeared in 1838, and in 1839 Poe became editor of the (American) Gentleman's Magazine, in which appeared as "Tales of the Arabesque and Grotesque" many of his best stories. In 1845 his famous poem, The Raven, came out, and in 1848 Eureka: A prose poem, a pseudo-scientific lucubration. The death of his wife gave a severe shock to his constitution, and a violent drinking bout on a visit to Baltimore led to his death from brain fever in the hospital there.[1]

The literary output of Poe bears the stamp of an original genius. His better tales are remarkable for their originality and ingenuity of construction, and in the best of them he rises to a high level of imagination, as in "The House of Usher," while "The Gold Beetle" or "Golden Bug" is one of the 1st examples of the cryptogram story; and in "The Purloined Letters," "The Mystery of Marie Roget," and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" he is the pioneer of the modern detective story.[1] He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction.[2]

Poe and his works influenced literature in the United States and around the world, as well as in specialized fields, such as cosmology and cryptography. Poe and his work appear throughout popular culture in literature, music, films, and television. A number of his homes are dedicated museums today.


Edgar Allan Poe Birthplace Boston

Plaque marking the approximate location where Edgar Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Swampyank, 2008. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

He was born Edgar Poe in Boston, Massachusetts, the 2nd child of actress Elizabeth Arnold (Hopkins) and actor David Poe, Jr. He had an elder brother, William Henry Leonard Poe, and a younger sister, Rosalie Poe.[3] Edgar may have been named after a character in William Shakespeare's King Lear, a play the couple was performing in 1809.[4]

His father abandoned their family in 1810,[5] and his mother died a year later from consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis). Poe was then taken into the home of John Allan, a successful Scottish merchant in Richmond, Virginia, who dealt in a variety of goods including tobacco, cloth, wheat, tombstones, and slaves.[6] The Allans served as a foster family and gave him the name "Edgar Allan Poe",[7] though they never formally adopted him.[8]

The Allan family had Poe baptized in the Episcopal Church in 1812. John Allan alternately spoiled and aggressively disciplined his foster son.[7] The family, including Poe and Allan's wife, Frances Valentine Allan, sailed to Britain in 1815. Poe attended the grammar school in Irvine, Scotland (where John Allan was born), for a short period in 1815, before rejoining the family in London in 1816. There he studied at a boarding school in Chelsea until summer 1817. He was subsequently entered at the Reverend John Bransby's Manor House School at Stoke Newington, then a suburb 4 miles (6 km) north of London.[9]

Poe moved back with the Allans to Richmond, Virginia in 1820. In 1824 Poe served as the lieutenant of the Richmond youth honor guard as Richmond celebrated the visit of the Marquis de Lafayette.[10] In March 1825, John Allan's uncle[11] and business benefactor William Galt, said to be one of the wealthiest men in Richmond, died and left Allan several acres of real estate. The inheritance was estimated at $750,000. By summer 1825, Allan celebrated his expansive wealth by purchasing a 2-story brick home named Moldavia.[12]

In the same year (1825), Poe became romantically involved with a neighbor, 15-year-old Sarah Elmira Royster. They discussed marriage, though Royster's father vocally disapproved,[13] due to his daughter's young age.[14]

In February 1826 Poe registered at the year-old University of Virginia (UV) to study languages.[15] The university, in its infancy, was established on the ideals of its founder, Thomas Jefferson. It had strict rules against gambling, horses, guns, tobacco and alcohol, but these rules were generally ignored. Jefferson had enacted a system of student self-government, allowing students to choose their own studies, make their own arrangements for boarding, and report all wrongdoing to the faculty. The unique system was still in chaos, and there was a high dropout rate.[16]

Poe's engagement with Royster continued through 1826; however, Royster's father intercepted and destroyed all of Poe's letters to his daughter.[13] Thinking Poe had forgotten her, Royster married Alexander Shelton, a businessman from a well-to-do Virginia family.[17]

During his time at UV, Poe also became estranged from his foster father over gambling debts. Poe claimed that Allan had not given him sufficient money to register for classes, purchase texts, and procure and furnish a dormitory. Allan did send additional money and clothes, but Poe's debts increased.[18]

Poe gave up on the university after a year, and, not feeling welcome in Richmond, especially when he learned that Royster had married, he traveled to Boston in April 1827, sustaining himself with odd jobs as a clerk and newspaper writer.[19] At some point he started using the pseudonym Henri Le Rennet.[20]

Military careerEdit


Unable to support himself, on May 27, 1827, Poe enlisted in the United States Army as a private. Using the name "Edgar A. Perry", he claimed he was 22 years old even though he was 18.[21] He initially served at Fort Independence in Boston Harbor for $5 dollars a month.[19] That same year, he released his debut collection of poetry, the 40-page Tamerlane, and other poems, attributed with the byline "by a Bostonian". Only 50 copies were printed, and the book received virtually no attention.[22] Poe's regiment was posted to Fort Moultrie in Charleston, South Carolina and traveled by ship on the brig Waltham on November 8, 1827. Poe was promoted to "artificer", an enlisted tradesman who prepared shells for artillery, and had his monthly pay doubled.[23]

After serving for 2 years and attaining the rank of sergeant major for Artillery (the highest rank a noncommissioned officer can achieve), Poe sought to end his 5-year enlistment early. He revealed his real name and his circumstances to his commanding officer, Lieutenant Howard. Howard would only allow Poe to be discharged if he reconciled with John Allan and wrote a letter to Allan, who was unsympathetic. Several months passed and pleas to Allan were ignored; Allan may not have written to Poe even to make him aware of his foster mother's illness. Frances Allan died on February 28, 1829, and Poe visited the day after her burial. Perhaps softened by his wife's death, John Allan agreed to support Poe's attempt to be discharged in order to receive an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.[24] Poe finally was discharged on April 15, 1829, after securing a replacement to finish his enlisted term for him.[25]

In May 1829, Poe returned to Baltimore to live [26] with his invalid grandmother, Elizabeth Cairnes Poe, his widowed aunt Maria Clemm, and Maria's children.[27] There he met his future wife, Virginia Eliza Clemm, Maria's daughter. She was 7 years old at the time.[28]

In Baltimore, Poe supported himself by doing odd jobs. In December 1829 a Baltimore publisher released his 2nd book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and minor poems.[26]

In 1830 Poe traveled to West Point, where he enrolled as a cadet on July 1.[29] In October 1830, John Allan married his 2nd wife, Louisa Patterson.[30] The marriage, and bitter quarrels with Poe over the children born to Allan out of affairs, led to the foster father finally disowning Poe.[31]

Poe decided to leave West Point by purposely getting court-martialed. On February 8, 1831, he was tried for gross neglect of duty and disobedience of orders for refusing to attend formations, classes, or church. Poe tactically pled not guilty to induce dismissal, knowing he would be found guilty.[32]

He left for New York in February 1831, and released a 3rd volume of poems, simply titled Poems. The book was financed with help from his fellow cadets at West Point, many of whom donated 75 cents to the cause, raising a total of $170. (They may have been expecting verses similar to the satirical ones Poe had been writing about commanding officers.)[33] Printed by Elam Bliss of New York, it was labeled as "Second Edition" and included a page saying, "To the U.S. Corps of Cadets this volume is respectfully dedicated." The book once again reprinted the long poems "Tamerlane" and "Al Aaraaf" but also 6 previously unpublished poems including early versions of "To Helen", "Israfel", and "The City in the Sea".[34]

Other details of Poe's life immediately after he left West Point are obscure, but by 1833 he was again living at Baltimore in the home of his aunt, Maria Clemm, who was throughout life his protector, and, in so far as extreme poverty permitted, his support.[35] Poe's older brother William Henry Leonard Poe, who had also been living with the family,[28] and had been in ill health in part due to problems with alcoholism, died on August 1, 1831.[36]



Virgina Eliza Clemm Poe (1822-1847), watercolor painted after her death in 1847. Courtesy Wikimedica Commons.

When Edgar Allan Poe rejoined the Clemm household, Virginia Eliza Clemm was no more than 11 years old.[37] She had been born in 1822,[38] and named "Virginia" after an older sister who had died at age 2,[39] only 10 days previously.[40] Her father William Clemm, Jr. was a hardware merchant in Baltimore,[41] who had married Maria Poe, Virginia's mother, on July 12, 1817,[42] after the death of his 1st wife, Maria's 1st cousin Harriet.[43] Clemm had 5 children from his previous marriage and went on to have 3 more with Maria.[41]

After his death in 1826, Clemm left very little to the family,[44] and relatives offered no financial support because they had opposed the marriage.[41] Maria supported the family by sewing and taking in boarders, aided with an annual $240 pension granted to her mother Elizabeth Cairnes, who was paralyzed and bedridden.[44] Elizabeth received this pension on behalf of her late husband, "General" David Poe, a former quartermaster in Maryland who had loaned money to the state.[45]

In 1832, the Clemm family (made up of Elizabeth, Maria, Virginia, and Virginia's brother Henry)[28] was able to use Elizabeth's pension to rent a home at what was then 3 North Amity Street in Baltimore.[46]

During this time, Poe had begun more earnest attempts to start his career as a writer.[47] He turned his attention to prose, placing a few stories with a Philadelphia publication, and began work on his only drama, Politian.

In 1833, he won a prize of $100 offered for the best story by the Baltimore Saturday Visitor for "Ms. Found in a Bottle.". (He would have won the prize for best poem as well except that the judges thought it wrong to give both rewards to a single competitor).[35] The win brought him to the attention of John P. Kennedy, a Baltimorean of considerable means. Kennedy helped Poe place some of his stories, and introduced him to Thomas W. White, editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, a literary magazine based in Richmond, Virginia.[48]

Poe cut a dashing figure in those days – the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica remarks on "his striking personal appearance and his fine manners" [35] – and it is understandable that the young Virginia developed a crush on her much older cousin.

However, Poe was interested in a neighbor named Mary Devereaux. Virginia served as a messenger between the couple, once retrieving a lock of Devereaux's hair to give to Poe.[49] After 17-year-old Mary rejected him due to his excessive drinking, his attention turned to Virginia, who adored him.[50]

Elizabeth Cairnes Poe died on July 7, 1835, ending the pension income and making the family's financial situation much more difficult.[51] Henry died around this time, sometime before 1836, leaving Virginia as Maria's only surviving child.[52]

In August 1835, Poe left the destitute Clemm family behind and moved to Richmond to become assistant editor at the Southern Literary Messenger.[48] While Poe was in Richmond, another cousin, Neilson Poe, the owner of a Baltimore newspaper,[53] and the husband of Virginia's half-sister Josephine Clemm,[54] heard that Edgar was considering marrying Virginia. Neilson offered to take Maria and Virginia in and have the girl educated in an attempt to prevent her marriage to Edgar at such a young age, though he suggested that the option could be reconsidered later.[55]

Edgar called Neilson his "bitterest enemy" and interpreted his cousin's actions as an attempt at breaking his connection with Virginia.[53] On August 29, 1835,[53] Edgar wrote an emotional letter to Maria, declaring that he was "blinded with tears while writing",[54] and pleading that she allow Virginia to make her own decision,[56] in a tone that verged on madness:

I have been dreaming every day & night since of the rapture I should feel in [havin]g my only friends — all I love on Earth with me there, [and] the pride I would take in making you both comfor[table] & in calling her my wife. But the dream is over [Oh G]od have mercy on me. What have I to live for? Among strangers with not one soul to love me.[57]

- and which included a direct appeal to Vivginia:

My love, my own sweetest Sissy, my darling little wifey, think well before you break the heart of your Cousin, Eddy.[57]

Encouraged by his employment at the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe offered to provide financially for Maria, Virginia and Henry if they moved to Richmond.[58] However, Poe was fired from his job at the Messenger within a few weeks of starting for being caught drunk at work by Thomas White.[59]


Edgar Allan Poe's marriage certificate. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The couple decided to marry, but Virginia’s mother did not approve of the union. There was a 13-year age difference, and the author’s financial situation was bleak after having been fired from the Messenger.[50]

Poe and Virginia eloped to Baltimore,[50] and obtained a marriage license on September 22, 1835. The couple might have been quietly married then, though accounts are unclear.[60] He was 26 and she was 13, though she is listed on the marriage certificate as being 21.[61]

Reinstated by White after promising good behavior, Poe went back to Richmond with Virginia and her mother. He remained at the Messenger until January 1837. During this period, Poe claimed that its circulation increased from 700 to 3,500.[3] He published several poems, book reviews, critiques, and stories in the paper.

Poe and his child bride had a public wedding ceremony in Richmond on May 16, 1836, when they were married by a Presbyterian minister named Rev. Amasa Converse.[62] Poe was 27 and Virginia was 13, though her age was listed as 21.[62] This marriage bond was filed in Richmond and included an affidavit from Thomas W. Clelan confirming the bride's alleged age.[63] The ceremony was held in the evening at the home of a Mrs. James Yarrington,[64] the owner of the boarding house in which Poe, Virginia, and Virginia's mother Maria Clemm were staying.[65] Yarrington helped Maria Clemm bake the wedding cake and prepared a wedding meal.[66] The couple then had a short honeymoon in Petersburg, Virginia.[64]

Debate has raged regarding how unusual this pairing was based on the couple's age and blood relationship. Noted Poe biographer Arthur Hobson Quinn argues it was not particularly unusual, nor was Poe's nicknaming his wife "Sissy" or "Sis".[67] Another Poe biographer, Kenneth Silverman, contends that though their 1st-cousin marriage was not unusual, her young age was.[60]

It has been suggested that Clemm and Poe had a relationship more like that between brother and sister than between husband and wife.[68] Biographer Arthur Hobson Quinn disagreed with this view, citing a fervent love letter to argue that Poe "loved his little cousin not only with the affection of a brother, but also with the passionate devotion of a lover and prospective husband."[69]

Some scholars, including Marie Bonaparte, have read many of Poe's works as autobiographical and have concluded that Virginia died a virgin.[70] It has been speculated that she and her husband never consummated their marriage, although no evidence is given.[71] This interpretation often assumes that Virginia is represented by the title character in the poem "Annabel Lee": a "maiden... by the name of Annabel Lee".[70] Poe biographer Joseph Wood Krutch suggests that Poe did not need women "in the way that normal men need them", but only as a source of inspiration and care,[72] and that Poe was never interested in women sexually.[73] Friends of Poe suggested that the couple did not share a bed for at least the first 2 years of their marriage but that, from the time she turned 16, they had a "normal" married life until the onset of her illness.[74]

Virginia and Poe were by all accounts a happy and devoted couple. Poe's sometime employer George Rex Graham wrote of their relationship: "His love for his wife was a sort of rapturous worship of the spirit of beauty."[75] Poe once wrote to a friend, "I see no one among the living as beautiful as my little wife."[76] She, in turn, by many contemporary accounts, nearly idolized her husband.[77] She often sat close to him while he wrote, kept his pens in order, and folded and addressed his manuscripts.[78] She showed her love for Poe in an acrostic poem she composed when she was 23, dated February 14, 1846:

Ever with thee I wish to roam —
Dearest my life is thine.
Give me a cottage for my home
And a rich old cypress vine,
Removed from the world with its sin and care
And the tattling of many tongues.
Love alone shall guide us when we are there —
Love shall heal my weakened lungs;
And Oh, the tranquil hours we'll spend,
Never wishing that others may see!
Perfect ease we'll enjoy, without thinking to lend
Ourselves to the world and its glee —
Ever peaceful and blissful we'll be.


Literary careerEdit

Poe was the earliest well-known American to try to live by writing alone[80][81] and was hampered by the lack of an international copyright law.[82] Publishers often pirated copies of British works rather than paying for new work by Americans.[81] The industry was also particularly hurt by the Panic of 1837.[83] Despite a booming growth in American periodicals around this time, fueled in part by new technology, many did not last beyond a few issues,[84] and publishers often refused to pay their writers or paid them much later than they promised.[85] Poe, throughout his attempts to live as a writer, had to repeatedly resort to humiliating pleas for money and other assistance.[86]

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was published and widely reviewed in 1838.[87] In the summer of 1839, Poe became assistant editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. He published numerous articles, stories, and reviews, enhancing his reputation as a trenchant critic that he had established at the Southern Literary Messenger. Also in 1839, the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was published in 2 volumes, though he made little money off of it and it received mixed reviews.[88] Poe left Burton's after about a year and found a position as assistant at Graham's Magazine.[89]

In June 1840, Poe published a prospectus announcing his intentions to start his own journal, The Stylus.[90] Originally, Poe intended to call the journal The Penn, as it would have been based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the June 6, 1840 issue of Philadelphia's Saturday Evening Post, Poe bought advertising space for his prospectus: "Prospectus of the Penn Magazine, a Monthly Literary journal to be edited and published in the city of Philadelphia by Edgar A. Poe."[91] The journal was never produced before Poe's death.

Around this time, he attempted to secure a position with the Tyler administration, claiming he was a member of the Whig Party.[92] He hoped to be appointed to the Custom House in Philadelphia with help from President Tyler's son Robert,[93] an acquaintance of Poe's friend Frederick Thomas.[94] Poe failed to show up for a meeting with Thomas to discuss the appointment in mid-September 1842, claiming to be sick, although Thomas believed he was drunk.[95] Though Poe was promised an appointment, all positions were filled by others.[96]

In January 1842, Virginia showed early signs of consumption (now known as tuberculosis), while singing and playing the piano. Poe described it as breaking a blood vessel in her throat.[97] She only partially recovered. Poe began to drink more heavily under the stress of Virginia's illness. He left Graham's and attempted to find a new position, for a time angling for a government post.

He returned to New York, where he worked briefly at the Evening Mirror before becoming editor of the Broadway Journal and, later, sole owner.[98] There he alienated himself from other writers by publicly accusing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of plagiarism, though Longfellow never responded.[99] On January 29, 1845, his poem "The Raven" appeared in the Evening Mirror and became a popular sensation. Though it made Poe a household name almost instantly,[100] he was paid only $9 for its publication.[101] It was concurrently published in The American Review: A Whig journal under the pseudonym "Quarles".[102]

Final yearsEdit

Edgar Allan Poe's house in the Bronx

Poe spent the last few years of his life in this small cottage in the Bronx, New York. Photo by Zoirusha, 2007. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The Broadway Journal failed in 1846.[98] The Poes then moved to a cottage in the Fordham section of The Bronx, New York. That home, known today as the "Poe Cottage", is on the southeast corner of the Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge Road. Virginia died there on January 30, 1847.[103] Biographers and critics often suggest Poe's frequent theme of the "death of a beautiful woman" stems from the repeated loss of women throughout his life, including his wife.[104]

Increasingly unstable after his wife's death, Poe attempted to court poet Sarah Helen Whitman, who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. Their engagement failed, purportedly because of Poe's drinking and erratic behavior. However, there is also strong evidence that Whitman's mother intervened and did much to derail their relationship.[105]

Poe then returned to Richmond and made contact with his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster,[106] dropping in on her unespectedly.[107] Poe and Royster Poe and Royster discussed marriage. Her children disapproved, however, and her dead husband's will stipulated that remarriage would remove 3/4 of her estate.[108] Royster may have been reticent because of the stories of Poe's drinking and, because of this, may have inspired Poe into joining the Richmond chapter of the Sons of Temperance.[109] It is unclear whether the couple were ever officially engaged but many of his biographers agree that they came to an "understanding" by late September of 1849.[108]



Grave of Edgar Allan Poe, Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Andrew Horne, 2010. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, "in great distress, and ... in need of immediate assistance", according to the man who found him, Joseph W. Walker.[110] He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849, at 5:00 in the morning.[111] Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition, and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. Some sources say Poe's final words were "Lord help my poor soul."[111] All medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost.[112] Newspapers at the time reported Poe's death as "congestion of the brain" or "cerebral inflammation", common euphemisms for deaths from disreputable causes such as alcoholism.[113] The actual cause of death remains a mystery;[114] from as early as 1872, cooping was commonly believed to have been the cause,[115] and speculation has included delirium tremens, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningeal inflammation,[116] cholera[117] and rabies.[118]

Griswold's "Memoir"Edit

The day Edgar Allan Poe was buried, a long obituary appeared in the New York Tribune signed "Ludwig". It was soon published throughout the country. The piece began, "Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it."[119] "Ludwig" was soon identified as Rufus Wilmot Griswold, an editor, critic and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since 1842. Griswold somehow became Poe's literary executor and attempted to destroy his enemy's reputation after his death.[120]

Griswold wrote a biographical article of Poe called "Memoir of the Author", which he included in an 1850 volume of the collected works. Griswold depicted Poe as a depraved, drunk, drug-addled madman and included Poe's letters as evidence.[120] Many of his claims were either lies or distorted half-truths. For example, it is now known that Poe was not a drug addict.[121] Griswold's book was denounced by those who knew Poe well,[122] but it became a popularly accepted one. This occurred in part because it was the only full biography available and was widely reprinted and in part because readers thrilled at the thought of reading works by an "evil" man.[123] Letters that Griswold presented as proof of this depiction of Poe were later revealed as forgeries.[124]


Paul Gustave Dore Raven0

Cover of The Raven by Poe, 1884 illustrated by Paul Gustave Dore. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


Poe's best known fiction works are Gothic,[125] a genre he followed to appease the public taste.[126] His most recurring themes deal with questions of death, including its physical signs, the effects of decomposition, concerns of premature burial, the reanimation of the dead, and mourning.[127] Many of his works are generally considered part of the dark romanticism genre, a literary reaction to transcendentalism,[128] which Poe strongly disliked.[129] He referred to followers of the movement as "Frogpondians" after the pond on Boston Common.[130] and ridiculed their writings as "metaphor-run", lapsing into "obscurity for obscurity's sake" or "mysticism for mysticism's sake."[131] Poe once wrote in a letter to Thomas Holley Chivers that he did not dislike Transcendentalists, "only the pretenders and sophists among them."[132]

Beyond horror, Poe also wrote satires, humor tales, and hoaxes. For comic effect, he used irony and ludicrous extravagance, often in an attempt to liberate the reader from cultural conformity.[126] In fact, "Metzengerstein", the earliest story that Poe is known to have published,[133] and his original foray into horror, was originally intended as a burlesque satirizing the popular genre.[134] Poe also reinvented science fiction, responding in his writing to emerging technologies such as hot air balloons in "The Balloon-Hoax".[135]

Poe wrote much of his work using themes specifically catered for mass market tastes.[136] To that end, his fiction often included elements of popular pseudosciences such as phrenology[137] and physiognomy.[138]

Literary theoryEdit

Poe's writing reflects his literary theories, which he presented in his criticism and also in essays such as "The Poetic Principle".[139] He disliked didacticism[140] and allegory,[141] though he believed that meaning in literature should be an undercurrent just beneath the surface. Works with obvious meanings, he wrote, cease to be art.[142] He believed that quality work should be brief and focus on a specific single effect.[139] To that end, he believed that the writer should carefully calculate every sentiment and idea.[143] In "The Philosophy of Composition", an essay in which Poe describes his method in writing "The Raven", he claims to have strictly followed this method. It has been questioned, however, if he really followed this system. T.S. Eliot said: "It is difficult for us to read that essay without reflecting that if Poe plotted out his poem with such calculation, he might have taken a little more pains over it: the result hardly does credit to the method."[144] Biographer Joseph Wood Krutch described the essay as "a rather highly ingenious exercise in the art of rationalization".[145]


Main article: Poems by Edgar Allan Poe

The literary output of Poe, though not great in volume, limited in range, and very unequal in merit, bears the stamp of an original genius. In his poetry he sometimes aims at a musical effect to which the sense is sacrificed, but at times he has a charm and a magic melody all his own.[1]



Edgar Allan Poe postage stamp.

The Baltimore Saturday Visitor awarded Poe a prize in October 1833 for his short story "MS. Found in a Bottle".[146]

3 of his poems ("To Helen," "Annabel Lee," and "For Annie") were included in the Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900.[147]

Literary influenceEdit

During his lifetime, Poe was mostly recognized as a literary critic. Fellow critic James Russell Lowell called him "the most discriminating, philosophical, and fearless critic upon imaginative works who has written in America", though he questioned if he occasionally used prussic acid instead of ink.[148] Poe was also known as a writer of fiction and became one of the 1st American authors of the 19th century to become more popular in Europe than in the United States.[149] Poe is particularly respected in France, in part due to early translations by Charles Baudelaire. Baudelaire's translations became definitive versions of Poe's work throughout Europe.[150]

Poe's early detective fiction tales featuring C. Auguste Dupin laid the groundwork for future detectives in literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said, "Each [of Poe's detective stories] is a root from which a whole literature has developed.... Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?"[151] The Mystery Writers of America have named their awards for excellence in the genre the "Edgars".[152]

Poe's work also influenced science fiction, notably Jules Verne, who wrote a sequel to Poe's novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket called An Antarctic Mystery, also known as The Sphinx of the Ice Fields.[153] Science fiction author H.G. Wells noted, "Pym tells what a very intelligent mind could imagine about the south polar region a century ago."[154]

Like many famous artists, Poe's works have spawned innumerable imitators.[155] One interesting trend among imitators of Poe, however, has been claims by clairvoyants or psychics to be "channeling" poems from Poe's spirit. One of the most notable of these was Lizzie Doten, who in 1863 published Poems from the Inner Life, in which she claimed to have "received" new compositions by Poe's spirit. The compositions were re-workings of famous Poe poems such as "The Bells", but which reflected a new, positive outlook.[156]

File:Edgar Allan Poe-circa1849.jpg

Even so, Poe has received not only praise, but criticism as well. This is partly because of the negative perception of his personal character and its influence upon his reputation.[149] William Butler Yeats was occasionally critical of Poe and once called him "vulgar".[157] Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson reacted to "The Raven" by saying, "I see nothing in it,"[158] and derisively referred to Poe as "the jingle man".[159] Aldous Huxley wrote that Poe's writing "falls into vulgarity" by being "too poetical" - the equivalent of wearing a diamond ring on every finger.[160]

Physics and cosmologyEdit

Eureka: A prose poem, an essay written in 1848, included a cosmological theory that presaged the Big Bang theory by 80 years,[161][162] as well as the first plausible solution to Olbers' paradox.[163][164] Poe eschewed the scientific method in Eureka and instead wrote from pure intuition.[165] For this reason, he considered it a work of art, not science,[165] but insisted that it was still true[166] and considered it to be his career masterpiece.[167] Even so, Eureka is full of scientific errors. In particular, Poe's suggestions opposed Newtonian principles regarding the density and rotation of planets.[168]


Poe had a keen interest in cryptography. He had placed a notice of his abilities in the Philadelphia paper Alexander's Weekly (Express) Messenger, inviting submissions of ciphers, which he proceeded to solve.[169] In July 1841, Poe had published an essay called "A Few Words on Secret Writing" in Graham's Magazine. Realizing the public interest in the topic, he wrote "The Gold-Bug" incorporating ciphers as part of the story.[170] Poe's success in cryptography relied not so much on his knowledge of that field (his method was limited to the simple substitution cryptogram), as on his knowledge of the magazine and newspaper culture. His keen analytical abilities, which were so evident in his detective stories, allowed him to see that the general public was largely ignorant of the methods by which a simple substitution cryptogram can be solved, and he used this to his advantage.[169] The sensation Poe created with his cryptography stunt played a major role in popularizing cryptograms in newspapers and magazines.[171]

Poe had an influence on cryptography beyond increasing public interest in his lifetime. William Friedman, America's foremost cryptologist, was heavily influenced by Poe.[172] Friedman's initial interest in cryptography came from reading "The Gold-Bug" as a child-interest he later put to use in deciphering Japan's PURPLE code during World War II.[173]

Homes, landmarks, and museumsEdit


No childhood home of Poe is still standing, including the Allan family's Moldavia estate. The oldest standing home in Richmond, the Old Stone House, is in use as the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, though Poe never lived there. The collection includes many items Poe used during his time with the Allan family and also features several rare first printings of Poe works. The dorm room Poe is believed to have used while studying at the University of Virginia in 1826 is preserved and available for visits. Its upkeep is now overseen by a group of students and staff known as the Raven Society.[174]

The earliest surviving home in which Poe lived is in Baltimore, preserved as the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum. Poe is believed to have lived in the home at the age of 23, with Maria Clemm and Virginia as well as his grandmother (and possibly his brother William Henry Leonard Poe).[175] It is open to the public and is also the home of the Edgar Allan Poe Society. Of the several homes that Poe, his wife Virginia, and his mother-in-law Maria rented in Philadelphia, only the last house has survived. The Spring Garden home, where the author lived in 1843-1844, is today preserved by the National Park Service as the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site.[176] Poe's final home is preserved as the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage in the Bronx, New York.[103]

Other Poe landmarks include a building in the Upper West Side, where Poe temporarily lived when he first moved to New York. A plaque suggests that Poe wrote "The Raven" here. In Boston, a plaque hangs near the building where Poe was born once stood. Believed to have been located at 62 Carver Street (now Charles Street), the plaque is possibly in an incorrect location.[177][178] The bar in which legend says Poe was last seen drinking before his death still stands in Fells Point in Baltimore, Maryland. Now known as The Horse You Came In On, local lore insists that a ghost they call "Edgar" haunts the rooms above.[179]

In popular cultureEdit

Main article: Edgar Allan Poe in popular culture

It is believed that only 12 copies of Poe's earliest book, Tamerlane, and other poems, have survived. In December 2009, a copy sold at Christie's, New York for $662,500, a record price paid for a work of American literature.[180]

The historical Edgar Allan Poe has appeared as a fictionalized character, often representing the "mad genius" or "tormented artist" and exploiting his personal struggles.[181] Many such depictions also blend in with characters from his stories, suggesting Poe and his characters share identities.[182] Often, fictional depictions of Poe use his mystery-solving skills in such novels as The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl.[183]

Baltimore's National Football League team is called The Ravens, after Poe's poem "The Raven." The team mascot is a raven-costumed figure named "Poe."[184]

Poe ToasterEdit

Main article: Poe Toaster

Adding to the mystery surrounding Poe's death, an unknown visitor affectionately referred to as the "Poe Toaster" paid homage to Poe's grave annually beginning in 1949. As the tradition carried on for more than 60 years, it is likely that the "Poe Toaster" was actually several individuals, though the tribute was always the same. Every January 19, in the early hours of the morning, the person made a toast of cognac to Poe's original grave marker and left 3 roses. Members of the Edgar Allan Poe Society in Baltimore helped protect this tradition for decades.

On August 15, 2007, Sam Porpora, a former historian at the Westminster Church in Baltimore where Poe is buried, claimed that he had started the tradition in the 1960s. Porpora said the claim that the tradition began in 1949 was a hoax in order to raise money and enhance the profile of the church. His story has not been confirmed,[185] and some details he gave to the press have been pointed out as factually inaccurate.[186] The Poe Toaster's last appearance was on January 19, 2009, the day of Poe's bicentennial.


Main article: Edgar Allan Poe bibliography



  • The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, of Nantucket ... (anonymous). New York: Harper, 1838; London: Wiley & Putnam, 1838).
  • Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (2 volumes). Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1840. Volume I, Volume II.
  • The Prose Romances of Edgar A. Poe. Philadelphia: Graham, 1843.
  • Tales. New York & London: Wiley & Putnam, 1845.
  • The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (edited by Sidney Kaplan). New York: Hill & Wang, 1960
  • The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (edited by Harold Beaver). New York: Penguin, 1975.
  • The Short Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe: An Annotated Edition (edited by Stuart Levine and Susan Levine). Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1976.
  • The Annotated Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (edited by Stephen Peithman). New York: Avenell, 1981.
  • The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (edited by J. Gerald Kennedy). New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
  • The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (edited by Richard Kopley). New York: Penguin, 1999.


Collected editionsEdit

  • The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe: With notices of his life and genius (edited by Rufus Wilmot Griswold). (4 volumes), New York: Redfield, 1850-1856. Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4.
  • Works (edited with an introduction & memoir by Richard Henry Stoddard). (6 volumes), New York: A.C. Armstrong, 1884; London: Routledge, 1896. Volume I, Volume II, Volume III, Volume IV, Volume V, Volume VI.
  • Complete Works (edited by James A. Harrison). (17 volumes), New York: Crowell, 1902.
  • Collected Works (edited by Thomas Ollive Mabbott). (3 volumes), Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1969-1978.
  • Collected Writings (edited by Burton R. Pollin). (5 volumes to date), Boston: Twayne; New York: Gordian, 1981- .
  • Poetry and Tales (edited by Patrick F. Quinn). New York: Library of America, 1984.


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[193]

Poems by Edgar Allan PoeEdit

Edgar Allan Poe,The Raven- (read by James Earl Jones)

Edgar Allan Poe,The Raven- (read by James Earl Jones)

Edgar Allan Poe ~ A Dream Within A Dream, Poem with text

Edgar Allan Poe ~ A Dream Within A Dream, Poem with text

"Alone" by Edgar Allan Poe (read by Tom O'Bedlam)

"Alone" by Edgar Allan Poe (read by Tom O'Bedlam)

Edgar Allan Poe City in the Sea (read by Basil Rathbone)

Edgar Allan Poe City in the Sea (read by Basil Rathbone)

The Bells - A Dramatic Reading of a Poem by Edgar Allan Poe

The Bells - A Dramatic Reading of a Poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe "To Helen" Poem animation

Edgar Allan Poe "To Helen" Poem animation

Poem - Al Aaraaf Part 01 By Edgar Allan Poe

Poem - Al Aaraaf Part 01 By Edgar Allan Poe

  1. Annabel Lee
  2. The Bells
  3. The Conqueror Worm
  4. A Dream Within a Dream
  5. The Haunted Palace
  6. The Raven

See alsoEdit


  • Ackroyd, Peter (2008). Poe: A Life Cut Short. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 978-0-7011-6988-6. 
  • Bittner, William (1962). Poe: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0316096865. 
  • Foye, Raymond, ed (1980). The Unknown Poe (Paperback ed.). San Francisco, CA: City Lights. ISBN 0-87286-110-4. 
  • Frank, Frederick S.; Anthony Magistrale (1997). The Poe Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-27768-0. 
  • PD-icon.svg Hannay, David McDowell (1911). "Poe, Edgar Allan". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 875-876. . Wikisource, Web, June 6, 2019.
  • Hoffman, Daniel (1998). Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe (Paperback ed.). Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-2321-8. 
  • Hutchisson, James M. (2005). Poe. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1-57806-721-9. 
  • Krutch, Joseph Wood (1926). Edgar Allan Poe: A Study in Genius. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 
  • Meyers, Jeffrey (1992). Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy (Paperback ed.). New York: Cooper Square Press. ISBN 0-8154-1038-7. 
  • Poe, Harry Lee (2008). Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories. New York: Metro Books. ISBN 978-1-4351-0469-3. 
  • Quinn, Arthur Hobson (1941). Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc.. ISBN 0-8018-5730-9. 
  • Rosenheim, Shawn James (1997). The Cryptographic Imagination: Secret Writing from Edgar Poe to the Internet. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-5332-6. 
  • Silverman, Kenneth (1991). Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance (Paperback ed.). New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-06-092331-8. 
  • Sova, Dawn B. (2001). Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z (Paperback ed.). New York: Checkmark Books. ISBN 0-8160-4161-X. 
  • Whalen, Terence (2001). "Poe and the American Publishing Industry". In J. Kennedy. A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-512150-3. 


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External linksEdit

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