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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Edgar Allan Poe


Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809. His parents were two touring vaudeville actors, David Poe Jr. and Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins.

This plaque in Boston marks the approximate location where he was born. By Swampyank at en.wikipedia, 

David left the family under unknown circumstances when Edgar was one-year-old. A year later, his mother died of tuberculosis, leaving Edgar an orphan.

The wealthy Scottish merchant John Allan took Edgar into his home in Richmond, Virginia.

The Allan family sailed to Britain in 1815, and Poe attended an English private school.

After moving back to Richmond, Virginia, Poe entered the University of Virginia in 1826. While there, he gambled, lost money, and went into debt. John Allan became angry, and cut off all contact with his foster son.


Poe enlisted in the army, using the name Edgar A. Perry and lied about his age. He was successful as a private and quickly became a sergeant major, the highest rank an enlisted man can attain.

While in the army his foster-mother Frances Allan died. During this time Poe attempted to mend his relationship with John Allan.

Poe soon left the army and enrolled at West Point Military Academy in New York. He did not enjoy his time there and decided to leave West Point by purposely getting court-martialed. Poe was expelled on February 8, 1831 for showing up for a public parade wearing only a white belt and gloves. At this point, John Allan disowned him.


In 1827, Poe published his first work, a collection of poetry titled, Tamerlane and Other Poems. Poe did not have his name published in the book; it was attributed to "a Bostonian."

Poe had been well-liked by the other cadets at West Point. Many of whom donated 75 cents each to pay for him to publish a book simply titled Poems.

Poe sold his first short story in 1832. However, his writing was not earning him very much money.

Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue is considered to be the first ever detective story. It was published on April 20, 1841. Though widely read and admired, it did not popularize the genre.

Facsimile of Edgar Allan Poe's original manuscript for "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", 

Poe was inspired to write The Murders in the Rue Morgue by the memoirs of Francois Eugene Vidcoq, the founder of the world's first detective agency.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue established many tropes that would become common elements in mystery fiction: the eccentric but brilliant detective, the bumbling constabulary, the storytelling device where the detective announces his solution and then explains the reasoning leading up to it.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue was the first of Poe's three detective stories featuring the fictional C. Auguste Dupin, the other two being The Mystery of Marie Rogêt and The Purloined Letter.

Edgar Allan Poe had a cat called Catarina. He took her everywhere, and she frequently sat on his shoulder as he wrote; she inspired his 1845 short story The Black Cat.

Edgar Allan Poe’s narrative mystery poem The Raven was first published in the Evening Mirror in New York on January 29, 1845. It tells the story of a mysterious talking raven that visits a lover, who slowly goes insane. Its publication made Poe famous in his day, and today it is still one of the most recognized and respected poems in American literature. However, he only earned about $9 from the work.

In his lifetime, Edgar Allan Poe’s bestselling book was a textbook about seashells. It was his only book to get a second printing in his lifetime.

The most Edgar Allen Poe was paid for a single work was $100 for his story The Gold Bug. He lamented, "I have made no money. I am as poor now as ever I was in my life—except in hope, which is by no means bankable"

Poe also worked as an editor for various magazines over the years, becoming very well known for his literary criticism. He was editor of the Southern Literary Messenger and later owned the Broadway Chronicle in New York.

Edgar Allan Poe was one of the first Americans to earn a living from his writing alone.


Edgar Allan Poe had a morose face, a large forehead, heavy eyebrows, brown eyes, curly dark hair, a drooping mustache.

Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe, 

Poe was interested in astronomy and enjoyed using a telescope.

In Baltimore, Poe lived with his aunt, Maria Poe Clemm, who was the sister of Edgar's real father. Clemm had a daughter named Virginia Clemm, who admired Poe very much. On September 22, 1835, when Virginia was thirteen, she married Poe.

In 1842, while Poe was living with Clemm and Virginia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Virginia became sick with tuberculosis. The family moved to the New York City area in 1843 before settling in The Bronx. Poe began to drink more heavily under the stress of Virginia's illness.

Virginia died on January 30, 1847 at their little cottage on the southeast corner of the Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge Road in Fordham (now part of The Bronx).

Virginia Poe

Poe was increasingly unstable after his wife's death. He embarked on an intense relationship with the attractive Rhode Island poet Sarah Helen Whitman but their engagement failed, purportedly because of Poe's drinking and erratic behavior.


Poe spent the last few years of his life in his small cottage in Fordham.

Poe's Fordham cottage

On September 27 1849, Poe left Richmond after a short visit. It is unknown what happened to him for the next week, but on October 3rd he was discovered in Baltimore delirious outside of Gunner's Hall by a man named Joseph W. Walker. Poe was wandering incoherently, wearing clothes that were not his own and calling out the name "Reynolds."

Poe was taken to Washington College Hospital, where he became increasingly delirious and started seeing hallucinations. He died on October 7, 1849, in the hospital.

There are several theories as to the cause of his death, including congestion of the brain, drunkenness, alcohol withdrawal, tuberculosis, and rabies.

Poe was buried in the grounds of Baltimore's Westminster Church and Burying Ground after a small funeral with only a few people attending.

On May 17, 1875, Poe was reburied at the front of the churchyard after a city-wide campaign to raise money to build a large monument. He is buried there alongside his wife Virginia, and his aunt Maria Clemm.

A mysterious man visited Edgar A. Poe's grave every year from 1930-1998 and gave a toast with a glass of Cognac.

Tennyson said that Poe was "The most original genius that America has produced."

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