Edgar Allan Poe: Life and Works

Edgar Allan Poe was a literary genius of his time. His works may seem eccentric but beneath the words and stories lies a solemn, alone boy whose only way of comfort and relief was through his pen. Of the critical reviews I have studied pertaining to Poe, never has such a varied difference of opinions been presented or suggested towards a writer. It is thought that his life had a major influence on his writing and by reading many of his pieces I agree with that statement. Edgar Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809 to actors Elisabeth Arnold Poe and David Poe Junior.

Edgar had a brother Henry, who was a year older than him, and a younger sister, Rosalie. His mother and father separated a couple months after Rosalies birth. When Edgar was two his mother passed away and a few weeks later his father died as well. As a result, Edgar and his siblings became separated. John Allan took in Edgar where he was christened as Edgar Allan Poe. Three years later the Allans moved to England where he attended Manor House School for three years. Even though Edgar performed very well in school, he only seemed to remember his school days in London as lonely and unhappy.

After three years, they returned to Virginia but Poe felt abandoned constantly. Mr. Allan was always busy with work and his wife was in a constant state of illness. The Allans never legally adopted Poe; resulting in many cards and greetings sent to the family that would fail to mention Edgar. When Edgar was a teenager the Allans moved around frequently. In 1822, the family finally settled in Richmond, in a house rented from William Galt. Edgar continued with his education, and by the age of fourteen, he was attending the Academy of Joseph H. Clarke.

He did very well academically and the academy not only encouraged his studies but nourished his gift for language. Poe excelled in Latin and French, and at age sixteen he wrote the poem Oh Tempora! Oh Mores! While at school Poe excelled at writing by authoring countless numbers of poems. My research indicates that Poe had the potential to publish a book of poetry. For reasons unknown the Academy of Joseph H. Clark was not receptive to this venture and persuaded Poes stepfather not to entertain such notions. The school also brought out the athlete in Poe.

He was a good runner, leaper, boxer, and swimmer and at age sixteen swam six miles in the James River. Poe was in constant search of a maternal figure. When his family returned to Richmond he was known as Edgar Poe rather then Edgar Allan to put emphasis on the fact that he was not formally adopted. Edgar adored Fanny Allan, but her constant illnesses made her less than an ideal mother. When Edgar was fourteen he became infatuated with a fellow classmates mother, Jane Stonard. Whenever he felt discouraged or unhappy he would visit her.

He only knew her for a year when suddenly she died of tuberculosis. Edgar was notably affected by her death, and his behavior drastically changed. Conflicts arose at home which resulted in Edgar becoming sulky and ill tempered towards his family. Mr. Allan interpreted Edgars bad mood as a sign of thanklessness for all he had done for Edgar. On March 26, 1825 William Galt, the owner of the Allans house, died. The Allans inherited his estate, which equaled to an astounding sum of three fourths of a million dollars including the house and three land estates.

Afterwards, John Allan bought a house called Moldavia, which was very impressive and appeared to more of an estate than a house. By this time, Edgar was now sixteen and a half years old. He had finished his early education and was now preparing for the university and his life. In February of 1826, Edgar enrolled at the University of Virginia. Edgar had high ambitions in the area of languages. His courses included ancient and modern languages including the study of French, Italian, and Spanish. His ability to complete precisely correct translations earned him wide acclaim among his professors and peers.

During his academic stay at the University, Edgar became a member of the debating club, participated in athletic events as one of the outstanding performers, and continued most importantly to develop as a writer. Edgar was only a month over seventeen when he began attending the University of Virginia. This was an extremely young age for this period in time when the common age for incoming students was nineteen. Student life for most young men, was often chaotic and sometimes even dangerous. During Edgars first year a riot occurred in the school whereby masked students threw bricks and bottles at professors.

In addition, seven students were expelled for high stakes gambling. Later on, Edgar became a gambler as well. It was at this period, Edgar would repeatedly write to John Allan requesting money in hope of sustaining his gambling desires. John Allen subsequently refused all requests. Edgar blamed his gambling problems on John proclaiming that he needed to gamble as a means of receiving more money. By the time Edgar returned to Richmond, he had debts amounting from $2,000 to $2,500. John Allan refused to pay his debts and elected not to send him back to the University.

He required Edgar to work at the Allans firm for the summer until he paid his debts. By March of 1827, the strain between the two had climaxed. Edgar moved out, citing that John had misled, restricted, and rejected him. Edgar also overheard John confess he had little-to-no-affection towards Edward. During the time he was separated from John Allan, Edgar began to drink excessively and sometimes took on his brothers identity to mislead his creditors and John. Edgar was in need for money and began to change his attitude in the once hostile letters that he wrote to Mr. Allan.

In many ways, he practically begged John for help. The response he received was the original letter returned with Pretty Letter written on the back. Edgar resided in Boston during this time where he published his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems. Later that year, Poe enlisted in the army under Edgar Perry. However, his quarrels with John Allan continued. Edgar performed well in the two years he was involved with the army. However, he needed a change. In 1829, Edgar applied for cadetship at West Point. Before he entered West Point, Edgar wrote another book titled, Al Araaf, Tamerlane, and minor poems.

He received financial aid from his fellow cadets to publish a third edition. Poe called it a second edition and was entitled Poems by Edgar A. Poe. Famous poems such as To Helen and Israfel were featured in this book. Before entering West Point he spent some time in Moldavia close to his stepfather, John Allen. Living this close to John Allan was asking for trouble and they were quarreled as usual. Before Edgar left, John Allan bought him four blankets and accompanied him to the steamer. This act of good will was soon forgotten when Edgar arrived at West Point.

In mid-June Allan wrote him and accused him of stealing some of Allan’s books. Edgar denied the accusation. During the spring of 1830, Edgars first year at West Point, he was appointed cadetship. His plans included signing-on for five years of duty. At West Point, cadets were advised to become specialist with certain subjects rather then generalist with several. Edgar decided to concentrate on the study of French and Mathematics. In October he was ranked as one of the “Best” in French. In November he followed his accomplishment by earning a Best in Math.

In West Points January examinations, he distinguished himself again, by placing seventeenth in Math and third in French. Following these examinations, the class size was reduced from 130 to 87 cadets. His classmates considered Edgar and interesting and amusing fellow. He amused the cadets by performing acts of horror and making fun of their instructors. Edgar was doing fine at West Point, as he had in the Army, but the news that John Allan had remarried a twenty-year younger woman named Louisa Gabriella Patterson upset him.

He felt as if he would be kept out of John Allan’s life and wrote him a note, in a friendly manner asking for some books and, of course, some money. His fears were validated at the end of the year when Allan sent what he called his final letter stating that he desired “no further communication with yourself on my part”. On January the third Edgar replied with the longest letter he had ever written, consisting of four pages of sarcastic and furious tones in which he accused John Allan of not keeping promises. Poe also blamed John Allen for his debts at the University stating he was not provided well enough.

It was my crime to have no one on Earth who cared for me, or loved me”. Edgar also expressed that he felt that John Allan had taken him away from a better life that he could have had with his grandfather if Allan had not adopted him. Edgar wanted out of West Point, but could not do so without permission from John Allan. John refused to write back to any of Edgars letters of request and as a result Edgar decided to neglect his studies and subsequently appeared on the list of cadets who committed the most offenses. He was finally released from West Point on February 19, 1832.

Prior to leaving, Poe managed to persuade 131 of 232 cadets to ante up $1. 25 each in order to cover the cost of printing a new edition of his poems. Poe moved to Baltimore to live with his aunt, Maria Clemm, and his first cousin Virginia. In 1832, he won a $50 prize for his story “MS. Found in a Bottle” in the Baltimore Saturday Visitor. In 1835 Poe brought his aunt and cousin to Richmond where he worked with Thomas Willis White at the Southern Literary Messenger. He also married his cousin Virginia, only thirteen years old.

Most of Edgar’s works with the Messenger were of a critical nature but he also published some literary work such as “Berenice”. His work with the writing and the editorial departments of the Messenger increased the circulation of the magazine. But his drinking habits forced White to eventually let him go. Edgar moved around to New York and Philadelphia, trying to establish a name in literary journalism but without any major success. It was only his final stop in New York where he received his last amount of fame before his death Edgar Allan Poe is most famous for the invention of detective fiction and refining the short story genre.

Poe believed that writing needed strangeness for it was an essential part of the exotic composure of the piece. His stories and poems dwell on doomed, pensive aristocrats. Themes of death-in-life, especially being buried alive or returning like a vampire from the grave, appear in many of his works, including “The Premature Burial,” “Ligeia,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher. ” Poes central motives include the conflict between good and evil, mans inner struggle with conscience, and death or losses are present in many of his works.

The Raven, Fall of the House of Usher, and Black Cat all are great examples. His writings featured his characters as being in constant grief and sorrow, many believe that his characters are connected to Poe and people he has met in his life. They also believe that the actions taking place in the poems were influenced by occurrences in his life as well. Many critics cant be sure if the linkages between the deaths in his stories are related to the deaths of his mother and young wife Virginia. Edgar Allan Poes best-known poem, in his own lifetime and today, is “The Raven”, which was created in 1845.

In this eerie poem, the haunted, sleepless narrator, who has been reading and mourning the death of his “lost Lenore” at midnight, is visited by a raven who perches above his door and ominously repeats the poem’s famous refrain, “nevermore. ” Poe boasted about the length of his poem, which was only 108 lines. He also noted by the end of line 54, the action of the poem broke exactly and the mood of laughter and freakish humor turned into a different temper. The second half of the poem is action in disorder.

The poem is a set of stages in the process of self knowledge or the power of human consciousness to be aware not only of its being but even its non-being. Poes Raven is thought to be a historic crisis in romantic artistic creation. It is noticeable in this poem the split in Poes imaginative world. Elements of reality and faculties of the mind and imagination were present and understood. Many critics and readers feel that the lost Love, Lenore, is in correspondence to Poes deceased wife, Virginia. Another famous writing by Poe was The Cask of Amontillado. I remember reading this story last year and found it absolutely fascinating.

It was very well written, almost to the point where I needed to read the captions periodically, but I did enjoy the story. The setting takes place one evening during the carnival season in an unnamed European city. The location quickly changed from lighthearted activities to the damp, dark catacombs under Montresors palazzo. Poes plan for this story doesnt intend for the reader to sympathize with Montresor because Fortunato had betrayed him, but to judge him. With Poe telling the story from Montresors point of view, the intensity and effect of moral shock and horror is greater. The story is a case or premeditated murder.

One would quickly become aware of the fact that Montresor is not a reliable narrator and has a tendency to hold grudges. The dramatic irony occurs when the reader becomes painfully aware of what will become of Fortunato even though he continues his descent into his awaiting death hidden in the catacombs. This story is a powerful tale of revenge. Montresor, the sinister narrator of this tale, declares revenge on Fortunato. There can be no doubt that both Montresor and Poes story are carefully crafted to create the desired effect. Other famous works Poe has written include, The Gold Bug, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Masque of the Red Death.

Edgar Allan Poe has written over fifty pieces of writing ranging from two lined poems to horror short stories. Edgar was not afraid to take his readers for a walk on the dark side, where the lines between life and death were sometimes blurred. He was a gothic expert of his own time; his use of descriptive language and symbolic imagery was a masterpiece in itself. His lonely and grief-stricken life is probably the cause of his gloomy and mysterious writings. Edgar is a different type of man and human. Ive never imagined even the most ruthless killers to be so obsessed with death as he was.

In his own way he made the words of death seem beautiful and mysterious. His obsession with it finally caught up with him and he was found dead on the streets of Baltimore on December 7, 1849. Poe was only forty years old when he died but he had enough experience and happenings to equal out two lifetimes. All of the stories Poe wrote reveal his fascination with the mind and the unsettling scientific knowledge that were radically attaining the 19th-century worldview. Poe was a smart man with incredible talents, but his loneliness and insecurity and anger towards John Allan often kept him from succeeding and doing well in life.

He was in a constant uphill and downhill race. He didnt want success enough for himself and let John Allan ruin his chances of becoming wealthy and happy with himself. One would think though, is it better he was treated that way? For this treatment created one of the worlds most renowned, controversial and heavily debated writers ever. In my opinion, Poes purpose was to let everyone know how he felt and what he felt, and with his intelligence and proper English and grammatical skills he was allowed to do so with writing.

It is often said writing is a form of calming relief, whether the content be brutal or serene, those who write seem to explore and take in more from life then those who sit by and not use their imaginations. Poe may have gone deep into his and composed papers of mystery and confusion but he also reminded us about the side many people shut off in fear of harming others or being harmed themselves. Death is not a fun topic to discuss and with the way Poe would word his writings he made death itself become a light musical of phrases and poems that will be forever in our minds.


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