Edgar Allan Poe
American poet, critic, short story writer, and author of such macabre works as “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1840);
I looked upon the scene before me - upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain - upon the bleak walls - upon the vacant eye-like windows - upon a few rank sedges - and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees - with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium - the bitter lapse into everyday life - the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart - an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it - I paused to think - what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher?
Contributing greatly to the genres of horror and science fiction, Poe is now considered the father of the modern detective story and highly lauded as a poet. Walt Whitman, in his essay titled “Edgar Poe’s Significance” wrote;
Poe’s verses illustrate an intense faculty for technical and abstract beauty, with the rhyming art to excess, an incorrigible propensity toward nocturnal themes, a demoniac undertone behind every page. … There is an indescribable magnetism about the poet’s life and reminiscences, as well as the poems.
Poe’s psychologically thrilling tales examining the depths of the human psyche earned him much fame during his lifetime and after his death. His own life was marred by tragedy at an early age (his parents died before he was three years old) and in his oft-quoted works we can see his darkly passionate sensibilities—a tormented and sometimes neurotic obsession with death and violence and overall appreciation for the beautiful yet tragic mysteries of life. They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.—“Elonora”. Poe’s literary criticisms of poetry and the art of short story writing include “The Poetic Principal” and “The Philosophy of Composition”. There have been numerous collections of his works published and many of them have been inspiration for popular television and film adaptations including “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Black Cat”, and “The Raven”. He has been the subject of numerous biographers and has significantly influenced many other authors even into the 21st Century.
Edgar Poe was born on 19 January 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of actors Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins (1787-1811) and David Poe (1784-1810). He had a brother named William Henry (1807-1831) and sister Rosalie (1811-1874). After the death of his parents Edgar was taken in by Frances (d.1829) and John Allan (d.1834), a wealthy merchant in Richmond, Virginia.
Young Edgar traveled with the Allans to England in 1815 and attended school in Chelsea. In 1820 he was back in Richmond where he attended the University of Virginia and studied Latin and poetry and also loved to swim and act. While in school he became estranged from his foster father after accumulating gambling debts. Unable to pay them or support himself, Poe left school and enlisted in the United States Army where he served for two years. He had been writing poetry for some time and in 1827 “Dreams”—Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream! first appeared in the Baltimore North American, the same year his first book Tamerlane and Other Poems was published, at his own expense.
When Poe’s foster mother died in 1829 her deathbed wish was honoured by Edgar and stepfather John reconciling, though it was brief. Poe enlisted in the West Point Military Academy but was dismissed a year later. In 1829 his second book Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems was published. The same year Poems (1831) was published Poe moved to Baltimore to live with his aunt Maria Clemm, mother of Virginia Eliza Clemm (1822-1847) who would become his wife at the age of thirteen. His brother Henry was also living in the Clemm household but he died of tuberculosis soon after Edgar moved in. In 1833, the Baltimore Saturday Visiter published some of his poems and he won a contest in it for his story “MS found in a Bottle”. In 1835 he became editor and contributor of the Southern Literary Messenger. Though not without his detractors and troubles with employers, it was the start of his career as respected critic and essayist. Other publications which he contributed to were Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine (1839–1840), Graham’s Magazine (1841–1842), Evening Mirror, and Godey’s Lady’s Book.
After Virginia and Edgar married in Richmond in 1836 they moved to New York City. Poe’s only completed novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym was published in 1838. The story starts as an adventure for a young Nantucket stowaway on a whaling ship but soon turns into a chilling tale of mutiny, murder, and cannibalism.
It is with extreme reluctance that I dwell upon the appalling scene which ensued; a scene which, with its minutest details, no after events have been able to efface in the slightest degree from my memory, and whose stern recollection will embitter every future moment of my existence.—Ch. 12
Poe’s contributions to magazines were published as a collection in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840) which included “The Duc de L'Omelette”, “Bon-Bon” and “King Pest”. What some consider to be the first detective story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was published in 1841;
Now, brought to this conclusion in so unequivocal a manner as we are, it is not our part, as reasoners, to reject it on account of apparent impossibilities. It is only left for us to prove that these apparent ‘impossibilities’ are, in reality, not such.
Poe’s collection of poetry The Raven and Other Poems (1845) which gained him attention at home and abroad includes the wildly successful “The Raven” and “Eulalie” and “To Helen”;
Lo, in yon brilliant window-nicheHow statue-like I see thee stand,The agate lamp within thy hand,Ah! Psyche, from the regions whichAre Holy Land!
Poe continued to write poetry, critical essays and short stories including “Ulalume”, “Eureka” and “The Cask of Amontillado” (1846);
It must be understood, that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.
Now living in their last place of residence, a cottage in the Fordham section of the Bronx in New York City, Virginia died in 1847. Poe turned to alcohol more frequently and was purportedly displaying increasingly erratic behavior. A year later he became engaged to his teenage sweetheart from Richmond, Elmira Royster. In 1849 he embarked on a tour of poetry readings and lecturing, hoping to raise funds so he could start his magazine The Stylus.
There are conflicting accounts surrounding the last days of Edgar Allan Poe and the cause of his death. Some say he died from alcoholism, some claim he was murdered, and various diseases have also been attributed. Most say he was found unconscious in the street and admitted to the Washington College Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He died soon after, on 7 October 1849, and was buried unceremoniously in an unmarked grave in the Old Westminster Burying Ground of Baltimore. On this original site now stands a stone with a carving of a raven and the inscription;
Quoth the Raven, Nevermore
Original Burial Place of Edgar Allan PoeFromOctober 9, 1849UntilNovember 17, 1875
Mrs. Marian Clemm, His Mother-In-LawLies Upon His Right And Virginia PoeHis Wife, Upon His Left. Under TheMonument Erected To Him In ThisCemetery
In a dedication ceremony in 1875, Poe’s remains were reinterred with his aunt Maria Clemm’s in the Poe Memorial Grave which stands in the cemetery’s corner at Fayette and Greene Streets. A bas-relief bust of Poe adorns the marble and granite monument which is simply inscribed with the birth and death dates of Poe (although his birthdate is wrong), Maria, and Virginia who, in 1885, was reinterred with her husband and mother. Letters from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Lord Alfred Tennyson were read, and Walt Whitman attended. The mysterious Poe Toaster visits Poe’s grave on his birthdays and leaves a partially filled bottle of cognac and three roses.
All that we see or seemIs but a dream within a dream.—A Dream within a Dream
Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc. 2006. All Rights Reserved.
The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.
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Recent Forum Posts on Edgar Allan Poe
Three Tales ... which never quite emerged
Since the 1960's I have loved Poe (first memory being that of the Roger Corman/Vincent Price version of Pit and the Pendulum which I saw in 1967 and found truly frightening). Of course I discovered his poetry, satire and so on in later years and came to appreciate him more than an author of morbid tales. :D In 1995 I had an idea to compose a series of three pieces for Cello and Orchestra, each descriptive of one of Poe's stories. One of my friends was Principal Cellist of the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg and told me that, if I could get the work written and send him a score, they might get a performance. I entitled the work Three Tales after Poe for Cello and Orchestra and selected (1) The Cask of Amontillado, (2) The Descent into the Maelstrom, and (3) The Masque of the Red Death. Composition did not go well and during the Summer of that year decided to work "from the back inwards," so to speak so I began working on The Masque of the Red Death, and made a great deal of progress. I was going to turn my attention to the other parts of the work and told my friend in Germany that it would likely be finished in 1996 so it might be premeired in 1997 at the latest, but at this point my Mother took ill with heart disease and passed away (mid-September 1995). And for some strange reason, inspiration simply vanished. Within 3 years I'd lost all the desire to write music. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever try again. I wonder. ...
Posted By Isa at Tue 20 Nov 2007, 10:24 PM in Poe, Edgar Allan 0 Replies
To I heed not that my earthly lot Hath little of Earth in it, That years of love have been forgot In the hatred of a minute: I mourn not that the desolate Are happier, sweet than I, But that you sorrow for my fate Who am a passer-by Just reading through a collection of Poe's work that I have, when I happend upon this poem, and there is something about it which I quite like That years of love have been forgot In the hatred of a minute: I think these lines are amazing and speak such volumes of truth. I think this poem is very deep for such a short work. His writing is always so rich and soulful.
Posted By Dark Muse at Fri 9 Nov 2007, 2:43 AM in Poe, Edgar Allan 1 Reply
Fall from the House of Usher Question
Was the Usher bloodline, inbred? "I had learned, too, the very remarkable fact, that the stem of the Usher race, all time-honored as it was, had put forth, at no period, any enduring branch ; in other words, that the entire family lay in the direct line of descent, and had always, with very trifling and very temporary variation, so lain."
Posted By Diavolo at Fri 2 Nov 2007, 2:12 PM in Poe, Edgar Allan 1 Reply
I need to write an essay about powerful word, image, or symbol that is common among Poe's works. Im thinking about choosing darkness as a symbol. Anyone have any other suggestions, or good examples of Darkness in Poes works. Another thing is how do you think the meaning of that work would change if darkness were to be substituted with another symbol?
Posted By bennyboy391 at Thu 1 Nov 2007, 10:40 PM in Poe, Edgar Allan 0 Replies
A couple of Poe questions.....
Hey everyone. This is a great little site. I just stumbled upon it a few days ago. It's a FANTASTIC was for me to catch up on the literature that I have never read for one reason or another. I'm VERY new to reading literature so I'm an ultra "newb" when it comes to who said what, who writes what genre, etc. My first question is, are Poe's works in the public domain now? The second one is, what writers compare to Poe, in terms of his macabre and dark style? Are there any literary writers that delve into even darker and more sinister stories? Thanks for the help in advance guys and gals! :idea:
Posted By Diavolo at Thu 1 Nov 2007, 10:32 AM in Poe, Edgar Allan 10 Replies
Edgar Allen Poe "The Raven"
i would like to discuss what these two stanzas of Edgar Allen Poes' the raven mean to everyone else and why, also why do you think he structured them in the order and phrasing he did, so that it seems that he is sure its nothing, but that he calls out to someone? And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain thrilled me, filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; so that now, to still the beating of my heart, i stood repeating "tis some vistitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-- some late cisitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-- this is it- and nothing more" presently my heart grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, sir said I or madam, truely your forgiveness i miplore; but the fact is i was napping and so gently you came rapping, so fainly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door, that i scarce was sure i heard you"--here i opened wide the door; darkness there and nothing more
Posted By stephofthenight at Tue 30 Oct 2007, 11:29 AM in Poe, Edgar Allan 1 Reply
Hi, I'm trying to interpret The raven by Edgar Allan Poe. I counted 18 Stanzas with each six lines and I was wandering if this is a special type of poem? (You know, like a sonnet has 3 quatrains and a couplet!?) Ben.
Posted By Benyameen at Wed 17 Oct 2007, 12:08 PM in Poe, Edgar Allan 2 Replies
Poe and women
Hey everybody, I'm writing a biographical term-paper on Poe and his relationship to women, especially his wife and his mother. I want to analyze this relationship by thoroughly looking at some clues he provides in the poems The Raven and Anabel Lee. I think there are quite a few lines that deal with this subject in particular. However, I'm looking for advice! I haven't started yet, so anything would be helpful (secondary literature, essays, comments, anything that deals with this subject). What do YOU consider the best Poe biography? Any recommendations? Please help me, I'd like to get your opinion!! Ben.
Posted By Benyameen at Mon 15 Oct 2007, 4:33 AM in Poe, Edgar Allan 3 Replies
I have to present an arugument for or against the claim that poe was a scientist and a mathmatician
Posted By classroom5 at Tue 2 Oct 2007, 10:43 PM in Poe, Edgar Allan 1 Reply
Stag image from a Poe work
I am trying to find a story or poem I read some time ago (hehehe...that would be about 40 years ago...) that I found in a collection of works by Poe, but I cannot remember the title. The work had, as a central image, a stag in a forest. It was extremely well-described, as one expects from the master, and was one of his early works. I remember it as a prose poem, but can't remember anything else. I'd love to find it. Can you help?
Posted By Hagridore at Tue 28 Aug 2007, 10:20 AM in Poe, Edgar Allan 1 Reply