Edgar Allan Poe



Edgar Allan Poe


Edgar Allan Poe was a bizarre and often scary writer. People throughout
history have often wondered why his writings were so fantastically different and
unusual. They were not the result of a diseased mind, as some think. Rather
they came from a tense and miserable life. Edgar Allan Poe was not a happy man.
He was a victim of fate from the moment he was born to his death only forty
years later. He died alone and unappreciated. It is quite obvious that his
life affected his writings in a great way. In order to understand why, the
historical background of Poe must be known.
Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1809. His parents
were touring actors and both died before he was three years old. After this, he
was taken into the home of John Allan, a prosperous merchant who lived in
Richmond, Virginia.1 When he was six, he studied in England for five years.
Not much else is known about his childhood, except that it was uneventful.
In 1826, when Poe was seventeen years old he entered the University of
Virginia. It was also at this time that he was engaged to marry his childhood
sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster. He was a good student, but only stayed for a
year. He did not have enough money to make ends meet, so he ran up extremely
large gambling debts to trying make more money. Then he could not afford to go
to school anymore. John Allan refused to pay off Poe\'s debts, and broke off his
engagement to Sarah Elmira Royster. Since Poe had no other means of support, he
enlisted in the army. By this time however, he had written and printed his
first book, Tammerlane, and Minor Poems (1829).2
After a few months though, John Allan and Poe were reconciled. Allan
arranged for Poe to be released from the army and enrolled him at West Point.
During this time, his fellow cadets helped him publish another book of poetry.
However, John Allan again did not provide Poe with enough money, and Poe decided
to leave this time before racking up any more debts
Still, Poe had no money and necessity forced him to live with his aunt,
Mrs. Clemm, in Baltimore, Maryland. None of his poetry had sold particularly
well, so he decided to write stories. He could find no publisher for his
stories, and so resorted to entering writing contests to make money and receive
exposure. He was rarely successful, but eventually won. His short story, “MS.
Found in a Bottle” was well liked and one of the judges in the contest, John P.
Kennedy, befriended him.3
It was on Kennedy\'s recommendation that Poe became assistant editor of
the Southern Literary Messenger, published at Richmond by T.W. White. It was at
this time that Poe went through a period of emotional instability that he tried
to control by drinking. This was a mistake because he was extremely sensitive
to alcohol and became very drunk just from one or two drinks.
In May of 1836 Poe married his cousin, Virginia and brought her and her
mother to live with him in Richmond. It was during this time that Poe produced
a number of stories and even some verse.4
Over the next few years, Poe went from good times to bad. He had become
the editor of magazines and had written books, but none of these were paying off
enough. He would always be laid off the editorial staff for differences over
policies. He was doing so poorly that by the end of 1846 he was asking his
friends and admirers for help.
He was then living in a cottage with Mrs. Clemm and Virginia. Virginia
was dying of consumption and had to sleep in an unheated room. After six years
of marriage she had become very ill, and her disease had driven Poe to
distraction.
Virginia died on January 30, 1847, and Poe broke down. It is here that
much is learned about him and why he wrote the way he did. All of his life he
had wanted to be loved and to have someone to love. Yet one by one, he kept
losing the women in his life. His mother, Mrs. Allan, and now Virginia. He had
wanted to lead a life of wealth and luxury and still, despite his tremendous
talent, was forced to live as a poor man.
When he reached manhood, after a sheltered childhood and teenage years,
his life seemed to be caught up in failures. So,