Edgar Allan Poe was an important writer of the 19th Century. His "imaginative storytelling led to literary innovations" and earned him the nickname 'Father of the Detective Story'" (Bio.com). His short story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is the first example of detective fiction. His writings were often dark and scary. He was an early writer of the horror story. Poe had a rough childhood, depression and dark moods as an adult, and a bad early death. Poe's life and writings can be compared to the modern writer of horror, Stephen King. There are things that are alike about the two authors and things that are different.
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Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. He never knew his parents, who were actors. His father, David Poe Jr., left the family and died in about 1810 or 1811. His mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty four in 191. Poe was three at the time, and her death may have warped Poe for the rest of his life. He "always remembered - more or less unconsciously-his mother vomiting blood and being carried away from him forever by sinister men dressed in black" (Asselineau 409). She had 3 three children, and Edgar was separated from his brother and sister. His brother, William, died young, and Rosalie lost her mind. Edgar was taken in but not adopted by John and Frances Valentine Allan. Edgar was close to Frances, but not to John. John was a prosperous tobacco merchant in Richmond Virginia, and wanted Edgar to join him as a clerk in his business. Frances was probably responsible for taking Poe in. He was a good poet by the time he was thirteen, but his headmaster and John discouraged his poetry. Sometimes they were nice to him and sometimes not. The family moved to England in 1815 where Poe attended a classical academy until 1820. Then they came back to Richmond where Poe attended the school of Joseph H. Clarke and wrote several poems in honor of local schoolgirls.
Edgar was in love and secretly engaged to Elmira Royster when he went to the University of Virginia 1826. The engagement fell through. Edgar did well and made good grades, but John did not give him much spending money so he got lots of gambling debts. Some scholars think that Poe drank heavily during that time, but others say that even small amounts of alcohol had a bad effect on him. John refused to pay the debts, so in 1927 Poe joined the army. He came back two years later when he learned that Frances Allen was dying of tuberculosis, but she died before he came home. In 1930 Allan got him into WestPoint, but he was expelled for poor handling of his duties, so in 1831 so Allan disowned him. Historians also know that John Allan had gotten married again without telling him, so they fought. Some people think that Edgar got expelled on purpose to get back at John. When John died, he didn't leave any money to Edgar, but he did leave money to an illegitimate child Edgar had never met. During this time, Poe wrote several volumes of poetry including Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), and Poems (1831).
Historians do not know much else about his life during this time, but in 1832 he was working in Baltimore writing short stories. By 1833 he was living with his father's widowed and poverty-stricken sister Mrs. Clemm in Baltimore and won a $50 prize for the story "MS Found in a Bottle" in a short story contest in The Baltimore Saturday Vister. He also started working on a play, Politician, which he never finished. He began working for the Southern Literary Messenger of Richmond and by 1835 was its editor. For most of the rest of his life he worked for various magazines but was usually fired because of his strange behavior made worse by alcoholism. He wrote many poems, stories, and articles which got him a little money and lots of criticism. They also made him well-known. His poems always had an easy, unforgettable rhythm, and his stories were always weird and concerned with death.
He still lived most of the time with Mrs. Clemm, and married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia Clemm in 1836 who was his literary inspiration as well as his love interest (Biography.com). She was pale and fragile, like many of Poe's characters. He was very devoted to her, but in 1842 she broke a blood vessel while singing. She recovered somewhat, but died in 1847 of tuberculosis. Her death caused him to ruin his life. Some historians believe that his alcoholism got worse and he took a lot of drugs. Others believe that he became ill and because of a brain lesion in his youth, had manic and depressive moods. He also began to give attention to other women and became engaged again to Elmira Royster Shelton who was now a widow. He continued to write and publish many stories and poems throughout this time.
Historians do not know exactly what he did for the last of his life, and his "final days remain somewhat of a mystery" (Biography.com). He continued to be very distraught over Virginia's death. On September 28, 1849 he attended a birthday party in Baltimore, drank wine, and went on a drinking spree. He was found ill in a Baltimore gutter on October 3, 1849. He was taken to Washington College Hospital where he died on October 7. His last words were "Lord help my poor soul" (Biography.com). He was buried in what is now Westminster Churchyard on October 8, 1849, and a monument was built to him later. Mrs. Clemm and her daughter are buried next to him.
Edgar Allen Poe's stories often have dark themes of death, lost love, or dying. His characters are often alcoholics or have drug addictions. They are not happy stories and his characters sometimes seem insane.
A modern person who is like Edgar Allan Poe is the horror writer Stephen King. Both authors had a hard early life and were abandoned by their fathers when they were very young. They were both good students in elementary school and started writing when they were young. Both moved around a lot as children and were outsiders in high school. In college both of these writers started drinking. Also, both of them worked hard to make it where they got. Poe worked so hard that when he was 16, he swam 7 miles across the James River to prove himself, "emulating Lord Byron's swimming across the Hellespont, as a physical expression of his determination to make a name for himself, to be a great writer" (Hoffman 323). Both of the authors wrote about characters that had drug and alcohol problems. Stephen King has also written a lot of stories and is an important writer. Unlike Poe, Stephen King has had a long and successful career, is very famous and has made a lot of money. He is about sixty-five years old and he is still writing.
Edgar Allan Poe wrote many stories, poems, and other things. He was a very important writer of the 19th century and is still recognized as one of America's most influential writers. Even though he wrote almost 200 years ago, his stories and poems still, "shock, surprise, and move" modern readers" (Biography.com). However he never made very much money, was mostly unrecognized during his life time and died young. He will always be remembered for his fascinating and gruesome works.
Asselineau, Roger. "Edgar Allan Poe." American Writers: Volume 3. Ed. Leonard Unger. New York: Scribner, 1974.
Hoffman, Daniel. "Edgar Allan Poe." World Poets: Volume 2. Ed. Ron Padgett. New York: Scribner, 2000. 323-331. Print.
Perkins, George, Barbara Perkins, and Phillip Leininger, eds. "Poe, Edgar Allen." Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature. New York: Harper and Row, 1991. 853-6. Print.
Unger, Leonard. American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies. New York: Scribner, 1974. 409-432. Print.
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