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Biography Of Edgar Allen Poe Essay, Research Paper

Biography of Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe was one of the most successful writers of all time. He

is known for his tales of the mysterious and macabre. He is reported to be the

first master of the short story form (Edgar Allen Poe). About 12 of his works

are known for their flawless literary construction. Poe had a rough childhood

which definitely contributed to his writing.

Poe was born in January 19th of 1809 in Boston. Poe was the son of

David Poe, an actor and Eliza Poe, an actress. Poe also had a sister. At age

three Poe was orphaned when he father disappeared one night and never returned

and his mother died of tuberculosis. Poe then went to a foster house where he

was adopted by John and Fanny Allen. Poe then at age six moved to England where

he attended private schools.

As a teen Poe was very gifted in foreign language. He wrote some of his

early works in both French an Latin. At age fifteen Poe had already written

enough works to publish a book but John would not allow it. Poe was also very

fit as a teen. Poe was supposedly a very fast swimmer and runner. It is

reported that Poe once as a teen swam the James river from Lundhams Wharf to

Warwick Bar which is six miles against a strong current (Woodberry 20). At 15

Poe was the Lieutenant of the Junior Morgan Riflemen. Poe was then reviewed by

the famous Marquis De Lafayette. Poe’s grandfather General Poe is where Poe

most likely got his military influence from.

In 1826 Poe enrolled into the University of Virginia. Poe wanted to

become a translator. Poe was considered to be “precisely correct” (Moldavia).

Poe also loved debating. The student life at the University of Virginia in 1826

was very chaotic. In one student riot the students threw bottles and bricks at

the professors. In Poe’s letters to John Allen he often talked of violence on

campus. He once wrote of how a student was struck on the head with a stone and

then pulled out a gun and killed his attacker(Moldavia).

By the end of the year Poe had started to develop gambling debts. Poe

blamed his gambling debts on John Allen saying that he did not provide enough

for him to live on. Therefore gambling was the only way to survive. I think

that it would have bean quite possible for Poe to get a job. Before the year

was over Poe had developed gambling debts exceeding 2,500 dollars (Moldavia).

When Poe went back to Richmond where John lived for the summer he

expected John to pay of his debts. John would not pay of the debts and made

John work as a clerk at his firm to pay them off. In 1827 Poe moved out of

Johns house. In a letter to John Poe wrote, “I have heard you say when you

little thought I was listening and therefor must have said it in ear that you

had no affection for me” (letters 203). Poe then resorted to gambling again and

became even more into debt. Poe then moved to Boston under the alias of Henri

Le Renett (Moldavia). Poe then managed to published his first book Tamerline

and Other Poems under the pen name of a Bostonian.

Later in 1827 Poe enlisted into the United States Army where he stayed

for two years. In 1829 Poe wrote his second book Aarat, Tamberline, and Other

Poems by Edgar A. Poe. After Poe left the Army Poe reconciled with Poe’s father

and convinced John to send Poe to West Point Military Academy. Poe only stayed

at Westpoint for a year a which he was dismissed for neglect of duties. John

then disowned Poe forever.

In 1831 Poe moved back to Baltimore to live with his cousin and aunt.

In 1831 Poe also wrote his third book Poems by Edgar A. Poe with financial help

from his friends at Westpoint. In 1832 Poe won a contest with “AMS found in a

bottle”. Then in 1836 Poe married his cousin Virginia Clem whom Poe had bean

living with. Virginia was only thirteen when Poe married Virginia. Shortly

after Poe had married Virginia she contracted the deadly disease tuberculosis.

Virginia then died ten years later.

With the death of Poe’s wife Poe became very depressed. Poe then became

addicted to many drugs, mainly opium and laudanum. It is also reported that he

used morphine (Mankowitz 259,729). It is said that Poe used these drugs and

drank so much because his nervous system was becoming extremely sensitive and it

would rid him of the pain (Black). Poe did try to quit drinking many times but

he was never successful. In a letter on July 22,1848 Poe wrote, “It has bean a

long while since any artificial stimulus has passed my lips” (Letters 239).

Poe also to go mad. Poe’s madness was mainly credited to brain lesions

or scars in the brain. A good example of Poe breaking down is when he arrived

at John Sartains office begging him for protection from an imaginary Army. Poe

then shaved of his mustache so that they would not recognize him (Mankowitz 232).

Poe describes his illness in a letter on August 7, 1849, “I have suffered worse

than death-net so much from cholera as from its long continued consequences in

debility and compression of the brain” (Letters 365) Poe’s condition continued

to grow worse.

Poe was brought to the Washington Hospital of Baltimore on the night of

October 6, 1849 after being found in the middle of the road (Moran 78). Poe

then recited his final poem.

Father I firmly do believe

I know, for death who comes for me

from the regions of blast afar

where there is nothing to deceive

hath left his iron gates ajar

and rays of truth you cannot see

are flashing through eternity

(Moran 24)

Poe died the following morning. It is reported that Poe ended up dying

of Lobar pneumonia complicated by transient retardation or depression which is

excessive nervous prostration affecting the brain and resulting from exposure

and encephalitis or inflammation of the brain (Scarlet 365).

With Poe’s burial there has bean a lot of mix up. Poe was originally

buried next to his grandfather General Poe in Westchester. A headstone was not

placed on his grave because it had bean run over (Parker). Then in 1875 they

decided to move Poe to Baltimore where a monument would be erected over his

grave. When they went to dig up Poe to move him, since there weren’t good

markings on the grave, they dug up Pvt. Philip Mosher who was on the opposite

side of Poe’s grandfather and moved him (Parker). They know that Poe isn’t

buried in Baltimore because when Poe was supposedly dug up the coffin

description didn’t match the description of Poe’s coffin. When Thomas G. Scarf

first discovered of the Poe burial mix up he questioned the church committee and

they said, “Does it matter, we did find a skeleton and some persons said it

looked like Poe. We honor the memory of Poe and his works” (Scarlet 373,374).

Now all that lies on Poe’s headstone in Westchester is a number eight engraved

on a stone.

Of Poe’s entire life “The Raven” is said to be Poe’s best known and

written work. It is said to have his favorite theme the death of a beautiful

women. “The Raven” was first published in the American Review on the first of

February, 1845 on pages 143-145. It has also bean published in numerous other

literary publications.

The story of the Raven is about Poe and his lost wife. Poe uses a great

amount of symbolism in the raven to express his feelings. For start the raven

is a symbol of mournful and never-ending sadness. This is said to not only be a

description of the “The Raven” but the description of the majority of his work.

Poe also talks of the Balm In Gilead which is a fictitious place in the old

testament where there is no suffering. Poe also refers to a bust of pallas

above his chamber door. Pallas was the Greek God of Wisdom. Poe also refers to

the Plutonium shores which is referring to Hell.

There are also a lot of themes in “The Raven” that relate to Poe’s life.

In “The Raven” Poe talks a lot of loneliness. Poe suffered from loneliness and

depression, both clinical and chemical. It is also said that Poe had a bust of

Pallas over his door when he lived in New York city (The Raven). Poe also

writes of imagining that there is someone at his door when he said, “Here I

opened wide the door, darkness there and nothing more”. This can be

incorporated with is madness. Poe also talks of a beating heart when he writes,

“to still the beating of my heart”. This can be compared to his own erratic


Poe has also bean accused of plagiarism in writing “The Raven”.

Supposedly he stole the purple curtains that appear in “The Raven” from

Elizabeth Barrel Browning. It is also said that Poe took the idea of a talking

bird from Charles Dickens Barnaby Ridge (A Look At The Raven). Whether these

accusations are true or not we will never no but certainly the majority of “The

Raven” is 0riginal work.

In Baltimore, Maryland, since 1949, Poe’s grave has bean visited by a

mysterious man every year on Poe’s birthday in the early hours. The man,

described as an elderly gentleman draped in black with a silver tipped cane,

kneels at the grave for a toast of Martel Cognac and leaves the half-full bottle

and three red roses. “He leaves quietly and we don’t know who he is nor do we

have any intention. We’re very careful to protect his anonymity” ,said Lou

Marshal, a tour guide at Westminister Hall cemetery. “In the last few years, It

has bean a younger man with a cane who tries to walk with a limp, but it isn’t

natural looking” ,said Jamie Parker (Stephanie).

Edgar Allen Poe has bean dead almost 150 years. Despite so much time,

people are still fascinated by his life and work. Many scholars actively

explore and discuss his writings and the things that are known and unknown about

his life. Although he lived only forty years, Poe’s work is still important to

us today.


Moran, Dr. John. A Defense of Poe–Life, Character, and Dying Declarations of

the Poet. New York: William F. Bogher,1885.

Poe Society. A Look at The Raven, Internet, WISE, 3rd of April 1997.

Bronx Historical Society, Internet, WISE, 3rd of April, 1997.

Woodberry, George E. Edgar Allen Poe. New York: AMS Press, Inc.,1968.

Poe Society. Edgar’s Teens and the Parting with John Allen, Internet, WISE, 3rd

of April 1997.

“Poe, Edgar Allen”. Encarta 96. Washington: Microsoft Corporation,1993-1995.

Black, Midn A . How Did Poe Survive for Forty Years?, Internet, WISE, 3rd of

April, 1997.

Scarlett, Charles Jr. “A Tale of Ratiocination: The Death and Burial of Edgar

Allen Poe”. Maryland Historical Magazine. (1978),360-374.

Poe Society. Summary of Edgar Poe’s Life, Internet, WISE, 3rd of April 1997.

Mankowitz, Wolf.The Extraordinary Mr. Poe. New York: Summit Books, 1978.

Poe, Edgar Allen. The Letters of Edgar Allen Poe. Ed. John Ward Ostrom.

Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press, 1948.

Poe, Edgar Allen. The Raven, Internet, WISE, 3rd of April 1997.

Griest, Stephanie. ?Undying Devotion: Cemeteries Turn Down Celebrities Whose

Fans Won’t Let Them Rest In Peace”. The Washington Post., July 15, 1995, Sec:D


Parker, Jamie. Who Is Buried in Edgar Poe’s Grave, Internet, WISE, 3rd of April,



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