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Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, critic, editor, and creator of detective fiction. He is believed to be a key contributor to the science fiction and horror genre. The writer himself is most well-known for an American poem, The Raven, so popular that an NFL team is named after it. His writing influenced some cultural figures like Salvador Dali and Charles Baudelaire. Even Alfred Hitchcock specifically credited Poe’s work for inspiring him to make suspense films. To some, Poe is regarded as the Goth that changed the literary world forever.
Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston Massachusetts. His parents, Elizabeth and David Poe were both professional actors. Tragically, his father abandoned the family early in his life, and a year after, his mother passed away from tuberculosis. Edgar was taken in and fostered by John Allan, a successful tobacco merchant, and his wife Frances Allan. They all went on to live in Richmond, Virginia.
By 1826 he enrolled in the University of Virginia to study Languages, however, he dropped out a year after. It’s all very scandalous since it was allegedly due to gambling debts. This affected his relationship with his foster father negatively. Soon enough, Poe entered the military under a false name and age; Edgar A Perry, aged 22 (he was actually 18). Funny enough, he went on to attain the highest rank possible for his position as ‘Seargent major’.
Edgar still wasn’t satisfied with his life. Thankfully, he was allowed to leave his position a whopping three years early. This was under the condition that he reconciled with his father and completed his education at Westpoint military academy. Poe agreed to this at first but dropped out sometime after. Soon enough he was disowned and in 1831, he went to live with family in Baltimore. It was there he met his true love, who also happened to be his cousin. A 26-year-old Edgar Poe fell in love and married his cousin, Virginia Clemm (13 years old).
During his early career as a writer, his work was very mediocre. Like many other writers, Poe fell victim to publishers who would publish his work for no pay. Though Poe was one of the first Americans to make a living as a writer, it was a meager one. His luck changed when he acquired a position as a critic for the ‘Southern literary messenger. Poe was a harsh critic and his work earned him the nickname ‘the tomahawk man’.
Edgar Allan Poe also wrote some prose material with a great range. His fame reached its zenith in 1845 when his most famous poem; The Raven was featured in The Evening Mirror.
His newfound fame was short-lived as it came with no real change in his finances. Even worse, his wife contracted tuberculosis and died on January 30th, 1847. On September 27th, 1849, He upped and left New York City for Philadelphia to take up an editing job. On October 1st, 1849, his body was found in a ditch in Baltimore. Suspiciously, he was wearing clothes that were clearly not his. By October 7, 1849. He passed away, his last words being, “Lord help my poor soul”.
There are a few theories as to what actually happened to the man. But one of the most interesting theories is one that says Edgar was ‘cooped’. October 3rd was an election day in Baltimore and the ditch that Poe was found in was close to a polling station. In the 19th century, there was a form of election rigging called cooping. Victims were kidnapped and forced to vote under different guises with alcohol as the reward.
Either way, 1849 was the end of Edgar Allan Poe, and the world was not moved at all. His obituary was written by Rufus Griswald whom Poe named his literary executor. Griswald hated Poe and in 1850, published a memoir of Poe called, Edgar Allan Poe; With Notices of his Life and Genius. There, he depicted him as a depraved drunkard and womanizer. Fortunately, the public ate it up, he made Poe seem much more interesting than he originally was. It is quite possible that Griswald’s memoirs helped create the depiction of the literary giant known today.
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