Edgar Allan Poe
was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts. His father, named David Poe Jr., and his mother, named Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe, were touring actors. Both parents died in 1811, and Poe became an orphan before he was 3 years old. He was adopted by John Allan, a tobacco merchant in Richmond, Virginia, and was sent to a boarding school in London, England. He later attended the University of Virginia for one year, but dropped out and ran up massive gambling debts after spending all of his tuition money. John Allan broke off Poe’s engagement to his fiancée Sarah Royster. Poe was heartbroken, traumatized, and broke. He had no way out and enlisted in the army in May of 1827. At the same time Poe published his first book, “Tamerlane and Other Poems” (1827). In 1829, he became a West Point cadet, but was dismissed after 6 months for disobedience. By that time he published “Al Aaraf” (1929) and “Poems by Edgar A. Poe” (1831), with the funds contributed by his fellow cadets. His early poetry, though written in the manner of Lord Byron, already shows the musical effects of his verses.
Poe moved in with his widowed aunt, Maria Clemm, and her teenage daughter, Virginia Eliza Clemm, whom he married before she was 14 years old. He earned respect as a critic and writer. In his essays “The Poetic Principle” and “The Philosophy of Composition,” Poe formulated important literary theories. But his career suffered from his compulsive behavior and from alcoholism. He did produce, however, a constant flow of highly musical poems, of which “The Raven” (1845) and “The Bells” (1849) are the finest examples. Among his masterful short stories are “Ligeia” (1838), “The Fall of the House of Usher”(1839) and “The Masque of the Red Death”. Following his own theory of creating “a certain unique or single effect”, Poe invented the genre of the detective story. His works: “The Murder in the Rue Morgue” (1841) is probably the first detective story ever published.
Just when his life began to settle, Poe was devastated by the death of his wife Virginia in 1847. Two years later he returned to Richmond and resumed a relationship with his former fiancée, Sarah Royster, who, by that time, was a widow. But shortly after their happy reconciliation he was found unconscious on a street in Baltimore. Poe was taken to the Washington College Hospital where Doctor John Moran diagnosed “lesions on the brain” (the Doctor believed Poe was mugged). He died 4 days later, briefly coming in and out of consciousness, just to whisper his last words, “Lord, help my poor soul.” The real cause of his death is still unknown and his death certificate has disappeared. Poe’s critic and personal enemy, named Rufus Griswold, published an insulting obituary; later he visited Poe’s home and took away all of the writer’s manuscripts (which he never returned), and published his “Memoir” of Poe, in which he forged a madman image of the writer.
The name of the woman in Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” was used by Vladimir Nabokov in ‘Lolita’ as the name for Humbert’s first love, Annabelle Leigh. Nabokov also used in ‘Lolita’ some phrases borrowed from the poem of Edgar Allan Poe. “The Fall of the House of Usher” was set to music by Claude Debussy as an opera. Sergei Rachmaninoff created a musical tribute to Poe by making his favorite poem “The Bells” into the eponymous Choral Symphony.