Edgar Allen Poe 3 Essay, Research Paper
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and
lived in six Eastern cities. His father was David Poe, a Baltimore
actor. His actress mother, Elizabeth came to the United States as a kid.
The parents were not that talented; they played small roles in rather
third-rate theatrical companies. Because they both had small parts they
barely managed to make a living.
Edgar was the second of their three children. When the third child was
born, the father died, or disappeared, and Mrs. Poe went to Richmond
with the two youngest children. The oldest boy, William Henry, had
already been left with relatives in Baltimore. Mrs. Poe was in the last
stages of tuberculosis. Weakened by the disease and worn out with the
struggle to support her children, she died. Edgar, two years old, and
the infant, Rosalie, were left as orphans.
It was pure luck that Mrs. Frances Allan, the wife of a merchant in
Richmond learned about the Poe babies. She had no children of her own
and liked handsome little Edgar a lot more than his sister. She took him
home with her, and another family took his little sister Rosalie.
Mrs. Allan would have liked to adopt Edgar, but her husband was
unwilling to commit himself. At that time people thought acting was
immoral. John Allan could not help regarding the little son of actor
parents as a questionable person to inherit his name and the fortune he
was busy accumulating. He was willing however, to support the child, and
in time came to be proud of Edgar’s good looks and intelligence.
When Edgar was six years old, Mr. Allen’s business took him to Scotland,
the country from which he had come originally. The family stayed in
Scotland and England for five years.
Edgar was eleven when the Allans returned to Richmond. Richmond in back
then in the 1820’s was a good place for a boy to live. It was still a
small enough town for the fields, swamps, and woods to be close by. Boys
swam in the river and in the little creeks, they fished, they tramped
through the thick woods, looking for wild muscadines and chinquapins.
In spite of the growing tension between foster father and son, Mr. Allen
was willing to send Edgar to the University of Virginia. Edgar, in turn,
was eager to go, to escape the Allen household if for no other reason.
The student life of the University was more social than academic. The
young men drank too much, gambled too much, fought for the sheer
enjoyment of violence, and rampaged over the campus at all hours. This
was the worst possible environment for young Poe with his emotionally
unstable temperament. He was unusually susceptible to alcohol; one mild
drink sent him into a state of wild excitement. He gambled recklessly,
incurring debts he could not begin to pay.
Mr. Allan’s pride and thrift could not tolerate such conduct. He pulled
Edgar out of the University and set him to work at a lowly, routine job
in his counting house. This was a humiliation Edgar could not bear; his
answer was to leave home. He went to Boston, where he managed to publish
a collection of his poems in pamphlet form, Tamerlane and Other Poems.
Desperate for money, he joined the army under the name of Edgar A.
Perry. Army barracks were no place for a young “aristocrat.” Poe turned
to his foster father with penitent letters, pleading for reconciliation.
Mr. Allen yielded sufficiently to purchase his release from the army,
which was possible at that time. Shortly afterward, a new volume of his
poems was published in Baltimore, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems.
A little more than a year after his release from the Army, the young
poet turned again to the idea of a military career. He passed entrance
examinations and gained admission to the United States Military Academy
at West Point, New York. Poe knew than an army career was suitable for a
Virginia gentleman he longed to be, but the discipline was too hard for
him. Two years after his final dispute with Mr. Allan, Poe lived for a
while in Baltimore with his aunt, Mrs. Maria (Poe) Clemm. She was a poor
seamstress, but she welcomed Poe into her home and took care of him.
In 1833 The Saturday Visitor of Baltimore announced a literary contest
with prizes of fifty dollars for the best short story, and twenty-five
dollars for the best poem. Poe submitted a group of stories, Tales of
the Folio Club, and a poem, The Coliseum. One of the stories, MS. Found
in a Bottle, won the story prize, and his poem would have won the poetry
prize except that the judges decided not to award both prizes to the
The prize money was not important, but one of the judges, novelist John
P. Kennedy, took an interest in Poe and befriended him by helping him
sell a story to the new Southern Literary Messenger of Richmond. Poe
joined the editorial staff of the magazine and soon became its editor. A
number of his stories appeared in its pages.
Once established in his job, he brought Mrs. Clemm and her daughter,
Virginia, to live with him. A little later he married his cousin,
Virginia, who was some years younger than he. From that time on, the
three formed a household. He has many problems with drinking and
therefore his job was on and off.
Soon after moving to New York, his poem, The Raven, was published in the
New York Evening Mirror. It was reprinted in a number of magazines, and
at once became extremely popular. The Raven is not by any means Poe’s
best poem. With The Raven, Poe reached the height of his fame.
Poe was the originator of the American short story. There had been other
short works of fiction, but Poe perfected the short story as an art
form. Conan Doyle was influenced by him, particularly in their early
writing, before each had found his individual style. Poe led in his
methods of analysis in his detective stories. No one has outdone him in
creating an atmosphere of morbid horror in such tales as The Pit and the
Pendulum and The Tell-Tale Heart. The best of his poetry is pure magic.