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EA Poe Madman Or Literary Genius Essay

E.A. Poe: Madman Or Literary Genius Essay, Research Paper Madman or Literary Genius? Edgar Allan Poe?s life is almost as strange as his writings. Poe is, perhaps, best known for his bizarre tales of

E.A. Poe: Madman Or Literary Genius Essay, Research Paper

Madman or Literary Genius? Edgar Allan Poe?s life is almost as strange

as his writings. Poe is, perhaps, best known for his bizarre tales of

terror, death, decay and madness. “To a world fascinated by the bizarre

and the macabre, Poe has often seemed an embodiment of the satanic

characters of his own fiction, the archetype of the neurotic

genius.”(McMicheal 727). He was equally as talented at poetry, detective

stories, and as a literary critic. Many controversies surrounded Poe in

death as well as in life. Some answer we may never know. Here?s what we

do know.

Edgar Poe was born on January 19,1809 to Eliza and David Poe,Jr in

Boston. Edgar was the second son of Eliza and David, whose sole income

was obtained from acting. In the summer of 1809 the Poe?s moved from

Boston to New York. Although Eliza often got great reviews and was

offered some good parts, critics didn?t like David. Frustrated by this

David walked out on Eliza and their two sons leaving her alone and

desolate. In 1910 Eliza gave birth to a baby girl, named Rosalie.

Shortly after that Eliza became ill. On December 8, 1811 Elizabeth Poe

died leaving behind three young orphaned children.

Rosalie was taken in by a family named Mac Kenzie and the oldest son,

William, was taken in by David?s family. As David?s family had no

intention of taking Edgar in, Fanny Allan convinced her husband that

they should give Edgar a home. Fanny had helped in Eliza?s sickroom

before she died and so was familiar with Edgar. Although the Allan?s

didn?t adopt Edgar they did change his name to incorporate their last

name into it. They christened him Edgar Allan Poe on January 7, 1812.

This arrangement meant a big change for Edgar. John Allan was a wealthy

business owner. So with the death of his mother Edgar literally went

from rags to riches.

When Edgar was six and a half the Allan?s moved to England. Enrolled in

boarding school using the name Edgar Allan, he received his first formal

education here. The Allan?s lived in England for five years . When the

tobacco market took a nose dive, John Allan?s business took a nose-dive

also. With no business and no reason to stay in England the Allan?s left

for New York. They ultimately settled in Richmond, Virginia. Here

Edgar continued his schooling where his gift for languages and writing

was discovered. Upon moving to Richmond Edgar also started using the

name Edgar Poe instead of Edgar Allan. With the death of an Uncle the

Allan?s once again came into money.

In 1826, Edgar began classes at the University of Virginia. He continued

to excel in his studies of languages and worked on developing his

writing skills. It was also during this time that Edgar fell in love.

The girl, Elmira Royster, was fifteen and her father objected to their

relationship. So Poe experienced both love and heartbreak.

While away at school arguments with John Allan grew more frequent. Edgar

felt that Allan wasn?t giving him enough money to live on. Therefore in

order to survive he gambled to try and get more money. More frequently

then not this lead to him being out of more money instead. When Edgar

approached Allan for the money to cover his gambling debts, Allan

refused to pay them. Instead Poe was required to take a job at Allan?s

firm. With the relationship between the two men being so strained Edgar

left the home in March of 1827 to make his own way.

Edgar went to Boston and got a job working for a small newspaper. It was

here that Edgar had his first published work. “Tamerlane and Other

Poems” was published and said to be written by “A Bostonian”. As ”

Tamerlane” was coming out in print Poe was enlisting in a five year

stint in the Army. He enlisted under the name of Edgar Perry and by

overstating his age to 22.

Edgar did well in the Army and in 1828 he became “assistant to the

A.C.S. (Assistant Commissary of Substance).” By 1829 He was promoted to

Sergeant Major. Although he was doing well in the Army Edgar wanted to

leave it. He enlisted the help of a friend — Lieutenant Howard– to

reach this objective. Howard agreed to help Edgar but only if Edgar

would reconcile with John Allan. Edgar wrote several letters explaining

the situation to John Allan and trying to reconcile. Allan, however, did

not reply to Edgar requests. Edgar wrote once again explaining that he

wanted to enter West Point to advance his career as a soldier. Whether

or not he received an answer is not known as a more important event took

precedent.

Fanny Allan , who had been sick the majority of Poe?s life was ailing

rapidly. Although she asked to see Edgar, he was unable to arrive before

she died. Her death lead the way for a reconciliation between Edgar And

John. In addition to reconciling Allan offered his help in securing

Poe?s entrance into West Point. Although Poe left the army in 1829, a

waiting list prevented him from entering West Point until one year

later.

During this time Edgar again pursued his writing. Once again money

problem besieged him. Repeated request for money from Allan brought

argument and dissent between the two men. During this time Poe had one

of his poems published in American Monthly. It was then published again

by The Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette. John Neal, editor, “described

Edgar?s efforts as “though nonsense, rather exquisite nonsense” and he

thought good of Edgar?s future as a poet.”(poedecoder)

By November, Edgar was having a volume of poems published. The book

called “Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems” was published under the

name Edgar A. Poe. The main poem “Al Aaraaf” was unfinished and hard to

understand. “A Baltimore reviewer wrote: “all our brain-cudgelling could

not compel us to understand it.” This book, however, unlike Tamerlane,

brought Edgar some small public attention, it was reviewed in at least

four different publications and some of the criticism was good, and the

work was even described as “highly creditable to the

Country.”"(poedecoder)

Finally in the spring of 1830 Poe was admitted to West Point. Here he

excelled in classes in French and Math, placing 17th in math and 3rd in

French. In addition to his academic studies, Poe became the sort of

class clown. He amused the other cadets be writing poems about their

instructors. One such poem was written about Joseph Locke, whose duty it

was to report cadet?s violation of regulations:

John Locke was a notable name

Joe Locke is a greater; in short

The former was well known to fame,

But the latter?s well known “to report”

(poedecoder)

Allan remarried and once again the two were at odds. Edgar felt that

Allan didn?t provide well enough for him and that he drove Edgar into

debt. Although Edgar began writing to Allan to ask his permission to

leave West Point, Allan didn?t answer his letters. Finally, Edgar

decided to get thrown out of West Point. To do this Edgar began

violation the regulations –In 1831 he had 66 offences and a court

martial was convened. He was found guilty and dismissed. He stayed long

enough to get money from the other cadets to print a new edition of

poems.

This edition, published as “Poems By Edgar A. Poe…Second Edition” was

dedicated to the cadets. He revised “Tamerlane”, and “Al Aaraaf” and

added new poems such as “To Helen”. “Edgar?s new poems showed his

preference on mixing past and present, dream and reality and myth and

science.”(poedecoder)

It was around this time that Edgar got back in touch with his

father?s(David Poe) relatives. This also led to him spending time with

his brother, William Henry Leonard Poe, better known as Henry. Edgar

sometimes tried to turn to Henry when he needed help. Unfortunately

Henry drank and was often unable to offer any assistance. In a strange

twist of fate Henry also wrote. Both Henry and Edgar named characters in

their story after each other. Strangely enough they both published a

poem that was almost identical.

?

Henry:

The happiest day- the happiest hour

My sear?d and blighted heart has known,

The brightest glance of pride and power

?

I feel has flown–

?

Edgar:

The happiest day — the happiest hour

?

My sear?d and blighted heart hath known,

The highest hope of pride and power,

?

I feel hath flown

?

In addition to this poem, there was a poem published in Edgar?s 1827

edition that both men seem to claim part of. Unfortunately Henry meet

his fate on August 1, 1831. It was said the cause of his death was his

fondness for drinking. This is ironic because eighteen years later

doctor?s would say the same of Edgar.

Edgar would fall in love with Mary Starr, a seventeen year old. Mary?s

brother disapproved of Edgar because Edgar couldn?t support a wife. It

has been suggested that losing Mary because of money was part of the

reason Edgar switched from writing poetry to try his hand at fiction. On

August 13,1831 the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post published a story,

The Dream, believed to have been written by Poe. “Whether Edgar wrote

the story or not is uncertain, it was published with the signature “P”

but the circumstances around the story and the character of the story

suggests that he did”(poedecoder)

Although Poe did not win the Saturday Courier?s contest, it was through

this contest that he had published his first acknowledged story –

Metzengerstein. This was just the beginning. In 1832 four more stories

were published — Duke de L? Omelette, A Tale of Jerusalem, A Decided

Loss, and The Bargain Lost.

Edgar also entered a contest in the Saturday Visitor. No contest Edgar

won hands down. This led to the publication of MS. Found in a Bottle and

a week later of his poem The Coliseum. Then in 1834 Henry Carey got

Edgar?s manuscript published. This time in a magazine with a national

circulation.

During this time Edgar kept in contact with John Allan only through his

requests for money. Finally in 1833 Edgar went to live with his Aunt,

Maria Clemm. In 1834, John Allan died leaving three quarters of a

million dollars. Edgar was not even in the will.

White, a Richmond printer and owner of the Southern Literary Messenger ,

began publishing Poe?s tales. White eventually offered Poe a job. The

timing of this was excellent since Edgar had fallen in love again. This

time with his thirteen year old cousin Virginia. Poe was successful at

his new job. However despair still haunted him. It is said that he

turned to drinking and even talked of suicide.

Leaving his job, Poe returned to Baltimore to marry Virginia. “Whether

married or only engaged Poe hoped to return to Richmond and wrote White

and asked to get his job back.”(poedecoder) White consented on the

grounds that Edgar Refrain from drinking.

Not only did Poe work as the editor but he still published stories of

his own. Poe?s stories had a very gothic influence. “Poe especially

liked the kind of personal narration called “tale of sensation” where

the persons are usually solitary victims of a life threatening

predicament, about to be executed, or about to have a fatal accident.”

(poedecoder)

Poe also devoted a large section of the Messenger to the critical

department. He was a force to be reckoned with in this capacity. “Poe

became a critic to be feared and was not afraid of giving bad criticism

to respected authors. One of his reviews started with:

The most remarkable feature in this production is the bad paper on which

it is printed.”(poedecoder)

Poe gave credit where credit was due. In 1842 in Graham?s Magazine Poe

reviewed Nathaniel Hawthorne?s Twice Told Tales. Poe had this to say:

“The style of Hawthorne is purity itself. His tone is singularly

effective –wild plaintive, thoughtful, and in full accordance with his

themes.” (early criticism)

Again in 1847 in Goldy?s Lady Book Poe does a lengthier review of

Hawthorne. In this review Poe gives his opinion of Hawthorne.

“Now my own opinion of him is, that although his walk is limited and he

is fairly to be charged with mannerism, treating all subjects in a

similar tone of dreamy innuendo, yet in this walk he evinces

extraordinary genius, having no rival either in America or elsewhere;

and this opinion I have never heard gainsaid by any one literary person

in the country.”(early criticism)

Also in Goldy?s Lady Book, this time in 1846 was this review:

“The most favourable estimate of Miss Fuller?s genius (for high genius

she unquestionably possesses) is to be obtained, perhaps, from her

contributions to The Dial and her Summer on the Lakes.”(Sarah Margaret

Fuller 73)

?

In addition to critical review Poe spent time working on his own

writings. On May 16, 1836 Edgar and Virginia were officially wed. In the

summer of this year White officially acknowledged Poe as editor of the

Messenger. However by fall Poe?s work was slipping, possibly due to

alcohol. Poe was to leave the Messenger and White was to take over as

editor.

Little is known about the next two years. Poe moved to New York for a

while and then on to Philadelphia. In 1838, Harper and Brothers in New

York published The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, of Nantucket, his

first book of fiction.

Poe next took a job at Burton?s Gentlemen Magazine as assistant editor.

Although the format of the magazine didn?t suit him, the steady income

was irresistible. Poe and Burton had a falling out Burton “wished to

mollify the tone of Poe?s attacks on some of the authors he criticised.

Poe seems to have written a bitter letter, meeting Burton on his own

ground, and suggesting that slashing reviews brought subscribers to the

paper.”

( Ransome 29) So Poe and Burton parted company and Poe moved on to

Graham?s Magazine. The magazine did well with Poe at the helm.

It was during this time that Virginia started showing signs of

tuberculosis. Hoping to give Virginia some relief Poe moved around in

search of a healthier environment. There are conflicting reports as to

whether or not Poe turned to alcohol for solace at this time. Poe

continued his writing and had two tales published in Graham?s Magazine.

One of them was his cryptography series, The Murder in the Rou Morgue.

Next Poe tried his hand at autobiographical material. He also reviewed

the works of Charles Dickens in order to gain recognition in England in

1842. He also left Graham?s at this time. He went to Washington,

supposedly to find subscribers for his own magazine. He drank too much

and fell further into desperate straits. He tried his hand at lecturing.

“During the summer of 1843, he began lecturing with a fierce attack on

Griswold?s Poets and Poetry of America.” (Ransome 33)

After that he tried his hand at Graham?s Magazine again, but this was

short-lived. In 1844 he moved to New York, penniless. He lived on

whatever he could make free lancing and this barely put food on the

table. In 1845 he published one of his most famous works –The Raven. It

was published in the paper he was currently working for — The Evening

Mirror and reprinted in The American Whig Review.

From here he went on to work at the Broadway Journal and was quickly

acknowledged as editor. Ultimately as “Edgar A. Poe, Editor and

Proprietor”. (Ransome 36) Unfortunately, the paper collapsed. Poe moved

out of New York to the cottage at Forham. They sank deeper into poverty

and needed to rely on the help of friends to get by. Virginia died on

January 30, 1847.

Following Virginia?s death, Poe rapidly disintegrated, returning to

Richmond in 1849 still preoccupied with the goal of his lifetime: owning

his own journal. Setting off for New York shortly thereafter to visit

Mrs. Clemm, his hopes still high for the future. Poe travelled no

further than Baltimore. There he died in delirium of “acute congestion

of the brain” and was buried near his grandfather in the Presbyterian

cemetery.”(NHS Park Brochure)

There are a few different theories as to the cause of Poe?s death. Dr. J

Evans Snodgrass, who was the physician on when Edgar was brought in ,

believes he died from complications of alcoholism. Dr John Moran, Poe?s

own physician, believes he was set upon by thugs and beaten. Dr R.

Michael Benitez has yet another theory. He has reviewed the evidence and

published his findings in the September issue of the Maryland Medical

Journal. “No one can say conclusively that Poe died of rabies, since

there was no autopsy after his death.” (Gugliotta) “But the historical

accounts of Poe?s condition in the hospital a few days before his death

point to a strong possibility that he had rabies.” (Gugliotta) As with

many things about Poe perhaps we?ll never know the full truth.

?

Works

?

Poetry

?

Al Aaraaf

Alone

An Enigma

Annabel Lee

The Bells

Bridal Ballad

The City In The Sea

The Coliseum

The Conqueror Worm

A Dream

A Dream Within A Dream

Dreamland

Dreams

Eldorado

Elizabeth

Eulalie

Evening Star

Fairy-Land

For Annie

The Happiest Day, The Happiest Hour

The Haunted Palace

Hymn

Israfel

The Lake to ?

Lenore

The Raven

Romance

Serenade

The Sleeper

Song

Sonnet-To Science

Sonnet-To Zante

Spirits Of The Dead

Stanzas

Tamerlane

To ?

To — –

To F?

To F?S S. O?D

To Helen

To Helen

To M?

To M.L.S.

To My Mother

To One In Paradise

To The River ?

Ulalame

A Valentine

The Valley Of Unrest

?

Articles

?

Criticism

The Daguerreotype

Marginalia

?

Long Tales

?

The Gold-Bug

Hans Phaall

The Murders In The Rue Morgue

The Mystery Of Marie Roget-A Sequel to “The Murder In The Rue Morgue”

The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket

?

Short-Stories

?

The Angel Of The Odd-An Extravaganza

The Assignation

The Balloon-Hoax

Berenice

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