The Life And Death Of Edgar Allan Poe

Table of Contents
Introduction…………………………………………………… 2
Early Life……………………………………………………… 2
Time at the University………………………………………….4
The Army (1827-1829 continued)………………………………7
Reconciliation With John Allan (1827-1829 continued)………..8
Fanny Allan’s Death (1827-1829 continued)……………………9
Less Happiness and More Writing………………………………9
The Death of Edgar Allan Poe…………………………………..10
The Life and Death of Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe had a writing style that was rather unique. He had a way of rhyming and expressing himself that no other author had at the time. He was in himself a genius in his own demented way.
Many of Poe’s writings reflected his life, be it happy or sad. Poe had a very difficult life, different from many others. All the women in his life seemed to die. Many died of Tuberculosis. Those who didn’t die of Tuberculosis still seemed to die. These deaths played a major effect on Poe’s writing style. Men were often the “bad guys” in Poe’s literature, and nearly every story Poe wrote was about death. Many times there were obscure circumstances surrounding the deaths in the stories.
That fact, and the fact that his writings intrigue me are the sole factors as to why I chose to write about this amazingly depressing man.
Early Life
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January nineteenth, 1809. His actor parents, Betty and David Poe orphaned Edgar at the age of three. John and Francis Allan of Richmond, Virginia took Edgar in.
When Edgar grew into his teens, his family moved around a lot. They finally moved to a house that they got from William Galt in 1822 or 1823. Edgar continued his education during this time and when he was fourteen, he attended the academy of Joseph H. Clarke, and after that he studied with William Burke.
Edgar’s schooling in Richmond encouraged his gift for the written art, and he was good at Latin and French. When he was sixteen, he wrote one of his earliest surviving poems; “Oh Tempora! Oh Mores!” Edgar wrote enough poems to publish a book, but his teacher persuaded John Allan not to.
When Edgar returned from England, he was rather wimpy and pale, but when he got back to Richmond, he started doing well in athletics. He was a good runner, leaper, boxer, and also a very good swimmer. When he was fifteen, he swam six miles up the James River partly against strong tide.
Edgar obviously made a good impression on other people. Thomas Ellis, the son of John Allan’s business partner once said:
“No boy ever had a greater influence over me than he had.”
Also at the age of fifteen, he became a lieutenant in the Junior Morgan Riflemen. As second- in command, he was reviewed by the popular Marquis de Lafayette whom two weeks earlier had praised Edgar’s grandfather, General David Poe, for his good work.
When Edgar returned to Richmond, he wanted to emphasize that he was not formally adopted by that Allans, so he was simply know as Edgar Poe.
Edgar was in search for a maternal figure in his life. He was very fond of his foster mother, Fanny Allan, but because she was sick all the time, she was much less than the ideal mother. At one occasion it is know that he called his sister Rosalie’s foster mother “ma”. At the age of fourteen he became infatuated with Mrs. Jane Stanard, the mother of one of his classmates. He went to her when he felt unhappy, and she somehow resembled both Fanny Allan and Eliza Poe. Edgar had only known her for about a year when she died at the age of thirty-one; it was assumed that she was insane. Edgar suffered from her death, and his behavior changed. This caused arguments at home with John Allan who spoke of Edgar as “Sulky, and ill tempered to all the family.” John Allan thought that the reason Edgar was acting like that because he was unthankful for all his foster father had done.
On the morning of March 26, 1825, William Galt, the owner of the Allans’ house, “Suddenly threw back his head and eyes and seemed oppressed.” Uncle Galt straightened himself, and died. The Allans’ inheritance from Galt was estimated at three fourths of a million dollars, including their house and three land estates.
John Allan later bought a house called Moldavia. It was an impressive place that was more like an estate than a house, with its flower gardens, trees, and eight outbuildings. Edgar got a room on the second floor. He was now sixteen, and preparing for University.
The Time at the University
In February 1826 Edgar enrolled at the University of Virginia. The university had opened the year before, after, what was said, forty years of planning, and now had one hundred seventy seven students.
Edgar was proud to attend the university and he had high ambitions in language. He took ancient languages taught by George Long, and modern languages taught by George Blaettermann. Edgar was an excellent student and his translations were remembered as “precisely correct.” He studied French, Italian, and probably some Spanish. He also joined the Jefferson Society, a debating club, and grew popular as a debater. He was also remembered as an outstanding athlete, an artist, (he sketched in charcoal), and he also continued to develop as a writer.
Edgar was, during his university year, described as moody and gloomy. This might be because of his first romantic failure with a Miss Elmira Royster. Also, this is said to be the inspiration for the poem “Tamerlane.”
Edgar was very young to be attending a university. The average age for attending a university in 1830 was about nineteen, while Edgar had only been seventeen for about a month.
Life at the university was very chaotic for Edgar, even dangerous at times. During a riot in the school’s first year, masked students threw broken bottles and bricks at the professors. During Edgar’s year, seven students were expelled or suspended for high stakes gambling.
The violence and chaos took up much room in the surviving letters Edgar sent to John Allan. In the letters it could be read, that one time a student was hit in the head with a large stone and he pulled a pistol-which apparently was not uncommon. The students misfired but would have otherwise have killed the attacker. At another occasion, a student was bit in his arm. Edgar wrote in a letter to John Allan, “it is likely that pieces of flesh as large as my hand will be obliged to be cut out.”
The quarrels with John Allan grew stronger, mostly because of Edgar’s financial problems. During the year, he got large gambling and other debts, which he was because John Allan didn’t provide well enough. That was why he “had to” stick to gambling to cover his expenses.
When Edgar returned to Richmond, he had debts that amounted to about $2000 – $2500. John Allan refused to pay the debts, and instead of sending him back to the university made Edgar work on the Allan’s firm.
In March 1827 the strain between Edgar and John Allan climaxed. This was because of more than two years of indifferences going back to the death of Jane Stanard, and now the loss of Elmira, who was now engaged. Edgar moved out of John Allan’s home and where he went is uncertain. Edgar was looking for “some place in this world, where I will be treated not as you have treated me.” Edgar felt that Allan had misled him, restricted him and rejected him. The letters Edgar sent to John Allan showed, without concealment, that he did not feel as a part of the family. He also wrote:
“I have heard you say (when you little thought I was listening and therefore must have said it in earnest) that you had no affection for me.”
After several hostile letters in their correspondence Edgar was in need for money and his things, and changed the attitude in his letters. He wrote a friendly letter almost begging John Allan for help. The letter was returned and on the back of it Allan had written: “Pretty Letter”
Edgar led a reckless life roaming the streets and drank a lot. He sometimes took his brother’s identity to mislead his creditors and John Allan. At the time no one knew where Edgar went, but some letters were said to be sent from St. Petersburg, Russia. In reality he had followed his mother’s advice from the watercolor painting and gone to Boston.
Edgar managed to make a living on his own in Boston, working with among other things, a small newspaper. He had brought some earlier manuscripts with him to Boston and handed these over to a printer by the name of Calvin F.S. Thomas. It resulted in a forty page booklet entitled “Tamerlane and other Poems” said to be written simply by “A Bostonian.” It consisted of “Tamerlane” and nine other, much shorter poems, most which were written in 1821 to 1822 when Edgar was only twelve or thirteen years old. His youthfulness was very noticeable in the poems, especially since the words “youth” and “young” appeared frequently. Byron whom inspired many young American poets at that time heavily influenced the poems. In fact the heroine in “Tamerlane”, Ada, was named after Byron’s daughter and the similarities with Byron’s work can for example be seen in:
“I reach’d my home – my home no more” – From Poe’s “Tamerlane”
“He entered in the house – his home no more” – From Byron’s “Don Juan”
In “Tamerlane” there could also be seen some vague reflection of Edgar’s own experience with his unhappy courtship of Elmira Royster and his thoughts of Ellis and Allan and his recent break with them.
The Army (1827-1829 continued)
In June or July 1827, when “Tamerlane” appeared, Edgar had recently joined the US Army. He enlisted for a five-year term on May 26, under the name “Edgar A. Perry” and stating his age as 22. The reason for joining the army was possibly economic, but some other things could have helped him in making the decision; his grandfather’s association with the revolutionary army, his own service in the Morgan Junior Riflemen, Byron’s and Tamerlane’s martial ambitions or the prospect of family-like camaraderie.
In his company there were thirty privates (including Edgar) and during the fall of 1827 they were stationed in Boston Harbor at Fort Independence. In November they moved to Fort Moultrie in South Carolina, on an island in the main entrance to Charleston Harbor. Thirteen months later they once again moved, this time to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, in the entrance of Chesapeake Bay, at Old Point Comfort. Little is known about Edgar “Perry’s” life during these two years, but it is known that the army was not geared for war during this period. The period 1815 – 1846 has been called “Thirty Years Peace.”
His superiors appreciated Edgar and by early 1828 he had become “Assistant to the A.C.S.” (Assistant Commissary of Subsistence), with similar duties as General David Poe had done as A.D.Q.M. (Assistant Commissary Deputy Quartermaster of the Continental Army) Later the same year he had become an officer, blacksmith or mechanic and earned ten dollars per month. On New Year’s Day 1829 he was promoted to sergeant major for artillery, the highest possible rank for non-commissioned officers, above sergeant and just below second lieutenant.
Reconciliation with John Allan (1827-1829 continued)
During these two years Edgar had become a friend of Lieutenant Howard which he described as; compassionate, a fatherly man who acted from the “goodness of his heart”, and as Edgar also stated: “He has always been kind to me.” Edgar even trusted him with his real name and age. Even though he progressed in the army, Edgar felt that he wanted to leave. He had signed for five years but Howard promised to discharge him since he heard about Edgar’s problems with his orphan hood, and the problems at the university and John Allan. Howard would, however, only let him leave if he settled his differences with John Allan.
Lieutenant Howard wrote a letter to John Allan explaining the situation to which John Allan replied: “he had better remain as he is until the termination of his enlistment.” Edgar then wrote to John Allan himself, explaining that he had made a mistake when he joined the Army but partly blamed Allan for it. He also stated that he had become a better man. Edgar’s sense of poetry could be noticed in this letter in the following quote:
“I have thrown myself on the world, like a Norman conqueror on the shores of Britain &, by my avowed assurance of victory, have destroyed the fleet which could alone cover my retreat – I must either conquer or die — succeed or be disgraced.”
John Allan did not reply, and three weeks later Edgar wrote him again, summarizing what he had said before and pretended like Allan had never received the letter. Once again Edgar did not get a reply. After another six weeks, now after Edgar’s twentieth birthday, he wrote again but this time he asked for John Allan’s help to enter West Point, stating he wanted to further his career as a soldier. No one knows if h received a reply to this letter but reconciliation was is the offing.
Fanny Allan’s Death (1827-1829 continued)
In his letters to John Allan, Edgar asked how Fanny was doing. The fact was that she was seriously ill and no improvement was to be seen. She eventually died February 28, 1829, at the age of forty-four. On her deathbed she wished to see Edgar but he was not able to arrive until the night after her burial in Shockoe Hill Cemetery (where Jane Stanard was also buried). Edgar felt guilty for leaving Fanny in her bad condition and once wrote: “I have had fearful warning & have hardly ever known before what distress was.”
Fanny’s death had softened John Allan and he bought Edgar a suit of black clothes, some hosiery, and a knife a hat and a pair of gloves. He also said that he had not received Edgar’s letters and agreed to support him in leaving the Army and enter West Point, but more importantly he promised to forgive Edgar for everything.
As Edgar went back to Old Point Comfort he wrote John Allan that except for Fanny’s death he felt “much happier than I have for a long time.”
Less Happiness and more Writing
Soon after his reconciliation with John Allan, Edgar obtained an appointment to West Point. But Allan soon remarried; Edgar lost all hopes of Allan’s support and he left West Point because the service was an inappropriate career for a young man of little means. Although he romanticized about his forbears and pretended to have set off for Greece and St. Petersburg in some idealized aristocratic pursuit of freedom during his years in the army, it is clear that he faced, from age twenty-two, a life of struggle and poverty.
In 1831, Edgar published new collection of poems. He spent most of the next four years in Baltimore living with his aunt, Maria Clemm, and her daughter, Virginia. These were difficult times letters to John Allan indicate Edgar feared imprisonment for debt and mentioned that he was dying for want of help. During this period, Edgar was writing stories and selling them to magazines in Baltimore and Philadelphia.
When he became editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond in 1835, Edgar found his dream job: editor, critic and contributor to a series of magazines, each of which flourished under his guidance. Edgar married Virginia in 1836. (He was about twenty-six and she was about thirteen!) With Maria Clemm they formed a household which, in 1837, moved from Richmond to New York where Edgar briefly owned his own magazine. It was in New York that Virginia died of tuberculosis in 1847.
The Death of Edgar Allan Poe
Following Virginia’s death, Edgar quickly disintegrated, returning to Richmond in 1849 still preoccupied with the goal of his lifetime: owning his own magazine. Setting off to New York soon after to visit Mrs. Clemm, his hopes still high for the future, Edgar traveled no farther than Baltimore. There he died in delirium of “acute congestion of the brain” and was buried near his grandfather in the Presbyterian cemetery.
Exactly how long Edgar lived in the small brick house now connected to 530 North 7th St. is unknown. Apparently, he moved into this house sometime between the fall of 1842 and 1843 and left in April 1844. Like all of Poe’s homes, this one was rented. It may or may not have been furnished when Poe, his wife Virginia his mother-in-law, Maria Clemm, and their cat, Catterina, moved in. Whatever furniture they used or purchased has disappeared without a trace.
The importance of this house lies in its location and its connection to Edgar Allan Poe. During the entire six years that Poe lived in Philadelphia, he attained his greatest successes as an editor and critic, and he published some of his most famous tales, including, “The Gold Bug,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart.” and “”The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Of his several Philadelphia homes, only this one survives. It serves as a tangible link with Poe and his days of greatness in Philadelphia. For this reason, it is fitting that Congress chose this site as our nation’s memorial to Edgar Allan Poe.
One would think that Poe would be mostly remembered for his powerful tales, but much of his international reputation is because of his critical acuteness, which pointed in equally new directions. Poe was among the first to recognize the tendency of the age toward “the curt, the condensed, the pointed, the readily diffused.” In a famous critical piece, Poe recognized Hawthorne as one of our “few men of indisputable genius;” he went on to formulate his famous conception of the short story, which must be designed for “a single effect” and every word of which must be made count.
One popular variety that can be traced back to Poe, science fiction, was seen more as a joke to Poe’s generation. Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of a Martian landing is a later example of the American practical joke or tall-story tradition. In “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall” in which Poe attempted an ingenious simulation of a balloon flight to the moon or in “A Decent into the Maelstrom,” Poe’s imaginative science and pseudo-science made for compelling pieces of fiction, which led to future amplification in the work of such writers as Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke.
Another popular form, which Poe created, was the treasure-mystery combination with built in clues, which Robert Louis Stevenson later made the most of on. This type of story has been essential youth reading for years, but was badly developed until “The Gold Bug” was published.
Poe is understandably famous for his tales of terror; his “arabesques” as he called them, in contrast with his “grotesques” to humorous satires on Gothic works. From “Morella”, the first of his treatments of the death and terrifying rebirth of a beautiful woman which was to find its most compelling expression in “The Fall of the House of Usher”, Poe used his awesome imaginative power. In such tales as “The Black Cat”, “The Imp of the Perverse” and “The Pit and the Pendulum”, Poe developed his ability to convey imagined horror by making it immediately physical.
I cannot write this paper without mentioning one of Poe’s most famous writings. In the poem, “The Raven”, Poe used many different elements as symbols. A raven is usually a sign of something dark and sinister. A raven is also a sign of death. This poem also deals with losing hope, even though the narrator has no right to have even a small amount. This poem deals with his lost love Lenore, and how the raven torments him into insanity. Throughout the poem, the narrator is tormented by his lost love, Lenore, who came back in the form of a raven. Of course, it is only speculated that he killed her, but there are many clues that he has. He has only little hope of seeing Lenore again, “as the ambers show in the fire.” He was also so ridden by guilt that he that he was haunted by the image of her, the raven. Also, the raven speaks one word, “Nevermore.” This shows the narrator is being punished for something he did. His punishment is immortality, which explains why he would never see Lenore again. Lenore is punishing him for what he did to her. She drives him into insanity, and the pain of knowing he will be lonely and insane forever is her retribution. Then, there is the knocking, a sign of endless guilt. The knocking goes on and on, driving him into insanity. The knocking jumbles his thoughts, making him confused. Lenore wants him to suffer as much as he possibly can. She kept tapping at the door and then the window in order to make him never forget his guilt. Poe used all of the right elements to portray a man tormented by guilt. The raven only crushed the faint hope of ever seeing his love again. Also, the one worded phrasing that the raven speaks is also a sign of guilt, which is tormenting the narrator. Then, there is the knocking, the repetitive knocking that begins to drive him insane. Poe portrayed a guilt-ridden man very well in this poem.
Because of the power of Poe’s narrative voice, many of his tales are indelible. Poe’s imaginative sociology in “The Man of the Crowd” “will tell you more about loneliness in the crowd than David Riesman did.” The psychological analysis in “William Wilson” is an excellent and frightening exploration off split personality two generations before Freud.
Poe’s approach to literature, his famous method which emphasized strict artistic control rather than the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion, earned him the homage of the French symbolists such as Baudelaire who spent 14 years translating his writings. A phrase in Marginalia, “my heart laid bare” became the title of Baudelaire’s journal, while another phrase “the orange ray of the spectrum and the buzz of a gnat…affect me with nearly similar sensations” was reflected in Baudelaire’s epoch making sonnet “Correspondences.”
Poe’s greatest influence comes about in the murder mystery. He can be said to have invented it when he published “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Although murders in fiction existed before Poe, his preoccupation with the ingenious solution of the crime established in his tales of ratiocination changed the emphasis from the acts to getting the facts. Poe’s clever and strange detective Dupin, who also appeared in “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” and “The Purloined Letter,” is the identifiable ancestor of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie’s Hurcule Poirot, Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason and all those other heroes whose minds are “resolvent and creative.” (E. A. Poe)
Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, Collected Works of Edgar Allan, Volume I, Poems, Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969
Quinn, Arthur Hobson, Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography, New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1941
Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson, The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849, Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1987 — Edgar Allan Poe — Edgar Allan Poe Biography — The Army and the Death of Fanny Allan — Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849 — Edgar’s Teens
Word Count: 3862

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *