Guest Author - Jordan McCollum
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809, the middle of three children of married actors. However, when Poe was a year old, his father abandoned the family. The following year, his mother died of tuberculosis. Poe was taken in by the John Allan family, who gave him his middle name.
Poe studied in Scotland and England as well as in the United States at the fledgling University of Virginia before enlisting in the US Army (in 1827) and ultimately earning a position at West Point. He later decided not to complete his career at the military academy and got himself dismissed from West Point in 1831.
By the end of his military career, he had already published three volumes of poetry: Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems (1829), and Poems (1831). In 1833, he won a prize from the newspaper The Saturday Visitor for his story The Manuscript Found in a Bottle . This brought him attention from several prominent literary figures and agents, and eventually parlayed into a job as assistant editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in 1835. Poe moved from Baltimore for Richmond for the position.
Soon after he secured this position, he was dismissed for drunkenness and returned to Baltimore, marrying his 13-year-old cousin Virginia Clemm in secret. He returned to Richmond with his wife and mother-in-law (aunt) and was reinstated at the Messenger. The following year, he publicly married his wife—but, like many of his relationships, his marriage was destined to end tragically.
His first book, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, was published in 1838. The following year, he became the assistant editor at Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, which contained many of Poe’s tales that are still popular today, including “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “MS. Found in a Bottle.”
In 1840, Poe left Burton’s and the following year became an assistant editor for Graham's Magazine. At the beginning of 1842, Poe’s wife, Virginia, was diagnosed with tuberculosis; a few months later, Poe left Graham’s. .Following a two year gap of unemployment, the destitute Poe family moved to New York where he found work at the New York Evening Mirror. In New York, he would eventually become editor, then owner, of the Broadway Journal.
In 1845, Poe’s most famous poem, “The Raven,” was published in the Evening Mirror to rave reviews and wide popularity. Despite the fame Poe enjoyed because of his poem, his Broadway Journal failed just a year after its publication, and early the following year (1847), his wife died.
Although he courted several women during the last few years of his life, Poe did not remarry before he was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore on October 3, 1849. He died four days later, without a firm diagnosis of his condition.
Over the course of his short life, Poe wrote over 100 long form poems and short “tales,” plus essays, editorials, reviews and other works. He published seven collections in his lifetime. Although he was famous for his writing even during his lifetime, it seemed that almost everything he touched his hand to failed.
Read the Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe or listen to them narrated by Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price in the Edgar Allan Poe Audio Collection.