Great American Authors – Edgar Allan Poe

by jeanineoloughlin

July is the month we celebrate the United States’ Independence Day. So this month I will be posting about some of America’s greatest authors.

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Edgar Allan Poe 1/19/1809 – 10/7/1849

Poe had a very interested and chaotic early life and even his death is shrouded in mystery and myth. Poe was born a middle child in the city of Boston to actors Elizabeth and David Poe. David Poe left the family in 1810 and his mother died from consumption a year later. Edgar was fostered by the Allan family, and though he was never formally adopted he was given the name Allan Poe. Edgar had attempted several tracts of life, attending the University of Virginia for only one year in 1826, joining the Army in 1826 to be discharged early in 1829. He even attended West Point but was dismissed a year later. Throughout his life Poe struggled with gambling and alcoholism which many attributed to many of the struggles throughout his life.

It wasn’t until 1831 that Edgar then began to dedicate himself to starting a career as a writer. He was the first well-known American to attempt to live by writing alone and without International copyright laws the market was filled with pirated copies of British works over paying for new pieces by American authors. This caused a very uphill battle for Edgar in getting his works published in papers and other available media at the time.

During this time he married his first cousin Virgina Clemm on September 22, 1835. He was 26 and she was only 13 though listed as 21 on the marriage certificate. After his marriage to Virginia, Edgar had some moderate success in his writings and worked as an editor for the Southern Literary Messenger. In 1842 Virginia started to show signs of consumption and died in 1847 from the illness. This tragic event many experts believe was what sparked his well-known theme of death and macabre.

Poe’s first real taste of literary success was with his poem “The Raven” in 1845 published in the The Evening Mirror but was only paid $9 for the piece’s publication. Increasingly unstable after Virginia’s death Poe’s alcoholism and erratic behaviors increased. On October 3, 1849 Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious and died October 7, 1849 at Washington Medical College. Poe never became coherent enough to explain his odd and distressing condition which included wearing clothing which were not his own. All of Poe’s medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost and the circumstances and causes of his death continue to be a point of much speculation.

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