Edgar Allan Poe
1809-1849
English 2
Mr. O’Connell
Loyola High School
Introduction

Emerson: “To be great is to be
misunderstood”:
His ideas were in conflict with the spirit of
his age
 Took refuge as a “lonely and
misunderstood artist
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His neurotic personality often mirrored
that of his fictional characters
Childhood
Born in Boston, January 19, 1809
 Parents:
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David Poe (deserted wife 18 months later)
Elizabeth Arnold Poe (died in 1811)
Became ward of the Mr. & Mrs. John Allan family
(never legally adopted)
John Allan—rich tobacco exporter
 Mrs. Allan—spoiled Edgar with the affections
of a childless wife of an unfaithful father
 Led to tensions and jealousies—estranged
Poe from Mr. Allan

Education
Received a genteel and thorough education in
Virginia and abroad
 Lived in England and Scotland (1815-20)
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Attended a prestigious classical prep school
Attended the University of Virginia

Mr. Allan removed him b/c of gambling debts
Entered the Army as “Edgar A. Perry”
 Entered West Point Academy in 1830
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Felt out of place and grew sick of the Academy
Received a Dishonorable Discharge for neglecting
his duties
Love Life

Age 11: infatuated with Jane Stith Stanard, a
classmate’s mother
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Led to the poem “To Helen”
High School: considered himself engaged to
Sarah Elmira Royster

She engaged another while Poe was at UVA
September 1835: Secretly married his 13year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm
 1849: Consented to marry Sarah Elmira
Royster, his childhood sweetheart

Early Writings

1827: Tamerlane and Other Poems

Signed “By a Bostonian”
1829: Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems
 1831: Poems (New York)
 1831 to 1835: Lived as a hack writer in
Baltimore
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Lived in poverty and struggled
October 12, 1833: published “MS Found in a
Bottle” and won a $50 prize

Heralded the success of his short story formula
Writing Career

Editor for Southern Literary Messenger (18351837; Richmond, VA)

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Brilliant editor, attracted attention for his own
critical articles
Personal instability; quarreled with staff
1838-1844: Period of greatest
accomplishment (Philadelphia)

Editor of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine,
Graham’s Magazine, and The Saturday Museum
Writing Career
Well-known in literary circles for critical
articles
 Published Tales of the Grotesque and
Arabesque (1840)
 1843: Earned fame (and $100) for “The Gold
Bug” in Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper
 Left Philadelphia and moved to New York and
found sporadic employment

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Again lived in grueling poverty
Writing Career

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In New York, Virginia sick with tuberculosis
Poe’s eccentricities increase; begins to drink
Candid reviews and critical articles gained him
many enemies, who ruined his reputation
Despite this, in 1845 published “The Raven” in
the Evening Mirror and in The Raven and Other
Poems

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1846: Virginia died
1848: Published Eureka, deemed a work of a
demented mind, in which he attempted to unify
the laws physical science with those of aesthetic
reality
Death
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“His life ended, as it had been lived, in events
so strange that he might have invented them”
(Perkins et al, 529)
Consented to marry Sarah Elmira Royster
Left for Philadelphia on business
Six days later found unconscious on streets of
Baltimore
Died in delirium four days later: Oct. 7, 1849
Obituary: Died of “congestion of the brain”
Contributions

“During a short life of poverty, anxiety, and
fantastic tragedy Poe achieved” the following:
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establishment of a new symbolic poetry, which
encompassed only 48 poems
the formalization of the new short story
the invention of the story of detection and the
broadening of science fiction
the foundation of a new fiction of psychological
analysis and symbolism
the development of an important critical theory
and a discipline of analytical criticism
Literary Philosophy

Emphasis on art that simultaneously appeals to
REASON and EMOTION; both head and heart
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Influenced the course of creative writing and criticism
Art = an object created in the cause of Beauty

Involves the utmost concentration and unity, with the
most scrupulous use of words
Works directed toward universal human response
 Like Hawthorne, Poe used symbolism
 Unlike Hawthorne, Poe taught no moral lessons
except the discipline of Beauty

Source

Perkins, George, Sculley Bradley,
Richmond Croom Beatty, and E. Hudson
Long, eds. The American Tradition in
Literature. 6th ed. New York: Random
House, 1985.
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