Today’s blog post is going to be another instalment of my “Spotlight On:…” posts. These are my favourites to write and I wish I could write these for every post (if only you wouldn’t get so bored!)
Today is the turn of Edgar Allan Poe. I thought this was very fitting as we’re now in October (aka spooky season) and Edgar Allan Poe is well known for his spooky and atmospheric works.
As always, the post will be divided up into 6 different parts:
1. A little bit about their life
2. Their works I have read
3. Their works I am yet to read
4. Great film/TV adaptations based on their works
6. An author biography recommendation
A Little Bit About Their Life
Edgar Allan Poe was born on 19 January 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of an English-born actress Elizabeth Arnold Poe and David Poe Jr. (who was also an actor from Baltimore). His mother died in 1811, two years after his birth, and he was taken into the home of his godfather, John Allan, a Richmond merchant. There he lived with John Allan and his childless wife. He never really knew either of his parents and he was separated from his siblings, William and Rosalie.
He was educated in Scotland and England from 1815 to 1820 and then returned to the US to continue this classic education. By the age of thirteen, he was a prolific poet but his talents were discouraged by his headmaster and John Allan, who wanted Poe to follow him in the family business. Poe reportedly wrote poems on the back of some of Allan’s business papers.
Money was one of the reasons why John Allan and Edgar Allan Poe had such a fraught relationship. In 1826, Edgar attended the University of Virginia but did not receive adequate money from his godfather to cover his costs. To maintain his place at the university, he turned to gambling but ended up in more debt. John Allan refused to let Edgar continue his studies there. Not only did he return home having been kicked out of university, but he also returned to find that his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster had become engaged. Heartbroken, he moved to Boston. In 1827, he published a pamphlet of Byronic poems, Tamerlane, and Other Poems.
Poverty forced him to join the army under the name of Edgar A. Perry, but, on the death of Poe’s foster mother, John Allan purchased his release from the army and helped him get an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. By the time that Edgar returned to Richmond, his foster mother had already passed away from tuberculosis. John Allan and Edgar reconciled for a short period of time after Frances’ death and after Poe joined the Military Academy. Poe excelled at his studies at West Point, but he was kicked out after a year for his poor handling of his duties. During his time at West Point, Poe had fought with his foster father, who had remarried without telling him. Some have speculated that Poe intentionally sought to be expelled to spite Allan, who eventually cut ties with Poe.
After this, Poe focused on writing full time, living in New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Richmond. In 1834, John Allan died, leaving Poe out of his will, but providing for an illegitimate child Allan had never met. Poe, who continued to struggle living in poverty, got a break when one of his short stories won a contest in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter. He began to publish more short stories and in 1835 landed an editorial position with the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. He married his young cousin, Virginia Clemm, who was just thirteen at the time.
Unfortunately this happiness did not last long and Poe lost his job at the Messenger due to drinking and he went to New York City to find more work. He published a news story in The New York Sun about a balloon trip across the Atlantic Ocean that he later revealed to be a hoax. His stunt grabbed attention, but it was his publication of “The Raven,” in 1845, which made Poe a literary sensation. Though increasingly gaining in popularity, Poe had issues with drink and was often seen in public intoxicated. Many people thought that he was a drug addict. In 1847, just aged twenty-four, Virginia Clemm died of tuberculosis; the same illness that his mother, brother and foster mother had died from previously.
In 1849 he went south, had a wild spree in Philadelphia, but got safely to Richmond, where he finally became engaged to Elmira Royster, by then the widowed Mrs. Shelton, and spent a happy summer. He continued to write but struggled mentally and phyiscally. He died on 7 October 1849 in Baltimore. His last words were “Lord, help my poor soul.” At the time, it was said that Poe died of “congestion of the brain.” But his actual cause of death has been the subject of endless speculation. Some experts believe that alcoholism led to his demise while others offer up alternative theories. Rabies, epilepsy and carbon monoxide poisoning are just some of the conditions thought to have led to the great writer’s death.
Their Works I Have Read/Am Yet to Read
I haven’t actually read any of Edgar Allan Poe’s work yet. I have the most beautiful book collection of his short stories and poems. I might decide to delve in and out of that this month or the next!
Great Film/TV Adaptations of Their Work
I haven’t seen any! I also don’t know of any so if you do, please let me know 🙂
“Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence– whether much that is glorious– whether all that is profound– does not spring from disease of thought– from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.”
“I have great faith in fools – self-confidence my friends will call it.”
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”
“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”
An Author Biography Recommendation
If you want to learn more about Edgar Allan Poe’s exciting life, I would recommend reading Edgar Allan Poe: The Strange Man Standing Deep in the Shadows by Charlotte Montague.
Have you read any of Poe’s work? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
Love, Zoë x