The world of literature wouldn’t be the same without the contribution of the literary critic, poet and writer Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849). His ingenious poems and short stories explored feelings of despair, melancholy, and loss with fierce psychological intensity. An architect of the modern short story, Poe promoted storytelling as well as a detective, science fiction, and horror genres. His most renowned short stories The Black Cat, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, and The Fall of the House of Usher show the depth of the writer’s artistic manner and original imagination. The father of the horror literature gave birth to a generation of talented horror including Ambrose Bierce and H.P. Lovecraft.
Believed to be both a genius and a madman, Poe was born in the family of actors but never knew them. His father left his children, there were three of them, when the boy was only one-year-old. Next year his mother died leaving the boy a complete orphan. There is a theory that parents named their son after a character in Shakespeare’s play King Lear, where both his parents were performing at that time. An orphaned boy was taken from Boston to Richmond, Virginia, to live with the Allan Family. His foster father was a highly successful merchant, who despite their complicated relationships financially supported Poe for a long time. The boy had a chance to attend the best schools in Britain and America. In 1826 he enrolled in the University of Virginia to study ancient and modern languages. Alcohol abuse, gambling and erratic behavior made him expelled.
Poe decided to join the army in 1827 under the name of Edgar A. Perry. This was when his writing career started. His first collection of poems, Tamerlane and Other Poems, was published anonymously but went unnoticed. The second collection, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems, appeared in 1829. It didn’t enjoy great success either. After discharging and getting a dismissal from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Poe pursued a writing career trying to make a living out of it. The financial situation was tough. He worked in many journals and periodicals – his writings brought almost no financial benefits. Poe traveled a lot working as an editor and earned a name of a bitter literary critic. During his lifetime, he was mainly known due to his distinguished writing technique and critical theory.
In 1936 Poe married his younger cousin, Virginia Eliza Clemm, a marriage that raises a lot of questions even nowadays. A 26-year-old writer had to obtain a special license to marry Virginia who was 13-year-old at that time. The writer grew passionate about writing short stories and one of his stories, MS. Found in a Bottle, helped Poe get an editorial position in the journal. Collections of his works, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket plus Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, demonstrate the versatile genres Poe wrote in. First and foremost, these were the horror stories written in a Gothic manner. The Fall of the House of Usher, published in 1936, remains one of the most outstanding horror stories of all times. Moreover, he wrote short stories with fantastic narratives that emphasized the negative impact of modern technologies, for instance, The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Mystery of Marie Roget, and The Purloined Letter can be viewed as the earliest detective stories. They all feature one main character, C. Auguste Dupin, an amateur detective whose skills of deduction help him solve crimes no one else is capable of. And there is an admitting companion who records every remarkable case. Sounds familiar, right? This iconic character laid the groundwork for the future detectives – Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. His most celebrated poem, The Raven, was written in 1845 bringing Poe desired recognition plus enhancing his financial situation a bit. Unfortunately, his wife soon died from tuberculosis in the house now called the Poe Cottage in the Bronx, New York. This had a profound impact on the writer’s life intensifying his drinking problems that caused his death from delirium tremens at the age of 40.