||Edgar Poe was born in Boston, January 19, 1809, the second child of Eliza Arnold Poe,
a well-known actress, and David Poe, Jr., also an actor. Early in 1810, David
abandoned his family; nothing is known of his fate. Later that same year Eliza
birth to her third child, Rosalie. By the summer of 1811, Eliza's health was failing
and she died on December 8, 1811, in Richmond, Virginia, at the age of twenty-four.
The eldest son went to live with the Poe family in Baltimore, the infant daughter
went to a Richmond family named MacKenzie, and Edgar was taken in by John and
Frances (Fanny) Allan.
||John Allan, a partner in the trading firm The House of Ellis and Allan, promised to
provide Edgar with a liberal education and he certainly provided the boy with
standard of living superior to the one to which he had been accustomed. The House
Ellis and Allan was prospering so well that in 1815 they decided to open an office
in London. Six-and-a-half-year-old Edgar accompanied John and Fanny to England
he attended several boarding schools. After a slow beginning, the London offices
seemed to be doing well. However, in 1819 the bottom fell out of the tobacco market,
the business was ruined, and the family returned to Virginia in 1820.
||As John Allan sought to regain his financial footing, Edgar continued his schooling,
doing well in Latin, French, and sports, often leading the other boys in games
battle drills. Poe faced many of the psychological problems associated with
orphans--feelings of abandonment and a need to not just succeed, but to win--and
fact that John Allan never formally adopted him seems to have added to his emotional
||In 1825 a wealthy relative died and left a large fortune to John Allan, immediately
solving his business and financial woes. In 1826 Poe entered the University of
Virginia, then in its second year. Poe acquitted himself well as a student, studying
ancient and modern languages, but also ran up debts which added to the growing
friction between himself and Allan. Poe wished to remain at the University beyond
the usual one-year term, but Allan refused, wishing instead for Poe to settle
himself in some business. After a series of angry clashes, Poe left the Allan
in Richmond and went to Boston. Finding it difficult to support himself, Poe
enlisted in the Army. He remained there for two years, reaching the rank of Sergeant
Major for artillery, before deciding that he had had enough. He sought Allan's
in obtaining a discharge but help came grudgingly and only after Poe declared
intention to attend West Point.
||Poe's term at West Point lasted just a year, from March of 1830 to March of 1831.
performed well in the beginning, but late in the year John Allan remarried (Fanny
Allan had died while Edgar was in the army) and wrote to Poe stating his wish
end to their relationship. These events affected Poe's desire for the military
and he set about getting himself court-martialed and discharged from West Point.
From there he went to New York City. In April he made his way to Baltimore to
aid from the remaining members of his father's family. He moved in with his aunt,
Maria Clemm and her daughter, Virginia. Over the next three years little is known
about Poe's activities. He had difficulty supporting himself, he may have been
briefly engaged, or at least attached, to a young woman whose family objected,
he spent time with his brother who was also living in Baltimore. He also wrote
great deal. He had been writing steadily over the previous ten years, publishing
small pamphlets at his own expense, and his goal became making a living with his
||In 1834 Poe married his cousin Virginia, who was not quite fourteen at the time, and
began seriously seeking a means of supporting "his family." In the spring of 1835,
the family moved back to Richmond where Poe took a position with the Southern Literary Messenger. Poe used the opportunity to
publish several of his poems and short tales in the paper, but he also began
developing his reputation as a pugnacious critic by contributing scathing reviews
popular contemporary authors. In 1837 Poe left his position as editor of the Messenger by mutual agreement with the owner after a
number of disagreements over Poe's vicious articles.
||Poe spent the rest of his life attempting to establish himself as a creditable force
on the American literary scene. He tried to start his own literary paper on several
occasions, but when that failed he continued to work for other papers in the
capacity of critic and editor, most notably Burton's
Gentleman's Magazine in Philadelphia (1839-1840) and The Broadway Journal in New York (1845). Poe's desire to
be in charge, his vituperative critical attacks on people he disliked or disagreed
with, coupled with an ongoing problem with alcohol made it difficult for him to
maintain a long-term working relationship with magazine owners and editors.
||In 1847 Virginia Poe died after a long battle with tuberculosis. Poe was devastated.
Suffering ill-health himself, and beaten down after his long battle with poverty,
continued to write and lecture, but his mental state seemed to decline. He was
unconscious on a street in Baltimore in the fall of 1849 and he died on October
brief obituary in the Baltimore Clipper reported that
he died of "congestion of the brain." It has been assumed by most scholars that
alcoholism killed Poe, but a new theory which is gaining credence speculates that
Poe actually died of rabies.