Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts.  The son of professional actors, Poe was orphaned at the age of three and went to live with foster parents John and Frances Allan in Richmond, Virginia.  Sent to boarding schools for his education, he eventually attended the University of Virginia, where he developed extensive gambling debts and was forced to withdraw.  After a short stint in the military, Poe began selling short stories to magazines in addition to holding editorial positions with various publications in Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia.  In 1835, he returned to Richmond, where he became the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, and shortly after, married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. 

In the ensuing years, Poe established himself as a prolific poet and short-story writer.  One of his more famous poems, “The Raven,” received instant recognition when it was published in 1845.  It was around this time Virginia became increasingly ill from tuberculosis, and her failing health proved to be a strong influence on Poe’s dark, tortured writing. Although alcohol seemed to play a vital role throughout his troubled life, Poe’s consumption increased even more after his wife’s death in 1847, resulting in the deterioration of his own health.  Poe died October 7, 1949, in Baltimore, Maryland, from a congested brain, a condition associated with drinking.  Despite his troubled life, or perhaps, in part, because of it, Poe became a pioneer in the genre of horror and detective fiction.  Short stories like “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Cask of Amontillado,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” were the first of its kind and paved the way for the modern short story, making Poe one of the first American writers admired and emulated world-wide.