The Poets’ Corner looked at the poetry and the incredible life of Edgar Allan Poe. Among his poems, The Raven, Annabel Lee and The Bells have been judged the best. He was the master of internal rhyme and alliteration: i.e. “And the silken, sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain…”.

His body of work was colored by depression, death, disappointment and debt. He inherited the alcoholism gene from his father and lived only forty years. In that short time, he wrote more prose and poetry than many other writers did in twice that time.

Edgar Allan Poe’s life could be categorized as pathetic, strange, even grotesque. From his birth in 1809 to his death in 1849 his life was more bizarre than any of his tales. His father abandoned the family before his sister was born, and his mother died when he was three. Mrs. John (Frances) Allan took the little boy into her home but her husband refused to legally adopt him because his parents were “actors.”

Poe’s education was disjointed, to say the least. Boarding schools in England and Richmond, one year at the University of Virginia, and stints in the army and West Point made up his formal schooling.

After the death of his foster mother, Frances Allan, his clothes and all his possessions were thrown out on the lawn by John Allan. Poe was homeless and penniless. He went to live with his father’s sister, Mariah Clemm, who was a widow with six children to support. Virginia, the youngest of the Clemm children, was eight years old. Poe married her when she was thirteen and he was twenty seven. Virginia died of tuberculosis when they had been married ten years.

Poe struggled to make a meager living by writing short stories and poems. He was ignorant of copyright laws and his work that got published in newspapers and magazines paid him very little. The public was not interested. Not until he heard a story told by Charles Dickens about the death of his pet raven, did Poe write anything that was well received in the United States. “The Raven” was a sensation. Everyone wanted it. Due to his lack of knowledge about copyright laws, Poe did not make a cent from “The Raven.”

Poe was a prolific writer. He is credited with inventing the detective story. Tales of terror have been written since cave dwellers, but Poe honed the genre to a fine edge. Most of his stories and poems dealt with death, unrequited love and sadness.

Alcoholism, depression, failure to achieve recognition for his writing and the loss of every woman he ever loved twisted him into a tragic and desperate shell of a man. He moved from city to city, job to job, searching for recognition and for that illusive woman to fill the hole in his heart his mother left.

In 1849 Poe was found wandering the streets of Baltimore, filthy and wearing clothes that were not his own. He was taken to Washington College Hospital, emaciated and incoherent. On October 7, 1849 he cried out “Lord have mercy on my poor soul” and died.

Edgar Allan Poe was buried in the Baltimore Presbyterian Church cemetery on October 8, 1849. Viriginia Clemm Poe and Mrs. Mariah Clemm are buried next to him.

(verse 1)

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee; —
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

Click to see the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe.


By Margaret Hall Simpson


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