Edgar Allen Poe, an America writer, was known as a poet and critic but was most famous as the master of short stories, particularly tales of the mysterious and the macrabe. The literary merits of Poe’s writings have been debated since his death, but his works have continued to be popular and many American and European writers have declared their artistic debt to him. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Poe was orphaned in his early childhood and was raised by John Allen, a successful business man of Richmond, Virginia.
Taken by the Allen family to England at the age of six, Poe was placed in a private school. Upon returning to the United States in 1820, he continued to study in private schools. He attended the University of Virginia for a year, but in 1827 his foster father, angry by the young man’s drinking and gambling, refused to pay his debts and forced him to work as a clerk. Poe, disliking his new duties violently, he quit the job as a clerk, thus estranging Allen, and went to Boston. There his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), was published anonymously.
Shortly afterward Poe enlisted in the United States Army and served a two-year term. In 1829 his second volume of verse, Al Aaraaf, was published, and he completed a agreement with Allen, who secured him an appointment to the United States Military Academy. After only a few months at the Military Academy Poe was dismissed for neglect of duty, and his foster father disowned him permanently. Poe’s third book, Poems, appeared in 1831, and the following year he moved to Baltimore, where he lived with his aunt and her eleven-year-old daughter, Virginia Clemm.
The following year his tale “A MS. Found in a Bottle” won a contest sponsored by the Baltimore Saturday Visitor. From 1835 to 1836, Poe was editor of the Southern Literary Messenger. In 1836 he married his young cousin. Throughout the next decade, much of which was linked by his wife’s long illness, Poe worked as an editor for several periodicals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in New York City. In 1847 Virginia died and Poe himself became ill; his disastrous addiction to liquor and his alleged use of drugs, recorded by contemporaries, may have contributed to his early death.
Poetry and Essays Among Poe’s poetic output, about a dozen poems are exceptional for their perfect literary construction and for their haunting themes and rhymes. In “The Raven” (1845), for example, the narrator is astounded by depressed omens of death. Poe’s extraordinary manipulation of rhythm and sound is particularly evident in “The Bells” (1849), a poem that seems to echo with the chiming of metallic instruments, and “The Sleeper” (1831), which reproduces the state of drowsiness. “Lenore” (1831) and “Annabel Lee” (1849) are verse lamentations on the death of a beautiful young woman.
In the course of his editorial work, Poe functioned largely as a book reviewer and produced significant body of criticism; his essays were famous for their sarcasm, wit, and exposure of literary pretension. His evaluations have withstand the test of time and have earned for him a high place among American literary critics. Poe’s theories on the nature of fiction and, in particular, his writings on the short story have had a lasting influence on American and European writers. Stories Poe, by his own choice, was a poet, but economic necessity forced him to turn to the relatively profitable genre of prose.
Whether or not Poe invented the short story, it is certain that he originated the novel of detection. Perhaps his best-known tale in this genre is “The Gold Bug” (1843), about a search for buried treasure. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), “The Mystery of Marie Roget” (1842-1843), and “The Purloined Letter” (1844) are regarded as forefathers of the modern mystery , or detective, story. Many of Poe’s tales are distinguishing by the authors unusual grotesque inventiveness in addition to his marvelous plot construction.
Such stories include “The Narrative of Arthur Gorden Pym” (1838), noted for its blend of factual and fantastic material; “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839), in which the piercing gloominess of the character is accented equally with plot and characterization; “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1842), a exhilarating tale of cruelty and torture; “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843), in which a deranged murderer is subconsciously haunted into confessing hisguilt; and “The Cask of the Amontillado” (1846), an eerie tale of revenge.