Edgar Allan Poe, son of Actress Eliza Poe and Actor David Poe Jr., born 19th of January 1809, was mostly known for his poems and short tales and his literary criticism. He has been given credit for inventing the detective story and his pshycological thrillers have been infuences for many writers worldwide.
Edgar and his brother and sister were orphaned before Edgar’s third birthday and Edgar was taken in to the home of John and Fanny Allan in Richmond, Va. The Allans lived in England for five years (1815-1820) where Edgar also attended school. In 1826 he entered the University of Virginia. Although a good student he was forced to gambling since John Allan did not provide well enough. Allan refused to pay Edgar’s debts and Edgar had to leave the University after only one year.
In 1827 Edgar published his first book, “Tamerlane and other poems” anonymously under the signature “A Bostonian”. The poems were heavily influenced from Byron and showed of a youthful attitude.
Later in 1827 Edgar enlisted in the Army under the name Edgar A Perry where his quarrels with John Allan continued. Edgar did well in the army but in 1829 he left and decided to apply for a cadetship at West Point.
Before he was able to enter West Point Edgar published a book entitled “Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and minor poems”, this time the book was published, not anonymously, but under the name Edgar A. Poe, where the middle initial acknowledged John Allan’s name. Before Edgar left West Point he received financial aid from his fellow cadets to publish a third edition of the book. Edgar called it a second edition though and it was entitled “Poems by Edgar A. Poe” in which his famous poems “To Helen” (another version was published in 1848) and “Israfel” appeared. These show of the musical effect that has come to characterize Edgar’s poems.
Later Poe moved to Baltimore to live with his aunt, Maria Clemm, and his first cousin Virginia. In 1832 he won a $50 prize for his story “MS. Found in a Bottle” in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter. In 1835 Poe brought his aunt and cousin to Richmond where he worked with Thomas Willis White at the Southern Litterary Messenger. He also married his cousin Virginia, only thirteen years old.
Most of Edgar’s work with the Messenger were of a critical nature but he also published some literary work such as “Berenice”. His work with the writing and the editorial departments of the Messenger increased the circulation of the magazine. But his drinking habits forced White to eventually let him go.
Edgar moved around to New York and Philadelphia, trying to establish a name in literary journalism but without any major success. His theories on musical poems and short prose narratives which were to aim at “a certain unique or single effect” can be for example be seen in “Ligeia”(1838) and The Fall Of The House Of Usher (1839) which would eventually become one of his most famous stories.
“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) is sometimes considered the first detective story. Examples of his use of a rythmic and flowing language are the poems “The Raven” (1845) and “The Bells” (1849). The Raven was a symbol of “Mournful and never ending remembrance” which is not only a good description for “The Raven” but could be applied to almost all of his work.