Edgar Allan Poe could probably be named one of literature’s most controversial writers of all time. Over the years, Poe’s works have endured much criticism as well as much praise. Many professionals who have researched Poe’s life and his writings feel that many of his writings strongly show reflections on Poe’s real life. Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1809. He was born the son of Elizabeth and David Poe. David attempted to make a living by performing on stage, but he seemed to be giftless in this area. Elizabeth died being poverty stricken in the year 1811.
Poe then was separated from his brother and his sister because his father was unstable to care for them. A Scottish tobacco merchant and importer named John Allan decided to take Poe in and Poe remained with the Allan’s until December of 1826, where he began his studies at the University of Virginia. As a writer, Poe became very well known for his interests in death, dying, pre- mature burials, revenge, guilt and fear. His works such as: The Cask of Amontillado; strongly show his feelings of revenge. Although these characteristics of Poe’s writings made him a questionable figure in literature.
At the time, the general public were taken back by the horrors that Poe wrote about, people still read them with suspense. One critic wrote, Poe’s attraction to the problem of death is so conspicuous that the reticence of modern criticism on the subject seems inexplicable ( Kennedy 3). Many critics also thought that Poe’s interests in such dark subjects were due to early traumatic experiences (Kennedy 5). Poe felt that death had held contradictory meanings, and it’s tangible climax changed through the course of his engagement in writing (Kennedy).
Many modern critics of Poe fail to realize that although Poe’s tales took an unusual perspective, at the time, death was looked at as being an elaborate celebration, it wasn’t more acceptable, but it was more of a subject of quiet fascination (Kennedy 17). While Poe was primarily known to be a lonely dark man, he had a burning desire to be loved. Some believed him to be a prose-poet of love. In Poe’s tale, My Heart Laid Bare, he reveals his most deepest attachment of all, his passion to have a woman (Bloom 81).
This tale is a round about way of telling the truths of his own soul (Bloom 81). Poe had a serious problem with alcohol and it strongly affected him in his later life. In a few of Poe’s writings he expresses his character’s feeling guilty for actions that took place while they were sober, but as soon as intoxication occurs again, the remorse fades away. In The Black Cat, the main character is a husband who becomes drunk, strikes and kills his wife, and goes on to cut out one of the eyes belonging to his beloved cat, he only feels remorse when he sobers up (Bloom 84).
In 1836, Poe married his fourteen-year-old cousin, Elizabeth E. Clemms. This would fill the gap in Poe’s heart for the longing of love. Poe deeply loved Virginia, even though by the time he married her he had already reached 27 years of age. During the winter of 1846, Virginia became seriously ill, and Poe would have to face the sorrow that had threatened him for so long, Virginia was going to die. At the same time, Poe himself grew ill and was unable to care for his wife. Poe had lost much money and he greatly required a caretaker for his wife and himself.
Prior to Poe’s illness, he had been working on Eureka, his prose poem dealing with the universe. Poe’s alcoholism had increased tremendously since Virginia’s illness and up until after her death. Poe himself stated in a letter to a personal friend, I’m constitutionally sensitive and nervous in a very unusual way. I’ve become insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. During these fit of unconscienceness I drank, God only knows how often or how much. If drinking were ever excusable, it was in this desperate effort to forget (Quinn 347).
Poe became quite unstable after the death of his wife. In a testimony from a personal friend, Dr. English, he commented on Poe’s drug usage: Had Poe the opium habit when I had known him, (before 1846), I should both as a physician and as a man of observation, had discovered it during my visits with him at his house and our visits with each other elsewhere (Quinn 350). Poe had written letters and many had given off self revelation that we can see in Poe’s poems and tales as the end of his life grew near.
Many of these poems revealed information about his immediate family, letters that reveal his poverty at different points of his life, his impulsiveness and rebelliousness, as well as his too often periods of intoxication and his final attack of insanity (Campbell 126). There are few specific references to Poe’s immediate family in his sonnet to To My Mother, where he describes his own mother, his devotion to her, as well as his devotion to his own wife (Campbell 126). There is every reason to believe that Poe records his own faith in the divine nature of beauty in his critical essays, The Poet Principle, as well as Al Aaraff(Campbell 141).
In his story, The Haunted Palace, it is believed that this may have been a confession from Poe, believing that at times his own mind was unhinged (Campbell 133). In the end lines of Poe’s famous,Stanzas, it is believed that Poe was giving an acknowledgement about his own sense of imperfection in the eyes of his maker, and likewise an expression of his faith in a Supreme Being (Campbell 134). Although Poe’s life wasn’t perfect, his writings are still admired all over the world. Poe died over 100 years ago and his literature is still evaluated and discussed, and observed.