The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe

By Sam and Benjamin


Birth And Childhood

Since his childhood, Poe was surrounded by tragedy. Edgar Allan Poe was born to travelling actors on January 19th, 1809. According to the Poe Museum website, he was the second of three children. Both of his parents died before he was three years old. He was taken in by a tobacco merchant, by the name of John Allan. Poe had dreams of becoming a writer. By the age of 13, he had enough poetry to write a book, but his Allan did not allow this. Poe would write poetry on the back of ledger sheets. He had no interest in the tobacco business.

Education and Military Experience

Poe’s bad luck seemed to continue. In 1826 he began to attend the University of Virginia. According to the Poe museum website, John Allan had not given Poe nearly enough money as he needed. Because of this, Poe took up gambling to pay for all of his expenses. He was desperately poor, and even had to burn his furniture to keep warm. After his first year, he returned home only to find that his fiancee had become engaged to another man. Poe published his first book when he was only 18 years old. He also enlisted in the U.S. army. He would later learn that his adoptive mother, Frances Allan, had died of tuberculosis and had wanted to see him before she died, but by the time that he got there, she had already been buried. Poe then enrolled at West Point. After only eight months he was thrown out. He really wanted to be a writer.

Adult Life

Poe struggled through his adult life and his rise to stardom. Poe was reunited with WIlliam. His brother had an alcohol problem, and he died at the age of 24 because of cirrhosis of the liver. Unfortunately, Edgar watched his brother drink himself to death in August of 1831. Three years later John Allan died. Although he was very wealthy, there was no mention of Edgar in his will, instead all of his valuables were sent to his biological children. He also worked on writing his only drama, The Politician. Then, Edgar entered his poem Metzengerstein into a short story contest. He did not win, but the editors were so fascinated by his work they published it. Poe later became the assistant editor of The Periodical in august 1835. Poe was able to make this the most respected magazine company in Baltimore. Once again three years later another tragic event happened, and he was fired from the periodical because his boss said he had way too many drinking issues and it was interfering with his work. To uplift Poe’s spirit, at 27 he made the rational decision to secretly marry his 13 year old cousin Virginia. In the marriage papers, it said that she was twenty one. One evening in January 1842, Virginia showed the first sign she had contracted tuberculosis while she was singing and playing the piano. (now known as tuberculosis). The same dreadful disease that removed Poe’s mother, brother, and Mrs. AllAn. Poe described it as breaking a blood vessel in her throat.

Historical Context

Poe’s was a time of many advancements. Poe lived in the time of the industrial revolution. According to the America’s Best History website, the cotton gin was being advanced, so slavery was on the rise in the south. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in 1852. The Mexican-American war went from 1846 to 1848. Many revolutions were going on in Europe and refugees flooded into America. The population of the U.S. grew to over 17 million. The first Wagon Train would also leave for California in 1841. The first telegraph message was sent in 1844.

Writing and works

The Raven is about a man who trying to forget his lost love. He is then frightened by someone or something knocking at the door. He opens it and a raven flutters in. He asks to know the raven’s name. The raven responds, “Nevermore”. He is then emotionally tormented by the raven’s odd repetition of “Nevermore” in answer to his questions he yearns to know the answer to. When Edgar Allan Poe writes, he likes to use different styles and literary devices . For example, in his poem “The Bells”, Poe uses lots of alliteration. An excerpt from that poem is:

“To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells,

From the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells

From the jingling and the twinkling of the bells”.

In The Tell-tale heart, a man claimed he wasn’t mad, though he clearly was. In that story, Poe keeps repeating certain things. For example, he repeats time, senses, and madness.

Fame and Fortune

Poe’s fame as we know it today did not come until after his death. The Raven, one of Poe’s best known works, gave him a lot of fame. Yet he was a generally poor and unlucky man. He lived in poverty for much of his life. His work notably influenced European poetry later on. He wrote over 400 pieces in his lifetime. Unfortunately though, bad luck and poverty prevented him from reaching his full potential. He was also the father of detective fiction as we know it today.


Until this day, Poe’s death is a complete mystery. In mid 1849, Poe joined Sons of Temperance to make an attempt to stop his alcohol addiction. He failed. Supposedly going on a trip to New York, Poe disappeared. October 3rd, 1849, Poe was found half conscious and delirious. Found in a alley Baltimore and is rushed to the hospital. Four days later on October 7th, Poe passed away, his last words being “Lord, help my poor soul.” Back then it was said that he died from brain congestion, or stress as we would say now. More modern day doctors would say he dies because of drug and alcohol abuse. Even more theories have been proposed that he could have died from other common diseases that spread throughout the 17th century, along with rabies, carbon monoxide poisoning, and epilepsy (a brain disorder that causes frequent seizures). asks “Did Poe die from alcoholism? Was he mugged? Did he have rabies?” After Poe’s death, Rufus Griswold (Poe’s arch nemesis), jumped on the opportunity to mess us Poe’s reputation. Rufus portrayed poe as a “mentally deranged drunkard and womanizer.” says the His defense? Rufus did this to get back at Poe because he was harshly criticized by the deceased writer.


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