The Life of a Mad Man

The Story of Edgar Allan Poe

Poe's Childhood

He was born in Boston on January 19, 1809 to David Poe, Jr. and Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins; both died before Edgar was three. Edgar as a child was separated from his older brother and sister and was sent to live in Richmond, Virginia with John Allan, a wealthy tradesman. The Allans treated Poe as one of their own, they payed for the finest private school education, but during Edgar’s youth years, conflict arose between him and his guardians because of his adamant literary hopes and dreams.

College Years

Edgar enrolled in the University of Virginia in 1826 but after a year he could not afford the college. He enlisted in the army as a private.He entered the military as Edgar A. Perry and claimed he was 22 even though he was 18. He served in Boston Harbor for 5 dollars a month. He then enrolled in the Army and went to West Point Military Academy from 1830-1831. He then got himself kicked out of West Point on purpose for sending rude letters.

The Raven:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Adult Life

Poe is now nearing adulthood and has been writing more fervently than ever. He returned to Richmond in 1835, and began writing for the Southern Literary Messenger. He quickly began to see more and more vulgar reviews based on his work. Poe had published a volume of poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems. After his army time and while a student at West Point, he published a second volume: Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems, which critics favored. Poe felt out of place at the school, and he devoted much of his time to studying the Romantic poets.


In 1847, Poe's wife, Virginia, died of tuberculosis. Poe began to drink more and became more out of control and even took opium. Poe wrote the famous poem "Annabel Lee" ("That the wind came out of the cloud by night, Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.") for Virginia. In the year, 1848 Poe was going mad and attempted suicide. A year later Poe was due to marry the rich Sarah Shelton. On the day of their wedding, October 3, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe was found drunk, lying in the gutter outside a tavern in Baltimore and was taken unconscious to the hospital, says Church Hospital, the hospital Edgar was taken to. Four days later, Edgar Allan Poe, penniless and tortured genius, died on October 7, 1849 at 40 years of age. Every year since 1949 (the 100th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's death), there’s been a tale that a mysterious person comes to Poe's grave and leaves 3 roses and a bottle of cognac on Poe's birthday.


One of his most famous reviews was of Theodore S. Fay's novel Norman Leslie, with reviews so devastating that it helped earn Poe the nickname "tomahawk man”. Later in the year, as he finally caught up with his finances, Poe married Virginia Clem (not yet fourteen at the time) and became an editor of the Messenger. In 1837, he resigned from the Messenger, which he had helped transform into one of the country's leading journals.


Poe struggled financial his whole life. Whenever he got money he would gamble with it and he would get. He is one of the first writers to focus on short stories. He is most famous for his horror stories.

Tragic Death

We may never know how Poe really died. According to the Poe Museum he had a pre-existing condition, possibly a brain tumor, his heart beat was irregular and he could not consume alcohol without “producing insanity”. He was found on the side of a road and when someone saw his he was quickly sent to the hospital. The weird thing is that he wasn’t wearing his own clothes. His final word were “Lord help my poor soul”.

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