(January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American poet, short
story writer, editor and critic and one of the leaders of the American
Romantics. He is best known for his tales of the macabre and his poems,
as well as being one of the early practitioners of the short story and
a progenitor of Gothic fiction in the United States. Poe died at the
age of 40, the cause of his death a final mystery.
His legacy is abundant in modern pop culture, from the acclaim of his
writing to the naming of the Baltimore Ravens NFL football team.
Poe was born in
Boston, Massachusetts, the son of actress Eliza Poe and actor David
Poe, Jr.. His father left before he was born and his mother died when
he was only three, so Poe was taken into the home of John Allan, a successful
merchant in Richmond, Virginia and baptized . (While his middle name
is frequently misspelled as 'Allen', Poe himself used 'Allan' .)
After attending Manor School, Stoke Newington, London, (UK), Poe moved
to Richmond, Virginia, Poe registered at the University of Virginia,
but stayed for only one year. He was estranged from his adopted father
at some point in this period, and so Poe enlisted in the U.S. Army as
a private using the name Edgar A. Perry on May 26, 1827. That same year,
he released his first book. After serving for two years and attaining
the rank of Sergeant-major, Poe was discharged. In 1829 he published
his second book, Al Aaraf. At around this time, he was reconciled with
Allan, and through him received an appointment to the U.S. Military
Academy at West Point. His time at West Point was ill-fated, as Poe
apparently deliberately disobeyed orders and was dismissed. After that,
his adoptive father repudiated him forever.
Poe next moved to Baltimore, Maryland with his widowed aunt, Maria Clemm,
and her daughter, Virginia. Poe used fiction writing as a means of supporting
himself, and with the December issue of 1835, Poe began editing the
Southern Literary Messenger for Thomas W. White in Richmond. This position
was held by Poe until January, 1837. During this time, Poe married his
young cousin, Virginia Clemm, in Richmond on May 16, 1836.
After spending fifteen fruitless months in New York, Poe moved to Philadelphia.
Shortly after he arrived, his novella The Narrative of Arthur Gordon
Pym was published and widely reviewed. In the summer of 1839, he became
assistant editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. He published a large
number of articles, stories, and reviews, enhancing the reputation as
a trenchant critic that he had established at the Southern Literary
Messenger. In 1839, the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque
was published in two volumes. Though not a financial success, it was
a milestone in the history of American literature. Poe left Burton's
after about a year and found a position as assistant editor at Graham's
Virginia suffered a lung hemorrhage in January 1842. It was the first
sign of the tuberculosis that would make her an invalid and eventually
take her life. Poe began to drink more heavily under the stress of Virginia's
illness. He left Graham's and attempted to find a new position, for
a time angling for a government post.He returned to New York, where
he worked briefly at the Evening Mirror before becoming editor of the
Broadway Journal. There he became involved in a noisy public feud with
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. On January 29, 1845, his poem "The
Raven" appeared in the Evening Mirror and became a popular sensation.
The Broadway Journal failed in 1846. Poe moved to a cottage in the Bronx.
The cottage is on the south east corner of the Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge
Road and is open to the public. Virginia died there in 1847. Increasingly
unstable after his wife's death, Poe attempted to court the poet Sarah
Helen Whitman. Their engagement failed, purportedly because of Poe's
drinking and erratic behavior; however there is also strong evidence
that Miss Whitman's mother intervened and did much to derail their relationship.
According to Poe's own account, he attempted suicide during this period
by overdosing on laudanum. He then returned to Richmond and resumed
a relationship with a childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster, who
by that time was a widow.
On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore, delirious
and "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance,"
according to the man who found him. He was taken to the Washington College
Hospital, where he died early on the morning of October 7. Poe was never
coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition,
and wearing clothes that were not his own. Some sources say Poe's final
words were "It's all over now; write Eddy is no more." (referring
to his tombstone). Others say his last words were "Lord, help my
The precise cause of Poe's death is disputed.
Dr. J. E. Snodgrass, an acquaintance of Poe's who was among those who
saw him in his last days, was convinced that Poe's death was a result
of drunkenness, and did a great deal to popularize this interpretation
of the events. He was, however, a supporter of the temperance movement
who found Poe a useful example in his work; later scholars have shown
that his account of Poe's death distorts facts to support his theory.
Dr. John Moran, the physician who attended Poe, stated in his own 1885
account that " did not die under the effect of any intoxicant,
nor was the smell of liquor upon his breath or person." This was,
however, only one of several sometimes contradictory accounts of Poe's
last days he published over the years, so his testimony cannot be considered
Numerous other theories have been proposed over the years, including
several forms of rare brain disease, diabetes, various types of enzyme
deficiency, syphilis, the idea that Poe was shanghaied, drugged, and
used as a pawn in a ballot-box-stuffing scam during the election that
was held on the day he was found, and more recently, rabies (though
some consider this unlikely).
In the absence of contemporary documentation (all surviving accounts
are either incomplete or published years after the event; even Poe's
death certificate, if one was ever made out, has been lost), it is likely
that the truth of Poe's death will never be known. No other major American
writer in the nineteenth century except Sidney Lanier lived a shorter
Poe is buried on the grounds of Westminster Hall and Burying Ground,
now part of the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore.
Poe's untimely death in Baltimore has made his grave site a popular
tourist attraction - since 1949, the grave has been visited every year
by a mystery man, known endearingly as the Poe Toaster, in the early
hours of Poe's birthday, January 19th. It has been reported that a man
draped in black with a silver-tipped cane, kneels at the grave for a
toast of Martel cognac and leaves the half-full bottle and three red
- Griswold's biography of
The day was buried, a long obituary appeared in the New York Tribune
signed "Ludwig". The piece began, " is dead. He died
in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle
many, but few will be grieved by it." This bitter obituary depicted
Poe as dishonest, immoral, morbidly ambitious, insane and incapable
of normal human feelings. It was reprinted in numerous papers across
the country. "Ludwig" was soon identified as Rufus Griswold,
a minor editor and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since
1842, when Poe wrote a review of one of Griswold's anthologies, a review
that Griswold deemed to be full of false praise. Though they were coolly
polite in person, an enmity developed between the two men as they clashed
over various matters. Critics see Griswold's obituary as using Poe's
death as his way to settle the score.
Griswold went on to assume the role of Poe's literary executor, though
no evidence exists that Poe had ever made the choice. He convinced Poe's
destitute mother-in-law Maria Clemm to hand over a mass of letters and
manuscripts (which were never returned) and allow him to prepare an
edition of Poe's collected works. Griswold assured Clemm that she would
receive significant royalties, but she received nothing but a few sets
of the edition, which she had to sell herself to make any sort of profit.
Rufus Griswold wrote a biographical "Memoir" of Poe, which
he included in an additional volume of the collected works. Griswold
depicted Poe as a depraved, drunk, drug-addled madman. This biography
presented a starkly different version of Poe's biography than any other
at the time, and included items now believed to have been forged by
Griswold to bolster his case. Griswold's book was denounced by those
who knew well; Griswold's account became a popularly accepted one, however,
in part because it was the only full biography available and was widely
reprinted, and in part because it seemed to accord with the narrative
voice Poe used in much of his fiction.
No accurate biography of Poe appeared until John Ingram's of 1875. By
then, however, Griswold's depiction of Poe was entrenched in the mind
of the public, not only in America but around the world. Griswold's
madman image of Poe is still existent in the modern perceptions of the
In his essay "The
Poetic Principle" Poe argued that there is no such thing as a long
poem, since the ultimate purpose of art is aesthetic, that is, its purpose
is the effect it has on its audience, and this effect can only be maintained
for a brief period of time (the time it takes to read a lyric poem,
or watch a drama performed, or view a painting, etc.) He argued that
an epic, if it has any value at all, must be actually a series of smaller
pieces, each geared towards a single effect or sentiment, which "elevates
Poe associated the aesthetic aspect of art with pure ideality, claiming
that the mood or sentiment created by a work of art elevates the soul,
and is thus a spiritual experience. In many of his short stories, artistically
inclined characters (especially Roderick Usher from "The Fall of
the House of Usher") are able to achieve this ideal aesthetic through
fixation, and often exhibit obsessive personalities and reclusive tendencies.
"The Oval Portrait" also examines fixation, but in this case
the object of fixation is itself a work of art.
He championed art for art's sake (before the term itself was coined).
He was consequentially an opponent of didacticism, arguing in his literary
criticisms that the role of moral or ethical instruction lies outside
the realm of poetry and art, which should only focus on the production
of a beautiful work of art. He criticized James Russell Lowell in a
review for being excessively didactic and moralistic in his writings,
and argued often that a poem should be written "for a poem's sake."
He was a proponent and supporter of magazine literature, and felt that
short stories, or "tales" as they were called in the early
nineteenth century, which were usually considered "vulgar"
or "low art" along with the magazines that published them,
were legitimate artforms on par with the novel or epic poem. His insistence
on the artistic value of the short story was influential in the short
story's rise to prominence in later generations.
Legacy and lore
Poe's works have had a broad influence on American and World literature
(sometimes even despite those who tried to resist it), and even on the
art world beyond literature. Along with Mary Shelley, Poe is regarded
as the foremost proponent of the Gothic strain in literary Romanticism.
The scope of Poe's impact on art is evident when one sees the many and
diverse artists who were directly and profoundly influenced by him.
Death, decay and madness were an obsession for Poe. His curious and
often nightmarish work greatly influenced the horror and fantasy genres,
and the horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft claimed to have been profoundly
influenced by Poe's works. He is also credited with originating the
genre of detective fiction with his three stories about Auguste Dupin,
the most famous of which is "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."
There is no doubt that he inspired mystery writers who came after him,
particularly Arthur Conan Doyle in his series of stories featuring Sherlock
Holmes. Doyle was once quoted as saying, "Each [of Poe's detective
stories] is a root from which a whole literature has developed.... Where
was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?"
(Poe Encyclopaedia 103). Poe also profoundly influenced the development
of early science fiction author Jules Verne, who discussed Poe in his
essay Poe et ses œuvres and also wrote a sequel to Poe's novel
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket called The Narrative
of Arthur Gordon Pym, Le sphinx des glaces (Poe Encyclopaedia 364).
H. G. Wells, in discussing the construction of his classics of science
fiction, The War of the Worlds and The First Men in the Moon, noted
that "Pym tells what a very intelligent mind could imagine about
the south polar region a century ago" (Poe Encyclopaedia 372).
Ray Bradbury has also professed a love for Poe. He often draws upon
Poe in his stories, often mentioning him by name.
Eureka, an essay written in 1848, included a cosmological theory that
anticipated the Big Bang theory by eighty years, as well as the first
plausible solution to Olbers' paradox. Though described as a "prose
poem" by Poe, who wished it to be considered as art, this work
is a remarkable scientific and mystical essay unlike any of his other
works. He wrote that he considered it his career masterpiece.
Poe had an interest in the field of cryptography. In particular he placed
a notice of his abilities in the Philadelphia paper Alexander's Weekly
(Express) Messenger, inviting submissions of ciphers, which he proceeded
to solve. His success created a public stir for some months. He later
wrote an essay on methods of cryptography which proved useful in deciphering
the German codes employed during World War I.
Poe's literary reputation was greater abroad than it was in the United
States, perhaps as a result of America's general revulsion towards the
macabre. Rufus Griswold's defamatory reminiscences did little to commend
Poe to U.S. literary society. However, American authors as diverse as
Walt Whitman, H. P. Lovecraft, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor (who,
however, claimed the influence of Poe on her works was "something
I'd rather not think about" (Poe Encyclopaedia 259)), and Herman
Melville were influenced by Poe's works. T. S. Eliot, who was quite
hostile to Poe, conceded that "it is impossible, however, to know
if even one's own works were not influenced by his."
In France, where he is commonly known as "Edgar Poe," Charles
Baudelaire translated his stories and several of the poems into French.
Baudelaire was the right man for this job, and his excellent translations
meant that Poe enjoyed a vogue among avant-garde writers in France while
being ignored in his native land. From France, writers like Algernon
Swinburne caught the Poe-bug, and Swinburne's musical verse owes much
to Poe's technique. Poe was much admired, also, by the school of Symbolism,
and Stéphane Mallarmé dedicated several poems to him.
The subsequent authors Paul Valéry and Marcel Proust were great
admirers of Poe, the latter saying "Poe sought to arrive at the
beautiful through evocation and an elimination of moral motives in his
Poe's poetry was translated into Russian by the Symbolist poet Konstantin
Bal'mont and enjoyed great popularity there in the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries, influencing artists such as Nabokov, who
makes several references to Poe's work in his most famous novel, Lolita.
Fyodor Dostoevsky called Poe "an enormously talented writer"
and many of his characters, such as Raskolnikov and Porfiry Petrovich
in Crime and Punishment are derived from Poe characters (in this case,
Montresor from "The Cask of Amontillado" (this is debatable:
Raskolnikov is constantly in doubt and trying to justify his actions
to himself, while the chilling effect of Montresor's narration lies
precisely in the character's calm certainty of his purpose) and Auguste
Dupin from "Murders in the Rue Morgue") (Poe Encyclopaedia
102). He wrote favorable reviews of Poe's detective stories and briefly
references "The Raven" in his greatest novel, The Brothers
Karamazov. Poe influenced the Swedish poet and author Viktor Rydberg,
who translated a considerable amount of Poe's work into Swedish.
A Japanese author even took a pseudonym, Edogawa Rampo, from a rendering
of Poe's name in that language.
Franz Kafka once said of Poe, "He was a poor devil who had no defenses
against the world. So he fled into drunkenness. Imagination served him
only as a crutch. He wrote tales of mystery to make himself at home
in the world. That's perfectly natural. Imagination has fewer pitfalls
than reality...I know his way of escape and his dreamer's face."
Poe made a deep impression on Kafka and the influence of Poe's works
on his are undeniable.
Jorge Luis Borges was a great admirer of Poe's works, and translated
his stories into Spanish. Many of the characters from Borges' stories
are borrowed directly from Poe's stories, and in many of his stories
Poe is mentioned by name.
In Thomas Mann's novel Buddenbrooks, a character reads Poe's short novels
and professes to be influenced by his works.
In the music world, Joseph Holbrooke, Claude Debussy and Sergei Rachmaninoff
composed musical works based on the works of Poe. Holbrooke composed
a symphonic poem based on The Raven. Debussy often declared Poe's profound
effect on his music (Poe Encyclopedia 93) and began operas based on
The Fall of the House of Usher and The Devil in the Belfry, though he
did not finish them. Rachmaninoff transformed "The Bells"
into a choral symphony. (Three other orchestral works based on Poe,
along with the Rachmaninoff, were featured in a concert given by the
American Symphony Orchestra in October 1999 .) In the world of visual
arts, Gustave Doré and Édouard Manet composed several
illustrations for Poe's works. On the stage, the great dramatist George
Bernard Shaw was greatly influenced by Poe's literary criticism, calling
Poe "the greatest journalistic critic of his time" (Poe Encyclopaedia
315). Oscar Wilde called Poe "this marvellous lord of rhythmic
expression" and drew on Poe's works for his novel The Picture of
Dorian Gray and his short stories (Poe Encyclopedia 375). Alfred Hitchcock
declared Poe as one of his inspirations, saying "It's because I
liked 's stories so much that I began to make suspense films."
In recent years the poet and critic W. H. Auden has revitalized interest
in Poe's works, especially his critical works. Auden said of Poe, "His
portraits of abnormal or self-destructive states contributed much to
Dostoyevsky, his ratiocinatin hero is the ancestor of Sherlock Holmes
and his many successors, his tales of the future lead to H. G. Wells,
his adventure stories to Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson."
(Poe Encyclopaedia 27).
The Mystery Writers of America have named their awards for excellence
in the genre the "Edgars."
Even though Poe spent less than two years in the city, Baltimoreans
have treated the author as a native son. Many business establishments
have used Poe as a theme for their marketing.
In 1996, when the original Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, they
were rechristened "the Baltimore Ravens", in honor of his
best known tale. The team even created three "winged" mascots
- naturally they named them Edgar, Allan, and Poe.
Poe's image, with his weary expression, piercing eyes and tangled hair
(see the daguerrotype above), has become a cultural icon for the troubled
genius. His face adorns the bottlecaps of Raven Beer , the covers
of numerous books on American literature as a whole, and is often stereotyped
in cartoons as "the creepy guy".  In 1967, Poe appeared
as part of the backdrop crowd of the Beatles' immensely popular album,
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band.
(See also Poe in Baltimore)
• 1806 (March 14) - Traveling stage actors David Poe, Jr. and
Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins marry. (A. H. Quinn gives the date as "between
March 14 and April 9, 1806, and probably between April 5th and April
9th, in Richmond, " Quinn, p. 24.)
• 1807 (Jan. 30) - William Henry Leonard Poe (usually called Henry)
is born to David and Elizabeth Poe in Boston.
• 1809 (Jan. 19) - Edgar Poe is born in Boston. (On the back of
a miniature portrait of herself, Elizabeth Poe wrote: "For my little
son Edgar, who should ever love Boston, the place of his birth, and
where his mother found her best, and most sympathetic friends."
A. H. Quinn discusses the location of Poe's birth on pp. 727-729.)
• 1810 (Dec. 20) - Rosalie Poe (often called Rosie or Rose) is
born in Norfolk, Virginia. (In a letter from John Allan to Henry Poe,
November 1, 1824, Allan makes the odd statement about Rosalie that,
"At least She is half your Sister & God forbid my dear Henry
that We should visit upon the living the Errors & frailties of the
dead," The Poe Log, p. 62. There is, however, no real reason to
presume that Rosalie was illegitimate. See also Mabbott, Poems, 1969,
• 1811 (Dec. 8) - Elizabeth Arnold Poe, Edgar's mother, dies in
Richmond, Virginia. Her remains are buried at Old St. John's Church
in old Richmond. (The exact cause of her death is unknown other than
some illness, perhaps pneumonia. Suggestions that she died from tuberculosis
are unfounded. The location of her death is discussed in some detail
by A. H. Quinn, pp. 732-741.) David Poe, Edgar's father, apparently
dies within a few days of his wife. (According to W. F. Gill, this would
be Dec. 10.) (The circumstances surrounding David Poe's death, and the
reason why he was not with his family at the time, are shrouded in mystery.
Around 1890, Mrs. Byrd, the daughter of the Mackenzies, who took in
Poe's sister Rosalie, stated, "It is certain that Mr. [David] Poe
died in Norfolk; where the company with which they were playing . .
. were compelled to leave him on account of illness, while they went
on to Richmond. On hearing of his death, one of them returned to Norfolk
and brought the whole family to Richmond, intending to take them to
their friends in Baltimore, but Mrs. Poe being taken with pneumonia,
died . . . " Weiss, "Reminiscences of ," The Independent,
August 25, 1904, p. 447. Disagreeing somewhat with Mrs. Byrd is a November
2, 1811 letter from Samuel Mordecia to his sister Rachel: "A singular
fashion prevails here this season -- it is -- charity -- Mrs. Poe, who
you know is a very handsome woman, happens to be very sick, and (having
quarreled and parted with her husband) is destitute" The Poe Log,
p. 13. Unfortunately, appeals for money for Mrs. Poe in Richmond newspapers
of the time make no mention of David Poe. A notice of a benefit for
Mrs. Poe from July 26, 1811 in the Norfolk Herald, however clearly suggests
that David Poe was already not with the family: "Left alone, the
only support of herself and several small children. . . . Shame on the
world that can turn its back on the same person in distress, that it
was wont to cherish in prosperity," The Poe Log, p. 11. In all
of these cases, David Poe's absence by death or desertion should have
elicited much additional sympathy. David Poe was last known to have
appeared on stage on October 18, 1809, The Poe Log, p. 8. Mary Phillips
confidently quotes from an unidentified newspaper clipping that David
Poe died, "at Norfolk, Va., Oct. 19, 1810, " Phillips, Poe
the Man, p. 77. A. H. Quinn discusses this clipping on p. 44, n. 85.
Quinn also notes that David Poe "apparently did not die in New
York," Quinn, p. 40. The legend that either or both of Poe's parents
died in the Richmond Theater fire of December 26, 1811 is romantic fiction.)
• 1811 (Dec. 26) - The orphaned Edgar is taken into the home of
John and Frances Allan of Richmond. His sister, Rosalie, is taken in
by Mr. and Mrs. William Mackenzie, also of Richmond. His brother, Henry,
remains in Baltimore with his grandparents. Allan never legally adopts
Poe, although Poe calls John Allan "Pa" and Frances Allan
"Ma." John and Frances never have children of their own. John
Allan has at least one illegitimate child (Edwin Collier). (After Frances's
death, John remarried in 1830 and had children through the second Mrs.
• 1812 (Jan. 7) - Poe is baptized by the Reverend John Buchanan
and christened as "," with the Allans presumably as godparents.
Poe's sister Rosalie is baptized on September 3, 1812 as "Rosalie
• 1814 - Five year old Edgar begins his formal education. His
teacher is either Clotilda or Elizabeth Fisher (Mabbott, Poem, p. 533).
• 1815 - Poe briefly moves on to the school of Mr. William Ewing.
• 1815 (June 22) - John and Frances Allan, with Edgar and Frances's
younger sister, Ann Moore Valentine (called Nancy), leave for England
aboard the Lothair.
• 1816 - Poe goes to the boarding school of the Misses Dubourg
(146 Sloan Street, Chelsea, London, The Poe Log, p. 29). Here, Edgar
is known as "Master Allan" (Quinn, p. 69). Among the subjects
taught are geography, spelling and the Catechism of the Church of England.
• 1818 - Poe attends the Manor House School run by the Reverend
John Bransby (Stoke Newington, London). (The description of the school
in Poe's "William Wilson" is based, lightly, on his experiences
here. Dr. Bransby is mentioned there by name.) Here, Poe is called Edgar
Allan (Quinn, p. 71). Among his subjects is dancing. (As Bransby had
a reputation as a classical scholar, there is little doubt that classes
also taught at least some Latin and perhaps even Greek.)
• 1820 (July 22) - Edgar and his family return to America from
England aboard the Martha. Stopping briefly in New York, they continue
on to Richmond, Virginia, arriving there on July 27.
• 1821 - Poe attends the school of Joseph H. Clarke.
• 1823 (April?) - Poe attends the school of William Burke.
• 1824 (June or July) - Poe swims six or seven miles up the James
River, against a heavy tide. His schoolmaster follows in a boat in case
he needs help.
• 1824 (October 26-28) - During his tour of American, General
Lafayette visits Richmond, Virginia. The Richmond Junior Volunteers
partake in the ceremonies welcoming him. Poe is a lieutenant of the
• 1824 (November ?) - Poe writes a two-line poem: "-- Poetry
- Edgar A. Poe -- Last night, with many cares & toils oppres'd,
Weary, I laid me on a couch to rest --." (This is Poe's earliest
surviving poem. It was never published during his lifetime, nor used
as part of a longer poem.)
• 1825 (March) - Poe leaves Burke's school and attends the school
of Dr. and Mrs. Ray Thomas.
• 1825 (March 26) - John Allan's uncle William Galt dies in Richmond.
John Allan is named in Galt's will and inherits a comfortable fortune.
• 1825 (June 28) - John Allan purchases an enormous brick mansion
called "Moldavia" for $14,950 and moves his family there.
(Moldavia stood on the southeast corner of Fifth and Main Streets in
Richmond until it was torn down sometime around 1890.)
• 1826 (Feb. 14) - enters the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville.
(The school, founded by Thomas Jefferson, first opened its doors on
March 7, 1825.)
• 1826 (Dec.) - Poe returns to Richmond and finds that his childhood
sweetheart, Elmira Royster, is engaged to Alexander B. Shelton. Elmira's
parents did not approve of a marriage with Edgar, finding the wealthy
business man Shelton more to their liking.
• 1827 (March) - Poe feuds with John Allan over gambling debts
of $2,000 Poe incurred at the University of Virginia. Although possibly
cheated, Poe's sense of honor insists that the debts must be paid, but
Allan refuses to help him. Poe leaves and heads to his family in Baltimore.
• 1827 (May 26) - Poe enlists in the United States Army under
the name Edgar A. Perry.
• 1827 - Poe's first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems is published
in Boston by Calvin F. S. Thomas. The author is noted only as "A
Bostonian." The thin pamphlet sells perhaps 50 copies, many likely
distributed free for reviews. (After Poe's death, the existence of this
little book, then lost in obscurity, was offered by Griswold as an example
of Poe's lying nature. This position was accepted until 1880, when John
Ingram found a copy in the library of the British Museum. Today, only
twelve copies are known to exist. As much as $172,000 has been paid
at auction. Most copies are imperfect.)
• 1827 (Nov.) - Poe's battery arrives at Fort Moultrie, Sullivan's
Island, Charleston, South Carolina.
• 1828 (Dec. 15) - Poe's battery arrives at Fort Monroe, Old Point
• 1829 (Jan. 1) - Poe is promoted to Sergeant-Major of the Regiment
• 1829 (Feb. 28) - Francis Keeling Allan, Poe's doting foster
mother, dies in Richmond. She is buried in the Shockoe Hill Cemetery
on March 2. Poe obtains leave from the army and arrives in Richmond
on the evening of the day following her burial.
• 1829 (April 15) - Poe is released from the Army and applies
for an appointment to West Point. (To obtain his release, it was necessary
for Poe to provide a substitute at no expense to the government.)
• 1829 (Dec.) - Poe's second book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor
Poems is published in Baltimore by Hatch and Dunning.
• 1830 (Oct. 5) - John Allan marries Louisa Patterson. (By John
Allan's death in 1834, they will have three sons.)
• 1830 (June) - Poe enters West Point.
• 1831 (Jan. 27) - Poe, wishing to get out of West Point, refuses
to attend classes or church. He is court-martialed on February 8 and
dismissed as of March 6.
• 1831 - Poe's Poems is published in New York by Elam Bliss.
• 1831 (July) - Poe submits several stories to a contest sponsored
by the Philadelphia Saturday Courier. He does not win first prize. Five
of his stories are published, although without his name.
• 1831 (Aug. 1) - William Henry Leonard Poe, Edgar's older brother,
dies in Baltimore, probably of tuberculosis or cholera.
• 1833 (Oct.) - Poe receives his $50 prize for "MS. Found
in a Bottle" from the Baltimore Saturday Visiter.
• 1834 (March 27) - John Allan, Poe's foster father, dies in Richmond,
Virginia. He is buried next to his first wife, Frances, in the Shockoe
Hill Cemetery. Edgar's name is omitted from Allan's will and Poe inherits
nothing from the large estate.
• 1836 - Leaving his home in Baltimore, Poe moves to Richmond
and becomes editor of Thomas W. White's Southern Literary Messenger.
(White was reluctant to grant Poe the title, although quite willing
to let him do the work.) Poe writes a great many critical reviews and
receives both praise and scorn for these frank commentaries. He prints
a number of his own poems and stories, including reprints of several
• 1836 (May 16) - Edgar (aged 27) and Virginia (aged 13) marry
in Richmond, Virginia. The ceremony is officiated by the Reverend Amasa
Convers, a Presbyterian minister who was also editor of the Southern
• 1837 (Jan.) - The Southern Literary Messenger announces that
Poe has left the position of editor.
• 1837 (Feb.) - Poe and his family move to New York.
• 1838 - Poe and his family move to Philadelphia.
• 1838 (July) - Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is published
in New York by Harper & Brothers.
• 1839 - The Conchologist's First Book is published in Philadelphia
by Haswell, Barrington and Haswell. Professor Thomas Wyatt secured Poe's
assistance in the book's production. Poe writes the "Preface"
and "Introduction," and perhaps provides some translation
from Cuvier. The book runs for three editions by 1845, becoming Poe's
only commercial success in book form. (Poe's association with this book
has brought charges of plagiarism from the conchology textbook by Captain
Thomas Brown, published in Glasgow in 1833.)
• 1839 (May) - Poe becomes an editor for wealthy comedian William
Evans Burton's two-year old Gentleman's Magazine. (The title page for
volume V, beginning with the issue for July of 1839, prominently shows
the names of the editors as "William E. Burton and Edgar A. Poe.")
• 1840 - Poe's Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (two volumes)
is published in Philadelphia by Lea and Blanchard.
• 1840 (Feb. 10) - Poe's "Journal of Julius Rodman"
(Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, Jan. 1840, first of four installments)
is mistaken as an actual account of an expedition and is noted in a
document submitted to the U. S. Senate.
• 1840 (June 6) - Poe's prospectus for a new magazine appears
in the Saturday Evening Post: "Prospectus of the Penn Magazine,
a monthly literary journal, to be edited and published in the city of
Philadelphia, by Edgar A. Poe -- Since resigning the conduct of The
Southern Literary Messenger, at the commencement of its third year,
I have constantly held in view the establishment of a Magazine which
should retain some of the chief features of that journal, abandoning
the rest. . . . It shall be the first and chief purpose of the Magazine
now proposed, to become known as one where may be found, at all times,
and upon all subjects, an honest and fearless opinion. This is a purpose
of which no man need be ashamed. . . .To the mechanical execution of
the work the greatest attention will be given which such a matter can
require. . . The price will be $5 per annum, payable in advance, or
upon receipt of the first number, which will be issued on the first
of January, 1841" (The Poe Log, pp. 300-301). (Poe was unable to
raise the necessary support and the first issue of the Penn never appeared.
By 1841, he was forced to put his plans on hold. The final prospectus
for the Penn was printed on January 1, 1841, of which Poe sent a copy
to J. E. Snodgrass on January 17, 1841.)
• 1841 (February 20) - The Saturday Evening Post (Philadelphia)
announces that Poe has become an editor for Graham's Magazine, beginning
with the April issue. (Both the Post and Graham's were owned by George
Rex Graham.Volume I of Graham's Magazine appeared as volume XVIII because,
in creating his new magazine, Graham merged Burton's Gentleman's Magazine
with the Casket. The latter, which Graham had purchased in May of 1839,
had already issued seventeen volumes by the end of 1840. The last issue
of both the Gentleman's Magazine and the Casket are virtually identical,
each bearing the inscription of Graham's Magazine on their title pages,
noted "as a specimen of the new volume." Poe's engagement
with Graham as an editor may have been discussed as early as December
of 1840. This possibility is suggested by the fact that both of these
final issues contain Poe's story "The Man of the Crowd." Burton
had stopped printing Poe's material as of the August issue of the same
year. Poe, however, was still hoping to make real his plans for the
Penn Magazine, plans he did not abandon for several months.)
• 1841 (April) - Graham's Magazine features Poe's "Murders
in the Rue Morgue," the first modern detective story. During Poe's
tenure, the circulation of Graham's Magazine increases from about 5,000
to nearly 37,000 subscribers, making it far and away the most popular
periodical of its day. (An abridged translation of "Murders in
the Rue Morgue" appeared on October 12, 1846 in Le Commerce, a
Parisan newspaper. There, the title was given as "L'Orange-Otang"
but Poe 's name is not mentioned.)
• 1842 (March 6) - During Dickens' tour of America, Poe and Charles
Dickens arrange to meet while he is in Philadelphia. (Dickens had been
greatly impressed by Poe's ability to guess the ending of his Barnaby
Rudge. In the Saturday Evening Post for May for 1841, Poe had reviewed
the work, which was being published serially in a magazine a chapter
at a time.) Dickens agrees to consider writing for Graham's and to try
to find an English publisher for Poe's Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,
although nothing of substance will ever come of either promise.
• 1842 (May) - Poe leaves the editorship of Graham's Magazine.
He is replaced by Rufus W. Griswold. In a letter to his friend F. W.
Thomas, Poe notes, "The report of my having parted with Graham,
is correct; although, in the forthcoming June number, there is no announcement
to that effect; nor had the papers any authority for the statement made.
My duties ceased with the May number. I shall continue to contribute
occasionally. . . . My reason for resigning was disgust with the namby-pamby
character of the Magazine -- a character which it was impossible to
eradicate -- I allude to the contemptible pictures, fashion plates,
music and love tales. The salary, moreover, did not pay me for the labor
which I was forced to bestow. With Graham, who is really a very gentlemanly,
although exceedingly weak man, I had no misunderstanding" (Ostrom,
Letters, p. 198). (Although Poe complained about his pay, he would never
again attain such a relatively secure financial position.)
• 1843 (January 31) - Poe and Thomas Cottrell Clarke sign an agreement
to proceed with Poe's plans for a magazine. The original name, The Penn,
was deemed too regional sounding and the new magazine is called The
Stylus, which is, of course, a pen. (Again, Poe found it impossible
to raise sufficient interest and capital. Although he revisited the
effort from time to time until his death, The Stylus never appeared.)
• 1843 (March 4) - A biographical notice of Poe, by Henry Beck
Hirst, is printed in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier. Full of erroneous
information, presumably provided by Poe, this biography begins to establish
Poe's public image.
• 1843 (March) - Through contacts of his friend F. W. Thomas,
Poe hopes to gain a government job as a clerk, which will still leave
him with time to write. Although one of his supporters is Robert Tyler,
the son of President John Tyler, Poe fails to obtain a position.
• 1843 (June) - Poe's tale of pirate treasure, "The Gold-Bug,"
wins the $100 prize from the Dollar Newspaper (Philadelphia). So successful
is the tale that a second printing of the newspaper is required. In
additon to the prize, Poe receives substantial national attention. A
theatrical production based on Poe's story, dramatized by Silas S. Steele,
is performed on August 8, 1843 at the American Theatre in Philadelphia
(Mabbott, Tales and Sketches, p. 805). (In November of 1845, a French
translation, "Le Scarabee d'or" was printed in the Revue britannique
and again in installments in La Democratie pacifique in May of 1848
and in La Journal du Loiret in June of 1848. A pirated English edition
appeared in London around 1846.)
• 1843 (July) - Poe's Prose Romances is published in Philadelphia
by William H. Graham.
• 1843 (July 19) - Poe registers to study law in the office of
Henry Beck Hirst, a long-time friend (Mabbott, Poems, p. 553. The Poe
Log disputes this claim, p. 427.)
• 1843 (November 21) - Poe delivers the first of his lectures
on American Poetry, beginning in Philadelphia. The large audience overflows
the hall and reviews are generally favorable, inspiring Poe to proceed
with other performances of the lecture. (Among Poe's later lectures
are "The Poets and Poetry of America," "The Poetic Principle"
and "The Universe." The last of these became the basis for
his 1848 book Eureka.)
• 1844 (April 7) - Poe and his family move to New York, where
Poe may have joined the Sunday Times as a subeditor.
• 1844 (October 7) - Poe is engaged by George Pope Morris and
Nathaniel Parker Willis as part of the staff of the Evening Mirror (New
York). (In 1849, N. P. Willis recalled, "Mr. Poe was employed by
us, for several months, as critic and subeditor. This was our first
personal acquaintance with him. He resided with his wife and mother
at Fordham, a few miles out of town, but was at his desk in the office,
from nine in the morning till the evening paper went to press. . . .
he was invariably punctual and industrious." See N. P. Willis,
"Death of " from the Home Journal, October 20, 1849, reprinted
in Carlson, Recognition of Poe, pp. 36-41.)
• 1845 (Feb. 22) - Poe becomes an editor of The Broadway Journal.
By July 12, he is the sole editor and by October 24, the sole owner
as well. Poe finally has full control of a magazine, but one already
laboring perilously under serious debts.
• 1845 (Jan. 29) - Poe's most famous poem, "The Raven"
is published in the New York Evening Mirror, where it becomes a sensational
hit. It is widely reprinted and brings Poe considerable praise and fame,
although financially he receives only about $15 for the initial printing.
(Many stories have been told of the writing of "The Raven."
Indeed, the list of people who claimed to be present at its infancy
seemed to grow with each reminiscence published after Poe's death. Poe's
explanation of the poem's creation, "The Philosophy of Composition,"
is largely fictional, by Poe's own admission. The most probable account
is that Poe wrote the poem in late 1844, while staying at the farm of
Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Henry Brennan in New York.)
• 1845 (Nov. 19) - Poe's Tales and The Raven and Other Poems are
published in New York by Wiley and Putnam.
• 1846 (Jan. 3) - Buried under with financial problems, The Broadway
Journal ceases publication.
• 1846 (April) - Godey's Lady's Book publishes the first installment
of Poe's "The Literati of New York City: Some Honest Opinions at
Random Respecting Their Authorial Merits, with Occasional Words of Personality."
Copies of Godey's sell unusually well, requiring an additional printing.
Poe publishes five additional installments before ending the series
with the October issue.
• 1846 (about May) - Poe moves his family to a cottage in Fordham,
New York. (This quaint little house, now cared for by the Bronx Historical
Society, is open to the public.)
• 1847 (Jan. 30) - Virginia Poe dies of tuberculosis in Fordham,
New York. She is entombed on February 2 in the Valentine family vault
in the Dutch Reformed Church at Fordham. (The bed in which she died
may still be seen in this house. The tops of the posts at the foot of
the bed are cut off so that it will fit under the sloping roof.)
• 1848 (about July 15) - Poe's prose poem Eureka is published
by George Putnam. Criticism is mixed, some lauding it as containing
brilliant insights and some denouncing it as pantheisic. Poe denies
charges of pantheism. The publishers do not hold Poe's enthusiam for
the work and print only 500 copies, of which an unknown number were
actually sold. There is insufficient interest to justify Poe's much-hoped-for
• 1848 (November) - Poe begins to court New England widow and
poetess Sarah Helen Whitman. After considerable effort, he manages to
secure a promise of marriage. Mrs. Whitman is concerned about his reputation
for drinking. Poe pledges to be temperate.
• 1848 (December 23) - Poe fails to meet the condition of total
abstinence from drinking and Mrs. Whitman calls off the engagement.
• 1849 (June 29) - Poe begins a southern lecture tour to raise
money and support for his proposed magazine, The Stylus. He arrives
in Richmond on July 14.
• 1849 (July?) - Poe meets with the now widowed Elmira Royster
Shelton. Rekindling the youthful romance, Poe asks her to marry him.
Mrs. Shelton is initially hesitant, but by August 25 has apparently
accepted Poe's proposal. (By remarrying, Mrs. Shelton would have had
to give up a large portion of the inheritance left by her husband, as
stipulated in his will.)
• 1849 (August 27) - Poe joins the Sons of Temperance, Shockoe
Hill Division, No. 54. (This society required that its members abstain
completely from the drinking of any alcoholic beverages.)
• 1849 (Sept. 27) - Poe leaves Richmond, perhaps aboard the steamship
Pocahontas. He arrives in Baltimore on September 28.
• 1849 (Oct. 7) - dies in Baltimore in the Washington College
Hospital (later Church Home and Hospital).
• 1849 (Oct. 8 or 9) - is buried in his grandfather's lot in the
Westminster Burying Ground. The ceremony is officiated by the Reverend
William T. D. Clemm.
• 1849 (Oct. 9) - Rufus Wilmot Griswold's slanderous obituary
of Poe, the so-called "Ludwig" article, is published in the
New York Tribune. It is widely copied.
• 1850 - The first two volumes of Griswold's collected Works of
the Late are published. Volume I contains a preface "To the Reader"
by Maria Clemm, Poe's mother-in-law, announcing that Poe himself had
selected Griswold as his literary executor and describing the edition
as having been put together for her benefit. (There is no other substantiation
for the idea that Poe selected Griswold and it may or may not be true.
Despite the claim that the books were "for my benefit," Maria
Clemm saw none of the profits gathered by Griswold and the publishers.)
By the end of October, a third volume is added, containing Griswold's
infamous "Memoir of the Author." In 1856, the fourth and final
volume of Griswold's edition of Poe's works is published. (In subsequent
editions, Maria Clemm's preface was removed and Griswold's "Memoir"
shifted to volume I.)
• 1857 (Aug. 27) - Poe's literary nemesis, Rufus Wilmot Griswold,
dies. His slanderous biographical memoir of Poe continues to accompany
the standard edition of Poe's works until 1875, selling as many as several
thousand copies a year.
• 1860 - Sarah Helen Whitman, Poe's former fiancee, publishes
a defense of Poe in a book called Edgar Poe and His Critics.
• 1871 (Feb. 16) - Maria Clemm dies in Baltimore in the Church
Home and Hospital (the same hospital in which died 22 years earlier.)
• 1874 (June 14) - Rosalie Poe, Edgar's younger sister, dies at
the Epiphany Church Home in Washington, D.C. Found in her hands is an
envelope containing a check for $50, sent by a philanthropist hoping
to ease her financial plight. She is buried with the nuns in a section
of Rock Creek Cemetery. (Her tombstone erroneously reads 1812-1874.
Rosalie was born in 1811.)
• 1874 - A new edition of Poe's collected works appears with a
favorable memoir by John Henry Ingram.
• 1875 (Nov. 17) - Poe's Memorial Grave is dedicated in Baltimore
with elaborate ceremonies.
• 1880 - John Henry Ingram publishes his full-length biography
of Poe: : His Life, Letters and Opinions (London, 2 vols).
• 1885 (May 4) - The Actors' Monument, a sculpture by Richard
Henry Park, is unveiled in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The
ceremonies include a presentation by Edwin Booth, the most respected
actor of his day. (In 1994, this statue was moved to the Poe Museum
in Richmond, Viriginia.)
• 1910 - Poe is inducted into the Hall of Fame in New York.
One the greatest
and unhappiest of American poets, a master of the horror tale, and the
patron saint of the detective story. first gained critical acclaim in
France and England. His reputation in America was relatively slight
until the French-influenced writers like Ambroce Bierce, Robert W. Chambers,
and representatives of the Lovecraft school created interest in his
"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy
and vague. Who shall say where the one ends and where the other begins?"
(from The Premature Burial, 1844)
was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to parents who were itinerant actors.
His father David Poe Jr. died probably in 1810. Elizabeth Hopkins Poe
died in 1811, leaving three children. Edgar was taken into the home
of a Richmond merchant John Allan. The remaining children were cared
for by others. Poe's brother William died young and sister Rosalie become
later insane. At the age of five Poe could recite passages of English
poetry. Later one of his teachers in Richmond said: "While the
other boys wrote mere mechanical verses, Poe wrote genuine poetry; the
boy was a born poet."
Poe was brought up partly in England (1815-20), where he attended Manor
School at Stoke Newington. Later it become the setting for his story
'William Wilson'. Never legally adopted, Poe took Allan's name for his
middle name. Poe attended the University of Virginia (1826-27), but
was expelled for not paying his gambling debts. This led to quarrel
with Allan, who refused to pay the debts. Allan later disowned him.
In 1826 Poe became engaged to Elmira Royster, but her parents broke
off the engagement. During his stay at the university, Poe composed
some tales, but little is known of his apprentice works. In 1827 Poe
joined the U.S. Army as a common soldier under assumed name, Edgar A.
Perry. He was sent to Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, which provided
settings for 'The Gold Bug' (1843) and 'The Balloon Hoax' (1844). Tamerlane
and Other Poems (1827), which Poe published at his own expense, sold
poorly. It has become one of the rarest volumes in American literary
history. In 1830 Poe entered West Point. He was dishonorably discharged
next year, for intentional neglect of his duties - apparently as a result
of his own determination to be released.
In 1833 Poe lived in Baltimore with his father's sister Mrs. Maria Clemm.
After winning a prize of $50 for the short story 'MS Found in a Bottle,'
he started career as a staff member of various magazines, among others
the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond (1835-37), Burton's Gentleman's
Magazine in Philadelphia (1839-40), and Graham's Magazine (1842-43).
During these years he wrote some of his best-known stories. Southern
Literary Messenger he had to leave partly due to his alcoholism.
In 1836 Poe married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia Clemm. She bust
a blood vessel in 1842, and remained a virtual invalid until her death
from tuberculosis five years later. After the death of his wife, Poe
began to lose his struggle with drinking and drugs. He had several romances,
including an affair with the poet Sarah Helen Whitman, who said: "His
proud reserve, his profound melancholy, his unworldliness - may we not
say his unearthliness of nature - made his character one very difficult
of comprehension to the casual observer." In 1849 Poe become again
engaged to Elmira Royster, who was at that time Mrs. Shelton. To Virginia
he addressed the famous poem 'Annabel Lee' (1849) - its subject, Poe's
favorite, is the death of a beautiful woman.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-time, I lie down by the side
Of my darling - my darling - my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
(from 'Annabel Lee', 1849)
Poe's first collection, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, appeared
in 1840. It contained one of his most famous work, 'The Fall of the
House of Usher.' In the story the narrator visits the crumbling mansion
of his friend, Roderick Usher, and tries to dispel Roderick's gloom.
Although his twin sister, Madeline, has been placed in the family vault
dead, Roderick is convinced she lives. Madeline arises in trance, and
carries her brother to death. The house itself splits asunder and sinks
into the tarn. The tale has inspired several film adaptations. Roger
Corman's version from 1960, starring Mark Damon, Harry Ellerbe, Myrna
Fahey, and Vincent Price, was the first of the director's Poe movies.
The Raven (1963) collected old stars of the horror genre, Vincent Price,
Peter, Lorre, and Boris Karloff. According to the director, Price and
Lorre "drove Boris a little crazy" - the actor was not used
to improvised dialogue. Corman filmed the picture in fifteen days, using
revamped portions of his previous Poe sets.
In Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), Poe's longest tale, the secret
theme is the terror of whiteness. Poe invented tribes that live near
the Antarctic Circle. The strange bestial humans are black, even down
to their teeth. They have been exposed to the terrible visitations of
men and white storms. These are mixed together, and they slaughter the
crew of Pym's vessel. The Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges has assumed
that Poe chose the color intuitively, or for the same reasons as in
Melville explained in the chapter 'The Whiteness of the Whale' in his
Moby-Dick. Later the 'lost world' idea was developed by Edgar Rice Burroughs
in The Land That Time Forgot (1924) and other works.
During the early 1840s, Poe's best-selling work was curiously The Conchologist's
First Book (1839). It was based on Thomas Wyatt's work, which sold poorly
because of its high prize. Wyatt was Poe's friend and asked him to abridge
the book and put his own name on its title page - the publisher had
strongly opposed any idea of producing a cheaper edition. The Conchologist's
First Book was a success. Its first edition was sold out in two months
and other editions followed.
The dark poem of lost love, 'The Raven,' brought Poe national fame,
when it appeared in 1845. "With me poetry has been not a purpose,
but a passion; and the passions should be held in reverence: they must
not - they cannot at will be excited, with an eye to the paltry compensations,
or the more paltry commendations, of mankind." (from The Raven
and Other Poems, preface, 1845) In a lecture in Boston the author said
that the two most effective letters in the English language were o and
r - this inspired the expression "nevermore" in 'The Raven',
and because a parrot is unworthy of the dignity of poetry, a raven could
well repeat the word at the end of each stanza. Lenore rhymed with "nevermore."
The poems has inspired a number of artists. Perhaps the most renowed
are Gustave Doré's (1832-1883) melancholic illustrations.
Poe suffered from bouts of depression and madness, and he attempted
suicide in 1848. In September the following year he disappeared for
three days after a drink at a birthday party and on his way to visit
his new fiancée in Richmond. He turned up in delirious condition
in Baltimore gutter and died on October 7, 1849.
Poe's work and his theory of "pure poetry" was early recognized
especially in France, where he inspired Jules Verne, Charles Baudelaire
(1821-1867), Paul Valéry (1871-1945) and Stéphane Mallarmé
(1842-1898). "In Edgar Poe," wrote Baudelaire, "there
is no tiresome snivelling; but everywhere and at all times an indefatigable
enthusiasm in seeking the ideal." In America Emerson called him
"the jingle man." Poe's influence is seen in many other modern
writers, as in Junichiro Tanizaki's early stories and Kobo Abe's novels,
or more clearly in the development of the19th century detective novel.
J.L. Borges, R.L. Stevenson, and a vast general readership, have been
impressed by the stories which feature Poe's detective Dupin ('The Murders
in the Rue Morgue', 1841; 'The Purloined Letter,' 1845) and the morbid
metaphysical speculation of 'The Facts in the Case of M. Waldermar'
(1845). Thomas M. Disch has argued in his The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made
Of (1998) that it was actually Poe who was the originator of the modern
science fiction. One of his tales, 'Mellonta Taunta' (1840) describes
a future society, an anti-Utopia, in which Poe satirizes his own times.
Another tales in this vein are 'The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Sceherazade'
and 'A Descent into the Maelstrom'. However, Poe was not concerned with
any specific scientific concept but mostly explored different realities,
one of the central concerns of science fiction ever since.
In his supernatural fiction Poe usually dealt with paranoia rooted in
personal psychology, physical or mental enfeeblement, obsessions, the
damnation of death, feverish fantasies, the cosmos as source of horror
and inspiration, without bothering himself with such supernatural beings
as ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and so on. Some of his short stories
are humorous, among them 'The Devil in the Belfry,' 'The Duc de l'Omelette,'
'Bon-Bon' and 'Never Bet the Devil Your Head,' all of which employ the
Devil as an ironic figure of fun. - Poe was also one of the most prolific
literary journalists in American history, one whose extensive body of
reviews and criticism has yet to be collected fully. James Russell Lowell
(1819-91) once wrote about Poe: "Three fifths of him genius and
two fifths sheer fudge."