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Edgar Allan Poe - A Biographical Sketch

by Sathya Narayana

Edgar Poe, popularly known as Edgar Allan Poe is an American who has left his mark on the English literature as an author, poet, editor and literary critic and is considered an important part of the American Romantic movement. He was born on January 19, 1809 to actress Elizabeth Hopkins Poe and actor David Poe, Jr. His short stories were one of the earliest and he is believed to be the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He was also known as the one of the first American writer who tried to earn a living out of writing, although he faced many difficulties financially.

Born as Edgar Poe in Boston, Massachusetts, he became an orphan as his father abandoned his family and his mother died soon after. Although Edgar  was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Virginia, though not formally adopted, it is stated that he did not get much support from them. His first collection of poems, titled Tamerlane and Other Poems were published in 1827. He was serving in the United States Army as a private and his name was enlisted as "Edgar A Perry." In 1829 he published his second book, Al Aaraag, Tamerlane and Minor Poems.

In New York on February 1831, Edgar Allan published his third volume of poems, titled "Poems" which was financed from his fellow cadres. He changed his focus to prose and became well known as a literary critic working for journals where his work made him to wander many cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City. The time he chose to indulge in writing as a career was one of the difficult phases in American publishing. During that time, there was no international copyright law. American periodicals was on the growth in this period but the writers had to work for meagre pay as either the publishers refused to pay them or they did much later than they promised.

Allan Poe was awarded a prize in October 1833, for his short story "MS. Found in a Bottle" which brought him to contact with John P Kennedy. Kennedy introduced Poe to Thomas W White, editor of "Southern Literary Messenger" in Richmond. Poe remained as Assistant Editor in "Messenger" until 1937. He got married to Virginia Clemm, in 1835.

Edgar Allan Poe became one of the first American authors of 19th century who became more famous in Europe than in his country. He was particularly respected in France because of his works translated by Charles Baudelaire.

Poe also showed interest in cosmology and cryptography. He also showed his talent in writing satires, humor tales and horror stories. His first tales regarding detective fiction laid the basic groundwork for future detective writers in literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyel and Jules Verne were among the popular authors who reserved praise for him.

The names of some of Edgar Poe's tales are "The Black Cat", "Hop Frog" and "The Oval Portrait". The only play he wrote was called as "The Politan." The reason why Poe was called as one of the foremost creative writers in English Literature is that he laid great stress on the correctness of language and structure. He was often considered a generous critic of lesser known writers.

He worked as an Assistant Editor in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in 1839 and joined as Assistant at Graham's Magazine in 1840. During this time, he published "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket" and "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.' His dream in 1940 was to start a journal of his own, by name the "The Stylus", but before making the journal a success he breathed his last. He touched success with his poem "The Raven" in 1845.

His wife died in 1947 due to tuberculosis and in 1849 at age 40, Poe breathed his last day in Baltimore and his death has been attributed to brain congestion, heart disease, rabies, suicide and other agents.