Abandonment and Isolation • Parents • Mother died in 1811 • Father died in 1812 • Foster Parents • Foster mother died in 1829 • Foster father, John Allan, died in 1834 • Foster parents sent Edgar to several different boarding schools from 1815 to 1825 • Foster father bailed Poe out of several financial jams until the death of his foster mother, Frances. Then, John Allan washed his hands of Poe.
Objects in Motion Poe was poor and in constant motion after leaving the Army • Richmond, Virginia • Boston, Massachusetts • New York, New York • Baltimore, Maryland • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
An Attempt at Normalcy • Disowned by by Allan, Poe worked as a clerk and a newspaperman • Enlisted in the Army in May of 1827 at 18 under the name Edgar A. Perry, claiming he was 22 • Was a good soldier and was promoted to Sergeant Major for Artillery by 1829 • Tried to end five-year enlistment after two years • Poe was appointed to West Point and left in 1831, after pleading guilty to “gross neglect of duty and disobedience of orders for refusing to attend formations, classes, or church.”
Early Manuscripts • Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827) • Al Araf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems (1829) • Poems (1831) • “Manuscript Found in a Bottle” (1833)
Head of Household • In Baltimore, Poe lived with his brother, Henry, his aunt, Maria Clemm, and his cousin, Virginia Clemm • Won a literary prize for a short story, leading to appointment as editor of the Southern Literary Messenger • Married Virginia Clemm, then 13 and slowly dying of tuberculosis in 1835 • Began publishing his stories often in 1838
Poe’s Influences and Common Themes • Women are often seriously ill, consumptive, frail, and waif like • Male characters are guilt ridden, overly emotional, hysterical • Death is a constant companion • Haunting images—raven, angels, houses crumbling into dust, cats, skeletons—are frequent
Growing Reputation • “Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym” (1838) • Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1839) • Horror stories—also known as “gothic” stories—began appearing in 1838 • Detective stories began appearing in 1845 • His critical reputation was mixed, though he was popular with the general public
Beginning of Troubles • Poe was convinced of his own genius and, thus, arrogant about other authors • He had strong likes and dislikes and wrote literary criticism in which he took on some big names • He accused Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of plagiarism • This set off a war of letters, rumors, accusations of Poe’s life and work which culminated in a “biography published after his death.
Poe’s Death • October 7, 1849 • Baltimore, Maryland • Found on the streets, “in great distress, and…in need of immediate assistance.”—Joseph Walker • Never coherent enough to explain situation • Cause of death variously attributed to alcoholism, heart disease, epilepsy, meningitis, cholera, rabies. There is no “right” answer.
Character Assassination • Rufus Griswold, an “enemy” of Poe’s wrote a biographical article titled “Memoir of the Artist” in 1850 • Depicted Poe as a depraved, drunk, drug-addled madman and included letters as “evidence” • Became an accepted view of the author, though Poe was never a drug addict and the letter used as “proof” were later revealed to be forgeries • Reading public was only too willing to accept Griswold’s lies as the “truth”—too good a story to worry about facts • Poe was, then, viewed as a drug-addled madman who delved into the supernatural and wrote about what he saw in drug-fueled dreams—none of which was true.
Literary Theory • “The Poetic Principle” • Meaning should be an undercurrent right beneath the surface • Obvious meanings are not art • During lifetime, most influential as a literary critic
The Truth About Poe • He had a serious drinking problem—binge drinker • He tried laudenum and rejected it • He dealt with stress and grief by drinking • The death of his wife, in 1847, sent him into a tailspin • He wrote for the common market, including appealing to “gothic” tastes—supernatural, eerie, death ridden
Poe’s Influence • More influential in Europe than America at first • Early detective stories influenced Doyle—creator of Sherlock Holmes--who said, “…a root from which a whole literature has developed.” • Jules Verne and H.G. Wells wrote about his influence on them • Stephen King has written of Poe’s influence on his own horror stories and all of those written by others as well, including Dracula