A leading literary figure whose legacy has inspired countless others since his final novel, the American author Edgar Allan Poe is still spoken of today in reverential tones, recalling his exemplary career, the impact of which is still currently being felt. With a large number of not just poems for which he was largely known, but also short stories and critical works as well, he was a prolific writer throughout the literary establishment of the time. Focusing largely on the macabre and uncanny, he was well known for his material dealing with the darker elements of human nature, as his name became synonymous with modern Gothic literature, something which continues to this very day.
Early and Personal Life
Born on the 19th of January, 1809, in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, Edgar Allan Poe was very much an author of his time, as he was the second child born to the English actress Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe, along with the actor David Poe, Jr. After his father abandoned them in 1810, his mother then died of consumption the following year, leaving Edgar to be brought up by the successful Scottish merchant John Allan, thus leading to his name as it is now known. Growing up in Richmond, Virginia with his new foster family he was well on his way to becoming the writer that he currently is today.
Educated in an English boarding school in Chelsea following his period in a Scottish grammar school, he had an eventful education, something which was further exacerbated by his foster father who would routinely alternate between disciplining him aggressively and then spoiling him, both in equal measure. Later attending the University of Virginia he was to study ancient and modern languages, during which time he set-up his own student body council in direct opposition to the already established one. Following a year of this he soon found himself with mounting debts, thereby taking leave to head to Boston in 1827 where he would take a number of odd jobs, including writing for a newspaper, finally joining the military.
Spending some time in the military he first joined up when he was just 18, but claimed he was 22, and at his wits end as to what to do about all of his mounting debts, whereby he served two years of a five year enlistment, reaching the rank of Sergeant Major for Artillery during his time there. Whilst he was there he would also publish a number of early works and poems, most of which remained unnoticed by the critical establishment at large. It was later on that he was to gain the much sought after recognition he deserved for his work, as he soon went on to create a name for himself.
Living until 1849 when he died on the 7th of October at only 49 years of age, a death which is still shrouded in mystery to this very day. Found wandering the streets in a state of delirium he was taken for medical attention, but never survived the process. Leaving behind a strong legacy though, he will always be remembered as the individual who reinvented literature and how it is thought about.
Known largely for his work in the field of detective fiction, his name has now become synonymous with the macabre. During his lifetime though he had his hand in many different creative pools and genres, leading to a highly rich and diverse career. No stranger to concepts such as science-fiction, some of his work could also be found at the forefront of this then emerging genre of the time.
Releasing his first book when he was just eighteen, he brought out a 40 page collection of poetry titled Tamerlane and Other Poems, which came out whilst he was still in the military. Despite it not gaining much recognition on its initial release, he later went on to build up his profile over the subsequent years. With his legacy still surviving to this day, he has managed to build a career that has stood the test of time, with much of work still inspiring authors both old and new alike, something which shall continue for some time yet.
The Fall of the House of Usher
Originally published in 1839, this was to be an infamous short story from Edgar Allan Poe, the impact of which is still being felt today. Whilst many see this as his masterpiece, it’s a work that also retains a place at the forefront of Gothic literature, with its allusions to the macabre. Over the intervening years many have adapted into various other forms, such as for the theatre as well as the cinema.
Featuring an unnamed narrator, it tells of his stay at his friend Roderick Usher’s house, only to arrive and discover that a large crack has grown from the roof of the building to adjacent lake. Having received a letter, he is there to help Roderick recover from an illness, only to discover that his twin sister Madeline has also fallen ill. After being told that the house is really alive by Roderick, he then learns that the sister has apparently died and been entombed. What is this illness that has befallen Roderick? Where has Madeline gone? Will they learn the secrets behind the fall of the House of Usher?
The Tell-Tale Heart
Initially published in 1843, January, this was another short story from Edgar Allan Poe, which also had just as much of an impact as his last. With a macabre and gloomy atmosphere of foreboding hanging over it throughout, this again falls into the category of Gothic literature. It also set the template for a lot of similar works to follow in its wake, as it was a work that many continue to reference to this day.
Again using an unnamed narrator to carry it forwards, Poe this time tells the classic tale of a man consumed by guilt and fear. Having committed a murder he is filled with paranoia left isolated and alone, as the body of his victim is left under the floorboards. Believing he can hear the beating heart of his victim he is tormented day and night, as he attempts to keep himself from descending into madness. What will become of the tormented narrator? Can he keep his secret? Will he confess to the tell-tale heart?
Books in order of publication:
|The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket||(1838)|
|The Journal of Julius Rodman||(1840)|
Short Story Collections
|Tamerlane and Other Poems||(1827)|
|Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems||(1829)|
|Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque||(1839)|
|The Prose Romances of Edgar A. Poe||(1843)|
|The Raven and Other Poems||(1845)|
|Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems||(2009)|
|The Philosophy of Furniture||(1840)|
|A Few Words on Secret Writing||(1841)|
|Morning on the Wissahiccon||(1844)|
|The Philosophy of Composition||(1846)|
|Eureka: A Prose Poem||(1848)|
|The Rationale of Verse||(1848)|
|The Poetic Principle||(1848)|