Monday, October 21, 2013

Edgar Allan Poe Biography

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

v     Poe was a writer, poet, editor, and harsh literary critic, once called the "tomahawk man".
v     His stories are among the most famous and important of the American Romantic movement, alternatively called Dark Romanticism and Gothic literature. His stories are full of mystery and the macabre (hrozný a strašidelný).
v     He was the first American to try to make a living just from writing. It was very difficult. There were no international copy-right laws, so publishers could simply take the best English writings and print them freely, rather than paying an American to write something. Often times they’d refuse to pay a writer, or do so much later than promised.
v     Poe became instantly famous all across America in 1845 with his poem The Raven. He was only paid $9 for its publication.

v     Poe was also the first American writer to be more popular in Europe than America. His stories were translated into French by Charles Baudelaire.
v     He invented the detective story genre with his detective character C. Auguste Dupin.
“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?” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
v     Poe wrote some of the earliest science fiction. Jules Vern wrote a sequal to one of Poe’s stories – The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.
v     In 1848 Poe wrote an essay titled Eureka: A Prose Poem, discussing his theories regarding cosmology. Although it was filled with scientific errors, and Poe never considered it a scientific article, it predicted the Big Bang theory 80 years before it was accepted by science.

v A group called the Mystery Writers of America present an award each year called the Edgar Award, in his honor.
Poe's Personal Life
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts to a family of poor traveling actors. At a young age his father abandoned his family, and his mother died soon after from consumption (tuberculosis). Poe and his two siblings became orphans, and they were sent to different families.
Edgar’s older brother Henry was a poet and, for a time, a sailor, traveling around the world. He was an inspiration to Edgar. He died of tuberculosis and/or alcoholism in 1831. There’s some uncertainty as to whether Henry or Edgar wrote certain poems.
Edgar was taken in by John Allan of Richmond Virginia, a merchant and slave-trader. Edgar’s relation with this family was difficult, which led Edgar's rebellious nature. Poe sometimes lied about his name and age, calling himself at various times Henri Le Rennet, and Edgar A. Perry.
From 1815-1820 the Allans moved to England, and Edgar attended a number of boarding schools. Returning from England, Edgar argued with John Allan about money for university. Edgar said he needed it for tuition and books, but meanwhile he owed large gambling debts. After a year he decided to run away to Boston, finding any jobs he could. He wrote his first book of poems, Tamerlane and Other Poems anonymously, “by a Bostonian.”
Unable to find a good job, Poe enlisted in the US Army at the age of 18, and served for two years. But, he complained to his superior that he wanted to end his service early, and apply to West Point, a military college. His commanding officer agreed so long as Poe reconciled with his foster father, John Allan.
Arriving home, he discovered his foster mother had died the day before. Embarrassed for not writing to Edgar, John Allan agreed to support him at West Point. But, John Allan soon remarried, and amid several affairs and illegitimate children that John had, Edgar and he argued so often that John soon disowned him.
After two years at West Point, Edgar decided to quit, refusing to attend formations, classes, or church, for which he was court-martialed. His next book of poems was financed in part from fellow students who raised $170 to publish it.
Edgar went from magazine to magazine throughout America, working as an editor, literary critic, and author. He never stayed very long in one place, and struggled with alcohol, like his brother. At age 26 he married his 13 year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. Their marriage lasted twelve years, until she died of tuberculosis.
As a critic, Edgar particularly disliked transcendentalism as well as the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He felt Longfellow was a plagiarist, and the transcendentalist philosophy was “metaphor––run mad” and “mysticism for mysticism’s sake”. Ralph Waldo Emerson didn’t like Poe much, either. He referred to Poe as “the jingle man,” and said of The Raven “I see nothing in it.”
Poe died age 40, in Baltimore. On October 3, 1849, Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance." He was taken to the Washington Medical College, where he died four days later. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he wound up in the street, and, wearing clothes that were not his own. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. Some sources say Poe's final words were "Lord help my poor soul." All medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost. Newspapers at the time reported Poe's death as "congestion of the brain" or "cerebral inflammation", common euphemisms for disreputable causes such as alcoholism. A recent film starring John Cusack even suggested a conspiracy, but the film was highly fictional.

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