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The Life of Edgar Allan Poe

In one of the American newspapers, one could find the following statement: “Poe wrote good literary works, but his personality is not worth being remembered and, moreover, erecting a monument.” His book Tamerlane and other poems was sold for the record price ever paid for a book of an American author – 662 500$. A few people know that the writer was raised in the Christian family and died with a prayer of repentance on his lips. Poe’s tragic fate, marked with a painful loss of the closest people who died too early, has predetermined his literary style, as well as its main characteristics.

As children, Edgar and his sister lost their parents; Edgar was two years old. The children were separated; Poe’s mother’s friend, who looked after her till her death, took the boy to her home. That is how Edgar happened to be brought up in the family of a rich southerner, an Irishman by birth, who imported tobacco to America. Poe grew up in luxury. His new parents were pious Christians and donated large amounts of money to the building of an episcopal church. As Edgar Poe was the son of an actress (at those times, it was considered to be corrupt for women to act in front of the crowd), his foster father did not dare to adopt the boy legally. As a consequence, in legal terms, Edgar remained an orphan.

Elmira Shelton was the first love of the future writer. The teenager dreamed of a marriage. Poe devoted many poems to his sweetheart. Having entered the university, he used to write to Elmira very often, although he received no answer. Returning to Richmond for Christmas holidays, he instantly went to Elmira’s home and witnessed Shelton’s engagement with another young man. During an emotional conversation, it turned out that her father burned all Poe’s letters. Consequently, Elmira thought that Poe had forgotten her and decided to marry another man.

Later on, the writer married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia Clem. Some years before the marriage, Edgar invited his aunt and sister Virginia to live in his house. He not only cared about their nutrition but sister’s education, as well: Virginia took private lessons of mathematics, foreign languages, and piano. A modest wedding topped off their relationship. The ceremony was held by Edgar’s friend-priest, who, at the same time, was a writer, too.

Virginia became the apple of Poe’s life. She was able to render her feelings to him in poems. The loving couple had lived together only for a couple of years – and the writer found out that his wife had tuberculosis, then an incurable disease. Poe’s mother and brother also died because of this illness. Virginia’s agony had endured for five years. Sometimes, it seemed that she was getting considerably better, but shortly she felt bad again. Edgar saw his wife fading; such difficult life moments made him drink. During several years after her death, the writer could not cope with this shock. The theme of young beautiful woman’s death became predominant in his poems for a long period of time. He believed that poems should be a rhythmical embodiment of beauty. Since beauty is always mournful, beautiful poems should be mournful, too.    

After his wife’s death, trying to find answers to the questions of existentialism, Poe wrote Eureka. He wanted to formulate his proofs of God’s existence and prove that everything has a higher sense. In his own copy of the already published book, he wrote, “When the universe stops expanding, it will begin to shrink backwards and will return to the point which is God, and we all will return to God.” Presumably, with this thought, Poe tried to prove (first of all, himself) that we do not lose beloved people forever; we will meet them in God’s kingdom. In Eureka, the writer was the first to suggest that stars are moving and that they might have come from the same center. Actually, Edgar Allan Poe was the father of the Big Bang theory.

In childhood, Edgar idolized Byron and, as a child, he already knew that he would also become a writer. Poe dreamed of being a professional poet, but his poems did not pay his bills; that is why the young man got the job of an editor and literary critic in the Southern Literary Messenger. At that time, it was an unknown edition with 500 of copies. The writer was twice discharged and instantly returned back. The aim of the Southern Literary Messenger was to inspire the southerners to create, to wake up people, and arouse writing ambitions. Although Poe was expected to create stories that amused the audience, he created the stories that disturbed the readers, who were either terrified by writer’s stories or revered him. In a year and a half, the subscribers’ number increased seven times as much. When Edgar resigned, the edition became nationally famous, as well as the author himself.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote detective stories fifty years before Conan Doyle. Poe’s works differed from the literature with a “happy end,” which was widely accepted at those times. He created the image of the antihero. Later, Conan Doyle would claim that Poe was the founder of the detective story genre. Jules Verne was so inspired by Edgar’s literary legacy that he wrote a continuation to one of Poe’s stories. The latter has represented what is now called the classical detective story genre. Poe’s works echo in modern Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones series.

A few people know that the writer was also a self-taught researcher. One of his most sold books was The Conchologist’s First Book. Also, he wrote hundreds of reviews and essays. In his essays, the author dwelled on moral issues, too. In one of his articles, Poe wrote, “If you boast, people stop respecting you and even begin hating you.” Another review looked like the following, “The worst thing is that this book spoiled so many sheets of paper.” During his work in the literary journal, Poe made many enemies, for whom his critical pen was too sharp. That is why after the writer’s death, many ill-wishers blackened his reputation.

Poe’s literary style is quite ominous, which is largely predetermined by his own tragic fate. The main idea of Poe’s horrifying stories runs as the following: life is a dreadful nightmare that follows us until it throws us into the whirlpool of death. Inevitable horror of life tyrannically ruling over man, the world as a kingdom of insanity, death and decay – these are the major issues of the writer’s stories. Death as a manifestation of the supernatural is represented in the story Ligeia; the stories Eleonora, Morella highlight the issue of a loss of a beloved woman. William Wilson dwells on the fight between the good and the evil, psychological split, and thirst for the evil. The same striving for a crime, malice, and destruction characterizes the heroes of the stories The Imp of the Perverse, The Black Cat, The Tell-Tale Heart, etc.

All things considered, one of the most prominent American poets of his time, Edgar Allan Poe lived a tragic life with gleams of fame. His mother, foster parents, and beloved wife deceased too early. The writer himself mysteriously died ten days before the wedding with the woman who he loved the whole life – Elmira Shelton. All these factors could not but contribute to Poe’s perception of the world as a cruel place where destruction and malice rules, which became the major themes of his works.