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The Beautiful Torment of Poe

Updated on December 5, 2013

Death Becomes Him

Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe | Source

Poe's Life

Edgar Allan Poe is one of America’s favorite and most
respected authors.He is also my one of my favorite
authors, and I've fallen in love with his dark
writing. I've noticed that the themes and styles of
his works were as capricious as his mood and life.
Though not celebrated in life, he has gained enormous
value and importance worldwide since his death.

Edgar Poe was born on January 19,1809 in Boston
Massachusetts. His parents
( David Poe Jr. and Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins ), were
both actors and had two other children(another boy and
a girl). Allegedly Edgar’s father left the family and
Elizabeth was left to take care of her three
children.By the time Edgar was three he was an
orphan, both of his parents having died, the father's
death mysterious while his mother succumbed to an
illness. Edgar was taken in by by John and Frances
Allan and was christened Edgar Allan Poe shortly
after.Between 1814 and 1825 Edgar traveled back and
forth from England to Virginia, from school to
school.In 1824 young Edgar writes his first poem, a
two-liner:from “…Last night, with many
cares & toils oppres’d, Weary, I laid me on a couch to

In 1826 Edgar Allan Poe, when he was 17 years old,
started his first and only year of college. Edgar was
a bright student but was addicted to gambling and
this led to him being in debt.There were times where
Poe would use his poems as currency but it was not
enough to keep his troubles with money away. Poe's
debts led to the infamous quarrel between John Allan
and Edgar Allan Poe, where Edgar pleads with John
Allan for him to pay off his debt but to no avail.
Edgar leaves the Allan residence and joins the United
States Army under the alias “Edgar A. Perry”. That
same year, 1827, Edgar has Tamerlane and other poems
published without any fanfare.

In 1829 Edgar Allan Poe was discharged from the Army
and Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and other poems is released
by the Baltimore by Hatch and Dunning publisher.In
1830 Poe got accepted to West Point , but by the end
of that year he was dismissed from there because he
never followed the commands.From that point on Poe
develops a pattern in both his professional and
personal life, a cycle, if you will. Edgar went from
job to job, varying from literary critic to poet, to
short story writer and editor.Poe was also unlucky
with love, experiencing rejection, sickness and death.
His alcoholism played a big part in the cycle, causing
him to live in near poverty, getting fired and being
depressed.In a way, I've had a similar fate as Poe,
and I feel that he had a lot of talent but, like me,
we tend to manipulate our destinies and use our
Capricorn-like traits to our disadvantages.

In Edgar Allan Poe’s works one can see not only the
dark side of life, but also his way with words “…
Poe’s extraordinary manipulation of rhythm and sound
is particularly evident in ‘The Bells’(1849), a poem
that seems to echo with the chiming of metallic
instruments..”from Mr. Poe
had an astonishing
vocabulary and style, his poems flowing like a song,
hypnotizing the reader, while his short stories were
filled with little surprises, twisting and turning
around until you get bombshell.
That’s why Edgar is considered to be the author of
the first modern detective story(Murder in the Rue
Morgue)-he leads you through the story and when you
think you're going left, he takes you right! Edgar was
also known as a very witty and sarcastic literary
critic, who poked fun at other author's works while
thouroughly analyzing them. Poe was influenced by Lord
Byron and Mary Shelley amongst others, having a
peculiar mix of romance and horror.

Edgar Allan Poe won his first prize($50)for “Ms.
Found in a Bottle” in 1833, and ten years later Poe
won another prize, $100, for “The Gold-Bug” in a
contest by the Dollar Newspaper.It was “The
Raven”(January 19,1845) though, that made Poe popular,
finally having one of his works reprinted. After this,
Poe started to give lectures and gained some
recognition. Mr. Poe continued, a few years after, to
write and travel while courting a couple of women. On
October 7, 1849 Edgar Allan Poe was found on the
streets of Baltimore, delirious, and dies a while
after.Up until his death Edgar Allan Poe struggled
with life while producing countless literary works. In
1880 John Henry Ingron released Edgar Allan Poe:His
life, Letters, and Opinions, a biography, and in 1910
Edgar Allan Poe was inducted in the Hall of Fame in
New York.

According to www.encarta “Poe’s theories on
the nature of fiction and, in particular, his writings
on the short story have had a lasting influence on
American and European writers.”, including Conan
Doyle, Nathanael West, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Even
though I've not read the aforementioned authors, they
have counted Poe as an influence, and maybe that would
influence an avid poe reader such as myself to read
their works also. Since Poe’s works ranged from Gothic
to poetic to constructive criticism it is easy to see
why various authors from all over would consider Edgar
Allan Poe an influence.

Edgar Allan Poe when he was 10 years old

A young Poe with "Mrs. Allan"
A young Poe with "Mrs. Allan" | Source

"With me poetry has not been a purpose, but a passion"

Poe's personal struggles may have added appeal to his macabre persona

"Each time I felt all the agonies of her(Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe,Poe's wife) death—and at each accession of the disorder I loved her more dearly & clung to her life with more desperate pertinacity. But I am constitutionally sensitive—nervous in a very unusual degree. I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity."-Edgar Allan Poe wrote in a letter

The Tell-Tale Heart by Annette Jung

"All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream."



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    • saraisbella profile image

      Sara Vilaire 4 years ago from NY

      Dear Maria, I did not write, as you claimed, that Poe was dismissed for being a "bad student". I wrote he was "dismissed because he never followed the command" and here is a quote from a publication from West Points library "A
































      orders." I thought you claimed you read everything? here's the link : I will not change my article under any circumstances. It's interesting to me that a writer such as Poe who is known world wide and studied to a tee has been shrouded in mystery and protected so much. He was a great lyrical psychologist yet is an enigma to the public. Everything biographical pertains solely to his work and his poverty and personal life seems to be separate from his writings and other works. As if Mr Poe was two completely different people. Writing does stem from imagination yet there would have had to be some truth in his dark tales that perhaps was inspired by his personal life.

    • saraisbella profile image

      Sara Vilaire 4 years ago from NY

      Actually it also says on the Cornell website link that I provided that the picture "Artist Unknown. Charcoal portrait of Edgar Allan Poe as a child, with Mrs. Allan." So you're implying, Lisa, that the Poe scholar, Susan Jaffe Tane, and also an Ivy League University's website,should not have added this picture of Poe and included it in their collection for public viewing? The picture, along with various other documents were included to represent Poe.Though it's an interpretation of Poe aged ten, on the site it also states “On the back is written in pencil “Edgar, age 10,” with mother Allan, 1819. This composition, of unknown origin, was purchased at a Virginia estate sale in 1984. At the end of the auction, the buyer was approached by the elderly lady whose items were being auctioned. She stated that the portrait is of Edgar Allan Poe when he was ten years old, with a woman she called “Frances.” The title of the portrait is " Artist Unknown. Charcoal portrait of Edgar Allan Poe as a child, with Mrs. Allan". If this was not to be taken to be plausible and was an "iffy" portrait and not to be implied, then it should not be on display along with Poe artifacts. If you have an issue with the picture, please feel free to contact Ms Tane, who is, as I mentioned in a previous comment to you,sits on the board of directors of The Edgar Allan Poe Museum Foundation in Richmond, Va. and is also a sponsor of the Poe Studies Association.Or better yet contact Cornell University to ask them to not place an implied portrait of Poe on their site and exhibiton so that the viewers could not discern between an interpretation and factual imagery. The fact that I stated it was Poe at aged 10 and added a link to the site of the photo should not have caused confusion.

    • Maria Nayef profile image

      Maria Nayef 4 years ago


      It seems you have become offended by my comments so I will post again to better explain my point but it will be the last time. I have read every single biography (not something I recommend, ever) and every major book ever written about Poe. It was necessary to write my thesis about the Poe myths. Sadly the Poe myths seem to be passed off as ‘general knowledge’ these days, and in your attempt to share your appreciation of Poe and what his work has meant to you, you have done him what I called a 'disservice' by claiming that his life reflected his art, that he was depressed, someone who was dismissed from West Point for being a bad student, someone who was unlucky in love, someone who only became noted as a writer after the publication of The Raven, by comparing him to yourself or the traits of his star sign, publishing a photo of him that isn’t even him - claiming he was an alcoholic and gambler. These are the great lies about Poe. Hoffman was a great poet and a Poe hero, may he rest in peace, his book Poe (x7) remains one of my favourite books about Poe’s writing, and in that book he says we mustn't concern ourselves with what Poe did but what he wrote - and I’m well aware of who Barbara Cantalupo is as I have been published in The Edgar Allan Poe Review twice, however every Poe scholar has their opinion about his works – I don’t concern myself with literary analysis, only the facts about his life. Quinn’s biography on Poe was the breakthrough “biography” in Poe scholarship because it states the facts about his life and the facts only. It’s the go-to biography in Poe scholarship, whether people prefer Silverman’s depends on how much their own perceptions of Poe as a man come into play. If you wanted to pay homage to Poe, you could have simply published what you wrote about his works, which was lovely, but unfortunately got lost somewhere in your biographical sketch in which you passed off Poe myths as facts: “Mr. Poe 
had an astonishing 
vocabulary and style, his poems flowing like a song,
hypnotizing the reader, while his short stories were
filled with little surprises…”

      And I don’t see how your quote about him being a frustrated poet all his life due to poverty has anything to do with it – of course his poverty stopped him from his true calling – he had a sick wife, two other people to feed aside from himself, that’s why he worked as a journalist/editor – this has nothing to do with the claims you have made. And perhaps people, as myself, have made Hub Page accounts just to comment on your piece - that should tell yo something. If you thought my attitude was ‘negative’ it was only meant to help educate you. If someone writes something about Poe and puts in on the Internet and I come across it and I read it and it is full of lies I will point them out – eradicating the Poe myths is one of my passions and purposes in life and I will keep doing it, no matter what.


    • Lisa Lideks profile image

      Lisa Lideks 4 years ago

      Note that the Cornell website describes the picture as a "Later nineteenth century interpretation by an unknown artist." In other words, it is not, as your article implied, any sort of genuine image of Poe. If you'll take a look at an authentic portrait of Frances Allan, you'll realize this is a laughably bogus picture. I found it odd that with all the accepted images of Poe, you chose to use one that is demonstrably fake. That is a fact, not my personal opinion. (And I fail to see what Susan Jaffe Tane's resume has to do with the matter.)

    • saraisbella profile image

      Sara Vilaire 4 years ago from NY

      ***It seems I've only gotten negative responses from readers who have recently joined hub these past couple of days, so I'm noticing a pattern. To Lisa and Maria-your opinions are appreciated but the negative attitude can stay off my page. I appreciate constructive criticism, not sarcastic yammer. By the way Lisa, Susan Jaffe Tane, The woman behind the exhibition that contains the picture is part of The Lotos Club, one of the oldest literary clubs in the United States, was founded on March 15, 1870, by a group of young writers, journalists and critics. Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain), an early member (1873), called Lotos “The Ace of Clubs.” Susan Jaffe Tane also sits on the board of directors of The Edgar Allan Poe Museum Foundation in Richmond, Va. and is also a sponsor of the Poe Studies Association. And to Maria: Cornell University also inadvertently confirmed my article on Poe's life "All his life he remained a frustrated poet, prevented by poverty and life circumstances from dedicating all his abilities to what he considered his true calling, writing poetry." here's the link: Sorry I don't have "scholarly qualifications" but I believed I kept true to Poe and his work and life the best I could.

    • Lisa Lideks profile image

      Lisa Lideks 4 years ago

      If that's an authentic picture of Poe and Mrs. Allan, I'm Madeline Usher's grandma.

    • saraisbella profile image

      Sara Vilaire 4 years ago from NY

      I forgot to add a thank you to Dean(cheaptrick) for the "excellent hub"comment!! I appreciate your feedback

    • saraisbella profile image

      Sara Vilaire 4 years ago from NY

      Thank you Maria for your opinion on my article.However Mr Quinn is just one of several scholars, alive or dead that have written a biography/opinion on Poe.I did some research of my own and found Dr Barbara Cantalupo, Associate Professor of English Ph.D. in English at Pen State,Barbara Cantalupo, who is founding and current editor of The Edgar Allan Poe Review published at Penn State Lehigh Valley and series editor of "Perspectives on Poe" for Lehigh University Press.In a tribute to the passing of a Poe scholar,Ms Cantalupo quoted Poe scholar Daniel Hoffman in a tribute to him as saying 'Even while acknowledging that Poe was a “haunted man,” Dan (Hoffman) reminds us that Poe was able to turn “painful knowledge into the pleasure of Art” (153) and that he(Poe) never stopped “praising indefiniteness as the handmaiden of beauty, whether in poetry, in music, or in thought” (98)' .With that being said the biographical facts about Poe are common knowledge to Poe scholars, however my personal feelings toward Poe are mine own.There's no definite nor definitive biography of Poe that is held up as THE study guide to Poe scholars world wide.I am not a Poe scholar no did I personally know Poe..I'm just a Poe reader that wanted to share facts and comments on one of my favorite author.To Amiebutchko, I am grateful you enjoyed my article on Poe's life and appreciate you welcoming opportunities to read about his life.Cheaptrick-I agree with you, your statement resonates with my article.He produced great work in his short life and is still revered today.

    • amiebutchko profile image

      Amie Butchko 4 years ago from Warwick, NY

      Saraisbella, I, too, love Poe's dark beauty and will always welcome the opportunity to read about his life. You did a wonderful job of telling it.

    • Maria Nayef profile image

      Maria Nayef 4 years ago

      Good grief, where did you get your information? There is a huge problem in Poe studies today and this piece is the perfect example of that problem - it is when people with no scholarly qualifications attempt to write a biography on Poe - when 'fans' of his work attempt to define him based on the themes of his own works, or worse, their OWN feelings upon reading his works. Your piece only makes readers believe that the Poe myths that some of our great Poe scholars have spent their entire lives attempting to eradicate are fact, when in reality they are false. And you probably mean John Henry "Ingram" not Ingron - a biography that is very outdated. Rather than reading Encarta I suggest you read the only authoritative biography on Poe by Arthur Hobson Quinn which is available to read for free at Then perhaps, next time you feel the need write about Poe's personal life and publish it where anyone can read it, you will not do him a disservice.

    • cheaptrick profile image

      cheaptrick 4 years ago from the bridge of sighs

      Mr Poe was one of those rare human beings who could translate the exquisite pain and torment of his own life into words which resonate at an unconscious level within each of us.We often take for truth the mask of happiness we present to each other...but(as the Buddha taught)life is suffering.Excellent hub.


    • saraisbella profile image

      Sara Vilaire 4 years ago from NY

      Thank you Ben! I appreciate your feedback. He lead such a tormented life and in my opinion it was more morbid than some of his most famous works.He was truly a genius and underestimated.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 4 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Great piece. Poe was my first introduction to poetry and remains one of my favorites. I look forward to going back an reading more. I didn't know his father left him, yet another sad fact!