Edgar Allan Poe
MS. found in a Bottle
Tales of Mystery and Imagination
The Tell-Tale Heart


"Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, / Doubtling, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before" ("The Raven")

Edgar Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were itinerant actors who died when he was very young. He was taken into the care of one John Allan, a tobacco exporter, whose surname he took for his own middle name after 1824. Between 1815 and 1820, Poe and the Allans lived in England and the young orphan attended Manor House school in Stoke Newington. After his return to the United States, Poe went to the University of Virginia but left after he accumulated considerable gambling debts trying to make up for other money he owed. He published his first volume of poetry, Tamurlane and Other Poems anonymously and at his own expense in 1827. After this, Poe joined the army and entered West Point in 1830, although he was dishonourably discharged one year later for intentional neglect of duties.

Poe had continued writing poetry and publishing at his own expense during this period, but now he sought employment as a professional writer. As editor of the Southern Literary Messenger he increased its circulation from 500 to 3,500 copies and achieved a similar feat on a grander scale at Graham's Magazine. He began to write the short stories that would constitute his great legacy to literature and published them in magazines. At this time he was living in poverty with his aunt Mrs Clemm in Baltimore. He would marry her thirteen-year-old daughter Virginia (his cousin) in 1836, but her tuberculosis and his depression were an unhappy combination.

The first collection of Poe's stories, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was published in 1840 and contained the famous Gothic romance "The Fall of the House of Usher". It was the poem "The Raven" and its accompanying volume of poetry (published in 1845) that brought Poe fame, however. Still he struggled against poverty. He remained sadly underrated in his own time. Even in 1846, Poe failed to sell a collection of stories for the price of $50. He was given only $14 for Eureka and even that was on the basis that if it sold less then he would have to make up the difference. His alcoholism and laudanum addiction worsened, unsurprisingly (although he found time to lecture his local temperance society on the evils of drink) and he made one attempt at suicide. His wife passed away in 1847, and Poe himself died in appropriately tragic circumstances of heart failure, alcohol, and epilepsy or some combination of these factors in 1849. After his death his reputation grew considerably with the enthusiastic response of Swinburne, Wilde, Rossetti and Yeats to his poetry, and of Stevenson among others to his short stories.

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