Born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts, Edgar Allan Poe was a prolific American short-story writer, critic, editor, and poet. His ingenious style of writing was reflected in his fascination with mystery and the macabre. As one of the chief proponents of “art for art’s sake” (more specifically “poem for poem’s sake”) in America, style, and construction of language became the central concern of his criticism. As a product of his time, he was also drawn to Romanticism. Poe’s contemporaries who wrote in a similar vein included Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. His brilliant command over technique fostered authentic imagination among his readers. In fact, Poe subsequently inspired the French symbolists of the late nineteenth century who shaped modern literature and art. He has also been recognized for his contribution to the emerging genre of science fiction. American fiction has been enriched by his tales of horror and modern detective story which is epitomized in ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue‘, first published in Graham’s magazine in 1841. Poe’s creativity, to a great extent, has been inspired by his own lived experiences.
Born to professional actors-Elizabeth Arnold and David, Poe was orphaned when he was a toddler. He was shifted into the household of a Richmond merchant named John Allan. He was introduced to classical education at a young age during his trips to Europe. He attended the University of Virginia for a brief period of time. However, his gambling debts and inadequate financial support compelled him to return to Richmond. Disintegrating relations with his guardian and his own deteriorating financial condition forced him to join the army under an assumed name. During this period of hardship, he ventured into publication with his collection Tamerlane, and Other Poems. His negligence towards the training prompted his dismissal from the U.S. Military Academy. Poe was now fully determined to pursue a literary career.
New York City was Poe’s subsequent stopover. Poems, his next volume of verses won appreciation. He turned to prose and began writing for periodicals and journals. His short story titled “MS. Found in a Bottle” won the admiration and cash reward from a Baltimore weekly. After assuming editorship of The Southern Literary Messenger, he transformed into a refined critical reviewer which added credibility to his literary endeavors. Although the profits were meager, Poe remained adamant. Published in the New York Mirror, his unforgettable poem, “The Raven,” earned him national attention. After the death of his wife, Poe became romantically involved with other women. This libertine phase also informed his writing. His most ambitious project of producing his own journal remained unfulfilled when he died in October 1849. Poe was an intellectual beyond his time. The objectivity and spontaneity found in his prose speak volumes of his imaginative power. As a storyteller, he underscored the importance of discerning the psychological make-up of the characters. Poe insisted on literary autonomy and freedom from intellectual imperatives. His corpus is a testimony of his aesthetics.