Sonnet: to Science

Biographical Summary

Edgar Allan Poe
Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe, known as the "Annie" Daguerreotype

Edgar Allan Poe (born Edgar Poe; January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American author, poet, editor, and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story, and is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction.1 He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.2

Born in Boston, Poe was the second child of two actors. His father abandoned the family in 1810, and his mother died the following year. Thus orphaned, the child was taken in by John and Frances Allan, of Richmond, Virginia. Although they never formally adopted him, Poe was with them well into young adulthood. Tension developed later as John Allan and Edgar repeatedly clashed over debts, including those incurred by gambling, and the cost of secondary education for the young man. Poe attended the University of Virginia for one semester but left due to lack of money. Poe quarreled with Allan over the funds for his education and enlisted in the Army in 1827 under an assumed name. It was at this time his publishing career began, albeit humbly, with an anonymous collection of poems, Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), credited only to "a Bostonian". With the death of Frances Allan in 1829, Poe and Allan reached a temporary rapprochement. Later failing as an officer's cadet at West Point and declaring a firm wish to be a poet and writer, Poe parted ways with John Allan.

Poe switched his focus to prose and spent the next several years working for literary journals and periodicals, becoming known for his own style of literary criticism. His work forced him to move among several cities, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City. In Baltimore in 1835, he married Virginia Clemm, his 13-year-old cousin. In January 1845 Poe published his poem, "The Raven", to instant success. His wife died of tuberculosis two years after its publication. For years, he had been planning to produce his own journal, The Penn (later renamed The Stylus), though he died before it could be produced. On October 7, 1849, at age 40, Poe died in Baltimore; the cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other agents.3

Poe and his works influenced literature in the United States and around the world, as well as in specialized fields, such as cosmology and cryptography. Poe and his work appear throughout popular culture in literature, music, films, and television. A number of his homes are dedicated museums today. The Mystery Writers of America present an annual award known as the Edgar Award for distinguished work in the mystery genre.

The content of this biographical summary is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License from the Wikipedia entry for Edgar Allan Poe.

Selected Works

Selected stories, poems, and works by Edgar Allen Poe.
Year Format Title
1845 story "The Black Cat"
1846 story "The Cask of Amontillado"
1845 story "A Descent into the Maelstrom"
1845 story "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar"
1839 story "The Fall of the House of Usher"
1843 story "The Gold-Bug"
1845 story "Hop-Frog"
1850 story "The Imp of the Perverse"
1838 story "Ligeia"
1850 story "The Masque of the Red Death"
1841 story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"
1850 story "The Oval Portrait"
1850 story "The Pit and the Pendulum"
1850 story "The Premature Burial"
1845 story "The Purloined Letter"
1856 story "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether"
1850 story "The Tell-Tale Heart"
1849 poem "Annabel Lee"
1849 poem "The Bells"
1831 poem "The City in the Sea"
1843 poem "The Conqueror Worm"
1850 poem "A Dream Within a Dream"
1849 poem "Eldorado"
1839 poem "The Haunted Palace"
1845 poem "The Raven"
1835 play "Politian"
1838 novel "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket"
1844 hoax "The Balloon-Hoax"
1846 essay "The Philosophy of Composition"
1848 essay "Eureka: A Prose Poem"
1848 essay "The Poetic Principle"
1849 incomplete "The Light-House"