A common misconception of Poe's literary work is that it was just a bunch of creepy things written by a creepy guy. Poe is often described as a degenerate drunk and opium fiend, but readers would be shocked on how many great writers were either one or both of those things. Edgar Allan Poe was not so much a creepy guy as he was one that was plagued by misfortune at every turn of his life. However, it is through his torturous life and misfortune that we as readers owe a debt of gratitude for the pinnacle of gothic horror literature. Hemmingway once said that the key to good writing was to just sit down and bleed, and it can be said that Poe did that all through his life and writing.
Edgar Allan Poe was born to actors Elizabeth and David Poe in 1809, he was the middle child of three, which as every middle child knows is a position set for suffering. However, his life could have been all together different, even pleasant if not for what transpired. David Poe ran off in 1810 and his mother died of consumption in 1811. Consumption is now commonly referred to a pulmonary tuberculosis, which ran rampant at the time and was horribly contagious. Tuberculosis is something that followed Poe around throughout his life, though never infected him. It just took a lot of those he loved.
Effectively orphaned by his birth parents, the Poe children were split up among relatives and adoptive parents. Poe was sent to live with the Allan family, of which, John Allen was a wealthy Scottish merchant. While the Allen's were Poe's "foster" family, they never formally adopted him. Poe's time spent living with the Allen's is like the first few chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, without out the wondrous magic school that came and saved the day. Poe was neglected by his father figure John Allen, but remarked his foster mother was at least pleasant to him. John Allen did not only neglect Poe emotionally, but he spoiled his foster brother rotten right in front of Poe.
When Poe finally went off to school, John Allen did not allow him any money or supplies, this caused Poe to resort to gambling to get by. However after several desperate letters, John Allen did cave in and send Poe a few clothes and money, this however did not begin to cover Poe's gambling debts.
Poe, much like many a man and woman do, joined the military just to get by. All through his schooling and military service, Poe continued to write and send his works to local newspapers and journals, but nothing really came from it.
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Before Poe went off to school, he fell in love with a young Sarah Elmira Royster. However, when he went off to school she married another. It may sound as though she was just not into him, but her meddling father had burned all Poe's letters to her, effectively making her think he had forgotten her. Due to her father's meddling, she married a wealthier man who could provide for her. She bore that man two children before he died in 1844. She was left a large estate on the condition that she did not remarry. She and Poe did become engaged, however he died before he could marry her.
During a time where his foster father was ignoring his pleading letters, Poe's foster mother took ill and died in 1829. His foster father neglected to write him of the news or invite him to the funeral, the only way Poe found out was when he came to visit. Now he become devoid of any parental sort of figure in his life.
Several years after his foster mother's death, John Allen remarried. His new wife found out that John Allen had many a bastard child running around from his affairs. This led to Poe's foster family disowning him, even though he was never formally adopted. When john Allen did eventually die, the inheritance money was split among all his children, illegitimate or not, however Poe received nothing.
After being disowned, Poe sought solace with his older brother Henry who was being raised by his Aunt. Henry, much like Poe, had a terrible drinking habit. This drinking habit would claim his older brother's life in 1831, after which, the author sobered up a bit and focused more on his writing. Though his drinking problem still flared up from time to time ruining his jobs and love life.
Edgar Allan Poe married once in his life. While staying with relatives, he became smitten with his 13 year old cousin Virginia Clemm. They married in secret, lying about her age and saying she was 21. Poe was 26 at the time. During his marriage to Virginia was perhaps the only time Poe had both happiness and literary success. However, one day, his dear wife coughed up blood. This was a surefire sign of tuberculosis. After her death in 1847, Poe's drinking flared up and he was to never recover from the depression.
After Virginia's death, Poe briefly became engaged to the poet Sarah Helen Whitman, hoping that two literary souls could find happiness together. However, his drinking had became so bad, she broke off the engagement. He then took to courting aforementioned Sarah Elmira Royster.
However, before he could marry his childhood sweetheart, Poe died. The death certificate for Edgar Allan Poe is long lost so the circumstances of his death are rather mysterious. Poe disappeared for a few days, ended up deranged and delirious on the streets of Baltimore and was taken to the hospital where he later died. His last words, though probably garbled by hallucinations and other deranged thoughts were, "Lord help my poor soul."
However, his hardships did not end in his death as they should have. After he died his literary rival Rufus Griswold decided it would be fun to sully his name after Poe's death. Griswold wrote Poe's obituary and biography and filled them with all sorts of slanderous and outrageous lies. All this because Poe had written bad criticism about Griswold's works. Of course, Poe's friends who knew him better corrected all this and Griswold will forever go down in history as a petty begrudged slander fiend.