Poe’s best known works of fiction are in the Gothic style, a genre followed to satisfy the taste of the public, forerunner of horror literature. Most of his recurring themes have to do with death , especially that of a loved woman: its physical signs , the effects of decomposition , the worry of a burial while alive, the resuscitation of corpses , the macabre , the most atavistic fears and mourning. In many cases the horror or disquiet does not arise from displayed violence or true unequivocal supernatural or paranormal events but from mental illnesses and phobias of the protagonist, or from terrifying real events or unusual things for which Poe is also a precursor of the psychological novel genre. Many of his works are generally considered to be part of the genre of dark romanticism.

Biography

Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, to David Poe and Elizabeth Arnold, wandering actors of modest economic conditions. The father leaves the family when Edgar is still small; when his mother died shortly after, he was adopted unofficially by John Allan, a rich merchant from Virginia. Hence the addition of the surname Allan to the original one.

Having moved to London for commercial reasons, the young Poe attended private schools and then returned to Richmond in 1820. In 1826 he enrolled at the University of Virginia where, however, he began to add gambling to his studies. Having become indebted in an unusual way, the stepfather refuses to pay the debts forcing him to abandon his studies to look for a job and meet the numerous expenses. From that moment on, strong misunderstandings begin between the two, leading the future writer to leave home to reach Boston, and from there join the army.

In 1829 he published anonymously “Tamerlane and other poems”, and with his name “Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and minor poems”. At the same time, he left the army and moved to relatives in Baltimore.

In 1830 he enrolled in the West Point military academy but was soon expelled for disobeying orders. In these years Poe continues to write satirical verses. In 1832 the first successes as a writer arrived which led him in 1835 to obtain the direction of the “Southern Literary Messenger” of Richmond.

The adoptive father dies without leaving any inheritance to the godson.

Shortly after, at the age of 27, Edgar Allan Poe marries his cousin Virginia Clemm, not yet 14 years old. This is a period in which he publishes countless articles, stories and poems, without however obtaining great earnings.

In search of better luck he decides to move to New York. From 1939 to 1940 he was editor of “Gentleman’s magazine”, while at the same time his “Tales of the grotesque and arabesque” came out, which brought him considerable fame.

His skills as an editor were such that every time he landed on a newspaper, he doubled or quadrupled its sales. In 1841 he goes to direct “Graham’s magazine”. Two years later, his wife Virginia’s poor health and work difficulties lead him to devote himself to drinking with increasing fury and, despite the publication of new stories, his economic conditions are always precarious.

In 1844 Poe begins the series of “Marginalia”, the “Tales” come out and gets great success with the poem “The Raven”. Things seemed to be going well, especially when in 1845 he became first editor, then owner of the “Broadway Journal”.

However, his reputation was soon compromised by accusations of plagiarism, leading Edgar Allan Poe to a deep nervous depression which, combined with economic difficulties, led him to stop publishing his newspaper.

He moved to Fordham, seriously ill and in conditions of poverty, he continued to publish articles and stories even though he never achieved real fame at home; his name instead begins to get noticed in Europe and especially in France.

In 1847 Virginia’s death marked a heavy relapse in Poe’s health, which however did not deter him from continuing to write. His dedication to alcoholism reaches the limit: found semi-unconscious and delusional in Baltimore, Edgar Allan Poe dies on October 7, 1849.

Works

Despite the troubled and disordered life, Poe’s work constitutes a surprisingly large corpus: at least 70 short stories, one of which as long as a novel – The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket – about 50 poems, at least 800 pages of critical articles (a considerable amount of reviews that makes him one of the most mature literary critics of the time), some essays – The Philosophy of Composition (1846), The Rationale of Verse (1848) and The Poetic Principle (1849) – and a poem in prose of high Philosophy – Eureka (1848) – in which the author tries to demonstrate, with the help of Physics and Astronomy, the approach and identification of ‘Man with God.

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Edgar Allan Poe
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