What was Poe's influence on his writing?

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What events in Edgar Allan Poe's life influenced his writing?

-- Anonymous, January 21, 2003


Before I begin to answer the question posed by Tim, may I just say how good it feels to be back amongst you Poe lovers again. For reasons beyond my control, I have, until now, been unable to contribute to this website. I hope that my stay this time is a long and fruitful one.

Now to the matter in hand. Tim asks "What events in E A Poe's life influenced his writing." Well, it seems appropriate to provide the more important biographical details of Poe's life, which may go some way towards answering the question. Here we go:

Poe was born in Boston, in 1809. His parents were the actors David and Elizabeth Arnold Poe. Poe's father abandoned his family when Poe was just an infant. At just three years of age, Poe witnessed his mother's death, who died coughing up blood from tuberculosis.

Poe was then brought up by foster parents Frances and John Allan. To say that Poe's relationship with his foster father was troublesome is an understatement. It seems that Edgar and John quarreled fiercely, often over financial problems (Poe was forced to leave University prematurely through his inability to pay off gambling debts and other debts). The final nail in the coffin must have been after John Allan's death, in March 1834, whereby it was subsequently revealed that Allan had written Edgar out of his will, leaving him not a penny.

Poe had made a life for himself in Baltimore, living with relatives from his father's side of the family: Edgar settled there with his widowed forty-one year old aunt, Maria Clemm (aka "Muddy") and her daughter Virginia (aka "Cissy"). He married Virginia in September, 1834, when she was just 13 years old. The family later moved on to New York and Philadelphia.

-- Anonymous, January 22, 2003

For the next six years, Poe strove to support his family through his writing, though receiving very little money for his efforts. But perhaps the event which came to affect Poe the most was this: around mid-January, 1842, Virginia, whilst singing, started to bleed from her mouth, suffering a haemorrhage from tuberculosis. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that this tragic event must have brought the illness and death of his mother flooding back to him.

Though he gained fame and limited funds with the publication of his poem, "The Raven," in 1844, his worries of the health of his ailing wife, together with the eventual return of his money problems took their inevitable toll on Poe.

Virginia finally died of tuberculosis on 30th January, 1847. Poe was devastated. It seems that Poe searched for a stable relationship, perhaps to ease his grief over the death of his beloved Cissy, mainly through three different women: Sarah Helen Whitman, Annie Richmond and Elmira Shelton. Nothing really came of these attempts though, and, at one point, he even attempted to commit suicide by taking an overdose of laudanum.

-- Anonymous, January 22, 2003

In 1849, Poe suffered periods of illness, aggravatedby heavy bouts of drinking. Though he was engaged to be married (to Shelton), on the 27th, September, 1849, Poe left Richmond and nothing is known of his whereabouts over the next week. On October 3rd, he was seen in a tavern in Baltimore in a very bad state, raggedly dressed and semi- conscious. He was taken to a hospital where, for four days, he lay in a state of delirium, ranting at imaginary figures. Tragically, Edgar Allan Poe died in hospital on Sunday morning, 7th October, 1849. He was only forty years old.

Well, there you go, Tim Jensen. I hope that this brief summary of main events in Poe's life helps you answer your question, though much has been left unsaid. I would invite you to read up on Poe's life and works. I have gathered some of the information for this posting from the following references, which you may find useful:

- "Edgar Allan Poe: Bloom's Major Poets," (ed.) Harold Bloom, (Pennsylvania: Chelsea House Publishers, 1999).

- "Edgar Allan Poe: Bloom's Major Short Story Writers," (ed.) Harold Bloom, (Pennsylvania: Chelsea House Publishers, 1999).

- "New Essays on Poe's Major Tales," (ed.) Kenneth Silverman, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

Of course there are many more references which you can consult. Look in your library or bookshops, or alternatively on the web. Good luck with Poe.

With kind compliments,


P.S.: Sorry I had to post this answer in three parts, but it wouldn't allow me to do it all in one go.

-- Anonymous, January 22, 2003

Could fortunato be edgar allan poe's stepfather?

-- Anonymous, November 14, 2004

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