What was Poe's mental status?

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I am writing a story, a type of historical fiction piece, about Poe and how what I see him as when he wrote his pieces... I have heard that Poe was inflicted with Bipolar Disorder. Is this true? What is all that is known on Poe's mental status?

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2003


Analysis from afar without reference to his literary poses and the times is very tricky. Also Poe was rather reticent about intimate details of his life however deep his personal poetic sentiments were. That too was not uncommon for the times. The Gothic was in its heyday and not an "obsession" of poe alone. In fact he tends to be rational and champion the rational over the supernatural, restricting his use of the outlandish shock schlock to symbolism and suggestivity and the [purely psychological. When you come at it the other way and say he wrote this because he was crazy trying to rationally express himself you usually get the cart before the horse. His personal image after "The Raven" gave him a cult persona he was not too comfortable with. His life tragedies and orphaning coupled with alcoholism and poverty colored a natural poetic spirit very deeply probed in such poems as "The Lake". Yet he had regular literary life, married life, social life which innocent or unruly genius shared the stage with very rational wit and wisdom. As with anyone with a persona you have to read widely and dispassionately to get to the person. Actually, since Poe does little autobiography perhaps a contemporary journey in "On Writing; A Memoir of the Craft" by Stephen King(audiobook version even better) will help you see what it is all about in the author's eyes. I don't think Poe had overcome his addiction enough to be retospective about it, though he would agree that a troubled mind and substance abuse are not a direct source of good literary creation.

-- Anonymous, September 16, 2003

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