- He was born on 19th January 1809 in Boston to David Poe (American lawyer/actor) and Eliza Poe (English actress). He was named after the manager of the theatrical troupe that his parents were a part of. He had an older brother Henry and a younger sister Rosalie.
- Loneliness, despair and poverty were key themes throughout Poe’s life, as his father abandoned them when he was barely two years old. Left to raise three children on her own, Eliza succumbed to tuberculosis and died in 1811; the first of many deaths that would affect Poe’s work.
- He was adopted by the wealthy Black family soon after his mother’s death. His time with them was to be his happiest until the death of his adoptive mother. An estrangement with his adoptive father meant he would yet again be alone in the world.
- His first work to be published was Tamerlane and Other Poems in 1827 when he was serving as a soldier. It was penned under the name of ‘a Bostonian’. Fifty copies were sold.
- He was known as a ‘Magazinist’ in his lifetime, as he spent most of his career writing and editing various publications including Gentlemen’s Magazine and the Southern Literary Messenger. Subsequently he was fired from all his posts because of his severe drinking problem.
- He married his 14-year-old cousin, Virginia, in the spring of 1836. He lied about her age, saying she was 21. She too would die of tuberculosis in 1847 aged 25, the same age as Poe’s mother. The only remaining portrait of Virginia is a watercolour that was painted immediately after her death.
- Almost all his close relatives and friends died by consumption including his mother, brother, adoptive mother, wife and two previous lovers. It was called the ‘family disease’. As a result, most of his short stories such as The Fall of the House of Usher contain female characters that are plagued by unknown illnesses.
- He is hailed as the father of the detective fiction genre with his creation of Auguste C. Dupin in 1841. The Murders in the Rue Morgue is his most popular collection of such stories. The term ‘Detective fiction’ however was not coined until 1843, and Poe described it as ‘ratiocination’.
- Edgar Allan Poe died on 7th October under mysterious circumstances. His death is a case that has never been resolved as he died in the grip of a delirium after being found by his relatives. He had been missing for some days in Baltimore while trying to get subscriptions for his new periodical the Stylus. His funeral was attended by only four people. To this day, Poe’s death is still debated.
- In 2009, after 160 years, Edgar Allen Poe was given a proper ceremony. The event was attended by hundreds of fans from all over the world. Like most artists, Poe was never sufficiently appreciated during his life. However in death he found the fame he so thirsted after.
To read the works of Edgar Allan Poe online for free, you can visit classiclit.about.com.