Biography of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Edgar Allan Poe

Poet, Narrator, journalist and American essayist born in Boston (in the State of Massachusetts) on January 19, 1809, and died in Baltimore (Maryland) in 1849. Exponent of romanticism in American letters, left a splendid creative production and a lucid theoretical work that anticipated, with astounding precocity, some of the great movements and currents of the letters and the universal arts, as the assimilation of the symbolism in the poetic discourse, or the rise of the novel and the genres of mystery and terror in the prose of fiction. In spite of these great insights and the indisputable quality of his writings in verse and prose, the work of Edgar Allan Poe was not well understood by his fellow countrymen until many years after his tragic and premature disappearance, some of the large European Symbolist writers (with the French Baudelaire, Mallarmé and Valéry at the head) claimed their dazzling achievements; in the 20th century, studies that other poets and conspicuous critics dedicated to him (as Thomas Stearns Eliot and Allen Tate), together with the interest aroused his figure and his work among followers of Freud psychoanalysts (including own disciple of the Viennese master, Marie Bonaparte, or the famous French psychiatrist Jacques Lacan), definitely contributed to Edgar Allan Poe to the category of universal archetype of the romantic writer tormented and grimprecursor of the decadent figure of the cursed poet that abound in Europe at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the following century.


Born into an unconventional family - his parents were a few modest Street comedians-, with just two years of age began to experiment, as a result of abandonment that was subjected by his father, the long series of misfortunes and difficulties that would apply to its short and painful existence. Foster, then, in the home of a wealthy merchant of Richmond (Virginia) who don't even bother to legally formalize its adoption, had a childhood sad and traumatic, affected by the rancor that produced him the memory of his father and the obsessive recurrence, in their subconscious, of the figure of his mother, died when the small Edgar was still a young child. Throughout his life, this maternal absence tormented him until the end of fix in his mind the idea that beauty and goodness were inevitably destined to an early demise.

In 1815, when Edgar Allan had six years of age, John Allan - your Pilgrim agent and old friend of his parents moved to England, where the future writer began to receive elementary academic training that, five years later, with his already back in the United States of America, he/she completed in secondary schools in Richmond. It was, by that time of your returned to his native country, the year of 1820, date in which a young Edgar Allan just eleven years already showed a remarkable predisposition towards the study of that classical culture that had known during his tenure in the classroom English and Scottish. The intellectual skills of the boy - who, at the time who was interested by these humanistic studies, began to show a marked inclination towards the cultivation of literary creation - did not pass unnoticed to John Allan, who facilitated his entry into the University of Virginia; but already by then the Bohemian and dissipated life of the young had generated rough friction between him and his adoptive father, who decided to not take care of the huge gambling debts incurred by the future writer. So things, Edgar Allan Poe was forced to leave the University classroom when just wearing a year on them.

After the final rupture with his family for adoption, young Poe - already immersed in a hectic spiral of game and alcohol which, ultimately, would accelerate its dramatic end - he/she moved to Boston and began frequenting artistic and intellectual circles of his hometown, where soon came to be known as a poet through the publication of Tamerland and other poems (Tamerlane and other poems1827), debut in which was displayed as a romantic poet unambiguously European (to be exact, of accused byroniana filiation) and, in a way, as this strange and rootless minstrel who thought he/she saw in the American Society of his time, which never came to be accepted as a writer himself (assessed you, rather, in life with the contempt that the Americans then reserved to culture and customs from Europe).

Pleased with this image of damned poet who was consolidating, Edgar Allan Poe decided to flee the literary forums and social life in Boston to enlist, at the end of the 1920s, in the army of his nation. In 1830, his passage by the severe and prestigious military Academy of West Point was as fleeting as expected in a confused and tormented personality like yours, since a few weeks after he/she was expelled for serious disciplinary offences. Truncated, so his passing military vocation, returned to surrender fully to the cultivation of literary creation, now attracted by the complex genre of the short story, which would soon provide some of the masterpieces of world literature.

Installed, now in Baltimore, in the mid-1930s coincided the appearance of his first stories in the Rotary Courier with the arrival to the city of his aunt Maria Clemm and her young daughter, Virginia. By then, the Brahmin author earned his life as a journalist, in a relatively stable professional situation which was braced in 1835 by joining as an editor on the template of the Southern Literary Mesenger. The following year, Edgar Allan Poe married his cousin Virginia Clemm, who at the time had not yet reached fifteen years of age, and surrendered to a fruitful period of literary creation in which he/she wrote some of his best short stories and poems, published in newspapers and magazines and collected, from 1840, in some of his most celebrated books by critics and readers.

Lived, meanwhile, benefits that produced him his journalistic articles, his writings of literary criticism and its tales of fiction, some of which won him, in the 1940s, not only fame and prestige as creator, but also delicious dividends - thus, v. gr., The gold bug (the gold bug, 1843); However, its hopeless inclination to drink and his tendency to fall into the claims of the game led to marriage Poe to pass large deprivation over long periods, without the considerable sums of money received by the writer in various moments of his career were enough to cover him hauling his disorderly life. At the time who wrote some of the most outstanding works of American letters of all time, Edgar Allan Poe accused each time with greater virulence the pernicious effect of trauma and the obsessions that accompanied him from childhood, seriously aggravated, since its entry into adulthood, for troubled concerns of existential nature.

In the midst of this dangerous mental instability, the catalyst that precipitated its rapid collapse was the premature death of his wife, disappeared in 1847 when he/she was just a quarter-century of existence. Desolate by this painful loss - which came to increase their suffering by also early disappearance of his mother - the Brahmin poet was absorbed into the apex of this chaotic spiral that drove him inexorably toward its own destruction. His ongoing obsessions, aggravated by the consumption of alcohol, degenerated into terrible hallucinations which, in turn, pushed him towards the loneliness and self-pity; until more and more away from the world and locked up alone with his own demons, at dawn, on a cold day of October 1849 appeared meaningless on a street in Baltimore, which had been laying the night before, victim of a delirium tremens caused by drink. Transferred to a hospital in the city of Maryland, he/she lost his life a few days, under the fulminant effect of a stroke.



In his capacity as poet, writer of Boston was unveiled, as already noted above, through romantic compositions of Tamerland and other poems (1827), clearly debtors of the poetry of Lord Byron to the young Edgar Allan had had the opportunity to meet during their prolonged stay on British soil (1815-1820). Would still be several years before Poe you will find your own, personal and authentic poetic voice, as it became clear in after the publication of Poems: Second Edition (poems: Second Edition, 1831), in which influences from the contemporary English poets is not reduced to the Byronic legacy, but that they also cover the production of other universal masters of romanticism, as Percy Bysshe Shelley.

It came in the wake of the publication of The Raven and other poems (the Raven and other poems, 1845) when Edgar Allan Poe, already consecrated as a great prose writer, established the basis for an original poetry that, at the end of the time, would be studied as the most important American poetry of the 19th century until the emergence of Walt Whitman. In the long composition that gives title to this volume - conceived, as the rest of his great poetic creations, as a combination of lyrical speech with narrative-, Boston poet left captured a complex interior drama which, in its richness and thematic variety, includes real elements from the outside, psychological ingredients of the characters and shady supernatural strokes, allowing the reader to opt for a valuable multiplicity of readings ranging from the literal meaning of the story narrated to the suggestions given by the symbolic nature of some of the materials used in the construction of the poem. It arose as well in "The Raven", for the first time in the literature written in the English language, a new literary meaning of the linguistic signs that, halfway between the representation and the suggestion, I was anticipating that symbolism that, already in the second half of the 19th, would explode with remarkable success some French poets.

Identical features reappear in other poems of Edgar Allan Poe, among which must be stressed some jewels of lyric universal such as "Ulalume" (1847) and "Annabel Lee" (1849), as well as other relevant compositions such as "Eulalia", "To Helen" or "The Valley of unrest". In General, it should be remembered that all these lyrical creations of the Brahmin author not deserved praise from the Anglo-Saxon criticism, that initially rebuked Poe his quest constant - and sometimes, perhaps somewhat forced - musicality and its excess of narrative artifice in the invention ("defects" that, on the other hand, were ushering what then are some of the greatest "virtues" of modernism). However, after the translations carried out by the aforementioned French Stéphane Mallarmé in the second half of the 19th century, both the North American and European criticism surrendered to evidence that rigorous and accurate verbal architecture of the poems of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as its extraordinary evocative force, had some of the busiest trails then traced by poets from around the world.

Prose fiction

The only extensive novel written by who would prove to be one of the great universal masters in the technique of the short story is entitled The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (the narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, 1838). It is the relationship of a maritime journey in search of the South Pole, argument, basically, it wasn't but a pretext for Poe put into practice one of their most famous theoretical considerations about literary (and, in general, of artistic creation itself): art or, in other words free ofthat of writing as a device that creates a space in which the literature is not a means but an end in itself. Thus, large doses of imagination expressed in the plot of this novel were put to the service of the semantic universe that Poe is beginning to create, in which their recurrent literary themes and his personal psychic obsessions soon would set up an alphabet of signs of more varied provenance (the universal myths, individual ghosts of the author, the tradition of the previous fantastic literature(, etc.), which would appear in the eyes of the reader as the only vehicle capable of expressing that world of nightmare and horror that seemed to be the writer immersed. Such shoring of a symbolic code itself is well patent, within his only novel, the effects caused by an earthquake on an island, in whose surface are terrible chasms that reproduce in its haphazard layout, the characters of the Latin alphabet.

This procedure which characters, spaces and situations become signs of a new language of the unfathomable mystery of the horror and the uncharted depths of the psyche will give sense to all the narrative production of Edgar Allan Poe, present again on the shelves of American bookstores under the title of Tales of the grotesque am the arabesque (tales of the grotesque and the Arabesque (Philadelphia1840). Between the pages of this collection of novellas appeared some of the most famous tales of the writer of Boston, who, a few years later, offer a personal relationship of his stories that he/she considered best. Following his own cataloging, between its tales of terror should highlight the graduates "Ligeia", "William Wilson", "The tell - tale heart" ("the tell-tale heart"), "The black cat" ("the black cat") and "The fall of the house of Usher" ("the fall of the House of Usher"), the latter considered as one of the most horrific stories of English literature. In it, a personaje-narrador has his visit to the House of his friend, Roderick Usher, who, surrounded by a truly creepy atmosphere, lives with his sister, lady Madeline, who is affected by a terrible and mysterious evil. When the woman dies, he/she is buried in a niche that is practiced in the walls of the sinister mansion, in the midst of nervous agitation of his brother, increasingly closer to madness. After a few days, in the middle of a violent storm, is lady Madeline scared of his brother and the narrator's eyes, to tell them that he/she has escaped from a grave where he/she had been buried alive. The two brothers die, dams of the terror, and the Narrator flees terrified of a ghastly mansion which collapses behind him. Theme of this nature, ingredients from the best tradition of the English gothic novel and some fantastic stories of the German Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, contributed to disseminate, among critics and the American readers, the image of a Europeanized Edgar Allan Poe and, thus, far removed from the culture and the local literary tastes.

In the list of the best stories that, according to its own criteria of reading, had emerged from his pen, Brahmin author established a second section of police stories, in which it is obliged to stop now to analyze the remarkable figure of Auguste Dupin, the investigador-artista created by Edgar Allan Poe, mythified immediately by the readers more intelectualizados, and currently considered to be the first great detective of the modern detective novel. In "Murders in the Rue Morgue" ("crimes of the Morgue Street"), "The purloined letter" ("the purloined letter") and "The mystery of María Roget", the Narrator is one of the faithful friends of Dupin, "little business" mind that man as well as give rise to another paradigmatic figures of the genre (the friend/comparsa which stunned assists the deductive ability of the researcher and then recounts his exploits)you are building a lengthy and tedious monologue that highlights, by contrast, the intellectual capacity of the real protagonist of the stories. From a strictly chronological criteria, the Knight Auguste Dupin is the first myth of the detective genre; and, although the emergence of new fictional heroes from the deduction has significantly lowered its popularity, it can be said that, for many years, he/she was one of the characters that contributed decisively to provide considerable intellectual prestige to the narrative focused on the world of crime. Furthermore - and aside from the decisive contribution that it involves the construction of this paradigmatic character, Edgar Allan Poe left codified some of the topics and motifs that would soon define all in one of the most popular genres of world literature: a detective or researched that it acts according to a deductive procedure; innocent characters who, for much of the work, ranks first on its serious figures suspect; a crime committed in a room closed and reduced, in that it seems impossible that it can be given a criminal situation; etc.

Another category established by the narrator of Boston when selecting their best short stories was that of the metaphysical story, which stressed the importance of the story entitled "A descent into the Maelstrom" ("a descent into the Maelstrom"). In this little gem of universal brief narrative, Poe recounts the overwhelming experience of a sailor that shipwrecked off the coast of Norway and is absorbed by a giant Eddy called Maelstrom. While it manages to survive thanks to the serenity that had maintained when tethered to an empty barrel, the horror that has caused him the contemplation of the sea depths has become an old man weak, cringing and gray.

In addition to these tales whose literary quality was highlighted by its own author, is worth remembering other tales of Edgar Allan Poe as worthy of praise as "The man of the crowd" ("the man of the crowd"), where the intuitions of the writer from Boston about the future life are enlightening in big cities, or "The devil in the belfry" ("the devil in the belfry")where the prose of Poe returns to achieve levels rarely crowned by Gothic narrative. Impressive and daunting up to your last line can tilt also "well and the pendulum", in which American author moved to their characters until a Spain dominated and terrorized by the Inquisition, to relate a complacency that could be described as sadistic torture that is undergoing a man who has been condemned by the religious court (on the floor of the Dungeon opens a well that is about to swallow the defendant; on the ceiling hangs a pendulum that is, in fact, a sharp oscillating blade that is gradually gaining ground towards the troubled protagonist; the cell walls become incandescent and begin to approach each other, reducing free space remaining to the sentenced person; etc.). And has also caused fear to several generations of readers "The mask of the Red death", a story from classical resonances in which Poe taunts the desperate attempts of the Prince Prospero - who has locked up with a thousand people in a fortified Abbey which appears invulnerable - to escape the threat of plague (or "red death"); when danger appears to have passed, the Prince organizes in the Abbey a lavish masquerade ball where, in the middle of gloomy figures, appears in person the Red death to take the Prince and razing its shelter, where no one is alive.

Criticism and essay

In his role as critic and essayist, Edgar Allan Poe left printed a series of studies that, largely, they sat some of the most important bases upon which came to affirm the contemporary literary criticism. Thus, v. gr., author of Boston insisted on the need that the literary critic adhere to the study of the work in question and support his judgments, against the dominant trends at the time, that abused the relationship between work and biography of the author, and imposed criteria which, in most cases, only responding to arbitrary tastes of every critic. But above this innovative guidelines, Poe lashed out with unique virulence the romantic myth of inspiration, which was then rendered homage to the creative spontaneity of poets, storytellers and playwrights. To the amazement of his colleagues (both those who shared their creative inclinations and who were, like him, criticism), Edgar Allan Poe led an aesthetic running provocative defending the possibility of constructing a text literary inspiration back, or, said otherwise, working each of their parts as well as working on an assembly linewhich throughout the production process follows expected steps which, previously, have been considered the final result and the needs of the consumer (in this case, the reader of the work).

To authorize these radical aesthetic postulates (which caused dismay among those who were pondering the supremacy of inspiration and genius haphazard and chaotic), Poe did not hesitate to offer one of the most widespread critical texts - The Philosophy of Composition (the philosophy of composition, 1845) - a detailed explanation of the steps which he/she had followed to compose one of his most famous works, the poem "The Raven"; and although these revelations caused a deep confusion among those who refused to accept that a work of art of such quality could have been elaborated following a creative process so mechanical in his time, the truth is that, from then on, critics and creators began to doubt the real responsibility for abduction of inspiration in the final outcome of the work.

Before the publication of the philosophy of composition, the ill-fated American writer already is had premiered as a theoretician of literature in numerous criticisms appeared in newspapers and magazines, as well as the essay volume entitled The rational of see (Foundation of the verse, 1843). Other considerations himself referred to the establishment saw the light under the titles of Marginalia and Eureka (1848), as well as in the posthumous book The poetic principle (the poetic principle, 1850).