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Edgar Allan Poe: Life And Works

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Edgar Allan Poe was a literary genius of his time. His works may seem eccentric but beneath the words and stories lies a solemn, alone boy whose only way of comfort and relief was through his pen. Of the critical reviews I have studied pertaining to Poe, never has such a varied difference of opinions been presented or suggested towards a writer. It is thought that his life had a major influence on his writing and by reading many of his pieces I agree with that statement.

Edgar Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809 to actors Elisabeth Arnold Poe and David Poe Junior. Edgar had a brother Henry, who was a year older than him, and a younger sister, Rosalie. His mother and father separated a couple months after Rosalie's birth. When Edgar was two his mother passed away and a few weeks later his father died as well. As a result, Edgar and his siblings became separated. John Allan took in Edgar where he was christened as Edgar Allan Poe. Three years later the Allan's moved to England where he attended Manor House School for three years. Even though Edgar performed very well in school, he only seemed to remember his school days in London as lonely and unhappy.

After three years, they returned to Virginia but Poe felt abandoned constantly. Mr. Allan was always busy with work and his wife was in a constant state of illness. The Allans never legally adopted Poe; resulting in many cards and greetings sent to the family that would fail to mention Edgar.

When Edgar was a teenager the Allans moved around frequently. In 1822, the family finally settled in Richmond, in a house rented from William Galt. Edgar continued with his education, and by the age of fourteen, he was attending the Academy of Joseph H. Clarke. He did very well academically and the academy not only encouraged his studies but nourished his gift for language. Poe excelled in Latin and French, and at age sixteen he wrote the poem "Oh Tempora! Oh Mores!" While at school Poe excelled at writing by authoring countless numbers of poems. My research indicates that Poe had the potential to publish a book of poetry. For reasons unknown the Academy of Joseph H. Clark was not receptive to this venture and persuaded Poe's stepfather not to entertain such notions. The school also brought out the athlete in Poe. He was a good runner, leaper, boxer, and swimmer and at age sixteen swam six miles in the James River.

Poe was in constant search of a maternal figure. When his family returned to Richmond he was known as Edgar Poe rather then Edgar Allan to put emphasis on the fact that he was not formally adopted. Edgar adored Fanny Allan, but her constant illnesses made her less than an ideal mother.

When Edgar was fourteen he became infatuated with a fellow classmate's mother, Jane Stonard. Whenever he felt discouraged or unhappy he would visit her. He only knew her for a year when suddenly she died of tuberculosis. Edgar was notably affected by her death, and his behavior drastically changed. Conflicts arose at home which resulted in Edgar becoming sulky and ill tempered towards his family. Mr. Allan interpreted Edgar's bad mood as a sign of "thanklessness" for all he had done for Edgar.

On March 26, 1825 William Galt, the owner of the Allan's house, died. The Allans inherited his estate, which equaled to an astounding sum of three fourths of a million dollars including the house and three land estates. Afterwards, John Allan bought a house called Moldavia, which was very impressive and appeared to more of an estate than a house. By this time, Edgar was now sixteen and a half years old. He had finished his early education and was now preparing for the university and his life.

In February of 1826, Edgar enrolled at the University of Virginia. Edgar had high ambitions in the area of languages. His courses included ancient and modern languages including the study of French, Italian, and Spanish. His ability to complete "precisely correct" translations earned him wide acclaim among his professors and peers. During his academic stay at the University, Edgar became a member of the debating club, participated in athletic events as one of the outstanding performers, and continued most importantly to develop as a writer.

Edgar was only a month over seventeen when he began attending the University of Virginia. This was an extremely young age for this period in time when the common age for incoming students was nineteen. Student life for most young men, was often chaotic and sometimes even dangerous. During Edgar's first year a riot occurred in the school whereby masked students threw bricks and bottles at professors. In addition, seven students were expelled for high stakes gambling. Later on, Edgar became a gambler as well. It was at this period, Edgar would repeatedly write to John Allan requesting money in hope of sustaining his gambling desires. John Allen subsequently refused all requests. Edgar blamed his gambling problems on John proclaiming that he needed to gamble as a means of receiving more money. By the time Edgar returned to Richmond, he had debts amounting from $2,000 to $2,500. John Allan refused to pay his debts and elected not to send him back to the University. He required Edgar to work at the Allan's firm for the summer until he paid his debts.

By March of 1827, the strain between the two had climaxed. Edgar moved out, citing that John had misled, restricted, and rejected him. Edgar also overheard John confess he had "little-to-no-affection" towards Edward.

During the time he was separated from John Allan, Edgar began to drink excessively and sometimes took on his brother's identity to mislead his creditors and John. Edgar was in need for money and began to change his attitude in the once hostile letters that he wrote to Mr. Allan. In many ways, he practically begged John for help. The response he received was the original letter returned with "Pretty Letter" written on the back.

Edgar resided in Boston during this time where he published his first book, " Tamerlane and Other Poems". Later that year, Poe enlisted in the army under Edgar Perry. However, his quarrels with John Allan continued. Edgar performed well in the two years he was involved with the army. However, he needed a change.

In 1829, Edgar applied for cadetship at West Point. Before he entered West Point, Edgar wrote another book titled, "Al Araaf, Tamerlane, and minor poems". He received financial aid from his fellow cadets to publish a third edition. Poe called it a second edition and was entitled "Poems by Edgar A. Poe". Famous poems such as "To Helen" and "Israfel" were featured in this book.

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