Edgar Allan Poe was an American poet, short story writer, editor and critic and one of the leaders of the American Romantics.
He is best known for his Tales of the macabre and his Poems, as well as being one of the early practitioners of the short story and a progenitor of detective fiction, as well as crime fiction in the United States. He is also often credited with inventing the gothic fiction story. Poe died at the age of 40, the cause of his death a final mystery. His exact burial location is also a source of controversy.
Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was born to a Scots-Irish family in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of actress Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and actor David Poe, Jr. His father abandoned the family in 1810, and his mother died of tuberculosis when he was only two, so Poe was taken into the home of John Allan, a successful tobacco merchant in Richmond, Virginia. Although his middle name is often misspelled as "Allen," it is actually "Allan" after this family. After attending the Misses Duborg boarding school in London and Manor School in Stoke Newington, London, England, Poe moved back to Richmond, Virginia, with the Allans in 1820. After serving an apprenticeship in Pawtucket, Poe registered at the University of Virginia in 1826, but only stayed there for one year. He was estranged from his foster father at some point in this period over gambling debts Poe had acquired while trying to get more spending money, and so Poe enlisted in the United States Army as a private using the name Edgar A. Perry on May 26, 1827. That same year, he released his first book, Al Aaraf. As per his foster mother's deathwish, Poe reconciled with his foster father, who coordinated an appointment for him to the United States Military Academy at West Point. His time at West Point was ill-fated, however, as Poe supposedly deliberately disobeyed orders and was dismissed. After that, his foster father repudiated him until his death on March 27, 1834.
Poe next moved to Baltimore, Maryland with his widowed aunt, Maria Clemm, and her daughter, Virginia. Poe used fiction writing as a means of supporting himself, and in December 1835, Poe began editing the Southern Literary Messenger for Thomas W. White in Richmond.
Tales Of the Grotesque and Arabesque was published in two volumes. Though not a financial success, it was a milestone in the history of American literature. Poe left Burton's after about a year and found a position as assistant editor at Graham's Magazine.
One day while Virginia Clemm, who had a lovely voice, was singing for Poe, she coughed and a tiny drop of blood appeared on her lip. It was the first sign of tuberculosis that would make her an invalid and eventually take her life. Poe began to drink more heavily under the stress of Virginia's illness. He left Graham's and attempted to find a new position, for a time angling for a government post. He returned to New York, where he worked briefly at the Evening Mirror before becoming editor of the Broadway Journal. There he became involved in a noisy public feud with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. On January 29, 1845, his poem The Raven appeared in the Evening Mirror and became a popular sensation.
The Broadway Journal failed in 1846. Poe moved to a cottage in the Fordham, The Bronx, New York. The Poe Cottage is on the south-east corner of the Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge Road and is open to the public. Virginia died there in 1847. Increasingly unstable after his wife's death, Poe attempted to court the poet Sarah Helen Whitman. Their engagement failed, purportedly because of Poe's drinking and erratic behavior; however, there is also strong evidence that Miss Whitman's mother intervened and did much to derail their relationship. According to Poe's own account, he attempted suicide during this period by overdosing on laudanum. He then returned to Richmond and resumed a relationship with a childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster, who, by that time, was a widow.
On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore, delirious and "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance," according to the man who found him. He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died early on the morning of October 7. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition, and wearing clothes that were not his own. Some sources say Poe's final words were "It's all over now; write 'Eddy is no more'." referring to his tombstone. Others say his last words were "Lord, help my poor soul."