Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts on 19 January 1809. His parents, both professional actors, died before the poet was three years old, and John and Frances Allan raised him as a foster child in Richmond, Virginia. John Allan, a prosperous tobacco exporter, sent Poe to the best boarding schools and later to the University of Virginia, where Poe excelled academically. However he was forced to leave the university when Allan refused to pay his gambling debts. Poe returned briefly to Richmond, but his relationship with Allan deteriorated. In 1827, he moved to Boston and enlisted in the United States Army. His first collections of poems were published, but they didn't receive significant critical or public attention. Following his Army service, Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy, but he was again forced to leave for lack of financial support. He then moved into the home of his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia in Baltimore, Maryland.
Poe began to sell short stories to magazines at around this time, and, in 1835, he became the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, where he moved with his aunt and cousin Virginia. In 1836, he married Virginia, who was fourteen years old at the time. Over the next ten years, Poe established himself as a poet, a short story writer, and an editor. He published some of his best-known stories and poems, including “The Fall of the House of Usher", "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", "The Oval Portrait", "The Black Cat" and "The Raven". After Virginia’s death from tuberculosis in 1847, Poe’s lifelong struggle with depression and alcoholism worsened. He returned briefly to Richmond in 1849 and then set out for an editing job in Philadelphia. For unknown reasons, he stopped in Baltimore. On 3 October 1849, he was found in a state of semi-consciousness. Poe died four days later of “acute congestion of the brain.” The circumstances of his death remain obscure.
Poe’s work had a profound impact on American and European literature. He was one of the first critics to focus primarily on the effect of style and structure in a literary work. His stories mark him as one of the originators of both horror and detective fiction. Many anthologies credit him as "the father of the modern short story". In his view, a short story can be read "at one sitting", it must develop a single effect and all details that don't bring about that effect should be omitted. As a poet, Poe believed that a poem should not teach, but convey beauty, of which love is the highest expression, in consequence he has been seen as a forerunner to the “art for art’s sake” movement. French Symbolists such as Mallarmé and Rimbaud claimed him as a literary forerunner. Baudelaire spent nearly fourteen years translating Poe into French. Today, Poe is remembered as one of the first American writers to become a major figure in world literature.
Click here to read some of Poe's most famous short stories.
Some useful links to discover Edgar Allan Poe and his stories characterized by an atmosphere of obsessive terror, violent and macabre events, maniac and insane characters: