Edgar Allan Poe, an American author, born in Boston, Feb. 19, 1809, died in Baltimore, Oct. 7, 1849. His father was the son of a distinguished officer in the revolutionary army, and was educated for the law; but becoming enamored of a beautiful English actress named Elizabeth Arnold, he married her, abandoned his profession, and went himself on the stage. The couple led a wandering life for a few years, and died within a very short time of each other, leaving three young children entirely destitute. Edgar, the second child, was a remarkably bright and beautiful boy, and was adopted by John Allan, a wealthy citizen of Richmond, who had no children of his own. He was educated with great care, and at the age of seven was sent to a school at Stoke Newington, near London, where he remained five or six years. After his return home he resided with the Allans at Richmond for three or four years, pursuing his studies under private tutors. In 1826 he entered the university of Virginia at Charlottesville, where he excelled in his studies and was always at the head of his class. At the end of a year he quitted the university, deeply involved in debt, chiefly incurred at the gaming table.
For a year or two he now remained quietly at home; the story of his having gone to Greece to fight the Turks has no other foundation than the fact that his elder brother, who had gone to sea, got into some trouble with the police at St. Petersburg, from which he was rescued by the American minister. In 1829 Poe published at Baltimore his first volume of poems, "Al Aaroof, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems," which attracted no attention, and, as his latest biographer, Mr. Stoddard, says, was not "a remarkable production for a young gentleman of 20." Subsequently Poe attempted to make the public believe that he was only 15 when the poems were written. Poe now desired to adopt the army as a profession, and Mr. Allan applied in his behalf to Gen. Scott, Chief Justice Marshall, and other powerful friends, through whose influence a cadetship was procured for him in the military academy at "West Point. Here he totally neglected his studies, drank to excess, and was court-mar-tialled and expelled, March 6, 1831. He now published by subscription, the subscribers being chiefly cadets, a new edition of his former volume, to which he added a few new poems. He returned to Richmond, and was again kindly received by Mr. Allan, who in the mean time had become a widower and had married a second wife.
To this lady, who was young and handsome, Poe's conduct was such that Mr. Allan was forced to turn him out of doors; and dying soon after, in 1834, he left a will in which Poe's name was not mentioned. Thus thrown upon his own resources, Poe devoted himself to literature for a profession. Failing at first to earn a living by this means, he enlisted as a private soldier. He was soon recognized by officers who had known him at West Point, and they exerted themselves to procure his discharge, but he is said to have deserted before the application succeeded. Mr. Stoddard discredits this story, but has not been able to ascertain many facts of Poe's life for the two years following his expulsion from West Point. In 1833, the publisher of a literary journal at Baltimore having offered a prize of $100 for a tale in prose, and the same sum for a poem, Poe became a competitor and won both prizes. John P. Kennedy, one of the committee who made the award, furnished him with means of support and procured him employment as editor of the " Southern Literary Messenger " at Richmond. In this he labored for some time with industry, and wrote many tales and reviews; but at length his old habits returned, and after a debauch he quarrelled with the publisher and was dismissed.
He married while in Richmond his cousin Virginia Clemm, a young girl as destitute as himself, and in January, 1837, removed to New York, where he lived precariously by writing for the periodicals, and in 1838 published a fiction entitled " The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym." In 1839 he went to Philadelphia and became editor of Burton's " Gentleman's Magazine." In this post he continued for a year, frequently quarrelling with Burton, who was at length forced to dismiss him. -He next became editor of " Graham's Magazine," but in little more than a year quarrelled with the publisher and abandoned his post. He published about this time " Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque " (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1840). He next went to New York, where, in February, 1845, he published in the "American Review" the poem of " The Raven," which made him favorably known. For a time he was employed by N. P. Willis and George P. Morris as sub-editor of the " Mirror," which post he gave up to become associated with Mr. C. F. Briggs in editing the "Broadway Journal;" but this association soon ended, and Poe continued the journal to the end of the second volume, when it stopped; and he was soon reduced to such straits that public appeals for pecuniary aid were made in his behalf by the newspapers.
He was living at this time in a cottage at Ford-ham, Westchester co., N. Y. His wife died in January, 1848. In that year he-published "Eureka, a Prose Poem," in which he endeavored to elaborate a system of cosmogony. In 1849 he went to Richmond, and there formed an engagement with a lady of considerable fortune. The day was appointed for their marriage, and on Oct. 2 he started for New York, to make preparations for his wedding. At Baltimore he met some of his former boon companions, spent a night in drinking, was found in the morning in the street in a state of delirium and taken to a hospital, where he died in a few hours. - Poe had an erect and somewhat military bearing, a pale, intellectual face, remarkably brilliant eyes, and a habitually sad expression. His tales have great merit, and exhibit a subtle faculty of analysis, and a wild, sombre, and morbid imagination, with absence of moral sentiment. The most remarkable are " The Gold Bug," " The Fall of the House of Usher," " The Murders in the Rue Morgue," " The Purloined Letter," "A Descent into the Maelstrom," and "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar." They have been translated into French. Besides " The Raven," his best known poem is " The Bells." The works of Poe were edited, with a memoir, by R. W. Griswold (4 vols., New York, 1850). The memoir contained many severe imputations upon his character, and gave many details of his misconduct, the accuracy of which has been often warmly questioned.
In 1860 Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman of Providence, to whom Poe was said to have been engaged not long before his death, published in defence of his character a volume entitled " Edgar Poe and his Critics." In 1874 the first volume of " The Works of Edgar Allan Poe " appeared in Edinburgh, edited with a memoir by John H. Ingram, who endeavors to show that Mr. Griswold was a slanderer, and that Poe was free from the faults imputed to him with the exception of occasional intoxication. A memoir by R. H. Stoddard, prefixed to a collection of Poe's poems (New York and London, 1875), throws new light on Poe's history, and shows his conduct in a somewhat more favorable light than that in which it was depicted by Griswold. Poe's grave, in Westminster churchyard, Baltimore, remained unmarked till 1875, when a monument was placed over it by the Baltimore school teachers.