209 years ago, Edgar Allan Poe, Master of the Dark and Gloomy, was born. Poe was originally born to travelling actors, but they died when he was only three. He was taken in by John and Frances Allan, but despite giving him their name, they never officially adopted him.
Poe’s life was a Gothic tale in its own right. His relationship with his foster father was affection mixed with resentment, and the two often fought. John did not support Poe’s want to attend college, but Poe attended the University of Virginia anyway. His quality of life deteriorated quickly. He had no money and turned to gambling, but he only acquired debts he could not pay.
Poe eventually dropped out of college and joined the military. He served for two years, rising to the rank of Sergeant Major, but then tried to end his enlistment early so he could attend West Point. In 1829, before entering West Point, Poe stayed with his aunt and cousin Virginia Clemm.
By 1829, Poe published two collections of poetry, but they garnered little attention. His alcoholism continued to worsen, and he could not support himself on writing alone. He left West Point, purposely getting court-martialed, and returned to his aunt’s. In 1836, he married Virginia, but by 1842, she contracted tuberculosis.
Virginia’s illness and death undoubtedly contributed to Poe’s Gothic creativity. He published “The Raven” in 1845. It left an unrivaled mark on the literary world, making Poe a household name, but Poe died only four years later. The cause of his death is still unknown.
Poe’s works are a twisted example of the real horrors his life held. It is easy to find Poe in his works, the real person among the characters. He is revered today, and stories like “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” are recited yearly for crowds across the world. Though his stories are more biographical than Poe likely intended, seeing the person behind the stories’s horrors makes them all the more powerful.