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American Literature Early 19th Century

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Focus on Edgar Allan Poe

PoeBorn Jan. 19, 1809, Boston, Mass., U.S.-died Oct. 7, 1849, Baltimore, Md. U.S. poet, critic, and short-story writer. Poe was raised by foster parents in Richmond, Va., following his mother's death in 1811. He briefly attended the University of Virginia and then returned to Boston, where in 1827 he published a pamphlet of youthful, Byronic poems.

By 1835 he was in Richmond as editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, the first of several periodicals he was to edit or write for. There he married a 13-year-old cousin, who died in 1847. At various times he lived in Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia. Alcohol, the bane of his irregular and eccentric life, caused his death at age 40.

His works are famous for his cultivation of mystery and the macabre. Among his tales are “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Black Cat,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter” initiated the modern detective story. His poems (less highly regarded now than formerly) are musical and sensuous, as in “The Bells,” a showcase of sound effects; they include touching lyrics inspired by women (e.g., “Annabel Lee”) and the uncanny (e.g., “The Raven”).

From CREDO Edgar Allen Poe: Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.

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