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Edgar Allen Poe

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Edgar Allan Poe Best known for his poems and short fiction, Edgar Allan Poe deserves more credit than any other writer for the transformation of the short story into a respected literary work. He virtually created the detective story and perfected the psychological thriller. He also produced some of the most influential literary criticism of his time. Although he contributed so much to the writing world, little is known about the Poe himself. Historians have been trying for years to piece together the life of this literary genius. In almost every biographical publication Poe’s life is divided into three sections: his early life, his career, and his death. Exactly when and where Poe was born is not known, but historians believe that he was born in Boston, in 1809 (Hayes 5). Poe's parents, David Poe Jr. and Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins, were touring actors; both died before he was three years old, and he was taken into the home of John Allan. Allan was a prosperous merchant in Richmond, Virginia. Poe’s childhood was uneventful, although he studied in England between 1815 and 1820 (Jacobs 56). In 1826 he entered the University of Virginia but stayed for only a year. Although a good student, he ran up large gambling debts that Allan refused to pay. Allan prevented his return to the university and broke off Poe's engagement to Sarah Elmira Royster, his Richmond sweetheart. Lacking any means of support, Poe enlisted in the army. He had, however, already written and printed at his own expense his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems (Hayes 6). Temporarily reconciled, John Allan secured Poe's release from the army and his appointment to West Point but refused to provide financial support (Hayes 11). After 6 months Poe apparently contrived to be dismissed from West Point for disobedience of orders (Kennedy 35). Poe next took up residence in Baltimore with his widowed aunt, Maria Clemm, and her daughter, Virginia, and turned to fiction as a way to support himself (Walker 2). In 1832 the Philadelphia Saturday Courier published five of his stories, and in 1833, MS. Found in a Bottle won a fifty dollar prize given by the Baltimore Saturday Visitor (Walker 125). Poe, his aunt, and Virginia moved to Richmond in 1835. Poe became editor of the Southern Literary Messenger and married Virginia, who was not yet 14 years old (Jacobs 61). During this time Poe published fiction, such as Berenice, but most of his contributions were serious, analytical, and critical reviews that earned him respect as a critic (Jacobs 64).
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