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Passions in PoetryEdgar Allan Poe
1809 - 1849

Poe was born in Massachusetts, the son of travelling actors David and Elizabeth Arnold Poe. His mother died when he was two and his father was an alcoholic, so Poe went to live with a prosperous Scottish tobacco merchant, John Allan, in Richmond. Allan always refused to adopt Poe which led to bad feeling between the two of them.

Poe was educated at Stoke Newington in London from 1815-20. Despite considerable academic success his gambling debts forced him to leave the University of Virginia, where he had gone to study, after one year. By 1827 Poe, with typical restlessness, had moved from Boston to Richmond and then back to Boston again. He gained a good reputation in the army which he joined in 1827, but spent a miserable year at the US Military Academy at West Point in 1830, before being dishonourably discharged.

Poe stayed in Baltimore from 1831-35 and began writing more seriously. In 1836 he married his 13 year old cousin, Virginia. He had been working as a journalist since 1831, earning a bare minimum to survive, and from 1835-37 edited the Southern Literary Messenger.

His short stories reveal a fascination with emotional extremes, particularly fear, though his essays show that he was capable of being objective and critical.

In 1844 Poe moved to New York, but despite popular acclaim his life was still wretched. Virginia died of tuberculosis in 1847 and Poe, still poor and an alcoholic, died in Baltimore two years later.

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