There are very few people on earth who associate Edgar Allan Poe with happy little children's stories of bunnies and squirrels peacefully frolicking in the fields and flowers. And that is because he never wrote anything like that. Mr. Poe was not a very happy man. His writings were dark and foreboding, and some were just plain scary. But the reasons for his unhappiness are the hardships which he had to endure throughout his life.
Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19th, 1809. His parents were actors, but his father was very unsuccessful, and drank heavily. His father disappeared in 1810, leaving one year old Poe, and his mother alone. The next year, Poe's mother died of tuberculosis in Richmond, Virginia. Needing someone to raise him, the two-year-old Poe was taken in by a childless couple named Allan in Richmond. Poe never really knew his real parents. There was a Negro nurse in the Allan house who would take him to the servant's quarters to listen to ghost stories. This might have been what inspired the strange tales he wrote.
He went to school in Richmond at an early age. He went to England in 1815 with the Allans, and attended several different boarding schools. Poe then returned to America in 1820. Back at Richmond, in school, he began to write poems like those of Lord Bryon, whom he admired greatly. In 1826 he entered the University of Virginia. He couldn't pay for college, so he had to leave after the first term. He went to Boston on a coal boat, but couldn't find any work there.
His first published volume, Tamerlane and Other Poems, was published in 1827 by a small printing company. Despite the book being in print, and sellable, Poe was still without money. He entered the army. He was discharged in 1829 in order to go to West Point. That same year, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems appeared. All Poe really wanted to do was write, so he stopped doing his school work at West Point and was dismissed in 1831. From then on, he tried to earn a living writing for magazines as a writer, editor, and critic.
He married his 13-year-old cousin in 1836. Six years later, they discovered that she was dying of tuberculosis. All of the stress that built up from her condition, and their continual poverty drove him to drink, and he started using opium. He went through periods of insanity, but kept on writing. His magazine stories were collected into a book, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, in 1939. But he could no longer hold his job as editor of Graham's Magazine. Tales and The Raven and Other Poems appeared in 1845. But when his wife died in 1847, he had a complete breakdown. He died on October 7th, 1848, of which we presume now was rabies, contracted from the many stray cats and other animals found on the streets.
To some, Edgar Allan Poe was one of the greatest writers and storytellers in the history of the world. To others, Edgar Allan Poe was just a sad individual who wrote about things worse than his own situation, so that his own life wouldn't look so bad to him. In any case, Edgar Allan Poe has made it into the history and literature books. If only he was alive today to see his success, he might not have been so depressed.