Born Edgar Poe on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Elisabeth Arnold Hopkins and David Poe, Jr. Poe had two siblings, William Henry Leonard Poe and Rosalie Poe.
Poe’s life was marked by tragedy. By 1810, his father abandoned his family; in 1811 Poe’s mother died from consumption. John Allan, a Scottish merchant from Richmond, Virginia, took in young Poe. Although the Allan family never adopted Poe, he took their name, referring to himself as Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe attended several schools in Scotland and London. In 1825, then 16, he proposed to Sarah Elmira Royster. During 1826 Poe attended the University of Virginia but left due to lack of funds. Recklessly, he accrued large gambling debts, blaming Allan for not providing him enough money. Ultimately his fiancé left.
In May, 1827, at the age of 18, Poe joined the US Army to provide support for himself. . He published a book of poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems, which did not sell and was not widely accepted. By November of that year he was made an artificer, utilizing manual skills to bring in a better income. He left the army in early 1829.
In the same year, Poe moved in with an aunt, Marie Clemm and her daughter, Virginia, publishing his next book Al Aaraaf Tamerlane and Minor Poems. Meanwhile, Allen, Poe’s benefactor, lost his first wife and remarried in 1830. The new couple fought over Allen’s support of Poe, eventually causing him to disown Poe.
Poe’s elder brother, Henry, died in 1831 due to alcoholism. By 1835 Poe, hired as the associate editor of a journal, was fired because of drinking. Poe and his cousin, Virginia Clemm, secretly married the same year. She was 13; Poe was 26. The couple repeated their vows a second time in 1836, this time including everyone in Richmond, Virginia.
Poe continued to write and publish poems, stories and other writings. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, published in 1838, finally brought him the accolades he sought, for it reviewed well.
Throughout his entire life Poe bounced around in both his home life and career. Early in 1842 his wife became ill with symptoms of tuberculosis. The stress of her illness brought back Poe’s drinking. At this time he was editor for the Broadway Journal. During this period The Raven was published for $9, bringing Poe fame.
In 1847 Poe’s very young wife succumbed to her illness and died. Her death effected him very deeply. His drinking increased while his behavior became unpredictable and disturbing. Poe began dating Sarah Helen Whitman; but the relationship failed duedue to his odd behavior and drinking. Later he began a relationship with ex-girlfriend, Sarah Elmira Royster.
Poe’s death is shrouded in mystery. On October 3, 1849, he was reported wandering around Baltimore, wearing someone else’s clothing. He was taken to the Washington College Hospital where he died early in the morning of October 7, 1849. During his five days at the hospital, Poe never became lucid enough to explain what had happened to him. The evening prior to his death he was reported to have uttered the name “Reynolds.”
No records of his death, including medical records or death certificate, remain today. The common belief is that his death is attributed to alcohol consumption. In January, 1949, an unknown person began visiting his grave, leaving flowers each time. The visits continued through 2009, becoming known as the “Poe Toaster.” No flowers were left in 2010.