Edgar Allan Poe

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Writers and critics

Edgar Allan Poe

This daguerreotype of Poe was taken less than a year before his death at the age of 40.
Born: January 19, 1809
Boston, Massachusetts
Died: October 7, 1849
Baltimore, Maryland
Occupation(s): Poet, short story writer, literary critic
Genre(s): Horror fiction, Crime fiction, Detective fiction
Literary movement: Romanticism
Influences: George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, Charles Dickens, Ann Radcliffe, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Influenced: Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Clark Ashton Smith, Jules Verne, H. P. Lovecraft, Jorge Luis Borges, Ray Bradbury, Lemony Snicket

Edgar Allan Poe ( January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American poet, short story writer, editor, critic and one of the leaders of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of the macabre, Poe was one of the early American practitioners of the short story and a progenitor of detective fiction and crime fiction. He is also credited with contributing to the emergent science fiction genre. Poe died at the age of 40. The cause of his death is undetermined and has been attributed to alcohol, drugs, cholera, rabies, and other agents.


This bust of Edgar Allan Poe is found at the University of Virginia where, having lost his tuition due to a gambling problem, he dropped out in 1827.
This bust of Edgar Allan Poe is found at the University of Virginia where, having lost his tuition due to a gambling problem, he dropped out in 1827.

He was born Edgar Poe to a Scots-Irish family in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809, the son of actress Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and actor David Poe, Jr. The second of three children, his elder brother was William Henry Leonard Poe, and younger sister, Rosalie Poe. His father abandoned their family in 1810. His mother died a year later from "consumption" (tuberculosis). Poe was then taken into the home of John Allan, a successful tobacco merchant in Richmond, Virginia. Although his middle name is often misspelled as "Allen" (even in encyclopedias), it is actually "Allan," after this family.

The family traveled to England in 1815, and Edgar sailed with them. He attended the Grammar School in Irvine, Scotland for a short period in 1815, before rejoining the family in London in 1816. He studied at a boarding school in Chelsea until the summer of 1817. He was then entered at Reverend John Bransby’s Manor House School at Stoke Newington, then a suburb four miles north of London.

Poe moved back with the Allans to Richmond in 1820. After serving an apprenticeship in Pawtucket, Poe registered at the University of Virginia in 1826, but only stayed there for one year. He became estranged from his foster father over gambling debts Poe had acquired while trying to get more spending money, and traveled to Boston under the assumed name of Henri Le Rennet, arriving there in April 1827. That same year, he released his first book (anonymously as "a Bostonian"), Tamerlane and Other Poems; a surviving copy of this rare book has sold for $200,000.

Reduced to destitution, Poe enlisted in the United States Army as a private, using the name Edgar A. Perry on May 26, 1827, and served at Fort Independence in Boston Harbour. The regiment was posted to Fort Moultrie, Charleston, South Carolina. After serving for two years and attaining the rank of sergeant major, Poe was discharged on April 15, 1829.

Poe moved to Baltimore, Maryland to stay with his widowed aunt, Maria Clemm, her daughter, Poe's first cousin, Virginia Eliza Clemm, and his brother Henry. In 1829, Poe's foster mother, Frances Allan, died. As was his foster mother's dying wish, John Allan reconciled with his foster son, and began coordinating an appointment for him to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Meanwhile, Poe published his second book, Al Aaraaf Tamerlane and Minor Poems in Baltimore in 1829.

Poe traveled to West Point, and took his oath on July 1, 1830. John Allan married a second time. The marriage, and bitter quarrels with Poe over the children born to Allan out of affairs, led to the foster father finally disowning Poe. Poe decided to leave West Point, and went on strike, refusing to attend formations, classes, or church. He was court-martialed for disobedience. He left for New York in February 1831, and released a third volume of poems, Poems, Second Edition.

He returned to Baltimore, to his aunt, brother and cousin, in March 1831. Henry passed away from tuberculosis in August 1831. Poe turned his attention to prose, and placed a few stories with a Philadelphia publication. He also began work on his only drama, Politian. The Saturday Visitor, a Baltimore paper, awarded a prize in October 1833 to his The Manuscript Found in a Bottle. The story brought him to the attention of John P. Kennedy, a Baltimorian of considerable means. He helped Poe place some of his stories, and also introduced him to Thomas W. White, editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. Poe became assistant editor of the periodical in July 1835. Within a few weeks, he was discharged after being found drunk repeatedly. Returning to Baltimore, he secretly married Virginia, his cousin, on September 22, 1835. She was 13 at the time.

Reinstated by White after promising good behaviour, Poe went back to Richmond with Virginia and her mother, and remained at the paper until January 1837. During this period, its circulation increased from 700 to 3500. He published several poems, book reviews, criticism, and stories in the paper. On May 16, 1836, he entered into a bond of marriage in Richmond with Virginia Clemm, this time in public.


The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym was published and widely reviewed in 1838. In the summer of 1839, Poe became assistant editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. He published a large number of articles, stories, and reviews, enhancing the reputation as a trenchant critic that he had established at the Southern Literary Messenger. Also in 1839, the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was published in two volumes. Though not a financial success, it was a milestone in the history of American literature, collecting such classic Poe tales as " The Fall of the House of Usher", " MS. Found in a Bottle", " Berenice", " Ligeia" and " William Wilson". Poe left Burton's after about a year and found a position as assistant at Graham's Magazine.

The evening of January 20, 1842, Virginia broke a blood vessel while singing and playing the piano. Blood began to rush forth from her mouth. It was the first sign of consumption, now more commonly known as tuberculosis. She only partially recovered. Poe began to drink more heavily under the stress of Virginia's illness. He left Graham's and attempted to find a new position, for a time angling for a government post. He returned to New York, where he worked briefly at the Evening Mirror before becoming editor of the Broadway Journal. There he became involved in a noisy public feud with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. On January 29, 1845, his poem " The Raven" appeared in the Evening Mirror and became a popular sensation.

The Broadway Journal failed in 1846. Poe moved to a cottage in the Fordham section of The Bronx, New York. He loved the Jesuits at Fordham University and frequently strolled about its campus conversing with both students and faculty. Fordham University's bell tower even inspired him to write " The Bells." The Poe Cottage is on the southeast corner of the Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge Road, and is open to the public. Virginia died there in 1847. Increasingly unstable after his wife's death, Poe attempted to court the poet Sarah Helen Whitman, who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. Their engagement failed, purportedly because of Poe's drinking and erratic behaviour; however there is also strong evidence that Miss Whitman's mother intervened and did much to derail their relationship. He then returned to Richmond and resumed a relationship with a childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster.


Edgar Allan Poe's reburial celebration on November 17, 1875 at Westminster graveyard.
Edgar Allan Poe's reburial celebration on November 17, 1875 at Westminster graveyard.

On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious and "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance," according to the friend who found him, Dr. E. Snodgrass. He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died early on the morning of October 7. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition, and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" on the night before his death, though no one has ever been able to identify the person to whom he referred. One Poe scholar, W. T. Bandy, has suggested that he may instead have called for "Herring," (Poe's uncle was called Henry Herring). Some sources say Poe's final words were "Lord help my poor soul." Poe suffered from bouts of depression and madness, and he attempted suicide in 1848.

The precise cause of Poe's death is disputed. Dr. Snodgrass was convinced that Poe died as a result of alcoholism and did a great deal to popularize this interpretation of the events. He was, however, a supporter of the temperance movement who found Poe a useful example in his work. Later scholars have shown that his account of Poe's death distorts facts to support his theory.

Dr. John Moran, the physician who attended Poe, stated in his own 1885 account that "Edgar Allan Poe did not die under the effect of any intoxicant, nor was the smell of liquor upon his breath or person." This was, however, only one of several, sometimes contradictory, accounts of Poe's last days which he published over the years, so his testimony cannot be considered entirely reliable.

Cholera cannot be ruled out. While in Richmond during the summer of 1849, Poe wrote letters to his aunt, Maria Clemm (July 7th), and to a newspaperman, E.H.N. Patterson (July 19th and August 7th), in which he confided that he may have contracted cholera in Philadelphia. Cholera is also a theme in three of his short stories ("The Masque of the Red Death"; "The Sphinx"; "Bon-Bon").

Numerous other theories have been proposed over the years, including several forms of rare brain disease, diabetes, various types of enzyme deficiency, syphilis, the idea that Poe was shanghaied, drugged, and used as a pawn in a ballot-box-stuffing scam during the election that was held on the day he was found, and, more recently, rabies. The rabies death theory was proposed by Dr. R. Michael Benitez, and is based upon the fact that Poe's symptoms before death are similar to those displayed in a classic case of rabies. Cats play a prominent part in many of his stories, and it is conjectured that he was accidentally bitten by a rabid pet.

In the absence of contemporary documentation (all surviving accounts are either incomplete or published years after the event; even Poe's death certificate, if one was ever made out, has been lost), it is likely that the cause of Poe's death will never be known.

Poe is buried on the grounds of Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, now part of the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore.

Even after his death, Poe has created controversy and mystery. Because of his fame, school children collected money for a new burial spot closer to the front gate. He was reburied on October 1, 1875. A celebration was held at the dedication of the new tomb on November 17. Likely unknown to the reburial crew, however, the headstones on all the graves, previously facing to the east, were turned to face the West Gate in 1864. Therefore, as it was described in a seemingly fitting turn of events:

In digging on what they erroneously thought to be the right of the General Poe the committee naturally first struck old Mrs. Poe who had been buried thirty-six years before Edgar's mother-in-law; they tried again and presumably struck Mrs. Clemm who had been buried in 1876 only four years earlier. Henry's Poe's brother foot stone, it there, was respected for they obviously skipped over him and settled for the next body, which was on the Mosher lot. Because of the excellent condition of the teeth, he would certainly seem to have been the remains of Philip Mosher Jr, of the Maryland Militia, age 19.

Poe's grave site has become a popular tourist attraction. Beginning in 1949, the grave has been visited every year in the early hours of Poe's birthday, January 19th, by a mystery man known endearingly as the Poe Toaster. It has been reported that a man draped in black with a silver-tipped cane, kneels at the grave for a toast of Martel Cognac and leaves the half-full bottle and three red roses. One theory (of many) is that the three red roses are in memory of Poe himself, his mother-in-law, and his wife Virginia.

The epitaph inscribed on Poe's tombstone reads:
Quoth the Raven,

Griswold's "Memoir"

The day Edgar Allan Poe was buried, a long obituary appeared in the New York Tribune signed "Ludwig". The piece began, "Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it." It was reprinted in numerous papers across the country.

"Ludwig" was soon identified as Rufus Griswold, a minor editor and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since 1842, when Poe wrote a review of one of Griswold's anthologies, a review that Griswold deemed to be full of false praise. Though they were coolly polite in person, an enmity developed between the two men as they clashed over various matters. Critics have seen this obituary as a way for Griswold to finally settle his score with Poe.

Rufus Griswold wrote a biographical "Memoir" of Poe, which he included in an additional volume of the collected works. Griswold depicted Poe as a depraved, drunk, drug-addled madman. This biography presented a starkly different version of Poe's biography than any other at the time, and included items now believed to have been forged by Griswold to bolster his case. Griswold's book was denounced by those who knew Poe well; Griswold's account became a popularly accepted one, however, in part because it was the only full biography available and was widely reprinted, and in part because it seemed to accord with the narrative voice Poe used in much of his fiction. No accurate biography of Poe appeared until John Ingram's of 1875. By then, however, Griswold's depiction of Poe was entrenched in the mind of the public, not only in America but around the world. Griswold's madman image of Poe is still existent in the modern perceptions of the man himself.

Literary and artistic theory

In his essay " The Poetic Principle", Poe would argue that there is no such thing as a long poem, since the ultimate purpose of art is aesthetic, that is, its purpose is the effect it has on its audience, and this effect can only be maintained for a brief period of time (the time it takes to read a lyric poem, or watch a drama performed, or view a painting, etc.). He argued that an epic, if it has any value at all, must be actually a series of smaller pieces, each geared towards a single effect or sentiment, which "elevates the soul".

Poe associated the aesthetic aspect of art with pure ideality claiming that the mood or sentiment created by a work of art elevates the soul, and is thus a spiritual experience. In many of his short stories, artistically inclined characters (especially Roderick Usher from " The Fall of the House of Usher") are able to achieve this ideal aesthetic through fixation, and often exhibit obsessive personalities and reclusive tendencies. " The Oval Portrait" also examines fixation, but in this case the object of fixation is itself a work of art.

He championed art for art's sake (before the term itself was coined). He was consequentially an opponent of didacticism, arguing in his literary criticisms that the role of moral or ethical instruction lies outside the realm of poetry and art, which should only focus on the production of a beautiful work of art. He criticized James Russell Lowell in a review for being excessively didactic and moralistic in his writings, and argued often that a poem should be written "for a poem's sake". Since a poem's purpose is to convey a single aesthetic experience, Poe argues in his literary theory essay " The Philosophy of Composition", the ending should be written first. Poe's inspiration for this theory was Charles Dickens, who wrote to Poe in a letter dated March 6, 1842,

Apropos of the "construction" of "Caleb Williams," do you know that Godwin wrote it backwards, — the last volume first, — and that when he had produced the hunting down of Caleb, and the catastrophe, he waited for months, casting about for a means of accounting for what he had done?

Poe refers to the letter in his essay. Dickens's literary influence on Poe can also be seen in Poe's short story "The Man of the Crowd". Its depictions of urban blight owe much to Dickens and in many places purposefully echo Dickens's language.

He was a proponent and supporter of magazine literature, and felt that short stories, or "tales" as they were called in the early nineteenth century, which were usually considered "vulgar" or "low art" along with the magazines that published them, were legitimate art forms on par with the novel or epic poem. His insistence on the artistic value of the short story was influential in the short story's rise to prominence in later generations.

Poe often included elements of popular pseudosciences such as phrenology and physiognomy in his fiction.

Poe also focused the theme of each of his short stories on one human characteristic. In " The Tell-Tale Heart", he focused on guilt, in " The Fall of the House of Usher", his focus was fear, etc.

Much of Poe's work was allegorical, but his position on allegory was a nuanced one: "In defence of allegory, (however, or for whatever object, employed,) there is scarcely one respectable word to be said. Its best appeals are made to the fancy — that is to say, to our sense of adaptation, not of matters proper, but of matters improper for the purpose, of the real with the unreal; having never more of intelligible connection than has something with nothing, never half so much of effective affinity as has the substance for the shadow."

Legacy and lore

Edgar Allan Poe's grave, Baltimore, MD.
Edgar Allan Poe's grave, Baltimore, MD.

Poe's works have had a broad influence on American and world literature (sometimes even despite those who tried to resist it), and even on the art world beyond literature. The scope of Poe's influence on art is evident when one sees the many and diverse artists who were directly and profoundly influenced by him.

American literature

Poe's literary reputation was greater abroad than in the United States, perhaps as a result of America's general revulsion towards the macabre. Rufus Griswold's defamatory reminiscences did little to commend Poe to U.S. literary society. However, American authors as diverse as Walt Whitman, H. P. Lovecraft, William Faulkner, and Herman Melville were influenced by Poe's works. Nathanael West used the concept and remarkable black humor of Poe's "The Man That Was Used Up" in his third novel, A Cool Million.

Flannery O'Connor, however, who grew up reading Poe's satirical works, claimed the influence of Poe on her works was "something I'd rather not think about" (Poe Encyclopaedia, p. 259). T. S. Eliot, who was often quite hostile to Poe, describing him as having "the intellect of a highly gifted person before puberty," professed that he was impressed, however, by Poe's abilities as a literary critic, calling him "the directest, the least pedantic, the least pedagogical of the critics writing in his time in either America or England."

Mark Twain was also a sharp critic of Poe. "To me his prose is unreadable—like Jane Austen's," he wrote in a January 18, 1909 letter to William Dean Howells.

Influence on French literature

In France, where he is commonly known as "Edgar Poe," Poe's works first arrived when two French papers published separate (and uncredited) translations of Poe's detective story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue". A third newspaper, La Presse, accused the editor of the second paper, E. D. Forgues, of plagiarizing the first paper. Forgues explained that the story was original to neither paper, but was a translation of "les Contes d'E. Poe, littérateur américain." ("the stories of E. Poe, American author.") When La Presse did not acknowledge Forgues' explanation of the events, Forgues responded with a libel lawsuit, during which he repeatedly proclaimed, "Avez-vous lu Edgar Poe? Lisez Edgar Poe." ("Have you read Edgar Poe? Read Edgar Poe!") The notoriety of this trial spread Poe's name throughout Paris, gaining the interest of many poets and writers. (Silverman 321)

Among these was Charles Baudelaire, who translated almost all of Poe's stories and several of the poems into French. His excellent translations meant that Poe enjoyed a vogue among avant-garde writers in France while being ignored in his native land. Poe also exerted a powerful influence over Baudelaire's own poetry, as can be seen from Baudelaire's obsession with macabre imagery, morbid themes, musical verse and aesthetic pleasure. In a draft preface to his most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal, Baudelaire lists Poe as one of the authors whom he plagiarized. Baudelaire also found in Poe an example of what he saw as the destructive elements of bourgeois society. Poe himself was critical of democracy and capitalism (in his story "Mellonta Tauta," Poe proclaims that "democracy is a very admirable form of government—for dogs" ), and the tragic poverty and misery of Poe's biography seemed, to Baudelaire, to be the ultimate example of how the bourgeoisie destroys genius and originality. Raymond Foye, editor of the book The Unknown Poe, put Baudelaire's and Poe's shared political sympathies this way:

Poe's anti-democratic views persuaded Baudelaire to abandon his socialism, and if these two men shared a single political preference it was monarchy. But each was a country unto himself, a majority of one, an aristocrat of the mind. There is arrogance here: the arrogance of loneliness. (Foye 76)

Poe was much admired, also, by the school of Symbolism. Stéphane Mallarmé dedicated several poems to him and translated some of Poe's works into French, accompanied by illustrations by Manet (see below). The later authors Paul Valéry and Marcel Proust were great admirers of Poe, the latter saying "Poe sought to arrive at the beautiful through evocation and an elimination of moral motives in his art."

Other world literature


From France, Poe's works made their way to Britain, where writers like Algernon Swinburne caught the Poe-bug, and Swinburne's musical verse owes much to Poe's technique. Oscar Wilde called Poe "this marvellous lord of rhythmic expression" and drew on Poe's works for his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and his short stories (Poe Encyclopedia 375).

The poet and critic W. H. Auden revitalized interest in Poe's works, especially his criticism. Auden said of Poe, "His portraits of abnormal or self-destructive states contributed much to Dostoyevsky, his ratiocinating hero is the ancestor of Sherlock Holmes and his many successors, his tales of the future lead to H. G. Wells, his adventure stories to Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson." (Poe Encyclopedia 27).

Other English writers, such as Aldous Huxley, however, were less fond of him. Huxley considered Poe to be the embodiment of vulgarity in literature.


Poe's poetry was translated into Russian by the Symbolist poet Konstantin Balmont and enjoyed great popularity there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, influencing artists such as Nabokov, who makes several references to Poe's work in his most famous novel, Lolita.

Fyodor Dostoevsky called Poe "an enormously talented writer", favorably reviewing Poe's detective stories and briefly referencing " The Raven" in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. It has been suggested that Crime and Punishment's Raskolnikov was inspired in part by Montresor from " The Cask of Amontillado", and that the same novel's Porfiry Petrovich owes a debt to C. Auguste Dupin (Poe Encyclopaedia 102).


Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges was a great admirer of Poe's works and translated his stories into Spanish. Many of the characters from Borges' stories are borrowed directly from Poe's stories, and in many of his stories Poe is mentioned by name. Another Argentinian author, Julio Cortázar, translated Poe's complete fiction and essays into Spanish.

Other countries

Poe was also an influence for the Swedish poet and author Viktor Rydberg, who translated a considerable amount of Poe's work into Swedish; a Japanese author who even took a pseudonym, Edogawa Rampo, from a rendering of Poe's name in that language; and German author Thomas Mann, in whose novel Buddenbrooks, a character reads Poe's short novels and professes to be influenced by his works. Friedrich Nietzsche refers to Poe in his masterpiece Beyond Good and Evil, and some have found evidence of Poe's influence on the philosopher.

Poe is one of the main topics in Zettel’s Traum, the 1,334-pages novel of Folio format by Arno Schmidt, type-written between 1962 and 1970. Trying to infer missing facts of Poe’s life by a subliminal reading of the work, Schmidt at length expounds an extremely extravagant – and humoristic – overall theory about Poe’s life and works.

Detective fiction

He is often credited as being an originator in the genre of detective fiction with his three stories about C. Auguste Dupin, the most famous of which is " The Murders in the Rue Morgue." (Poe also wrote a satirical detective story called "Thou Art the Man") There is no doubt that he inspired mystery writers who came after him, particularly Arthur Conan Doyle in his series of stories featuring Sherlock Holmes. Doyle was once quoted as saying, "Each [of Poe's detective stories] is a root from which a whole literature has developed.... Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?" (Poe Encyclopedia 103). Though Poe's Dupin was not the first detective in fiction, he became an archetype for all subsequent detectives, and Doyle acknowledged the primacy of C. Auguste Dupin in his Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, in which Watson compares Holmes to Dupin, much to Holmes's chagrin.

The Mystery Writers of America have named their awards for excellence in the genre the " Edgars."

Science fiction, gothic fiction and horror fiction

Poe also profoundly influenced the development of early science fiction author Jules Verne, who discussed Poe in his essay Poe et ses œuvres and also wrote a sequel to Poe's novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket called The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Le sphinx des glaces (Poe Encyclopedia 364). H. G. Wells, in discussing the construction of his classics of science fiction, The War of the Worlds and The First Men in the Moon, noted that "Pym tells what a very intelligent mind could imagine about the south polar region a century ago" (Poe Encyclopaedia 372).

Renowned science fiction author Ray Bradbury has also professed a love for Poe. He often draws upon Poe in his stories and mentions Poe by name in several stories. His anti- censorship story "Usher II", set in a dystopian future in which the works of Poe (and some other authors) have been censored, features an eccentric who constructs a house based on Poe's tale "The Fall of the House of Usher".

Along with Mary Shelley, Poe is regarded as the foremost proponent of the Gothic strain in literary Romanticism. Death, decay and madness were an obsession for Poe. His curious and often nightmarish work greatly influenced the horror and fantasy genres, and the horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft claimed to have been profoundly influenced by Poe's works.

Playwrights and filmmakers

On the stage, the great dramatist George Bernard Shaw was greatly influenced by Poe's literary criticism, calling Poe "the greatest journalistic critic of his time" (Poe Encyclopaedia 315). Alfred Hitchcock declared Poe as a major inspiration, saying, "It's because I liked Edgar Allan Poe's stories so much that I began to make suspense films."

Actor John Astin, who performed as Gomez in the Addams Family television series, is an ardent admirer of Poe, whom he resembles, and in recent years has starred in a one-man play based on Poe's life and works, Edgar Allan Poe: Once Upon a Midnight. The musical play Nevermore , by Matt Conner and Grace Barnes, was inspired by Poe's poems and essays. Actor Vincent Price played in many films based on Poe's stories like The Black Cat. Morella, The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdimar, and the Pit And The Pendulum, among many more.

Physics and cosmology

Eureka, an essay written in 1848, included a cosmological theory that anticipated black holes and the big bang theory by 80 years, as well as the first plausible solution to Olbers' paradox. Though described as a " prose poem" by Poe, who wished it to be considered as art, this work is a remarkable scientific and mystical essay unlike any of his other works. He wrote that he considered Eureka to be his career masterpiece.

Poe eschewed the scientific method in his Eureka. He argued that he wrote from pure intuition, not the Aristotelian a priori method of axioms and syllogisms, nor the empirical method of modern science set forth by Francis Bacon. For this reason, he considered it a work of art, not science, but insisted that it was still true. Though some of his assertions have later proven to be false (such as his assertion that gravity must be the strongest force—it is actually the weakest), others have been shown to be surprisingly accurate and decades ahead of their time.


Poe had a keen interest in the field of cryptography, as exemplified in his short story The Gold Bug. In particular he placed a notice of his abilities in the Philadelphia paper Alexander's Weekly (Express) Messenger, inviting submissions of ciphers, which he proceeded to solve. His success created a public stir for some months. He later wrote essays on methods of cryptography which proved useful in deciphering the German codes employed during World War I.

Poe's success in cryptography relied not so much on his knowledge of that field (his method was limited to the simple substitution cryptogram), as on his knowledge of the magazine and newspaper culture. His keen analytical abilities, which were so evident in his detective stories, allowed him to see that the general public was largely ignorant of the methods by which a simple substitution cryptogram can be solved, and he used this to his advantage. The sensation Poe created with his cryptography stunt played a major role in popularizing cryptograms in newspapers and magazines.


Poe and his works have provided considerable inspiration to both classical music and popular music. See Edgar Allan Poe and music.

Visual arts

In the world of visual arts, Gustave Doré and Édouard Manet composed several illustrations for Poe's works.

Pop culture

His legacy is abundant in modern pop culture. It is much alive in the city of Baltimore. Even though Poe spent less than two years there, he is now treated as a native son. In 1996, when NFL football arrived, the team took the name Baltimore Ravens, in honour of his best known poem. The team's three "winged" mascots were named Edgar, Allan, and Poe.

The television show Homicide: Life on the Street, set in Baltimore, made reference to Poe and his works in several episodes. Poe figured most prominently in an episode in which a Poe-obsessed killer walls up his victim in the basement of a house to imitate the grisly murder of Fortunato by Montresor in "The Cask of Amontillado". In a disturbing scene near the end of the episode, the killer reads from the works of Poe as a dramatic effect to increase the tension.

The bar in which Poe was last seen drinking before his death still stands in Fells Point. Though the name has changed and it is now known as The Horse You Came In On, local lore insists that a ghost they call "Edgar" haunts the rooms above.

But Poe's vast influence over pop culture does not end with Baltimore. Poe's image, with his weary expression, piercing eyes and tangled hair (see the daguerreotype above), has become a cultural icon for the troubled genius. His face adorns the bottlecaps of Raven Beer, the covers of numerous books on American literature as a whole, and is often stereotyped in cartoons as "the creepy guy". Numerous popular movie makers have incorporated Poe or Poe's works into their works (see "Adaptations" below).

Edgar Allan Poe is credited with the inspiration for pro wrestler Scott Levy's stage name, Raven.

Preserved home

Edgar Allan Poe, his wife Virginia, and his mother-in-law Maria rented several homes in Philadelphia, but only the last house has survived. The Spring Garden home, where the author lived in 1843-44, is today preserved by the National Park Service as the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. It is located on 7th and Spring Garden Streets, and is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Another of his former residences is preserved in Baltimore. It is open to the public and is also the home of the Edgar Allan Poe Society.


Like any famous artist, Poe's works have spawned legions of imitators and plagiarists. One interesting trend among imitators of Poe, however, has been claims by clairvoyants or psychics to be "channelling" poems from Poe's spirit beyond the grave. One of the most notable of these was Lizzie Doten, who in 1863 published Poems from the Inner Life, in which she claimed to have "received" new compositions by Poe's spirit. The compositions were re-workings of famous Poe poems such as " The Bells", but which reflected a new, positive outlook. Mabbott notes that, at least compared to many other Poe imitators, Doten was not entirely without poetic talent, whether that talent was her own or "channelled" from Poe.

For my soul from out that shadow
Hath been lifted evermore—
From that deep and dismal shadow,
In the streets of Baltimore!
—Lizzie Doten, "Streets of Baltimore", from Poems from the Inner Life, imitating " The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe.

Examples in popular culture

  • Edogawa Rampo, a pioneer author of Japanese detective stories in the early 20th century, acknowledged Poe as one of his major influences.

Story adaptations

  • Several of Poe's works were made into movies, notably a series of movies directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price. The 1993 film The Mummy Lives, starring Tony Curtis, screenplay by Nelson Gidding, was suggested by Poe's Some Words with a Mummy (1845).
  • Vincent Price collaborated with actor Basil Rathbone on a collection of their readings of Poe's stories and poems.
  • Author Ray Bradbury is a great admirer of Poe, and has either featured Poe as a character or alluded to Poe's stories in many of his works.
  • Robert R. McCammon wrote Ushers Passing, a sequel to Fall of the House of Usher, published in 1984
  • In 1995 several of Poe's stories were combined to make an interactive novel stylised as a video game called The Dark Eye. Beat legend William S. Burroughs read the poem "Annabel Lee" and the story " The Masque of the Red Death" for the game soundtrack.
  • In 1996, the NFL franchise known as the Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore and assumed a new identity, including a new nickname, the Ravens, which was chosen following a telephone poll by the Baltimore Sun. The poll included three choices, the others being Americans and Marauders, but Ravens won by a wide margin, garnering nearly two-thirds of the 33,288 votes . The Ravens' have 3 mascots named Edgar, Allen, and Poe. This choice is considered by many to be a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe’s " The Raven" .
  • A double-CD organized by Hal Willner, " Closed On Account of Rabies" with poems and tales of Poe performed by artists as diverse as Christopher Walken, Marianne Faithfull, Iggy Pop and Jeff Buckley was issued in 1997.
  • " The Black Cat" was translated to giallo film as Eye of the Black Cat (also known as Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key)
  • The Simpsons episode " Treehouse of Horror" contains a segment in which James Earl Jones reads Poe's poem "The Raven", with Homer playing the narrator, Marge making a brief appearance as Lenore, and Bart as the raven. A later episode also features Lisa competing against a girl who recreates a scene from "The Tell-Tale Heart". In the episode " Saturdays of Thunder" a TV advert shows Poe's tombstone being cleaned by Dr. Nick Riviera.
  • In the Nintendo video game series The Legend Of Zelda, the ghost-like beings that are featured throughout the games are called Poes.
  • Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" has been animated as a brickfilm by Canadian animator, Logan Wright. It can be found online here.
  • "The Cask Of Amontillado" has been "translated" into VOA (Voice of America)'s Special English in the Special English program, AMERICAN STORIES
  • In 2002, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (a video game for the Nintendo Gamecube) features a quote from The Raven upon startup, and is often said to have many elements inspired by his works.
  • In the 2004 remake of The Ladykillers, the chief protagonist is a great admirer of Poe and frequently quotes from his poetry. A raven also features.
  • In 2005, Lurker Films released an Edgar Allan Poe film collection on DVD, including short film adaptations of " Annabel Lee" by director George Higham, " The Raven" by director Peter Bradley and " The Tell-Tale Heart" by director Alfonso S. Suarez.
  • Linda Fairstein's 2005 novel Entombed features a modern day serial killer obsessed with Poe - The story taking place amongst Poe's old haunts in New York.
  • In the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Up in Smoke" the case is referred to as a Poe story, combining both "The Telltale Heart" and "The Cask of Amontillado".
  • Toby Keith's video to "A Little Too Late" produced by Show Dog National is a modern adaptation of Poe's "Cask of Amontillado" with a twist ending.
  • The comic/graphic novel " Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl" features a dead little girl inspired by Poe's poem "Lenore."
  • The 2004 release of Hellboy on DVD contained a special 10 minute movie in the special features, "The Telltale Heart".

Selected Poe-related films

  • Edgar Allan Poe (1909)
  • The Gold Bug (1910) - France
  • The Pit and the Pendulum (1910) - Italy
  • The Bells (1912)
  • The Avenging Conscience (1914)
  • The Raven (1915) - This film is more of a Poe biography, however a brief segment of the film is indeed an abbreviated performance the namesake poem.
  • The Tell Tale Heart (1928)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (1928)
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
  • The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (1942)
  • Tell-Tale Heart (1953)
  • The Phantom of the RueMorgue (1953)
  • House of Usher (1960)
  • The Tell-Tale Heart (1960)
  • The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
  • The Premature Burial (1962)
  • Tales of Terror (1962)
  • The Raven (1963)
  • The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
  • Danza macabra (1964)
  • The Tomb of Ligeia (1965)
  • Spirits of the Dead (Histoires extraordinaires), 3 segments: [[Metzengerstein by Roger Vadim, [[William Wilson by Louis Malle and Toby Dammit by Federico Fellini, (1968) - France / Italy
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971)
  • The Spectre of Edgar Allan Poe (1974)
  • Vincent (film) (1982), a short film by Tim Burton, about a boy named Vincent Malloy, who is obsessed with Poe and Vincent Price.
  • The Raven...Nevermore (1999)
  • Mystery Of The Necronomicon (1999)
  • The Raven (short film - 2003)
  • The Death of Poe (2005)
  • Poe (2006)

Poe as a character

  • When It Was Moonlight, a short story by Manly Wade Wellman appeared in the February 1940 issue of Unknown
  • The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (1942); Poe is played by John Shepherd (later known as Shepperd Strudwick).
  • The Man with a Cloak (1951), a film in which a hard drinking Poe ( Joseph Cotten) masquerades incognito in 1848 New York - and helps a young French girl secure her inheritance.
  • Danza macabra (1964) horror film directed by Antonio Margheriti; Poe is played by Silvano Sorrente.
  • Torture Garden (1967) horror film directed by Freddie Francis; Poe is played by Hedger Wallace.
  • Nella stretta morsa del ragno (1971) horror film directed by Antonio Margheriti; Poe is played by Klaus Kinski.
  • The Specte of Edgar Allan Poe (1974); Poe is portrayed by Robert Walker, Jr..
  • Child of Night (1975) by Anne Edwards
  • Evermore (1978), a novel by Barbara Steward
  • Poe Must Die (1978), a novel by Marc Olden
  • In the Sunken Museum (1981),a short story by Gregory Frost, appeared in The Twilight Zone Magazine
  • The Man Who Was Poe (1989), a juvenile novel by Avi
  • The Hollow Earth (1990), a novel by Rudy Rucker in which Poe explores the inhabited centre of the world
  • The Black Throne (1990), a novel by Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen
  • Writer Stephen Marlowe adapted the strange details of Poe's death into his 1995 novel The Lighthouse at the End of the World.
  • Tale of a Vampire (1992) horror film directed by Shimako Sato; Kenneth Cranham plays "Edgar", Suzanna Hamilton is Virginia and her reincarnation Anne, and Julian Sands is Alex, the vampire who completes the triangle.
  • Route 666 (1993), a satirical cyberpunk novel in the Dark Future series by Kim Newman (writing as Jack Yeovil), features a ramshackle Eddy Poe chanelling Cthulhu.
  • Nevermore (1999), The Hum Bug (2001), The Mask of Red Death (2004), and The Tell-Tale Corpse (2006) novels by Harold Schechter
  • The Phantom comic strip (2000), written by Tony De Paul and drawn by César Spadari
  • The Poe Shadow (2006) by Matthew Pearl, a novel which revisits the strange events surrounding Poe's death.
  • Edgar Allan Poe: Once Upon a Midnight, starring John Astin as Poe.
  • Monkeybone: Poe is played by Edgar Allan Poe IV, a descendant.
  • The Lemony Snicket book series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, have Mr. Poe, with his children Edgar and Albert, as a guardian of the Baudelaire children.
  • In "Poe Pourri", an episode of the cartoon Beetlejuice, the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe mourns for his lost Lenore (who turns out to have been staying with her mother). In Poe's mourning the netherworld begins to resemble several of his stories, with Beetlejuice being bitten by the gold bug and finding a beating heart under his floor.
  • Edgar Allen Poe is a semi-frequent character in the webcomic Thinkin' Lincoln
  • The Adult Swim cartoon The Venture Bros. includes Poe in a small role in the episode " Escape to the House of Mummies Part II." Several references are made to the large size of his head.
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