Edgar Allan Poe was an American Gothic writer who specialized in short horror stories and introduced the first example of modern detective fiction.
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1809. He was a prolific writer, publishing short stories, poems, essays, and even one novel during the course of his short life. Much of his writing fits squarely in the Gothic genre, and his work has influenced horror fiction as well as the modern short story. Notably, Poe is credited with writing one of the first published pieces of detective fiction, with his tale “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”.
Poe experienced tragedy at a young age, losing both his mother and father before he turned four. Raised by foster parents, Poe was of a morose turn of mind. Throughout his life, he struggled with heartbreak, gambling, financial instability, alcoholism, and poor health. The loss of his wife Virginia in 1847 sent him spiralling into a deep depression. His many troubles found their way into his writing, permeating his works with a sense of macabre hopelessness. Most of his literature addresses the themes of death and loss so present in his own life.
His best-known short stories, including “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, and “The Pit and the Pendulum”, read as psychological thrillers, exploring the insanity induced in protagonists as they face nightmarish settings, sinister foes, or ghastly torture. This Gothic impulse is equally evident in his most famous poems, “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee”, both of which overtly reflect his grief at the death of his wife. Sadly, Poe’s troubled life ended not long after his wife’s. He died at the age of 40 of “congestion of the brain”, the cause of which is still unclear to modern biographers. Although his life was short, his literary influence both in the United States in Europe earned him a spot as one of the most influential writers of the nineteenth century.
“I was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched.”
“Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence—whether much that is glorious—whether all that is profound—does not spring from disease of thought—from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.”
”All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”