Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston in 1809. His parents were touring actors, and died when he was only two years old, so the boy was brought up by his godfather, Mr John Allan. The family, including Poe and Allan’s wife, Frances Valentine Allah, sailed to England in 1815 and moved back to Richmond, Virginia in 1820.
In 1826 Edgar went to the University of Virginia, where he learnt the classics as well as French, Italian and Spanish, and for a few months proved a brilliant student. Unfortunately he lost large sums of money at gambling and his godfather refused to pay his debts. As a result Poe left university, starter writing poetry and between 1827 and 1829 published two volumes of verses.
He did not manage to find a steady job, and after several unsuccessful attempts was forced to accept occasional work on magazines and give lectures on literary criticism. The Saturday Visitor, a Baltimore paper, awarded Poe a prize in October 1833 for his short story in “MS. Found in a Bottle”. He gained a certain reputation, but poverty was his constant fate.
In 1838 he moved to Philadelphia, where he published a long prose tale, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, and a year later Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. From 1839 to 1842 he edited Burton’s Magazine and Graham’s Magazine where The Murders in the Rue Morgue, his first detective story appeared.
In spite of his financial troubles, this was a relatively serene period in the poet’s life, but all this came to another abrupt end when Virginia broke a blood vessel in 1842 and became an invalid. Money was not more necessary than ever, and Poe, who could not afford what they needed, began to suffer from fits of depression from which he sought relief in alcohol. The Gold Bug made him famous and he won prize money, appeared in 1845. The Raven, his most important poem, appeared in 1845, and the poet became famous all over the country.
In 1847 his wife Virginia died. After this tragedy, the poet alternated between bouts of depression and moments of activity and heavy drinking, and during a trip to Baltimore in 1849 he was found dying in the street. He was taken to hospital and died a few days later.