Classic Authors

Page 11 of 13

Poe, Edgar Allan (1809-1849)

Edgar Allan Poe began his literary career with verse that charmed his readers, and then became famous for his later stories of imponderable bleakness.  In his short, turbulent life he had known much bleakness.  He was orphaned at the age of three.  He gambled as a student, was expelled from military college, he became an alcoholic, and was regularly fired from periodicals.

In his fiction, he explored apparently motiveless crimes, with the recurring theme of entombment.  There have been strongly divergent evaluations of Poe's literary significance, from Emerson's dismissal of him as "the jingle man" to Yeats's declaration ,  "always and for all lands a great lyric poet."

His reputation is also grounded on his use of the short story, which he preferred to the novel on the same basis that he preferred the short poem to the long.

We stand upon the brink of a precipice.

We pear into the abyss.  We grow sick and dizzy.

Our first impulse is to shrink from the danger, and yet,

unaccountably, we remain.

The Imp of the Perverse

Hart, James D. "Edgar Allan Poe." The Oxford Companion to American Literature, revisions and additions by Phillip W Leininger, sixth edition, Oxford University Press, pp.521-522.

Payne, Tom. "Poe, Edgar Allan." A-Z of Great Writers, Carlton Books, 1997, p.295.

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