Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809 to the family of two actors in the time when there was still a strong feeling that the theatre was sinful and shameful. Poe’s father deserted his wife and children when Edgar was about a year old and he died a few months later. His mother died a year later and he was taken by the family of Richmond, the Allans, who actually never completed the adoption. To be adopted but not really adopted, and to have been born of travelling actors – this made young Edgar barely acceptable to the children he played with.
Although Allan could feel no affection for the fatherless boy living in his house, he did agree to send him to the University of Virginia. There he met many hot-blooded Virginians wo tended to convert university life into a long course of drinking and gambling. Edgar also drank and gambled and very quickly he was in debt. Allan didn’t feel legally responsible for Poe’s debts and so Edgar was unable to continue at the university.
After a series of other misfortunes, at the age of 22, he had to leave the Allans and he arrived in New York City. He found jobs as an editor and literary critic – but he found few friends. He may have been convinced that he could never belong to the world of people who were correctly born and had families. Also, his tendency to drink too much at times and the effect this had on his behavior, together with his bitter, cutting tongue, made him difficult to like.
So he retreated into himslef, into world that few people ever experience. We have his writing as evidence of this process of retreat. Poe revealed his own thoughts and feelings – his mind, heart, nerves, passions, hates and madness The world he created is like some beautiful cave filled with fanciful illusions that become real and believeable through Poe’s skillful writing. He leads the reader into this world through some of the most wildly imaginative and musical words ever conceived.
Poe’s stories and poems – „The Fall of the House of Usher“, „The Masque of the Red Death“, „ The Murders in the Rue Morgue“, „The Gold Bug“, „The Pit and the Pendulum“, „Lenore“, „The Raven“, „The Bells“ and others – contain charactersand situations that are not now, and never were, a part of the real world. The characters are not persons you might meet; the plots could not happen. But the memory of some experience we’ve refused to accept, may make it appear to be part of the frightening truth we may be desperately denying. We know this: all of us are attracked by horror, but few dare submit to it as did Edar Allan Poe.
Poe gained some recogition while he was still liiving; he won some prizes – but he was mainly unknown and left alone. The French were the first to appreciate his true genius, particularly the poet Baudelaire. This, in turn, brought him recogition at home, but only after his death.
When Poe was 27 he married his 14-year-old cousin. Eventually she, too left him, for she died in freezing weather in a miserable cottage they shared, with Poe’s coat over her and even the cat on her chest to try to keep her warm while Poe held her hands. His wife’s death had a crushing effect on him. He continued to write, but he also drank and settled further into despair.
One day in October 1849, a physican in Baltimore received a message from a printer : „Dear Sir: There is a gentleman who appears in great distress and he says he is acquainted with you, and I assure you he is in need of immediate assistence.“
The doctor found that it was indeed Poe, and that he was dying. As he died, he uttered the words „Lord, help my poor soul.“ Thus ended the lfie of one of America’s greatest authors – one who searched his imagination and found words to describe what he saw.
12. únor 2008