Poet and writer, born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He was abandoned by his father when a baby and his mother died before he was three, so he was taken as a foster child into the home of John Allan, a Richmond, VA tobacco merchant whose business took him to Britain, where Poe was educated (1815-20). Returning to Virginia, he continued his education (1823-5) and attended the University of Virginia (1826).
Having quarrelled with his foster father (although he chose ‘Allan’ as his middle name) over his gambling debts and refusal to study law, he then went to Boston where, anonymously and at his own expense, he published Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827). He served in the US Armyunder a false name (Edgar A Perry) and incorrect age (1827-9), then attended West Point (1830-1), but got himself dismissed when he realized he would never be reconciled with his foster father. He then went to Baltimore to live with his aunt, Mrs Maria Clemm; he would marry her daughter and his own cousin, 13-year-old Virginia Clemm, in 1836.
His third volume of poetry (1831) brought neither fame nor profit, but a prize-winning short story, ‘A MS Found in a Bottle’ (1833), gained him the editorship of the Southern Literary Messenger (1835-6). During the next several years he was a journalist and editor for a variety of periodicals in New York City, Philadelphia, and then back in New York City, where he settled (1844) and continued working as an editor while nursing schemes of starting his own magazine.
At the same time he was gaining some reputation for his short stories, poems, reviews, and essays, and such stories as ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ (1839), ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’ (1841), and ‘The Goldbug’ (1843), would later be regarded as classics of their genre. He gained some fame from the publication (1845) of a dozen stories as well as of The Raven and Other Poems (1845), and he enjoyed a few months of calm as a respected critic and writer.
After his wife died (1847), however, his life began to unravel even faster as he moved about from city to city, lecturing and writing, drinking heavily, and courting several older women. Just before marrying one, he died in Baltimore after being found semi-conscious in a tavern, possibly from too much alcohol, though it is a myth that he was a habitual drunkard and drug addict. Admittedly a failure in most areas of his personal life, he was recognized as an unusually gifted writer and was admired by Dostoevsky and Baudelaire, even if not always appreciated by many of his other contemporaries. A master of symbolism and the macabre, he is considered to be the father of thedetective story and a stepfather of science fiction, and he remains one of the most timeless and extraordinary of all American creative artists.