Saturday, May 28, 2011

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe
There's a long, mesmerizing picee about Poe in the New Yorker by Jill Lepore. To me anyway--extraordinary that she could pack so much information and opinion in the space she was given. I've read full-length biographies of Poe that weren't as illuminating. From 2009

Jill Lepore:

"When Edgar was two, his mother died of consumption. Edgar and a brother and sister had little more to depend upon than the charity of strangers. The Poe orphans were separated, and Edgar landed in the home of a wealthy Richmond merchant named John Allan and his sickly, childless wife, Fanny. Allan, who ran a firm called the House of Ellis, never adopted the boy, and never loved him, either. Poe, for his part, took Allan’s name but never wanted it. (He signed letters, and published, as “Edgar A. Poe.”) In 1815, Allan moved his family to London, to take advantage of the booming British market for Virginia tobacco. Poe attended posh boarding schools. Then, during the Panic of 1819, the first bust in the industrializing nineteenth century, banks failed, factories closed, and Allan’s business imploded. Allan, plagued with two hundred thousand dollars of debt, returned to Virginia. Poe turned poet. The earliest verses in his hand that survive were written when he was fifteen: “Last night, with many cares and toils oppress’d, / Weary, I laid me on a couch to rest.” Adolescent melancholy, and nothing more. But on the same sheet of paper, just below Poe’s scrawl, Allan had calculated the compound interest on a debt.


"“I have an inveterate habit of speaking the truth,” Poe once wrote. That, too, was a lie. (That Poe lied compulsively about his own life has proved the undoing of many a biographer.) In 1830, he finally made it to West Point, where he pulled pranks. “I cannot believe a word he writes,” Allan wrote on the back of yet another letter from his wayward charge. Poe was court-martialled, and after that Allan, who had since married a woman twenty years his junior, cut him off entirely. Poe went to New York, but, unable to support himself by writing, he left the city within three months, returning to Baltimore to live with Mrs. Clemm and little Virginia. He published his first story, “Metzengerstein,” about a doomed Hungarian baron, his gloomy castle, and his fiery steed. He won a prize of fifty dollars from the Baltimore Saturday Visiter for “MS Found in a Bottle.” One of the editors, who met him, later wrote, “I found him in Baltimore in a state of starvation.” In these straits, Poe wrote “Berenice,” a story about a man who disinters his dead lover and yanks out all her teeth—“the white and glistening, and ghastly teeth of Berenice”—only to realize that she is still alive. It has been claimed, plausibly, that Poe wrote this story to make a very bad and long-winded joke about “bad taste.” Also: he was hungry."

for the rest go here:
posted by Ed Gorman @ 2:26 PM 3 comments links to this post

1 comment:

Ron Scheer said...

Great essay. Thanks.