Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on 19 January 1809, the second son of the actor David Poe, Jr., and the actress Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe. Poe's father apparently deserted the family in late 1810 and died in December of the following year. Placing her elder son, Henry, with relatives in Baltimore, Eliza cared for Edgar and his younger sister, Rosalie, while continuing to perform theatrically. In declining health, she made her final stage appearance in October 1811 and died of tuberculosis on 8 December in Richmond. Rosalie went to live with the Mackenzie family, and Edgar found a home with John Allan and his wife, Frances Valentine Allan, a childless couple who raised the boy as their son but--significantly--never adopted him. Somewhat spoiled as a child, Poe visited nearby plantations and traveled to fashionable resorts with the Allans; he received an early schooling and reportedly could read a newspaper by age five. In 1815 Allan moved his family to London to open a branch of his mercantile firm. Edgar Allan (as he was known) attended boarding schools, where he studied Latin and Shakespeare and read contemporary authors like Sir Walter Scott. He likely browsed through magazines such as Blackwood's, reading sensational tales of the sort he later satirized in "How to Write a Blackwood Article."
The Making of a Poet
Financial reverses forced Allan to close his London establishment, however, and return to Richmond in July 1820. Edgar Poe--as he was again called--enrolled in Clarke's academy and there excelled in Latin and Greek, demonstrating a gift for satire and verse; he later studied classical literature and French. After long enjoying Allan's favor as a "very fine Boy," Poe began to play pranks and received a whipping for shooting "a lot of domestic fowls" at a nearby plantation (Thomas and Jackson, pp. 42, 49). In adolescence he wrote poems to local girls but most worshiped Jane Stith Stanard, the kindly mother of a friend; her death in 1824 so affected him that he often visited her grave. Yet he was not exactly the brooding introvert of myth. Proud of his athletic abilities, he engaged in footraces, boxing matches, and jumping contests; on a dare, he swam six miles down the James River on a blistering summer day. As a member of the Morgan Junior Riflemen, he formed part of the honor guard for the visiting Marquis de Lafayette. At fifteen, though, Poe increasingly irritated John Allan, who wrote that the boy was "quite miserable, sulky & ill-tempered to all the Family" (p. 61).
Allan's peevishness accompanied financial worries, but in 1825 he inherited three large plantations, together with "the slaves, stocks, and property of all kinds belonging thereto" (p. 64). This sudden wealth enabled Allan to buy a Richmond mansion and likely encouraged his ward to fancy himself the heir to a fortune. In his mid-teens, Poe fell in love with Sarah Elmira Royster, who lived across the street from the new Allan estate; the youth visited her house, sketched her likeness, and proposed to marry her when he returned from college. With his foster father's encouragement but with an insufficient living allowance, Poe enrolled at the University of Virginia in early 1826 and studied modern and classical languages. Drinking and gambling provided extracurricular amusement, ferocious fights were common, and many undergraduates carried dueling pistols. Thomas Jefferson's death on 4 July brought temporary solemnity to the campus--and prevented Poe from dining that autumn, as scheduled, with the author of the Declaration of Independence. The next semester Poe again distinguished himself in the classical languages and French, but gambling proved his undoing. Allan refused to cover his debts, estimated at two thousand dollars, and when Poe returned to Richmond, he learned that Allan would no longer support his studies.
He also discovered that, bowing to family pressure, Elmira had become engaged to another young man; Poe's love letters from Charlottesville had been intercepted by her father. The distraught Poe worked, probably without pay, in Allan's mercantile firm until a clash with Allan in March 1827 prompted the youth to leave home. Poe wrote two angry letters before his departure, accusing his foster father of lacking affection but also begging a loan to finance his travel. Allan rebuked Poe's lack of "perseverance & industry" and chided him for reading worthless books (p. 78). A few days later Poe left Richmond by ship, accompanied as far as Norfolk by an adventurous friend, Ebenezer Burling. After a stay in Baltimore to visit relatives, including his brother, Henry, he proceeded to Boston.
Little is known of his activities in Boston, but there Poe published his first volume of poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827). He enlisted in the U.S. Army as "Edgar A. Perry" and was stationed at Fort Independence, but when his unit was reassigned to South Carolina, Poe and the other members of the battery barely avoided shipwreck in a November gale off Cape Cod. After reaching Charleston, Poe performed military duty at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island, later the setting of his tale "The Gold-Bug." In South Carolina, he also wrote poetry and extended his reading of Shakespeare and English verse. For a time he apparently flourished in the military, but longing for greater conquests, he sought to shorten his five-year enlistment. In December 1828, Poe's unit was reassigned to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, where he wrote a letter seeking Allan's consent to be discharged, alternately begging forgiveness and declaring that Allan's neglect fueled his own personal ambition. A subsequent promotion perhaps changed Poe's plans; while continuing to seek release from active duty, he also requested Allan's help in obtaining an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. The merchant was then distracted by his wife's last illness, but when Poe arrived in Richmond in February 1829--too late for Frances Allan's funeral--he did achieve a temporary reconciliation with "Pa."
At twenty, Poe seemed on the verge of a more promising future; Allan bought him new clothes and wrote letters to secure an appointment to West Point. Upon his discharge, Poe went to Baltimore, where William Wirt, a U.S. Attorney General from Richmond, read his poem "Al Aaraaf" and enumerated the difficulties of getting published. Undeterred, Poe negotiated with a Philadelphia publisher, asking his foster father to subsidize a second volume of poetry. Although Allan refused, he did ask Secretary of War John Henry Eaton to approve Poe's application to the Military Academy. But he disclaimed Poe as his son, noting coldly: "Frankly Sir, do I declare that He is no relation to me whatever" (p. 92). Poe spent the next nine months mostly in Baltimore living with relatives, submitting poetry to various magazines, and arranging the publication of his second volume. In late 1829, Hatch & Dunning issued the collection Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Poe now regarded himself as "irrecoverably a poet" (Letters, p. 19), and even the irascible critic John Neal hailed his promise in the September and December 1829 issues of the Yankee.
The "Folio Club" Tales
Receiving an appointment to West Point in March 1830, Poe attended a summer bivouac and in September registered for courses in mathematics and French. He quickly gained a reputation as a satirist, dashing off doggerel that circulated among the cadets. Alternately studious and dissipated, jocular and morose, he one evening conspired with a cadet to simulate his own murder. He may have been dramatizing his own despair. Allan had again sent him to school without an adequate allowance, and Poe soon found himself in financial embarrassment. Meanwhile, Allan remarried in October 1830, an event that greatly diminished the cadet's prospects for inheritance. Because officers required independent wealth to maintain the trappings of rank, Poe began to neglect his duties and accused Allan of sending him to West Point "like a beggar" (Letters, p. 40). The breach with his foster father had become irreparable, and not coincidentally Poe's career in the military came to a swift, inglorious end. On 28 January 1831 he was court-martialed and dismissed for "gross neglect of duty" (Thomas and Jackson, p. 113). Yet in his final examinations Poe excelled in mathematics and French; despite his notoriety, the cadets raised funds to subsidize a new volume of poetry. Poe left the academy in February and went to New York, where publisher Elam Bliss issued Poems by Edgar A. Poe (1831), dedicated to the "U.S. Corps of Cadets."
Wretchedly ill, Poe languished in New York and then journeyed to Baltimore in the spring of 1831, where he found lodging on Wilks Street with his grandmother, Elizabeth Cairnes Poe, and Aunt Maria Clemm. The move reunited him with his brother, a bibulous sailor-poet afflicted by consumption; despite long periods of separation, the two brothers felt an uncanny bond and perhaps collaborated on certain poems. But the reunion was brief, for Henry died on 1 August. That summer Poe sought odd jobs but also pursued an important new line of literary activity. Responding to an advertisement in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier announcing a prize of one hundred dollars for the best original tale, he composed a handful of short fictional narratives, largely parodies of popular magazine genres. Although Poe did not win, the Saturday Courier featured his supernatural tale "Metzengerstein" just before his twenty-third birthday and by year's end published four other tales, all parodic pieces. Poe still had no income from his fiction, and although he continued to live with his grandmother, his aunt, and cousin Virginia, he seems to have had no regular employment.
His situation did not improve much during the next two years. He published a few poems in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter in early 1833, and that spring he moved with the family to Amity Street. He continued to write brief, exaggerated, often satirical prose tales and by late spring had completed eleven such pieces. About his personal life little is known; Poe apparently tutored Virginia, wrote flirtatious verses to another cousin, Elizabeth Herring, and for several months courted a girl named Mary Starr. He made a last appeal to Allan in 1833, presenting himself as "absolutely perishing for want of aid," but Allan apparently declined to reply (Letters, pp. 49-50).
In June the Saturday Visiter announced a literary competition to which Poe submitted a poem and six stories from a collection called "Tales of the Folio Club." He had contrived a brief, comic frame for the tales, introducing a fictitious club of eccentric storytellers. Dazzled by the "wild, vigorous" imagination of these pieces, the committee headed by John Pendleton Kennedy chose "MS. Found in a Bottle" for the premium in fiction, while Poe's "Coliseum" placed second in poetry (Thomas and Jackson, p. 133). The story appeared in October, and the newspaper prepared to issue a "Folio Club" volume by subscription. But that plan collapsed, probably because Poe offended the editor, and instead Kennedy offered to recommend the manuscript to Philadelphia publishers Carey and Lea.
Still living in utter poverty, Poe published another story, "The Visionary," in Godey's Lady's Book, marking his first appearance in a nationally circulated periodical. Soon thereafter, worried that Allan's health was failing, Poe made an unannounced visit to his old home but was rebuffed by his foster father, who brandished a cane and ordered him to leave. Six weeks later, in March of 1834, Allan died, and his will made no mention of his foster son. Although he was discouraged, Poe doggedly continued to write tales and in November visited Philadelphia publisher Henry C. Carey, who expressed interest in the stories while doubting they would have commercial success. Advising Poe to place the tales in magazines and annuals, Carey soon washed his hands of the project.
Editorial Genius of the Messenger
Poe's disappointment was palpable, but Kennedy continued to encourage him; he probably wrote on Poe's behalf to Thomas W. White, the Richmond printer who, in late 1834, had founded the Southern Literary Messenger. Soon Poe made his first appearance in the journal: the March 1835 issue carried "Berenicë," a story so gruesome that Poe felt obliged to promise that he would "not sin quite so egregiously again" (Letters, p. 58). In succeeding months he contributed reviews and tales from the "Folio Club" series, and, exploiting local interest in balloon flights, he devised a burlesque science fiction tale, "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall," depicting a voyage to the moon. Eager to please White, Poe purchased supplies in Baltimore and traveled to Richmond in August to assist the publisher, little suspecting that his employment with the Messenger would emblazon his name in American letters.
The move to Richmond immediately complicated Poe's personal life. Losing the security and stability of family connections, he sought solace in drink. He quickly became attracted to Eliza White, the proprietor's daughter, and a romance ensued, even though White found Poe "rather dissipated" (Thomas and Jackson, p. 167). But in late August, Maria Clemm sent a disturbing letter reporting that in their destitution, she and Virginia were ready to accept shelter from Poe's detested cousin Neilson Poe. To Poe the news came like the thrust of a knife: he felt fiercely protective of Virginia (then thirteen), whom he called his "darling," "Sissy," and "little wifey" (Letters, pp. 69-71). He begged Mrs. Clemm and Virginia to join him immediately in Richmond and, to relieve his uncertainty, rushed to Baltimore in late September, perhaps even wedding his cousin in a private ceremony. White reported to a friend that Poe had "[flown] the track already" and judged him "a victim of melancholy" (Thomas and Jackson, pp. 170-171). Two weeks later, Poe arrived in Richmond with Mrs. Clemm and Virginia; White lectured him on temperance but reinstated him as editorial assistant.
Poe's growing influence in American letters may be gauged by editorial responses to the Messenger. Identified as White's assistant, Poe received much credit for the improved literary fare, and he touched off controversy by mocking Theodore Fay's Norman Leslie (1835), a novel "puffed" by the New-York Mirror, where Fay was associate editor. In the same issue Poe published his unfinished drama, Politian, based on the sensational Beauchamp murder case in Kentucky. Although he produced no new tales during his Messenger stint, Poe was inventive as a magazinist. Posing as a handwriting specialist, he analyzed signatures of various American writers in "Autography," and in "Maelzel's Chess Player" he delivered a pseudoscientific exposé of a touring automaton. When James Kirke Paulding praised his work, Poe promptly shipped him the "Folio Club" manuscript, entreating him to find a New York publisher. In correspondence, Poe called himself editor of the Messenger, and White published notices thus identifying him, but, significantly, the proprietor himself never acknowledged Poe's editorial authority.
In May 1836, perhaps to avoid local scandal, Poe married Virginia before several witnesses, including White and his daughter, Eliza. The bride, not yet fourteen, was still an immature girl, and it seems unlikely that the marriage initially involved conjugal relations. Presumably the couple later consummated the relationship, however, for an 1841 tale ("Eleonora") celebrates the passionate love between the narrator and his cousin-wife. Poe perhaps invited White to the wedding to allay doubts about his own steadiness and responsibility, for he had again lapsed into intemperance. In June he received discouraging news from Harper and Brothers, who declined to publish his "learned and mystical" tales, instead urging him to compose "a single and connected story" of book length (p. 212). By September, White had become so distressed by Poe's drinking and by his "cutting and slashing" reviews that he considered firing him (pp. 222, 236).
Fascinated by Jeremiah Reynolds' report to Congress on a proposed South Seas expedition, Poe began to compose a story narrated by a survivor of fantastic adventures near the South Pole. The Messenger carried two episodes of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838), tracing Pym's adolescent escape from "Edgarton" in terms reminiscent of Poe's flight from Richmond with Ebenezer Burling in 1827. The first installment in January 1837 coincided with White's dismissal of Poe's editorial "Tomahawk Man." In seventeen months, Poe had made the Messenger one of the most widely read journals in the country.
Shortly after his discharge, Poe left Richmond with Virginia and Mrs. Clemm and took up residence in New York to pursue an editorial offer. Little is known about Poe's year in the city except that he never received the expected position and published almost nothing. He attended a booksellers' dinner in March that included Paulding, Washington Irving, and William Cullen Bryant, and he labored to complete his sea novel, which was accepted for publication in May 1837. But that same month a bank crisis plunged the nation into a depression, forcing a publishing delay that left Poe once more in desperate financial straits.
Up and Down in Philadelphia
Early in 1838, Poe, nearly destitute, moved with his family to yet another publishing center, Philadelphia. He had virtually abandoned magazine writing and wrote in July to Paulding, then the new secretary of the navy, pleading for a "clerkship" to relieve him from "the miserable life of literary drudgery" (Letters, p. 681). The long-delayed novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, was published by Harper and Brothers in late July to mixed reviews; it appeared, not coincidentally, just as the Wilkes expedition (1838-1842) departed for the South Seas. From the publisher, Poe perhaps received some recompense, for by September he claimed to have "nearly" extricated himself from recent financial "embarrassments" (Letters, p. 112). He also corresponded with Nathan C. Brooks, whose American Museum magazine included in its inaugural issue Poe's mystical tale "Ligeia." He was beginning to recover the audacity and inventiveness that had marked his rise to national attention.
But Poe continued to live in poverty and beg loans from local acquaintances. About this time, he met William Burton, owner and editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. Ironically, Burton had written a devastating review of Pym, but Poe swallowed his resentment, applied for work, and performed editorial odd jobs. He quickly assumed most of the work, and he resumed the caustic reviewing that was his trademark. Poe's developing sense of imaginative power soon produced "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "William Wilson." His growing literary renown encouraged Lea & Blanchard to publish his collected short fiction, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, in December 1839. In the space of a year Poe had returned from near oblivion to claim a new and influential role in American letters.
About this time he also embarked on several audacious exercises as a magazinist. As a contributor to Alexander's Weekly Messenger, Poe challenged readers to send cryptograms and then displayed his cleverness by deciphering them. In early 1840, he also published in Burton's a serialized longer tale, "The Journal of Julius Rodman," a narrative of western exploration tracing the first expedition to cross the Rockies. Hoaxing the public, Poe lifted many passages from the history of the Lewis and Clark expedition (1814) and from Irving's Astoria (1836). Yet even as he perpetrated this deception, Poe attacked Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as a plagiarist, accusing him of stealing a poem from Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Dashing off hasty reviews, he felt overwhelmed by editorial work and resented Burton's offering prizes that he never awarded. In May, when Burton tried to sell the journal, Poe decided to start his own periodical, the Penn Magazine, and solicited subscriptions. Burton saw the prospectus and fired his assistant, provoking a warning from Poe: "If by accident you have taken it into your head that I am to be insulted with impunity I can only assume that you are an ass" (Letters, p. 130).
After the break with Burton, Poe dedicated himself to preparations for the Penn. The would-be publisher felt he must "do or die" (p. 152) and invited contributions from noted contemporary authors. When George Graham bought the Gentleman's Magazine and merged it with the Casket to create Graham's Magazine, Poe contributed a splendid tale, "The Man of the Crowd." Just as he was about to prepare the first issue of the Penn, however, he fell ill and remained bedridden a month, postponing the debut until March. The delay was disastrous: a banking crisis in February 1841 dashed plans for launching the new journal and forced Poe to accept a temporary position with Graham's.
The new association proved important, however, for it furnished a steady income, elicited several remarkable tales, and restored Poe's status as a force in American letters. After he joined the staff, subscriptions to Graham's quadrupled. His first tale as a contributing editor, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," introduced a new genre to prose fiction: the detective story. Reactions to the gruesome story had scarcely subsided when Poe inserted the horrific "A Descent into the Maelström." To stimulate popular interest, he also devised a cryptographic series called "Secret Writing" and a new handwriting series called "A Chapter on Autography." Impressed by Poe's originality, Graham offered his partnership in producing a new monthly, but Poe's frustration with the feminized Graham's format instead prompted him to seek a government appointment from President John Tyler. About this time he also composed "Eleonora," a prophetic tale about the narrator's quest for a second love after the demise of his cousin-wife.
The tale haunted Poe, for soon after its publication, Virginia suffered a pulmonary hemorrhage while singing and nearly died; Poe thus learned of the consumption that took her life five years later. Distracted and melancholy, Poe himself fell ill, lapsed into drinking, and neglected his magazine work--although he interviewed the young English novelist Charles Dickens. When Poe returned to Graham's one day, he found another man at his desk and resigned on the spot. Graham later offered the editorial position to Rufus W. Griswold, the anthologist who became Poe's nemesis. During this volatile period, Poe wrote a famous review of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales, introducing his theory that every word of a tale should contribute to the "outbringing" of a "single effect" (Essays and Reviews, p. 572). With Virginia battling a fatal disease, Poe composed and published "The Masque of the Red Death," a tale of deadly contagion.
His wife was still extremely ill when Poe visited New York in mid-1842, searching for editorial employment, and he went on a reckless drinking binge. He begged his friend Frederick W. Thomas to secure him a position in the Philadelphia Custom House, and on the literary front he prepared a new volume of tales. Also during that year he composed the horrific story "The Pit and the Pendulum," another detective tale, "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt," and the chilling murder story, "The Tell-Tale Heart," which appeared in James Russell Lowell's Pioneer.
Early in 1843, Poe formed a partnership with Thomas C. Clarke, who agreed to publish the long-postponed monthly magazine now called the Stylus. Seeking new subscribers--and a government post--Poe visited Washington, D.C., in March, went on a debauch, and embarrassed even his friends. He returned to Philadelphia penniless and humiliated, and two months later Clarke withdrew his support. But Poe finally received good news: his treasure-hunting tale, "The Gold-Bug," won a prize of one hundred dollars offered by the Dollar Newspaper and brought belated fame. In August another Philadelphia newspaper published "The Black Cat," but Poe was soon desperate for cash once more and in November began lecturing on American poetry in Philadelphia and nearby cities.
Doings and Undoings in Gotham
The lectures continued the following year and brought Poe a modest income. In early April, however, he moved back to New York with Virginia (Mrs. Clemm joined them later) and quickly created a public stir with "The Balloon-Hoax," a pseudojournalistic report about a transatlantic balloon flight. For an obscure Pennsylvania newspaper he next concocted a series on literary gossip called "Doings of Gotham," and he reported to Lowell that he was preparing a "Critical History of Am. Literature" (Letters, p. 261). The Dollar Newspaper carried his tale "The Premature Burial" in July, and a few months later the Gift published his dazzling third Dupin story, "The Purloined Letter." By autumn Nathaniel Parker Willis hired him as an assistant at the Evening Mirror.
Poe became more active in the New York literary scene in 1845 and became a celebrity after the January publication of "The Raven," which was widely reprinted and parodied. A month later, he left the Mirror to join forces with Charles F. Briggs and John Bisco in publishing the Broadway Journal, where he resumed his indictment of Longfellow for plagiarism. A controversial February lecture at the Society Library contained stinging pronouncements on many contemporary American poets male and female. Poe nevertheless developed friendships with several literary women, attended their salons, and carried on a flirtation with Mrs. Frances S. Osgood. Thanks to Evert Duyckinck, editor at Wiley and Putnam, a new volume of twelve Tales by Poe appeared in June, and two weeks later he assumed editorial control of the Broadway Journal. But Poe's health was poor, thwarting his creative work, and he humiliated himself in October before the Boston Lyceum; instead of presenting a new poem as promised, he recited his arcane early poem, "Al Aaraaf," confounding listeners and eliciting hostile reviews. Returning to New York, he became proprietor of the Broadway Journal and struggled to keep it afloat, blaming "enemies" who plotted its destruction (Letters, p. 304). Wiley & Putnam brought out The Raven and Other Poems, and Poe created excitement by publishing "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar." But these developments did not enable him to save the only journal he ever owned; the Broadway Journal expired in January 1846.
Depressed and ill, Poe became entangled in a feud between two literary ladies--Mrs. E.F. Ellet and Mrs. Osgood--and scuffled with novelist Thomas Dunn English. Such episodes made Poe increasingly unwelcome at New York literary salons, and seeking rural tranquility, he moved his family that spring to a cottage in Fordham (now a section of the Bronx). His series on "The Literati of New York City" captured national attention in Godey's Lady's Book, and his brilliant revenge tale, "The Cask of Amontillado," appeared there in November. By then both Poe and Virginia were both "dangerously ill" with consumption (Thomas and Jackson, p. 672), dependent on Mrs. Marie Louise Shew, a volunteer nurse, and Mrs. Clemm for meals and nursing care. On 30 January 1847, Virginia Clemm Poe died of consumption, and Poe himself remained desperately ill. Mrs. Shew gradually nursed Poe back to health, and the poet responded by dedicating verses to her. The poet Sarah Anna Lewis also befriended Poe and Mrs. Clemm, providing welcome financial help, and in July he was well enough to journey to Philadelphia and Washington. One of the few works he completed in 1847 was the haunting poem "Ulalume," probably inspired by visits to Virginia's grave.
In a burst of new energy Poe began working in 1848 on a cosmological "prose poem" he titled Eureka; and rehearsing his argument, he lectured in February on "The Universe" before a New York audience. Soon thereafter he received a valentine poem from an admirer in Providence, Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman, and reciprocated her attentions. About the same time that Putnam's published Eureka, he lectured on American poetry in Lowell, Massachusetts, and met Mrs. Nancy "Annie" Richmond, who swiftly became a confidante and soul mate. Upon his return, Poe traveled south to Richmond to seek support for the Stylus; among other social calls, he visited his first love, Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton, by then a wealthy widow. The delivery of a poem by Sarah Whitman, however, prompted him to depart immediately for New York. Acknowledging his need to find a new wife, he wrote Mrs. Shew that "unless some true and tender and pure womanly love saves me, I shall hardly last a year longer, alone!" (Letters, p. 373). In September he visited Providence, met Mrs. Whitman (a widow six years his senior), and proposed to her in a cemetery. She declined, citing her age and poor health.
But Poe was undeterred, and in October he renewed his suit before going on to Lowell, where he unburdened himself to Annie Richmond, extracting a promise that she would come to his deathbed. Whether from unresolved grief about Virginia, thwarted love for Mrs. Richmond, or anxiety about marrying Mrs. Whitman, Poe swallowed an ounce of opium on 5 November in Providence, suffering a horrific overdose that was likely an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Although warned by friends and family against marrying Poe, Mrs. Whitman finally consented on the condition that Poe avoid strong drink. Days later, though, he wrote a passionate letter to Annie, claiming that he loved her "as no man ever loved woman" (p. 401). In December he returned to Providence and lectured before a crowd of nearly two thousand on the "Poetic Principle"; his performance thrilled Mrs. Whitman, whose family seemed prepared to accept the nuptials. But Poe's subsequent drinking prompted her to break off marriage plans, and her outraged suitor departed for New York.
In the new year Poe focused his fantasies upon Annie Richmond and wrote intimate letters confessing his hopes and "dark forebodings" (p. 438). In February he wrote "Hop-Frog," which appeared in a Boston weekly, the Flag of Our Union, and there he also published a poem, "For Annie," dedicated to Mrs. Richmond. Unexpectedly, a printer named Edward H.N. Patterson of Oquawka, Illinois, wrote to propose publishing the Stylus from that frontier outpost, and Poe took the offer seriously. He left for Richmond to raise funds and solicit subscriptions, but during a stop at Philadelphia he got drunk, landed in jail, and suffered terrible hallucinations. Publisher John Sartain cared for him until Poe could resume his travels, and perhaps in gratitude, Poe offered Sartain a new poem, "Annabel Lee." In Richmond, he resumed his attentions to Mrs. Shelton and in late July proposed marriage. Between drinking bouts, he there delivered his lecture on the "Poetic Principle," and in late August he joined the Sons of Temperance, possibly to reassure Mrs. Shelton. By late September, she consented to marry him, and Poe left for New York to bring Mrs. Clemm to the wedding. Just when he seemed on the verge of launching his magazine and wedding his first love, fate intervened. On a stop in Baltimore, coincidentally an election day, Poe apparently fell into the hands of political henchmen who, after plying him with drink, took him from precinct to precinct as a repeat voter. He collapsed and was taken to Washington College Hospital, where, after lingering in a delirium for four days, he died on 7 October 1849. His funeral took place the following day, and he was buried "without ostentation" in a nearby cemetery (Thomas and Jackson, p. 848). Reaction to Poe's death was mixed; Rufus Griswold, whom Poe had unwisely named his literary executor, published a scathing obituary in the New York Daily Tribune, while sympathetic tributes by George Graham and others appeared thereafter. For more than a century, Poe's work has excited admiration and scorn, as critics have pondered his works and debated his contributions to American literature. Generation after generation, his strange poems and disturbing tales continue to engage new readers, for they seem to plumb the most elemental uncertainties of human experience.
From boyhood Poe aspired to be a poet, and his early enthusiasm for Lord Byron informs his first published volume, Tamerlane and Other Poems. The title poem presents the deathbed confession of a Turkish hero, who loses his first love while pursuing conquest and glory. Although Poe's conception of Tamerlane as a cursed and wandering figure is thoroughly Byronic, the Romantic plot barely masks the story of Poe's own ill-fated youthful romance with Miss Royster. The concluding poem, "The Lake," shows Poe's poetic development, for he portrays a brooding younger self who, beside the "poison'd wave," experiences not "fright" but "tremulous delight." Finding beauty in the terrible, the fledgling poet inverts conventional values to make "an Eden of that dim lake" (p. 37).
Poe's second volume, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, combined several works from the first collection with eight new pieces, including the esoteric "Al Aaraaf." Poe sets the action in 1574, when the star discovered by Tycho Brahe exploded, turned red, and then disappeared. The poet portrays a celestial dreamland presided over by the angel Nesace, who after thanking God for the creation of Beauty, visits the dying star Al Aaraaf--a place between heaven and hell--and commands Ligeia, a personification of nature's music ("Ligeia! Ligeia!/My beautiful one!"), to arouse the slumbering spirits before the star's extinction (p. 47). The lovers Angelo and Ianthe also inhabit Al Aaraaf, but because their hearts beat so wildly with passion, they ignore Ligeia and perish. This gem was the earliest version of "Sonnet--To Science," in which Poe accused Science of destroying earthly enchantment. Science at last (in the 1841 revision) deprives the poet of "the summer dream beneath the tamarind tree" (p. 38).
In his third collection, Poems, Poe gathered several new poems, of which "To Helen," stands as one of his greatest achievements. Inspired by his memory of Jane Stanard, the poem evokes the legendary Helen of Troy, whose beauty is like a vessel carrying the "weary, way-worn wanderer" to his "native shore." Her "hyacinth hair," "classic face," and "Naiad airs" transport the poet-seafarer back temporally "To the glory that was Greece,/And the grandeur that was Rome" (p. 62). "To Helen" represents an enduring treatment of obsessive attraction to a beautiful yet unattainable woman. Another remarkable poem was "Israfel," a verse celebrating the lyric genius of an angel. Poe compares his own plight, confined to "a world of sweets and sours," with the heavenly bliss of Israfel, who despises "an unimpassion'd song" (pp. 63, 64). The poet asserts that were the angel to change places with him, "A stormier note than this would swell/From my lyre within the sky" (p. 64). "Irenë" (later, "The Sleeper") meditates on the strange slumber of the dead beloved, and "The Doomed City" (precursor to "The City in the Sea") tells how "Death has rear'd himself a throne" in a "strange city" surrounded by the sea (p. 67). Here Poe sketches a surreal scene that conveys death's terrifying, transformative power.
Apart from his unfinished verse drama, Politian, Poe sporadically composed occasional or lyric poems throughout the decade. Two works, "To One in Paradise" and "The Haunted Palace," were incorporated into prose tales. The latter, an eerie architectural allegory of the transition from reason to madness, apparently preceded by several months the composition of "The Fall of the House of Usher." "Sonnet--Silence," composed in late 1839, compares the "two-fold Silence" of "Body and Soul": while we need not dread the "corporate Silence" of physical death, we should "commend [ourselves] to God" if we encounter his "shadow," presumably the silence of spiritual death (p. 77).
Oddly, Poe wrote little poetry in 1840 and 1841, but in late 1842 he composed "The Conqueror Worm," an allegorical verse staging "the tragedy, 'Man,'" a "motley drama" whose hero is "the Conqueror Worm." For a tearful "angel throng," "mimes" perform a play about "Madness," "Sin," and "Horror," culminating in the arrival of a "blood-red thing" that feeds on "human gore" (pp. 77-79). One of Poe's most despairing visions of the human condition, he later inserted the poem into the tale "Ligeia." His much-quoted poem "Dream-Land" conjures up "a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,/Out of Space--out of Time." Ruled by a phantom called "Night," this strange dreamland is populated by "Ghouls" and ghosts; only in death can its "mysteries" be apprehended (pp. 79-80).
During 1844, Poe also composed his most famous poem, "The Raven," a narrative of eighteen octosyllabic stanzas exploring the subject of mourning, here projected as a dialogue between the narrator and a bird that speaks but a single word. The narrator's melancholy breeds contradiction: he tries to suppress the memory of the "lost Lenore" by retrieving "forgotten lore"; he vows that she will be "nameless here for evermore" (pp. 81-82) and then speaks her name repeatedly. In his desire to recover his beloved, he ponders the raven's utterance and poses two fearful questions: whether there is "balm in Gilead" (spiritual salvation) and whether he will "clasp" Lenore in heaven (p. 85). But he already knows the answer, and the bird's "Nevermore" confirms his despair, pushing him toward madness. As an emblem of loss, the raven confirms the never-ending remembrance that is the narrator's fate; the poem thus brilliantly dramatizes obsessive melancholia. In "The Philosophy of Composition," Poe explained the poem's form and refrain, declaring that "the death ... of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world" (Essays and Reviews, p.19).
The death of Virginia impelled the composition in 1847 of "Ulalume," a ballad of ten stanzas depicting a speaker's nocturnal ramble through "the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir" with Psyche, his soul. When the planet Venus ("Astarte") emerges from behind a crescent moon, bringing the consolation of love, Psyche mistrusts its "pallor," although the narrator insists that its "gleaming" will guide them "aright" (p. 90). As they approach the "end of the vista," however, they are stopped "by the door of a tomb" (p. 91). Belatedly the speaker realizes that he has returned to his beloved's sepulchre exactly one year after her burial. He asks what "demon" has "tempted" him back and surmises that "merciful ghouls" have conjured up the "scintillant planet" to impede his return to "the thing that lies hidden in these wolds." If so, the power of the unconscious has been even stronger, leading him back to the physical impasse--the "door of a legended tomb"--that separates him from the "lost Ulalume" (p. 91).
Several distinctive poems emerged in Poe's final two years. The much-quoted "The Bells" uses alliteration and repetition in comparing different kinds of bells. The refrain, "the bells, bells, bells, bells,/Bells, bells, bells," manifests obsession and carries the poem to the brink of hysteria (pp. 92-95). "For Annie" refers to Poe's friendship with Annie Richmond and his 1848 suicide attempt. Having conquered "the fever called 'Living,'" the speaker consoles himself with "many/A dream" of Annie's care and tenderness. The enigma lies in the uncertainty of the speaker's condition--is he actually dead, having finished "living," or does he simply rest so "composedly" that he resembles a corpse? Much depends on how one interprets the "narrow" bed in the eighth stanza (pp. 98-99). Less puzzling is his late poem "Eldorado," inspired by the California gold rush but broadly reflective of Poe's tortured quest for fame. When the aging knight asks where to find Eldorado, the "pilgrim shadow" tells him to "Ride, boldly ride" "Down the Valley of the Shadow" (pp. 101). The language of Psalm 23 links this valley to death, but more generally the "shade" exhorts the knight to confront fear courageously. Poe's last poem, "Annabel Lee," reprises the theme of mourning and the compulsion to return to the tomb of the beloved. But Poe also evokes youthful happiness and affirms a love that survives death. Rather than memorializing Virginia Poe, "Annabel Lee" reflects plaintively on the universal experience that all love ends in loss.
Poe's apprenticeship as a magazinist began in 1831 with a handful of mostly comic stories. G.R. Thompson notes the often overlooked fact that nearly half of his sixty-odd tales display a penchant for satire, burlesque, or parody. "A Decided Loss" (later titled "Loss of Breath") finds him, for example, satirizing tales of premature burial by taking literally--and carrying to a ludicrous extreme--the colloquial expression "losing one's breath." Two notable early stories, "Metzengerstein" and "MS. Found in a Bottle," break the comic pattern; although both contain elements of exaggeration, Poe's solemn tone and sustained intensity appear to indicate creative seriousness (as Benjamin F. Fisher views the earlier tale). Establishing Poe's early interest in revenge and metempsychosis, "Metzengerstein" depicts the Baron's fatal encounter with a spectral horse embodying the spirit of his dead rival, Count Berlifitzing. Supernaturalism intrudes when the debauched Metzengerstein contemplates the figure in a tapestry of "an enormous, and unnaturally colored horse" (p. 136). When Metzengerstein's equerries later bring him a "gigantic and fiery-colored horse" that has escaped the burning stables of the nearby Castle Berlifitzing, we learn that a small portion of the tapestry has simultaneously disappeared (p. 137). The horse finally carries the Baron into the flames of the Palace Metzengerstein--a death attributable either to a supernatural curse or to the hero's "perverse attachment" to a "demon-like" creature (p. 140). At the crux of his interest in madness and self-destructiveness, perverseness became a major theme for Poe.
"MS. Found in a Bottle" tapped the vogue for sea stories, and Poe's achievement here (as Donald B. Stauffer has noted) lies in his shift from verisimilitude to fantasy. The prosaic details of the opening paragraphs give way to increasingly ominous images, borrowed from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and the Flying Dutchman legend. After various calamities, the narrator finds himself aboard a gigantic ebony ship manned by a spectral crew. With the ship caught in a powerful current, he feels torn between horror and curiosity, imagining himself "hurrying onwards to some exciting knowledge--some never-to-be-imparted secret, whose attainment is destruction" (p. 198). The frenzied last paragraph reveals that the story itself is the manuscript found in a bottle, a note composed on the brink of oblivion. With its interest in the mystery beyond death, the tale offers a prophetic metaphor for Poe's own journey as a writer.
One other early tale, "The Visionary" (later, "The Assignation"), invites greater critical attention. Set in Venice, the tale's melodramatic opening scene finds a famous Romantic poet diving into the canal to save an infant dropped by its mother, the Marchesa Aphrodite. The woman's unexpected encounter with the poet produces her cryptic vow: "Thou hast conquered--one hour after sunrise--we shall meet--so let it be!" (p. 203). After exhibiting his originality for the narrator, the poet declares himself "rapidly departing" for the "land of real dreams," drinks from a special goblet, and dies--just as a messenger arrives with news that the Marchesa has been poisoned (p. 211). Poe's treatment of the suicide pact raises as many questions as it answers, and the visionary's opinions and aesthetic preferences occupy much of the narrative. But here, as in "Metzengerstein" and "MS. Found in a Bottle," we see Poe's early striving to concentrate the force of the tale upon a final, shocking scene.
The Marchesa's demise marks the first appearance in fiction of a major motif, the death of a beautiful woman. Two other early stories are variations on the theme. "Berenicë" traces the narrator's peculiar obsession with the dazzling white teeth of his dying cousin, and in the lurid final paragraphs, Poe implies that the amnesiac narrator has in fact violated the tomb of Berenicë to extract the teeth from her "still breathing--still palpitating" body (p. 232). The story illustrates a significant technical development; although he had experimented with first-person narration in several early tales, Poe first introduced in "Berenicë" an agitated, unreliable narrator whose account reveals inadvertent evidence of his own delusions. As James Gargano has shown, Poe used this new method of narration to brilliant effect in several major tales, allowing the reader to perceive evidence of derangement to which the narrator is blind. In a sequel titled "Morella," the alienated narrator marries a woman of immense learning and watches irritably as she declines to death; on her deathbed she bears a daughter, who grows into the exact likeness of her mother. The suggestion of metempsychosis induces the narrator to name the child, perversely, after her mother, and when at last he bears his daughter to the tomb, he finds no trace of the first Morella in the crypt where he deposits the second. Poe's treatment of uncanny reincarnation, suggesting that the first Morella takes revenge on the alienated narrator, allowed the writer in late 1835 to rank "the tale" as his best story to date. Taken together, the early tales exhibit a maturing craftsmanship in their orchestration of sensational effects and exploration of the psychological dimensions of first-person narration.
Aside from a curious satire on dueling titled "Mystification," The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was Poe's only new creative work during a bleak period of eighteen months. Dismissed by the author as "a very silly book" (Letters, p. 130), Pym represents a dizzying tour de force, a hoaxical potboiler charged with some of Poe's most shocking scenes, and a pseudo-autobiography that skates on the edge of sublimity and mystery. The scholar Joseph V. Ridgely has shown that Pym evolved as a patchwork narrative, reflecting changing intentions. Poe's ironic preface develops a strategy to pass off the novel as an authentic narrative of exploration: the fictional "A.G. Pym" claims authorship of a story first attributed in the Messenger to Poe. From the opening episode, Poe depicts his narrator caught in desperate circumstances, first impaled on the hull of a boat, then trapped in a ship's hold, and subsequently involved in a deadly counter-mutiny aboard the Grampus. Pym survives starvation, participates in cannibalism, and witnesses the death and instantaneous decomposition of his friend, Augustus, before being rescued, with a "half-breed" Indian (p. 1007) named Dirk Peters, by a British trading vessel bound for the South Seas. During several documentary chapters Poe's narrator metamorphoses from a callow youth into a learned naturalist and anthropologist. When Pym persuades the captain of the Jane Guy to investigate the polar region, they discover an island named Tsalal, inhabited by fierce-looking black natives. Just when the white men believe that they have placated the natives and prepared the way for commercial exploitation, the blacks massacre the crew. Pym and Peters (with a native hostage) flee the island in a canoe; for three weeks they paddle south into mild, milky seas. As they approach a vortex, a huge "shrouded" figure looms before them, and the narrative breaks off suddenly:
And now we rushed into the embraces of the cataract, where a chasm threw itself open to receive us. But there arose in our pathway a shrouded human figure, very far larger in its proportions than any dweller among men. And the hue of the skin of the figure was of the perfect whiteness of the snow. (p. 1179)Poe's puckish final "Note" reports that although Pym by an unexplained miracle returned from the South Seas, he has been killed in a subsequent accident before delivering his completed narrative.
Masterworks of Terror
If nothing else, the writing of Pym persuaded Poe that a tale's success depended upon brevity and unity of effect. That principle of composition was already guiding his writing in 1838 when he began work on "Ligeia." Here Poe stretched the limits of narratorial unreliability: his storyteller suffers from amnesia, takes opium, and experiences apparent hallucinations. He seems utterly dependent on Ligeia, a dying woman of consummate learning who plans to defy mortality by force of will. The narrator's reaction to her demise is curious; "with a child-like perversity" he refurbishes an abbey in funereal decor and "in a moment of mental alienation" (p. 270) weds a second wife, the blonde Lady Rowena. His palpable loathing for Rowena betrays evidence, as Roy P. Basler suggests, of an unacknowledged scheme to frighten her to death. The "hideous drama of revivification" (p. 276) by which the apparently dead Rowena returns to life and assumes the appearance of Ligeia creates an electric moment virtually unparalleled in Poe's fiction. His use of calculated ambiguity--Do ruby drops fall into Rowena's wine? Does she then die?--heightens the radical uncertainty of what really happens in "Ligeia." The tale's outcome may indeed represent supernaturalism--metempsychosis or spiritual vampirism--or it may likewise be explained as narratorial delusion or even homicidal psychosis. Although he later added three paragraphs on Ligeia's death, along with the poem attributed to her, Poe justifiably considered "Ligeia" his best tale to date. Ending a creative drought, Poe entered the most productive period of his career. One month later he published "How to Write a Blackwood Article" and the pendant "A Predicament"--tales illustrating his irrepressible instinct for parody, even self-mockery. Before the end of 1839 he had written six more new tales, two of which--"The Fall of the House of Usher" and "William Wilson"--marked a great creative leap.
No other tale by Poe has attracted more critical discussion than "Usher," thanks to its psychological intensity and symbolic suggestiveness. Here Poe achieves an absolute unity of effect evoking melancholy and dread; from the opening sentence, every detail contributes to the foreboding atmosphere pervading the House of Usher. Visual analogies between Roderick Usher's face, the facade of the house, and the "Haunted Palace" of the embedded poem establish a complex analogy between the progressive derangement of the protagonist, the physical disintegration of the mansion, and the fate of rational thought, under assault by "evil things, in robes of sorrow" (p.326). Usher's perverse relationship to his cadaverous sister, Madeline, drives the plot; once again the decline and apparent death of a beautiful woman pushes the protagonist toward madness. Usher suspects that in his "unnerved" condition, he must finally "abandon life and reason together" in a struggle with some incarnation of Fear (p. 322).
As in "Ligeia," the uncertainty of Madeline's condition produces an equivocal response. Conscious of her susceptibility to catalepsy, Usher decides to preserve her body within the house for a fortnight; yet upon viewing the "lingering" smile on her lips and the "faint blush upon the bosom and the face," he screws down the lid and places the body behind a heavy iron door (p. 329). He is both unwilling to concede that she is dead and unable to admit that she may be alive. The narrator, more baffled here than unreliable, has been summoned to comfort his old friend by rationalizing uncanny phenomena, but he finds himself increasingly unable to explain strange sights and sounds. Madeline's final horrific return suggests that she seeks revenge on her brother for burying her prematurely. As she embraces Roderick, he succumbs to the "terrors" (p. 335) he anticipated, and his simultaneous loss of life and reason seems literally to bring down the house in a grand cataclysm that the horrified narrator barely escapes. A half-century before the emergence of psychoanalysis, Poe developed an elaborate house-mind analogy to suggest that by entombing Madeline in the basement, Usher attempted to push her into the unconscious--that is, to repress the fear that she palpably represents. But as Freud later demonstrated, that which is repressed always, inevitably returns, and the final, fatal embrace in "Usher" is its sign and seal.
"William Wilson" introduces a new narrational strategy, a confession of perverse misdeeds by a remorseful storyteller. The narrator relates the enormities of his career, however, in a way that confuses repentance with rationalization. Explaining the strange antagonism between himself and his double (or doppelgänger), an identically named schoolboy who speaks only in a guttural whisper, the narrator reconstructs the rivalry to justify his hatred. Yet we also understand, from the opening inscription, that the second William Wilson represents the voice of conscience. When the narrator embarks on a life of debauchery and chicanery, the whispering Wilson mysteriously pursues him, exposing his deceptions. In the final encounter, set in Rome, Wilson confronts his counterpart and seems to dispatch him with a sword, but he finds himself gazing at his own reflection in a shattered mirror and hears a voice like his own say, "thou hast murdered thyself" (p. 357). Although Poe (reviewing Hawthorne) condemned allegory, his treatment of the killing of conscience in "William Wilson" is unmistakably allegorical. But his approach is altogether different from Hawthorne's: the story is more concerned with what Patrick Quinn regards as the psychology of divided consciousness than with an ethical dilemma.
Poe returned to the idea of doubling in "The Man of the Crowd" (1840), creating a gothic vision of London streets at night while a possibly unreliable narrator recounts his obsessive pursuit of an old man said to be "the type and the genius of deep crime" (p. 396) because he shuns solitude and seeks crowds. Representing the city as a lonely, terrifying place, this tale has seemed especially conducive to sociopolitical readings. Whether the old man is a monstrous deviant, the innocent object of relentless pursuit, or an emblem of alienation, the story's title seems finally to apply as much to the narrator as to his prey. Indeed, the story reverses the narrative logic of "William Wilson" to construct a doppelgänger relationship from the position of a dogged spectator. Although the narrator introduces himself as a rational observer, his perceptions reveal a morbid imagination as well as a blindness to the effects of his own stalking. He is a flawed prototype of the sleuth-hero, a would-be detective who claims to "read" the stranger's heart even as he declares it to be unreadable.
As Poe discovered in "The Man of the Crowd," the quest to solve a mystery could prove more fascinating than the mystery itself, and he shortly introduced the "tale of ratiocination" (to be discussed shortly). About the same time, his growing interest in analysis inspired the sea story "A Descent into the Maelström." Related by a Norse sailor, the narrative recalls "MS. Found in a Bottle" and Pym in its representation of a massive whirlpool. Drawing on encyclopedia articles to add verisimilitude, Poe superimposed upon the tale of terror--the sailor's experience in the whirling abyss--a display of reason, for the man's cool analysis of the geometry and physics of objects in the vortex finally saves his life. Unlike the horrific ending of "MS.," which culminates in the narrator's apparent death, "Descent" brings the sailor back to tell his story.
After Virginia Poe's 1842 hemorrhage, Poe published two tales reflecting his darkened mood and situation. "Life in Death" ("The Oval Portrait") again shows his attraction to allegory. In a Gothic chateau filled with paintings, a "desperately wounded" (p. 481) narrator takes shelter; one painting catches his fancy, the portrait of a young girl, whose "absolute life-likeliness of expression" (p. 482) startles him. In a bedside volume discussing the paintings he discovers the story of its creation: a passionate painter obsessed with his art has married the girl and then obliged her to pose for him, day after day, despite her pallid appearance, until he completes the portrait--said to be "Life itself" (p. 484). At that very moment, however, he sees that his beloved is dead, a tragedy that comments incisively on the parasitic relationship of Art to Life.
One month later, Poe published "The Masque of the Red Death," regarded as possibly the greatest of his short tales. Here the author accused of never writing a moral tale produced a profoundly ethical allegory concerned with human arrogance, social responsibility, and mortality. In the midst of a plague, Prince Prospero summons a thousand "hale and light-hearted" friends and seals off his castle, for "the external world could take care of itself" (p. 485). To divert himself from the misery outside, he stages a masked ball, but at midnight, a masked figure appears, "shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave" (p. 489) and daubed with blood. Prince Prospero draws a dagger to strike but suddenly falls dead; the revelers attack the specter but are horrified to find "the grave cerements and corpse-like mask ... untenanted by any tangible form" (p. 490). Thus they discover the presence of the Red Death and drop one by one in postures of despair. Although Poe narrates the story atypically in the third person, he achieves an impressive unity of effect, sustaining to the last sentence the "nameless awe" (p. 490) evoked by the mysterious figure.
In 1842 he returned to the formula of sensation satirized in "How to Write a Blackwood Article" to compose "The Pit and the Pendulum," a story recalling the 1808 suppression of the Spanish Inquisition after Napoleon's invasion of Spain. Sentenced to death, the narrator recovers from a swoon to find himself in total darkness, possibly buried alive. His captors have prepared an array of possible torments--a deep pit, a pendulum with a "razor-like crescent" (p. 501), and finally burning walls that contract, forcing him toward the abyss:
At length for my seared and writhing body there was no longer an inch of foothold on the firm floor of the prison. I struggled no more, but the agony of my soul found vent in one loud, long, and final scream of despair. I felt that I tottered upon the brink--I averted my eyes--(p. 505)Suddenly he hears the sound of voices, then of trumpets, as General Lasalle himself rescues him. Poe made no great effort here to achieve symbolic complexity; rather, in "The Pit and the Pendulum" he pushes to the limits the psychodrama of sensation resulting from deadly predicaments and hairbreadth escapes.
Reverting in late 1842 to the persona of an enervated, unreliable first-person narrator, Poe crafted "The Tell-Tale Heart." From its opening sentence, the tale conveys the derangement of a maniac who murders and dismembers an old man he professes to love--and who then recounts the story "calmly" as if to prove his sanity (p. 555). His narrative is a tissue of seemingly inadvertent revelations: first he says that the crime has been without motive, then he describes the oppressive effect of the old man's "vulture eye"; he tells of rehearsing the crime many nights, evoking in the old man the same terror that he himself has often felt "just at midnight" (pp. 556-557). After depositing the old man's remains beneath the floor, the narrator entertains three police investigators; his initial coolness gives way to panic when he hears a "low, dull quick sound" and in horror invites the police to pull up the floor to confirm the beating of the old man's "hideous heart" (p. 559). "The Tell-Tale Heart" was Poe's first story in a new key, making the narrator (as Max Byrd has noted) both the criminal and the detective.
Riding a surge of prodigious creativity, Poe then composed the ingenious narrative "The Gold-Bug." Evoking the legend of Captain Kidd, he combined cryptography with ratiocination to create a story of buried treasure set on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina. Entertaining the narrator, the eccentric William Legrand sketches a recently discovered gold beetle and unexpectedly notes a "hieroglyphical signature" on his scrap of parchment. When the narrator later returns, worried by his friend's entomological preoccupation, Legrand proposes an expedition, aided by his manumitted servant, Jupiter. Following Legrand's directions, Jupiter drops a line weighted by the gold bug through a skull in a tree, thereby marking the spot where the men unearth pirate treasure. For the astonished narrator, Legrand recounts how he recognized Captain Kidd's mark, chemically treated the parchment, and deciphered a coded message. By 1844, Poe considered "The Gold-Bug" his "most successful tale" (Letters, p. 253), and from the standpoint of sheer popularity it clearly was.
The author added a new study of homicidal fury in "The Black Cat." Following the method of "The Tell-Tale Heart," he adopted the first-person perspective of a condemned killer whose narrative represents an eleventh-hour confession. But here an important theme, "the spirit of PERVERSENESS," latent as early as "Metzengerstein," provides the key to the narrator's rage. This "unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself--to offer violence to its own nature--to do wrong for the wrong's sake only" (p. 599) accounts for the impulsive execution of his beloved black cat, Pluto, and it likewise explains his adopting a new cat, identical to Pluto except for a white mark that prophetically resembles a gallows. When his wife prevents him from slaughtering the cat, the frenzied narrator instead "[buries] the axe in her brain" (p. 603) and walls up her corpse in the basement. During an investigation, the narrator brazenly raps on the wall where he has immured his wife; a feline howl prompts the police to pull down the wall, exposing the upright, decomposed body of the wife and the black cat--with a "solitary eye of fire"--sitting on her head (p. 606). Hinting of metempsychosis, the single eye suggests that Pluto has become the second cat. Written shortly after Virginia's hemorrhage, this narrative seems in context a shocking treatment of domestic relations, though as always we must avoid confusing Poe himself with his mad narrators.
In a much different vein, "Mesmeric Revelation" best reflects Poe's recurrent attraction to transcendental cosmology. The 1844 tale records the conversation between a mesmerist and a dying man named Vankirk, who under hypnosis explores "physical impressions" concerning mind, matter, God, and the "soul's immortality" (p. 718). Vankirk wishes to confirm his intuitions, and the mesmerist elicits the insight (reminiscent of Emerson) that "unparticled" matter "permeates" and "impels all things" and is thus "all things within itself" or "God" (p. 720). After revealing that "Divine Volition" created "rudimental" physical life so that "perfection" might be apprehended through contrast with "imperfection" (p. 725), Vankirk asks to be awakened, and with "a bright smile irradiating all his features," he instantly expires and exhibits rigor mortis (p. 726). The narrator suspects that Vankirk's final revelations arrived from the other side of death. Reflecting Poe's preoccupation with the soul's fate, Vankirk's happy death projects the transcendental optimism that the author labored to sustain against the dread that recurrently beset him.
Another tale of this period explores those darker fantasies, though in a way that turns panic to parody. "The Premature Burial" examines living entombment as verifiable fact, the most hideous fate that may befall a person. After a series of case histories, all drawn from contemporary periodicals, Poe's narrator acknowledges his own susceptibility to premature interment. Although he has taken precautions (securing a coffin with an escape hatch), he awakens one day in a tight, dark space and fears the worst. But he has merely fallen asleep aboard a ship, and the embarrassing episode prompts him to stop brooding on death. In a clever turn that exposes Poe's hoax, the narrator vows to read "no 'Night Thoughts'--no fustian about church-yards--no bugaboo tales--such as this" (p. 679). Poe relieves his anxiety about death and burial by mocking both the gullibility of the reader and his own inveterate morbidity.
In 1845, the annus mirabilis of "The Raven" and the Broadway Journal, Poe published three more important tales. "The Power of Words" extends the visionary speculation of "Mesmeric Revelation" by presenting a brief dialogue between two spirits. Agathos, the tutelary figure, explains to Oinos, a shade "new-fledged with immortality" (p. 822), that happiness derives not from knowledge but from the quest for knowledge; that God created actively only at the beginning of the universe; and that creation continues everywhere, for all causes produce endless effects. Agathos declares that no energy is ever lost: all motions have infinite consequences, and every word spoken creates "an impulse on the air" (p. 825) whose results are unimaginable. The tale thus reflects Poe's determination to construct a cosmological theory that would corroborate his intuitions about life after death and affirm the godlike power of the poet.
Moving in a radically different direction, Poe then returned to the problem of perverseness. In "The Imp of the Perverse," an odd hybrid of narrative and essay, the author casts doubt on efforts to interpret divine will by studying human nature and emphasizes instead a "primitive impulse" that impels forbidden acts (p. 827) and opposes the instinct for survival. The opening disquisition leads to the revelation by the previously undramatized narrator that, as a victim of this "imp," he stands condemned to death for committing the perfect crime--murdering an old man (whose estate he inherits) in a way that appears to be a natural death. After reveling in his cleverness, he gradually becomes tormented by an odd compulsion to blurt out a confession; amid a city throng, the "long-imprisoned secret bursts forth from [his] soul" (p. 831). Clearly the psychology of crime fascinated Poe, and "The Imp of the Perverse" marks one of his most penetrating studies, for he suggests that homicide may be displaced self-destruction. He also hints in the final sentence that dread itself may paradoxically inflame the perverse urge to do violence to the soul.
Uncertain whether the soul was immortal or simply an effect of consciousness that perished with the body, Poe wrote "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" (1845). The tale returns to the theme of mesmerism and recounts another effort to place a dying man under mesmeric influence. Yet unlike Vankirk in "Mesmeric Revelation," M. Valdemar offers no "psychal impressions," only the sepulchral utterances of a man longing to die. Hypnotized on the verge of death, Valdemar loses all signs of vitality and defies the laws of language (as Roland Barthes has noted) by insisting that he is dead. He remains thus suspended for almost seven months, and when the narrator releases him from the trance, he decomposes instantly into "a nearly liquid mass of loathsome--of detestable putridity" (p. 842). Perhaps the most shocking conclusion Poe ever devised, this last paragraph rewrites the ending of "Mesmeric Revelation" as a gruesome spectacle devoid of transcendental optimism. "Valdemar" shows Poe publicly engaged in mystification while privately exorcising anxieties.
Only three prose texts from Poe's last years seem noteworthy. Clearly "The Cask of Amontillado" (1846) ranks among his greatest narratives, for its ironic treatment of revenge, condensed style, and disturbing conclusion intensify its dramatic effect. Montresor reconstructs a crime committed fifty years earlier, possibly as a deathbed confession to the nameless listener who "so well [knows] the nature of [his] soul" (p. 848). Yet as in "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Imp of the Perverse," the narrator also confesses in order to display his cleverness, and his scheme to entrap Fortunato reveals both meticulous planning and astute analysis of his adversary. Montresor plays on Fortunato's vanity as a wine connoisseur, then uses reverse psychology to lure him into the damp catacombs. After leading his nemesis to the supposed site of the Amontillado, Montresor walls up Fortunato to achieve what he supposes will be the vengeance with impunity desired at the outset. But his final call to Fortunato, his admission that his "heart grew sick," and his closing supplication ("In pace requiescat") suggest that for "half of a century," he has been plagued by guilt (p. 854). The etymological connection between family names (fortune/treasure) implies that Fortunato and Montresor are ultimately doubles--and, indeed, Montresor buries his "friend" in his own family vault. Scholars have suggested sources for this tale in Poe's literary battles, but the deeper fascination of "The Cask of Amontillado" lies in the hint of self-persecution.
Making an audacious bid to reveal the ultimate nature of the universe--including the fate of the individual soul--Poe published his long, cosmogonical "prose poem," Eureka, in 1848. Whether his "Book of Truths" (p. 1259) is a brilliant elaboration of physical and spiritual insight or a confused, ultimately poignant effort to shore up his precarious sense of reality has long been debated. Presenting himself as an intellectual and visionary, Poe argues that the entire cosmos tends to return to a state of original unity. Critiquing the theories of Johannes Kepler, Sir Isaac Newton, Pierre-Simon Laplace, and others, he labors to construct rational proof of God's existence through the evidence of astronomy and physics. In his boldest response to the problem of death, which some critics regard as Poe's definitive pronouncement, he declares at the end of Eureka: "All is Life--Life--Life within Life--the less within the greater, and all within the Spirit Divine" (pp. 1358-1359).
Poe's last great tale, "Hop-Frog" (1849), culminates in a ghastly mass murder arranged by the title character, a dwarfish court jester. The tale exposes the king's cruelty when he forces the excitable jester to drink wine and tosses a goblet in the face of Trippetta, a dwarf girl who dances at court. Both Hop-Frog and Trippetta have been abducted from "some barbarous region" to serve the king as virtual slaves (p. 900). When the king humiliates Trippetta, however, Hop-Frog plots revenge by persuading the king and his seven ministers to masquerade in a "diversion" called "the Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs" (pp. 903-904). Posing as beasts, they plan to horrify guests at a masked ball, but Hop-Frog sets fire to their costumes, declaring that he now sees clearly "what manner of people these maskers are" (p. 908). The tale projects sympathy for the exploited, physically odd outsider and derives its force from an outrage that is both personal and political. The "ourang-outang" masquerade, trading on a familiar racial stereotype, strengthens the perception that Poe alludes to slavery in antebellum America. Unlike Montresor, the jester experiences no guilty conscience; indeed, he and Trippetta return to their homeland after effecting a thoroughly American revolt against tyranny.
The Tales of Ratiocination
During the 1840s, as a creative counterpoint to his tales of terror and perverseness, Poe invented the modern detective story. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," his first concerted "tale of ratiocination" (Essays and Reviews, p. 573), in fact established its basic conventions. These consisted of a seemingly insoluble mystery, a supremely brilliant yet eccentric detective, an observant though less astute confidant, and an earnest yet inept police investigator. Nothing escapes the observation of C. Auguste Dupin, who demonstrates at the outset that he can read his friend's mind. Poe invented the less observant companion-narrator to defer the revelation of the mystery--which has in fact already been solved--by re-staging the detective's elucidation of the case for the benefit of his perplexed friend.
The author built his tale around the sensational Parisian murder of Madame L'Espanaye and her daughter, who have been attacked in a locked room. Citing conflicting newspaper sources, Poe deepens the confusion about the assailant until Dupin nonchalantly informs the narrator that he has solved the case, having deduced that the murderer was a primate able to climb a building and tear apart his victims. By inspecting the crime scene, he has also discovered a broken nail in a window frame (explaining the animal's route of escape) and a tiny ribbon that--in Dupin's dazzling analysis--links the beast to a Maltese sailor. Here the tale reaches its climax, for just as the detective concludes his explanation to the narrator, a sailor appears to claim his orangutan in response to a newspaper notice by Dupin. Realizing that he has been caught, the sailor compliantly provides the missing details that confirm the detective's solution. This scene of revelation, confirming Dupin's genius, is repeated before the Prefect of Police, who fails to solve the case because he is "somewhat too cunning to be profound" (p.431).
Poe was somewhat less successful in devising the second Dupin case, "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt," which was based on contemporary accounts of the bizarre death in New York of a popular cigar salesgirl named Mary Rogers. Using newspaper reports, Poe attempts to have his fictional detective, C. Auguste Dupin, solve the real "murder," thinly disguised as a Parisian crime; while the story was in serialization, new evidence inconveniently suggested that the young woman had died after a botched abortion. The greater length of "Marie Rogêt" allows Poe to dilate on the sensational aspects of the case--the hints of sexual molestation, the condition of the corpse, and the suspicion that a gang of ruffians had been involved. He again devotes much of the narrative to a meticulous analysis of conflicting accounts, and he hedges Dupin's final solution to avoid possible disconfirmation by the ongoing Mary Rogers investigation. Yet for some aficionados of the detective genre, the tale represents an intriguing exercise in extrapolation. At the end of a story obsessed with minute details, Poe mockingly (and perhaps self-mockingly) warns of the mistakes that arise when Reason seeks truth "in detail" (p. 554).
In "The Purloined Letter" C. Auguste Dupin in his last bow returns to solve the theft of a compromising letter. Paradoxically, the crime is intriguing because even the dull-witted Prefect of Police knows that the Minister D&2mdash; has stolen the love letter from the queen's boudoir and knows it to be in his possession. Complex game-playing thus pervades the tale: Dupin toys with the Prefect; he engages the Minister D&2mdash; in a battle of wits; and he playfully conceals his activities to astound the narrator as well. The climax occurs near the tale's midpoint: when the Prefect makes a second visit, Dupin asks the amount of the reward and instructs him to prepare a check; the "thunder-stricken" Prefect accepts the purloined letter and departs "without having uttered a syllable" (p. 688). Dupin then explains to the equally surprised narrator how he deduced that, because the Minister D&2mdash; is both a poet and mathematician (as is Dupin himself), he has audaciously hidden the letter in plain sight to evade the Prefect's search. Dupin has recovered the letter just as the Minister D&2mdash; obtained it: by substituting a worthless one. He further confesses that he has settled a score with D&2mdash; for an "evil turn" done to the detective once in Vienna. Few Poe tales have evoked more discussion in recent years: since Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida, respectively, probed the psychoanalytic dimensions of the tale's doubling and repetition and the implications of the letter as a sign of language and power, critics such as Barbara Johnson and John Irwin have added to the accretion of provocative commentary (Muller and Richardson).
About the same time he composed "The Purloined Letter," Poe also wrote "'Thou Art the Man,'" a humorous backwoods murder mystery that evokes the classical origins of the detective story (the tragedy of Oedipus) while marking the end of Poe's formal experimentation with the modern genre he created. In 1846 he wrote to Philip Pendleton Cooke:
These tales of ratiocination owe most of their popularity to being something in a new key. I do not mean to say that they are not ingenious--but people think them more ingenious than they are--on account of their method and air of method. In the "Murders in the Rue Morgue," for instance, where is the ingenuity of unravelling a web which you yourself (the author) have woven for the express purpose of unravelling? (Letters, p.328).
As this self-deprecating comment implies, Poe little suspected the far-reaching nature of his achievement. Yet in just three years he had discovered most of the essential devices and strategies upon which innumerable detective writers of later generations would elaborate.
In the century and a half since Poe's death, his works have influenced writers as diverse as Stéphane Mallarmé, Flannery O'Connor, Vladimir Nabokov, and Joyce Carol Oates. His tales, in particular, have had an impact on three major mystery forms: fantasy and science fiction, horror stories, and detective fiction. In each case, later writers adapted Poe's ideas and methods to establish the conventions of a popular genre. Through the important French translation of Poe by Charles Baudelaire, for example, Jules Verne discovered in such high-flying stories as "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall" and "The Balloon-Hoax" the strategies of verisimilitude and technical extrapolation that characterized his early science fiction, which included Five Weeks in a Balloon (1869) and From the Earth to the Moon (1869). Three decades later he reached back to Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym for the inspiration that produced Le Sphinx des glaces (1897), a fantastic sequel to Poe's novel in which Pym explores the earth's interior after being sucked into the polar abyss. Often borrowing narrative devices from Poe, Verne's fabulous stories influenced H.G. Wells and a legion of twentieth-century authors of fantasy and science fiction.
Because the horror story derived from eighteenth-century gothic fiction and still earlier sources, Poe's contribution to that genre is not foundational, but his tales of terror have nevertheless provided an important model in this century. Perhaps his most conspicuous latter-day emulator was H.P. Lovecraft, whose discovery of Poe directly inspired his fictional juvenilia as well as several later works. "The Outsider" (1921), "The Rats in the Walls" (1923), and "Cool Air" (1926) figure as conscious responses to specific Poe tales, and Lovecraft's predilection for neurotic narrators, remote or archaic settings, and florid style suggests Poe's conceptual influence. Many contemporary exponents of the horror story Lovecraft helped to popularize acknowledge an ultimate debt to Poe. The prolific Stephen King, for example, seems to have drawn principally upon stories like "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Pit and the Pendulum" for the stunning claustrophobic intensity in novels like The Shining (1977).
Poe's contributions to later literature are most notable, however, in the domain of the detective story, and again Baudelaire's translation played a pivotal role. The Dupin stories apparently inspired journalist Émile Gaboriau to conceive a series of Poesque Récits Etranges that began and ended with "Le petit vieux de Batignolles," but his subsequent L'Affaire Lerouge (1866) introduced the roman policier (novel of police investigation) and launched a vogue sustained by Ponson du Terrail and Fortuné de Boisgobey, among others. Gaboriau's success in this form, along with the mystery novels of Wilkie Collins (who owed much to Poe), encouraged the writing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who drew several key ideas from the example of Dupin--his minute observation, identification with the criminal, and ability to recognize paradoxes (such as clues hidden in plain sight). Doyle also adapted Poe's teaming of an eccentric, amateur superdetective with an admiring and often stupefied companion. The crime-solving adventures of Sherlock Holmes triggered a flood of twentieth-century detective fiction, and in many later works, such as E.C. Bentley's Trent's Last Case (1913) or John Dickson Carr's "That Gentleman from Paris" (1950), Poe's influence is palpable. John Irwin has lately shown that Jorge Luis Borges wrote his surreal detective stories in conscious, esoteric response to the three Dupin tales. Although Poe drew ideas for the detective story from Voltaire's Zadig (1748), Charles Dickens' Barnaby Rudge (1841), and the Memoirs of Vidocq (1828) (head detective under Napoleon I), his invention of what he called the "tale of ratiocination" finally launched a publishing industry. The Edgar Allan Poe awards presented annually by the Mystery Writers of America testify to his lasting influence on the form.
Individual Works by Edgar Allan Poe
- Tamerlane and Other Poems. By a Bostonian. Boston: Calvin F.S. Thomas, Printer, 1827.
- Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Baltimore: Hatch & Dunning, 1829.
- Poems by Edgar A. Poe. Second Edition. New York: Elam Bliss, 1831.
- The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1838.
- Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, 2 vols. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1840.
- The Prose Romances of Edgar A. Poe. Philadelphia: William H. Graham, 1843.
- Tales. New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1845.
- The Raven and Other Poems. New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1845.
- Eureka: A Prose Poem. New York: Putnam, 1848.
Collected Works by Edgar Allan Poe
- The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, 4 vols. Edited by Rufus Wilmot Griswold. New York: J.S. Redfield, 1850-1856.
- The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, 17 vols. Edited by James A. Harrison. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1902.
- Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, 3 vols. Edited by Thomas Ollive Mabbott. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969-1978.
- Imaginary Voyages, vol. 1 of The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Edited by Burton R. Pollin. Boston and New York: Twayne, 1981; New York: Gordian Press, 1994.
- Poetry and Tales. Edited by Patrick F. Quinn. New York: Library of America, 1984.
- Essays and Reviews. Edited by G.R. Thompson. New York: Library of America, 1984.
Letters of Edgar Allan Poe
- The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, 2 vols. Edited by John Ward Ostrom. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1948; New York: Gordian Press, 1966.
- Dameron, J. Lasley, and Irby B. Cauthen, Jr. Edgar Allan Poe: A Bibliography of Criticism, 1827-1967. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1974.
- Hyneman, Esther F. Edgar Allan Poe: An Annotated Bibliography of Books and Articles in English, 1827-1973. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1974.
Biographical and Critical Studies
- Allen, Michael. Poe and the British Magazine Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1969.
- Asselineau, Roger. Edgar Allan Poe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970.
- Auerbach, Jonathan. The Romance of Failure: First-Person Fictions of Poe, Hawthorne, and James. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
- Barthes, Roland. "Textual Analysis of a Tale of Poe." In On Signs. Edited by Marshall Blonsky. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985. Pp. 84-97.
- Basler, Roy P. "The Interpretation of 'Ligeia.'" College English 5: 363-372 (April 1944).
- Bittner, William. Poe: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown, 1962.
- Bloom, Harold, ed. The Tales of Poe. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.
- Bonaparte, Marie. The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe: A Psycho-analytic Interpretation. Translated by John Rodker. London: Imago, 1949. With an introduction by Sigmund Freud.
- Brand, Dana. "Reconstructing the 'Flâneur': Poe's Invention of the Detective Story." Genre 18: 35-56 (spring 1985).
- Budd, Louis J., and Edwin H. Cady, eds. On Poe. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1993.
- Byrd, Max. "The Detective Detected: From Sophocles to Ross Macdonald." Yale Review 64: 76 (October 1974).
- Carlson, Eric W., ed. The Recognition of Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Criticism Since 1829. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966.
- Cox, James M. "Edgar Poe: Style as Pose." Virginia Quarterly Review 44: 67-89 (winter 1968).
- Davidson, Edward. Poe: A Critical Study. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1957.
- Dayan, Joan. Fables of Mind: An Inquiry into Poe's Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
- Eliot, T.S. "From Poe to Valéry." Hudson Review 2: 327-342 (autumn 1949).
- Elmer, Jonathan. Reading at the Social Limit: Affect, Mass Culture, and Edgar Allan Poe. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1995.
- Fiedler, Leslie. Love and Death in the American Novel, rev. ed. Normal, Ill.: Dalkey Archive Press, 1997.
- Fisher, Benjamin F. "Poe's 'Metzengerstein': Not a Hoax." American Literature 42: 487-494 (January 1971).
- ———, ed. Poe at Work: Seven Textual Studies. Baltimore: Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1978.
- Gargano, James W. "The Question of Poe's Narrators." College English 25: 177-181 (December 1963).
- ———. "'The Cask of Amontillado': A Masquerade of Motive and Identity." Studies in Short Fiction 4: 119-126 (winter 1967).
- Goddu, Teresa. Gothic America: Narrative, History, and Nation. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.
- Halliburton, David. Edgar Allan Poe: A Phenomenological View. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973.
- Hammond, Alexander. "Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of the Folio Club: The Evolution of a Lost Book." Library Chronicle 41: 13-43 (1976).
- Hoffman, Daniel. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972.
- Howarth, William L., ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Poe's Tales: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971.
- Ingram, John H. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life, Letters, and Opinions. London: W.H. Allen, 1886; New York: AMS Press, 1965.
- Irwin, John. American Hieroglyphics: The Symbol of the Egyptian Hieroglyphics in the American Renaissance. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980.
- ———. The Mystery to a Solution: Poe, Borges, and the Analytical Detective Story. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.
- Jacobs, Robert D. Poe: Journalist and Critic. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969.
- Kennedy, J. Gerald. Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987.
- ———. "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" and the Abyss of Interpretation. New York: Twayne, 1995.
- ———. "The Violence of Melancholy: Poe Against Himself." American Literary History 8: 533-551 (fall 1996).
- Ketterer, David. The Rationale of Deception in Poe. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979.
- Kopley, Richard, ed. Poe's "Pym": Critical Explorations. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1992.
- Levin, Harry. The Power of Blackness: Hawthorne, Poe, Melville. New York: Knopf, 1970.
- Levine, Stuart. Edgar Poe: Seer and Craftsman. Deland, Fla.: Everett/Edwards, 1972.
- Ljungquist, Kent. The Grand and the Fair: Poe's Landscape Aesthetics and Pictorial Techniques. Potomac, Md.: Scripta Humanistica, 1984.
- Martin, Terence. "The Imagination at Play: Edgar Allan Poe." Kenyon Review 28: 194-209 (1966).
- May, Charles. Edgar Allan Poe: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1991.
- Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Scribners, 1992.
- Miller, Perry. The Raven and the Whale: The War of Words and Wits in the Era of Poe and Melville. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1956.
- Moss, Sidney. Poe's Literary Battles: The Critic in the Context of His Literary Milieu. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1963.
- Muller, John P., and William J. Richardson. The Purloined Poe: Lacan, Derrida, and Psychoanalytic Reading. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988.
- Nelson, Dana. The Word in Black and White: Reading "Race" in American Literature, 1638-1867. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
- Person, Leland S. Aesthetic Headaches: Women and a Masculine Poetics in Poe, Melville, and Hawthorne. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1988.
- Pollin, Burton R. Discoveries in Poe. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1970.
- Porte, Joel. The Romance in America: Studies in Cooper, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, and James. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1969.
- Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. New York and London: Appleton-Century, 1941; New York: Cooper Square, 1969.
- Quinn, Patrick F. The French Face of Edgar Allan Poe. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1957.
- Regan, Robert, ed. Poe: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967.
- Reilly, John E. "The Lesser Death-Watch and 'The Tell-Tale Heart.'" American Transcendental Quarterly 2: 3-9 (2nd quarter 1969).
- Renza, Louis. "Poe's Secret Autobiography." In The American Renaissance Reconsidered, edited by Walter Benn Michaels and Donald E. Pease. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985. Pp. 58-89.
- Reynolds, David. Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville. New York: Knopf, 1988.
- Riddel, Joseph. "The 'Crypt' of Edgar Allan Poe." Boundary 2: 117-141 (spring 1979).
- Ridgely, Joseph V. "The Growth of the Text." In Imaginary Voyages, vol. 1 of The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Edited by Burton R. Pollin. Boston and New York: Twayne, 1981; New York: Gordian Press, 1994. Pp. 29-36.
- Robinson, Douglas. American Apocalypses: The Image of the End of the World in American Literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.
- Rosenheim, Shawn. The Cryptographic Imagination: Secret Writing from Edgar Allan Poe to the Internet. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.
- Rosenheim, Shawn, and Stephen Rachman, eds. The American Face of Edgar Allan Poe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.
- Rowe, John Carlos. Through the Custom-House: Nineteenth-Century American Fiction and Modern Theory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.
- Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
- ———. New Essays on Poe's Major Tales. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
- Stauffer, Donald B. "The Two Styles of Poe's 'MS. Found in a Bottle.'" Style 1: 107-120 (spring 1967).
- Stovall, Floyd. Edgar Poe the Poet: Essays New and Old on the Man and His Work. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1969.
- Thomas, Dwight, and David K. Jackson. The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1987.
- Thompson, G.R. Poe's Fiction: Romantic Irony in the Gothic Tales. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1973.
- ———. "The Arabesque Design of Arthur Gordon Pym." In Poe's "Pym": Critical Explorations. Edited by Richard Kopley. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1992. Pp. 188-213.
- Walker, I.M. Edgar Allan Poe: The Critical Heritage. London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986.
- Weiner, Bruce I. "Novels, Tales, and Problems of Form in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym." In Poe's "Pym": Critical Explorations. Edited by Richard Kopley. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1992. Pp.44-56.
- Whalen, Terence. "Edgar Allan Poe and the Horrid Laws of Political Economy." American Quarterly 44:381-417 (September 1992).
- Wilbur, Richard. Responses: Prose Pieces, 1953-1976. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976.
- Williams, Michael J.S. A World of Words: Language and Displacement in the Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1988.
- Woodberry, George E. The Life of Edgar Allan Poe, Personal and Literary, 2 vols. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1909; New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1965.