Unofficially known as patron saint of the morbid, Edgar Allan Poe, the gothic granddaddy of American literature, is famous for his tales and poems of horror including "The Raven" which is one of the most famous poems ever written in English.
Poe's dark writing, coupled with his mysterious death, has made him one of the most famous lurid figures in history.
Poe was born in Boston on January 19th, 1809 and was orphaned at an early age, after which he was sent to live with a foster family (The Allans) in Virginia. He was never officially adopted by the Allans and was eventually disowned by the family.
He enlisted in the Army in 1827 under an assumed name where, humbly, his publishing career began.
Poe won a short story contest in 1833, and two years later became a literary critic for the magazine The Southern Literary Messenger. Shortly after, he married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia and became nationally famous with his poem "The Raven" in 1845.
His life was marred by infrequent but intense drinking which gave him a seriously bad reputation. However, he continued to produce exceptional short stories ("Murders in the Rue Morgue", "The Gold Bug") which brought him acclaim in America, England, and especially in France.
After the death of his wife in 1847, Poe started to fall apart and continued down a downward spiral where he never truly recovered.
In 1849, Poe turned up in front of a Baltimore bar deliriously raving and wearing clothes that didn’t fit. Passersby rushed Poe to the hospital, but he died a few days later without being able to explain what happened to him.
Poe’s rumored causes of death were “cerebral inflammation” and “congestion of the brain,” which were polite euphemisms for alcohol poisoning. Modern scholars don’t totally buy this explanation, though. His incoherent state of mind may have been the result of rabies or syphilis.
With no real evidence either way, Poe’s death remains one of literature’s most fascinating mysteries making his death as enigmatic as his life.
Learn more about this morose, tragic genius at The Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, VA.