Do You Really Know Poe?

Ask yourself, do you really know who Edgar Allan Poe was? Everyone knows Poe, the tortured soul who haunted us with “The Raven” and gave us shivers with “The Tell-Tale Heart,” but do you know the Poe that laid the foundation for the current-day mystery novel, or wrote book reviews to make ends meet? Most people don’t know that side of the famous author, which is why the following collection will give you a glimpse into the vast unknown personality of Edgar Allan Poe.

Baltimore is widely viewed to be the home-base for Poe. However, he lived many places in his life and his first work, Tamerlane, was published during his time in Boston. The United States Review & Literary Gazette (1) announced the newly published piece. The Poe is known in pop-culture for his horrific stories, and many know of his romantic poems, but he explored with writing in so many more genres than just those two. He did a lot of work in science writing, including revising The Conchologist’s First Book (3). His revisions show that he had extensive scientific comprehension and was very comfortable with scientific writing. Poe then used his scientific knowledge to write tales of science fiction, such as The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (4). Scientific writing is far from Poe’s only stray from horror; he also explored mystery and cryptic stories. Creating and deciphering secret codes in writing were studied by Poe, and he wrote A Few Words on Secret Writing (5), which served as a guide for others to get into the craft as well. Surprisingly, Poe’s most financially rewarded work was not one of horror, but a mystery about a treasure hunt that incorporated cryptic writing. The Gold Bug is a treasure hunt tale that uses cryptology, and it won $100 when it was published (6). Poe spent most of his time being a critic, which provided a steady income to finance his day-to-day living, writing for The Literati of New York City (7), creating a “who’s who” status of the literary scene at the time

Perhaps the most shocking and unknown aspect of Poe’s life is though his works have stood the test of time more than most, he did not have financial stability in his life and struggled to make ends meet. This is illustrated by a letter Poe wrote to James Russell Lowell (2) asking for advances on his paychecks for his contribution to Lowell’s journal. Though we all recognize the tortured portrait of Edgar Allan Poe so claimed by pop culture, there is much more to him than being the master of macabre.

(1) The United States Review & Literary Gazette, August 1827.
(1) The United States Review & Literary Gazette, August 1827.
(2) Edgar Allan Poe, letter to James Russell Lowell, November 24, 1842, Philadelphia.
(2) Edgar Allan Poe, letter to James Russell Lowell, November 24, 1842, Philadelphia.
(3) "Preface" with Poe's annotations to The Conchologist's First Book
(3) “Preface” with Poe’s annotations to The Conchologist’s First Book
(4) Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1838.
(4) Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1838.
(5) Edgar Allan Poe, "A Few Words on Secret Writing." Graham's Magazine, July 1841 (composite image).
(5) Edgar Allan Poe, “A Few Words on Secret Writing.” Graham’s Magazine, July 1841 (composite image).
(6) Edgar Allan Poe, "The Gold Bug," illustrated by Bradbury Thompson. Tales. West Virginia Pulp and Paper Co., 1964.
(6) Edgar Allan Poe, “The Gold Bug,” illustrated by Bradbury Thompson. Tales. West Virginia Pulp and Paper Co., 1964.
(7) Edgar Allan Poe, "The Literati of New York City, No. V" on Frances Sargent Osgood. Godey's Lady's Book, September 1846
(7) Edgar Allan Poe, “The Literati of New York City, No. V” on Frances Sargent Osgood. Godey’s Lady’s Book, September 1846

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