The life of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as the life of the most creative people, was hectic, dramatic, and full of controversies. He experienced poverty and prosperity, extreme frustration and passionate love, the complete disregard of readers and immense popularity at the same time. His character was also full of opposites: irascible, arrogant, and energetic and at the same time he was an exquisite lyric, romantic and aristocrat. The lovers of artistic expression are truly interested in his creative life.
Some contemporaries of this talented artist talked about his best traits, while others depicted him as an adventurous villain. It should be said that from the very start, the artist’s life was shrouded by a dark mystery. According to Devaney, in life, Poe was paranoid, unlucky, nomadic, and chronically poor. He had difficulties maintaining close relationships, and his obsessive ambition—to be a serious literary author and editor—largely went unrewarded in his lifetime. (p. 1)
Encyclopedia Britannica relates that drinking was, in fact, to be the bane of his life. ("Edgar Allan Poe") However, Poe was able to make creative solutions and remained true to his desires and impulses throughout all his life. Perhaps, this trait he inherited from his parents who were itinerant actors. The artist was born January 19, 1809 inBoston in Scots-Irish family. His mother, Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and his father David Jr. had two more children besides him. His childhood could be happy in the company of his older brother and younger sister, but his father ran off with the birth of the third baby in 1810, and a year later his mother died of tuberculosis.
John Allan, a successful Scottish merchant from Richmond, who traded tobacco, clothing, wheat, tombstones and other goods began to bring up a little boy. However, little Edgar was not legally adopted by this family, mostly because Mr. John Allan did not like Edgar very much. Edgar Allan Poe was an extraordinarily inquisitive child: he could read, write, draw, recite, and ride a horse when he was five. When Edgar was six, parents moved to London and gave the boy an expensive education in a boarding school. Despite he was sent to a prestigious school, Edgar did not like it because it was cold and dreadful.
Later, he discovered his talent for studying, and showed particular interest and enthusiasm towards literature, history, science, as well as physics, astronomy, mathematics.
The boy was naughty by his nature that is why both at school and at the university he was drawn to adventure with a lot of like-minded brats. Even at that time his peers noticed many strange peculiarities of his character: since early childhood, Poe wrote poetry, built the fantastic plans, liked to make psychological experiments on others people and on himself. He felt that he was a superior child.
Reading his gothic stories the readers may wonder what caused such strange and sullen thoughts. After all that he had to overcome, Poe was destined to become one of the most prominent American writers.
His mother died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 when a little Edgar was three years old. Until her death, children were around her bed. Little Edgar received the inheritance: a little picture of BostonHarbor with a letter from his mother and a mother’s portrait. His elder brother, William received even less: a lock of mother’s hair.
Despite all the troubles, Poe was a lively, bright and affectionate child; also, he was the rapid and capricious. Once he was nearly drowned; this episode frightened the whole family very much.
One episode from his early life should be noticed. When Poe studied in the Richmond school, he visited one of his friends, whose mother was called Elena Stannerd. Her real name was Jane, but Poe did not like the name Jane, and replaced it into Helen. Entering the room, the lady took his hand and told him few kind words, and the weasel of a stranger so influenced a little boy, that he became dumb, and was close to faint. This intense sensitivity to other people's kindness towards him was one of the most outstanding traits of Poe's lifetime. Helen Stannerd became a confidante of his childish sorrows, but there existed some curse, which haunted Poe all his short life. Helen lost her mind and died in a few months. Remembering this gentle woman during all his life, he came to her grave for months after her death. The darker and colder was night, the longer he stayed at the grave. He wanted the woman to feel his warmth. Perhaps, Edgar Poe was destined to be accompanied with the shadows during his life.
Disch (2005) has made a conclusion of Poe’s troubled life in one sentence. He stated:
“Poor Poe. No other American writer of equivalent fame led such a consistently miserable life as he. Abandoned by his father in infancy; orphaned at the age three and entrusted to the care of a rich Richmond merchant, John Allan, whose love was ever in short supply; renounced by Allan and cut out of his will; perpetually impoverished and obliged often to sell his best work for saddled with a wife and mother-in-law as poor as he in a marriage that was probably unconsummated; an alcoholic with a penchant for disgracing at those rare intervals when a glimmer of sunlight appeared through the clouds of his consistently wretched life; thwarted in virtually all his ambitions.” (39)
All these facts have led to the development of Poe’s serious psychological problems. He was so genuinely experienced every emotion that there is no doubt that the roots of his alcoholic addiction and somber themes of the stories should be found in his childhood.