October 7, 2007

October 7 | Edgar Allan Poe

January 19, 1809 - October 7, 1849: Age 40

Born in Boston, the writer Edgar Poe was orphaned at a young age and raised by an unrelated family, the Allans. He made an attempt at a career in the military, but problems with alcohol and gambling ensured his failure. He became estranged from the Allans and moved to Philadelphia and then New York to work as a journalist. Poe had a reasonably successful career as a journalist and writer of poems, short stories, and novels; his poem The Raven in 1845 brought him wider recognition.

Poe married his 13-year-old cousin in 1835 (he was 26 at the time). In 1842, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and died in 1845. Maintaining a normal life became ever more difficult for the already-eccentric Poe. His use of alcohol and opium increased, and his behaviour became even more erratic. He began pursuing women, determined to marry again, and after a couple of failed attempts he courted and became engaged to a childhood sweetheart in Richmond, where he had grown up. He left to tie up some business in New York, but a few days later an acquaintance found him lying in a street in Baltimore, disoriented, mumbling and shouting occasionally.

Poe was taken to hospital but never revived enough to tell anybody what had happened. It was generally assumed that alcohol was the cause of his death, but some believe he may have had other health problems such as diabetes or a brain tumour. He died on October 7. Only four mourners showed up for his funeral, as his family considered him an alcoholic and thus not worthy of mourning, and his erratic behaviour had alienated most of his friends and colleagues.

Sources: Forbes, Malcolm, They Went That-a-Way; Wikipedia

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