Edgar Allan Poe
Issue Date: January 16, 2009
City: Richmond, VA
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) is considered the father of detective-fiction literature. Poe’s work, featuring dark themes of death and violence, is a reflection of his tormented and tragic life. His mother, actress Elizabeth Arnold Poe, died when Poe was only three. Eerily, the Richmond Theater where she gave her last performance burned to the ground a few days later, killing 72 people.
Abandoned years earlier by his father, Poe was raised by a wealthy family until his mounting gambling debts caused them to disown him. He turned to writing to support himself, publishing three volumes in four years and contributing to several periodicals. Poe’s only complete novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pyn of Nantucket, was published in 1838, followed by The Tell-Tale Heart and The Raven.
As his success grew, Poe struggled to fight his descent into alcoholism – a disease that had caused the deaths of his father and brother. His chance at happiness ended when tuberculosis claimed the life of his young bride, Virginia.
Poe became increasingly unstable in the months that followed Virginia’s death. He was found wandering incoherently in the streets of Baltimore and died a few days later. The circumstances of Edgar Allan Poe’s last hours and cause of death remain his greatest mystery.