The Edgar Allan Poe Collection of Susan Jaffe Tane


Edgar Allan Poe

Between the appearance of his first book of poems in 1827 and his untimely death in 1849, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) made an indelible impression on American literature. In the two decades he spent as a writer, Poe published more than 400 stories, poems, reviews and other critical pieces, helped shape the literary culture of his day through his editorial contributions to magazines, virtually invented the detective story, and perfected the horror and suspense genres.

Born into a family of actors and orphaned before the age of three, Poe led a life as tumultuous as the stories and poems that would make him famous. Although he achieved some popular success and critical acclaim during his lifetime, Poe struggled throughout his life to make a living by his pen. To support himself and his family he worked tirelessly as an editor, journalist, lecturer and critic, contributing a steady stream of poems, stories, and reviews to magazines and newspapers.

A combination of bad luck, persistent poverty, and his own conflicted temperament prevented Poe from realizing his full potential during his lifetime. His greatest mark on world literature came after his death. Poe’s work strongly influenced European poetry during the latter half of the nineteenth century, most notably the French poet Charles Baudelaire. The Symbolist and Surrealist movements found a source and inspiration in Poe, as did twentieth-century French writers and thinkers, particularly structuralist, poststructuralist, and deconstructionist critics. Poe’s tales provided models for the first detective stories, and Auguste Dupin, the narrator of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” served as inspiration for Aurthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Poe’s tales of horror and suspense continue to influence writers today, and many of them now make their living by writing exclusively in those genres that Poe helped to define.

Edgar Allan Poe. Autograph Manuscript of “The Rationale of Verse,” [1848].

Poe’s essay outlining his theory of poetry, “The Rationale of Verse,” was published a year before his death in the October and November 1848 issues of the Southern Literary Messenger. This fragment is one of six known surviving portions of the original manuscript.

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