4 things you didn’t know about Edgar Allan Poe

For most Americans, no school education is complete without having read at least one or two literary works from the master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. While he wrote many pieces during his lifetime, he’s probably best known for his short thrillers like “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven.”

Because Poe seemed to gravitate toward the darker side of life in his writings, most people assume that this prolific author was — to put it politely — a little weird. Part of this assumption is because his arch enemy and rival, Rufus Wilmore Griswold, wrote Poe’s posthumous biography, and he wasn’t kind about it. In truth, Poe wasn’t weird, although maybe a tad eccentric. And here are four things you probably didn’t know about Edgar Allan Poe.

The “Allan” was added later to his name

Photo of a plaque displaying the name Edgar Allan Poe
Credit: dmvphotos/ Shutterstock

Poe was born Edgar Poe to two Shakespearean actors who traveled the countryside to perform. Sadly, his parents both passed away by the time he was four years old. This left him and his siblings orphans. The children were split up, and Edgar went to live with a rich tobacco merchant by the name of John Allan in Richmond, Virginia. But this wouldn’t be a happy ending. Although Allan was Poe’s benefactor, he wasn’t benevolent. The guardian refused to fully cover Poe’s educational expenses, causing the young writer to drop out of college. And according to records, Poe was excluded from Allan’s will — even though Allan’s illegitimate child, whom the merchant had never met, did receive an inheritance.

He married his first cousin

Photo of a plaque carved with Edgar Allan Poe's face
Credit: MizC / iStockPhoto

Yes, we know, this sounds gross, and given their age difference, the whole thing is highly problematic through a modern lens. But in the 1800s, marrying first cousins and the concept of child brides were not only legal but a common practice. Shortly after Edgar’s falling out with his former guardian, John Allan, he moved to Baltimore and relied on the kindness of his biological father’s relations. One particular aunt, Maria Clemm, took Poe in and treated him as if he were her son. He soon fell in love with Clemm’s daughter, Virginia.

Even though there was a 14-year age difference between them, Poe married Virginia when she was 13 and he was 27. He moved his wife/cousin and mother-in-law/aunt to New York with him. The trio lived in Manhattan and traveled to Philadelphia for a while before settling in the Bronx.

He spent time in the Bronx

Photo of buildings in the Bronx
Credit: deberarr/ iStock

Long before DJ Kool Herc put the “Boogie Down Bronx” on the map as the birthplace of hip-hop, it was a sleepy country region that served as the home for a variety of people, including Edgar Allan Poe. In his final years, Poe and his wife rented a home in what is now known as the Fordham section of the Bronx. The couple had moved from Manhattan in the hopes that the relaxed setting and cleaner air would help his wife recover from tuberculosis. Unfortunately, it didn’t, and she died in 1847. After Edgar’s passing in 1849, the city created Poe Park in 1902 across the street from his cottage.

The park served as a popular spot for live events and concerts. It was located on the busy Kingsbridge Road that was eventually widened to reduce congestion. At this time, Poe’s cottage was relocated to inside the park to protect it from any future threats from surrounding redevelopment efforts. Today, the cottage is part of the Historic House Trust and, depending on who you talk to, is still haunted by Poe’s ghost.

He made writing a feasible career in America

Photo of a hand writing on paper with a quill
Credit: Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock

While Edgar Allan Poe never reached major financial success with his writings, he did gain substantial fame and proved that being a writer was a worthy profession. Many of his works were published while he was alive, and he even managed to win awards for many of the pieces he penned. By many literary and historic standards, Poe serves as the nation’s first critically acclaimed author. And thanks to his fame, he was able to lobby for better pay as a writer — something that writers today still struggle to achieve.

So who was Edgar Allan Poe?

Black and white illustration of Edgar Allan Poe
Credit: Everett Historical/ Shutterstock

Poe, much like anyone else, was a complex figure. Yes, he tended to write in the Gothic style that was popular at that time. But just because he gravitated towards darker materials didn’t mean he was disturbed or strange. When you look at the entirety of his biography, his storyline and experiences aren’t much different than many other highly creative people. Edgar Allan Poe was a man who experienced great tragedies and frustrations throughout his life. Yet he turned those pains into source material for a body of work that is still celebrated and studied today.

Surprise! Devotional for parents

BIBLE GATEWAY

The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 1 Corinthians 8:2

We’ve been encouraging you this week to seek a better understanding of your children. We readily admit, however, that no matter how hard you try, your kids will still surprise you. I (JCD) remember calling home years ago from an out-of-state speaking engagement. Danae, who was then thirteen, informed me that she was going to be running in the 880-yard race at a track meet that Saturday. I gasped. “Danae,” I said, “that is a very grueling race. Have you ever run that far before?” She admitted that she hadn’t, even in practice. Though I advised against it, she decided to run in the race anyway.

Well, you can guess what happened—she won the race. The following year, she triumphed in the 880 again, setting a school record in the process. Now I began to get excited. The kid has talent, I thought. She’ll be a great runner someday. Wrong again. Danae ran three more races, winning two of them, and then lost interest in track. So much for fatherly wisdom.

Even if you dedicate yourself to knowing and understanding your children, you won’t always succeed. God has designed our ever-changing sons and daughters as complex, unique human beings. Parents must take to heart the Scripture that says “A patient man has great understanding” (Proverbs 14:29). Your ability to recognize who your children are—and who they will become—will only occur with generous measures of patience and reliance on the Lord.

Before you say good night…

How often do your kids surprise you?

Are you patient in seeking to understand your kids?

Heavenly Father, we know we must rely on You as we seek to know our children. Grant us patience when our understanding seems inadequate. Enable us to enjoy even the surprising moments with our precious children. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Parents, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Pride Roadblock

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“I hate pride and arrogance.” Proverbs 8:13

In the middle of your highway to forgiveness there may be a giant roadblock called pride. You know in your heart that you offended your wife with that comment about her body, or her intelligence, or her family. You realize you hurt your husband with that remark about his selfishness or his waste of money. But something is keeping you from admitting wrong and seeking forgiveness. Even though you know you’re guilty, you can’t get the words out of your mouth. At best you can mumble, “I’m sorry,” but you don’t really want to know if your partner heard you.

Pride is terribly destructive to human relationships. It may be the sin that God hates most, because there are more than one hundred references to it in Scripture. Proverbs 6:17–19 describes seven things that God finds detestable, and the first one on the list is “a proud look.” If you or your mate have a haughty attitude that prevents you from seeking forgiveness and reconciling, it will damage your marriage. We encourage you to swallow your pride and talk to your spouse. Once you’ve done that, why not clear one more roadblock and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for your prideful heart?

Just between us…

  • Has my pride kept us apart in the past? How?
  • In what ways has swallowing our pride blessed us in the past?
  • How can we break down the roadblock of pride on our way to a stronger relationship?

Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for Your example of humility and mercy. Forgive us for our stubborn, prideful treatment of each other. We want to change. Help us to lay aside pride, admit wrongs, and humbly ask for forgiveness. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.