We know he lived only 40 years, was a famous poet, mystery writer, critic, and magazine editor. We know his poem “The Raven” and its most famous line: “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’”
We know Poe’s mystery stories, such as The Murders in the Rue Morgue. This, historians tell us, was the original detective mystery, the inspiration for many writers. Poe is also said to have influenced a new genre that became known as science fiction.
But who was he?
A man with two sides
Poe was a drunk, but was also a friendly and gentle man. He had a dark side that enabled him to write some gruesome stories, such as The Cask of Amontillado, in which a man is chained into a niche in the wine cellar and entombed behind a brick wall to die a slow death, and The Tell-Tale Heart, in which the heart of a murder victim continues to beat beneath the floor of a house.
But Poe was not dark all the time. He enjoyed close friends and dearly loved his wife, Virginia, a cousin he married when she was 13 and he was 26. She died young, of tuberculosis, in 1847 and he began to drink more. Maybe that is why many found him irritable and self-centered.
Some medical people believe Poe may have had a brain lesion that caused his dual personality and may also have driven him to drink. But in his lucid moments he is credited with a skilled sense of rhythm, meter, and story structure. As an editor, he promoted rules for the short story that still stand.
Whatever drove Poe, he was an extremely able writer.
Isn’t that true for us? We are bundles of emotions and feelings. We have struggles, sometimes emotionally, sometimes physically. But, like Poe, we write on. And maybe, like Poe, a few stories or a spectacular poem among the many pieces we write will influence not only our readers, but also other writers for years .