O.Wilde, Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. (...)
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. (...)

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. (...)
All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself...

O. Wilde (1854-1900),
Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

E.A. Poe, Life

Edgar Allan Poe

1809 – 1849

American author, poet, editor
and literary critic

·        1809  Edgar Allan Poe, of Ulster origins, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19.  His parents, Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins and David Poe, Jr. were both itinerant actors. He was their second child and was probably named after a character in William Shakespeare's King Lear, a play his parents were performing in 1809. E.A. Poe had an elder brother, William Henry Leonard, and a younger sister, Rosalie.
·        1810 - His father abandoned their family.
·        1811 - His mother died from consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis).
Edgar was taken in by his godfather, John Allan, from whom he got his second name.  John Allan was an elderly successful Scottish merchant of Richmond, Virginia, who dealt in a variety of goods such as tobacco, cloth, wheat, tombstones and… slaves. He alternately spoiled and aggressively disciplined his foster son. John and Frances Allan never formally adopted him.
·        1815 - the Allan family sailed to Britain.
Poe attended the grammar school in Irvine, Scotland (where John Allan was born), for a short period.
·        1816 - then the family moved to London where Edgar continued his studies. The greatest English writers and poets had an important influence on his sensibility.
·        1820 -  At the age of 11, E.A. Poe moved back with the Allans to Richmond, Virginia.
·         1826 – Back to the USA,  Poe might have had a love affair with Sarah Elmira Royster [1810-1888] before he registered at the one-year-old University of Virginia in February to study languages.
During his short stay at University he did not distinguish himself academically, but he acquired a reputation as an athlete and bon viveur. He lost touch with Sarah Royster and also became estranged from his foster father because of his gambling debts. As a matter of fact, his gambling debts forced him to leave his studies after only eight months.
·        1827 - He decided to go to Boston where he sustained himself there working at times as a clerk and newspaper writer.  At some point he started using the pseudonym Henri Le Rennet. His decision to move to another town was also due to the fact that he was not feeling welcome in Richmond, especially because his sweetheart Sarah Royster had married Alexander Shelton, a man who collected a great wealth thanks to the transportation industry.
Unable to support himself, Poe enlisted in the United States Army as a private. Using the name "Edgar A. Perry", he claimed he was 22 years old (but he was 18 at the time!).  He first served at Fort Independence in Boston Harbor for five dollars a month.
That same year he released his first book, an anonymous 40-page collection of poems entitled Tamerlane and Other Poems. The book didn’t receive any attention.
Later Poe’s regiment was sent to South Carolina, he was promoted "artificer" and his monthly pay doubled.  But after serving for two years in the army, Poe sought to end his five-year enlistment earlier. He revealed his real name, real age and circumstances to his commanding officer, Lieutenant Howard.
Lieutenant Howard helped Poe be discharged and reconcile with the Allan family. Actually Poe’s relationship with John Allan was very bad in these years.
·        1829 – in February Frances Allan died and Poe visited the day after her funeral. Perhaps softened by his wife's death, John Allan agreed to support Poe's attempt to be discharged. He wanted to give his stepson another possibility and made his best to fix an appointment for him for a position at the West Point Military Academy.
In this period he moved back to Baltimore for a time, and stayed with his widowed aunt Maria Clemm, her daughter, Virginia Eliza Clemm (Poe's first cousin), his brother Henry, and his invalid grandmother Elizabeth Poe.  Here he published his second book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems.
·        1830 -  Thanks to John Allan’s interest, he entered the West Point Military Academy, but unfortunately he was dishonorably discharged the following year for the intentional neglect of duties. 
In October John Allan married his second wife, Louisa Patterson, and Poe parted ways with the Allans. As a matter of facts, the new marriage, and the bitter quarrels with Poe about his failure as an officer's cadet at West Point, finally led the foster father to disowning Poe.
·        1831 - He left for New York in February and released a third volume of poems, simply titled Poems. The book was financed with help from his fellow cadets at West Point.
After his brother's death in August, and considering the facts that his godfather’s second marriage had killed his hopes of becoming Allan’s heir and that he had already published three volumes of verse without great critical acclaim, E.A. Poe began more earnest attempts to start his career as a writer. He thus decided to turn to journalism and prose. It was a quite hard financial period for him and he soon realized it was a difficult time in American publishing to emerge as a writer. Publishers, in fact, often pirated copies of British works rather than paying for new works by Americans. But in this situation he managed to place a few stories with a Philadelphia publication and began work on his only drama, Politian.
·        1833 – In October the Baltimore Saturday Visitor awarded Poe a prize for his short story "MS. Found in a Bottle". The story brought him to the attention of a Baltimorean of considerable means, Mr J.P. Kennedy. He helped Poe place some of his stories, and introduced him to the editor of the periodical Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, Mr Thomas W. White.
·        1835 – in August Poe became assistant editor of the Southern Literary Messenger,  but was discharged within a few weeks for being caught drunk by Mr White. 
In the same year he went to live with his aunt, Maria Clemm in Baltimore and soon after he secretly married her daughter, his thirteen-year-old cousin Virginia (she was listed on the marriage certificate as being 21).  He was reinstated by White as a staff writer and critic after promising good behavior and remained at the Messenger until January 1837. During this period Poe’s financial situation got better. He published several poems, book reviews, critiques, and stories in that paper. After resigning the conduct of the Messenger, Poe began to ponder the idea of establishing a literary journal of his own. But he realized there were a lot of financial difficulties.
·        1836 - In May 16 he had a second wedding ceremony, in public, in Richmond with Virginia Clemm.
·        1838 -  The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was published and widely reviewed. 
1839 - In the summer Poe became assistant editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. He published numerous articles, stories, and reviews, enhancing his reputation as a trenchant critic that he had established at the Southern Literary Messenger. Poe left Burton's after about a year.
Mr Burton sold his magazine to G.R. Graham and the periodical was then merged with the Atkinson’s Casket to become Graham’s Magazine.
[G.R. Graham decided to hire Poe in order to offer him financial support about his plans concerning a prospective literary journal).
The collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was published in two volumes, though he made little money off of it and it received mixed reviews.  
He worked on various papers, and became editor of the Southern Daily Messanger. But his drinking habits cost him that job after only a year.
·        1840 - in June Poe bought an advertising space in Philadelphia's Saturday Evening Post to publish a prospectus announcing he was planning to produce his own journal, The Penn (the title is for Pennsylvania where it  would have been based, later renamed The Stylus). But the establishment of his magazine remained only a dream as he died before it could be produced.
·        1842 - In January Virginia showed the first signs of consumption. She only partially recovered and, as a consequence, Poe began to drink more heavily under the stress of her illness.
He left Graham's and, around this time, he tried to get a position in the Tyler administration as a member of the Whig Party. He hoped to be appointed to the Custom House in Philadelphia. But Poe, claiming to be sick, failed to show up for a political meeting. His friends believed he was drunk, and all positions were filled by others.
He returned to New York, where he worked briefly at the Evening Mirror.
·        1845 -  =  annus mirabilis for Poe :
in January his poem "The Raven" appeared in the Evening Mirror and became a popular sensation; he became editor and sole owner of The Broadway Journal and  a new volume of tales was published.
Unfortunately Poe’s worries about Virginia’s health affected his unstable temperament, and financial worries and his alcoholism unbalanced him farther.
In this period he alienated himself from other writers by publicly accusing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of plagiarism.
·        1846 - The Broadway Journal failed. Poe moved to a cottage in the Fordham section of The Bronx, New York. That home is known today as the "Poe Cottage".
·        1847 - Virginia died there on January 30.   
·        1848 - Increasingly unstable after his wife's death, Poe attempted to court the poet Sarah Helen Whitman [1803-1878], but their engagement failed. Whitman's mother intervened and did much to derail their relationship because of Poe's drinking and erratic behavior.
Poe then returned to Richmond and resumed a relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster. He pressed her to marry him, but she was hesitant and the marriage never took place.
·        1849 – Edgar Allan Poe died on October 7. He was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious and was taken to Hospital. Unfortunately he was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his bad condition and why he was wearing clothes that were not his own. The actual cause of his death is still a mystery.

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