Edgar Allen Poe, from a 1849 daguerreotype.

Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19, 1809, making Thursday, January 19, 2023, his 214th birthday. Since he’s been dead since 1849, I’m not baking him a cake.

Poe was one of the greatest American writers of the 19th century. He is remembered today for his contributions to horror and the macabre. He is also considered the father of detective fiction. The Mystery Writers of America named their annual award for distinguished mystery writing in his honor.

Edgar Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, January 19, 1809. In 1810, his father, actor David Poe abandoned his wife and three children. Edgar Por’s mother died in 1811, and the poor orphan boy was taken by a wealthy merchant, and his wife, John and Frances Allan, thus becoming Edar Allan Poe.

Although best known today for such stories as “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” In his own day, Poe was a respected literary critic as well as a poet and a humorist.

His first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems was published anonymously in 1827 under the byline “by a Bostonian.”

He died October 7, 1849 in Baltimore, Maryland, under mysterious circumstances. Causes of death, missing death certificate, grve visitor

Like many writers, Poe’s tales refused to fit neatly into one genre. His scifi stories include “The Balloon Hoax,” ‘The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall’  “The Conversation Of Eiros And Charmion,” and “A Descent Into The Maelström’” His only novel, The Narrative of Gordon Pym of Nanrucket ended so abruptly that Jules Vernes felt obligated to write a sequel to it, An Antarctic Mystery, also translated as he Sphinx of the Ice Realm.

Poe influenced thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of writers, including Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, H. P. Lovecraft, Lester Dent, and Stephen King. Poe was a master of the short story. He also wrote poetry and essays. He completed only one novel The Narrative of Gordon Pym of Nantucket in 1838. He wrote only one play, Politian.

Poe was married twice. The death of his first wife, Virginia Clemm, is believed to have inspired some of his best poetry. She was his first cousin, andonly thirteen at the time. He was twenty-six. Their marriage ended after eleven years, when she died of tubercuolosis. His second marriage, to Louisia Gabrielle Patterson (1800 – 1881) was unhappy. Edgar Allan Poe had no legitimate children, but allegedly sired several offspring as a result of his infidelities. They were married in 1830; the marriage ended with his death in 1849.

Poe’s 1848 essay “Eureka: A Prose Poem” included a cosmological theory that predated the Big Bang heory by almost a century.

Poe had a major influence on scifi. Hugo Gernsback himself, when attempting to define scientifiction, said ”“By scientifiction, I mean the Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe type of story.”  In fact, the first issue of the first magazine dedicated to science fiction, Gernsback’s Amazing Stories contained reprints of six SF stories including one by Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe’s grave {Photo Andrew Horne)

The cause of Poe’s death is still unknown. Rumors flew at the time: alcoholism, delirium tremors, syphilis, murder, or suicide. His death certificate was lost decades ago. For years, a black-garbed visitor has come to Poe’s grave and left a bottle of cognac and flowers at his grave on his birthday.

International filmmakers from Lew Landers to Ray Harryhausen to Roger Corma to David DeCoteau to Dr. Guillermo del Toro have drawn inspiration from Poe’s work.

POE and mystery Fiction

If not for the examples of “Murders in the Rue Morgue” in 1841 and “The Purloined Letter” in 1845, would Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have wriiten A Study in Scarlet in 1887 or Dame Agatha Christie have written The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920?

Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson co-wrote a song based on Poe’s best-known poem, “The Raven,” which was recorded by the Alan Parsons Project.

Alan Parsons – The Raven Lyrics – YouTube

Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.