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'Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore"'

7 Mysterious Facts About Edgar Allan Poe

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • October 05, 2021

Edgar Allan Poe died at the young age of forty on October 7, 1849. The precise cause and circumstances of his death remain unknown and many aspects of his life weren't easy, but his writing suggests a rich emotional life and a brilliant sense of innovation. He pioneered several genres of literature, including detective and crime fiction. He was also one of the early writers of science fiction and horror. Read on for seven interesting facts about the enigmatic figure.

1. The Baltimore Ravens are named in honor of the macabre author.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

Poe's celebrated poem "The Raven" was the inspiration for Baltimore's professional football team. Though Poe was born in Boston, he lived and died in Baltimore and the city claims the author as their own. The name for the team was chosen in a fan contest that drew 33,288 voters. While Poe was known for many different kinds of literature, he generally identified himself as a poet. You can find "The Raven" along with Poe's other poetry in this gorgeous collection.

2. He received his famous name at the age of three.

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

Poe's early life was marked by loss. Born on January 19, 1809, he was the second of three children of actors, David and Eliza Poe. His father abandoned the family in 1810 and his mother died only a year after that. Poe was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia. Though the couple never formally adopted him, they gave him his middle name. For a more complete picture of his life check out this excellent biography by Pulitzer Prize-winner Kenneth Silverman.

3. A teenage crush on the mom of a friend inspired one of his greatest love poems.

The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.

As a young teen, Poe became infatuated with many different girls, yet one of his most ardent crushes was on Mrs. Jane Stith Stanard, the mother of one of his school friends. By all accounts, he was deeply affected by her death when he was fifteen. He has said that he wrote his poem To Helen for Mrs. Stanard. He called her "the first, purely ideal love of my soul."

4. Poe was engaged to his teenage girlfriend—twice

We loved with a love that was more than love.

While he was known for his macabre tendencies, it's clear that Poe was a serious romantic. But at the same time, he was distinctly unlucky in love. At seventeen, he proposed to fifteen-year-old Sarah Elmira Royster and she accepted. The couple lost touch after he went to college, but just weeks before his untimely death in 1849 they reunited and became engaged again. In between, at the age of twenty-seven, Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin Virginia Clem who died eleven years later leaving Poe bereft. The Raven's Bride by Lenore Hart is a novel imagining this relationship.

5. He invented the short story.

A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.

Poe may not have written the first example of short fiction, but he was the first person to use the term "short story." He also developed a winning structure for groundbreaking stories like "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," in which he pioneered the concepts of detective and crime fiction. Tales by Edgar Allan Poe is a good choice to enjoy these innovative works. For a book that contains both his stories and poetry, we like Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.

6. Poe often wrote with his Siamese cat on his shoulder.

I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.

The feline-loving author wrote only one novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, and it clearly wasn't his strong suit. The novel has been criticized for its lack of a proper ending. Still, it inspired Pym, an intriguing novel by Mat Johnson that reimagines and builds on Poe's strange narrative to create a rollicking fantasy adventure and a satirical exploration of race in America.

7. Poe's arch enemy created his madman reputation.

Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.

Poe clearly had his issues and it is clear that he suffered from alcoholic tendencies, but the image of him as a madman addicted to opium is not actually accurate. His bad rap was created by a bitter rival, fellow writer and editor named Rufus Wilmot Griswold. In his work as a literary critic, Poe was known to make enemies and this may have been how he attracted Griswold's ire. In 1850, the year after his death, Griswold published a scathing "biography" of Poe that was packed with fabrications and forged letters. The misrepresentation created a false image of the author that exists to this day.

As we mark the untimely death of this brilliant and unforgettable author, we celebrate his resounding impact on modern literature and share a final, prescient quote from one of his most famous works:

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

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Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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