Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar_Allan_Poe_portrait325pxMy favorite works of Poe’s are “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Masque of the Red Death”, both written in 1850 by Poe and read by me (the first time) in junior high school. But he is most well known for “The Raven.”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

Today is the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1809. His poem “The Raven” is one of his best-known works, and it is also one of the most popular poems in the English language. Even people who have no interest in poetry can usually recite a line or two. It’s narrated by a studious young man who is mourning the loss of his lover, Lenore. When a talking raven visits him on a bleak December night, we follow his descent from amusement into madness. At the time he was writing the poem, Poe’s young wife, Virginia, was slowly dying of tuberculosis. Poe may have gotten the idea for a talking raven from a Dickens novel: Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty (1841). There was a talking raven in the Dickens book too, but it didn’t bear much resemblance to the sinister bird of Poe’s poem.

Poe brought the poem to his friend George Rex Graham, hoping he would publish it in Graham’s Magazine. Graham turned him down, but gave him $15 anyway. The American Review agreed to publish it, and paid the poet $9. It appeared in the magazine’s February 1845 issue, under the name Quarles. It was also published around that time in the Evening Mirror under Poe’s name. “The Raven” was an instant sensation and made Poe a household word. One critic called it subtle, ingenious, and imaginative, and predicted, “It will stick to the memory of everybody who reads it.” Over the next several months, “The Raven” appeared in journals throughout the country and it was such a rousing success that Wiley and Putnam published two of Poe’s books that year: a collection of prose called Tales and also The Raven and Other Poems(1845). That was his first book of poetry in 14 years.


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