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Research paper topic: Edgar Allan Poe - 2712 words
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.. ar left for the University he was engaged to Elmira. The affair, however, was not made known to the adults of either household. In February, 1826, Edgar A. Poe matriculated at the University of Virginia.
He was then only a little more than seventeen, but his manhood may be said to have begun. His position at the University was a precarious one. As the son of a wealthy man he had a great deal of credit and Poe himself was prone to live up to the reputation. On the other hand his foster-father appears even at this time to have been so alienated from his ward that he provided him with considerably less than the amount necessary to pay his way. The young student made a rather brilliant record in his studies but also fell in with a somewhat fast set of youths. In order to maintain his position he began to play heavily; lost, and used his credit with local shopkeepers recklessly.
It is at this time also that we first hear of his drinking. The effects of a very little alcohol on Poe's constitution were devastating. He appears to have been a brilliant, but rather eccentric and decidedly nervous youth. Another cause of strain at this period was the unhappy progress of his love affair. Mr. and Mrs. Royster were evidently aware of the fact that young Poe was no longer regarded as an heir by his foster-father.
They had, of course, soon learned of his love affair with their daughter and now brought pressure to break off the match. Poe's letters to his sweetheart were intercepted; Elmira was forbidden to write; the attentions of an eligible young bachelor, A. Barrett Shelton, were pressed upon her, and she was finally sent away for a while into safe keeping. In the meantime Mr. Allan was informed of the financial difficulties of his ward whose indebtedness is said to have totalled $2500. His anger became extreme, and upon the return of Poe to Richmond to spend the Christmas holidays of 1826, he was advised by his guardian that he could not return to the University.
The opening weeks of 1827 were spent in Richmond in the most strained relation between young Poe and Mr. Allan. Poe's career at the University had no doubt been very unsatisfactory. On the other hand Mr. Allan's anger was implacable and extreme. He refused to pay any of his ward's debts of honor, or any other debts, thereby reducing the proud spirit of the youngster whom he had raised as his son to despair.
The young Poe was pressed by warrants. His foster-father used the opportunity to insist upon his reading law and abandoning all literary ambitions. On this rock apparently they finally split. A violent quarrel took place between them in March, 1827, at the conclusion of which the young poet dashed into the street and went to an inn whence he wrote demanding his trunk, personal belongings and clothes. Several letters passed between the two without a reconciliation being effected.
Their mutual grievances were rehearsed and Poe finally concluded, despite his utter destitution, to work his way North to Boston, then the literary capital of the United States. Mr. Allan it appears tried to interfere, but his wife and her sister seem to have supplied Poe secretly with a small sum of money by means of one of the slaves before the young man set out on his travels. Under the assumed name of Henri Le Rennet he left Richmond with one companion, Ebenezer Burling, and reached Norfolk, Va. Here Burling left him while Poe went by ship to Boston where he arrived almost penniless some time in April, 1827.
He did not, as has so often been asserted, even by himself, go abroad. The dates of his known whereabouts taken from letters and documents at this time definitely preclude even the possibility of a European trip. In Boston there is some obscure evidence that Poe attempted to support himself by writing for a newspaper. It is certain, however, that while in Boston during the spring and summer of 1827 he made friends with a young printer, one Calvin F. S. Thomas then newly embarked in the trade, and prevailed on him to print a volume of verse, Tamerlane and Other Poems. The printer does not appear to have known Poe by any but an assumed name.
The title page of the little volume proclaimed the work to be By A Bostonian. The bulk of it, probably due to Poe's inability to recompense the printer, was apparently destroyed or suffered to lie in neglect. Only a few copies of it got into circulation and only two obscure notices appeared. Poe himself seems to have secured scarcely some for personal use. In the meantime the author of this unknown but now famous little volume was reduced to the greatest extremity.
Totally without means and too proud or unable to appeal to Richmond, he finally as a desperate measure enlisted in the United States Army on May 26, 1827, under the assumed name of Edgar A. Perry. He was assigned to Battery H of the First U. S. Artillery and spent the summer of 1827 in the barracks of Fort Independence, Boston Harbor.
At the end of October his regiment was ordered to Fort Moultrie, Charleston, S. C. The ensuing two and a half years form a curious interlude in the life of a poet. Poe spent the time between November, 1827, and December, 1829, doing garrison duty as an enlisted man at Ft. Moultrie, S. C.
The fort was located on Sullivan's Island at the mouth of the harbor. The young soldier had a good deal of spare time on his hands which was evidently spent in wandering along the beaches, writing poetry, and reading. His military duties were light and wholly clerical, as he had soon been noticed by his officers better fitted for office work than for practice at the great-guns. Of this period, and of his doings and imaginings, the best record is the Gold Bug, written many years later, but replete with exact local color and scenes. Poe's duties evidently brought him into close contact with his officers. He was steady, sober, and intelligent; and promotion ensued.
We soon find him listed as an artificer, the first step out of the ranks. He himself, however, felt that his life was being wasted and some time in 1828 correspondence was resumed with his foster-father in Richmond, the purport of which was a request for reconciliation and a return to civil life. Although Poe's letters were touching, appealing, and penitent, his guardian was obstinate and the youth remained at his post until December, 1828, when his regiment was ordered to Fortress Monroe, Virginia. Seeing that his guardian would not consent to having him return home, he now conceived the idea of entering West Point. Some of the officers of his regiment, a surgeon in particular, became interested, and influence was brought to bear on John Allan.
On January 1, 1829, Poe, still serving under the name of Perry, was promoted to Sergeant-Major of his regiment, the highest rank open to an enlisted man. His letters home became more insistent and to them were now added the prayers of Mrs. Allan, who was dying. She desired to see her dear boy before she expired. Strange as it may seem, John Allan remained firm until the very last.
He finally sent for his foster-son, then only a few miles away from Richmond, but it was too late. Mrs. Allan died before Poe arrived home, and despite her dying request not to be buried until her foster-son returned, her husband proceeded with the funeral. When Poe arrived at the house a few hours later all that he loved most was in the ground. His agony at the grave is said to have been extreme.
Mrs. Allan had extracted a promise from her husband nevertheless, not to abandon Poe. A partial reconciliation now took place and Mr. Allan consented to help Poe in his plan to enter West Point. Letters were written to the Colonel of his regiment, a substitute was secured, and the young poet found himself discharged from the army on April 15, 1829. He returned for a short period to Richmond. Poe remained only a short time at home.
He secured, largely through his own solicitation, a number of letters of influence to the War Department. Armed with these, and a very cold letter from his guardian who averred, Frankly, sir, do I declare that he is no relation to me whatever - he set out about May 7th for Washington where he presented his credentials, including a number of recommendations of his officers couched in the highest terms, to the Secretary of War, Mr. Eaton. A long delay of almost a year occurred, during which his appointment to West Point was in doubt. During most of this period, May, 1829, to the end of that year, he resided in Baltimore.
His foster-father supplied him from time to time with small sums just sufficient to keep him alive, and remained cold and suspicious of his good intentions as to West Point. In the meantime young Poe, after being robbed by a cousin at a hotel, sought shelter with his Aunt Maria Clemm, the sister of his father. In the household of this good woman, who was from the first his guardian angel, Poe found his grandmother, Mrs. David Poe, Sr., then an aged and paralyzed woman, his brother Henry, and his first cousin Virginia Clemm, a little girl about seven years old. She later became the poet's wife. During this stay in Baltimore Poe exerted himself to further his literary name.
Shortly after his arrival we find him calling on William Wirt, just retired from active political life in Washington, author of Letters of a British Spy, and a man of considerable literary reputation. Poe left with Wirt the manuscript of Al Aaraaf and received from him a letter of advice rather than recommendation. The incident, however, shows that he had then on hand the manuscript for a second volume of poems. These consisted of several which had appeared in his first volume, much revised, and some new ones. He now went to Philadelphia and left the manuscript with Carey, Lea and Carey, a then famous publishing firm, who demanded a guarantee before they would print it. Poe wrote to his guardian asking him to support the little volume to the extent of $100, but received an angry denial and strict censure for contemplating such an action. By July 28th he bad, however, apparently arranged for publication of the volume in Baltimore and wrote to Carey, Lea and Carey withdrawing the manuscript. Through Baltimore friends and relatives he was enabled to reach the ear of John Neal, then an influential Boston editor, and the forthcoming work received some helpful notices in the September and December issues of the Yankee for 1829.
The book itself, entitled Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems, was published by Hatch and Dunning in Baltimore in December, 1829. Somewhat mollified by this success and the notice it attracted, but much more so by the assurance that his foster-son was about to receive his long delayed appointment to the Military Academy, Mr. Allan permitted Edgar to return to Richmond where fie stayed from January to May, 1830, at the big mansion. His life in Baltimore had been a poverty-haunted one, and the return to his former mode of existence was undoubtfully a welcome one to Poe. Mr.
Allan, however, had his own private reasons for desiring to have his ward out of Richmond as soon as possible. He had resumed intimate relations with a former companion after the death of his wife and was now expecting an unwelcome addition to his natural children. Quarrels with Poe were renewed. After a peculiarly bitter one Poe wrote a letter to a former acquaintance in the army, a sergeant to whom he owed a small sum of money. In this he permitted himself to make an unfortunate statement about his guardian. The letter was later used by the man to collect from Mr.
Allan the amount due him and was the final cause of Poe's being cast off. The appointment to the Military Academy was received at the end of March. The examinations for entrance were held at West Point at the end of June, and in May Poe bade farewell to his guardian and left for the Military Academy, visiting his Baltimore relatives on the way. On July 1, 1830, he took the oath and was admitted as cadet at West Point. Poe' remained at the United States Military Academy from June 25, 1830, to February 19, 1831. There can be no doubt that the military career was distasteful to him and that be had been forced into it by his guardian in whose fortune he might still hope to share.
Mr. Allan, however, regarded his duties as fulfilled, with Edgar provided for at the public charge, and was glad to have him away from Richmond. On the day that Poe entered West Point, his guardian was presented with a pair of natural twins for whom he later on arranged in his will. This did not prevent his marrying a second time, nevertheless, and the new relation made him more than ever inimical to his foster son. Edgar Poe continued to perform his duties creditably at the Military Academy when all hope of any help in the future from Mr.
Allan was shattered by a letter from Richmond which disowned him. The soldier had presented to his guardian the letter written by Poe a year before, and the rage of Mr. Allan was extreme. Realizing that all hope of a competence from Richmond was now at an end, Poe decided to take things in to his own hands and leave the army forever. As he could not obtain Mr. Allan's consent to resign he went on strike and neglected to attend formations, classes, or church.
He was court martialled and dismissed for being disobedient. While at the Military Academy he had arranged with Elam Bliss, a New York publisher, to bring out a third volume of poems to which the student body at the Academy had subscribed. In February, 1831, he went to New York. He was penniless, illy clad, and nearly died of a cold complicated by internal ear trouble, after reaching the city. Forced to eat humble pie he again appealed to his guardian, but in vain.
He remained in New York long enough to see his third volume off the press. It was entitled Poems, Second Edition, and contained a preface addressed to Dear B., a person unknown, in which some of the young author's critical opinions, largely 'taken from Coleridge, were first set forth. After attempting abortively to obtain letters of introduction to Lafayette from Col. Thayer, the Superintendent at West Point, in order to join the Polish patriots then revolting against Russia, Poe left New York and journeyed by way of Philadelphia to Baltimore. He arrived in the latter city some time about the end of March, 1831, and again took up his residence at Mechanics Row, Milk Street, with his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia.
His brother Henry was then in ill health, given over to drink, and dying. The next four years were spent in Baltimore under conditions of extreme poverty. Poe was still obscure and his doings for much of the time are very vague. A few facts, however, can be certainly glimpsed. During most of the Baltimore period Poe must have followed the life of a recluse.
He now began to turn his attention to prose and was able to place a few stories with a Philadelphia publication. His brother Henry died in August, 1831. Edgar continued to live with the Clemms. The household was poverty stricken, he himself was not in very good health part of the time. What the family lived on is not clear.
Attempts were made to interest Mr. Allan once more in his behalf but in vain. No relief came from Richmond except upon one occasion when on account of a debt contracted by his brother Henry, Edgar was in danger of being imprisoned. Mr. Allan sent a belated response which was the last that Poe ever received f Biographies.
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