Today is Edgar Allan Poe’s 205th birthday and here at Burial Day Books we honor the master of the short story, inventor of the fictional detective, and the man who perfected the horror tale. Poe’s contributions to American literature are staggering. Often Poe’s shadowy life marred in tragedy overshadows his work, but don’t be fooled by the deceptive characterization that his rival, Rufus Wilmot Griswold, portrayed of Poe in his scathing obituary of him.
As a young man Poe saw many people he loved die terribly from illness, including his mother, Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe, and his young wife, Virginia Clemm. These early images of beautiful women sickly and in death are recurring themes in his works, such as in The Raven, Annabel Lee and The Fall of the House of Usher.
Yet, beyond the melancholy we must see the brilliance. In addition to writing the macabre Poe explored technology in the emerging genre of science fiction with The Balloon-Hoax, and even his prose-poem Eureka which demonstrates how difficult it is for artists to take science seriously. He also invented an entirely new genre of fiction, detective fiction, with the invention of C. Auguste Dupin, the first ever detective who solves crime through logic and reasoning.
Beyond poetry and fiction Poe was an editor and a literary critic and wrote articles reviewing writers such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sir Walter Scott.
Today, take a moment to read Berenice, MS. Found in a Bottle, Ligeia, The Devil in Belfry, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, William Wilson, or even The Raven. Do this in memory of Poe, a great American writer whose memory should be ever preserved.