Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Edgar Allan Poe: A Biography

Edgar Allan Poe: A Biography

Milton Meltzer
For ages 12 and up
Lerner, 2003   ISBN: 978-0761329107

Edgar was the son of actors who, because of their trade, did not have the time to raise their children. So they left their daughter and their two sons with friends and relatives and went on performing. Both David and Eliza Poe died young and their children were separated and given homes with loving families. Henry lived with his grandparents in Baltimore, Maryland. His sister Rosalie was adopted by a family in Richmond, Virginia, and Edgar was taken in by John and Frances Allan, who also lived in Richmond. The Allans were kind and generous guardians who were proud of Edgar and who gave him the best that they could afford. He was given a good education and plenty of opportunities.

Unfortunately Edgar did not always appreciate not take advantage of the opportunities that he was given. He was an angry young man and when he went to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville he began to drink heavily for the first time. It was a habit which would plague him for the rest of his life. He incurred some dreadful gambling debts which his guardian refused to pay and their relationship soured. Unfortunately Edgar and John Allen were never really reconciled after that.

Edgar dabbled with military life for a while before he finally settled on trying to make a living through his writing. He bounced back and forth between New York, Baltimore, and Richmond working for various publications and was an extremely good editor. But he frequently quarreled with his colleagues, and his alcoholism also caused problems, so he never stayed anywhere for very long. He did manage to get some of his poems and short stories published but he never made much money and was always seriously strapped for cash. Even when his most famous work, The Raven, was published, Edgar made very little money from it.

Edgar finally sank into a state of deep depression when his wife Virginia died of tuberculosis in 1847. They had been married for eleven years and were very devoted to one another. Edgar himself died, probably of alcohol poisoning and other complications, in 1849.

Without a doubt this is a very grim and tragic story. Readers who have read Poe’s works will understand why so much of his writing is so dark. Milton Metzer uses his considerable skill and experience to show his readers what happened to this unfortunate young man and how much he was a victim of ill luck and how much he was the victim of his own bad choices.