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The Loves and Sorrows of Edgar Allan Poe

Great authors and poets of the past have inspired Phyllis to read and write. They have a special place in her life.

1848 "Ultima Thule" daguerreotype of Poe

1848 "Ultima Thule" daguerreotype of Poe

From Deep Within

One of the greatest poets was Edgar Allan Poe. His loves and his sorrows were deeply rooted in his poetry. His poems are timeless, for they touch a part of the human soul in each of us that is often hidden from others. He had the ability to open his heart and soul and share the torment and sufferings he himself had gone through. He was a master at reaching out to awaken the deepest emotions in others by shedding light on his own sorrows. Poe expressed the deepest love and deeper sorrows that were very much a part of himself.

Poe went deep within when writing- he could portray in words the abstract taken from common feelings and turn them into intense emotions. He had the innate inclination to lean towards the stillness of the night in his themes. In most of what he wrote there were undertones of demoniac nature. He seemed possessed by his own demons, and it is almost as if he had to put them on paper in order to relieve them from his mind.


"Alone" excerpt:

From childhood's hour I have not been

As others were; I have not seen

As others saw; I could not bring

My passions from a common spring.

From the same source I have not taken

My sorrow; I could not awaken

My heart to joy at the same tone;

And all I loved, I loved alone.

— Edgar Allen Poe

Romantic Era

Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809, at a time when poetry was entering into Romanticism, or the Romantic Era. Romanticism went beyond the rational and classic ideal and reached out to revive the belief system characteristic of the Middle Ages. It was a time of devotion to Medievalism, that romantic era of deep emotional upheavals.

This Romanticism placed emphasis on strong emotions such as trepidation, horror, and terror. It confronted the awe-inspiring spirituality of nature in its untamed form.

Poe went beyond the norm and expressed his thoughts from inspiration. It was the inspiration of his own emotions that compelled him to write such dark poetry that struck a cord in the human soul- yet it was beautiful in its darkness, for it was like a spark of light that exploded when his words were read.

Abandoned and Orphaned

Poe was orphaned at an early age. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and given the name Edgar Poe. His father abandoned him and his mother when Poe was quite young. Shortly after that, his mother died. A family in Richmond, Virginia, John and Frances Allan, took the young boy and raised him. When older, Poe attended the University of Virginia for just one semester. There was not enough money to allow him to continue at the University.

He enlisted in the army, but failed as a cadet at West Point. It was then he left the Allan family and went his own way. Poe still had family on his father's side and lived with them off and on over the years.

In 1827, he had written some poems and published them as 'Tamerlane and Other Poems'. He did this anonymously, just signing as "A Bostonian". He then began to write prose and worked on literary journals and periodicals over the next several years. He became known for his own unique style of literary criticism. He moved around, working between several cities, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and others.

In 1833 Poe joined the household of his Aunt Maria in Baltimore. Maria's mother, Elizabeth, and two of her children, Virginia and Henry lived with her. Poe had first met Virginia in 1829 when she was just seven. Poe lived with them for about two years, leaving in 1835. During the time he was there, he had become smitten with Mary Devereaux, a neighbor. Little Virginia became their messenger and carried notes back and forth.

Virginia Eliza Clem

It was during these few years that Poe fell in love with Virginia and must have made it known to Maria. Neilson Poe, Maria's brother-in-law, had heard that Poe had been considering marrying Virginia. Neilson offered to take Virginia and have her educated. This suggestion was to prevent the marriage since Virginia was so young.

Maria's family became destitute after the death of her mother. It is possible that Neilson was also trying to help out financially by taking Virginia. Poe felt that Neilson was only trying to sever the connection between himself and Virginia. Poe left the family in August of 1835 and moved to Richmond, Virginia where he took a job at the Southern Literary Messenger.

Edgar was tormented by the thought of having Virginia torn from his life. He wrote a letter to Maria that expressed his deep emotions and declared he was "blinded with tears while writing". He was confident with his job and offered to provide for Maria, Virginia, and Henry, if they would come to Richmond and live with him.

On September 22, 1835, with Maria's consent, Edgar returned to Baltimore and filed for a marriage license. On May 16, 1836, Poe and Virginia Eliza Clemm were married. Poe was 27 and Virginia, 13. It was not unusual in those times for first cousins to marry, but it was most unusual that a thirteen-year-old girl was married. However, her age on the license was falsified as being older. Many say that Poe and Virginia lived like brother and sister for several years before the marriage was consummated. He often called Virginia, Sis, or Sissy.

Regardless of what their marital status was during the first few years, the two were very devoted to each other and quite happy with their life.

George Rex Graham, one of Poe's employers, had written of the couple, "His love for his wife was a sort of rapturous worship of the spirit of beauty." In a letter to a friend of his, Poe had written, "I see no one among the living as beautiful as my little wife." It seemed by those who knew them that Virginia idolized her husband. She was rarely far from his side at home. She loved to sit near him as he wrote. Virginia wrote an acrostic poem on February 14, 1876. It is as beautiful in its loving devotion and simplicity as Edgar's poems were in sorrowful and intense emotion.

It is believed by some that the line "And the tattling of many tongues" in Virginia's poem was in reference to flirtations between a married woman, Frances Osgood, and Poe. This did not seem to mar their marriage.

Virginia seemed to have even encouraged the friendship between Poe and Osgood. She often invited Frances Osgood to their home. It seems that Edgar drank quite a lot, but was never intoxicated in the presence of Osgood. Virginia may have believed that Osgood had a calming effect on Edgar and this would help him to give up any overindulgence in alcohol.

Many embellished rumors floated around about Poe and Osgood and the effect on Virginia was very disturbing. The rumors eventually faded away when Frances Osgood and her husband reunited.

Ever with thee I wish to roam —

Dearest my life is thine.

Give me a cottage for my home

And a rich old cypress vine,

Removed from the world with its sin and care

And the tattling of many tongues.

Love alone shall guide us when we are there —

Love shall heal my weakened lungs;

And Oh, the tranquil hours we'll spend,

Never wishing that others may see!

Perfect ease we'll enjoy, without thinking to lend

Ourselves to the world and its glee —

Ever peaceful and blissful we'll be

— Virginia Eliza Poe

Engraving of Frances Osgood from her 1850 collection of poetry

Engraving of Frances Osgood from her 1850 collection of poetry

Cottage where Edgar, Virginia and Marie lived. Virginia died in this cottage.

Cottage where Edgar, Virginia and Marie lived. Virginia died in this cottage.

Illness and Agony

It was around this time that Virginia became ill. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis in January of 1842. Her health declined rapidly and she soon became an invalid. Sometimes there was hope because Virginia would show signs of improvement, but then she always slipped back down. Edgar was suffering from deep depression over this.

Poe, in a letter to a friend, John Ingram, wrote:

Each time I felt all the agonies of her death --and at each accession of the disorder I loved her more dearly & clung to her life with more desperate pertinacity. But I am constitutionally sensitive, nervous in a very unusual degree. I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.

— Edgar Allan Poe

Forgetfulness With Insanity

The periods of insanity were a place where Poe could forget, or at least deny. It was much too difficult for him to face reality- insanity was his only escape and maybe he found some peace there.

Hoping to find an environment that would improve Virginia's health, Poe and Maria decided to take Virginia and move outside the city to Fordham, just fourteen miles away. They moved into a small cottage. In a letter dated June 12, 1846, Edgar wrote to Virginia, "Keep up your heart in all hopelessness, and trust yet a little longer." Referring to his loss of the Broadway Journal, the only magazine he ever owned, he wrote "I should have lost my courage but for you, my darling little wife, you are my greatest and only stimulus now to battle with this uncongenial, unsatisfactory and ungrateful life."

Virginia continued to decline and by November of that year, her condition was termed hopeless.

A friend of Poe's, Nathaniel Parker Willis, an influential editor, published an announcement of the Poe family sufferings and asked the public for help in donations. His December 30, 1846 publication read:

Illness of Edgar A. Poe. We regret to learn that this gentleman and his wife are both dangerously ill with the consumption, and that the hand of misfortune lies heavily on their temporal affairs. We are sorry to mention the fact that they are so far reduced as to be barely able to obtain the necessaries of life. That is, indeed, a hard lot, and we do hope that the friends and admirers of Mr. Poe will come promptly to his assistance in his bitterest hour of need.

— Nathaniel Parker Willis

Console Poor Eddy

Although he did not have all the facts straight, he did have compassion for the family. He was one of Poe's greatest supporters during this time. Poe was bereft and needed such friends.

As Virginia lay dying, she asked her mother,

"Darling... will you console and take care of my poor Eddy. You will never never leave him?"

Poe sent a letter to Marie Louise Shew, a close friend of the family, on January 29, 1847. He wrote, "My poor Virginia still lives, although failing fast and now suffering much pain." Virginia died the next day. She had been suffering from the illness for five years. Knowing how destitute the family was, Marie Shew bought a casket for Virginia.

Virginia Eliza Clem Poe portrait in death, possibly painted by Marie Louise Shew, a good friend of Edgar and Virginia.

Virginia Eliza Clem Poe portrait in death, possibly painted by Marie Louise Shew, a good friend of Edgar and Virginia.

Portrait of Beauty in Death

Just a few hours after Virginia's spirit had departed, Edgar realized he had no image of his beloved wife. He commissioned an artist to paint her portrait in watercolor. Marie Shew dressed Virginia in a beautiful fine linen robe and it was from this lifeless body of a model that the portrait was painted. It is believed that Marie Shew may have painted the portrait herself.

Virginia was buried in the vault of the Valentine family, landlord of the Poe's.

The effect of Virginia's death was devastating for Poe. He no longer seemed to care if he lived or died. For several months he was deeply depressed. One year after her death Poe wrote to a friend that he had experienced the greatest evil a man can suffer when, he said,

"...a wife, whom I loved as no man ever loved before, had fallen ill."

Poe referred to his emotional response to his wife's sickness as his own illness, and that he found the cure to it

" the death of my wife. This I can & do endure as becomes a man -- it was the horrible never-ending oscillation between hope & despair which I could not longer have endured without the total loss of reason."

Edgar would visit Virginia's grave often. As his friend Charles Chauncey Burr wrote, "Many times, after the death of his beloved wife, was he found at the dead hour of a winter night, sitting beside her tomb almost frozen in the snow".

Poe eventually began seeing other women, but as his old friend, Frances Osgood believed, Virginia was the only woman he ever loved. He continued writing and Virginia was often portrayed in his prose and poetry. The beautiful yet sorrowful poem, Annabel Lee, is a heart-rending example of Poe's suffering for his lost love. Many scholars believe that Virginia and their deep love for each other was an inspiration for many of Edgar's poems.

Possible Inspirations

Sarah Elmira Royster was another love of Poe's in his earlier life. They were sweethearts in 1825, she was 15 and Poe was 16 at the time. Sarah's father did not approve of the relationship and put a stop to it when Poe was attending the University of Virginia. Royston intercepted Poe's letters to Sarah and destroyed them. Sarah married Alexander Shelton, a wealthy man, when she was 17. Sarah and Alexander had four children- only two survived.

In 1848, when Poe began to come out of the depression after Virginia died, he and Sarah came back into each other's life and once again became close. Poe wanted to marry her, but, Sarah's children disapproved, just as her father had, because of Poe's financial status and orphaned childhood. Once again, Sarah listened to her family, not her heart, and rejected Poe.

It is believed that Sarah may also have been an inspiration for Poe's poetry expressing the pain of lost love.

There was one other love after Virginia’s death- possibly only a sweet diversion for Poe as a way to find some sense of happiness. Poe had a brief courtship with Sarah Helen Whitman of Providence, Rhode Island. Sarah was also a poet. She had become fascinated with Poe’s darkness which at first filled her with horror. However, Sarah’s mother intervened and prevented any further relationship between Sarah and Poe.

Grave where Edgar, Virginia, and Marie are buried

Grave where Edgar, Virginia, and Marie are buried

Lost and Alone in the Final Hour

Virginia's mother, Maria, kept her promise to her daughter and stayed with Poe until his own death in 1849.

Edgar Allan Poe died on October 7, 1849. He was 40 years old. In his short life, he penned the beauty and tragedy of love that still pulls at the heart and emotions of all who appreciate poetry.

The causes of his death and the circumstances leading up to it have remained mysterious and suspicious. On October 3, Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, "in great distress, and ... in need of immediate assistance", according to the man who found him, Joseph W. Walker. He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died at 5 a.m. on Sunday, October 7. Poe was never coherent enough to explain how he came to be in this condition.

One theory is that Poe was a victim of cooping. He was at the time wearing clothes that did not belong to him. The night before he died he kept repeating the name "Reynolds". Poe was found on an election day. Cooping was a practice by which unwilling participants were forced to vote, often several times over, for a particular candidate in an election by means of changing clothes each time that person is taken to a different voting booth. Copious amounts of alcohol consumption were often involved.

Poe was lost and alone in his final hour. But, do not grieve- Poe lies by his beloved Virginia and Virginia's mother, Maria. In spirit they are together again at last; Poe and his beautiful darling, his life, his bride, are once again side by side.

Note From Author

'A Dream Within A Dream'

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow—
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand—
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep --while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
- Edgar Allan Poe

Did Poe live within a dream?

My personal view of Poe is that he did live within a dream, for it was in his deep darkness where he could, for a while, find solace and peace from the torment of sorrow. His poetry came from that part of himself that was a dream-like state. The poem above, like much of Poe's poetry, may be hard to fully understand- it takes the ability to see without eyes, to hear without ears and feel in the depths of the soul.

Biography Sources

Edgar Allan Poe

Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe

Frances Sargent Osgood

© 2010 Phyllis Doyle Burns


Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on May 07, 2019:

Hi zacary. Which poem did you write? I love works by Edgar Allan Poe. Thank you for reading and commenting.

zacary on May 01, 2019:

what the heck I wrote a poem from Edgar Allen Poe

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on December 21, 2018:

Thank you, GG.

GG on December 19, 2018:

love it

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 27, 2015:

Mary, in high school is when I learned to appreciate Poe's work, too. I marvel that he could just keep going in spite of his sorrows. I guess it helped him some to pour out his hurt and pain in his poetry.

Thank you so much for the votes and share. I appreciate it.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 27, 2015:

Patricia, thank you so much. Poe left us so many good pieces of writing in his short life. I love his work. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Mary Craig from New York on March 27, 2015:

Beautifully done Phyllis. Poe has been a favorite of mine since high school. The sadness of his poems matches the sadness of his life. His poems coupled with his short stories certainly give us more of a picture of a life filled with sadness and horror. The horrors he suffered at the loss of his beloved wife, watching her die. Well done as always Phyllis.

Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 27, 2015:

Poe has been one whose I enjoy each time I read it. He was a tragic soul who gave us remarkable writings to read

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on May 25, 2014:

You are most welome, Frank. Thank you for such a very nice compliment. I hope I do not overdue it on my hubs -- often it is difficult for me to stop writing and end the story. Bless you, Frank.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on May 25, 2014:

Phyllis thank you for this sad detailed hub.. only you can be so comprehensive yet you get the points across in such a smooth way bless you :)

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 08, 2014:

Twice tonight HP froze up on me. It is really odd, Jodah. I have rarely had any problems with HP. I checked your article again and it looks fine. I still cannot find out how to nominate it for Editor's Choice, but will work on that for sure. There used to be a link to the form on the right side of the newsfeed page. It is now replaced by the Contest notice.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 08, 2014:

I appreciate you wanting to nominate my hub for editor's choice Phyllis. I have wanted to nominate a couple myself but have no idea how to. Someone said there is a form you download and fill out. The weird thing with my hub is that it is all good on my computer. It is only on my IPad where your ghostly image appears. I was going to edited it but checked my computer first. But yes HP has been acting weird, I am not getting any reply buttons to click after replying to the first comment either...just accept and deny so I have to leave a hub and return to reply to each comment.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 08, 2014:

Thank you, Jodah. Edgar Allen Poe has always been a favorite poet of mine. He had a sad life and put all his emotions into his work. I really appreciate your comment and that you appreciate the the hub so much. Thanks again.

Good grief on the weird pictures on your hub. Can you get it fixed? I remember when I was trying to comment on your hub I had to wait quite awhile for it to be submitted. I thought maybe you were in there editing at the time and that is why it took so long. How eerie I show up like a ghost there. I have been having problems with HP freezing up on me a lot lately. I wonder what is going on? I hope you get your hub fixed. I wanted to nominate it for Editor's Choice, but HP does not have that option showing now on the side reader board.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 08, 2014:

What a wonderful hub Phyllis. the time and work you put into this is evident and appreciated. I am a fan of edgar Allan Poe. His poetry is haunting and beautiful and has always captured my interest since having heard a reading of "the Raven". Those you included here were beautiful.

Voted up.

p.s. something weird has happened on my Companoin Planting hub. When viewing it on my iPad the last two images have changed to ones I didn't put there. The second last is a pic of blurry apricots it seems, and the last which is supposed to be a garden seat is the photo of you that you place at the end of your hubs under "note from the Author", only it is a blurred ghostly image. eerie.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on November 15, 2013:

I reviewed and revised this hub by adding capsules, more images, and a video. I hope you check it out and let me know what you think of the revised hub. It took me hours to do this, for I got so deeply involved in the life of Poe once again. He is still one of my favorite poets ever.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 21, 2013:

Thank you, phoenix, for stopping by and for your comments. It is much appreciated.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on March 21, 2013:

This is a well written hub about a gifted writer. I enjoyed reading about Edgar Allen Poe.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on February 05, 2013:

James, thank you so very much for reading and for your thoughts. Your comments are always a pleasure for me and very encouraging. Bless you.

James A Watkins from Chicago on February 05, 2013:

Thank you for this fine Hub about Edgar Allan Poe. It is a good read, to be sure. And yes, his words do "touch a part of the human soul in each of us that is often hidden from others."



Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 25, 2012:

You are most welcome, Mr Archer. Thank you for stopping by and reading. Poe has always been a favorite of mine, both his works and his life story. I never heard of the Allan Parsons Project -- it seems very interesting. I must check that out. Maybe you can write a hub about it?

Take care.

Mr Archer from Missouri on March 25, 2012:

I enjoyed Poe while in school, both in print, and in music. Have you ever heard of Allan Parsons Project? They took some of Poe's best works, and transformed them into song. Some are rather strange, but then again, some of Poe's works are somewhat different. At any rate, this was well informed and enjoyable to read. Thank you for re-awakening my interest in his works.

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on November 09, 2011:

you're welcome. Thanks for writing such interesting and well written hubs

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on November 09, 2011:

Thank you, PDX.

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on November 09, 2011:

Love Poe. read everything he's done and a few of his biographies. Another well done piece!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on October 10, 2011:

Lady Tenaz, thank you so much for the comments. Poe is one of my favorite poets and I love reading about him. He had such deep thoughts and emotions which came out in his writings.

Lady_Tenaz on October 10, 2011:

This is a beautiful biography of my favorite poet of all time. I recently wrote a poem about his love for Virginia and just decided to do a search on "virginia" and your hub came up. Beautiful! It is nice to see other writers who appreciate his works as much as I do!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on October 15, 2010:

Thank you so much, Nell. I thought I knew a lot about Poe, his writings anyway, but I never knew as much as I thought I did about his personal live until I started researching. There is a ton of material on his works, his depression and his off and on again problems with alcohol, but very little on his personal life. It is a very interesting story. He was a very compassionate man.

Nell Rose from England on October 15, 2010:

Hi, I recently re-discovered Poe and had forgotten how great he was, so many of the poets at the time were very similar, but he was outstanding, I never knew much about him though, so this is great, thanks for the info, loved it! cheers nell

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on October 14, 2010:

Thanks for the comments, bayoulady. Many believe that Poe had addictions, and it seems as if he did depend a lot on alcohol at times, but I do not think he was addicted to any drugs. The cooping suspicion (which I had never heard before researching over the last several weeks) seems very possible to me based on his confusion and the clothes he had on that were not his and he kept repeating the name "Reynolds" the night before he died. Was a guy named Reynolds responsible for the death of Poe? We do not know. All of Poe's medical records and his death certificate had gone missing. It all is still a mystery.

bayoulady from Northern Louisiana,USA on October 14, 2010:

A really interesting article,and several tidbits that I didn't know, such as the supposition about cooping. I was told in college that he was addicted to opium, and died of exposure after an overdose.Love Annabel Lee. I had to learn to recite it in eighth grade,and did not mind at all!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on October 11, 2010:

Saddlerider, thank you for your comments and contribution. The life of Poe is so interesting. It was one of great love and great loss. I agree with you that he was not meant to live a long life. Some people are here only long enough to leave us with timeless and beautiful messages. History has been blessed with his writings.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on October 11, 2010:

CheyenneAutumn, I agree. Poe has a story to tell about himself and his personal life. It is deep and tragic. He has always been one of my favorite poets. It is so sad the way he died. Thank you for your comments.

saddlerider1 on October 11, 2010:

Thank you for sharing this sad story about Poe and his beloved Virginia. Although they had a short time together, at least their love for each other was so tender and one of the highest moments in both their young lives.

Poe was filled with remorse and great sadness making it impossible for him to cope with reality. His drinking drove him deeper into despair. I don't believe he ever recovered form the loss of his love Virginia.

When we have gone through a life of pain, hurt and suffering and abuse, it brings forth demons that only we can relate to and in those quiet moments we as writers can clearly relate and our demons come forth on paper.

I can relate to Poe and his woe for life, he was not destined to live a long life, yet reward all of future generations a life long of poetry written and penned by Poe that truly an angel guided. May him and Virginia continue to RIP and be in each others arms forever for eternity.

CheyenneAutumn on October 11, 2010:

Poe is indeed a tell tale heart -- a deep tragic and tender heart... thank you so much for sharing this piece he really deserves to be known more for who he really is.