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Synopsis

During the last few years every incident in the life of Edgar Poe has been subjected to microscopic investigation. The result has not been altogether satisfactory. On the one hand, envy and prejudice have magnified every blemish of his character into crime, whilst on the other, blind admiration would depict him as far "too good for human nature's daily food." Let us endeavor to judge him impartially, granting that he was as a mortal subject to the ordinary weaknesses of mortality, but that he was tempted sorely, treated badly, and suffered deeply.

The poet's ancestry and parentage are chiefly interesting as explaining some of the complexities of his character. His father, David Poe, was of Anglo-Irish extraction. Educated for the Bar, he elected to abandon it for the stage. In one of his tours through the chief towns of the United States he met and married a young actress, Elizabeth Arnold, member of an English family distinguished for its musical talents. As an actress, Elizabeth Poe acquired some reputation, but became even better known for her domestic virtues. In those days the United States afforded little scope for dramatic energy, so it is not surprising to find that when her husband died, after a few years of married life, the young widow had a vain struggle to maintain herself and three little ones, William Henry, Edgar, and Rosalie. Before her premature death, in December, 1811, the poet's mother had been reduced to the dire necessity of living on the charity of her neighbors.

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