History of Edgar Allan Poe for Kids

The Raven

By Edgar Allan Poe:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

            Only this and nothing more.

This is the opening of one of the most famous poems in American History.  It is called “The Raven” and is written by Edgar Allan Poe.  

Read more Edgar Allan Poe poems.

Edgar Allan Poe was a writer who became famous for his dark, mysterious poems and stories.  His storytelling inspired many later writers to write mystery and detective stories. And Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems often come to mind for people this time of year near Halloween as the evenings get darker and spookier.

Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe’s Early Life

Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809 in Boston Massachusetts. His parents were both actors.  His mom was an actress from Britain and his dad worked in the theatres in Baltimore.  Unfortunately, Edgar never knew his parents, as they both died when he was very young.

After the death of his parents, Edgar was sent to live with his godfather in Virginia.  His godfather’s name was John Allan.  He owned a tobacco company and was very wealthy. 

Edgar enjoyed writing when he was very young and by the time he was 13, he had written many, many poems.  But Edgar’s godfather wanted him to learn more about business and not poetry so that Edgar could work at his tobacco company one day.  He told Edgar not to focus on writing anymore, but to learn about business.  Edgar listened, but entirely.  While he was supposed to be learning business lessons, he sneakily wrote poems on the back of his godfather’s business papers!

Education

When Edgar was old enough, he went to college. He did well at school but life became difficult for him at this time.  His uncle gave him money to pay for school, but Edgar also started gambling to pay for the rest.  Gambling means playing games of chance for money.  It can be quite exciting, as people that play hope to get rich.  But it also causes many people to lose all their money.  And this is what happened to Edgar.  After losing a lot of money, Edgar ended up in debt. This means that he owed money to others and no longer had any money for himself.  Around this time, Edgar also had his heart broken by his neighbor and childhood sweetheart when she became engaged to another man. 

Military Academy

Edgar Allan Poe dealt with his sadness about these things by moving away to Boston. He continued to write and he published his first book in 1827 when he was 18 years old.  He also joined the U.S. Army.  His uncle helped him get a position with the United States Military Academy at West Point.  But then he and his uncle did not get along and Edgar eventually left West Point to focus on writing full-time. 

Full-time Writer

As a full-time writer, Edgar traveled around to various cities in Eastern America, including New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Richmond. Edgar was quite poor because being a writer did not pay very much money. Edgar got a break when one of his short stories won a writing contest.  He began to publish more short stories and eventually got a job as an editor with a magazine in Richmond. 

Edgar got married when he was 22 to his cousin Virginia.  It was common at that time for people to marry their distant relatives. Edgar wrote a number of mystery stories around this time which were quite popular.  It was these kinds of stories that earned him a reputation as the father of the modern detective story.

Edgar had an aggressive personality, which means that he was often critical and mean to others.  He was difficult to work with and so he did not last in his job very long before being fired. Edgar found other editor jobs at magazines, but they never lasted very long. 

The Raven

In 1845, when Edgar Allan Poe was 36, he published “The Raven”.  People loved the strange and creepy story and he suddenly became extremely popular.  Edgar and his wife Virginia moved to New York City at this time to launch a new magazine called the Broadway Journal.  Sadly, his wife Virginia became ill and died of tuberculosis.  

Even though Edgar became a popular writer after this, he continued to struggle to have enough money. He died in 1849 at the age of 40. 

Later Fame

Edgar Allan Poe lived a short life but had a great impact through his writing. His poems are still read and studied today, over 150 years later.  Although Edgar’s life had many difficulties and sadness, there is a lot that we can learn from him.  

Edgar was passionate about writing at a young age and wrote all the time.  Even when he was told to go into business for a job, he still continued to write and pursue his passion. Because of his endless efforts to be a writer, Edgar became better each time he wrote and eventually found success in his lifetime and after.  He created a new wave of writing that inspired future writers to write detective stories. 

Conclusion

Is there something that you are passionate about that you could pursue as Edgar Allan Poe did?  Have you ever tried writing poetry?  There are many ways that we can use our hobbies to inspire ourselves even when times are tough.  In fact, many people use creative hobbies to help them overcome difficult times in life.  If you’ve never tried writing a poem, get out a pencil and paper tomorrow and see what you can create! 

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About Bedtime History

Bedtime History is a series of educational, relaxing stories for kids and families. Learn about inspirational characters such as Jackie Robinson, Sacajawea, Neil Armstrong, and Maya Angelou. Other topics include space exploration, current events, and great feats of engineering such as The Transcontinental Railroad.