The Strange Life of Edgar Allan Poe

By | August 22, 2018

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Portrait of American author Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849) against a green background and under an embossed presentation of his last name, probably taken from a cigar box, 1900. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Edgar Allan Poe was the Stephen King of his day. The American author specialized in the morbid and the macabre in his short stories and poems, much to the fascination of his fans. Born in Boston in 1809, Poe is more closely associated with the city of Baltimore, where he spent the bulk of his adult life. Heck, the city of Baltimore even named their NFL team after Poe’s most famous work, "The Raven." The life and death of Edgar Allan Poe was almost as strange and puzzling as the characters in his stories, and he certainly broke a few societal norms and literary standards. 

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Edgar Allen Poe Drank and Took Drugs

It has been well-publicized that Edgar Allan Poe was an alcoholic. He drank heavily from his college days – he only attended college for one semester – throughout his adult life. It is likely that alcohol played a part in his early death at the age of 40. To optimize the numbing effect of the alcohol, Poe would mix absinthe, with its high alcohol content, with brandy and other drinks. Poe attempted to get sober several times in his life but always returned to the bottle. Poe also used opium. Opium was commonly used for medical purposes in the early half of the 1800s, so it is no surprise that he partook. Because several of the characters in his stories were opium addicts, many critics assume that Poe was, too. Today, we do not know the extent of his opium use. It is just as likely that he wasn’t an opium addict as it is that he was.