Chronology: 1809 - 1849

An abbreviated list of events in the life of Edgar Allan Poe


For a more complete chronology see the Qrisse's Edgar Allan Poe Page.


Born January 19 in Boston to David Poe, Jr. and Elizabeth Arnold Poe. The Poes already had one other child, William Henry Leonard Poe, born in 1807. They would have a third, Rosalie, in 1810.


Elizabeth Poe dies in Richmond on December 8. David Poe, while not with his family, dies just two days after Elizabeth. Edgar and Rosalie, orphaned, are taken in by wealthy Richmond families. Edgar goes to John Allan and his wife who become his guardians without adopting him. Rosalie was adopted by William Mackenzie and his wife. Son Henry was already living with his grandparents in Baltimore by 1810.


John Allan and his family live in Great Britain. Edgar attends a school kept by the Misses Dubourg and later the Manor House School at Stoke Newington.


The Allans return to Richmond. Poe is enrolled in Joseph H. Clarke's school in September.


Poe enrolls in William Burke's school where he meets Robert Craig Stanard, another pupil there. Invited to the Stanard home, Poe meets Jane Stith Stanard, the inspiration for the first "To Helen" poem.


Jane Stanard dies in April, about a year after Poe first met her, of tuberculosis. In June, Poe takes a wager which requires that he swim about six miles in the James River. He wins, performing the feat with such vigour that he was able to walk back to Richmond immediately after finishing the swim without seeming tired to those who accompanied him.

Around October 10, Lafayette, stopping in Baltimore, visits the grave of Poe's grandfather, David Poe, Sr. Kneeling, Lafayette reputedly says, "Ici repose un coeur noble!"

Edgar composes his earliest surviving poem titled "Poetry." Some say he also writes the satire "Oh, Tempora! Oh, Mores!" during this year.


During the summer, Poe falls in love with Elmira Royster and is apparently engaged to her. It may have been in this year that the burgeoning writer composes a satire on the Junior Debating Society.


Edgar matriculates at the University of Virginia on February 14. In December, the young man leaves the University of Virginia. His engagement to Elmira Royster is broken off before the year's end.


Henry Poe begins publishing poetry in local and national magazines. Edgar argues with Allan at least twice. John Allan refuses to pay Edgar's gambling debts from the University. Edgar resolves to enter the world on his own, first taking passage from Norfolk to Boston and then enlisting in the U. S. Army for a five year stint. While in Boston, he publishes his first book of verse, Tamerlane and Other Poems. Before year's end Poe's battery is sent to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island near Charleston, SC.


On January 1, Edgar receives promotion to the rank of Regimental Sergeant-Major. During the year, Frances Allan, wife of John, dies of tuberculosis. Poe receives his discharge from the Army, hiring a substitute. He begins to make contacts which will lead to his appointment to the Military Academy, even walking from Baltimore to Washington for an appointment with Secretary Eaton. Before the end of the year, the young man publishes "Al Aaraaf", "Tamerlane" and "Minor Poems".


Edgar enters West Point, taking classes in French and mathematics. The Saturday Evening Post publishes the young man's "Sonnet--To Science."


Receiving no support from Allan, Poe neglects his duties leading to dismissal from the Military Academy. He then publishes his Poems to which 131 of the 232 cadets at the Academy subscribe. In August, Henry Poe, Edgar's brother dies at age 24.


Poe moves in with his aunt Maria Clemm in Baltimore. Early in the year, he publishes four poems in the Saturday Visiter. By October he has won the prize for fiction sponsored by that publication; and it has printed both the prize-winning story, "MS. Found in a Bottle" and his poem "The Coliseum" which was entered in the contest.


John Allan, Poe's foster father, dies at age 54. The Southern Literary Messenger begins publication.


John Pendleton Kennedy, a well-known Baltimore author, intercedes with the Messenger on Poe's behalf, telling T. W. White, the owner, that he has advised Poe to send something for each issue to the magazine. Kennedy also suggests that White might want to give Poe permanent employment. Before the end of the year, the Messenger announces Poe as assistant to White. At one point in the fall, Poe wrote Kennedy that his salary was to be $520 a year. The magazine publishes the young writer's stories "Berenice", "Morella", "Lionaizing", and "Hans Phaall--A Tale"as well as "Bon-Bon--A Tale", "Loss of Breath", "King Pest the First", and "Shadow--A Fable". Reviews and poems also appear.

On July 8, Mrs. David Poe, Sr., the writer's grandmother, dies.


In May, Poe signs a marriage bond. Thomas W. Cleland gives an oath that Virginia is at least 21 though she was not born until 1822. The couple are married with a small group of friends as guests.


Poe "retires" as editor of the Messenger on January 3 though he is to contribute to the magazine. The January issue of the Messenger contains the first instalment of Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. The Narrative is copyrighted by Harpers in June though it does not appear in book form until mid-1838. Poe, his wife and his mother-in-law, Maria Clemm, live in New York most of this year.


Early in the year, Poe and his household move to Philadelphia. Before the end of the year, Poe has been paid $50 for the preparation of The Conchologist's First Book . The writer begins to contribute to the American Museum. His story "Ligeia" sees print in that magazine's September issue.


In May, William E. Burton employs Poe as an assistant editor at $10 a week. Burton's Magazine then prints both tales and poems by the new editor including "The Fall of the House of Usher", "The Devil in the Belfry", "The Man That Was Used Up" and "Fairyland". Many of the poems were reprints. The Gift for 1840 is published in the fall with Poe's "William Wilson" included. In December, Lea and Blanchard publish Poe's Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in an edition of 750 copies.


When Burton advertises his magazine for sale, Poe announces his own journal, the Penn Magazine. Burton, in a huff, dismisses Poe on May 30, just over a year after employing him. In October, Burton sells his magazine and its list of 3,500 subscribers to George R. Graham. Poe's contributions immediately begin to show up in Graham's Magazine. The first issue, distributed at the end of November, contains Poe's story "The Man of the Crowd".


Virginia Poe has her first episode of coughing up blood in January. The tuberculosis which caused the incident would lead to her death five years later. Poe meets and has interviews with Dickens during the British author's visit to Philadelphia in March. About April 1, Poe resigns his job at Graham's. Graham immediately offers the post Poe vacates to Rufus W. Griswold. When The Gift for 1843 appears, it contains Edgar Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum". Snowden's Lady's Companion begins to serialise "Mystery of Marie Roget". Poe also published "Masque of the Red Death" this year, no doubt inspired by onset of Virginia's illness.


Poe revives his plans to publish a magazine. He enlists Thomas C. Clarke, publisher of the Saturday Museum. The new publication is to be called the Stylus. F. O. C. Darley agrees to furnish designs, and Hawthorne says he will contribute to the publication. The plans come to nought when Clarke withdraws because of financial difficulties and Poe's drinking.
Poe enters a contest sponsored by the Dollar Newspaper and wins it with his "The Gold-Bug". The publication of the story brings an insult in print from Francis H. Duffee, a minor Philadelphia journalist, in the Daily Forum. Poe institutes a suit against Duffee, and the two later settle out of court. Their agreement is published.

Poe also, during this year, publishes "The Black Cat" and one of his most famous tales, "The Tell-Tale Heart".
This year Poe begins lecturing on American poetry. He has overflow audiences and good reviews of his talks.


Poe lectures in Baltimore and Redding, PA as well as Philadelphia. Thomas Dunn English continues his attacks on Poe, publishing "The Ghost of a Grey Tadpole" as a burlesque of Poe's fiction in the Irish Citizen.

Poe, his wife and mother-in-law move to New York. He sells "The Balloon Hoax" to Moses Beach, editor of the Sun. This year, Poe sells work to a wide group of publications including "The Premature Burial" to the Dollar Newspaper; "Mesmeric Revelation" to the Colombian Magazine; "The Oblong Box" to Godey's Lady's Book; "The Purloined Letter" to The Gift for 1845; "The Literary life of Thingum Bob, Esq" to the Southern Literary messenger and "A Chapter of Suggestions"to The Opal. This year Poe also publishes "The Angel of Odd".

In October, Nathan P. Willis hires Poe as assistant on the Evening Mirror.


This becomes the busiest year in Poe's short literary career. This is the year "The Raven" sees print, becoming a popular success overnight. In February, Poe, having left the Evening Mirror, becomes associated with The Broadway Journal. At midyear, the Journal has a hiatus while ownership problems are discussed. Charles Briggs has wanted to buy out his partner John Bisco; but Bisco refuses to sell. Unable to reach agreement, Briggs withdraws from the publication. Poe reaches an agreement with Bisco to be sole editor for one-half the profits. By October, Poe has agreed to purchase the Journal from Bisco, even borrowing money from Horace Greeley to be applied toward the purchase. By December, however, he has taken on Thomas Lane as a partner in the venture. Lane closes the publication entirely after Poe has a fit of drunkenness. The year is an extraordinarily productive one, with the finishing of "The Facts of the Case of M. Valdemar" and "The System of Dr. Tarr and Mr. Fether". But Edgar Poe has difficulty in trying to write poems he had promised to produce on commission.

Though he goes through several bouts of drunkenness, he patches up the relationship with Thomas Dunn English enough that he can ask English for advice and so that English stops momentarily producing caricatures of him.

Wiley and Putnam publish Poe's Tales as the second volume in their series "Library of American Books."


In January, Poe is involved in a dispute over letters sent to him by Mrs. Ellet. As a result of the dispute, Poe, a salon favourite since the publication of "The Raven" ceases to see not only Mrs. Ellet but also Mrs. Osgood and Miss Lynch. He has a fist fight with Thomas Dunn English and gains English's lasting enmity. Also, as a result of the dispute, rumours of Poe's insanity circulate.

During the year, Poe publishes one of his shortest tales, "The Sphinx." He also publishes "The Philosophy of Composition", explaining the writing of "The Raven." He also begins publishing his series "The Literati of New York City" in Godey's Lady's Book, a series which allowed a caustic assessment of his contemporaries in print. Replying to his own portrayal in the series, English libels Poe saying, among other things, that he is an "assassin in morals but a quack in literature." There are rejoinders. Finally, English, in "A Card in Reply to Mr. Poe's Rejoinder" in the Evening Mirror challenges Poe to sue him. After attempting to gain some apology or satisfaction from the publishers of the Evening Mirror through conversation and failing, Poe sues those publishers. The verdict is not given until 1847, however. It is quite likely that the vengeful nature of this exchange informed the "The Cask of Amontillado", also published this year.

In spite of winning several hundred dollars in the lawsuit, Poe and his family are in straightened circumstances by the end of the year. Virginia is sick unto death, and Poe himself is ill much of the second half of the year. Mrs. Hewitt begins to collect money for the family and to bring the family's plight to the attention of city newspaper editors.


Virginia Poe dies in January at the age of 25. In February, Poe's suit against the publishers of the Evening Mirror comes to trial. He wins, being awarded $225 in damages. The suit and its consequences apparently silence English's criticism for 1847 though Charles Briggs in a satiric novel, The Trappings of Tom Pepper, depicts Poe unfavourably.

In March, Mrs. Shew who has assisted the impoverished family, has Poe examined by a doctor who talks about the writer suffering from a brain lesion. Publication this year is relatively meagre. The author's "The Domain of Arnheim" appears in the Colombian Magazine; a sketch of Poe and some excerpts from his work appear in Griswold's Prose Writers of America; the Home Journal prints his "To M.L.S.", a tribute to Mrs. Shew; and in December the American Review contains "Ulalume: A Ballad".


Thomas Dunn English, now with his own publication, the John-Donkey, resumes regular attacks on Poe. He wisely chooses satire rather than libelous representations of the facts. Poe himself tries again to start his own publication. Prospectuses for the Stylus appear in January and February. The magazine never materialises. Ill, Poe repairs to Mrs. Shew's home. Dr. John Francis examines him there, diagnosing heart disease. While at her home, Poe completes the first draft of "The Bells". Persuaded by friends that further association with Poe will be detrimental to her spiritual welfare, Mrs. Shew breaks off association with him.

In his guise as critic, Poe lectures on "The Poets and Poetry of America" in Lowell, MA where he meets Annie Richmond whom he later commemorates in poetry. He also renews acquaintance with his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton, on a visit to Richmond. She is now a widow. His love interest of the year, however, was Sarah Helen Whitman, a widow and a poet. Early in the fall, he met her and proposed. She at first refused and then accepted conditionally. The conditions included his pledge not to drink again. By the end of the year, the pledge and the conditional engagement were broken.

Publication this year was interesting if not heavy. In July, Putnam issued Poe's views on the universe in "Eureka: A Prose Poem", a small volume selling for seventy-five cents. The Democratic Review published a new instalment of the author's "The Literati of New-York" which profiled Ann Lewis and praised her forthcoming volume of poetry. The Southern Literary Messenger began publication of his "The Rationale of Verse", an essay which talked informatively about the art of writing verse. In November, when the courtship of Mrs. Whitman was still in progress, the Union Magazine printed "To ----- ----- ------." The blanks are for the name "Sarah Helen Whitman." Later the poem, renamed, became Poe's second "To Helen".


During this final year, Poe was occasionally ill. Before the end of June, he informed his aunt and mother-in-law, Maria Clemm, that in the event of his death he would like Rufus W. Griswold to be his literary executor. Poe's publications during this year often appeared in The Flag of Our Union. His "A Valentine", "Hop-Frog: Or the Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs", "Dream Within a Dream", "Von Kempelen and His Discovery", and "X-ing a Paragrab" all appeared there as did "Landor's Cottage" and "Sonnet--To My Mother" which expresses his devotion to Mrs. Clemm. The poems "Eldorado" and "For Annie" also were printed in The Flag. His tale "Mellonta Tauta" appeared in Godey's Lady's Book. "Some Word With a Mummy" was published post-humously, in 1850.

On a trip to the south beginning at end of June, Poe lectured, sold work and had bouts with heavy drinking. The first difficulty with drinking came in Philadelphia around July 1. He was arrested and taken to prison. John Sartain, the owner of Sartain's Union Magazine, rescued him, taking him to his own house for recovery. That recovery takes until July 10. During the time, Poe writes Mrs. Clemm saying that now that he has written Eureka, he has no desire to live. Before leaving Philadelphia, he sells a new poem "Annabel Lee" and the final version of "The Bells" to Sartain. He journeys further south to Richmond. There he proposes marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton. She does not accept right away, but soon rumours that the two will marry become common. Poe lectures in Virginia at several sites, drinks, joins the Sons of Temperance, and finally gets a formal acceptance of his proposal for Elmira. On his way back to New York, he begins drinking heavily after old friends persuade him to have a single glass. On October 3, Joseph Walker, encountering Poe at "Gunner's Hall" in Baltimore, a site being used as a polling place, knows that the man needs help and sends for an editor friend. Poe is, the same day, admitted to the Washington College Hospital at Broadway and Hampstead streets in Baltimore where he dies on October 7.

back to poe section            comments