English III Honors
A Reflection of Depression
Edgar Allan Poe was one of the most popular and bizarre of the American authors, poets, editors, and literary critics during the nineteen hundreds. Poe lived from January 19, 1809 to October 7, 1849. Edgar Allan Poe was one of the first to be considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and macabre, Poe was also one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective-fiction literature. He is further credited as one of the most well-known gothic fiction writers of the nineteenth century. Although Poe had much success during his life, he grew greatly unhappy and depressed. Edgar Allan Poe’s discontent with his life and sorrow inspired almost all of his works of literature. The most influential factor of his life regarding his writing was his romances and his relationships with the women in his life. His relationships regarding his mother, stepmother, wives, and lovers, were tenuous at best and disastrous at worst. Edgar Allan Poe’s morbid losses of love in his life and romantic relationships influenced the profound darkness and endless amounts of depression hidden behind the lines of his literary masterpieces.
The most influential person regarding Edgar Allan Poe’s writing was his mother who died when Poe was a young boy. Edgar Allan Poe’s mother died from pulmonary tuberculosis, leaving Poe motherless and depressed for the remainder of his life. Poe was then put under custody of John Allan, a successful Scottish merchant in Richmond, Virginia, and his wife, Frances Allan. Although the Allan family served as a foster family and formally gave Poe his name, they never formally adopted him. Poe had profound feelings of being motherless that caused him to spend the rest of his life searching for maternal figures that are reflected in various pieces in his writing. Whether in the guise of his mother, Frances Allan, Virginia Poe, or Sarah Whitman, the women in his life carried with them a sense of potential emotional fulfillment. The women Poe looked to all had a very maternal aspect as well as an intellectual or artistic one, and it can be said that perhaps Poe was looking for a nurturer rather than a wife. In various poems, Poe represents his love for his mother and the emptiness he felt regarding her loss. In the poem, “Sonnet to my Mother”, Poe’s writing deeply reflects these feelings. His eternal and depressing love for his mother is expressed when he says:
Angels in the Heaven above,/Devoutly singing unto one another,/Can find, amid their burning terms of love,/None so devotional as that of "mother”,/Therefore by that sweet name I long have called you:/In setting my Virginia's spirit free./My mother - my own mother, who died early,/Was but the mother of myself; but you/Are mother to the dead I loved so dearly,/Are thus more precious than the one I knew,/By that infinity with which my wife/Was dearer to my soul than soul-life. (Poe)
Poe’s mother and her death were the soul inspirations for his love poems and other works of literature that have greatly touched the hearts of people around the world for centuries. Although Poe’s mother was the main inspiration for his literary works, Poe had another encouragement that he was truly in love with, his wife, Virginia Clemm. Poe married Virginia Clemm when she was thirteen, and “for the next several years maintained an unusual relationship with Virginia, whom he called "Sissy," and her mother, whom he sometimes treated as his own mother. For several years in the 1840s, he suffered through Virginia's bout with tuberculosis, finally losing her in 1847” (Canada 3). His love for Virginia can be expressed in the poem “Annabel Lee". In this poem, his romance of his life is reflected in lines five and six when the narrator says, “And this maiden she lived with no other thought/Than to love and be loved by me”