Edgar Allan Poe Timeline
How It All Went Down
Edgar Poe is born in Boston to Elizabeth Arnold Poe and David Poe, Jr., both traveling actors. The couple already has one son named Henry.
Poe's sister Rosalie is born. Shortly after her birth, or possibly even before it, David Poe deserts the family, leaving Poe's mother alone with three children. Making matters worse, Elizabeth Poe soon falls ill with tuberculosis.
Elizabeth Arnold Poe dies of tuberculosis in Richmond, Virginia. Within days, David Poe also dies of tuberculosis. With no parents to take care of them, the three children of the family are split up. Henry goes to live with his paternal grandparents. A Richmond couple, John and Frances Allan, take in Edgar as a foster child. Rosalie is taken in by another Richmond family named Mackenzie. Both Edgar and Rosalie adopt their foster families' names as their middle names.
The Allan family sails to London, where Edgar enrolls in school.
Back to the USA
Five years after leaving America for England, the Allans return to Richmond, Virginia.
A fifteen-year-old Edgar Allan Poe pens his first known poem: "Last night, with many cares & toils oppres'd,/ Weary, I laid me on a couch to rest."31
Poe enrolls midway through the academic year at the University of Virginia, which had opened less than a year before.
Splits With Allans
After running up a $2,000 gambling debt while at college, Poe gets into an argument with his foster father when John Allan refuses to give him money to settle the debt. Poe ditches college and the Allans. He moves to Baltimore to join relatives there.
Soldier and Published Author
Poe enlists in the U.S. Army under the name "Edgar A. Perry." Shortly after, his first book—a poetry collection entitled Tamerlane and Other Poems—is published. The author is listed only as "A Bostonian."
Death of Foster Mother
Poe's foster mother, Frances Allan, with whom he was still close, dies in Richmond. Poe—by now a sergeant major in the Army—obtains leave to travel to her funeral.
West Point Reject & Emerging Writer
Tired of the military, Poe successfully attempts to get himself kicked out of West Point. When he stops going to classes and chapel, Poe is court-martialed and dismissed. He publishes several anonymous short stories plus another book of poems.
Death of Brother
Edgar's older brother Henry dies of either tuberculosis or cholera at the age of 27.
Southern Literary Messenger
Poe takes a job as editor of the Southern Literary Messenger magazine. He publishes critical reviews of other writers' work as well as his own stories and poems.
Poe—now 27 years old—marries his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm, at a ceremony in Richmond, Virginia.
Poe moves his new wife and mother-in-law to New York and then to Philadelphia.
Poe's first novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, is published.
Poe is hired as an editor at Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, a job he holds until June 1840.
Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque
Poe's story collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque is published in two volumes.
Poe begins as an editor at Graham's Magazine, where he works until May 1842. The magazine runs Poe's short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," the first-ever entry in a genre now known as the detective story.
Virginia Falls Ill
While singing at the piano, Virginia begins to bleed from her mouth, a symptom of untreated tuberculosis. Her illness grows progressively worse.
Poe begins delivering lectures on poetry. He is a popular lecturer, frequently speaking to packed audiences.
New York Bound
Poe, his wife, and her mother move to New York City, where he gets a job at the New York Evening Mirror.
Poe publishes the poem , The Raven in the New York Evening Mirror. It is wildly successful, bringing the writer the fame and fortune that have long eluded him. He soon becomes editor and owner of a magazine called the Broadway Journal, a doomed enterprise that is already in debt when Poe takes over.
The Broadway Journal folds due to serious financial problems.
Death of Wife
Poe's wife Virginia dies of tuberculosis at their home in the Bronx. Poe has been so despondent during the final months of her illness that friends thought he was going insane. The loss of his wife sends Poe into a downward spiral of alcoholism.
Poe proposes to a poet named Sarah Helen Whitman, who agrees on the condition that he quit drinking. Poe can't live up to the promise, and Whitman calls off the engagement a month later.
Poe travels to Richmond and convinces his childhood sweetheart, Elmira Royster Shelton, to become his fiancée. He joins the Sons of Temperance, an organization that forbids drinking (sort of like a nineteenth-century equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous). The next month, Poe travels to Baltimore.
After being found unconscious in a Baltimore gutter, Edgar Allan Poe is taken to the hospital and pronounced dead of causes still unknown. He is buried at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Baltimore.