Illuminating Poe for everyone, evermore.
The mystery fiction of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) has always been a force to be reckoned with, and his influence still casts a long shadow on the literary imagination. Charles Baudelaire’s legendary enthusiasm for Poe filled him with a desire to become his ‘heir in all things’, and his definitive translations brought the American writer fame and critical acclaim in France long before he was taken seriously in English speaking countries. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was to state, ‘Each of Poe’s stories is a root from which a whole literature has developed… where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?’ and H.G.Wells and Jules Verne each have tipped their hats in his direction.
He produced some seventy bizarre short tales and around the same number of poems, as well as a lesser-known novel and an uncompleted play, but Poe was best known in his day as a trenchant and often irascible critic, a sort of guerrilla presence on the American cultural landscape, whose writings sparked literary wars that kept him on the run from professional skirmishes, poverty and slander. Accounts of his turbulent personal life and career, his mysterious death and posthumous literary reputation have been perpetually animated and coloured by the same dark, uncanny, and undeniably magnetic forces that riddle his intriguing, frequently morbid and sometimes sacrilegious works of fiction and nonfiction.
Poe’s lifelong correspondence with friends and family, detractors and critics has been collected and published previously in a two-volume academic edition. But Nigel Barnes’s immensely readable new biography is the first to incorporate a generous selection of the letters in such a way that they illuminate the New England author’s story and help shine a light into the shadowy corners of his life that have hitherto been shrouded in mystery and legend.
Paperback, 348 pages
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