» » Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography

Download Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography epub

by Arthur Hobson Quinn

Download Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography epub
ISBN: 0815403135
ISBN13: 978-0815403135
Category: Literature
Subcategory: History & Criticism
Author: Arthur Hobson Quinn
Language: English
Publisher: Cooper Square Pub (June 1, 1941)
Pages: 804 pages
ePUB size: 1103 kb
FB2 size: 1270 kb
Rating: 4.3
Votes: 172
Other Formats: lrf lit lrf azw

Trash Obsession
Edgar Allan Poe finally got the biographer he deserved in 1941 – almost a century after his death – when Arthur Hobson Quinn of the University of Pennsylvania published this masterpiece of literary biography. In the 761 densely packed pages of "Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography," Quinn clears away the accumulated mass of falsehood, distortion, and misinformation that had gathered around Poe. In the process, he presents the reader, as no writer had done before and few have approached since, with the true life and personality of a great American author.

All the facts of Poe’s short, turbulent, often tragic, always poverty-plagued life are here; but for those who are not already familiar with Poe’s life, a word of explanation is in order regarding why this biography so needed to be written. In one of the most unfortunate decisions ever made by a major American writer, Poe chose a long-time enemy, one Rufus Griswold, to serve as his literary executor. Griswold rewrote letters of Poe, forged passages that Poe never wrote, and cast every act of Poe’s in the worst possible light – all in an effort to depict Poe as an utterly immoral literary fiend, forever indulging depraved appetites. As Poe scholar Shawn Rosenheim states in a foreword to this Johns Hopkins University Press reprint of Quinn’s work, “It was as if Mozart had left his scores to Antonio Salieri….Poe has never fully recovered from Griswold’s portrait of him as a drunken, amoral, death-obsessed wretch” (p. xii).

Griswold’s lies could not be further from the historical truth of Poe as a dedicated writer who tried to live a good life and worked hard at his craft. Griswold’s slanders were already known in 1850, when Charles Alexander, a publisher who had worked with Poe, wrote in response to a query that “With all his faults, [Poe] was a gentleman; which is more than can be said of some who have undertaken the ungracious task of blackening the reputation which Mr. Poe, of all others, esteemed ‘the precious jewel of his soul’” (p. 297). Yet today, the Poe-as-villain image fostered by Griswold still endures. It is as if some people find that image too cool, too grungy, too Goth, to let go of. But if that image persists, it is not Quinn’s fault.

Quinn diligently sought out all the primary-source documents then available regarding Poe and his life and times. When considering Poe’s time at the University of Virginia, for example, Quinn gives us not only Poe’s original U.Va. Matriculation Book entry from February 14, 1826, but also Poe’s place among students who excelled in the Senior Latin and Senior French classes. Original letters from Poe – like a letter written from Baltimore on May 4, 1833, submitting what he called “Tales of the Arabesque” for possible publication by the New England Magazine – are not only quoted but reproduced in Poe’s own handwriting on the printed page. These, combined with the abundant drawings, engravings, and photographs that Quinn includes, and no less than twelve appendices, do much to put the reader in Poe’s time.

As the "Critical Biography" subtitle indicates, Quinn provides literary criticism of Poe’s work, along with biographical facts of Poe’s life. When considering two stories published by Poe in 1844, for instance, Quinn dismisses “The Spectacles” as “one of the most absurd of the Grotesques. The story of Mr. Talbot, who is so near-sighted that he falls in love with his great-great-grandmother, defies comment” (p. 400). By contrast, “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains” receives praise from Quinn as a tale in which “The realistic treatment of the supernatural was rarely better done by Poe” (pp. 400-01). Quinn’s literary judgments are judicious, and most readers will probably tend to agree with them, as when Quinn lauds Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” as “a powerful tale of revenge in which the interest lies in the implacable nature of the narrator” and adds, in praise of the story’s concision, that “There is not one word to spare in ‘The Cask of Amontillado’” (p. 500).

Quinn is able to consider Poe’s work in the context of both Poe’s life and Poe’s previous work, as when he writes of the poem “For Annie” that “‘For Annie’ is one of Poe’s finest poems….In ‘The Bells’ he had imitated sounds by other sounds. In ‘For Annie’ he did something much more difficult. He reproduced an emotional state by a short throbbing measure, in which the very incoherencies mirror perfectly the mood” (p. 600). And as this poem was published in 1849, the year of Poe’s too-early death at the age of 40, there is a special pathos in the way Quinn draws attention to two specific lines from “For Annie” – “And the fever called ‘Living’/Is conquered at last” – as evidence that Poe “had not ceased to possess the secret of the magnificent phrase” (p. 600).

"Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography" closes by contrasting Griswold’s calumnies with the verifiable facts of Poe’s life. Quinn sees Griswold as “a representative of his time”, a spokesman for the “great wave of moralistic effort” (p. 692) then sweeping the country. He suggests that to the reform-minded public of the 1840’s and 1850’s, “Poe’s life as portrayed by Griswold, was a horrible but delicious bit of source material”; and to that Puritanical public, the facts of Poe’s life were simply irrelevant, as “Goodness, like happiness, has no history that is interesting to the reforming spirit” (pp. 692-93). While Quinn acknowledges Poe’s faults – his tendency to alienate people who could have helped him, his lapses into substance abuse – he emphasizes “the real Edgar Poe, the industrious, honorable gentleman…the warm friend and courteous host” (p. 694), a man who was loved most by those who knew him best. With regard to Poe the literary artist, many readers of today would agree with what Quinn wrote back in 1941 – that Poe “remains not only the one American, but also the one writer in the English language, who was at once foremost in criticism, supreme in fiction, and in poetry destined to be immortal” (p. 695).

"Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography," 75 years after its publication, remains the definitive Poe biography. Every reader who is interested in Edgar Allan Poe's life and work should read this book.
The research that Arthur Hobson Quinn did on this book is mind boggling. All his conclusions of Poe are based on contemporaneous writings of people who knew the author, and even then, careful examination of other writings by different people at the time is used to come to make logical delineations in cases where accounts differ. Letters, original title pages, Poe's own notes, are all displayed for the reader. This is a fascinating read, and for anyone who wants to try to look into the marvelous mind of Edgar A. Poe, this is the book for you. Careful references and examples of his poems and short stories are also provided, and linked brilliantly to what was going on in Poe's life at the time. For anyone who loves Poe and what he wrote, this book is a must.
This biography is certainly complete, with minute details of Poe's life and works covered with countless literary citations. As a readable biography it is slow-going. Very scholarly.
Steel balls
This is a great, comprehensive biography of Poe focused on dispelling many of the rumors and myths and out-right falsehoods perpetuated about him. It's also *very* dense. It could almost be called Poe's Letters, given the number and length of those quoted.

Overall, a great book weighed down with a lot of information. Not for the faint of heart.
Best West
Good book. Many poems and great!
A meticulous and massive work that piles fact upon fact. This is a reprint of a 1941 work, and the author, Quinn, was born in 1875. He is concerned to defend Poe's reputation against charges of immorality. More background about the marriage to Virginia would have been interesting. How common were such marriages in Virginia at that time? Was the full age of 21 claimed on the marriage bond legally necessary? I don't know if Silverman's 1992 biography has this, I might try it, but 750 pages on Poe is enough for now. If you really need to see an exact reproduction of the title page of Poe's textbook of conchology, this is the book for you.
I had to write a paper on Poe's life with loads of primary sources. Though a little old-fashioned, this is the perfect book to do just that.It has family trees, rough drafts of poe's, and pictures. With 700+ words it is lengthy, but if you are looking for scholarly analysis of Poe's life and works, you need this book.
Essential. The definitive biography of Edgar Allan Poe.

This, The Poe Log and The Collected Letters are a holy triumvirate for Poe scholars.