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Poe: A Life Cut Short
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Peter Ackroyd
Poe: A Life Cut Short by Peter Ackroyd at Galaxy Bookshop,

Poe: A Life Cut Short

Peter Ackroyd


Chatto & Windus

Reference » Horror Reference


176 pages

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Edgar Allan Poe served as a soldier and began his literary career composing verses modelled on Byron; soon he was trying out his 'prose-tales' - often horror melodramas such as The Fall of the House of Usher. As editor of the Literary Messenger he was influential among critics and writers of the American South. His versatile writings - including for example The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Raven - continue to resonate down the centuries. eter Ackroyd's biography of Poe opens with his end, his final days --- no one knows what happened between the time when friends saw him off on the steam-boat to Baltimore and his discovery six days later dying in a tavern. This mystery sets the scene for a short life packed with drama and tragedy (drink and poverty) combined with extraordinary brilliance. Tennyson described him as 'the most original genius that America has produced'. oe has been claimed as the forerunner of modern fantasy, and credited with the invention of psychological dramas (long before Freud), science fiction (before H.G. Wells and Jules Verne) and the detective story (before Arthur Conan Doyle). He influenced European romanticism and was the harbinger of both Symboli

By:   Peter Ackroyd
Imprint:   Chatto & Windus
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 225mm,  Width: 155mm,  Spine: 19mm
Weight:   360g
ISBN:   9780701169886
ISBN 10:   0701169885
Pages:   176
Publication Date:   April 2008
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Peter Ackroyd has written biographies of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake, Thomas More and Shakespeare, as well as short lives of Chaucer, Turner and Newton. A bestselling biographer, historian, novelist and broadcaster, he holds a CBE for services to literature. He was born and brought up in London, where he still lives. Chatto and Vintage are the publishers of his bestselling London: The Biography and Thames: Sacred River. His future books will be Venice and The English Ghost, as well as new volumes about London, to be published in hardback by Chatto and in paperback by Vintage.

Latest entry in the prolific biographer's Brief Lives series sketches a tormented existence begun in misery, ended in mystery.In his portrait of Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 49), Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers no novelty, just brevity and some striking sentences - the final one in the book is alone worth the purchase price. The text opens with the destitute, disoriented, dying Poe discovered on the streets of Baltimore. Ackroyd wisely abstains from too much speculation about the writer's demise ( the truth is lost, he acknowledges) and does not advance any new theory about those final days missing from the historical record. The biographer pulls few punches. He reminds us that Poe's foster parents, the Allans, were slaveowners and that the writer remained in many ways an archetypal Southern white racist his entire life. (Racial attitudes expressed in several famous tales, including The Gold Bug, make them difficult to read today.) Ackroyd also emphasizes Poe's drinking problem, arguing that he was at times not just intoxicated but totally saturated in alcohol. He does not adequately explain, however, how a man continually besotted managed to be so astonishingly productive. Ackroyd sticks to an unadorned chronology, following the orphaned Poe from John Allan's Richmond, Va., home through school and teenage activities (including some surprising acts of physical prowess - he swam the James River rapids) to his truncated adventures at the nascent University of Virginia, in the Army and at West Point. We see Allan breaking with Poe, who inherited nothing from his wealthy foster father. We watch a proud, even arrogant artist struggle to make his name in the literary world. Ackroyd deals sensitively with Poe's marriage to his very young cousin Virginia Clemm, and is incredulous with his hysterical, simultaneous courtships of three women after Clemm died.Necessarily sketchy, but often insightful, sometimes stunning. (Kirkus Reviews)

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