Few authors have commanded such an eerie reputation as Edgar Allan Poe.
The author of The Raven – an epic poem in which a man is visited by a talking raven and descends into madness – lived a life as macabre and gothic as his work. Orphaned by the time he was a toddler, he was 25 when he married his 13-year-old cousin, who subsequently died of tuberculosis. Poe was also the first prominent American author to exist financially through his writing alone, although times were frequently hard.
He was barely 40 when he died, in circumstances so mysterious his cause of death remains unknown. Variously attributed to alcoholism, substance abuse, disease and suicide, what is known are the storied facts: he was discovered, wearing someone else's clothes, lying in a gutter, and died a few hours later.
In spite, or perhaps because of, this, Poe's literary reputation has remained intact for nearly 200 years. The Raven has inspired works from Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita to Stephen King's Insomnia; Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snickett and Joan Aitken are among the coterie of authors – let alone film directors, musicians and artists – to have reflected Poe's work in their own.
Halloween, of course, is a suitably gothic time to start quoting Poe, although we'd argue a little Poe-try never goes amiss whatever the weather. Here are 10 of his best quotations.
“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”
- from a letter to George Washington Eveleth, 1846
“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream"
- from 'A Dream Within a Dream', 1849
“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion”
- from Ligeia, 1838
“Those who dream by day are cognisant of many things which escape those who dream only by night"
- from Eleonora, 1841
“We loved with a love that was more than love”
- from 'Annabel-Lee',1849
“I was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched"
- from a letter to Maria Clemm, 1849
“The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world"
- from The Philosophy of Composition, 1846
“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality”
- from The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, 1838
“Never to suffer would never to have been blessed”
-from Mesmeric Revelation, 1849
"Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see"
- from The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, 1845
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