On January 29, 1845, Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven,” beginning “Once upon a midnight dreary,” is published on this day in the New York Evening Mirror.
Poe’s dark and macabre work reflected his own tumultuous and difficult life. Born in Boston in 1809, Poe was orphaned at age three and went to live with the family of a Richmond, Virginia, businessman.
Poe enrolled in a military academy but was expelled for gambling. He later studied briefly at the University of Virginia.
In 1827, Poe self-published a collection of poems. Six years later, his short story “MS Found in a Bottle” won $50 in a story contest. He edited a series of literary journals, including the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond starting in 1835, and Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine in Philadelphia, starting in 1839. Poe’s excessive drinking got him fired from several positions. His macabre work, often portraying motiveless crimes and intolerable guilt that induces growing mania in his characters, was a significant influence on such European writers as Charles Baudelaire, Stephane Mallarme, and even Dostoyevsky.