Fallen Angel: The Life of Edgar Allan Poe

Louisiana State Univ. Nov. 2023. 408p. ISBN 9780807180457. $39.95. LIT
It has been almost 10 years since a major study of Poe appeared and 30 years since a full-scale biography was published. This new assessment of Poe is long overdue. Morgan (emeritus, English, Cornell Univ.; Boone: A Biography) has written fiction and poetry in addition to scholarly works. He puts these diverse skills to good use in his exploration of Poe’s life and writings. The main themes are Poe’s obsessions with matrimony and the deaths of young, beautiful women and his endless search for maternal support. Morgan also delves into Poe’s love of nature and landscapes, his study of aesthetics, and how his dramatic personal life often overshadowed his prolific writings. He discusses Poe’s love affairs; his frequent descents into alcohol addiction, illness, and depression; and business failures. Additionally, Morgan offers cogent assessments of his major works. Poe’s death in 1849, at age 38, remains a mystery, and Morgan skillfully dissects the many accounts and theories and speculates that he died of tubercular meningitis. Finally, he assesses the conflicting accounts of Poe’s life in earlier biographies and admits that there is still much that will never be known.
VERDICT This biography will renew an interest in Poe’s life and writings and is an excellent addition to the vast collection of Poe scholarship.
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