Tag: Biography

Poet Biography~ Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold


Although remembered now for his elegantly argued critical essays, Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) began his career as a poet, winning early recognition as a student at the Rugby School where his father, Thomas Arnold, had earned national acclaim as a strict and innovative headmaster. Arnold also studied at Balliol College, Oxford University. In 1844, after completing his undergraduate degree at Oxford, he returned to Rugby as a teacher of classics. After marrying in 1851, Arnold began work as a government school inspector, a grueling position which nonetheless afforded him the opportunity to travel throughout England and the Continent. Throughout his thirty-five years in this position, Arnold developed an interest in education, an interest which fed into both his critical works and his poetry. Empedocles on Etna (1852) and Poems (1853) established Arnold’s reputation as a poet and in 1857 he was offered a position, which he accepted and held until 1867, as Professor of Poetry at Oxford. Arnold became the first professor to lecture in English rather than Latin. During this time Arnold wrote the bulk of his most famous critical works, Essays in Criticism (1865) and Culture and Anarchy (1869), in which he sets forth ideas that greatly reflect the predominant values of the Victorian era.

Meditative and rhetorical, Arnold’s poetry often wrestles with problems of psychological isolation. In “To Marguerite—Continued,” for example, Arnold revises Donne’s assertion that “No man is an island,” suggesting that we “mortals” are indeed “in the sea of life enisled.” Other well-known poems, such as “Dover Beach,” link the problem of isolation with what Arnold saw as the dwindling faith of his time. Despite his own religious doubts, a source of great anxiety for him, in several essays Arnold sought to establish the essential truth of Christianity. His most influential essays, however, were those on literary topics. In “The Function of Criticism” (1865) and “The Study of Poetry” (1880) Arnold called for new epic poetry: a poetry that would address the moral needs of his readers, “to animate and ennoble them.” Arnold’s arguments, for a renewed religious faith and adoption of classical aesthetics and morals, are particularly representative of mainstream Victorian intellectual concerns. His approach—his gentlemanly and subtle style—to these issues, however, established criticism as an art form and has influenced almost every major English critic since, including T. S. Eliot, Lionel Trilling, and Harold Bloom. Though perhaps less obvious, the tremendous influence of his poetry, which addresses the poet’s most innermost feelings with complete transparency, can easily be seen in writers as different from each other as W. B. Yeats, James Wright, Sylvia Plath, and Sharon Olds. Late in life, in 1883 and 1886, Arnold made two lecturing tours of the United States. Matthew Arnold died in Liverpool in 1888.

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Poet Biography~Edgar Allen Poe

EDGAR ALLEN POE was born in Boston, January 19, 1809, and after a tempestuous life of forty years, he died in the city of Baltimore, October 7, 1849.

His father, the son of a distinguished officer in the Revolutionary army, was educated for the law, but having married the beautiful English actress, Elizabeth Arnold, he abandoned the law, and in company with his wife, led a wandering life on the stage. The two died within a short time of each other, leaving three children entirely destitute. Edgar, the second son, a bright, beautiful boy, was adopted by John Allen, a wealthy citizen of Richmond. Allen, having no children of his own, became very much attached to Edgar, and used his wealth freely in educating the boy. At the age of seven, he was sent to school at Stoke Newington, near London, where he remained for six years. During the next three years, he studied under private tutors, at the residence of the Allen’s in Richmond. In 1826 he entered the University of Virginia, where he remained less than a year.

After a year or two of fruitless life at home, a cadetship was obtained for him at West Point. He was soon tried by court-martial and expelled from school because he drank to excess and neglected his studies. Thus ended his school days.

In 1829 he published “Al Aaraaf and Minor Poems.” “This work,” says his biographer, Mr. Stoddard, “was not a remarkable production for a young gentleman of twenty.” Poe himself was ashamed of the volume.

After his stormy school life, he returned to Richmond, where he was kindly received by Mr. Allen. Poe’s conduct was such that Mr. Allen was obliged to turn him out of doors, and, dying soon after, he made no mention of Poe in his will.

Now wholly thrown upon his own resources, he took up literature as a profession, but in this, he failed to gain a living. He enlisted as a private soldier but was soon recognized as the West Point cadet and a discharge procured.

In 1833 Poe won two prizes of $100 each for a tale in prose, and for a poem. John P. Kennedy, one of the committees who made the award, now gave him means of support, and secured employment for him as editor of the “Southern Literary Messenger” at Richmond. After a short but successful editorial work on “The Messenger,” his old habits returned, he quarreled with his publishers and was dismissed. While in Richmond he married his cousin, Virginia Clem, and in January 1837, removed to New York. Here he gained poor support by writing for periodicals.

His literary work may be summed up as follows: In 1838 appeared a fiction entitled “The Narrative of Arthur Gorden Pym;” 1839, editor of Burton’s “Gentleman’s Magazine,” Philadelphia; next, editor of “Graham’s Magazine;” 1840, “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” in two volumes; 1845, “The Raven,” published by the “American Review;” then sub-editor of the “Mirror” underemployment of N. P. Willis and Geo. P. Norris; next associate editor of the “Broadway Journal.”

His wife died in 1848. His poverty was now such that the press made appeals to the public for his support.

In 1848 he published “Eureka, a Prose Poem.”

He went to Richmond in 1849, where he was engaged to a lady of considerable fortune. In October he started for New York to arrange for the wedding, but at Baltimore, he met some of his former boon companions and spent the night in drinking. In the morning he was found in a state of delirium and died in a few hours.

The most remarkable of his tales are “The Gold Bug,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Murders of the Rue Morgue,” “The Purloined Letter,” “A Descent into Maelstrom,” and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” “The Raven” and “The Bells” alone would make the name of Poe immortal. The teachers of Baltimore placed a monument over his grave in 1875.

Poe has been severely censured by many writers for his wild and stormy life, but we notice that Ingram and some other prominent authors claim that he has been willfully slandered and that many of the charges brought against him are not true. His ungovernable temper and high spirit led him into disputes with his friends, hence he was not enabled to hold any one position for a great length of time. Like Byron and Burns, he had faults in personal life, but his ungovernable passions are sleeping, while the sad strains of “The Raven,” the clear and harmonious tones of “The Bells,” and the powerful images of his fancy live in the immortal literature of his time.


Biography from: http://www.2020site.org/literature/index.html

Edgar Allan Poe

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