American master of terror Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston in 1809 to professional actors who died when Poe was a child. He attended the University of Virginia, where he was a distinguished student and developed his lifelong taste for liquor. Afterward, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of sergeant major. He was expelled from West Point after a year, blighting his hopes of becoming a career officer.
Poe started publishing his poetry and stories in the early 1830s and pursued a career in journalism to ensure some sort of financial security. In 1843, he published several works, including “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Gold Bug,” which won a $100 prize in a contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper. The story made Poe famous with the fiction-reading public. His poem “The Raven,” which appeared in the New York Evening Mirror in January 1845, was a critical and commercial success. “The Fall of the House Of Usher” (1839) and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) are arguably two of his best short stories. But both Poe’s and his wife Virginia’s poor health kept the pair in financial and emotional distress. Poe died in 1849.
Along with “To Helen” and “Annabel Lee,” “The Raven” is considered one of Poe’s finest poems. Read by Basil Rathbone, one of Hollywood’s greatest screen actors, this recording of “The Raven” from Harper Audio’s The Edgar Allen Poe Collection describes the “stately” black bird that hauntingly repeats to his poet’s desperate questions: “Nevermore.”