Edgar Allan Poe lived a mere forty years. His life would be the envy of only a few, suffering, souls. Poe became an orphan when his mother died –this soon after his father left them both. His new family, the Allans, never officially adopted him and held him to highly disciplined standards. His relationship with the Allans varied. Their hot and cold relationship would eventually lead to Poe’s disowning in 1830. Poe's work experiences were similarly disappointing. He failed to graduate from college and sought to break his commitment to the United States Army after two years of service. Frequently broke, he became an editor, which had him travelling to Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Baltimore. Poe never received the recognition due him while alive, although his poem “The Raven” received acclaim. He died in Baltimore in 1835, a widower.
So, why Poe? Why list Edgar Allan Poe when W. W. Jacobs is the author of “The Monkey’s Paw”? It would be a grave error to not include Poe as one of the inspirations for The Monkey’s Paw Trilogy. Poe is the definitive master of the macabre and anyone who deigned to write something disturbing and dark did so after him. He established the highest standard for the macabre.
Poe’s genre shaping works “The Cask of Amontillado”, “The Raven”, “The Purloined Letter”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and “The Fall of the House of Usher” influenced my writing as significantly as Jacobs’s short story. From Poe, I learned to write –I hope- more densely and intelligently. Poe’s writing is the difference between common dirt and rich, black, topsoil. Here’s an example from “The Fall of the House of Usher”.
DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.
That’s one powerful sentence. The repetition of darkness and depression through the use of words like dull, dark, dreary, shades, evening, and melancholy is brilliant. His choice of season, autumn, echoes the sense of dread as it is the season when things begin to die. I will not claim to have written as well as this, but I was compelled to make this a goal. Thus do I credit him as one of my inspirations.