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The Edgar Allan Poe of popular legend is austere, forbidding, and even somewhat frightening; the real Poe, raised to be a convivial Southern gentleman, led a life touched by tragedy and imbued with a profound sadness that led him to use his imagination as a “defense against a pitiless world.” Blending period art and photographs, readings from his works and letters, and expert historical, literary, and psychological analysis, this insightful episode of the A&E Biography series reveals how the macabre themes of Poe’s writings were rooted in the grim realities of his life: the deaths of the women he loved most, fruitless attempts to get out of debt, and ongoing struggles with alcoholism and manic depression. Color. 50 minutes. ©1994.

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