Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was a prolific and influential author who worked for both short and long-term pays. His most famous works include “The Raven”, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym”, and “The Fall of the House of Usher”. This list will outline Edgar Allan Poe’s primary paying jobs and how much he was paid for each one.
Edgar Allan Poe began his professional writing career in October 1829 when he became a full-time editor at the Baltimore American newspaper. He worked for the paper for three years before he became an English instructor at the University of Virginia. In 1832, Poe accepted a position at the Port Richmond Literary Society in Baltimore and edited their journal. In 1833, he started working for the American News-Letter, a short-lived newspaper. In 1835, he became editor of the Baltimore Saturday Evening Post, a position he held until 1843.
It was during this time that Edgar Allan Poe started to achieve a level of success that would land him on this list of the top-paid authors of all time. In 1841, he published a book called “Mesmeric Life in the Midnight Seasons”, which was a success and established Edgar Allan Poe as a prominent figure in Romantic literature. Following the book’s success, he became the editor of the prestigious literary journal, The Southern Literary Messenger. In addition to his paid editing jobs, Edgar Allan Poe also did some freelancing for other publications, such as the Baltimore Saturday Evening Post. Unfortunately, Poe never managed to fully recover from the bouts of depression that plagued him for the rest of his life. He died at the age of 46 from tuberculosis caused by his poor health habits.
Before he became an author, Edgar Allan Poe was a professor of belles-lettres at the University of Virginia. In 1847, he was appointed as a full-time professor of English literature at the University of Pennsylvania. He held this position until his death in 1849. One of his students at the University of Virginia, Richard Henry Lee, would later go on to become a prominent surgeon and professor of medicine at the medical school of Pennsylvania. During this time, Poe also wrote some short stories, which were published in the Baltimore Saturday Evening Post. Some of these stories would later be compiled into a collection called “Tales and Sketches”.
While at the University of Virginia, Edgar Allan Poe was also elected as a member of the American Institute of Phrenology and of the prestigious International Phrenological Society. He was the editor of their publications during this time and was given a promotion to Associate Editor in 1845. Unfortunately, Edgar Allan Poe’s career as an editor and academic was cut short when he contracted tuberculosis which he eventually died from. His work as an author had made him famous, but it was his work as an editor that helped establish his lasting legacy as a prominent author and public intellectual.
Edgar Allan Poe began giving annual lectures at the University of Richmond in 1848. The lectures were well-received and he became a regular lecturer there until his death in 1849. During this time, he also gave lectures at the University of Pennsylvania, Vassar College, and the New York Infirmary. In addition to his annual lectures, Edgar Allan Poe gave some very prestigious private lectures, such as a talk he delivered at the Lowell Institute in Boston and a talk he gave to the American Institute of Phrenology. He was paid upwards of $500 for these lectures and they helped establish him as a prominent public figure in the United States.
Although he was paid to give these lectures, Edgar Allan Poe did not enjoy speaking in public. After his death, his widow Virginia provided the lectures to the public as part of a fundraising effort for the widows and orphans of Union soldiers who died in the war. These lectures were later published and they remain in print today. It should be noted that the lectures were transcribed by a professional typist and were not verbatim transcripts of the talks that were held. Furthermore, Virginia never publicly acknowledged the debt she owed to her late husband’s good friends and lecturing colleagues for providing her and her children with a comfortable life after his death. She died at the age of 82 in 1881.
In 1848, the Mexican–American War broke out. Edgar Allan Poe, an influential national figure at this time, was appointed as a major, with the rank of Lieutenant, in the U.S. Military. He was given the task of interrogating and recruiting Spanish-speaking volunteers in the U.S. While in this position, he gave two speeches in which he implored American men to join the fight against Mexico. One of these speeches, which was delivered in Richmond, Virginia, drew a large and favorable audience. These speeches helped establish Edgar Allan Poe as a prominent American public intellectual and helped make him famous at a young age.
While at the University of Virginia, Edgar Allan Poe became friends with Professor William Abbott, a professor of English literature. In 1849, Abbott asked Edgard Allan Poe to be his literary advisor. He then brought in other prominent authors, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, to work with Poe on a project called the “New English Review”. The journal was a joint effort between the professors of English literature at the University of Virginia and the contributors would be paid for each piece they published. During this time, he also started his own literary agency and represented authors such as Dion Boucicault, George Canning, and Maria Mitchell among others. One of his clients was an author named Maria Carmichael, who wrote historical romances under the pseudonym Nicholas Nickleby. In 1856, Poe bought the copyright to “Nickleby” and used his position as a literary agent to negotiate a higher royalty rate for the rights to this book. Ultimately, he sold the rights to Scott J. Ferris for $1,500.
This was one of the first big literary deals of its kind and it set a precedent for Poe’s work as an agent. Many of his other clients were also successful and prominent figures in American culture. Some of his other notable clients included: Herman Melville, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Theodore Dreiser, and James Russell Lowell. Unfortunately, Poe’s work as a literary agent was not always successful. He represented writers such as Oliver Wendell Holmes and Horace Binney and his efforts helped neither of them secure the best deals for their work. In addition, some of his clients, such as Theodore Dreiser, actually went bankrupt as a result of Poe’s efforts. This was mainly because Poe did not charge his clients adequate fees and because he sold the rights to many of their stories for a cheap rate. This experience led him to found the literary agency of Poe and Grady. Although he did not enjoy being a literary agent, Edgar Allan Poe’s role in many important literary events made him a well-known figure in his time. He also worked hard to establish himself as a reputable and influential figure in the fields of literature and criticism. This effort helped contribute to making him one of the most well-known authors of all time.