A somewhat surprising piece by the anthology series
I would be very interested in seeing this if it is ever broadcast again. Edgar Allan Poe's life had many strange twists and turns, but one that few people are aware of is how, in 1830, he got a commission to attend the Military Academy at West Point.
Poe had been adopted (after the death of his parents) by John Allan, a wealthy tobacco merchant in Richmond, Virginia. He brought Edgar up, in part, in England, but in the 1820s they returned to Virginia. Mr. Allan enrolled Edgar in the University of Virginia, but the latter did not prove a good student, and picked up drinking and gambling habits. After being taken out, Edgar decided to prove himself by enlisting in the U.S. Army, and serving in it for two years. He rose to the rank of sergeant - major. His record was quite good. Allan, impressed, got Edgar a commission to attend West Point. It would be Edgar's last chance to prove himself to his foster-father. Mr. Allan's first wife died in 1829, and his second (younger) wife, was capable of giving him children. If Edgar did not do well at the Point, Mr. Allan intended to cut his foster son loose and disinherit him.
Edgar's career at the Point lasted from 1830 - 1831, and ended in disaster. He did very well in courses with math in them (something that the creator of "The Gold Bug" cryptograms would be a wizard at). But he built up demerits regarding failing to do his appointed duties, and was court-martial-ed. Poe did not fight this, and was booted out of the Academy. It was the last straw for Mr. Allan, who disinherited him as threatened.
Edgar was working on his poetry at this time. He published his first book, TAMERLANE AND OTHER POEMS in 1827, but now he published another book of poetry (which did not impress Mr. Allan). In 1833 he won $100 prize when he wrote "A MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN A BOTTLE" for a newspaper contest. After that he worked in literature only, and (if his life remained murky and hard to the end) he at least found what he was great at and found his own road to immortality.
By the way, Poe is not the only artist who went to the Point and failed to succeed there. About four decades after his misadventures there, James MacNeill Whistler, the future painter, got a commission to the Point too. It ended in disaster when he failed his chemistry exam. "Had silicon been a gas", he later wrote, "I would have been a major general!"
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