Edgar Allan Poe, considered the greatest of all writers of macabre stories, was born in Boston, Massachesetts, in 1809. His father, an Irish-American actor, died the following year and his mother, an English actress, the year after, in Richmond, Virginia. John Allan, a wealthy Richmond merchant, adopted him. When he was 7, the Allans moved to England, sending him to school at Stoke Newington. He wanted to become a writer, but John Allan wanted him to become a lawyer. He failed to finish courses at the University of Virginia and at West Point Military Academy, and John Allan disowned him.
Struggling to live by his writing, he became an ill-paid magazine writer, and at 26 married Virginia, his cousin, then aged 14. They were happy together, and while married he wrote much of his best work. But Virginia contracted tuberculosis, and worry over her illness and their poverty led him to drink heavily. After six years of marriage, she died. Suffering a complete breakdown, he was nursed back to health by Virginia's mother.
Returning to Richmond, he made a determined attempt to give up drinking. In 1849 he got engaged to a Richmond woman he had loved in his youth. Travelling north to collect his aunt for the wedding, he stopped off in Baltimore, Ohio. Found there lying drunk on the pavement, he was taken to hospital but died a few hours later.
His poems and short stories have influenced scores of writers. He invented the modern detective story, and his tales of terror are as chilling and powerful today as they have ever been. The stories in this volume are The Tell-Tale Heart, Hop Frog, and The Premature Burial.