An outstanding new biography by Silverman, whose The Life and Times of Cotton Mather (1983) won a Pulitzer Prize. Poe's stature as one of the ""founding fathers"" of American letters is so well established that one would be hard-pressed to find anyone educated in this country without some familiarity with his work. Known primarily as a poet and storyteller, he was in fact, as Silverman details, one of the most prolific literary journalists in American history, one whose extensive body of reviews and criticism has yet to be collected fully. A key strength of Silverman's biography is that it recognizes one of the truly distinctive aspects of Poe's character--that he belonged to the first generation of professional (as opposed to amateur) writers in America--and examines both his life and his art in this light. The great tragedies of Poe's life--his miserable childhood, his doomed marriage, the alcoholism--are well known already, but Silverman is able to highlight how many aspects of Poe's despair were the simple outgrowth of his vocation: the constant uprootings, the grinding poverty, the overexertions and tensions of the literary hack. The exegesis of Poe's writing is intelligent, realistic, and relates in a believable way to the circumstances of the writer's life. Moreover, Silverman's meticulous appendices and notes should prove invaluable to future scholars. A remarkable success: the first major biography of Poe in over 50 years, written with careful skill and great style.