Nathaniel Hawthorne kept notebooks in which he collected ideas to be developed into sketches and stories; some were merely news items which stirred his imagination, such as the one about the man who, on a whim, decided not to come home one night, and who did not then return to his wife for decades. "Wakefield" is the famous result. Poe's imagination responded to topics of popular interest, too. Daniel Webster, hired as a special prosecutor in a celebrated murder case, published a pamphlet account of the trial; moved by it, Poe produced "The Tell-Tale Heart," whose very language echoes Webster.
He has done the murder No eye has seen him, no ear has heard him. The secret is his own, and it is safe.The guilty soul cannot keep its own secret. It is false to itself, or rather it feels an irresistible impulse to be true to itself. It labors under its guilty possession and knows not what to do with it. The human heart was not made for residence of such an inhabitant. . . . The secret which the murderer possesses soon comes to possess him; and like the evil spirits of which we read, it overcomes him, and leads him wither- soever it will. He feels it beating at his heart, rising to his throat and demanding disclosure. He thinks the whole world sees it in his face, reads it in his eyes, and almost hears its workings in the very silence of his thoughts. It has become his master. . . . It must be confessed, it will be confessed. (Mabbott 9, III, following Bjurman)
As Krappe points out, there is also a Dickens tale with very similar ideas.
"The Tell-Tale Heart,"then, reminds us again how badly we distort Poe if we jump blithely from the horror in his prose to our pet psychological theories about his personality, for his fiction grew largely from the texture of his readings and surroundings.
The Pioneer, January 1843
The Dollar Newspaper, Philadelphia, January 25, 1843
The Broadway Journal, August 23, 1845
The Spirit of the Times, Philadelphia, August 27, 1845