You can be a part of the Poe Museum’s next exhibit. After the success of last year’s Painting the Enchanted Garden, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia is calling on artists to visit the Museum’s legendary Enchanted Garden to sketch, paint, collage, or photograph the site for a the exhibit Painting the Enchanted Garden 2, which will run from April 23 until June 21, 2015. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the artwork will benefit the Poe Museum’s educational programming.
The exhibit is open to all artists, including ones who participated last year. Since the first call for artists was so well received, the Museum will be displaying this year’s exhibit in a larger gallery on the first floor of the changing exhibits building.
If the weather permits, artists can begin working in the Garden on March 15 and must have their completed works ready for display by April 19. In order to avoid conflict with the Museum’s special events and facility rentals, artists must schedule their painting or sketching visits with the Museum’s curator Chris Semtner by writing him a [email protected] or by calling 804-648-5523. For those interested in joining a group painting session, the Museum will host one on Sunday, April 12 from 2-5 p.m. with artist Chris Semtner.
Interested artists can learn more about this opportunity by contacting [email protected] or calling 804-648-5534. In order to participate, please register for the show by April 1.
The world of Poe scholarship has produced countless books, papers, and scholarly articles; but rarely has it produced a work of art. While the written works of Poe scholars like Burton Pollin (1916-2009) and Thomas Ollive Mabbott (1898-1968) have contributed greatly to our understanding of Poe’s life and work, the sculpture of Richmond schoolteacher Edith Ragland (1890-1989) has provided posterity an invaluable resource for understanding Poe’s life in Richmond. As meticulously researched as some academic papers, Ragland’s model reconstructs the city Poe knew in a way words alone cannot. That is why the model is the Poe Museum’s Object of the Month for March 2015.
According to an undated manuscript written by Poe Foundation co-founder Annie Boyd Jones (d. 1947), the sculptor Edward Valentine (1838-1930) proposed the project. Valentine studied sculpture with August Kiss in Germany before enjoying a celebrated career in Richmond. In addition to sculpting the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis for Richmond’s Monument Avenue and the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee for the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol, Valentine produced “The Recumbent Lee” for Washington and Lee University. Valentine was also a historian with a special interest in Edgar Allan Poe. In 1875, he became one of the privileged few to be able to interview Poe’s last fiancée Elmira Royster Shelton. In 1898, he and his brother, Mann S. Valentine II, founded the Valentine Museum, which owned a number of Edgar Allan Poe letters in addition to a portrait of Poe’s foster mother Frances Allan. After retiring from sculpting in 1910, he devoted much of his remaining years to the study of Richmond history and the presidency of the Valentine Museum. By 1922, the eighty-four-year-old Valentine took an interest in the newly opened Edgar Allan Poe Museum, speaking at its opening ceremony as well as donating a portrait of Poe’s foster mother to the Museum’s collection.
Mr. and Mrs. Archer Jones
One evening in 1924 or 1925, Mrs. Jones spent several hours talking about old Richmond in Mr. Valentine’s parlor. He told her he had spent the last sixty years researching a book about Richmond history but had accumulated so much information he could not edit it sufficiently to publish it. As she was leaving, he pointed out a photograph of a photograph of a model of old Paris and exclaimed, “Wait a minute girl; here’s what you do. Make a model of Richmond in Poe’s Time and place it in the [Poe Museum’s] Old Stone House!”
Edward Virginius Valentine in his studio
Mrs. Jones offered to manage the project if he would sculpt it, but he replied, “Oh go away girl, you know I can’t work anymore, but you are an enthusiast—you will get it done…Now go ‘long and make it.”
As soon as she returned home, she told her husband, Archer G. Jones, who enthusiastically supported the idea. She later recounted, “I could see his inventive mood creeping into his eyes.”
The first obstacle to constructing the model was finding an artist to do the work. The solution came one day when Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941) visited the Poe Museum. Borglum was an accomplished sculptor who would later rise to fame for his carving of the presidential monument at Mount Rushmore. The party accompanying Borglum to the Poe Museum included Julia Sully (1870-1948, granddaughter of Poe’s friend, the painter Robert Matthew Sully, 1803-1855) and the young teacher Edith Ragland. During the course of the afternoon, Mrs. Jones mentioned her idea for the model of Richmond to Sully, who recommended Ragland for the project. Jones asked Ragland to build the model, but Ragland replied, “I would not know the first or the remotest way to go about.”
“Nonsense,” Sully answered, “You model beautifully. None of us knows how to go about it, so will all learn together.”
In this spirit of collaboration, Edward Valentine and City Hall supplied Ragland Photostats of maps at no charge, and the Poe Museum paid the Virginia State Library for Photostats of more maps. Valentine provided his notes on Richmond history, city directories, and Virginia Mutual Insurance records. Ragland also consulted Samuel Mordecai’s (1786-1865) 1856 book Richmond in By-Gone Days, an account of life in the city during the first half of the nineteenth century.
Ragland Sculpting the Model
Archer Jones insisted that a model of Richmond needed to accurately reflect the city’s hills, so he suggested carving the topography out of wood. According to the Poe Foundation board minutes for March 18, 1925, “Miss Ragland found that she needed some knowledge of engineering in order to make the correct elevations in her model so she set to work to study that subject.” She built the model on three connected stretcher tables covered with blocks of wood nine inches thick. With the assistance of surveyors, she chiseled those blocks into the hills and valleys of 1840s Richmond.
She also wrote to artists to determine which materials to use. Because she had been advised the technique would waterproof the model, Ragland covered the piece with asphaltum, a substance similar to tar. To this, she added a thin layer of plaster. When the plaster dried, she applied a layer of lead white gesso. She modeled the houses and churches from clay and let them air dry rather than firing them. She fashioned trees from pieces of sponge and wire. She then colored them with oil paint.
Ragland built the model in the Poe Museum’s Old Stone House. Upon completion, the model measured approximately eighteen feet wide and six feet deep and represented the city from about Fifth Street to Twenty-Eighth Street and from the James River to Marshall Street. This includes depictions of such sites as Poe’s boyhood home Moldavia, Poe’s mother’s grave at St. John’s Church, and the Virginia State Capitol. The most impressive aspect of the model’s creation is that it was constructed in a room measuring only nine feet wide, leaving the artist about one and a half feet of clearance on each side. Ragland, herself, was self-deprecating when speaking of her accomplishment. In a 1976 interview with Denise Bethel, Ragland humbly recalled that the work was fairly easy because the insurance records and maps told her exactly what structures to place on each block. She boasted that some old-timers told her she had even reproduced the correct trees in the right places.
In 1926, tragedy struck when Annie Jones’s husband committed suicide for financial reasons. Mrs. Jones decided that, once complete, the model would be presented to the Museum in his memory.
When Ragland completed her model in 1927, the Poe Foundation’s president, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and journalist Douglas S. Freemen reported to the Foundation’s board, “This is undoubtedly a work of charm, art and beauty. It is the creation and expression of experts—in invention, engineering, research and execution—but as a map of Richmond complete accuracy is most desirable.” He stressed that the gift would not be accepted by the Poe Foundation “until its accuracy at every point is beyond question.”
The minutes of the January 1928 meeting of the Poe Foundation’s board state that the model’s “accuracy is now vouched for by City engineers and surveyors, by Mr. E. V. Valentine, Dr. Stanard [editor of The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography] and other authorities, and that it ties up with Mordecai—except where he himself is inaccurate.” Dr. Freeman moved that the board formally accept the model into the Poe Museum’s collection, and the motion passed. So accurate was the model that Richmond historian Mary Wingfield Scott was able to create a key that identified most of the houses and buildings. In all, the model contains twenty-two identifiable taverns and hotels, fifteen churches, at least twelve public buildings, and the homes of several “distinguished citizens.”
The Model in 1937
The model was on continuous display in the room of it construction for forty years. In 1963, the Poe Museum renovated a neighboring building for the display of the model. In order to move the model, city workmen cut it into three pieces. Then six off-duty Richmond policemen, five off-duty firemen, and four other city employees volunteered to move the pieces to their new exhibit space. Several buildings and trees detached from the model in the six-hour process.
Ragland returned to the work on her model, reconnecting the three segments and reattaching the fallen houses. The Poe Foundation agreed to pay her $600 for her work in addition to cab fare from her home to the Museum three days a week for three months. Mrs. R. S. Reynolds donated a custom-built glass case for the model. The work was complete (for a second time) by December 6, 1964 when she appeared in a Richmond Times-Dispatch photograph (below) with her freshly restored masterpiece nearly four decades after she began work on it. To protect the work from further damage, Mrs. R. S. Reynolds donated a large glass case to protect it.
Ragland with Repaired Model in 1964
The model’s story continued well after Ragland completed her work. In 1981, an anonymous donor concerned by the object’s apparent state of deterioration offered to pay for its restoration. President of the Richmond Jaycees and graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, Sergei Troubetzkoy conducted the repairs and repainting. Because the model remained on display during this process, he was only able to work on it while the Museum was closed and when he was not working at his day job. As a friend of Edith Ragland’s, Troubetzkoy knew of some details she had intended to include if time had allowed, so he added fences and other buildings he could document. Although he planned to do so, he was unable to add the fence around Capitol Square.
In 1999, the model was almost lost when a fire started in the room housing it. In fact, much of the room was destroyed. The tables underneath the piece were severely damaged, and firemen shattered its glass case. Smoke and water caused additional harm. In the wake of the fire, the Museum called conservators to assess the damage. The wood and paint had cracked. Several houses had again become detached. Additionally, a thick layer of dust and spiders had built up on the model in the years before the fire.
In consultation with 1717 Design Group, the Museum decided to reinstall the model in a new case facing the opposite direction. In order to rotate the model, a volunteer cut it into two pieces using the 1964 cuts as a guide.
With the guidance of historic object conservation specialist Russell Bernabo, artist Chris Semtner and art historian Michelle Dell’Aria cleaned and repaired the model over the course of six months. They first divided the surface into a grid of twelve-inch squares. Each square was carefully dusted into a tiny vacuum attachment. Pieces of rubber sponge were then used to remove grime that was not loosened by the dusting. Only when needed and when it could be performed without damaging the paint layer, wet cleaning was performed using a mixture of alcohol and water. In the course of their work, the conservators found that the original paint was often too unstable to clean but that a previous restorer’s applications of acrylic paint could be cleaned without damaging the surface. Additionally, they observed that the base layer of asphaltum had bled through the plaster and paint to discolor the topcoat. They glued houses back in place and reattached flaking paint and plaster using a solution of B-72 and xylene. In painting was conducted only sparingly. When this work was complete, they reattached the two halves of the model and filled and in-painted the seam.
Carpenters carefully removed the model from its damaged original tables and attached it to a new custom-made table and built a new case around it. In order to make the piece easier for guests to view, the Museum enlisted a team of volunteers from Open High to tilt the model to a twenty degree angle while the carpenters secured it in place. The model was then displayed with one side against the wall. Because the long ends of the model were not perpendicular, the Museum added extensions to allow the long end to sit flush against the back wall.
Museum guests were able to watch the entire conservation process through a large window in the gallery and to ask the conservators questions. Seeing a large dead spider perched atop one of the houses, a guest commented, “If the spiders were that big in Poe’s time, no wonder he wrote the kind of stories he did.”
After this major conservation project, the model received occasional cleanings using soft brushes and vacuums. The most notable of these was conducted in 2008 with the help of volunteers from Hampton Hotels’ Save-a-Landmark program.
Over ninety years after Edith Ragland began her masterpiece, this model of Poe’s Richmond remains a highlight of the Poe Museum’s collection—a resource to visiting historians as well as a favorite with the Museum’s youngest visitors. Like few other historical documents, Ragland’s model helps the viewer visualize the city, its topography, and its structures as Poe would have known them.
Who will be the next Edgar Allan Poe? The Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia intends to find out. From June 21-27, 2015, the Museum will host its annual Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference for high school students. Designed and founded in 2004 by Edgar™ Award-winning author and Edgar Allan Poe’s cousin, Dr. Harry Lee Poe, the Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference attracts students from across the country to take part in a unique and intensive writing experience. In addition to participating in daily workshops, the students will learn from writing professionals including award-winning novelists, editors, journalists, poets, and playwrights. What makes the conference special is its Poe connection. Richmond, Virginia was home to Edgar Allan Poe for thirteen years, and it is here that he began his literary career. Students will learn from and be inspired by Poe by studying his craft as well as by visiting the sites that inspired or served as settings for his greatest works.
Past speakers have included Nero, Lefty, and Shamus Award-winning author Brad Parks; Hammett Prize winning novelist and journalist Howard Owen; Edgar Award™ winning biographer and educator Dr. Harry Lee Poe; and Theresa Pollack Award winning editor Mary Flinn.
The conference is designed to empower students to be leaders, educators, and writing professionals. So far, past students have become published authors and have been accepted into prestigious university writing programs.
To learn more about the conference or to apply, please click here of call the Edgar Allan Poe Museum at 804-648-5523 or [email protected] Click here to download an application. Applications are due April 1.
More Information about the Young Writers’ Conference: The Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference empowers high school students with the skills they need to become the next generation of great writers. In the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe, who encouraged and inspired young writers in his own time, the Poe Museum’s annual conference brings together students with professional journalists, editors, novelists, poets, and others who have devoted their lives to writing. The program is designed to encourage future innovation, expression, and leadership in Richmond’s literary community.
Lectures The participants will learn from the professionals who have devoted their lives to writing. Each morning of the conference, professional editors, technical writers, journalists, playwrights, novelists, and poets will share their experiences and advice with the participants. These speakers have included winners of such prestigious awards as the Edgar™, the Nero, the Lefty, and the Shamus.
Seminars Each day of the conference, the students will practice the craft of writing by participating in group writing exercises with an advanced writing instructor.
Practicing the Craft
Each day’s rigorous schedule would not be complete without time for attendees to practice their newly learned skills by crafting a composition that will be completed by the end of the week.
Focus on Poe
We believe great writing is grounded in an appreciation and understanding of the writers who came before us. Therefore, each day of the conference, time is dedicated to special field trips and activities focused on learn about the art and techniques of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing.
Salon Art is not created in a vacuum but is the result of the sharing of ideas and experiences. Each evening of the conference is devoted to building a fellowship and cooperation among the participants as well as enabling them to one become leaders in the larger writing community.
Young Writers’ Conference Points of Interest Fifty eight students have completed in the conference in its eight years
Many graduates of the conference have been accepted to prestigious writing programs and Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia, and elsewhere.
Two Notable Conferees:
Joy Thomas’s work has been published in Style Weekly.
Rachel Martens has published a series of novels called The Poe Series.
Poe was known for being quite the ladies’ man in his day. Women including Sarah Helen Whitman, Frances Sargent Osgood, Sarah Elmira Royster, Mary Starr, and especially his wife, were known for having romantic feelings for the writer. He did not woo only these women, however. Continue reading to find out who else Poe left swooning, as well as letters displaying their adoration, if not infatuation, with him.
If you recall a previous blog post, Elizabeth Ellet was notorious for revealing Osgood and Poe’s correspondence, causing a publicity scandal and the end of their friendship (at least, in the public eye). Ellet did not do this because her character was vindictive, however; she may have had romantic feelings for Poe.
According to World of Poe online, “There are hints from Charles F. Briggs, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and Poe himself that the attractive young Mrs. Ellet had made some sort of unreciprocated amorous advances towards him. ” However, according to Undine, the author of the blog, we do not know whether this was the case or not. Undine explains that Sarah Helen Whitman is the only source stating that Poe exclaimed that Ellet “…had better look out for her own correspondences.” Charles Briggs described Poe as displaying Ellet’s letters in his novel, The Trippings of Tom Pepper. According to Undine, “Elizabeth Oakes Smith wrote Whitman a letter in the mid-1870s saying nothing about immodest correspondence, but suggesting that certain ladies who had greatly admired Poe fell into a jealous feud as a result.” A familiar scene includes Ellet discovering Osgood and Virginia laughing at her letters, rousing her into anger. She retrieves her brother and threatens a duel, which ultimately does not occur.
But what became of those letters? According to Undine, it is a bit of a he said/she said situation. Ellet claimed that her letters never existed, where Poe claims that he did, and did not, keep them. What became of these letters is unknown; however, we do have evidence from a few other letters, which display words of affection.
The first letter from Ellet, from around December 15, 1845, according to EAPoe online, ends with a portion of the letter in German, which translates as, “I have a letter for you. Will you not most kindly pick it up or have it sent for after seven o’clock this evening. / O, what a rent you have made in my heart / The senses are still in your bonds / Though the bleeding soul has freed itself.”
This letter is followed by one dated December 16, 1845, which states, “Do not use in any way the memorandum about the So. Ca. College. Excuse the repeated injunction – but as you would not decipher my German manuscript – I am fearful of some other mistake” (EAPoe). Could Ellet have been making her feelings known and then covering it up as a “mistake” afterwards? Their reciprocated or unreciprocated relationship remains unknown.
Another woman whose heart was stolen by the dashing Poe was Mary Elizabeth Hewitt. According to Library Company online, Hewitt was a writer, composing such works as The Songs of Our Land, and Other Poems and The Gem of the Western World. She was notable for editing a memorial of her close friend, Frances Sargent Osgood, after Osgood’s death.
Mary Elizabeth Hewitt
Hewitt and Poe’s acquaintance with one another wasn’t made until 1845, when she wrote a letter to Poe in regard to his poem, “The Raven.” Below are extracts from the letter showing her respect for Poe:
Mr Gillespie tells me that he has mentioned to you the singular coincidence that I related to him, of the simultaneous appearance of your admirable poem, ‘The Raven’, and the receipt of a letter by myself, from a very dear brother resident in Manilla, containing a marvelous history of a ‘white bird’, the which, although the very opposite of the ‘raven,’ struck me as being so singularly like it in ground work as to constitute a ‘remarkable coincidence’.
Mr Gillespie tells me that you would like to see the paraphrase which I have endeavoured to frame out of my subject…”
“…Pray pardon the liberty I have taken in addressing you thus uncerimoniously [sic], and oblige me by returning the letter to my address.
And truly yours
M. E. Hewitt” (EAPoe).
The letter, which was written March 15, 1845, was replied to promptly by Poe, who responded with the following full text:
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your little package and note.
The coincidence to which you call my attention is certainly remarkable, and the story as narrated by your brother is full of rich interest, no particle of which, most assuredly, is lost in your truly admirable paraphrase. I fear, indeed, that my enthusiasm for all that I feel to be poetry, has hurried me into some indiscretion touching the “Tale of Luzon”. Immediately upon reading it, I took it to the printer, and it is now in type for the “Broadway Journal” of this week. As I re-peruse your note, however, (before depositing it among my most valued autographs) I find no positive warrant for the act — I am by no means sure that you designed the poem for our paper. If I have erred, then, I have to beg that you will point out the penance.
Edgar’s reply to Mary seems charming and warm. Whether it is admiration, which she shows for him, or flirtation, she has caught Edgar’s attention, regardless, and is reciprocated with this attention.
He went on to take more notice of her works and, in 1848, for example, he reviewed and critiqued her writing in Literary America (EAPoe). Another example includes a manuscript in which he begins by stating, “I am not aware that Mrs. Hewitt has written any prose; but her poems have been many, and occasionally excellent.” He states that a collection of her poems, “…evince poetic fervor, classicism, and keen appreciation of both moral and physical beauty.” Although he goes on to state that they, “…lack unity, totality [and] ultimate effect,” he praises her sonnets. At the end of his critique, he states,
In character, she is sincere, fervent, benevolent — sensitive to praise and to blame; in temperament melancholy; in manner subdued; converses earnestly yet quietly. In person she is tall and slender, with black hair and large gray eyes; complexion dark; general expression of the countenance singularly interesting and agreeable (EAPoe).
An alternative and very similar form of this same compliment, as written by Poe, according to Library Company, found in the 1846 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book, states,
In character she is sincere, fervent, benevolent, with a heart full of the truest charity— sensitive to praise and to blame; in temperament, melancholy (although this is not precisely the term); in manner, subdued, gentle, yet with grace and dignity; converses impressively, earnestly, yet quietly and in a low tone. In person she is tall and slender, with black hair and large gray eyes; complexion also dark; the general expression of the countenance singularly interesting and agreeable.
According to Netherlands Poe scholar, Ton Fafianie, “Poe thought Mary a very attractive woman, and she was a nice and talented lady, but she took advantage of him in an effort to promote her poems while he was connected to the Broadway Journal.” In my conversation with him, he continued to explain, “He [Poe] was patient with her as a poetess, and there was one famous woman in educated society who noticed this: Margaret Fuller. Hewitt helped Poe and his family during the dreadful winter of 1846-47. They entertained a spiritual connection but were not ‘in love.’”
Was their connection spiritual, or was there more blossoming between the two?
Finally, another woman made such an impression on Poe, he wrote a poem just for her titled, “For Annie.” But just who was Poe’s “Annie”?
Nancy "Annie" Locke Heywood Richmond
According to World of Poe’sUndine, Nancy Locke Heywood Richmond was the wife of Charles Richmond. She and Poe first met July 1848, and then met again in October of that year and in the spring of the next. According to Undine, however, “…intimates believed the two were no more than friendly acquaintances.” Letters written by her brother indicate no romantic interest between the two, however, Richmond told John H. Ingram, a Poe biographer, that Poe had been deeply in love with her, Undine goes on to explain. The only evidence of this is through copies of letters Poe allegedly had written her.
According to Undine,
These strange, hysterical, poorly-written letters depict Poe as consumed by an unbalanced, obsessive passion for the woman he, for reasons unknown, rechristened “Annie.” This passion, according to the letters, persisted throughout his brief, ill-fated 1848 relationship with Sarah Helen Whitman–who was simultaneously receiving similar letters expressing Poe’s undying love for her. “Annie” apparently was either oblivious or indifferent to the fact that by revealing these letters, she was making Poe look not just like a horribly untalented letter-writer, but an insincere, disloyal human being.
According to the Poe Museumwebsite, Richmond legally changed her name from Nancy to Annie, after the death of her husband in 1873.
Below is the poem, “For Annie,” which portrays Poe’s romantic feelings for her.
The Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia recently acquired a rare 1846 British pamphlet Mesmerism in Articulo Mortis, in which Edgar Allan Poe’s fictional story of mesmerizing the dead, “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,”(1845) is reprinted as a true account for a London audience. The Poe Museum’s new acquisition is a gift from Poe collector and Poe Museum trustee Susan Jaffe Tane. This important piece has appeared in exhibits at the Poe Museum in 1997 and the Grolier Club in New York in 2014. The book retains its original paper cover and is in fine condition. It is now on display in the Poe Museum’s Elizabeth Arnold Poe Memorial Building.
About the “Valdemar” Hoax
In Edgar Allan Poe’s time (1809-1849), many of his readers fell victim to his notorious hoax, now titled “The Balloon Hoax,” about a balloon trip across the ocean, but, more amazingly, the public was also willing to believe “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” which purports to recount a scientific experiment in which a dead man is mesmerized in order to facilitate communication with him after his death. The story concludes with the dead man awakening from his trance and immediately dissolving into “a nearly liquid mass of loathsome—of detestable putridity.”
Although “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” seems outlandish by today’s standards, it was soon reprinted in London’s Popular Record of Modern Science, which stated that “credence is understood to be given it at New York…The angry excitement and various rumors which have at length rendered a public statement necessary, are sufficient to show that something extraordinary must have taken place.” The Poe Museum’s new acquisition, Mesmerism in Articulo Mortis, was printed in London in January 1846—just weeks after the story’s first printing in the United States in the December 1845 issue of the American Review in New York. It is the first separate printing Poe’s important story. In this edition, the story is prefaced with a statement that the account is “a plain recital of facts” and that “credence is given to it in America, where the occurrence took place.”
Shortly after the story appeared, the Boston mesmerist Robert H. Collyer wrote Poe, “Your account of M. Valdemar’s Case has been universally copied in this city, and has created a very great sensation…I have not the least doubt of the possibility of such a phenomenon.” Collyer asks Poe to verify that the story is true “in order to put at rest the growing impression that your account is merely a splendid creation of your own brain, not having any truth in fact.”
Unconvinced of “Valdemar’s” veracity, the editor of the New York Herald wrote, “whoever thought it a veracious recital must have the bump of Faith large, very large indeed.” Poe responded in the Broadway Journal, “For our parts we find it difficult to understand how any dispassionate transcendentalist can doubt the facts as we state them; they are by no means so incredible as the marvels which are hourly narrated, and believed, on the topic of Mesmerism. Why cannot a man’s death be postponed indefinitely by Mesmerism? Why cannot a man talk after he is dead? Why? — Why? — that is the question; and as soon as the Tribune has answered it to our satisfaction we will talk to it farther.”
Despite his adamant defense of the story’s veracity, when he was asked by a London pharmacist if “Valdemar” were true, Poe responded, “‘Hoax’ is precisely the word suited to M. Valdemar’s case . . . Some few persons believe it — but I do not — and don’t you.”
The Poe Museum’s new acquisition, a first printing of Mesmerism in Articulo Mortis, is a vivid reminder of how revolutionary Poe’s fiction was in its time. This semblance of realism based on the scientific knowledge of his day became a hallmark of the fledgling literary genre that would eventually become known as Science Fiction.
One hundred seventy years ago, the most famous poem in American literature made its first appearance in print. Edgar Allan Poe had initially shown his poem “The Raven” to the staff of Graham’s Magazine, which rejected it. Afterward, George Colton agreed to publish the poem in his magazine, The American Review, a Whig Party publication. Colton probably paid Poe about fifteen dollars, which was standard based on space rates for the magazine. That would be about $468.75 in today’s money. Different sources relate that Poe might have been paid $9, $10, or even $30 for the piece.
“The Raven” appeared in the February issue, which came out in the middle of January. The editor prefaced the poem with this comment:
Although the poem first appeared under the pseudonym “____ Quarles” instead of under Poe’s own name, the identity of the author was soon revealed when the Evening Mirror reprinted “The Raven” in the January 29 issue. The editor, N.P. Willis, provided the following introduction:
We are permitted to copy (in advance of publication) from the 2d No. of the American Review, the following remarkable poem by EDGAR POE. In our opinion, it is the most effective single example of “fugitive poetry” ever published in this country; and unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent, sustaining of imaginative lift and “pokerishness.” It is one of these “dainties bred in a book” which we feed on. It will stick to the memory of everybody who reads it.
The New York Express claimed the poem “far surpasses anything that has been done even by the best poets of the age…In power and originality of versification the whole is no less remarkable than it is, psychologically, a wonder.”
The poem soon caused a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. Elizabeth Barrett (now know as Elizabeth Barrett Browning) wrote Poe, “Your ‘Raven’ has produced a sensation, a ‘fit horror,’ here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by the ‘Nevermore,’ and one acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune of possessing a ‘bust of Pallas’ never can bear to look at it in the twilight.” Poe would proudly show this letter to guests to his home.
When Poe issued the book The Raven and Other Poems in 1845, he dedicated it to Elizabeth Barrett. Having just read Poe’s terror tale “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” she wrote her future husband Robert Browning, “I send you besides a most frightful extract from an American magazine sent to me yesterday…no, the day before…on the subject of mesmerism—& you are to understand, if you please, that the Mr. Edgar Poe who stands committed in it, is my dedicator…whose dedication I forgot, by the way, with the rest—so, while I am sending, you shall have his poems with his mesmeric experience & decide whether the outrageous compliment to me EBB or the experiment on M. Vandeleur [sic] goes furthest to prove him mad.”
Around the same time, the young British artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti read “The Raven” and drew some illustrations for it. He also wrote a poem, “The Blessed Damosel,” inspired by it. This became Rossetti’s first popular poem, and he went on to become a prominent poet and painter.
A month after its first printing, “The Raven” was parodied when the Mirror printed “The Owl: A Capital Parody on Mr. Poe’s ‘The Raven’” by “Sarles.” This was followed by “The Veto” by “Snarles” in the February 22 New York World, “The Craven” by “Poh!” in the March 25 Evening Mirror, “A Vision” by “Snarles” in the April 15 New World, “The Gazelle” by C.C. Cooke in the May 3 Weekly Mirror, “The Whippoorwill” by “I” in the June 7 Weekly Mirror and “The Turkey” in the June 25 Alexander’s Weekly Messenger.
The popularity of “The Raven” allowed Poe to perform his poetry to large audiences in the nation’s major cities. He became so associated with the poem that his nickname became “The Raven.” In spite of its success, the poem made Poe very little money. Without effective copyright laws, his works were reprinted multiple times without Poe being paid.
After seventeen decades, “The Raven” remains a favorite with readers, it is read countless times at Halloween, and even has an NFL team named after it. In honor of the anniversary of the first printing of Poe’s greatest poem, we will end this post with a reading by that master interpreter of Poe’s works, Vincent Price.
Over nine hundred people gathered at the Poe Museum for its annual Poe Birthday Bash, which featured twelve hours of entertainment and tours. One of the days highlights was the Poe Birthday Cake (pictured above). Below is a shot the people lining up for a slice of cake.
Kids enjoyed fun and games throughout the day. Here is a photo of the craft table staffed by historical interpreter Debbie Phillips, dressed as Poe’s last fiancée Elmira Royster Shelton.
One little girl came dressed as a raven.
Some kids enjoyed the model of Poe’s Richmond.
Some liked the Richard Corben exhibit.
Others just liked the hitching post.
Adults also got into the act by making their own Poe mustaches.
Three bands performed, including The Embalmers.
Actors Michael Fawcett, Davide Michero, Dean Knight, and Debbie Phillips performed Poe’s works including “The Raven,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “Berenice.”
Guests also enjoyed walking tours of Poe sites in the neighborhood. Here is one of the groups visiting the Church Hill Overlook.
Here they are at St. John’s Church.
The Sisters in Crime discussed the art of mystery writing.
Professor M. Thomas Inge from Randolph-Macon College gave an interesting presentation about the Poe illustrations of Richard Corben, whose work is now on display in the Poe Museum’s Exhibit Building.
Poe’s last fiancée returned from the dead to give a performance and tour of the sites she and Edgar used to visit together.
The evening culminated with the midnight toast to Poe in the Poe Shrine.
The Poe Museum would like to thank everyone who joined us for Poe’s Birthday Bash, and we look forward to seeing everybody back here next year.
Now in performances in the heart of Broadway at New World Stages!
Following Sold Out Runs at London’s Barbican Center
and The New Victory Theatre
Previews Begin Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Opening Night Set for Sunday, January 25, 2015
November 19, 2014 (New York, NY) – NEVERMORE – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, a unique theatrical experience combining haunting music, poetic storytelling, and stunning stagecraft to tell the fascinating and moving life story of iconic American writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), will begin performances at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues) on Wednesday, January 14, 2015, with an official opening night scheduled for Sunday, January 25, 2015.
Beautiful and bizarre, playful and perverse, NEVERMORE- The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe is a whimsical and chilling musical play about the enigmatic writer who has fascinated the world for more than a century. A literary rock star in his day, Poe struggled with tragedy and addiction, poverty and loss, yet produced some of the world’s most original, visionary and enduring literature before dying in mysterious circumstances at the age of 40. At once gorgeous and grotesque, NEVERMORE blurs the line between fact and fiction, exploring the events that shaped Poe’s character and career and giving powerful expression to Poe’s words “all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
NEVERMORE is written, composed, and directed by Catalyst Theatre’s (Edmonton, Canada) Artistic Director, Jonathan Christenson. The physical world of NEVERMORE – including sets, costumes, and lighting – is designed by Bretta Gerecke. The production features choreography by Laura Krewski and sound design is by Wade Staples.
Originally produced by Catalyst Theatre of Edmonton, Canada in 2009 to commemorate the bicentennial of Poe’s birth (January 19, 1809), NEVERMORE has toured extensively, including sold out limited engagements at London’s Barbican Center and New York’s New Victory Theatre in 2010. NEVERMORE has been expanded since its first New York appearance in 2010, with several new songs added and structural revisions made to the original script.
Six of the seven original NEVERMORE cast members will return for this engagement – Gaelan Beatty, Shannon Blanchett, Beth Graham, Ryan Parker, Garett Ross, and Scott Shpeley. Casting for the seventh and final role will be announced in the coming weeks.
NEVERMORE is produced by Radio Mouse Entertainment (M. Kilburg Reedy and Jason E. Grossman), Martin Hummel, Caiola Productions, Terry Schnuck, Susan Jaffe Tane, and Hernreich-Horvath Productions in association with Catalyst Theatre. The associate producers include Fireboat Productions, Carol L. Bixler, and Deepa Desai.
NEVERMORE – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe will be performed on the following schedule at New World Stages (340 West 50th street, between 8th and 9th avenues): Monday at 7:00pm, Wednesday at 8:00pm, Thursday at 2:30pm and 8:00pm, Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 2:30pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday at 3:00pm.
Tickets, priced $75 – $95, can be purchased at Telecharge.com or by calling 212-239-6200. A limited number of $30 rush tickets for each performance will be available for purchase by audience members under 30 years old (valid ID required at box office) two hours prior to each performance while supplies last.
CREATIVE TEAM BIOGRAPHIES
JONATHAN CHRISTENSON — Writer/ Composer/ Lyricist/ Director – Jonathan is a director, playwright and composer and the artistic director of Canada’s Catalyst Theatre. His plays – Vigilante, The Soul Collector, Nevermore – The Imaginary Life & Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, The Blue Orphan, and The House of Pootsie Plunket, to name a few – have appeared at theatres throughout England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, the U.S. and Canada and at such festivals as the London International Festival of Theatre, Luminato, Le Carrefour, The High Performance Rodeo, The PuSh Festival, and Magnetic North. His work as a writer, director and composer has been honoured by Canada’s Sterling, Betty Mitchell and SAT Awards, Scotland’s Fringe First and Herald Angel Awards, and the City of Edmonton’s Salute to Excellence Awards. He has also received multiple nominations for the UK’s Stage Awards, the Dora Awards, and the Alberta Book Awards. In 2011, Venture Magazine named him one of “Alberta’s Fifty Most Influential People” and Alberta Playwrights Network chose him as one of Alberta’s one hundred most significant theatre artists of the past one hundred years. His plays have been published by Playwrights Canada Press and Newest Press and his work has been featured in American Theatre, Canadian Theatre Review, PRISM International, Canada World View and All Stages Magazine. Last year Bayeux Arts published his first children’s book, Maximilian’s Mistake.
BRETTA GERECKE – Production Designer (Costumes, Lighting, Set) – graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Interior Design and from the University of Alberta with a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Design. She is the resident designer at Catalyst Theatre, where she has designed world premieres that have toured internationally to Great Britain, Australia, and the U.S. and across Canada. Bretta also works at The Citadel Theatre, Canadian Stage, Edmonton Opera, Calgary Opera, Theatre Calgary, The Globe Theatre, The Stratford Festival and Cirque du Soleil. She is the recipient of over twenty Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards, Jessie Richardson Awards, Betty Mitchell Awards and SAT Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Set, Lighting and Costume Design; The Enbridge Award for Best Emerging Artist; The Global Women of Vision Award; Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40. She designed a summer home on Devil’s Lake, Alberta, is a marathon runner and continues her work as an Archaeological Illustrator.
LAURA KREWSKI – Choreographer – has choreographed original musicals Frankenstein, Hunchback and Vigilante for Catalyst Theatre. She recently choreographed Enron (National Arts Centre), Spamalot (Citadel Theatre), Next to Normal (Citadel Theatre/Theatre Calgary), Chicago and Footloose (The Mayfield), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Belfry Theatre and Vancouver Arts Club), Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore (Edmonton Opera), The Forbidden Phoenix and As You Like It (Citadel Theatre), and new musicals RICH and Rapa Nui (Manitoba Theatre for Young People). Laura also produced and choreographed FreeFall and Jazz Playground and is currently developing a new work as an independent artist. She is involved with Orchesis Dance Group at the University of Alberta, the Citadel/Banff Professional Theatre Program and the Canadian College of Performing Arts. Laura has received the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Arts and Culture, three Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards and a Betty Mitchell Award for Outstanding Choreography.
RADIO MOUSE ENTERTAINMENT – Lead Producer – Founded by M. Kilburg Reedy and Jason E. Grossman, Radio Mouse Entertainment’s theater credits include the Broadway production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (winner of the 2013 Tony, Drama Desk, NY Drama Critics, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Play), the Broadway and National Tour productions of Peter and the Starcatcher (nominated for 9 Tony Awards; winner of 5 Tony Awards) and The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway. In London, Jason and Kilburg co-produced the Olivier Award nominated West End production of Lend Me A Tenor, The Musical.
GAELAN BEATTY first encountered Catalyst Theatre through Nevermore several years ago and was immediately struck with a desire to join the team. A graduate of Studio 58 in Vancouver, he has toured the country from Whitehorse to Montreal and performed in musicals and Shakespearian plays as well as on TV and in commercials. He’s worked with Bard on the Beach, Electric Company Theatre, Arts Club Theatre, Gateway Theatre, Globe Theatre, Carousel Theatre, and Green Thumb Theatre, and appeared in Man of La Mancha at the Globe Theatre (directed by Max Rieme), among others.
SHANNON BLANCHET – A graduate of the University of Alberta’s BFA Acting program, select credits include: Whiplash Weekend (Teatro la Quindicina), A Picasso (Chorus Productions), Shatter (The Maggie Tree), Love’s Labour’s Lost (Freewill Shakespeare Festival), PopTart (Pony Productions), and Von Mitterbrink’s Second (ACME Theatre). She is a two-time Sterling Award winner for her performances on Edmonton stages and was named one of 2014′s Top 40 under 40 by Avenue Magazine. She is an Artistic Associate with Teatro La Quincidina and a member of the Canadian Comedy award-winning improv troupe, Die Nasty.
BETH GRAHAM – Catalyst credits: Nevermore (UK Lift Festival, Luminato, Magnetic North, New Victory Theatre, Vertigo Theatre, and Persephone Theatre), Hunchback (Vancouver Playhouse), The Blue Orphan, Twelve, Fusion: Let There Be Light and Sticky Shoes. Other selected theatre credits include: The Penelopiad, The Drowning Girls, Death of a Salesman, A Christmas Carol (Citadel Theatre), The Wizard of Oz, Strawberries In January (Globe Theatre), Victor and Victoria’s Terrifying Tale of Terrible Things (Kill Your Television), Cause and Effect (Teatro la Quindicina). Beth is a graduate from the University of Alberta’s BFA acting program. She is the co-creator of several plays including: The Drowning Girls (national tour) and Mules. Her most recent play, The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble, has been produced in Edmonton (Theatre Network) and Toronto (Factory Theatre).
RYAN PARKER – Ryan is a graduate of the Grant MacEwan Theatre Arts Program and has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama from the University of Alberta. Selected credits include Three Sisters (Broken Toys Theatre), Eros and The Itchy Ant, East of My Usual Brain (Teatro La Quindicina), Mesa (Globe Theatre), Buddy, …Spelling Bee (The Mayfield Theatre), Hamlet, Taming of the Shrew (Free Will Players), and What the Butler Saw (Studio Theatre). Ryan is a co-creator/member of the ukulele comedy band The Be Arthurs and a Gemini/Canadian Screen Award nominated writer for the sketch comedy television series Caution: May Contain Nuts. Most recently he’s been seen in Barefoot in the Park for Teatro La Quindicina, The Craze/Musical Direction in One Man, Two Guvnors for Citadel Theatre.
GARETT ROSS – Garett is a graduate of the Grant MacEwan Theatre Arts Program and has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama from the University of Alberta. Garett has been with the Nevermore company since the show began six years ago. He has also worked with Catalyst Theatre on Soul Collector and Vigilante. Some of the other shows in which he’s performed include Liberation Days (Theatre Calgary), Jack Goes Boating (Sage Theatre/Shadow Theatre), Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet (The Citadel Theatre), Hairspray, Shear Madness, Chicago, The Wizard of Oz (Mayfield Dinner Theatre), A Year in Winter, That Darn Plot, Beginning of August (Shadow Theatre), Uncle Van, and The Old Curiosity Shop (TheatRepublic/ Poorman’s classic Co-op). Garett has been nominated for Sterling Awards for his work in Jack Goes Boating (Sage Theatre), That Darn Plot (Shadow Theatre), The Old Curiosity Shop (Poor Man’s Classic Co-op), and The Raven and the Writing Desk (Acme Theatre).
SCOTT SHPELEY – Scott is an actor, singer, and multi-instrumentalist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting from the University of Alberta. He has been with Nevermore since 2008, and has performed with the show across Canada and in London. Scott was part of the first two Canadian productions of One Man, Two Guvnors as the drummer/washboard player in Calgary, Alberta, and the bassist in Edmonton, Alberta. Other credits include You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Alberta Theatre Projects); Sweeney Todd and Rope (Vertigo Theatre); Peril in Paris (Lunchbox Theatre). Scott is the lead singer and bassist in the electro-dance band The Play Plays.
The subject of Dr. Inge’s presentation is “Masters of the Macabre: Edgar Allan Poe and Richard Corben.” According to Dr. Inge:
Without Edgar Allan Poe and some of his fellow popular writers, there might not have been a comic book or a graphic novel. That is to say, in the early days of the comic book industry, desperate to meet the insistent and inevitable monthly publication deadlines, writers and artists turned for inspiration, or outright piracy, to the popular short fiction of such authors as O. Henry, Stephen Crane, Ambrose Bierce, or Guy de Maupassant. Before them, the nature and structure of the short story had been fully defined by Poe in his reviews and critical essays in the nineteenth century. Poe did not invent the short story, but he so successfully outlined what an effective piece of short fiction should be that everyone used his standards by which to measure their own work. Reading Poe was like taking a master class in writing fiction.
Little wonder then that the early pioneers of a new art form more frequently turned to Poe than any other author for source material and inspiration. It has been estimated that over 300 adaptations of Poe’s stories and poems have appeared in comic books and graphic novels from 1943 to the present. While nearly every major and most of the minor comic book authors and artists have turned to Poe at one time or another in their careers, only one has dedicated a major part of his life’s work to adapting his poems and tales—Richard Corben. Emerging from the underground comix movement in the 1960s, he quickly became a major force on the larger comic book scene with his work for Heavy Metal magazine and the Warren publications. Those who picked up copies of his early work like Den, Rowlf, or Fantagor, were immediately absorbed by the maturity and beauty of his style. Readers knew that they were in the presence of an extraordinary talent. Corben’s imagination pushed the boundaries of the visual possibilities of aesthetics in comic art in amazing new directions.
Beginning with his adaptations of Poe for Creepy , Eerie, and other Warren titles, especially the brilliantly rendered version of “The Raven” in Creepy No. 67 (December 1974), Corben has proven to be the most acute and creative interpreter of Poe in comics history. All of his comic book work, in fact, has been imbued with the same gothic sensibility and keen eye for the grotesque that possessed Poe himself. Thus his alliance with Poe has been a fortuitous and productive one. It is a marriage made in …, well one hesitates to say heaven. Time and again Corben has turned, or returned, to his favorite poems and stories, each demonstrating an original vision, a new way to interpret or understand Poe’s themes. This paper will provide an appreciative overview of Corben’s fascination with Poe throughout his career and what his vision has added to our general understanding of Poe’s cultural importance. Quite likely Poe would have loved these graphic versions of his work and recognized in Richard Corben a soul-mate.
About Dr. Inge:
M. Thomas Inge is the Robert Emory Blackwell Professor of Humanities at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, where he teaches and writes about American humor and comic art, film and animation, Southern literature and culture, William Faulkner, and Asian literature.
Inge has been writing about the comics and animation for over thirty years. He has written essays for fan publications, popular periodicals, reference works, and scholarly journals. He contributed for over twenty five years a chronology of the history of the comic book to the annual editions of Robert M. Overstreet’s Comic Book Price Guide. His books on the subject include Comics as Culture (1990), Great American Comics (1990), Dark Laughter: The Satiric Art of Oliver W. Harrington (1993), Anything Can Happen in a Comic Strip (1995), Charles M. Schulz: Conversations (2000), The Incredible Mr. Poe: Comic Book Adaptations of the Works of Edgar Allan Poe (2008), and Mark Twain in the Comics (2009). Most recently he edited the collected essays of Charles M. Schulz which appeared as My Life with Charlie Brown (2010). Inge is serving as General Editor of the “Conversations with Comic Artists” and the “Great Comic Artists” series for the University Press of Mississippi.
His publications on animation include “Walt Disney’s Snow White: Art, Adaptation, and Ideology,” Journal of Popular Film and Television, 32 (Fall 2004); “Mickey Mouse” in American Icons (Greenwood 2006); “Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, and Ichabod Crane” in Going My Way: Bing Crosby in American Culture (Hofstra/Rochester 2007); and “Mark Twain, Chuck Jones, and the Art of Animation,” Studies in American Humor, N.S. No. 17 (2008). He wrote the biography of Walt Disney for the Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 22 (Gale 1983) and is working on a book-length study of Disney and adaptation.
Inge wanted to be cartoonist but was diverted into academic work. He would rather draw and considers himself a failed comic artist who became a professor because he couldn’t do any better.
On January 17 from noon until midnight, the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia will host Edgar Allan Poe’s Birthday Bash, the world’s biggest celebration of the author’s birthday. The event promises twelve hours of performances, live music, historical interpreters, and games for audiences of all ages. The Museum will also be opening two new exhibits: a retrospective of Richard Corben’s Poe illustrations and Chambers of the Red Death, an installation of shadow boxes recreating “The Masque of the Red Death” by Nicole Pisaniello. Additional activities include a children’s theater, a craft table, book signings, and a walking tour following the trail of Poe’s last night in Richmond. Don’t forget the birthday cake at four followed by a talk about Poe in the comics by Randolph Macon professor Dr. M. Thomas Inge at five and a performance and walking tour by Poe’s last fiancée, Richmond’s Elmira Royster Shelton (as portrayed by historical interpreter Debbie Phillips) at six. After twelve straight hours of activity, visitors will toast Poe’s memory at midnight in the Poe Shrine.
11a.m-Noon Author Talk by Maggie King, Rosemary Shomaker, Teresa Inge, Maria Hudgins, and Heather Weidner
Noon to 1:30p.m. Live Music by The Embalmers
1:30 Children’s Activity
2:00p.m. Performance of “The Cask of Amontillado”
4:00p.m. Birthday Cake Served
5:00 Dr. M. Thomas Inge speaks about Poe in the comics
6:00-7:30p.m. Live music by Margot MacDonald
7:00p.m. Tour of Poe Museum led by C. Auguste Dupin, detective from “Murders in the Rue Morgue”
7:30p.m. Elmira Shelton speaks about her engagement to Poe
8:00p.m. Elmira Shelton begins walking tour of area sites she and Edgar enjoyed
8:00p.m. Performance of “The Raven”
9:00p.m. Performance of “The Tell-Tale Heart”
10:00p.m. Live Music by Fool’s Errand
Midnight Champagne Toast in the Poe Shrine
Schedule is subject to change. Check back often for a complete schedule and the latest updates.