Museum News


Holidays in Poe’s Day


Enjoying lots of delicious food, gift giving and getting, sleeping late, and catching up with family and friends is pretty much traditional fare for our 21st century holiday celebrations. We hope you are enjoying your holidays wherever you are, and whatever your traditions.

But what was this time of year like in Poe’s time? We get asked that a lot, so our staff got busy researching and found some choice tidbits. For starters, his mother Elizabeth Arnold Poe was originally from England, so she might have introduced the young family to traditions from her own English Christmas traditions. We know from primary sources that Poe’s foster parents, John and Frances Allan enjoyed visiting friends at the holiday. In fact, the first Christmas they had the two year old Poe, they took him on holiday to a friend’s plantation at Turkey Island. When they lived in England for five years from 1815 to 1820, the Allans no doubt celebrated as the locals did, with natural greenery sprucing up their rooms, and festive feasts shared with friends and family.

In Richmond during Poe’s lifetime, Christmas was a somber, simple affair, far from the hubbub of today. Children might expect small gifts of gloves or scarves, and church service would be expected – in Poe’s case, in a pew at Monumental Church that Allan bought. It is generally believed that Frances Allan was a faithful Episcopalian, while her spouse John, as a native Scot, was perhaps a Presbyterian or a free thinker. Richmonders much preferred the holiday of New Year’s and there were lots of balls once the General Assembly commenced and legislators came to town.

The following is a recollection by Poe’s nurse, Marie Louise Shew of a Christmas side of Poe you might not have expected. On Christmas Eve 1847, Poe attended a church service with his nurse – she had been Virginia’s nurse also, before Mrs. Poe’s death in January of that year. The Reverend William Augustus Muhlenberg conducted the midnight service.

“[Poe] went with us, followed the service like a ‘churchman,’ looking directly towards the chancel, and holding one side of my prayer book. sang the psalms with us, and to my astonishment struck up a tenor to our sopranos and, got along nicely during the first part of the sermon, which was on the subject of the sympathies of our Lord, to our wants. The passage being often repeated, ‘He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’ He begged me to stay quiet that he would wait for me outside, and he rushed out, too excited to stay. I knew he would not leave us to return home alone, (altho’ my friend thought it doubtful), and so after the sermon as I began to feel anxious (as we were in a strange church) I looked back and saw his pale face, and as the congregation rose to sing the Hymn, ‘Jesus Saviour of my soul,’ he appeared at my side, and sang the Hymn, without looking at the book, in a fine, clear tenor… I did not dare to ask him why he left, but he mentioned after we got home, that the subject ‘was marvelously handled, and ought to have melted many hard hearts’ and ever after this he never passed Doctor Muhlenberg’s 20th St. Free Church without going in.” [Source: letter to J.H. Ingram, ca. 15 April 1875, Miller {1977}, pp. 132-33.].




Poe’s Birthday Bash Promises 12 Hours of Poe Fun


On January 18, 2014 from noon to midnight, the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia will celebrate Edgar Allan Poe’s 205th birthday with twelve straight hours of Poe-themed fun for the whole family. Included in the day will be dramatic readings, living history, a mock trial of the murderer from Poe’s story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and even interpretive dance inspired by Poe’s stories and poems. Authors Jeff Abugel (Edgar Allan Poe’s Petersburg), Trish Foxwell (A Visitor’s Guide to the Literary South), and contributors to the new anthology Virginia is For Mysteries will be here to sign and discuss their latest books. There will also be live music and appearances by Poe impersonators as well as walking tours of Poe sites in the neighborhood. Don’t forget about the birthday cake. Guests get all this for just $5 for the day.

The day kicks off with Edgar Allan Poe and his friend Frances Osgood reading their flirtatious love poetry to each other. In the Museum’s Exhibit Building, you’ll get to see a new exhibit about Poe’s love poetry including the original manuscript for his essay about Frances Osgood and a letter by Osgood herself. Here is a tentative schedule for the day:

Noon: Event Begins, Edgar Poe and Frances Osgood mingle with guests
12:00 (Ongoing until 8:00) Abigail Larson Trunk Show
12:30 Poetry Reading: Edgar Allan Poe and Frances Osgood read their love poetry to each other
1:00 Tour: Walking Tour of Poe’s Shockoe Bottom
1:30 Dance: “Poe in Motion”
2:00 Live Music by Classical Revolutions
2:30 “The Tell-Tale Heart” with Jamie Ebersole
3:00 Performance of “Hop-Frog”
Tour: Tour of Poe Museum
Book Signing: Virginia is for Mysteries (until 6 P.M.)
(CASH BAR OPENS)
3:30 Live Music
5:00 Tour: Poe’s Church Hill
5:30 Dance: “Poe in Motion”
6:00 Cake Cutting
Silent Auction Ends
Jeffrey Abugel speaks about Poe’s Petersburg
6:30 “The Tell-Tale Heart” with Jamie Ebersole
7:00 Tour of Poe Museum
7:30 Live Music
9:00 Performance: “The Conqueror Worm” by Amber Edens
9:15 – 11:45pm Live Entertainment
Midnight: Toast to Poe in the Poe Shrine




A Letter from the Poe Foundation’s President


Dear Poe Museum Supporter,

Several years ago a young boy was touring Virginia with his family when they decided to pull off the highway for a visit to the Poe Museum. Earlier this year in an Entertainment Weekly interview, he would recall the “magical” experience of seeing the Museum’s Raven Room and how he thought the Museum was “the coolest thing in the world.” That boy grew up to be a popular screenwriter of blockbuster films and hit television series like Scream, Dawson’s Creek, and Vampire Diaries. Earlier this year, he even paid homage to his Poe Museum visit by writing a Poe-themed television series set in Richmond called The Following.

Kevin Williamson’s story is just one of the many we hear about young people the Poe Museum has inspired over the past nine decades. More recently, Rachel Martens, one of the attendees of the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference, has just published her first novel. Countless others have been instilled with a lifelong love of reading by a visit to the Poe Museum.

We have written you today because you know the power of the Poe Museum to inspire young minds, whether they visit us for school group tours, writing workshops, poetry readings, or on family vacations. That is why you support the Poe Museum, and that is why we are asking you to consider making a contribution to our Annual Fund today. With the New Year starting we want to ensure the Museum and its staff is prepared. This involves training new tour guides, promoting the Museum and its educational programs and printing Educator packets. Your support will help provide the resources needed to accomplish these tasks at hand.

Please take the time to make your generous tax-deductible gift today by clicking this link.

Help us preserve Poe’s legacy for present and future generations.

Sincerely,

Annemarie Beebe
President, Poe Foundation Board of Trustees