Museum News


The Unseen Poe Museum


Most the Poe Museum’s holdings never go on display. In addition to its museum collection of Edgar Allan Poe artifacts and memorabilia, the Poe Museum also holds an extensive group of objects in its reference library. This study collection features thousands of books, articles, videos, and audio recordings exploring Poe’s life and influence. Accessible by appointment, the reference library is a rich source of information compiled over the past nine decades for the benefit of students and researchers. As would be expected, the collection contains several volumes of scholarly works of biography and criticism, but there are also numerous photographs, drawings, and prints of Poe, the people he knew, and the places he lived, worked, and visited. There are also manuscripts, letters, illustrations, advertisements, facsimiles, and rare documents.

While the Poe Museum’s library is a great place to look for scholarly works and materials on Poe and his oeuvre, it also documents the evolution of other authors’ and artists’ responses to Poe. That is why one will find several works of fiction inspired by Poe here. These vary from novels featuring Poe as a character (like The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard and An Unpardonable Crime by Andrew Taylor) to ones with Poe-inspired elements (like Kelly Creagh’s teen romance Nevermore and Linda Fairstein’s mystery thriller Entombed). There are even historical novels focusing on Poe’s life. Among these are John May’s Poe and Fanny and Barbara Moore’s The Fever Called Living.

Other novels focus on the lives of those he knew. Harriet Davis’s Elmira tells the story of Poe’s first fiancée Elmira Royster Shelton while Lenore Hart’s The Raven’s Bride gives Poe’s wife’s perspective. Poe’s mysterious death is the subject of novels including Matthew Pearl’s The Poe Shadow and Frank Lovelock’s Lenore. The Poe Museum is featured in the short story “Murder at the Poe Shrine” by Nedra Tyre. Obsessive Poe collecting is the theme of Robert Bloch’s “The Man who Collected Poe.” Poe has inspired other authors to write sequels to his works. In 1897, Jules Verne wrote The Sphinx of the Ice Fields (also known as An Antarctic Mystery) as a sequel to Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. More recently, Clive Barker wrote “New Murders in the Rue Morgue,” a sequel to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

Poe’s works have also been reimagined in music, plays, and an opera. Then there are the comics. Richard Corben’s masterful interpretations of Poe’s stories and poems into comics are among the best to date, but Berni Wrightson, Michael Golden, and others have also produced great adaptations. Let us not forget to mention MAD Magazine’s parody of “The Raven” and the Scooby Doo mystery “Cravin’ the Raven.” Then there are entire series like Jason Asala’s Poe and Dwight Macpherson’s The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo. In the 2003 series Batman Nevermore, Poe joins forces with the Dark Knight to fight crime, but Poe had already battled evildoers alongside the “World’s Smallest Superhero” The Atom back in 1950.

The study collection abounds in illustrated editions of Poe’s works by artists including Dore, Dulac, Clarke, and Robinson. More recent illustrated editions have been produced by artists including Mark Summers (this edition has a preface by Neil Gaiman), Greg Hildebrandt, and Gris Grimly.

If you would like to visit the study collection for research purposes, simply contact the curator to schedule an appointment.




Poe Museum Launches First i-Phone App


The Poe Museum has just launched its first i-phone app, an interactive guided tour of the Poe Museum complex and collections that can be run on iPhones, iPads and iPods that have iOS 6+. Whether users visit the museum in person or remotely through this app, they will have an opportunity to explore Poe’s life and literary career through 29 objects in the museum’s world renowned collection. Guests of the museum can use the app as an audio guide featuring museum maps, photos of the artifacts, readings of Poe’s poems and letters, as well as extra information about each object’s provenance and significance.

The Tour has been developed on the MustSee mobile audio guide application. The MustSee app is free to use and can be downloaded from iTunes here. The Poe Museum Self Guided Tour costs 99 cents as an in-app purchase. To get to the audio guide, download the MustSee app and then come back here and tap on the big logo on this page.

The MustSee platform is a mobile guide community platform where organizations and individuals can create guides and set their own price. It includes an iOS application and a website where creators can design and upload their own personalized guides. Current guide developers — including museums, cultural institutions, tour guides and travel companies as well as cultural enthusiasts — are able to create interactive art and travel guides with the MustSee app. App users can find guides created by either professionally, like the Poe Museum’s, or by other users with common interests. Guides are based on the places and items located there and may include audio, text, photos and links to web pages or videos. Guide users can download them directly to their device and can interact with the community of like-minded users by commenting, adding photos, rating and sharing on their email, Facebook and Twitter.

“Many museums have trouble being found by their respective audiences. MustSee provides the Poe Museum to be able to easily create an interactive, audio guide tour for their visitors while exposing the guide to a bigger audience of culture and literary learners,” said John Soppe, CEO of Areté Media, producers of MustSee. “We are providing a free platform to help those institutions and individuals create high quality experiences that will enrich the lives for the MustSee audience.” The price of the app is shared by Apple, the Poe Museum, and MustSee.

If you do not have an i-phone or i-pad, you can still download our audio tour here.




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Latest Positively Poe Conference Schedule


Here is a link to the very latest Positively Poe Conference schedule.

Positively Poe Conference Program6-21-2013




Final Schedule for Positively Poe Conference


Here is the final schedule for the first Positively Poe Conference to be held next week, June 24-26 at the University of Virginia. Click here or write conference organizer Alexandra Urakova for more information.

PPConferencePROGRAM BOOK




Today Marks Edgar Poe’s 177th Wedding Anniversary


The bride, Virginia Clemm, in a drawing by A.G. Learned

On May 16, 1836, Edgar Allan Poe and his young fiancée Virginia Clemm were joined by a few close friends for a small wedding ceremony at a home near Capitol Square. According to different sources, the event took place at either Mrs. Yarrington’s boarding house at Eleventh and Bank Streets or the home of Amasa Converse at Eighth and Franklin Streets. The guests included Virginia’s mother and Poe’s aunt Maria Poe Clemm, Poe’s boss at the Southern Literary Messenger Thomas White, White’s daughter Eliza, a pressman named Thomas W. Cleland and his wife, the printer of the Messenger William McFarlane, an apprentice in the Messenger office named John W. Fergusson, the owner of the boarding house in which Poe lived Mrs. James Yarrington, one of Virginia’s friends Jane Foster, and a few others.

William MacFarlance, one of Poe's wedding guests

In addition to the number of guests associated with the Southern Literary Messenger, another magazine writer, Rev. Amasa Converse, performed the ceremony. In addition to editing the Southern Religious Telegraph, Converse was a Presbyterian minister. He later recalled Poe’s bride as “polished, dignified and agreeable in her bearing… [possessing] a pleasing manner but…very young.” Of course, Virginia was half the age of her twenty-seven year-old groom, but Converse noted she had given “her consent freely.” Unfortunately, her father’s death a few years earlier had prevented him from giving her his permission to marry, so, earlier on his wedding day, Poe had signed a marriage bond verifying Virginia was twenty-one and able to marry without her father’s consent. Cleland co-signed the document.

Rev. Amasa Converse, who performed Poe's wedding ceremony

In a 1904 letter to T. Pendleton Cummings, Rev. Converse’s son F.B. Converse wrote that Poe “was married by my father…in my father’s parlor…at the Southeast corner of Main and Eighth Streets, Richmond…Edgar Allan Poe came to the house, and the wedding was performed in the parlor, my father standing, according to the impressions which I have received, near the mantel piece and Edgar Allan Poe and his bride coming in at the front. There were very few persons present at the wedding, my mother and the members of the family, and perhaps one or two more companions, which they brought with them.”

John Fergusson, another of Poe's wedding guests

Poe collector James H. Whitty later interviewed Jane Foster about the wedding, and he reported, “Mrs. Jane [Foster] Stocking was present at the wedding, which took place in the parlor of the Yarrington home, where Poe boarded, Mrs. Stocking, then but a slip of a girl, was full of thrills with thoughts of seeing so young a girl, like her own self, getting married; and also like Virginia, she was so little, that she found her best view of the ceremony was from the hallway door, where she obtained a reflection of the entire scene through a large old-fashioned mirror, which tilted forward a bit from over the mantle. All the boarders of the home, and all the poet’s friends, including Mr. Thomas W. White and his daughter Eliza, were present. Virginia was attired in a new traveling dress, and…hat. After the ceremony and congratulations the newly wedded entered a hack, waiting on the outside, and went to a train for Petersburg, Va., where they spent their honeymoon…Mrs. Stocking at the time of the wedding was both young and shy, and on the occasion she said, that she could only look, and look about in bewilderment — for in that short ceremony of a few minutes she was picturing her little companion of the day before suddenly transported into matured womanhood; like in the fairy tales, she was wondering why Virginia didn’t grow taller and look different, à la Cinderella; that’s what bothered little Jane Foster the most; but Virginia looked natural, and never changed an iota.”
After the ceremony, the guests ate wedding cake baked by Mrs. Clemm. Then some of the guests accompanied the newlyweds to the train station where they boarded a train to their honeymoon at the home of magazine editor Hiram Haines in Petersburg.

Possible site of Poe's wedding, Mrs. Yarrington's boarding house on Bank Street

A few days later, on May 20, the Richmond Whig reported, “Married, on Monday May 16th, by the Reverend Mr. Converse, Mr. Edgar A. Poe to Miss Virginia Clemm.” Other papers in Richmond and Norfolk carried similar announcements.

Hiram Haines House, where Poe stayed on his honeymoon

Contemporary accounts attest that Poe was a devoted husband to his adoring wife. Their friend, the poet Frances Osgood, wrote, “Of the charming love and confidence that existed between his wife and himself, always delightfully apparent to me, in spite of the many little poetical episodes, in which the impassioned romance of his temperament impelled him to indulge; of this I cannot speak too earnestly — too warmly. I believe she was the only woman whom he ever truly loved.”

Poe and his wife would be married for eleven years before Virginia succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of twenty-four. Poe followed her just two years later. Though both died in different cities, their remains were reunited over thirty years later, and they are now buried together in Westminster Burying Grounds in Baltimore.

Today marks the 177th anniversary of Poe’s wedding, and it seems appropriate to conclude this post with Poe’s poem “Eulalie,” a tribute to the joys of married life:

EULALIE — A SONG.

I DWELT alone
In a world of moan,
And my soul was a stagnant tide,
Till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride —
Till the yellow-haired young Eulalie became my smiling bride.

Ah, less — less bright
The stars of the night
Than the eyes of the radiant girl!
And never a flake
That the vapor can make
With the moon-tints of purple and pearl,
Can vie with the modest Eulalie’s most unregarded curl —
Can compare with the bright-eyed Eulalie’s most humble and careless curl.

Now Doubt — now Pain
Come never again,
For her soul gives me sigh for sigh,
And all day long
Shines, bright and strong,
Astarté within the sky,
While ever to her dear Eulalie upturns her matron eye —
While ever to her young Eulalie upturns her violet eye.

If you are interested in learning more about Poe’s marriage, visit the Poe Museum to see a display of artifacts owned by Virginia Clemm Poe. You can also learn more about Poe’s honeymoon in Petersburg at the May 23 Unhappy Hour when Jeffrey Abugel, author of Edgar Allan Poe’s Petersburg, will be here for a book signing.




“Poe in Paris” Exhibit Explores Poe’s International Influence


The Poe Museum is proud to announce its upcoming exhibit “Poe in Paris,” which runs from June 23 until September 8, 2013 at the Poe Museum at 1914 East Main Street, Richmond, Virginia. Drawing on rare artwork and documents from the Poe Museum and four other collections, the exhibit will explore Poe’s influence on French avant garde artists and writers of the nineteenth century. On Saturday, June 22 from 5 to 9 P.M. the Poe Museum will host a special preview opening and wine pairing for which tickets can be purchased at the museum or at poemuseum.org for $25 in advance or $30 at the door.

About Poe in Paris:

The progressive cultural climate of nineteenth century Paris gave birth to artistic movements like Impressionism, Symbolism, Post-Impressionism, and Fauvism. The writers and artists active there pioneered the concepts which would soon give birth to modern art and literature. One of the most important and influential figures in this incubator of innovative ideas never even visited Paris, but his name was on the lips of almost every member of the city’s avant garde. His works were discussed and imitated by the leading authors and illustrated by the most innovative artists. Though Edgar Allan Poe never saw Paris, some of his most important works were inspired by the city and, in turn, inspired Paris’s leading artists and writers including the painters Edouard Manet and Paul Gauguin and the writers Charles Baudelaire and Jules Verne.

Since most Americans only know Poe for a few of his horror stories, which comprise only a small fraction of his oeuvre, it is easy to forget that Richmond’s greatest writer was also America’s first internationally influential author. After his early death in 1849 and the dismissal of his works by some American critics, it was the Europeans—especially the French—who cultivated an appreciation of Poe’s revolutionary contributions to world literature and aesthetics. Poe and his followers promoted concepts like “Art for Art’s Sake” and “Pure Poetry” which turned the art world upside-down and ushered in the age of Modernism. It should be no wonder that Edouard Manet produced three portraits of him and provided illustrations for a French edition of “The Raven” translated by avant garde French poet Stephan Mallarme. Symbolist painter Paul Gauguin and Fauvist Henri Matisse were among the many French artists to produce Poe-inspired works. Considered the Father of Science Fiction, Jules Verne was inspired by Poe’s science fiction stories and even wrote a sequel to one of Poe’s novels.

The Poe Museum’s intriguing exhibit will feature Poe-inspired artwork by Edouard Manet, Henri Matisse, and more in addition to rare early French translations of Poe’s works by Charles Baudelaire, Stephan Mallarme, and others. Assembled from the Poe Museum’s collection as well as from four other public and private collections, the exhibit will explore Poe’s presence in Parisian culture at the time Modern Art was born.

“Poe in Paris” will run from June 23 until September 8, 2013 with a special preview evening and wine pairing to be held on Saturday, June 22 from 5 to 9 P.M. The exhibit is included in the cost of Poe Museum general admission, but tickets for the preview evening and wine pairing can be purchased at the Poe Museum or on its website for $25 in advance or $30 at the door.




There is Still Time to Register for Positively Poe Conference


This June 24-26, the Poe Museum and the UVA Small Special Collections Library will host the first-ever Positively Poe Conference devoted to Poe’s life affirming and benefitial contributions to art, literature, culture, and science. This unique conference promises to change the way you think about Poe’s life and work. An international group of the leading Poe scholars, artists, and scientists will converge on the University of Virginia for a new kind of conference to be held in the shadow of some of the very sites that influenced Poe’s greatest works. Conferees will attend a dinner only a short distance from Poe’s dorm room and a picnic in the very Ragged Mountains that appear in Poe’s “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains.” A wide array of speakers will explore previously overlooked aspects of America’s most famous and most misunderstood author. The response so far has been great, and people from around the world have already registered. Don’t miss this opportunity to be a part of this groundbreaking event in Poe studies. You can register for the conference online today. For more information, contact the conference organizer Alexandra Urakova at positivelypoe@gmail.com. A tentative schedule appears below.

Monday, June 24, 2013

7:00 Dinner – Rotunda Room.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

All paper sessions in the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library auditorium

9:00 Session One – The Boy Next Door
Chair – Stephen Rachman, Michigan State University

A. Richard Kopley
“Edgar Allan Poe, the Boy Next Door”
B. Chris Semtner
“A Young Girl’s Recollections of Edgar Allan Poe”
C. Jerome McGann,
“Verse and Reverse. Poe and the Poetry of Codependence”.

10:30 Break

11:00 Session Two – Literary Circles, Friends and Followers
Chair – Jerome McGann, University of Virginia

A. Philip Phillips
“Yankee Neal and Edgar Poe: The Fruits of a Literary Friendship”
B. John Gruesser
“Poe, Whitman, and Melville in New York and Beyond”
C. Emron Esplin and Margarida Vale de Gato
“‘Excellent system(s) of positive translation(s)’: Why Poe’s Translators Have Neither Been Invisible nor Ephemeral”

12:30 Lunch break

1:30 Session Three – Poe and Art
Chair – Stephen Railton, University of Virginia

A. Scott Peeples
“Poe in Love”
B. Sonya Isaak
“When Music Affects Us to Tears”: Poe’s Silent Music – Divine Aspiration and Lasting Inspiration
C. Anne Margaret Daniel
“Bob Dylan: ‘like being in an Edgar Allan Poe story’”

3:00 Break

3:30 Session Four: Collecting Poe

Susan Tane and Harry Lee Poe

4:30 Break

6:00 Picnic – The Ragged Mountain (Beth Sweeney’s readers’ theater)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

All paper sessions in the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library auditorium

9:00 Session One – The Comic Side of Poe
Chair – Richard Kopley, Penn State University

A. Barbara Cantalupo
“‘a little China man having a large stomach’: Poe’s Homely Details in ‘The Devil in the Belfry’
B. Alexandra Urakova
“Shreds and patches”: Poe, Fashion, and The Godey’s Lady’s Book
C. Elina Absalyamova
“A Comic Poe: European Success Story”

10:30 Break

11:00 Session Two – Tales: Rethinking the Gothic
Chair – Bill Engel, University of the South

A. Bonnie Shannon McMullen
“The ‘sob from the . . .ebony bed’: The Reanimation of the Gothic Tale in ‘Ligeia’”
B. Susan Beth Sweeney
“Positive Images: Poe and the Daguerreotype”
C. William E. Engel
“Jaunty dialogs with the non-human: a Closer Look at Dogs in the Works of E.A. Poe”

12:30 Lunch break

1:30 Session Three – Poe and Ethics
Chair – Margarida Vale de Gato, University of Lisboa

A. Gero Guttzeit,
“‘Constructive Power’: Poe’s Mythology and Ethics of Authorship”
B. Katherine Rose Keenan,
“You Can’t Escape Yourself”: Poe’s Use of Moral Doppelgangers”
C. Shawn McAvoy and Heather Myrick Stocker
“Selective Symbolism: Poe’s Romantic Theology”

3:00 Break

3.30 Session Four – Poetry, Science, and Eureka
Panel Chair – Harry Lee Poe, Union University

A. Stephen Rachman
“From “Al Aaraaf” to the Universe of Stars: Poe, the Arabesque, and Cosmology”
B. René van Slooten
“Religion, Science and Philosophy in Eureka”
C. Murray Ellison
“Judging Edgar Allan Poe’s Eureka after the Author’s Death”

5:00 Close




Poe’s Poetry Comes Alive in the Enchanted Garden


April is National Poetry Month and the perfect time for a visit to the Poe Museum. Not only is the Poe Museum currently exhibiting a manuscript for Poe’s early poem “To Helen” as well as rare first editions of Poe’s volumes Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, Poems, and The Raven and Other Poems, but the Museum is also home to a garden inspired by Poe’s poetry.

The Poe Museum’s legendary Enchanted Garden opened in April 1922 as Virginia’s first memorial to Edgar Allan Poe. The garden remains the heart of the Poe Museum complex and continues to thrive as a living embodiment of Poe’s poetic ideals. The name of the garden was borrowed from a line from Poe’s 1848 version of “To Helen.” The layout was derived from his poem “To One in Paradise,” and most of the flowers, trees, and shrubs were mentioned in hiss poems and short stories. Among the many plants visitors will encounter in the Enchanted Garden are begonias, clematis, geraniums, hyacinths, hydrangeas, pansies, roses, violets, and tulips. The grassy lawns are lined with ivy (said to have been taken from Poe’s mother’s grave at St. John’s Church), and the exterior staircase is covered in jasmine. Shade is provided by lovely old boxwoods which have grown to the size of trees. Other trees and shrubs include dogwoods, camellias, a magnolia, and a huge photinia, each of which displays beautiful flowers at different times of the year.

In addition to planting a variety of colorful plants, the founders of the Poe Museum incorporated building materials from a number of demolished buildings associated with the poet. The pergola was constructed using bricks and granite salvaged from the office of the Southern Literary Messenger, the magazine at which Poe began his career in journalism. The garden also contains elements from Poe’s foster father’s office, a boarding house in which Poe lived in Richmond, and from one of Poe’s New York homes.

If a garden seems an unusual memorial to a writer best known for his tales of murder and madness, you might be surprised to learn Poe loved nature and wrote a number of pieces about nature and landscape gardens. Among these are “Morning on the Wissahiccon,” “The Landor’s Cottage,” and “The Domain of Arnheim.” In the following passage from “The Domain of Arnheim,” Poe explains how a garden is like a poem:

“Ellison became neither musician nor poet; although no man lived more profoundly enamored of music and poetry. Under other circumstances than those which invested him, it is not impossible that he would have become a painter. Sculpture, although in its nature rigorously poetical was too limited in its extent and consequences, to have occupied, at any time, much of his attention. And I have now mentioned all the provinces in which the common understanding of the poetic sentiment has declared it capable of expatiating. But Ellison maintained that the richest, the truest, and most natural, if not altogether the most extensive province, had been unaccountably neglected. No definition had spoken of the landscape-gardener as of the poet; yet it seemed to my friend that the creation of the landscape-garden offered to the proper Muse the most magnificent of opportunities. Here, indeed, was the fairest field for the display of imagination in the endless combining of forms of novel beauty; the elements to enter into combination being, by a vast superiority, the most glorious which the earth could afford. In the multiform and multicolor of the flowers and the trees, he recognized the most direct and energetic efforts of Nature at physical loveliness. And in the direction or concentration of this effort — or, more properly, in its adaptation to the eyes which were to behold it on earth — he perceived that he should be employing the best means — laboring to the greatest advantage — in the fulfillment, not only of his own destiny as poet, but of the august purposes for which the Deity had implanted the poetic sentiment in man.”

A visit to the Enchanted Garden is like walking through Poe’s poetry, and National Poetry Month is a great time to see the spring flowers in bloom.




Edgar Allan Poe on Valentine’s Day


It’s Valentine’s Day, a holiday Americans celebrated even back in Edgar Allan Poe’s time. In fact, one of his friends, Anna Charlotte Lynch, hosted an annual St. Valentine’s Day party at her home in New York.

Poe in 1845

Throughout 1845, Poe was a favorite guest at Lynch’s weekly literary soirees. In her words, “During the time that [Poe] habitually visited me, a period of two or three years, I saw him almost always on my reception evenings, when many other guests were present. . . . In society, so far as my observation went, Poe had always the bearing and manners of a gentleman — interesting in conversation, but not monopolizing; polite and engaging, and never, when I saw him, abstracted or dreamy. He was always elegant in his toilet, quiet and unaffected, unpretentious, in his manner; and he would not have attracted any particular attention from a stranger, except from his strikingly intellectual head and features, which bore the unmistakable character of genius…”

Anna Charlotte Lynch

Over the course of his visits to Lynch’s soirees, Poe befriended many of New York’s leading writers. At the same time, he became the recipient of attention from a few of the female attendees. One of them, Frances S. Osgood, was one of the nation’s most popular poets. She and Poe published flirtatious love poems to each other in the magazines of the day. In a letter to one of Poe’s other admirers, Sarah Helen Whitman, Osgood wrote, “I meet Mr. Poe very often at the receptions. He is the observed of all observers. His stories are thought wonderful, and to hear him repeat the Raven, which he does very quietly, is an event in one’s life. People seem to think there is something uncanny about him, and the strangest stories are told, and, what is more, believed, about his mesmeric experiences, at the mention of which he always smiles. His smile is captivating! . . . . Everybody wants to know him; but only a very few people seem to get well acquainted with him”

Frances Osgood

Another of the attendees taking an interest in Poe was Mrs. Elizabeth Ellet. Although Poe spurned her advances, she continued to send him love letters. She may be the one Elizabeth Oakes Smith was referring to in this account: “A certain lady . . . . fell in love with Poe and wrote a love-letter to him. Every letter he received he showed to his little wife. This lady went to his house one day; she heard Fanny Osgood and Mrs. Poe having a hearty laugh, they were fairly shouting, as they read over a letter. The lady listened, and found it was hers, when she walked into the room and snatched it from their hands”

Elizabeth Ellet

Whether or not that account refers to Ellet, it is known that, in late January 1846, she reported having seen an “indiscreet” letter from Osgood to Poe lying on a table in his house. Nobody bothered to ask Ellet why she was reading other people’s mail, but Lynch and her friend Margaret Fuller soon showed up at Poe’s house to demand Poe return all the letters Osgood had ever sent him. He responded that Mrs. Ellet should worry more about her own letters to him.

After Lynch’s departure, Poe unceremoniously dumped all of Ellet’s letters to him on her doorstep. Soon thereafter, Ellet and her brother arrived at Poe’s house to demand the same letters, which he no longer had. After Ellet’s brother threatened him, Poe went to another friend, Thomas Dunn English, for a pistol with which he could defend himself. English not only refused but also accused Poe of lying about ever having received any letters from Ellet in the first place, so a fist fight broke out.

Although Poe would later send Ellet a letter of apology, Lynch removed him from her guest list, and Ellet began spreading rumors that he was insane. This was only a couple weeks before Lynch’s annual Valentine’s Day party. Despite not being allowed to attend that gathering, Poe sent Lynch the following Valentine’s poem, which he intended to have read at the party. It is addressed to Frances Osgood, one of the women at the center of the previous month’s scandal. You can find her name spelled in lines of the poem if you write down the first letter of the first line, the second letter of the second line, and so forth.

For her these lines are penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Læda,
Shall find her own sweet name that, nestling, lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly this rhyme, which holds a treasure
Divine — a talisman — an amulet
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure;
The words — the letters themselves. Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor.
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a sabre
If one could merely understand the plot.
Enwritten upon this page whereon are peering
Such eager eyes, there lies, I say, perdu,
A well-known name, oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets; as the name is a poet’s, too.
Its letters, although naturally lying —
Like the knight Pinto (Mendez Ferdinando) —
Still form a synonym for truth. Cease trying!
You will not read the riddle though you do the best you can do.

The same day Poe addressed the above poem to Frances Osgood, his wife Virginia wrote him this poem. Poe’s name is spelled out in the first letter of each line.

Ever with thee I wish to roam —
Dearest my life is thine.
Give me a cottage for my home
And a rich old cypress vine,
Removed from the world with its sin and care
And the tattling of many tongues.
Love alone shall guide us when we are there —
Love shall heal my weakened lungs;
And Oh, the tranquil hours we’ll spend,
Never wishing that others may see!
Perfect ease we’ll enjoy, without thinking to lend
Ourselves to the world and its glee —
Ever peaceful and blissful we’ll be.
Saturday February 14. 1846.

Poe's Wife Virginia Poe

After Valentine’s Day 1846, Poe never spoke to Osgood again. In accordance with his wife’s wishes, as expressed in the above poem, Poe and his wife soon moved out of the city to a cottage in the countryside, far from “the tattling of many tongues.” Unfortunately, their love was not enough to heal her “weakened lungs.” Tuberculosis claimed her less than a year later.

The following year, for Lynch’s 1848 Valentine’s Day party, Poe’s long-distance admirer, Sarah Helen Whitman, sent Lynch a Valentine’s poem for Poe. Lynch read Whitman’s poem at the party but did not immediately publish it. She explained in a letter to Whitman, “The [poem] to Poe I admired exceedingly & would like to have published with your consent with the others, but he is in such bad odour with most persons who visit me that if I were to receive him, I should lose the company of many whom I value more. [Name obliterated] will not go where he visits &several others have an inveterate prejudice against him.” The name that was removed from the letter was likely Mrs. Ellet’s.

Sarah Helen Whitman

Whitman’s Valentine poem to Poe appears below.

If thy sad heart, pining for human love,
In its earth solitude grew dark with fear,
Lest the high Sun of Heaven itself should prove
Powerless to save from that phantasmal sphere
Wherein thy spirit wandered, — if the flowers
That pressed around thy feet, seemed but to bloom
In lone Gethsemanes, through starless hours,
When all who loved had left thee to thy doom,–
Oh, yet believe that in that hollow vale
Where thy soul lingers, waiting to attain
So much of Heaven’s sweet grace as shall avail
To lift its burden of remorseful pain,
My soul shall meet thee, and its Heaven forego
Till God’s great love, on both, one hope, one Heaven bestow.

Later in 1848, Whitman and Poe would meet, become engaged, and break off that engagement after only a month.

Visit the Poe Museum this Valentine’s Day to learn more about Edgar and Virginia Poe, Anna Charlotte Lynch, and Sarah Helen Whitman. A lovely portrait of Lynch is now hanging in the Elizabeth Arnold Poe Memorial Building. You can read the Poe Museum’s letter from Lynch to Poe here.




Register Today for the First Positively Poe Conference


Think Poe was just a tortured soul who only wrote scary stories? Think again. Poe invented the detective story, helped develop the science fiction genre, and made many other positive contributions to science and culture. On June 24-26, 2013 in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Poe Museum and the UVA Small Special Collections Library will co-sponsor the first Positively Poe Conference devoted to an exploration of how Poe made the world a better place. Be a part of this first-ever Positively Poe Conference by registering today. Here is more information about this exciting event:

Poe’s reputation as a tortured, tragic figure, melancholic poet and the “master of the macabre” has fueled his popularity for over a century and a half, while debunking stereotypes and myths associated with that reputation has always been an essential part of Poe criticism. Going beyond the debunking of the popular caricature, we would like to discover the “positive” side of Poe’s life and work. Just as his life had its ups and downs, his writing, too, reflects a wide range of experience, not exclusively the dark and dismal. We therefore invite papers on a broad diversity of subjects with a focus on the life-affirming and vital elements in Poe’s work. Papers may cover (but are not limited by) such themes as:

Poe and ethics (his ideas of love, friendship, manners)
Poe and art (aesthetic ideas in literature and criticism)
Science, philosophy, Eureka
Social and family life
Literary circles, friends and followers
Success stories of Poe’s poems and tales at home and abroad.

If you are interested in attending, just complete this registration form PositivelyPoeConferenceRegistrationForm and mail it to the address on the form or register online here.

For more information, contact Alexandra Urakova at positivelypoe@gmail.com.