Museum News


A Poe Family Bible and Other Genealogical Information from the Poe Museum’s Collection


The Poe Museum is regularly contacted by Poe family members looking for information about their relationship to Edgar Allan Poe. Although, the Museum’s main focus is Edgar Allan Poe, but its archives do contain some material related to his extended family. Among the pieces concerning Poe’s genealogy, George Poe, Jr.’s bible and the typescript of The Poe Family of Maryland are the most informative. These documents from the museum’s collection may not be of use to everyone seeking Poe genealogical information, but we hope they will be of interest to both Poe family members and the general public. You can read the documents by clicking on the links below.

The first piece is a Poe family that originally belonged to George Poe, Jr. (1778-1864). George’s father was Edgar’s grandfather’s brother, which means George and Edgar Poe’s father, David Poe, Jr., were first cousins. George Poe, Jr. was a successful banker, and both Edgar Poe and his father asked him for loans. George rejected a 1809 request from Poe’s father but did send Edgar Poe $100 in 1836 in order to help Edgar‘s mother-in-law open a boardinghouse.

This is a picture of George Poe, Sr. (1744-1823) and his wife Catherine Poe (1742-1806).

The most interesting feature of this bible is the family history contained on the pages seen here. Notice the diagram of a Poe family burial plot at Westminster Burying Grounds in Baltimore. Edgar was buried in the same cemetery but in a different plot—that of his paternal grandfather David Poe, Sr. In 1875, Edgar’s remains were moved to their present location near the cemetery gate.

This following link takes you to a PDF of the pages of Poe family births and deaths from the bible:

George Poe’s Bible

The next piece reproduced here is a typescript entitled The Poe Family of Maryland. It was given to the Poe Museum in 1930 by the granddaughter of Edgar Poe’s cousin Amelia Poe, twin sister of Neilson Poe (1809-1888). Edgar called Nielson his “worst enemy in the world.” Before Edgar married his cousin Virginia Clemm, Neilson, who was married to Virginia’s half-sister Josephine Emily Clemm, offered to take Virginia into his own home to see that she was properly educated.

Here is a fine photograph of Neilson Poe’s father Jacob Poe, brother of George Poe, Jr.

The link below takes you to a PDF of the typsecript:

The Poe Family of Maryland

The above images were pasted onto pages of the typescript. Also included was this photograph of a pastel portrait of Edgar Allan Poe. Notice it is copyrighted 1893. That is the year Neilson Poe’s daughter Amelia Poe requested that the original 1868 pastel by Oscar Halling (then in the possession of Neilson’s son John Prentiss Poe) be photographed in order to sell the photos at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Over the years, Poe relatives have contributed to the Poe Museum’s collections by donating pieces like Virginia Clemm Poe’s trinket box, Edgar Allan Poe’s vest, and Amelia Poe’s album containing Poe’s manuscript for “To Helen.” They have also donated portraits of various Poe family members. This is said to represent William Poe (1755-1804), the youngest brother of Edgar’s grandfather David Poe, Sr.

The Poe Museum would not have survived for the past ninety years without the help of Edgar Allan Poe’s relatives around the world. The museum will always be grateful for their contributions.




A Message from Poe Museum President Harry L. Poe


Dear Friend of the Poe Museum,

This morning two busloads of students arrived at the Poe Museum. In addition to touring the museum’s exhibits, the groups participated in a scavenger hunt, watched a performance of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and took a walking tour of neighborhood Poe sites. These are just a few of the programming options we now offer teachers in order to address the ever changing needs of their students. When classes are unable to visit the museum, we bring activities to schools and libraries throughout the Mid-Atlantic region or hold video conferences with schools outside the region. As teachers’ needs evolve, the Poe Museum will continue to adapt and to find new ways to cultivate a lifelong love of reading in audiences of all ages. This is one reason the Poe Museum has continued to serve for the past ninety years, and this is how it will thrive for the next ninety.

With all the changes taking place in its exhibits and programming, now is a great time to be a part of the Poe Museum. Earlier this year, we hosted a major exhibit of dozens of Poe manuscripts and letters which boosted our summer admissions by 26%. In June, students from across the country travelled to Richmond for the Fifth Annual Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference. In October, we placed a marker on the grave of Poe’s first and last fiancée Elmira Royster Shelton because the legend on her gravestone has completely worn away. Throughout the year, the museum’s renowned collection continued to grow with the major acquisitions of the first printing of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the only surviving manuscript for Poe’s poem “To Helen,” and several important books about Poe’s life and work from the collection of influential early twentieth century Poe scholar James Southall Wilson. In the year ahead, we look forward to hosting another Young Writers’ Conference as well as the first Positively Poe Conference, at which leading Poe scholars will explore Poe’s life affirming contributions to the arts and culture. We are already booking group tours for the spring semester and preparing for next year’s exhibits.

As the Poe Museum prepares for another exciting year, we continue to face challenges ranging from recent severe weather that caused the cancellation of several tours and off-site programs to the expenses associated with maintaining both our artifacts and the two-hundred sixty-year-old building that houses them. The Poe Museum has lasted ninety years because generations of donors have supported it along the way, and the museum will continue to promote Poe’s legacy for another ninety years with the help of you and future generations of members and donors. We are mindful that the City of Baltimore has closed the Poe House. As a private museum, we do not take our supporters for granted. If you have not made your annual donation to the Poe Museum this year, now is a perfect time to do so. You can donate right now by clicking this link. Your gift of $20, $50, $100, $500, or more can help us keep the Poe Museum’s programs available and affordable for audiences of all ages.

Evermore,

Harry Lee Poe
President




Museum Acquires Poe’s Most Famous Story and a Piece of Poe’s Home


Even after ninety years, the Poe Museum’s collection continues to grow. Here are a few of the recent acquisitions made possible by the Poe Museum’s friends.

First Printing of “The Tell-Tale Heart”

Almost everyone has read Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous short story of madness and murder, but this week the Poe Museum in Richmond finally acquired the coveted first printing of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The story first appeared in the inaugural issue (January 1843) of the Boston magazine The Pioneer, edited by poet James Russell Lowell (1819-1891). Since only three issues were published before Lowell discontinued the magazine, copies are now relatively rare. Considered the most ambitious literary journal of Antebellum America, The Pioneer’s three issues contained contributions by Poe, Lowell, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Poe Museum President Dr. Harry Lee Poe commented on the Poe Museum’s acquisition of the important first printing, “This is a prize for any collection especially because it is the story that is included in all the anthologies.” The piece will will go on display at the Poe Museum during the Museum’s day-long celebration of Poe’s birthday on January 19, 2013 from noon until midnight.

Though the story is a favorite with today’s readers, “The Tell-Tale Heart” was rejected the first time Poe tried to publish it– the publishers of the Boston Miscellany writing in their rejection letter, “If Mr. Poe would condescend to furnish more quiet articles, he would be a most desirable correspondent.” Lowell, however, liked the story and acquired it for the first issue of his own magazine, paying Poe ten dollars for the work. A number of magazines soon reprinted the story, but, owing to the lax copyright laws of the time, Poe did not receive any royalties for these unauthorized reprints. Two years later, the editor of Poe’s next collection of short stories did not select it for inclusion in what would be the last collection of Poe’s tales published during his lifetime.

The twentieth century’s leading Poe scholar Thomas Ollive Mabbott called Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” “a supreme artistic achievement,” and the tale has long been a favorite among readers. A staple at readings of Poe’s works, the story has been adapted several times to film, including the 2009 movie “Tell-Tale” starring Josh Lucas and the upcoming “The Tell-Tale Heart” starring Rose McGowan. It even inspired an episode of the television program “The Simpsons” in which Lisa built a diorama based on the story.

Plaster from Poe’s Home in Baltimore

On October 25, the outgoing Curator of the Poe House and Museum of Baltimore, Jeff Jerome, presented the Poe Museum with a piece of horse hair from the Poe House. The plaster was removed from the interior east wall of the front room during a wall repair, and Jerome saved a few pieces of the plaster the repairmen discarded at that time. This piece, which measures about seven inches in width, may be a remnant of the house’s original (ca. 1830) plaster and would, therefore, date to the time of Poe’s residence in the building from early 1833 until August 1835. During Poe’s residence there, he wrote some of his major early tales including his first horror story “Berenice.” He lived in the house with his grandmother Elizabeth Poe, his cousin Henry Clemm, his aunt (and future mother-in-law) Maria Poe Clemm, and his cousin (and future wife) Virginia Clemm.

This piece will be a welcome addition to the Poe Museum’s collection of building materials from various buildings (most of which have been demolished) in which Poe lived or worked. Among the Poe-related building materials already in the Poe Museum’s collection are bricks from the office in which Poe worked for the Southern Literary Messenger, bricks from the headquarters of Poe’s foster father’s firm Ellis and Allan, granite from the home in which Poe was married, bricks from Poe’s home in New York City, a mantle from Poe’s bedroom in Richmond, locks and hinges from other Richmond buildings associated with Poe, lumber from the Southern Literary Messenger office, an urn from the garden in which Poe courted his first fiancée, and the staircase from Poe’s boyhood home. The Poe Museum’s collection of furnishings from Poe-related buildings includes the author’s bed, the chair on which he sat while editing the Southern Literary Messenger, and paintings from his home.

An Article about Poe

Another fine addition to the Poe Museum’s collection was the recent gift of Michael Blankenship of Roanoke, Virginia. The gift, the April 1891 issue of Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly contains the article “Some Memorials of Edgar Allan Poe” by Clara Dargan Maclean, who reports on her visits to the surviving residences of Poe and her interviews with people who knew him. The article contains some fine engravings as well as some interesting details about Poe’s death. Maclean was a proponent of the theory that Poe’s death resulted from cooping, the practice of abducting and drugging of men to force them to vote multiple times. The actual cause of Poe’s disappearance and death remains a mystery.

Appropriately enough, Blankenship donated the piece to the Poe Museum on Halloween. This magazine will be added to the Poe Museum’s reference library, which boasts already thousands of books and periodicals about Edgar Allan Poe’s life and works.

Below are some of the beautiful engravings from the article.




Bring Your Little Poes to Poe’s Pumpkin Patch


It’s that time of year again. You and your kids are looking for fun Halloween activities, and you can’t do much better than Poe’s Pumpkin Patch, an afternoon of Poe-themed fun and games for children eleven and under. The event will take place in the Poe Museum’s garden on Sunday, October 28 from 2-5 P.M. Be sure to dress up for the costume contest and practice your technique for the mummy wrapping contest. Don’t forget to pick up a pumpkin (while supplies last). Make sure your kids grow up weird by taking them to Poe’s Pumpkin Patch!

Event is included in price of Poe Museum general admission. For more information, call the Poe Museum at 804-648-5523.




Junior High Students Attempt to Solve Mystery of Poe’s Death


As we approach the anniversary of Poe’s death (October 7) we are no closer to determining the precise cause of his mysterious demise. Fortunately, junior high students from around the country have stepped forward to provide their theories about Poe’s death. Below are some of the recent submissions. Click here if you would like to study the clues and offer your own theory. To see some of the earlier submissions, click here.

Tamayah Fields
Norfolk,VA
My theory is that Edgar Allen Poe died of bieng drugged. See, he was sick before he went to that little restaurant called ‘Saddler’s’ and I suppose it was just a little fever. I think someone must have recognized him at the restuarant and drugged his meal. Surely, they must have been a tad bit jealous and just drugged him.

Deborah Santiago
Springfield, MA
my theory is that when mr,poe was danosed with the tumor is whas all ready killing him, it was then when he contracted cholera that he body started working overtime to fight both the tumor and the sickness. cholera . the infection in his intestant caused him to vomit and have watery diarrhea which both led to dihidration followed by hullucinations. that he had. , fighting both tumor sickness and the infectio was causing a major probem to his body and not to menntion he proble drinking., he was basically commiting suicide withiut knowing t. hence why o body know why he died.

Madison Workman
Gallagher, WV
My theory starts out with him not having a regular heart bet. When someone has an irregular heart thing would be different for them in their body with out even knowing about it. In some cases with the heart when it is like this alchol will make it worse. So as he drank his heart got worse. If your heart is messed up and you don’t know about it then it can do damage to other parts of your body because that is where blood gets pumped through to get to the rest or the body. When blood dose not get to where it needs to be it can cause a toumer. In most cases a tuoumer will form in the brian. So it is possible for Edgar Allen Poe to have a brain toumer.
As far as the brain when it gets defected in some way it will try to heal its self. In the prossecs of that it may happen but it may just make it worse then it already is and the brain will slowly start to die and the person thinking nothing has changed will go one with their daily life. The problem with this is that everything will be the same to them like they have been doing it forever but in reality everything the person is doing is starnge. Some examples of this is a person could get rapped heart bets along with cold sweet and be very on edge. Another thing that could happen is that the person will start to forget the simplest things and not notice them when they normaly would. Something eles that could happen is the brain will start to play trick on the person like seeing and hearing things; basically hillunotions.
As the brain does this the body its self will stop working and the person could be easily talked into doing anything such as drinking. It would be very easy to talk some one like this into drinking if they already drink. Once the person is drunk they can get them to do any thing. In this case it was election day and people were heired to kidnapp people and take them to different places and make them vote for the same person over and over again so that person would have a better change of winning. When they tokk this person to all the voting places they could go to they would just leave that person some where till someone eles found them.
In which how Edgar Allen Poe’s heart was messed up already it was to much for his body to handle and he had to get sent to the hospital. While he was in there he’s brain kept him alive as long as it could till it fainly quit worked and the person died. This is my theroy.

Tamara Somerville
Norfolk,Virginia
Ithink he died from his very sick diesase and had a brain tumor.

Joseph Parker
Norfolk, Virginia
I think he died beacause of his brain tunmor.I think his brain had got off track and his heart started beating to fast.

rajae smith
Norfolk,Virginia
He died from drinking at a bar room, he was drunk

Diamond Webb
Norfolk,VA
I think he died from overdose of his medication because he was depressed that his wife died. So he wanted to blank it out and forget bout her death.

Breon Case
Norfolk, Virginia
I think Poe died from old age and too much stress.

Briana Hadaway
Norfolk
I think he died of depression from his family and wife dieing and to much stress

Anthony Harris
Norfolk, Virginia
I think he died from his addiction because it said he could not consume achohol without producing insanity

angel raya
Elmonte,California
my theory was that through his years of tourture and neglect before he was famous affected him mentaly to the point that he would write scary stories that expressed his inner torment so that the world would know exactly what he was feeling inside. when he died he was probably feeling so much inside that he died due to a mental shutdown of his important vessels and nerves in his brain.althogh this has not been proven this is my theory and i stand by it 100%.

Alexis O’Neal
Killeen , Texas
He was beaten & then used to place votes.

Dylan Marvl
Fremont, CA
Poe was murdered by a literary rival.

Kristen Gregory
Fremont, CA
He might’ve died of head trauma.

Alicia Rivera
Fremont, CA
He had cholera, and died.

Massie Block
Fremont, CA
Poe must’ve had brain cancer. Since it wasn’t treated quickly, or they didn’t have equipment to abolish cancer, the tumor grew, and eventually, he died.

Keri Hilson
San Fransisco, California
Edgar Allan Poe may of been murdered by one of his family members.

Alanna
Brunswick, Ohio
i think poe was deppressed about losing his wife to the samething he lost his mother and brother to. i think losing his wife brought up some unwanted memories so his body started shuting down and slowly stopped working till he died

Eric Grzywna
Brunswick, Ohio
He died of a brain tumor

brady lewis
Brunswick, Ohio
i think that poe had manic depression along with an irreguler heart beat and possibly alergic to some of the chemicals in alchol (since it does contain many toxins i am not shure witch one) and he died during a fit of depression after drinking he just simply gave up
or the depresent that is alchol threw off his hesrt so much in that one instant that his heartbeat was even more irreguler.

Halle Gray
Farmington Utah
That Poe died from all the medicine the docters were giving him. That he probably started out with a really bad cold or flu and then when he went to the docter they said it was something else, and they gave him medicine and the medicine just kept making it worse! So eventually after all the medicine and procedures he died.

Cicely Garnier
Montevallo,AL
Poe’s immune system was faulty from the extreme amounts of liquor he consumed daily. With the over-bearing thoughts of depression,he was pushed into mania, causing his hallucinations in his death bed. I would assume Poe was not a careful person nor fearful of strangers. Drinking before leaving Richmond with strangers at the height and end of his career, he was sure death was calling. “Rynolds” a fan, loved the idea of having Poe over to his home. Poe had the strange idea of wanting to be unknown and traded clothes with the stranger before taking off into the night. Poe in a drunken stupor fell and knocked himself unconscious. his body weary, his liver spotted, and his mind injured, he\’s taken to the hospital with death ringing his ear.

Hannah Joseph
Orlando, FL
I think that since Virgina Clemm dies at only 24 years old, he probably abused her to the point of death. A close family member or friend of Virgina who knows about the abuse could have hired someone that was with Poe on his trip to poison him.

Daniel R
Melrose , Illnoise
They are many clues that he may died of depression. From having his true love die and being a lonely orphan.

JJ Pamittan
Port Charlotte, Florida
Edgar Allan Poe’s death is caused by alcohol and beating. After his wife’s death in 1847, Poe became depressed and drank large amounts of alcohol. This led him to insanity. When seeing him drunk men began to beat him. The beatings and the alcohol only made is pre-existing condition even worse. Thus leading to his death.

Michael
Port Charlotte, Florida
He was Murdered.

justice Bowden
Xenia, Ohio
I belive that he had a blood clot in the vessel going in to his heart wtich made his heart beat slower witch made it harder for the blood to get to other parts of his body . so he might have ben doing an exersize or running that his body wasnt use to so his heart beat faster and its not use to that so it stoped

Lydia
Quincy, Massachusetts
When he drank he probably had a panic attack because he did live in a small house so he probably developed claustrophobia wich may have caued a heart-attack which triggered his brain tumer to hurt even more, so he drank even more thinking that he would feel better but made it worse. He also may have seen some things that scared him which caused him to die.

Alex
Mckinney, TX
Edgar Allan Poe boarded a ship during his strange disappearance. In a drunken stupor, he swam in and out of conciousness not knowing the difference between fantasy and reality. His nightmares became so realistic that he began to live them. After being found in the bar and being taken to the hospital, Edgar’s visions drove him mad, but not to the point of death. While on his journey, Poe made a pact with the devil that in exchange for his soul, he would be given the ability to write better than anyone in history. After falling into a deep sleep, Lucifer took Poe’s soul for his own keeping, and the doctors did not accurately assess his death and he was buried alive.

Alonte Wincher
Detriot,Mi
I think that someone was after his poems. Only because he made them with all his heart. And they all generate from what he knew. Poe most likely got beat to death. Also he could’ve have been making one about that person.




Last Day to Help the Poe Museum Win the Amazing Raise


This is the last day of the Community Foundation’s Amazing Raise. You have until 6 P.M. today to help the Poe Museum win prizes in this exciting fundraising competition. Your donation of $50 could win us thousands in prizes.

Why support the Poe Museum? For over ninety years, the Poe Museum has been inspiring audiences of all ages to love reading. As Virginia’s only literary museum, the Poe Museum is an invaluable resource to both teachers and students. Your donation today helps the Poe Museum continue to provide services like guided tours, exhibits, off-site programs, a young writers’ conference, and more to a global audience.

Please consider making a contribution to the Poe Museum today using this form.




Coming Next Summer: The 2013 Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference


If you are a high school student who loves writing, get ready for a unique week-long residential writing experience. On June 16-22, 2013, young writers from around the country will come to Richmond to meet professional novelists, journalists, poets, and editors who will share their expertise and advice. Over the course of the week, conferees will learn and practice the craft of writing. By visiting the sites Poe knew best and by learning more about Poe’s early years, attendees will become immersed in the inspiration and experiences that shaped Edgar Allan Poe when he was a teenager. The conference director is Edgar Award-winning author Dr. Harry Lee Poe, Charles Colson Chair of Faith and Culture at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, and author of several books including Evermore: Edgar Allan Poe and the Mystery of the Universe. You can see from photos from the 2012 conference here.

Here is what a past conferee wrote us about her experience at the conference:
“ I returned from the young writers’ conference on sunday and just wanted to write and say what an amazing time i had! it was so much fun and i learned a lot. hope to see ya’ll next year. –“

Here is what the mother of one of the conferees had to say:
“Dear Mr. Poe,
Now that A____ is back home and we have had some time to talk about the trip and the Conference itself, I cannot but thank you and your staff for having provided A_____ with a wonderful educational experience. He enjoyed every activity, lecture, and workshop. We truly appreciate your generosity and the time you (and the Museum’s staff) devoted to not only discuss various interesting topics with A____, but to advise him on practical and career paths.”

Mark your calendars. The application will be online soon. For more information, please write us at info@poemuseum.org.




Poe Museum Members Explore Shockoe Hill Cemetery


Last Sunday, the members of the Poe Museum were invited to a special Poe-themed tour of Richmond’s Shockoe Hill Cemetery led by Jeffry Burden, President of the Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery. In the above photo, some of the guests are visiting the grave of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall. In the below photo, Jeffry Burden shows members Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew’s monument. (Notice the guest sporting a new Poe Museum tote bag.)

In addition to the graves of Poe’s first love Jane Stanard and his foster father John Allan, Burden showed the group the lesser known graves of other Poe acquaintances. Below is a photo of the grave of John Carter, the doctor Poe visited his last night in Richmond. Poe left his walking stick at Carter’s house on East Broad Street, and it was from Carter’s heirs that the Poe Museum acquired the walking stick. According to a later account by Carter, published in November 1902 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, “On this evening [Poe] sat for some time talking, while playing with a handsome Malacca sword-cane recently presented to me by a friend, and then, abruptly rising, said, ‘I think I will step over to Saddler’s (a popular restaurant in the neighborhood) for a few moments,’ and so left without any further word, having my cane still in his hand. From this manner of departure I inferred that he expected to return shortly, but did not see him again, and was surprised to learn next day that he had left for Baltimore by the early morning boat. I then called on Saddler, who informed me that Poe had left his house at exactly twelve that night, starting for the Baltimore boat in company with several companions whom he had met at Saddler’s, and giving as a reason therefore the lateness of the hour and the fact that the boat was to leave at four o’clock. According to Saddler he was in good spirits and sober, though it is certain that he had been drinking and that he seemed oblivious of his baggage, which had been left in his room at the Swan Tavern. These effects were after his death forwarded by one of Mrs. Mackenzie’s sons to Mrs. Clemm in New York, and through the same source I received my cane, which Poe in his absent-mindedness had taken away with him.”

The next images shows the recently damaged monument of Rev. John McCabe, a poet who contributed his work to the Southern Literary Messenger while the journal was under Poe’s editorship. In his “Chapter on Autography,” Poe wrote, “Dr. JOHN C. MCCABE, of Richmond, Virginia, has written much and generally well, in prose and poetry, for the periodicals of the day — for the ‘Southern Literary Messenger’ in especial, and other journals.” In a March 3, 1836 letter to McCabe, Poe (who has just rejected one of McCabe’s poems for publication in the Messenger) writes, “I feel exceedingly desirous that you should be even more favorably known to the public than you are at present, and that this object should be accomplished thro’ the medium of the Messenger.”

The next picture shows the unmarked grave of Eliza White, daughter of Poe’s boss and owner of the Southern Literary Messenger Thomas White. Before his marriage to Virginia Clemm, Poe is said to have been a favorite dancing partner of Miss White’s. When Poe married Virginia, Eliza White was one of the few guests invited to the small ceremony. Over a decade later, she visited Poe and his wife at their cottage in Fordham, New York.

If you did not have a chance to join us for last weekend’s tour but still would like to visit historic Shockoe Hill Cemetery, you should come to the dedication on October 7 at 1 P.M. of a plaque honoring Poe’s first and last fiancee Elmira Royster Shelton.




Poe’s Last Love Remembered


In one of the last letters he would ever write, Edgar Poe told his aunt, Maria Clemm, “I think [Elmira] loves me more devotedly than any one I ever knew & I cannot help loving her in return.” In the same note, he spoke of his desire to marry Elmira, the woman to whom he had been engaged twenty two years earlier and who had inspired a number of his poems written during those two decades.

“Elmira” was Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton, one of the people who had the greatest influence on Poe’s life and work. When their first engagement was broken by her father, the eighteen-year-old Poe wrote about his sense of loss in poems including “Tamerlane,” “Song,” and “To Elmira.” Even Poe’s brother, William Henry Leonard Poe, wrote a short story about the doomed romance. A few critics also believe both Poe’s poem “To One in Paradise” and his 1848 version of “To Helen” describe the garden Poe and Elmira used to hide from her disapproving parents during their courtship. Years later, after a twenty-seven-year-old Poe encountered a married Elmira Shelton at a Richmond party, he wrote “To Zante” about the experience. The poem’s refrain of “No more!” foreshadowed the famous refrain of “Nevermore,” which would be published eight years later.

At the age of forty, when Poe renewed his engagement to the widowed Shelton, he may have told her she was his “Lost Lenore,” but it is unlikely that he had actually written “The Raven” about her. He may even have told her “Annabel Lee” had been written about her for there are echoes of their first courtship in such lines as “She was a child, and I was a child…” But other women may also have claims to inspiring the poem (if it was, in fact, based on any person in particular).

The significance of “Annabel Lee” to their relationship may, however, be reflected in the account of his desire to have it published for the first time with their wedding announcement in the local papers. Since Poe died just ten days before they would have been married, the poem was instead first printed at the end of his obituary written by Rufus Griswold in the New York Daily Tribune (although Poe had actually sold it to his John Sartain’s Union Magazine). As Poe lay dying in a Baltimore hospital, he repeatedly told his physician he had a wife in Richmond to whom he needed to return. Though the marriage had not yet taken place, Poe’s “wife” might have been Elmira Shelton.

Upon hearing word of Poe’s death, Shelton wrote to Poe’s aunt Maria Clemm, that he had been “the dearest object on earth.” Shelton then wrote Poe’s attending physician John J. Moran, “Mr. Poe was more to me than any other living being” and expressing her desire to know everything about Poe’s final days.

In her remaining years, Shelton spoke little of Poe and refused to cooperate with Poe’s biographers when they requested interviews. One of Shelton’s granddaughters, who lived with her, later claimed to know nothing of Poe’s relationship with her grandmother until around 1876, probably when she read about it in one of Poe’s biographies. In an 1875 interview with Richmond sculptor and historian Edward V. Valentine, Shelton, likely embarrassed by her connection with such an infamous figure as Poe (whose first biography had portrayed him as a drunken madman in an attempt to impugn Poe’s character), went so far as to deny she had actually been engaged to Poe in 1849, but this is contradicted by one of Shelton’s own letters written to Maria Clemm on September 22, 1849 in which Shelton clearly implies she is engaged to Poe. The newspapers at the time also reported that “It was universally reported that he was engaged to be married. The lady was a widow, of wealth and beauty, who was an old flame of his, and whom he declared to be the ideal and original of his Lenore.” (John M. Daniel. Richmond Semi-Weekly Examiner. October 12, 1849). When Shelton finally granted John Moran an interview for his book A Defense of Edgar Allan Poe (1885), she verified that she had indeed been engaged to Poe. In the same book, Moran repeatedly refers to Shelton as “[Poe’s] ‘Annabel Lee,’” further spreading the rumor that Poe had written the poem about her. After Shelton’s death in 1888, her obituary in the Richmond Whig bore the headline “Poe’s First and Last Love.”

Since Shelton was so reluctant to speak about Poe, many of the facts of their relationship remain secret, and what has come to light is often a mixture of legend and truth. It is known that Shelton kept as souvenirs of the author a daguerreotype of Poe (known today as the “Traylor Daguerreotype”), a mother-of-pearl purse, a locket containing Poe’s hair, a drawing Poe made of her as a teenager, and an albumen print photograph of Poe. The latter was printed decades after Poe’s death.

When the Poe Museum opened in 1922, Shelton’s great granddaughter, Mrs. Elsie W. Pearson, was one of its founding members and later left Shelton’s daguerreotype, eyeglasses, and photograph of Poe to the museum. Other Shelton descendants, Thomas and William Cobb, also donated Shelton family items to the Poe Museum, continuing the tradition of Shelton family support of the museum. Visitors to the museum can today see some of these items on display as reminders of the role Shelton played in Poe’s life.

Given Shelton’s influence over Poe’s life and work, one might be surprised to know that she is buried in an unmarked grave next to her husband’s severely weathered and barely readable monument. This October, the Poe Museum, which was instrumental in marking the grave of Poe’s mother and in placing a plaque on the grave of Poe’s first love, Jane Stanard, will finally mark the grave of Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton in Richmond’s Shockoe Hill Cemetery. You are invited to attend the historic unveiling on Saturday, October 7, 2012 at 1 PM and to pay long overdue homage to a woman who, as the muse of a great poet, helped shape the course of world literature.




Conference to Celebrate Brighter Side of Poe


Below is a call for papers for a new kind of Poe conference coming next summer to Charlottesville, Virginia.

Positively Poe
Charlottesville, Virginia • June 24-26, 2013

Sponsored by The Poe Museum of Richmond, Virginia
at the Small Special Collections Library of the University of Virginia

CALL FOR PAPERS

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.

Deadline for submission of proposals is October 31, 2012.
Please submit proposals to Alexandra Urakova at positivelypoe@gmail.com.

Organized by Harry Poe hpoe@uu.edu 731-661-5404 and
Alexandra Urakova aurakova2008@yandex.ru