Museum News

Charles Dickens Meets Edgar Allan Poe

Poe (left) and Dickens (right)

Charles Dickens turned 200 today. Many readers know the novels of Dickens, but few may know that he and Poe were personally acquainted. Edgar Allan Poe was an admirer of Dickens’s works since “strongly recommending” Dickens’s works to American readers in a June 1836 review from the Southern Literary Messenger. In an 1839 issue of Burton’s Magazine, Poe wrote, “Charles Dickens is no ordinary man, and his writings must unquestionably live.”

Three years later, during Dickens’s 1842 tour of the United States, he met Poe in Philadelphia. Though we do not know exactly what was said during their conversation, we can assume Dickens agreed to help Poe find publishers for his work in England. There is no evidence Dickens told Poe about the death of his pet raven Grip, but, by the time of their meeting, Poe had already read Dickens’s novel Barnaby Rudge, which features a talking raven.

Today, three letters from Dickens to Poe survive as evidence of the meeting of Poe and Dickens. The texts are printed below.

Upon receiving Poe’s invitation to meet, Dickens wrote Poe:

United States Hotel, March 6, 1842.
My Dear Sir, — I shall be very glad to see you whenever you will do me the favor to call. I think I am more likely to be in the way between half-past eleven and twelve, than at any other time. I have glanced over the books you have been so kind as to send me, and more particularly at the papers to which you called my attention. I have the greater pleasure in expressing my desire to see you on this account. Apropos of the “construction” of “Caleb Williams,” do you know that Godwin wrote it backwards, — the last volume first, — and that when he had produced the hunting down of Caleb, and the catastrophe, he waited for months, casting about for a means of accounting for what he had done?
Faithfully yours always,
Charles Dickens.

After returning to London, Dickens wrote Poe:

London, 1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, Regent’s Park,
November 27, 1842.
Dear Sir, — by some strange accident (I presume it must have been through some mistake on the part of Mr. Putnam in the great quantity of business he had to arrange for me), I have never been able to find among my papers, since I came to England, the letter you wrote to me at New York. But I read it there, and think I am correct in believing that it charged me with no other mission than that which you had already entrusted to me by word of mouth. Believe me that it never, for a moment, escaped my recollection; and that I have done all in my power to bring it to a successful issue — I regret to say, in vain.
I should have forwarded you the accompanying letter from Mr. Moxon before now, but that I have delayed doing so in the hope that some other channel for the publication of our book on this side of the water would present itself to me. I am, however, unable to report any success. I have mentioned it to publishers with whom I have influence, but they have, one and all, declined the venture. And the only consolation I can give you is that I do not believe any collection of detached pieces by an unknown writer, even though he were an Englishman, would be at all likely to find a publisher in this metropolis just now.
Do not for a moment suppose that I have ever thought of you but with a pleasant recollection; and that I am not at all times prepared to forward your views in this country, if I can.
Faithfully yours,
Charles Dickens.

Almost four years later, Dickens wrote Poe:

1 Devonshire Terrace, London. Nineteenth March 1846.
Dear Sir,
Although I have not received your volume, I avail myself of a leisure moment to thank you for the gift of it.
In reference to your proposal as regards the Daily News, I beg to assure you that I am not in any way connected with the Editorship or current Management of that Paper. I have an interest in it, and write such papers for it as I attach my name to. This is the whole amount of my connection with the Journal.
Any such proposition as yours, therefore, must be addressed to the Editor. I do not know, for certain, how that gentleman might regard it; but I should say that he probably has as many corespondents in America and elsewhere, as the Paper can afford space to.
I am Dear Sir
Faithfully Yours
Charles Dickens
Edgar A. Poe Esquire

Fall 2011 Poe Museum Newsletter

Here is the latest issue of the Poe Museum’s newsletter Evermore containing updates on the Museum’s events, exhibits, and its 90th anniversary.


Two New Paintings of Eliza Poe

In honor of Edgar Allan Poe’s mother on the bicentennial of her death, a Richmond artist painted these two portraits of Eliza Poe. The first is closely based on the only surviving life portrait of Eliza Poe.

The second portrait was painted from the actress Debbie Phillips during one of her performances as Eliza Poe. This painting is currently hanging in the Poe Museum’s gift shop.

Edgar Allan Poe Bust to be Unveiled at Stoke Newington

On June 4th, as part of the Stoke Newington Literary Festival, the boutique cinema experience, The Flicker Club, will kick off a day of celebrations to honor former London N16 resident, American writer Edgar Allan Poe. The day will culminate in the unveiling of a permanent statue of the undisputed master of the horror story on the site of Manor House School on Stoke Newington Church Street, which he attended from 1818 to 1820 from the age of nine.

The day long event will start with a light-hearted panel discussion on Poe, his work and his legacy, which will include references to his work on The Simpsons to having an American football club named after his poem ‘The Raven’. The panel will include horror and fantasy writer Stephen Jones, author Christopher Fowler, crime fiction expert Barry Forshaw, science fiction author Pat Cadigan, short story writer Nicholas Royle and journalist, film critic, and fiction writer Kim Newman

This will be followed a screening of Steven Berkoff’s “The Tell Tale Heart” introduced by Berkoff himself.

At approximately 6pm outside The Fox Reformed on Church Street, exactly on the site of the old school house, a specially commissioned bust of Edgar Allan Poe by artist Ralph Perrott will be unveiled by Steven Berkoff.

The celebrations will then continue into the evening with Tin Shed Theatre Company presenting Edgar Allan Poe’s Terrifying Tales.

To end the day there will be a screening of Roger Corman’s ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ as a tribute to both Edgar Poe and also to Vincent Price on the centenary of his birth.

Throughout there will be an Edgar Allan Poe exhibition at Stoke Newington Town Hall from the private collection of Peter Fawn which will include hand written letters to the original art work from Marvel’s Batman vs Edgar Allan Poe

All guests will get the regular Flicker treatment of a drinks reception, copies of the source material and limited edition copies of the poster artwork by Royal Academy Artist Emma Molony.

The Flicker Club is a boutique cinema club that redefines the film-going experience by creating a unique way of rediscovering cinematic treasures. They screen movies adapted from short stories or novels and thus celebrate the power of the written word and the silver screen
The club invites surprise special guests from the worlds of entertainment and literature to read the source material before showing its big-screen incarnation. This is also an opportunity of experiencing the process of adaption at first hand.
Every month, the flicker club collaborates with an artist for the event to reinterpret the film poster and create a bespoke flickbook for the event. Previous artists have included Tommy Penton, Kate Gibb, Jo Ratcliffe, Michael Gillette, Shiv, Dan Canyon, Rob Ryan, Adrian Johnson & Graham Humphries.
The Flicker Club was set up in conjunction with FilmMAD, the cinematic branch of the Make a Difference Trust; established to support people facing hardship as a result of HIV and AIDS in Africa. All profits go directly to them.
The Statue
The Statue of Edgar Allan Poe was made by the sculptor, Ralph Perrott. It is made in clay and cast in durable resin with stone facade. His company ‘Talisman’ have previously been commissioned to make busts of celebrated figures as diverse Lawrence of Arabia and Terry Gilliam, which was recently featured in The Evening Standard. This is the second time that Talisman has created a bust of Edgar Poe. The previous commission was for the 1999 Poe festival in Prague. Talisman have presented sculpting workshops at The Imperial War Museum. The company specializes in military figurines.

Stoke Newington Literary Festival
Stoke Newington Literary Festival was set up in 2010 to celebrate the area’s history as a gathering place for dissenters, radical thinkers and writers including Daniel Defoe, Mary Wollstonecraft, Edgar Allen Poe and Anna Laetitia Barbauld. It’s a non-profit venture which aims to raise money for literacy initiatives within Hackney.

In its inaugural year, Tony Benn, Prof AC Grayling, Shappi Khorsandi, China Mieville, Iain Sinclair, Jeremy Hardy, Toby Litt and Edwyn Collins joined us for what was to become a sell-out weekend.

This year, as well as the Edgar Allen Poe strand, we’re joined by Alexei Sayle, Jon Ronson, Elif Shafak, Stella Duffy, Linda Grant, Suzanne Moore, Dan Cruikshank, Shaun Keaveny, Paul Morley, Alex Wheatle, Oliver Jeffers and many more in a programme that covers the area’s role in the growth of reggae & ska, a celebration of Mary Wollstonecraft, African Diaspora writing and an event about bicycles.

Poe’s description of Stoke Newington:
“a dream like and spirit soothing place, that venerable old town. At this moment, I fancy, I feel the refreshing chilliness of its deeply-shadowed avenues, inhale the fragrance of its thousand shrubberies, and thrill anew with indefinable delight, at the deep hollow note of the church-bell, breaking, each hour, with sullen and sudden roar, upon the stillness of the dusky atmosphere in which the fretted gothic steeple lay imbedded and asleep…..

Poe’s description of St Mary’s Church in Stoke Newington which still stands:
…Of this church the principal of our school was the pastor…..This reverend man, with countenance so demurely benign, with robes so glossy and so clerically flowing, with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and so vast, – could this be he who, of late, with sour visage, and in snuffy habiliments, administered, ferule in hand, the Draconian laws of the academy? Oh gigantic paradox, too utterly monstrous for solution!”