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.
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.
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.