One hundred seventy years ago, the most famous poem in American literature made its first appearance in print. Edgar Allan Poe had initially shown his poem “The Raven” to the staff of Graham’s Magazine, which rejected it. Afterward, George Colton agreed to publish the poem in his magazine, The American Review, a Whig Party publication. Colton probably paid Poe about fifteen dollars, which was standard based on space rates for the magazine. That would be about $468.75 in today’s money. Different sources relate that Poe might have been paid $9, $10, or even $30 for the piece.
“The Raven” appeared in the February issue, which came out in the middle of January. The editor prefaced the poem with this comment:
Although the poem first appeared under the pseudonym “____ Quarles” instead of under Poe’s own name, the identity of the author was soon revealed when the Evening Mirror reprinted “The Raven” in the January 29 issue. The editor, N.P. Willis, provided the following introduction:
We are permitted to copy (in advance of publication) from the 2d No. of the American Review, the following remarkable poem by EDGAR POE. In our opinion, it is the most effective single example of “fugitive poetry” ever published in this country; and unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent, sustaining of imaginative lift and “pokerishness.” It is one of these “dainties bred in a book” which we feed on. It will stick to the memory of everybody who reads it.
The New York Express claimed the poem “far surpasses anything that has been done even by the best poets of the age…In power and originality of versification the whole is no less remarkable than it is, psychologically, a wonder.”
The poem soon caused a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. Elizabeth Barrett (now know as Elizabeth Barrett Browning) wrote Poe, “Your ‘Raven’ has produced a sensation, a ‘fit horror,’ here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by the ‘Nevermore,’ and one acquaintance of mine who has the misfortune of possessing a ‘bust of Pallas’ never can bear to look at it in the twilight.” Poe would proudly show this letter to guests to his home.
When Poe issued the book The Raven and Other Poems in 1845, he dedicated it to Elizabeth Barrett. Having just read Poe’s terror tale “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” she wrote her future husband Robert Browning, “I send you besides a most frightful extract from an American magazine sent to me yesterday…no, the day before…on the subject of mesmerism—& you are to understand, if you please, that the Mr. Edgar Poe who stands committed in it, is my dedicator…whose dedication I forgot, by the way, with the rest—so, while I am sending, you shall have his poems with his mesmeric experience & decide whether the outrageous compliment to me EBB or the experiment on M. Vandeleur [sic] goes furthest to prove him mad.”
Around the same time, the young British artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti read “The Raven” and drew some illustrations for it. He also wrote a poem, “The Blessed Damosel,” inspired by it. This became Rossetti’s first popular poem, and he went on to become a prominent poet and painter.
A month after its first printing, “The Raven” was parodied when the Mirror printed “The Owl: A Capital Parody on Mr. Poe’s ‘The Raven’” by “Sarles.” This was followed by “The Veto” by “Snarles” in the February 22 New York World, “The Craven” by “Poh!” in the March 25 Evening Mirror, “A Vision” by “Snarles” in the April 15 New World, “The Gazelle” by C.C. Cooke in the May 3 Weekly Mirror, “The Whippoorwill” by “I” in the June 7 Weekly Mirror and “The Turkey” in the June 25 Alexander’s Weekly Messenger.
The popularity of “The Raven” allowed Poe to perform his poetry to large audiences in the nation’s major cities. He became so associated with the poem that his nickname became “The Raven.” In spite of its success, the poem made Poe very little money. Without effective copyright laws, his works were reprinted multiple times without Poe being paid.
After seventeen decades, “The Raven” remains a favorite with readers, it is read countless times at Halloween, and even has an NFL team named after it. In honor of the anniversary of the first printing of Poe’s greatest poem, we will end this post with a reading by that master interpreter of Poe’s works, Vincent Price.
Over nine hundred people gathered at the Poe Museum for its annual Poe Birthday Bash, which featured twelve hours of entertainment and tours. One of the days highlights was the Poe Birthday Cake (pictured above). Below is a shot the people lining up for a slice of cake.
Kids enjoyed fun and games throughout the day. Here is a photo of the craft table staffed by historical interpreter Debbie Phillips, dressed as Poe’s last fiancée Elmira Royster Shelton.
One little girl came dressed as a raven.
Some kids enjoyed the model of Poe’s Richmond.
Some liked the Richard Corben exhibit.
Others just liked the hitching post.
Adults also got into the act by making their own Poe mustaches.
Three bands performed, including The Embalmers.
Actors Michael Fawcett, Davide Michero, Dean Knight, and Debbie Phillips performed Poe’s works including “The Raven,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “Berenice.”
Guests also enjoyed walking tours of Poe sites in the neighborhood. Here is one of the groups visiting the Church Hill Overlook.
Here they are at St. John’s Church.
The Sisters in Crime discussed the art of mystery writing.
Professor M. Thomas Inge from Randolph-Macon College gave an interesting presentation about the Poe illustrations of Richard Corben, whose work is now on display in the Poe Museum’s Exhibit Building.
Poe’s last fiancée returned from the dead to give a performance and tour of the sites she and Edgar used to visit together.
The evening culminated with the midnight toast to Poe in the Poe Shrine.
The Poe Museum would like to thank everyone who joined us for Poe’s Birthday Bash, and we look forward to seeing everybody back here next year.
Now in performances in the heart of Broadway at New World Stages!
Following Sold Out Runs at London’s Barbican Center
and The New Victory Theatre
Previews Begin Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Opening Night Set for Sunday, January 25, 2015
November 19, 2014 (New York, NY) – NEVERMORE – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, a unique theatrical experience combining haunting music, poetic storytelling, and stunning stagecraft to tell the fascinating and moving life story of iconic American writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), will begin performances at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues) on Wednesday, January 14, 2015, with an official opening night scheduled for Sunday, January 25, 2015.
Beautiful and bizarre, playful and perverse, NEVERMORE- The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe is a whimsical and chilling musical play about the enigmatic writer who has fascinated the world for more than a century. A literary rock star in his day, Poe struggled with tragedy and addiction, poverty and loss, yet produced some of the world’s most original, visionary and enduring literature before dying in mysterious circumstances at the age of 40. At once gorgeous and grotesque, NEVERMORE blurs the line between fact and fiction, exploring the events that shaped Poe’s character and career and giving powerful expression to Poe’s words “all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
NEVERMORE is written, composed, and directed by Catalyst Theatre’s (Edmonton, Canada) Artistic Director, Jonathan Christenson. The physical world of NEVERMORE – including sets, costumes, and lighting – is designed by Bretta Gerecke. The production features choreography by Laura Krewski and sound design is by Wade Staples.
Originally produced by Catalyst Theatre of Edmonton, Canada in 2009 to commemorate the bicentennial of Poe’s birth (January 19, 1809), NEVERMORE has toured extensively, including sold out limited engagements at London’s Barbican Center and New York’s New Victory Theatre in 2010. NEVERMORE has been expanded since its first New York appearance in 2010, with several new songs added and structural revisions made to the original script.
Six of the seven original NEVERMORE cast members will return for this engagement – Gaelan Beatty, Shannon Blanchett, Beth Graham, Ryan Parker, Garett Ross, and Scott Shpeley. Casting for the seventh and final role will be announced in the coming weeks.
NEVERMORE is produced by Radio Mouse Entertainment (M. Kilburg Reedy and Jason E. Grossman), Martin Hummel, Caiola Productions, Terry Schnuck, Susan Jaffe Tane, and Hernreich-Horvath Productions in association with Catalyst Theatre. The associate producers include Fireboat Productions, Carol L. Bixler, and Deepa Desai.
NEVERMORE – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe will be performed on the following schedule at New World Stages (340 West 50th street, between 8th and 9th avenues): Monday at 7:00pm, Wednesday at 8:00pm, Thursday at 2:30pm and 8:00pm, Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 2:30pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday at 3:00pm.
Tickets, priced $75 – $95, can be purchased at Telecharge.com or by calling 212-239-6200. A limited number of $30 rush tickets for each performance will be available for purchase by audience members under 30 years old (valid ID required at box office) two hours prior to each performance while supplies last.
CREATIVE TEAM BIOGRAPHIES
JONATHAN CHRISTENSON — Writer/ Composer/ Lyricist/ Director – Jonathan is a director, playwright and composer and the artistic director of Canada’s Catalyst Theatre. His plays – Vigilante, The Soul Collector, Nevermore – The Imaginary Life & Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, The Blue Orphan, and The House of Pootsie Plunket, to name a few – have appeared at theatres throughout England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, the U.S. and Canada and at such festivals as the London International Festival of Theatre, Luminato, Le Carrefour, The High Performance Rodeo, The PuSh Festival, and Magnetic North. His work as a writer, director and composer has been honoured by Canada’s Sterling, Betty Mitchell and SAT Awards, Scotland’s Fringe First and Herald Angel Awards, and the City of Edmonton’s Salute to Excellence Awards. He has also received multiple nominations for the UK’s Stage Awards, the Dora Awards, and the Alberta Book Awards. In 2011, Venture Magazine named him one of “Alberta’s Fifty Most Influential People” and Alberta Playwrights Network chose him as one of Alberta’s one hundred most significant theatre artists of the past one hundred years. His plays have been published by Playwrights Canada Press and Newest Press and his work has been featured in American Theatre, Canadian Theatre Review, PRISM International, Canada World View and All Stages Magazine. Last year Bayeux Arts published his first children’s book, Maximilian’s Mistake.
BRETTA GERECKE – Production Designer (Costumes, Lighting, Set) – graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Interior Design and from the University of Alberta with a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Design. She is the resident designer at Catalyst Theatre, where she has designed world premieres that have toured internationally to Great Britain, Australia, and the U.S. and across Canada. Bretta also works at The Citadel Theatre, Canadian Stage, Edmonton Opera, Calgary Opera, Theatre Calgary, The Globe Theatre, The Stratford Festival and Cirque du Soleil. She is the recipient of over twenty Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards, Jessie Richardson Awards, Betty Mitchell Awards and SAT Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Set, Lighting and Costume Design; The Enbridge Award for Best Emerging Artist; The Global Women of Vision Award; Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40. She designed a summer home on Devil’s Lake, Alberta, is a marathon runner and continues her work as an Archaeological Illustrator.
LAURA KREWSKI – Choreographer – has choreographed original musicals Frankenstein, Hunchback and Vigilante for Catalyst Theatre. She recently choreographed Enron (National Arts Centre), Spamalot (Citadel Theatre), Next to Normal (Citadel Theatre/Theatre Calgary), Chicago and Footloose (The Mayfield), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Belfry Theatre and Vancouver Arts Club), Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore (Edmonton Opera), The Forbidden Phoenix and As You Like It (Citadel Theatre), and new musicals RICH and Rapa Nui (Manitoba Theatre for Young People). Laura also produced and choreographed FreeFall and Jazz Playground and is currently developing a new work as an independent artist. She is involved with Orchesis Dance Group at the University of Alberta, the Citadel/Banff Professional Theatre Program and the Canadian College of Performing Arts. Laura has received the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Arts and Culture, three Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards and a Betty Mitchell Award for Outstanding Choreography.
RADIO MOUSE ENTERTAINMENT – Lead Producer – Founded by M. Kilburg Reedy and Jason E. Grossman, Radio Mouse Entertainment’s theater credits include the Broadway production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (winner of the 2013 Tony, Drama Desk, NY Drama Critics, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Play), the Broadway and National Tour productions of Peter and the Starcatcher (nominated for 9 Tony Awards; winner of 5 Tony Awards) and The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway. In London, Jason and Kilburg co-produced the Olivier Award nominated West End production of Lend Me A Tenor, The Musical.
GAELAN BEATTY first encountered Catalyst Theatre through Nevermore several years ago and was immediately struck with a desire to join the team. A graduate of Studio 58 in Vancouver, he has toured the country from Whitehorse to Montreal and performed in musicals and Shakespearian plays as well as on TV and in commercials. He’s worked with Bard on the Beach, Electric Company Theatre, Arts Club Theatre, Gateway Theatre, Globe Theatre, Carousel Theatre, and Green Thumb Theatre, and appeared in Man of La Mancha at the Globe Theatre (directed by Max Rieme), among others.
SHANNON BLANCHET – A graduate of the University of Alberta’s BFA Acting program, select credits include: Whiplash Weekend (Teatro la Quindicina), A Picasso (Chorus Productions), Shatter (The Maggie Tree), Love’s Labour’s Lost (Freewill Shakespeare Festival), PopTart (Pony Productions), and Von Mitterbrink’s Second (ACME Theatre). She is a two-time Sterling Award winner for her performances on Edmonton stages and was named one of 2014′s Top 40 under 40 by Avenue Magazine. She is an Artistic Associate with Teatro La Quincidina and a member of the Canadian Comedy award-winning improv troupe, Die Nasty.
BETH GRAHAM – Catalyst credits: Nevermore (UK Lift Festival, Luminato, Magnetic North, New Victory Theatre, Vertigo Theatre, and Persephone Theatre), Hunchback (Vancouver Playhouse), The Blue Orphan, Twelve, Fusion: Let There Be Light and Sticky Shoes. Other selected theatre credits include: The Penelopiad, The Drowning Girls, Death of a Salesman, A Christmas Carol (Citadel Theatre), The Wizard of Oz, Strawberries In January (Globe Theatre), Victor and Victoria’s Terrifying Tale of Terrible Things (Kill Your Television), Cause and Effect (Teatro la Quindicina). Beth is a graduate from the University of Alberta’s BFA acting program. She is the co-creator of several plays including: The Drowning Girls (national tour) and Mules. Her most recent play, The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble, has been produced in Edmonton (Theatre Network) and Toronto (Factory Theatre).
RYAN PARKER – Ryan is a graduate of the Grant MacEwan Theatre Arts Program and has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama from the University of Alberta. Selected credits include Three Sisters (Broken Toys Theatre), Eros and The Itchy Ant, East of My Usual Brain (Teatro La Quindicina), Mesa (Globe Theatre), Buddy, …Spelling Bee (The Mayfield Theatre), Hamlet, Taming of the Shrew (Free Will Players), and What the Butler Saw (Studio Theatre). Ryan is a co-creator/member of the ukulele comedy band The Be Arthurs and a Gemini/Canadian Screen Award nominated writer for the sketch comedy television series Caution: May Contain Nuts. Most recently he’s been seen in Barefoot in the Park for Teatro La Quindicina, The Craze/Musical Direction in One Man, Two Guvnors for Citadel Theatre.
GARETT ROSS – Garett is a graduate of the Grant MacEwan Theatre Arts Program and has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama from the University of Alberta. Garett has been with the Nevermore company since the show began six years ago. He has also worked with Catalyst Theatre on Soul Collector and Vigilante. Some of the other shows in which he’s performed include Liberation Days (Theatre Calgary), Jack Goes Boating (Sage Theatre/Shadow Theatre), Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet (The Citadel Theatre), Hairspray, Shear Madness, Chicago, The Wizard of Oz (Mayfield Dinner Theatre), A Year in Winter, That Darn Plot, Beginning of August (Shadow Theatre), Uncle Van, and The Old Curiosity Shop (TheatRepublic/ Poorman’s classic Co-op). Garett has been nominated for Sterling Awards for his work in Jack Goes Boating (Sage Theatre), That Darn Plot (Shadow Theatre), The Old Curiosity Shop (Poor Man’s Classic Co-op), and The Raven and the Writing Desk (Acme Theatre).
SCOTT SHPELEY – Scott is an actor, singer, and multi-instrumentalist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting from the University of Alberta. He has been with Nevermore since 2008, and has performed with the show across Canada and in London. Scott was part of the first two Canadian productions of One Man, Two Guvnors as the drummer/washboard player in Calgary, Alberta, and the bassist in Edmonton, Alberta. Other credits include You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Alberta Theatre Projects); Sweeney Todd and Rope (Vertigo Theatre); Peril in Paris (Lunchbox Theatre). Scott is the lead singer and bassist in the electro-dance band The Play Plays.
The subject of Dr. Inge’s presentation is “Masters of the Macabre: Edgar Allan Poe and Richard Corben.” According to Dr. Inge:
Without Edgar Allan Poe and some of his fellow popular writers, there might not have been a comic book or a graphic novel. That is to say, in the early days of the comic book industry, desperate to meet the insistent and inevitable monthly publication deadlines, writers and artists turned for inspiration, or outright piracy, to the popular short fiction of such authors as O. Henry, Stephen Crane, Ambrose Bierce, or Guy de Maupassant. Before them, the nature and structure of the short story had been fully defined by Poe in his reviews and critical essays in the nineteenth century. Poe did not invent the short story, but he so successfully outlined what an effective piece of short fiction should be that everyone used his standards by which to measure their own work. Reading Poe was like taking a master class in writing fiction.
Little wonder then that the early pioneers of a new art form more frequently turned to Poe than any other author for source material and inspiration. It has been estimated that over 300 adaptations of Poe’s stories and poems have appeared in comic books and graphic novels from 1943 to the present. While nearly every major and most of the minor comic book authors and artists have turned to Poe at one time or another in their careers, only one has dedicated a major part of his life’s work to adapting his poems and tales—Richard Corben. Emerging from the underground comix movement in the 1960s, he quickly became a major force on the larger comic book scene with his work for Heavy Metal magazine and the Warren publications. Those who picked up copies of his early work like Den, Rowlf, or Fantagor, were immediately absorbed by the maturity and beauty of his style. Readers knew that they were in the presence of an extraordinary talent. Corben’s imagination pushed the boundaries of the visual possibilities of aesthetics in comic art in amazing new directions.
Beginning with his adaptations of Poe for Creepy , Eerie, and other Warren titles, especially the brilliantly rendered version of “The Raven” in Creepy No. 67 (December 1974), Corben has proven to be the most acute and creative interpreter of Poe in comics history. All of his comic book work, in fact, has been imbued with the same gothic sensibility and keen eye for the grotesque that possessed Poe himself. Thus his alliance with Poe has been a fortuitous and productive one. It is a marriage made in …, well one hesitates to say heaven. Time and again Corben has turned, or returned, to his favorite poems and stories, each demonstrating an original vision, a new way to interpret or understand Poe’s themes. This paper will provide an appreciative overview of Corben’s fascination with Poe throughout his career and what his vision has added to our general understanding of Poe’s cultural importance. Quite likely Poe would have loved these graphic versions of his work and recognized in Richard Corben a soul-mate.
About Dr. Inge:
M. Thomas Inge is the Robert Emory Blackwell Professor of Humanities at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, where he teaches and writes about American humor and comic art, film and animation, Southern literature and culture, William Faulkner, and Asian literature.
Inge has been writing about the comics and animation for over thirty years. He has written essays for fan publications, popular periodicals, reference works, and scholarly journals. He contributed for over twenty five years a chronology of the history of the comic book to the annual editions of Robert M. Overstreet’s Comic Book Price Guide. His books on the subject include Comics as Culture (1990), Great American Comics (1990), Dark Laughter: The Satiric Art of Oliver W. Harrington (1993), Anything Can Happen in a Comic Strip (1995), Charles M. Schulz: Conversations (2000), The Incredible Mr. Poe: Comic Book Adaptations of the Works of Edgar Allan Poe (2008), and Mark Twain in the Comics (2009). Most recently he edited the collected essays of Charles M. Schulz which appeared as My Life with Charlie Brown (2010). Inge is serving as General Editor of the “Conversations with Comic Artists” and the “Great Comic Artists” series for the University Press of Mississippi.
His publications on animation include “Walt Disney’s Snow White: Art, Adaptation, and Ideology,” Journal of Popular Film and Television, 32 (Fall 2004); “Mickey Mouse” in American Icons (Greenwood 2006); “Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, and Ichabod Crane” in Going My Way: Bing Crosby in American Culture (Hofstra/Rochester 2007); and “Mark Twain, Chuck Jones, and the Art of Animation,” Studies in American Humor, N.S. No. 17 (2008). He wrote the biography of Walt Disney for the Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 22 (Gale 1983) and is working on a book-length study of Disney and adaptation.
Inge wanted to be cartoonist but was diverted into academic work. He would rather draw and considers himself a failed comic artist who became a professor because he couldn’t do any better.
On January 17 from noon until midnight, the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia will host Edgar Allan Poe’s Birthday Bash, the world’s biggest celebration of the author’s birthday. The event promises twelve hours of performances, live music, historical interpreters, and games for audiences of all ages. The Museum will also be opening two new exhibits: a retrospective of Richard Corben’s Poe illustrations and Chambers of the Red Death, an installation of shadow boxes recreating “The Masque of the Red Death” by Nicole Pisaniello. Additional activities include a children’s theater, a craft table, book signings, and a walking tour following the trail of Poe’s last night in Richmond. Don’t forget the birthday cake at four followed by a talk about Poe in the comics by Randolph Macon professor Dr. M. Thomas Inge at five and a performance and walking tour by Poe’s last fiancée, Richmond’s Elmira Royster Shelton (as portrayed by historical interpreter Debbie Phillips) at six. After twelve straight hours of activity, visitors will toast Poe’s memory at midnight in the Poe Shrine.
11a.m-Noon Author Talk by Maggie King, Rosemary Shomaker, Teresa Inge, Maria Hudgins, and Heather Weidner
Noon to 1:30p.m. Live Music by The Embalmers
1:30 Children’s Activity
2:00p.m. Performance of “The Cask of Amontillado”
4:00p.m. Birthday Cake Served
5:00 Dr. M. Thomas Inge speaks about Poe in the comics
6:00-7:30p.m. Live music by Margot MacDonald
7:00p.m. Tour of Poe Museum led by C. Auguste Dupin, detective from “Murders in the Rue Morgue”
7:30p.m. Elmira Shelton speaks about her engagement to Poe
8:00p.m. Elmira Shelton begins walking tour of area sites she and Edgar enjoyed
8:00p.m. Performance of “The Raven”
9:00p.m. Performance of “The Tell-Tale Heart”
10:00p.m. Live Music by Fool’s Errand
Midnight Champagne Toast in the Poe Shrine
Schedule is subject to change. Check back often for a complete schedule and the latest updates.
Most of what we know about Poe is wrong. It has long been well known that his literary executor Rufus W. Griswold fabricated stories about him in a successful effort to damage Poe’s reputation. When considering Poe’s literary enemies, one must not forget Thomas Dunn English, a rival editor Poe referred to in a January 4, 1848 letter to George Evelyth as “the Autocrat of all the Asses.” Poe and English even came to blows in 1846. According to Poe (in a June 27, 1846 letter to Henry B. Hirst), “I gave E. a flogging which he will remember to the day of his death — and, luckily, in the presence of witnesses. He thinks to avenge himself by lies — by [sic] I shall be a match for him by means of simple truth.”
English’s own account of that “flogging” (written fifty years after the fact), tells a different story:
One word led to another, and he rushed toward me in a menacing manner. I threw out my fist to stop him, and the impetus of his rush, rather than any force of mine, made the extension of my arm a blow. He grasped me while falling backward over a lounge, and I on top of him. My blood was up by this time, and I dealt him some smart raps on the face. As I happened to have a heavy seal ring on my little finger, I unintentionally cut him very severely, and broke the stone in the ring, an intaglio cut by Lovatt, which I valued highly. Tyler tried to call me off, but this did not succeed; and finally the racket of the scuffle, which only lasted a few moments, brought Professor Ackerman from the front room, and he separated us. He then led Poe away. The latter, in going up the street, met a friend of mine, who asked him how he had cut his face so terribly. His reply was that an Irishman carrying a beam on his shoulder had accidentally struck him.
During Poe’s lifetime, Thomas Dunn English ridiculed the author in the novels Walter Woolfe, or the Doom of the Drinker and 1844, or the Power of S.F., in which the character Marmaduke Hammerhead, the drunken author of “The Black Crow,” was based on Poe. English also attacked Poe in the press, and Poe even sued a magazine for libel (and won) after it printed some of English’s unfounded accusations. Even the lawsuit did not stop English from publicly ridiculing Poe, and the Poe Museum’s Object of the Month for December is English’s short-lived magazine The John-Donkey, which regularly printed jokes at Poe’s expense.
The first issue, dated January 1, 1848 contains the following notice alluding to Poe’s drinking.
A week later, in the January 8 issue, English responded to a Pennsylvania magazine that had written a positive notice of Poe.
The January 29 issue contained “Sophia Maria,” a parody of Poe’s new poem “Ulalume.”
The February 5 issue of the Saturday Evening Post calls “Sophia Maria” “a capital parody on a poem recently published in the [American Review], and supposed to have been written by E. A. Poe — at least it is decidedly Poe-ish.”
In the February 5 issue of the John-Donkey, English jokes about the announcement that Poe will be delivering a lecture about the universe.
Contrary to English’s opinion, Poe’s lecture on the universe received favorable reviews. The Morning Express for February 4 reported, “The conclusion of this brilliant effort was greeted with warm applause by the audience, who had listened with enchained attention throughout.”
In the April 15 issue, English announces that Poe is planning a new version of The Literati of New York City, a popular series of opinions on New York authors. In The Literati Poe praises some of the writers, including Frances Osgood, while ridiculing others, including English. In the July 1846 installment, Poe points out English’s deficiencies as the editor of The Aristidean:
No spectacle can be more pitiable than that of a man without the commonest school education busying himself in attempts to instruct mankind on topics of polite literature. The absurdity in such cases does not lie merely in the ignorance displayed by the would-be instructor, but in the transparency of the shifts by which he endeavours to keep this ignorance concealed…he was not, I say, laughed at so much for his excusable deficiencies in English grammar (although an editor should certainly be able to write his own name) as that, in the hope of disguising such deficiency, he was perpetually lamenting the “typographical blunders” that “in the most unaccountable manner” would creep into his work. Nobody was so stupid as to suppose for a moment that there existed in New York a single proof-reader — or even a single printer’s devil — who would have permitted such errors to escape. By the excuses offered, therefore, the errors were only the more obviously nailed to the counter as Mr. English’s own.
In the same article, Poe pokes fun at English’s poetry, writing, “The inexcusable sin of Mr. E. is imitation — if this be not too mild a term. Barry Cornwall and others of the bizarre school are his especial favorites. He has taken, too, most unwarrantable liberties, in the way of downright plagiarism, from a Philadelphian poet whose high merits have not been properly appreciated — Mr. Henry B. Hirst.”
This is English’s April 1848 response to learning that Poe is planning a new series of similar articles:
English was sure he would be featured if the article were to be printed. Fortunately for him, the new series, Literary America, did not appear until after Poe’s death. The entry about English was given the name “Thomas Dunn Brown” although much of the entry was taken from earlier entry for English printed in The Literati. Among the additions to the Literary America entry was the following passage:
Mr Brown had, for the motto on his magazine cover, the words of Richelieu,
–Men call me cruel;
I am not: –I am just.
Here the two monosyllables “an ass” should have been appended. They were no doubt omitted through “one of those d——d typographical blunders” which, through life, have been at once the bane and the antidote of Mr Brown.
Poe’s most enduring response to English’s attacks was the short story “The Cask of Amontillado,” which ridicules English while making reference to English’s novel 1844, or The Power of S.F.
Although Poe was a favorite target, The John-Donkey also took aim at other literary and political figures of the day. Here is a notice about Poe’s rival Rufus Griswold.
Here is a review of some female poets.
This is one of the political cartoons to appear in the magazine.
The John-Donkey ceased publication after about a year. Thomas Dunn English lived until 1902. In his later years, his interests turned to politics. He served on the New Jersey General Assembly in 1863 and 1864 and was elected to Congress from 1891 until 1895. He chaired the Committee on Alcoholic Liquor Traffic during the Fifty-Third Congress.
English harbored a dislike of Poe for years after the author’s 1849 death, and English supplied the critic E.C. Stedman with negatively biased information about Poe. (Here is a letter from English to Stedman in the Poe Museum’s collection.) English also responded to Poe’s biographers who he thought either were either overlooking Poe’s faults or libeling Poe’s biographer Rufus Griswold. In 1896, English wrote for the Independent the series Reminiscences of Poe, a supposedly frank account of his relationship with the poet. According to English, he finally wrote the series, nearly fifty years after Poe’s death, to defend himself against the attacks on his and Griswold’s character made by Poe’s biographers. The series opens with English’s own attacks on Poe’s biographers William Gill, John Henry Ingram, and George Woodberry. English continues by portraying Poe as a drunk, a liar, and a cheat. He also hints at an affair between Poe and the poet Frances Osgood.
On one point, however, English actually defends Poe’s reputation against the rumors surrounding him. In response to accusations about Poe’s use of drugs, English writes, “Had Poe the opium habit when I knew him (before 1846) I should both as a physician and a man of observation, have discovered it during his frequent visits to my rooms, my visits at his house, and our meetings elsewhere — I saw no signs of it and believe the charge to be a baseless slander.”
Thomas Dunn English
As an editor and author, Thomas Dunn English helped shape the public’s perception of Poe as a drunken scoundrel. Even though Poe himself discredited English by successfully suing his for libel, English’s image of Poe is still widely accepted as fact. This Poe myth English, Griswold, and others created has long concealed the truth about Poe’s life and character. The Poe Museum’s issues of The John-Donkey document these literary rivalries so that today’s biographers can paint a more complete picture of the genesis of the Poe myth and the literary feuds that promoted it.
It all began with a high school yearbook. Believe it or not, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum’s world renowned collection of Poe artifacts and memorabilia began in 1921 with the donation of a 1917 Collegiate School yearbook containing a parody of “The Raven.” Since then, thousands more items have entered the collection. Within a decade of opening, the Poe Museum outgrew its first building and expanded to occupy a complex of four buildings of Poeana surrounding a garden constructed from even more Poe memorabilia—the salvaged materials from buildings in which Poe lived and worked from Richmond to New York. With a mission to “interpret the life and influence of Edgar Allan Poe for the education and enjoyment of a global audience,” the Poe Museum has amassed a diverse collection that tells the story of Poe’s life, documents his literary contributions, and showcases the ways his legacy continues to inspire today’s culture. This means the Poe Museum is charged with preserving and sharing thousands of objects including Poe’s possessions, first editions, manuscripts, and pop culture ephemera like movie posters and comic books.
How did the Poe Museum get such a great collection? James H. Whitty became the Museum’s first donor when he presented that yearbook in 1921, the year before the Museum opened. He went on to donate scores of Poe illustrations, documents, portraits, and objects including a lock of Poe’s hair. Since then, hundreds of generous donors have contributed everything from Poe’s tiny nail file (a gift of Kenneth Bengel in 1964) to Poe’s vest (a gift of Mrs. Antoinette Suiter in 1997). Even those who did not have artifacts to donate helped build the collection by making financial contributions of all sizes. In 1930, for instance, twenty benefactors gave towards the fund that allowed the Poe Museum to purchase the Cornwell Daguerreotype that is now prominently displayed in the Memorial Building. Similar initiatives allowed the Poe Museum to purchase Poe’s letter to Samuel Kettell in 2005 and George Julian Zolnay’s bronze bust of Poe in 2010. Other benefactors have contributed to the Poe Museum’s historic collections preservation fund or supported its annual fund drive. The Poe Museum’s outstanding collection would not have been possible without all these gifts. If you would like to join the Museum in collecting, preserving, and exhibiting the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe, just click here or contact us at [email protected]
Below are a few of the excellent items donated to the Poe Museum in 2014.
The James A. Michener Museum donated the plaster model for Charles Rudy’s 1956 statue of Poe, the first full-length statue of Poe in Virginia. The same size as the finished bronze that now adorns Capitol Square, this model is now on display in the Elizabeth Arnold Poe Memorial Building.
Gregory Lorris donated twelve pages from the 1811 edition of Institutes of Natural Philosophy, Theoretical and Practical by William Enfield . .. . And the addition of an Appendix to the Astronomical Part by Samuel Webber, a text book Poe might have used while a student at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Though we have not been able to authenticate the writing, each page bears Poe’s signature. These pages of diagrams deal with such sciences as optics and astronomy, and they give us a good idea of the material Poe studied at West Point. One of the twelve pages is now on display in the Model Building.
After hearing that we needed to borrow the book Mesmerism in Articulo Mortis for an exhibit, Susan Jaffe Tane donated a copy of the pamphlet to the Museum. Tane had already made several generous loans from her collection for the Poe Museum’s exhibits.
Sculptor Zane Wylie donated an unusual casting of a skull (above) with the verses of “The Raven” carved into it while painter Anelecia Hannah donated a painting (below) of the bust of Poe in the Museum’s garden.
Judy Rash donated a copy of the beautiful 1884 edition of “The Raven” featuring illustrations by Gustave Dore.
An anonymous donor sent a copy of the edition of Poe’s Works edited by his literary executor Rufus Griswold.
The Garden Club of Virginia provided several new plants for the Enchanted Garden in addition to the research, design, and planting that have already gone into the restoration of the site.
As the Poe Museum’s collection continues to grow, we would like to thank all those who helped build that collection. You can click here to see selections from the collection, or you can click here to learn about our Object of the Month.
From January 17 until May 24, 2015, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia will host the contemporary art exhibit Chambers of the Red Death: A Study in Light and Shadows by Nicole Pisaniello. Artist and Illustrator, Nicole Pisaniello, will be using cut paper, paint, and lighting effects to interpret Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death.” Nicole graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from VCU. Her work has been published in two fantasy art collections as well as in Faerie Magazine, and displayed in several galleries. She is a co-host of Dr. Sketchy’s RVA and co-founder of RVA Krampusnacht.
The exhibit will open on January 17, 2015 from noon to midnight as part of the Poe Museum’s 12-hour Poe Birthday Bash, the world’s largest celebration of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. For more information call 804-648-5523.
From January 17 until April 19, 2015, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia will host Reimagining Poe: The Poe Illustrations of Richard Corben a major exhibit surveying forty years of illustrations to Poe’s works by Eisner Award-winning artist Richard Corben. This, the first retrospective of Corben’s Poe illustrations, will feature several original drawings from the artist’s personal collection. The exhibit will open with a lecture about Corben’s illustrations by Randolph Macon College professor M. Thomas Inge on January 17 at 5p.m. The exhibit opening and lecture will be part of the Poe Museum’s annual Poe Birthday Bash, the world’s largest celebration devoted to the nineteenth century author’s birthday.
Richard Corben (born 1940) is a comic book artist and illustrator named Corben began his career in animation before turning to underground comics. In 1976 he adapted a Robert E. Howard story into what is considered the first graphic novel, Bloodstar. He is best known for his comics appearing in Heavy Metal magazine. His illustrious career has included work in album covers and movie posters, collaboration on a graphic novel with rock musician and filmmaker Rob Zombie, and an award-winning short film Neverwhere. He is the winner of the 2009 Spectrum Grand Master Award, and he was elected to the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2012.
For over forty years, Corben has established himself as one of the most extraordinary illustrators of Poe’s works. His Edgar Allan Poe adaptations have appeared on the pages of the comic books Creepy, Edgar Allan Poe’s Haunt of Horror, and Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead. Among his dozens of comic book adaptations of Poe’s tales and poems are popular favorites like “The Raven” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” as well as little known classics like “Alone” and “Israfel.” Not content with literal illustrations of Poe’s words, Corben’s exquisite artwork is often paired with his own unusual and innovative reinventions of the stories. In the introduction to Corben’s latest collection of Poe adaptations, Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead, Dr. M. Thomas Inge states, “Corben has proven to be the most acute and creative interpreter of Poe in comics history.”
Edgar Allan Poe is the internationally influential author of such tales of “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Black Cat.” He is credited with inventing the mystery genre as well as with pioneering both the modern horror story and science fiction. Poe died under mysterious circumstances at the age of forty. Although much of his life is known through contemporary documents, some areas of his life remain shrouded in mystery.
Opened in 1922, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum of Richmond is the world’s finest collection of Edgar Allan Poe artifacts and memorabilia. The five-building complex features permanent exhibits of Poe’s manuscripts, personal items, clothing, and a lock of the author’s hair. The Poe Museum’s mission is to interpret the life and influence of Edgar Allan Poe for a global audience. Edgar Allan Poe is America’s first internationally influential author, the inventor of the detective story, and the forerunner of science fiction; but he primarily considered himself a poet. His poems “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee,” and “The Bells” are classics of world literature.