To give the public a better idea of the variety of artifacts and memorabilia that makes up the Poe Museum’s world renowned collection, we will be profiling a different object each month. Some of these objects may be long-time favorites like Poe’s bed or Poe’s vest, but others may be lesser known pieces that are rarely, if ever, displayed. When making the list of items to profile, we began by asking which pieces tell stories or reveal unknown aspects of Poe’s life or work. We then considered which objects we wish could receive more attention or more time on display. Finally, we wondered which would be the first item to be profiled.
It made perfect sense to begin with a little known object that nonetheless attracts, repulses, and intrigues many of the guests who see it. Our tour guides regularly point it out on their tours because it is small enough to go unnoticed but too important to miss.
That is why the Poe Museum’s first Object of the Month is a lock of Eliza White’s hair.
Eliza White (ca.1820-1888) was the daughter of Poe’s employer, Thomas White, the owner of the Southern Literary Messenger. What little is known of Eliza White is a mixture of exaggeration, legend, and an occasional fact. Poe’s friend Susan Archer Talley Weiss wrote in her notoriously unreliable 1907 book Home Life of Poe, “When I was a girl I more than once heard of Eliza White and her love affair with Edgar Poe. ‘She was the sweetest girl that I ever knew,’ said a lady who had been her schoolmate; ‘a slender, graceful blonde, with deep blue eyes, who reminded you of the Watteau Shepherdesses upon fans. She was a great student, and very bright and intelligent. She was said to be engaged to Poe, but they never appeared anywhere together. It was soon broken off on account of his dissipation. I don’t think she ever got over it. She had many admirers, but is still unmarried.’”
Susan Archer Talley
According to Weiss, when Poe moved to Richmond in 1835 to work at the Southern Literary Messenger, “Mr. White, as a safeguard from the temptation to evil habits, received him as an inmate of his own home, where he immediately fell in love with the editor’s youngest daughter, ‘little Eliza,’ a lovely girl of eighteen [actually twenty-three]. It was said that the father, who idolized his daughter, and was also very fond of Poe, did not forbid the match, but made his consent conditional upon the young man’s remaining perfectly sober for a certain length of time. All was going well, and the couple were looked upon as engaged, when [Poe’s aunt] Mrs. Clemm, who kept a watchful eye upon her nephew, may have received information of the affair, and we have seen the result…Poe now, at once, plunged into the dissipation which was, according to general report, the occasion of Mr. White’s prohibition of his attentions to his daughter. It was she to whom the lines, ‘To Eliza,’ now included in Poe’s poems, were addressed.”
For her 1906 article “Some Memories of Poe” in Bob Taylor’s Magazine, Tula D. Pendleton interviewed Ms. White’s cousin, Miss Bell Lynes, a niece of Thomas H. White. In the resulting article, Cummings reports that, “Eliza, the handsome young daughter of Mr. White, inspired Poe with great admiration, and it was said that he singed his wings at the candles of her shrine. ‘To Eliza’ is his tribute to this fair girl.”
The poem “To Eliza,” originally published in the Southern Literary Messenger under the title “Lines Written in an Album,” reads:
Eliza! — let thy generous heart
From its present pathway part not!
Being every thing which now thou art,
Be nothing which thou art not.
So with the world thy gentle ways —
Thy unassuming beauty —
And truth shall be a theme of praise
Forever — and love a duty.
Though this poem was likely dedicated to Eliza White at that time, Poe had already written it in the album of his cousin Eliza Herring. He would later dedicate the poem to Frances S. Osgood and publish it under yet another name.
Thomas W. White
Of the supposed love affair between Poe and Ms. White, Pendleton continues, “But Mr. White would hear none of Poe as a suitor for his daughter. Miss White rarely spoke of the poet. ‘But,’ said Miss Lynes, ‘Eliza never married…’ Miss Lynes remembers seeing Poe at a party at her ‘Uncle White’s’ house. He and the fair girl made such a handsome couple that all present remarked upon it. “Mr. Poe was the most enthusiastic dancer I ever saw,” said Miss Lynes, “although he remained cold and calm, showing his delight only in his eyes.”
Poe and White remained friends for the rest of his life. She even visited Poe while he was living in Fordham, New York. In an April 22, 1859 letter to Poe’s friend Sarah Helen Whitman, Poe’s mother-in-law Maria Clemm writes of Eliza White, “She passed many months with us at Fordham, before and after Virginia’s death, but he never felt or professed other than friendship for her.”
If Poe’s relationship with White was not romantic, the two certainly shared an affinity for poetry. White’s poems appeared a number of times in the pages of the Southern Literary Messenger. Here is a poem of hers in the December 1835 issue.
The first mention of this lock of Eliza White’s hair comes from the above mentioned article by Tula D. Pendleton. The author writes of Ms. White, “Her greatest physical charm was her beautiful hair. Miss Lynes showed me a long braid of exquisite texture and of a fairness so extreme that when laid upon her own silver head there was scarcely any perceptible difference of shade. This hair was cut from Eliza White’s head many years before her death, which occurred about ten years ago.”
Pendleton acquired the lock from Miss Lynes and donated it to the Poe Museum in 1922. The piece had not been displayed for several years when the present curator, having read about it in the old accessions book, decided to take it out of storage. As a poet and as a friend of Poe’s, Eliza White deserved to have her story told. In the absence of a surviving portrait of her (since her only known portrait was destroyed in a fire in the nineteenth century) this hair serves as a tangible link to this often overlooked figure in Poe’s life.
If you think 2014 has been cold, you should see this picture of Getrude Stein (1874-1946) taken during her February 7, 1935 visit to the Poe Museum.
The poet spent a few days in Richmond during her six-month tour of the United States in 1934-35. While in the River City, she was entertained at the home of Richmond novelist Ellen Glasgow, gave a lecture about English Literature at the University of Richmond, and was given a reception by the board of the Poe Foundation in the Poe Museum’s Tea House (now its Exhibits Building).
Stein’s friend, the photographer and writer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964), took these photos of her at the Poe Museum. Each photograph is autographed by both Stein and Van Vechten, and Stein wrote captions. Here are the images with their captions.
“To the Poe Foundation with much pleasure”
“For the Poe Shrine and open”
“For the Poe Shrine [illegible]”
This is the same hitching post, in a different location, today.
Stein and Van Vechten are just two of the important literary and cultural figures who have visited the Poe Museum over the past ninety-two years. Others include H.P. Lovecraft, Henry Miller, and Salvador Dali.
Last weekend, Victoria Campbell of Holman Middle School in Glen Allen, Virginia donated an original work of art she made entitled “El dios de los muertos” to the Poe Museum. The artist had visited the Museum the previous week and was inspired to base her school project on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Her mixed media artwork includes images of Poe and ravens in addition to a sculpted inkwell and quill pen. We would like to thank Victoria for her donation. The Poe Museum is thrilled, not only at receiving such a beautiful work of art, but also at seeing how Poe’s works continue to inspire readers of all ages. We hope teachers will continue to inspire students like Victoria by sharing with them the works of Edgar Allan Poe.
As a service to teachers, the Poe Museum provides an Educator Information Packet accessible here, or you can download the entire packet here. Information about bringing your class to the Poe Museum can be found here. Please contact us at [email protected] or 888-21-EAPOE for more information.
If you love visual art and the works of Edgar Allan Poe, be sure to check out our upcoming exhibit Deep into that Darkness peering, an exploration of Poe’s works through visual art by ten of the world’s leading artists running from April 24 until June 22, or you can sign up for a painting workshop in the Poe Museum’s legendary Enchanted Garden with Charles Philip Brooks on April 27. You can see our upcoming event and exhibit schedule here.
One of the questions the Poe Museum’s tour guides hear most often is, “Who is Annabel Lee?” Since Poe’s classic poem “Annabel Lee” first appeared in print two days after the author’s death in 1849, readers have speculated about whether or not the poem refers to a real person from the author’s life. Opening just in time for Poe’s Birthday Bash on January 18, the Poe Museum’s new exhibit “By the Name of Annabel Lee” will explore the poem and the people who may have inspired it.
The exhibit will profile the multiple women considered to be inspirations for the poem, and visitors will learn in the words of Poe’s close friend Frances S. Osgood who she believed was “the only woman whom he ever truly loved.” Rare artifacts to be displayed include the manuscript for Poe’s essay about Osgood, original letters by Osgood and others, and stunning portraits of Poe’s muses including Sarah Helen Whitman. The show promises to reveal the rarely seen romantic side of Poe and his work.
The exhibit opens during the Poe Birthday Bash on January 18, and, in honor of the exhibit, the day’s festivities will begin with historical interpreters portraying Poe and Osgood reading their love poetry to each other. The show continues until April 20, 2014.
Here is the latest issue of the Poe Museum’s newsletter Evermore. With updates on recent acquisitions, new Poe Foundation officers, and the Poe Birthday Bash. PoeMuseum-winter2013newsletter
Dear Poe Museum Supporter,
Several years ago a young boy was touring Virginia with his family when they decided to pull off the highway for a visit to the Poe Museum. Earlier this year in an Entertainment Weekly interview, he would recall the “magical” experience of seeing the Museum’s Raven Room and how he thought the Museum was “the coolest thing in the world.” That boy grew up to be a popular screenwriter of blockbuster films and hit television series like Scream, Dawson’s Creek, and Vampire Diaries. Earlier this year, he even paid homage to his Poe Museum visit by writing a Poe-themed television series set in Richmond called The Following.
Kevin Williamson’s story is just one of the many we hear about young people the Poe Museum has inspired over the past nine decades. More recently, Rachel Martens, one of the attendees of the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference, has just published her first novel. Countless others have been instilled with a lifelong love of reading by a visit to the Poe Museum.
We have written you today because you know the power of the Poe Museum to inspire young minds, whether they visit us for school group tours, writing workshops, poetry readings, or on family vacations. That is why you support the Poe Museum, and that is why we are asking you to consider making a contribution to our Annual Fund today. With the New Year starting we want to ensure the Museum and its staff is prepared. This involves training new tour guides, promoting the Museum and its educational programs and printing Educator packets. Your support will help provide the resources needed to accomplish these tasks at hand.
Please take the time to make your generous tax-deductible gift today by clicking this link.
Help us preserve Poe’s legacy for present and future generations.
President, Poe Foundation Board of Trustees
The members of the Poe Museum recently took a trip to the building in which Poe is said to have spent his honeymoon in May 1836. The owner of the house, Jeff Abugel, author the recent book Edgar Allan Poe’s Petersburg, provided our group a private tour of the house. He has spent the last few years restoring the house and researching its history. In Poe’s day, the house would have belonged to his friend, the Petersburg, Virginia poet and magazine editor Hiram Haines. Poe, who grew up thirty miles to the north in Richmond, was a close childhood friend of Mary Ann Philpotts, who would eventually marry Haines.
The relationship between Hiram Haines is documented by two letters in the collection of the Poe Museum. These are the only remaining correspondence between the two editors. In the first, from August 19, 1836, Poe asks Haines to consider reviewing the Southern Literary Messenger (the Richmond magazine Poe was editing at the time) in Haines’s magazine The Constellation. In the next letter, dated April 24, 1840, Poe politely turns down Haines’s offer to send Poe’s wife a pet fawn. Poe writes that he cannot find a way to transport the animal from Petersburg to Philadelphia, where Poe was living at the time. Shortly before writing the letter, Poe praised Haines’s magazine The Virginia Star in Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, and, in the note, Poe extends his “very best wishes” to the Star. Poe closes the letter by suggesting he might visit Petersburg in “a month of two hence.” There is no evidence this trip ever took place, and Haines died the following year.
There has long been a tradition that Poe spent his honeymoon at Haines’s house in Petersburg, but Abugel believes Poe would have stayed next door at Haines’s coffee house, which was also a hotel. A description of Poe’s wedding by one of those present, also describes Poe and his bride leaving Richmond by train to their honeymoon in Petersburg, but Abugel states on page 103 of Edgar Allan Poe’s Petersburg that, though the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad was chartered in 1836, it did not begin service until 1838, so Poe and his wife could not have taken the train from Richmond to Petersburg in 1836. Some accounts say Poe spent as long as two weeks in Petersburg, but there exists a letter written by Poe in Richmond on May 23, 1836 — just one week after his wedding on May 16.
We do not have much verifiable information about Poe’s honeymoon. James Whitty states in Mary Phillips’s Edgar Allan Poe: The Man (pp. 532-33) that there once existed several letters between Poe and Haines concerning the subject but that Haines’s grandson had only saved the two mentioned above. Whitty also relates that Poe was entertained in Petersburg by the Haines family as well as by the editor Edward V. Sparhawk and the writer Dr. W.M. Robinson.
Haines operated his coffee house and hotel out of this house, which was adjacent to his own home (on the right in the above photo).
The first stop on our tour was the coffee house on the first floor. The mantel in this photo was one of the original mantels taken from the second floor rooms in which Poe would have stayed.
Now indoors, this wall once overlooked the alley behind the house, and Poe and his bride would have entered through this second floor door, which was connected to the alley by an exterior staircase. Now there is a roof covering this area, which is part of the present day coffee and ale house.
The door from the alley opened onto this landing. The room in which Abugel believes Poe would have stayed is at the end of the hall.
This is the room in which Poe would have slept. Very few changes were made to these rooms since Poe’s time, so Abugel believes this would have been the paint on the walls when the poet was there. The view out the window would have been different, because there would have been an empty lot across the street.
Here is the next room, which is connected to the last one. That is not a ghost by the window.
Our tour ended back downstairs in the coffee house where some of us purchased Hiram Haines Coffee and Ale House T-shirts with Poe’s face on them. Abugel informed us that the first floor is open not only for coffee but also the occasional concert or special event. You can find out more about the place on Facebook. Many thanks to Jeffrey Abugel for the great tour.
After the tour of the house, Poe Museum docent Alyson Taylor-White took the group on a walking tour of historic Petersburg.
The next program for Poe Museum members will be a tour of Monumental Church on Saturday, November 23 at noon.
A recent business trip gave me an excuse to visit Boston and Providence to see some Poe sites in the area. Sandra Luzzi Sneesby had invited me to speak at an exhibit of her installation The Women who Loved Poe in Providence.
Once she picked me up from the airport, she took me to Edgar Allan Poe Square where, with the help of a map of Boston Poe sites produced by The Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston, we began to trace Poe’s footsteps through the city.
We headed for Poe’s birthplace at 62 Charles Street South (formerly 62 Carver Street). In honor of this historic site, some lover of literature has memorialized Poe with a fine parking lot surrounded by a chain-link fence. The next photo shows what the building looked like before it was demolished. Notice the building on the left is still there in the above image.
Next we visited the site of the Boston’s first regular theater (pictured above), where Poe’s mother, Eliza Arnold Hopkins Poe, made her first appearance on stage on April 15, 1796. Between 1806 and 1809 she performed there several more times. Her roles included Cordelia in King Lear, Blanch in King John, and Ariel in The Tempest. Here is a notice of her playing Fanny in The Clandestine Marriage. Here is a review of Poe’s mother’s performance as Cordelia.
We located the office of The Dial at 15 West Street. Poe was no fan of The Dial, which featured “the so-called poetry of the so-called Transcendentalists.”
A number of important sites one stood near the Old State House. Within a block from this location, Poe’s first book was published in 1827, “The Tell-Tale Heart” was printed in The Pioneer in 1843, Poe’s mother lived shortly after her arrival in America in 1796, and Poe’s mother gave her last Boston performance in 1809.
Before leaving Boston, we visited the Boston Common, site of the Frog Pond which inspired Poe to call Boston writers “Frogpondians.”
The next day, we toured Providence. Our first stop was the North Burial Ground and the grave of Poe’s fiancée Sarah Helen Whitman. We picked up a self-guide tour sheet near the entrance to assist us in locating the grave. My guides told me this was probably the cemetery where Poe and Whitman would take long walks together since it is only a mile from her house. We also visited Swan Point Cemetery, which is also said to be the cemetery Poe and Whitman liked to visit, even though it is a bit farther from her house.
On Benefit Street, we saw Sarah Helen Whitman’s house, a place Poe visited while courting Whitman.
Behind the house we found some rose bushes which immediately called to mind Poe’s description of seeing Whitman in this garden three years before he would meet her.
I saw thee once — once only — years ago:
I must not say how many — but not many.
It was a July midnight; and from out
A full-orbed moon, that, like thine own soul, soaring,
Sought a precipitate pathway up through heaven,
There fell a silvery-silken veil of light,
With quietude, and sultriness, and slumber,
Upon the upturn’d faces of a thousand
Roses that grew in an enchanted garden,
Where no wind dared to stir, unless on tiptoe —
Fell on the upturn’d faces of these roses
That gave out, in return for the love-light,
Their odorous souls in an ecstatic death —
Fell on the upturn’d faces of these roses
That smiled and died in this parterre, enchanted
By thee, and by the poetry of thy presence.
Clad all in white, upon a violet bank
I saw thee half reclining; while the moon
Fell on the upturn’d faces of the roses,
And on thine own, upturn’d — alas, in sorrow!
Was it not Fate, that, on this July midnight —
Was it not Fate, (whose name is also Sorrow,)
That bade me pause before that garden-gate,
To breathe the incense of those slumbering roses?
No footstep stirred: the hated world all slept,
Save only thee and me. (Oh, Heaven! — oh, God!
How my heart beats in coupling those two words!)
Save only thee and me. I paused — I looked —
And in an instant all things disappeared.
(Ah, bear in mind this garden was enchanted!)
The pearly lustre of the moon went out:
The mossy banks and the meandering paths,
The happy flowers and the repining trees,
Were seen no more: the very roses’ odors
Died in the arms of the adoring airs.
All — all expired save thee — save less than thou:
Save only the divine light in thine eyes —
Save but the soul in thine uplifted eyes.
I saw but them — they were the world to me.
I saw but them — saw only them for hours —
Saw only them until the moon went down.
What wild heart-histories seemed to lie enwritten
Upon those crystalline, celestial spheres!
How dark a wo!, yet how sublime a hope!
How silently serene a sea of pride!
How daring an ambition! yet how deep —
How fathomless a capacity for love!
But now, at length, dear Dian sank from sight,
Into a western couch of thunder-cloud;
And thou, a ghost, amid the entombing trees
Didst glide away. Only thine eyes remained.
They would not go — they never yet have gone.
Lighting my lonely pathway home that night,
They have not left me (as my hopes have) since.
They follow me — they lead me through the years.
They are my ministers — yet I their slave.
Their office is to illumine and enkindle —
My duty, to be saved by their bright light,
And purified in their electric fire,
And sanctified in their elysian fire.
They fill my soul with Beauty (which is Hope,)
And are far up in Heaven — the stars I kneel to
In the sad, silent watches of my night;
While even in the meridian glare of day
I see them still — two sweetly scintillant
Venuses, unextinguished by the sun!
Our next stop was the Providence Athenaeum where Poe and Whitman spent time together among the shelves. The Athenaeum still has a volume of The American Review in which Poe signed his name next to the anonymously published poem “Ulalume,” which is now considered one of Poe’s greatest poems.
The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crispèd and sere —
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir —
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul —
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll —
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole —
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.
Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere —
Our memories were treacherous and sere —
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year —
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
We noted not the dim lake of Auber —
(Though once we had journeyed down here) —
We remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
And now, as the night was senescent
And star-dials pointed to morn —
As the star-dials hinted of morn —
At the end of our path a liquescent
And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
Arose with a duplicate horn —
Astarte’s bediamonded crescent
Distinct with its duplicate horn.
And I said — “She is warmer than Dian:
She rolls through an ether of sighs —
She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
To point us the path to the skies —
To the Lethean peace of the skies —
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
To shine on us with her bright eyes —
Come up through the lair of the Lion
With Love in her luminous eyes.”
But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
Said — “Sadly this star I mistrust —
Her pallor I strangely mistrust: —
Oh, hasten! — oh, let us not linger!
Oh, fly! — let us fly! — for we must.”
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
Wings till they trailed in the dust —
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Plumes till they trailed in the dust —
Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.
I replied — “This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybillic splendor is beaming
With Hope and in Beauty to-night: —
See! — it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright —
We safely may trust to a gleaming
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night.”
Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
And tempted her out of her gloom —
And conquered her scruples and gloom:
And we passed to the end of the vista,
And were stopped by the door of a tomb —
By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said — “What is written, sweet sister,
On the door of this legended tomb?”
She replied — “Ulalume — Ulalume —
‘Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!”
Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crispèd and sere —
As the leaves that were withering and sere,
And I cried — “It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed — I journeyed down here —
That I brought a dread burden down here —
On this night of all nights in the year,
Oh, what demon has tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber —
This misty mid region of Weir —
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.”
Said we, then — the two, then — “Ah, can it
Have been that the woodlandish ghouls —
The pitiful, the merciful ghouls —
To bar up our way and to ban it
From the secret that lies in these wolds —
From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds —
Had drawn up the spectre of a planet
From the limbo of lunary souls —
This sinfully scintillant planet
From the Hell of the planetary souls?”
From there we went to the Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum to the see the installation The Women Who Loved Poe. The video installation revealed Poe’s character by showing him through the eyes of the women closest to him. Our hostess was Sarah Helen Whitman, portrayed by Linda Goetz.
Thanks to the hospitality of my guides in Boston and Providence and to the staffs of the Providence Anthenaeum and the Lippitt House Museum, I got know Sarah Helen Whitman, Poe’s mother Eliza Poe, and Edgar Poe a lot better.
Most people know Edgar Allan Poe for his chilling tales of terror and his melancholy poetry. A few even know his for his groundbreaking detective stories, but most people have no idea he pioneered the science fiction story. That is why the Poe Museum’s new temporary exhibit Poe: Science Fiction Pioneer (running from October 17 until December 31, 2013) will highlight the author’s contributions to one of today’s most popular genres.
Poe wrote early accounts of cyborgs, space travel, and the distant future. Some of his tales about the marvels of modern science were so realistic some of his readers thought they were true. Explore the exhibit to discover such little known works as “The Man That Was Used Up,” “Some Words with a Mummy,” and “The Balloon Hoax.”
Here is the latest installment of the Poe Museum’s newsletter Evermore. Inside you will find updates on the museum’s fall events and exhibits as well as some members-only programs.