One of the rarely seen Poe letters to be exhibited starting this April in the Poe Museum’s new exhibit From Poe’s Quill is this one Poe wrote to Edward Valentine. The letter still belongs to a descendant of Edward Valentine and is rarely available to public inspection. Visitors to the exhibit will be among the few who have had a chance to see it.
Edward Valentine was the cousin of Edgar Allan Poe’s foster mother Frances Keeling Valentine Allan. When Poe was first taken in by the Allans, Valentine became fond of the two-year-old and took him on rides through the country. Valentine was responsible for teaching Poe to box (a sport at which Poe would later excel) and for instructing him in the fine art of pulling the chair out from under an unsuspecting person as they are about to sit down at a table (a prank for which Poe got into trouble when he pulled it on a lady at one of Mr. Allan’s parties).
By the time Poe was twenty-five, he lost both his foster parents, and he lost touch with his foster mother’s sister “Aunt Nancy” Valentine, who was still living with John Allan’s widow in Richmond. If Poe did stay in contact with Edward Valentine, no letters between them survive to indicate that. In fact, the only letter from Poe to Valentine known to survive is the present one, written in 1848, when Poe was thirty-nine. At the time, Poe was looking for financial assistance with starting a new literary magazine to be called The Stylus, so Poe turned to Edward Valentine. In the letter dated November 20, 1848, Poe recalls his early years with Valentine, writing, “I call to mind, however, that, during my childhood, you were very kind to me, and, I believe, very fond of me.”
Seven days before Poe wrote this letter, he had become engaged to the Providence, Rhode Island poet Sarah Helen Whitman. After rejecting his first proposal, at the beginning of November, Whitman agreed to a conditional engagement, which she would break the following month.
Although Valentine might have wanted to help Poe, a note he wrote on the letter indicates he was unable to comply with the request. “It is not in my power to aid Mr. Poe—I have a large sum of money to raise by Spring + find it difficult to make any collections. Will you be writing him? If so—can’t you send him this reply—with my regrets that I cannot afford the desired aid.” Valentine may have written his note to Poe’s sister’s friends Susan Archer Talley, who had delivered Poe’s letter to Valentine.
Less than a year later, Poe would finally find a financial backer for The Stylus, but Poe would die before the project could be realized.
The complete text of Poe’s letter is as follows:
New-York, — Nov. 20th 1848:
After a long & bitter struggle with illness, poverty, and the thousand evils which attend them, I find myself at length in a position to establish myself permanently, and to triumph over all difficulties, if I could but obtain, from some friend, a very little pecuniary aid. In looking around me for such a friend, I can think of no one, with the exception of yourself, whom I see the least prospect of interesting in my behalf — and even as regards yourself, I confess that my hope is feeble. In fact I have been so long depressed that it will be a most difficult thing for me to rise — and rise I never can without such aid as I now entreat at your hands. I call to mind, however, that, during my childhood, you were very kind to me, and, I believe, very fond of me. For this reason and because I really do not know where else to turn for the assistance I so much need at this moment, I venture to throw myself upon your generosity & ask you to lend me $200. With this sum I should be able to take the first steps in an enterprise where there could be no doubt of my success, and which, if successful, would, in one or two years ensure me fortune and very great influence. I refer to the establishment of a Magazine for which I have already a good list of subscribers, and of which I need a Prospectus — If for the sake of “auld lang syne” you will advance me the sum needed, there are no words which can express my gratitude.
Most sincerely yours,
Edgar A. Poe
Edward Valentine Esq
Be sure to visit the Poe Museum next month to see the exhibit From Poe’s Quill. If you would like to see some of Poe’s letters from the Poe Museum’s permanent collection, just visit our Collections Database.
The Poe Museum’s new exhibit From Poe’s Quill: The Letters and Manuscripts of Edgar Allan Poe, which will run from April 26 until July 11, 2012, promises viewers the closest thing to standing over Poe’s shoulder while he writes his famous tales. Visitors will have the rare opportunity to study Poe’s unique handwriting and follow his thought process by exploring dozens of original documents culled from a number of public and private collections. Some of these pieces have never been publicly displayed. Others have only recently been discovered. The Poe Museum will celebrate the exhibit opening with an Unhappy Hour on Thursday, April 26 from 6-9 P.M.
The exhibit will include Poe’s handwritten letters, short stories, poetry, essays, and notes. Among the highlights of the exhibit are a letter written by Poe to American author Washington Irving (“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”), Poe’s autobiography, the earliest Poe manuscript in private hands, Poe’s last letter, and the only complete manuscript for a Poe tale in a private collection. The exhibit will also reunite fragments of manuscripts that have long been separated and owned by different collectors. An especially unusual piece will be poem supposedly written by Poe’s spirit (with the help of a medium) a decade after Poe’s death. This manuscript once belonged to Poe fan and collector Vincent Price.
The Poe Museum’s Curator Christopher Semtner says of the exhibit, “The Poe Museum will be celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, and we want to have an exhibit worthy of the occasion. Poe’s manuscripts are the most sought after manuscripts in American literature. Because he died young and because his works were not always appreciated during his lifetime, Poe’s letters and manuscripts are now relatively rare.”
When the exhibit opens on April 26, Poe Museum visitors will be able to see it an another “once-in-a-lifetime” exhibit Stormier, Wilder, and More Weird: James Carling and “The Raven,” which features, for the first time since 1975, the complete set of English artist James Carling’s circa 1883 drawings for Poe’s most famous poem. The Raven exhibit, which opened January 14, continues through May 1, 2012.
Samples from the upcoming exhibit are below.
The Spirits of the Dead
First Page of Manuscript for Epimanes
The Streets of Baltimore
Among the lenders to this exhibit are Susan Jaffe Tane, the Museum of the Macabre, and Anonymous Private Collectors.
The artist who produced these drawings, James Carling, was born in 1857 in Liverpool. He was fifth son of Henry Carling, a blacking maker. When James was five years old, he began to earn a living as an errand boy and singer. He would even recite the poetry of Shakespeare on street corners for spare change. Encouraged by his older brothers, James started drawing pictures on sidewalks, and he soon found passersby filling his hat with pocket change. At the age of seven, he was arrested for drawing on the sidewalk and was jailed overnight before being sentenced to seven days in a workhouse. He was sent to a technical school for six years. Though the court had sentenced Carling to attend the school, it demanded his father pay for tuition. When Carling’s father refused to pay, he was thrown in jail, where he died. Carling was fourteen when he completed his sentence at the school. Upon his release, he travelled with his brothers to the United States, where they resumed their careers as street artists. Carling eventually found work as a vaudeville performer billed as the “Lightning Caricaturist” and “the Fastest Drawer in the World.” In 1883, it was announced that Harper Brothers would be publishing an edition of Poe’s poem “The Raven” with illustrations by the French artist Gustave Dore. It was about this time that Carling began his own set of drawings for the poem. The drawings remained unpublished at the time of Carling’s death, four years later in 1887. He was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave. The drawings remained in storage for over fifty years until Carling’s brother decided to exhibit them in 1930. Response to the work was so positive that the Poe Museum purchased the set in 1937.
Below is a small sample of the work on display. These pieces have so many strange and subtle details that the photos provided below can only give a faint impression of the experience of seeing the entire series up close. For more information about the Poe Museum’s collection of James carling’s illustrations for “The Raven,” visit our Collections Database. The exhibit continues until May 1, 2012, so be sure not to miss it.
The Museum will be open from 10am – Midnight with events starting at NOON. Admission is $5 for the whole day, and you may come and go as you please so you can check out all the events you want to see!!! Events are still being added to the schedule, but see the current line-up below:
POE BIRTHDAY BASH SCHEDULE:
10:00am- 1:00pm: Gift shop sale! ( Take 15% off your entire purchase of $10 or more!)
Although the Poe Museum’s collection is comprised of thousands of objects, there are still holes in the collection. One place the collection can still grow is in its artifacts related to Edgar Allan Poe’s parents, the actors David Poe, Jr. (1784-1810?) and Eliza Poe (1787-1811). Both were actors who died young–when Edgar was only two. Poe’s mother was buried in an unmarked grave at St. John’s Church in Richmond, and the fate of Poe’s father in unknown.
Above: A notice for a benefit performance to be held on Mrs. Poe's behalf.
Few artifacts survive to tell the story of these talented people who left a lasting impression on Edgar Allan Poe’s life and work. That is why is a special treat to see the selection of documents the Poe Museum was able to bring together, with the help of the Library of Virginia and the Lilly Library, for its current exhibit, Poe’s Mother: The Untold Story. The Poe Museum’s contributions to the exhibit included the scripts from plays Poe’s parents performed, newspaper notices of benefits held on Mrs. Poe’s behalf, and reviews of their performances by critics of their day. Such documents serve as some of the few reminders of the careers of Poe’s talented parents, so it is always great to find such pieces to add more details to our understanding of their lives. This week, the Poe Museum did just that when it acquired three Boston newspapers from 1806 containing notices of Poe’s parents.
David and Eliza were married in April 1806 in Richmond. In October 1806, they appeared in on the stage in Boston, where their first son, William Henry Leonard Poe, was born on January 30, 1807. Their second son, Edgar Poe, was born in Boston on January 19, 1809. It was during this time in Boston that Eliza Poe wrote that it was in Boston that she had found her “best and most sympathetic friends.”
The newspapers the Poe Museum acquired date to October 29, 1806 (the month Mr. and Mrs. Poe arrived in Boston), November 8, 1806, and November 12, 1806. Poe’s mother is listed as appearing in the role of Fanny in the comedy the Clandestine Marriage on November 12. David Poe is listed as playing the role of Bellmour in Jane Shore on November 10, and both are listed as playing different plays on the same night on October 29.
Thursday, December 8, 2011 is the bicentennial of the death of Edgar Allan Poe’s mother, Eliza Poe. Though Edgar was only two years old when he lost his mother, his “mournful and neverending remembrance” of her cast a shadow over his life and work. Although Eliza Poe’s fame has long been overshadowed by her famous son, she was actually a talented and popular actress in the early days of American theater.
In observance of the bicentennial, the Poe Museum hosted a lecture by renowned Poe scholar Richard Kopley, a performance by Eliza Poe interpreter Debbie Phillips, and an exhibit of rare artifacts related to her life and career. The weekend began with the Poe Illumination, in which the Poe Museum’s Enchanted Garden came to life with thousands of lights and holiday decorations. Below is some video of the Poe Foundation’s President, Dr. Harry Lee Poe, speaking at Eliza Poe’s grave after having laid a wreath on her monument.
The exhibit devoted to Poe’s mother continues until April 1, 2012, so be sure not to miss it. In case you can’t attend in person, some of the artifacts from the exhibit can now be seen in our online collections database.
Edgar Allan Poe was not the first member of his family to bring fame to the Poe name. His mother, Eliza Poe, who died at the age of twenty-four when Edgar was only two, was a gifted actress and singer who performed throughout the country. Just in time for the bicentennial of her death, the Poe Museum is bringing together some of the few remaining artifacts associated with her life for the exhibit Poe’s Mother: The Untold Story, opening December 2, 2011 and running until April 1, 2012. The exhibit will pay tribute to the talented performer who blazed the trail for future American actresses in a day when acting was still considered immoral and an unsuitable profession for women. Among the artifacts on view will be original scripts from plays in which she performed and a copy of her marriage bond and her only known signature.
Watercolor of Eliza Poe from Collection of the Poe Museum
The exhibit opening on December 2 from 6-9 P.M. will feature a performance by Eliza Poe as performed by Debbie Phillips. The performance will include original songs Eliza Poe is known to have performed. Admission to the opening reception event is free, and warm drinks and live music will be available.
Rare script for play featuring Eliza Poe in the Cast
Photo of Eliza Poe's Marriage Bond Courtesy of the Library of Virginia
Rare Engraving of the Richmond Theater Fire from the Collection of the Poe Museum
Copy of Only Known Letter Written by Eliza Poe Courtesy of the Lilly Library, Indiana
In 1887, the promising young artist James Carling was buried in a pauper’s grave in Liverpool. He was only twenty-nine. During his lifetime, he had been celebrated as the “Fastest Drawer in the World” and the “Lightning Caricaturist.” Though his “lightning” drawing skills had brought him from a childhood in poverty on the streets of Liverpool to the acclaim of audiences throughout the United States, he aspired to something greater. Carling sought to outdo the world’s most popular illustrator, the French artist Gustave Dore, by illustrating Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” better than Dore had done in his own celebrated illustrated 1882 edition of the poem.
Comparing his illustrations to Dore’s, Carling wrote, “Concerning ‘The Raven,’ I have been ‘dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.’ As well as Dore, I have illustrated ‘The Raven.’ Our ideas are as wide as the poles. Dore’s are beautiful; there is a tranquil loveliness in them unusual to Dore. Mine are stormier, wilder and more weird; they are horrible; I have reproduced mentality and phantasm. Not one of the ideas were ever drawn before. I feel that Poe would have said that I have been faithful to his idea of the ‘Raven,’ for I have followed his meaning so close as to be merged into his individuality. The series will be more numerous than Dore’s.”
In spite of (or perhaps because of) their originality and weirdness, Carling’s illustrations remained unpublished at the time of his death. He entrusted the drawings to his brother Henry, himself a successful artist. Over fifty years later, in 1930, Henry Carling exhibited the drawings, which were received with such enthusiasm that, six years later, the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia purchased them, for display in a “Raven Room.” Many a long-time Richmonder recalls with a shudder the time, decades ago, they were terrified by the “Raven Room” filled with James Carling’s masterful illustrations. After forty years on display at the Poe Museum, the drawings were taken down and placed in storage to protect them from damage by light and humidity. For some time the drawings were replaced with small black-and-white reproductions, which, over time, were also removed to make way for other exhibits. Since the 1970s the complete set of James Carling’s illustrations for “The Raven” have been in storage, but in January 2012 in honor of Poe’s 203rd birthday and the Poe Museum’s 90th anniversary, the Poe Museum will once again display Carling’s masterpiece for the first time in a generation. The exhibit will open on January 14, 2012 and will continue until May 1, 2012, after which the artwork will return to storage to prevent further deterioration so that the drawings may be safely exhibited for the enjoyment of future generations.
Think Poe was morbid because he wrote so often about death in poems like “Annabel Lee,” “The Raven,” and “Lenore?” Such poems about death and mourning were actually fairly common in the nineteenth century. With high infant mortality rates and the inability to combat diseases like tuberculosis (which claimed Poe’s mother, foster mother, brother, and wife), death was very much a part of everyday life. One in four children in Poe’s time died in infancy, and many women died in childbirth. Consequently, almost everyone knew someone who had died young. In this light, Poe’s poems about the deaths of loved ones seem less the reflections of a morbid imagination than common experiences shared by many of his contemporaries.
From October 6 until November 30, 2011, the Poe Museum will honor the anniversary of Poe’s Death (October 7, 1849) with an exhibit devoted to the elaborate mourning rituals people of Poe’s era followed after the death of a loved one. The exhibit “Death and Mourning in the Age of Poe” features dozens of unique artifacts, including post mortem photographs, a post mortem portrait, a tear catcher, mourning jewelry, mourning stationery and mourning art from the private collection of Mary Brett, author of Fashionable Mourning Jewelry, Clothing, and Customs. The exhibit will show how Poe’s feelings about death and grief, expressed in his poetry, were typical for his time. The exhibit will complement related items in the Poe Museum’s permanent collection, including a lock of hair taken from Poe’s head after his death and a reproduction of a post mortem portrait of Poe’s wife.
The exhibit will open from 6-9 P.M. on October 6 during the Poe Museum’s annual observance of the anniversary of Poe’s death. During the opening, visitors can listen to the authors of the new horror anthology Richmond Macabre read from their work, listen to DJ Sean Lovelace play creepy music on a theremin, explore the Poe Museum’s permanent exhibits, or see the new temporary exhibit The Raven, Terror & Death. Admission to the exhibit opening and Poe Memorial Service are free.