Join the Poe Museum’s members embers as they explore Richmond’s historic Monumental Church at noon on Saturday, November 23rd. Getting a private tour of this Robert Mills designed landmark is rare, and members will be allowed to explore all floors (including the crypt below the sanctuary). You can sit where young Edgar Allan Poe sat with his foster mother Frances Allan, and see pews where other famous Richmonders sat as well. Since it is a weekend, you can park off of Broad across the street from Monumental in the parking marked for VDOT employees. Contact the Poe Museum today if you have not made your reservations at (804) 648-5523 or email Amber Edens at [email protected] Not a member? Join today by clicking this link.
Also going on that day is another exciting open house at Mason’s Hall here in our own Shockoe Bottom at 1807 East Franklin Street. The building was constructed in 1785, and was the Masonic Hall where luminaries like Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall attended. It is also reportedly where Eliza Poe, Edgar’s mother, entertained a delighted Richmond audience in her day. It is the oldest continuously used Masonic lodge in the country. It is known as the Randolph Lodge, and was chartered in October of 1787.
While you are in the neighborhood, drop by and see us at the Poe Museum! We have great holiday gift ideas and stocking stuffing ideas in the gift shop, and offer guided tours at 11, 1 and 3. What an excellent way to kick off Thanksgiving week!
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.
After ninety-one years occupying the Old Stone House, the Poe Foundation finally owns the building. On Saturday, October 5, 2013, Anne Geddy Cross (pictured above), President of President of Preservation Virginia, signed the Deed of Gift transferring the house and garden from Preservation Virginia to the Poe Foundation. The Poe Foundation’s Past President Harry Lee Poe and its new President Annemarie Weathers Beebe gratefully accepted the gift. Preservation Virginia’s Director of Preservation Services Louis Malon and the Poe Museum’s Curator Chris Semtner, who have both been coordinating the transfer process over the past few years, were in attendance to witness the event. Before the transfer could take place, an easement was registered with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to protect the house from significant changes that would alter its historic character.
Representing the Ege family, who owned the property from at least 1748 until 1911, Tina Egge, fifth great niece of Jacob Ege (different branches of the family spelled the name differently), the builder of the house, attended the event. Rose Marie Mitchell, who has written a new book about the history of the Old Stone House, spoke and signed copies of her book in the Exhibits Building, which featured a temporary exhibit documenting the history of the house.
The Poe Foundation has owned the rest of the Poe Museum buildings and grounds since the 1920s, so it is fitting that the Old Stone House should finally come under its ownership. Although the enormous gift and the new easement are significant developments for the Poe Foundation, the museum’s visitors will not see a dramatic change in the way the museum operates. They will, however, see some dramatic changes next spring when the major Enchanted Garden restoration project sponsored by the Garden Club of Virginia is underway.
POE MUSEUM ANNOUNCES NEW BOARD PRESIDENT
The Poe Foundation of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum of Richmond, Virginia is proud to announce the election of its new board president, Annemarie Weathers Beebe of South Carolina. The Executive Director of Historic Rock Hill, Mrs. Beebe follows in a long line of distinguished Poe Foundation presidents including two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Dr. Douglas Southall Freeman and Edgar™ Award-winner Dr. Harry Lee Poe.
Assuming the position of Vice President is Dr. M. Thomas Inge. Serving a second term as Treasurer will be Jeffrey Chapman. Serving his first term as Secretary will be Robert A. Buerlein. The Poe Foundation’s executive committee will also consist of Past President Harry Lee Poe, Kassie Ann Olgas, Kia Ware, and Benjamin A.P. Warthen. The officers and executive committee were elected at the Poe Foundation biannual board meeting on October 5, 2013.
More Information about Edgar Allan Poe:
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.
For more information, contact Chris Semtner at the Poe Museum by email or call 888-21-EAPOE. More information and a complete list of Poe-related activities can be found here.
Anyone can celebrate a birthday, but the Poe Museum also celebrates a death day. On October 3, 2013, the Poe Museum in Richmond will observe the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s death (October 7, 1849), with a tribute from Elmira Shelton, the woman to whom Poe was engaged when he died. Debbie Phillips, who has also performed for the museum as Poe’s mother Eliza Poe, returns for a historical interpretation based on years of research into Poe’s last love. After the performance, “Elmira” will stay to mingle with guests. Tours of the museum will explore the themes of death and mourning in Poe’s time. The event will last from 6P.M. until 9 P.M. Refreshments will be available.
On October 5 at 1 P.M., the Poe Museum will receive the largest gift in its history, a house. The house just happens to be the oldest in Richmond, the Old Stone House. Though we are not exactly certain when it was built, dendrochronology (testing of the tree rings in wood) dates the floorboards to 1754. For over ninety years, the Poe Museum has occupied the house, which remains the property of Preservation Virginia, formerly known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, while the other three buildings in the Poe Museum complex belong to the Poe Foundation.
The history of the Old Stone House is a colorful one. From the 1740s until 1911, the property was owned by the Ege family, who were among the first residents of the city. In 1781, one of the residents, Elizabeth Ege Welsh, supposedly saw Benedict Arnold invade and set fire to Richmond from the house. By the 1840s, the house appears in guide books for visitors to the city. Around 1881, the house was rented to R. L. Potter, “The Wheelbarrow Man,” who used it to exhibit an assortment of unusual objects he had collected while pushing a wheelbarrow from New York to California and back. One account says he even displayed a live bear in one of the rooms. In 1894, the house was known as Washington’s Headquarters Antiquarium and Relic Museum, which published a guide book to perpetuate some tall tales about how the house had been built by Powhatan, used as a courthouse by Patrick Henry, and used as George Washington’s headquarters during the American Revolution (though Washington never actually set foot in the city during that war). Some old postcards show the house with a large “Washington’s Headquarters” sign hanging next to the front door.
In 1913, the Ege family lost the property, and Granville Valentine purchased the building to save it from destruction. Valentine, in turn, donated it to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, who tried to find someone to rent it. A renter who had intended to use it as an antique store left because the property was being vandalized. Then Archer Jones, owner of the Duplex Envelope Company, approached the APVA with the idea of using the house as a museum of Colonial history. Jones and his wife soon met the Poe collector James Whitty, who wanted to reconstruct the recently demolished office of the Southern Literary Messenger in the junk yard behind the house. In 1921, that idea evolved into using the Messenger bricks and granite to make a Poe Memorial garden in the yard and using the locks, lumber, and hinges from the Messenger building to restore the Old Stone House. The House was then furnished with furniture from Richmond buildings in which Poe lived or worked. In the early years, the APVA charged the Poe Foundation rent for the property, but it eventually allowed the museum to use the house rent-free.
Ninety-one years after the Poe Museum opened, the Old Stone House is still visited by guests from around the world, and the exterior of the house remains virtually unchanged from its appearance recorded in nineteenth century photos. Thanks to Preservation Virginia, this beautiful remnant of Richmond’s Colonial past will finally become a true part of the Poe Museum. The museum has no plans for changes to the structure, which will be protected from significant alterations by an easement with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
To learn more about the Old Stone House, please visit the Poe Museum or read the forthcoming book about the house by Rosemarie Mitchell.
The bride, Virginia Clemm, in a drawing by A.G. Learned
On May 16, 1836, Edgar Allan Poe and his young fiancée Virginia Clemm were joined by a few close friends for a small wedding ceremony at a home near Capitol Square. According to different sources, the event took place at either Mrs. Yarrington’s boarding house at Eleventh and Bank Streets or the home of Amasa Converse at Eighth and Franklin Streets. The guests included Virginia’s mother and Poe’s aunt Maria Poe Clemm, Poe’s boss at the Southern Literary Messenger Thomas White, White’s daughter Eliza, a pressman named Thomas W. Cleland and his wife, the printer of the Messenger William McFarlane, an apprentice in the Messenger office named John W. Fergusson, the owner of the boarding house in which Poe lived Mrs. James Yarrington, one of Virginia’s friends Jane Foster, and a few others.
William MacFarlance, one of Poe's wedding guests
In addition to the number of guests associated with the Southern Literary Messenger, another magazine writer, Rev. Amasa Converse, performed the ceremony. In addition to editing the Southern Religious Telegraph, Converse was a Presbyterian minister. He later recalled Poe’s bride as “polished, dignified and agreeable in her bearing… [possessing] a pleasing manner but…very young.” Of course, Virginia was half the age of her twenty-seven year-old groom, but Converse noted she had given “her consent freely.” Unfortunately, her father’s death a few years earlier had prevented him from giving her his permission to marry, so, earlier on his wedding day, Poe had signed a marriage bond verifying Virginia was twenty-one and able to marry without her father’s consent. Cleland co-signed the document.
Rev. Amasa Converse, who performed Poe's wedding ceremony
In a 1904 letter to T. Pendleton Cummings, Rev. Converse’s son F.B. Converse wrote that Poe “was married by my father…in my father’s parlor…at the Southeast corner of Main and Eighth Streets, Richmond…Edgar Allan Poe came to the house, and the wedding was performed in the parlor, my father standing, according to the impressions which I have received, near the mantel piece and Edgar Allan Poe and his bride coming in at the front. There were very few persons present at the wedding, my mother and the members of the family, and perhaps one or two more companions, which they brought with them.”
John Fergusson, another of Poe's wedding guests
Poe collector James H. Whitty later interviewed Jane Foster about the wedding, and he reported, “Mrs. Jane [Foster] Stocking was present at the wedding, which took place in the parlor of the Yarrington home, where Poe boarded, Mrs. Stocking, then but a slip of a girl, was full of thrills with thoughts of seeing so young a girl, like her own self, getting married; and also like Virginia, she was so little, that she found her best view of the ceremony was from the hallway door, where she obtained a reflection of the entire scene through a large old-fashioned mirror, which tilted forward a bit from over the mantle. All the boarders of the home, and all the poet’s friends, including Mr. Thomas W. White and his daughter Eliza, were present. Virginia was attired in a new traveling dress, and…hat. After the ceremony and congratulations the newly wedded entered a hack, waiting on the outside, and went to a train for Petersburg, Va., where they spent their honeymoon…Mrs. Stocking at the time of the wedding was both young and shy, and on the occasion she said, that she could only look, and look about in bewilderment — for in that short ceremony of a few minutes she was picturing her little companion of the day before suddenly transported into matured womanhood; like in the fairy tales, she was wondering why Virginia didn’t grow taller and look different, à la Cinderella; that’s what bothered little Jane Foster the most; but Virginia looked natural, and never changed an iota.”
After the ceremony, the guests ate wedding cake baked by Mrs. Clemm. Then some of the guests accompanied the newlyweds to the train station where they boarded a train to their honeymoon at the home of magazine editor Hiram Haines in Petersburg.
Possible site of Poe's wedding, Mrs. Yarrington's boarding house on Bank Street
A few days later, on May 20, the Richmond Whig reported, “Married, on Monday May 16th, by the Reverend Mr. Converse, Mr. Edgar A. Poe to Miss Virginia Clemm.” Other papers in Richmond and Norfolk carried similar announcements.
Hiram Haines House, where Poe stayed on his honeymoon
Contemporary accounts attest that Poe was a devoted husband to his adoring wife. Their friend, the poet Frances Osgood, wrote, “Of the charming love and confidence that existed between his wife and himself, always delightfully apparent to me, in spite of the many little poetical episodes, in which the impassioned romance of his temperament impelled him to indulge; of this I cannot speak too earnestly — too warmly. I believe she was the only woman whom he ever truly loved.”
Poe and his wife would be married for eleven years before Virginia succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of twenty-four. Poe followed her just two years later. Though both died in different cities, their remains were reunited over thirty years later, and they are now buried together in Westminster Burying Grounds in Baltimore.
Today marks the 177th anniversary of Poe’s wedding, and it seems appropriate to conclude this post with Poe’s poem “Eulalie,” a tribute to the joys of married life:
EULALIE — A SONG.
I DWELT alone
In a world of moan,
And my soul was a stagnant tide,
Till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride —
Till the yellow-haired young Eulalie became my smiling bride.
Ah, less — less bright
The stars of the night
Than the eyes of the radiant girl!
And never a flake
That the vapor can make
With the moon-tints of purple and pearl,
Can vie with the modest Eulalie’s most unregarded curl —
Can compare with the bright-eyed Eulalie’s most humble and careless curl.
Now Doubt — now Pain
Come never again,
For her soul gives me sigh for sigh,
And all day long
Shines, bright and strong,
Astarté within the sky,
While ever to her dear Eulalie upturns her matron eye —
While ever to her young Eulalie upturns her violet eye.
If you are interested in learning more about Poe’s marriage, visit the Poe Museum to see a display of artifacts owned by Virginia Clemm Poe. You can also learn more about Poe’s honeymoon in Petersburg at the May 23 Unhappy Hour when Jeffrey Abugel, author of Edgar Allan Poe’s Petersburg, will be here for a book signing.
It’s Valentine’s Day, a holiday Americans celebrated even back in Edgar Allan Poe’s time. In fact, one of his friends, Anna Charlotte Lynch, hosted an annual St. Valentine’s Day party at her home in New York.
Poe in 1845
Throughout 1845, Poe was a favorite guest at Lynch’s weekly literary soirees. In her words, “During the time that [Poe] habitually visited me, a period of two or three years, I saw him almost always on my reception evenings, when many other guests were present. . . . In society, so far as my observation went, Poe had always the bearing and manners of a gentleman — interesting in conversation, but not monopolizing; polite and engaging, and never, when I saw him, abstracted or dreamy. He was always elegant in his toilet, quiet and unaffected, unpretentious, in his manner; and he would not have attracted any particular attention from a stranger, except from his strikingly intellectual head and features, which bore the unmistakable character of genius…”
Anna Charlotte Lynch
Over the course of his visits to Lynch’s soirees, Poe befriended many of New York’s leading writers. At the same time, he became the recipient of attention from a few of the female attendees. One of them, Frances S. Osgood, was one of the nation’s most popular poets. She and Poe published flirtatious love poems to each other in the magazines of the day. In a letter to one of Poe’s other admirers, Sarah Helen Whitman, Osgood wrote, “I meet Mr. Poe very often at the receptions. He is the observed of all observers. His stories are thought wonderful, and to hear him repeat the Raven, which he does very quietly, is an event in one’s life. People seem to think there is something uncanny about him, and the strangest stories are told, and, what is more, believed, about his mesmeric experiences, at the mention of which he always smiles. His smile is captivating! . . . . Everybody wants to know him; but only a very few people seem to get well acquainted with him”
Another of the attendees taking an interest in Poe was Mrs. Elizabeth Ellet. Although Poe spurned her advances, she continued to send him love letters. She may be the one Elizabeth Oakes Smith was referring to in this account: “A certain lady . . . . fell in love with Poe and wrote a love-letter to him. Every letter he received he showed to his little wife. This lady went to his house one day; she heard Fanny Osgood and Mrs. Poe having a hearty laugh, they were fairly shouting, as they read over a letter. The lady listened, and found it was hers, when she walked into the room and snatched it from their hands”
Whether or not that account refers to Ellet, it is known that, in late January 1846, she reported having seen an “indiscreet” letter from Osgood to Poe lying on a table in his house. Nobody bothered to ask Ellet why she was reading other people’s mail, but Lynch and her friend Margaret Fuller soon showed up at Poe’s house to demand Poe return all the letters Osgood had ever sent him. He responded that Mrs. Ellet should worry more about her own letters to him.
After Lynch’s departure, Poe unceremoniously dumped all of Ellet’s letters to him on her doorstep. Soon thereafter, Ellet and her brother arrived at Poe’s house to demand the same letters, which he no longer had. After Ellet’s brother threatened him, Poe went to another friend, Thomas Dunn English, for a pistol with which he could defend himself. English not only refused but also accused Poe of lying about ever having received any letters from Ellet in the first place, so a fist fight broke out.
Although Poe would later send Ellet a letter of apology, Lynch removed him from her guest list, and Ellet began spreading rumors that he was insane. This was only a couple weeks before Lynch’s annual Valentine’s Day party. Despite not being allowed to attend that gathering, Poe sent Lynch the following Valentine’s poem, which he intended to have read at the party. It is addressed to Frances Osgood, one of the women at the center of the previous month’s scandal. You can find her name spelled in lines of the poem if you write down the first letter of the first line, the second letter of the second line, and so forth.
For her these lines are penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Læda,
Shall find her own sweet name that, nestling, lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly this rhyme, which holds a treasure
Divine — a talisman — an amulet
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure;
The words — the letters themselves. Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor.
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a sabre
If one could merely understand the plot.
Enwritten upon this page whereon are peering
Such eager eyes, there lies, I say, perdu,
A well-known name, oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets; as the name is a poet’s, too.
Its letters, although naturally lying —
Like the knight Pinto (Mendez Ferdinando) —
Still form a synonym for truth. Cease trying!
You will not read the riddle though you do the best you can do.
The same day Poe addressed the above poem to Frances Osgood, his wife Virginia wrote him this poem. Poe’s name is spelled out in the first letter of each line.
Ever with thee I wish to roam —
Dearest my life is thine.
Give me a cottage for my home
And a rich old cypress vine,
Removed from the world with its sin and care
And the tattling of many tongues.
Love alone shall guide us when we are there —
Love shall heal my weakened lungs;
And Oh, the tranquil hours we’ll spend,
Never wishing that others may see!
Perfect ease we’ll enjoy, without thinking to lend
Ourselves to the world and its glee —
Ever peaceful and blissful we’ll be.
Saturday February 14. 1846.
Poe's Wife Virginia Poe
After Valentine’s Day 1846, Poe never spoke to Osgood again. In accordance with his wife’s wishes, as expressed in the above poem, Poe and his wife soon moved out of the city to a cottage in the countryside, far from “the tattling of many tongues.” Unfortunately, their love was not enough to heal her “weakened lungs.” Tuberculosis claimed her less than a year later.
The following year, for Lynch’s 1848 Valentine’s Day party, Poe’s long-distance admirer, Sarah Helen Whitman, sent Lynch a Valentine’s poem for Poe. Lynch read Whitman’s poem at the party but did not immediately publish it. She explained in a letter to Whitman, “The [poem] to Poe I admired exceedingly & would like to have published with your consent with the others, but he is in such bad odour with most persons who visit me that if I were to receive him, I should lose the company of many whom I value more. [Name obliterated] will not go where he visits &several others have an inveterate prejudice against him.” The name that was removed from the letter was likely Mrs. Ellet’s.
Sarah Helen Whitman
Whitman’s Valentine poem to Poe appears below.
If thy sad heart, pining for human love,
In its earth solitude grew dark with fear,
Lest the high Sun of Heaven itself should prove
Powerless to save from that phantasmal sphere
Wherein thy spirit wandered, — if the flowers
That pressed around thy feet, seemed but to bloom
In lone Gethsemanes, through starless hours,
When all who loved had left thee to thy doom,–
Oh, yet believe that in that hollow vale
Where thy soul lingers, waiting to attain
So much of Heaven’s sweet grace as shall avail
To lift its burden of remorseful pain,
My soul shall meet thee, and its Heaven forego
Till God’s great love, on both, one hope, one Heaven bestow.
Later in 1848, Whitman and Poe would meet, become engaged, and break off that engagement after only a month.
Visit the Poe Museum this Valentine’s Day to learn more about Edgar and Virginia Poe, Anna Charlotte Lynch, and Sarah Helen Whitman. A lovely portrait of Lynch is now hanging in the Elizabeth Arnold Poe Memorial Building. You can read the Poe Museum’s letter from Lynch to Poe here.
The Poe Museum in Richmond’s annual Poe Birthday Bash has been getting bigger and better every year, attracting visitors from around the globe; but this year’s celebration promises to be bigger than ever because it will be celebrating the birthdays of both Edgar Allan Poe and his horror classic “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
On January 19, 2013 from noon to midnight, the Poe Museum will celebrate its biggest Poe Birthday Bash ever to honor both Poe’s 204th birthday and the 170th anniversary of the first printing of his greatest horror story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” with a day of festivities featuring no fewer than six performances, five tours, four historical interpreters, two films, a Poe trivia showdown, and the opening of the first public exhibition of the Museum’s most recently acquired artifact, the coveted first printing of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” In addition to this prized artifact, the exhibit will also feature sixteen original illustrations for comic book adaptations of the story by acclaimed artists Richard Corben and Michael Golden.
What’s Happening at Poe’s Birthday Bash:
Among the activities going on at the Poe Birthday Bash will be a reading of “The Tell-Tale Heart” at twelve-thirty; a walking tour of neighborhood Poe sites at one; a living history performance by Poe’s fiancées Sarah Helen Whitman, Elmira Shelton, and Virginia Clemm Poe at three; birthday cake with Poe’s cousin Dr. Harry Lee Poe at four-thirty; a multilingual reading of “The Raven” at five, a performance of Poe’s works by English actor Tony Parkin at five-thirty; and a candlelight walking tour of neighborhood Poe sites by an actress portraying Poe’s fiancée Sarah Helen Whitman at eight. Guided tours of the museum will be available throughout the day, and live music will be performed after nine. The evening with conclude with an actress portraying Sarah Helen Whitman, who was a devoted Spiritualist, attempting to contact Poe’s spirit at eleven fifteen and a champagne toast to Poe at midnight.
12:00 pm: Guided tour. Gift shop sale: select items, up to 50% off! In store only, not valid for online purchases. Ongoing until 4:00 P.M.
12:30 pm: Performance of “the Tell-Tale Heart”
1:00 pm: Lecture on The 170th Anniversary of “the Tell-Tale Heart” by Chris Semtner, Curator of the Poe Museum
2:00 pm: Walking tour of Poe’s Richmond led by Chris Semtner. Guided tour
2:00 pm: Instrumental music inspired by Poe’s poem “The Valley of Unrest” composed and performed by Victor X. Haskins on the trumpet
3:00 pm: Showdown of Poe’s Brides
4:00 pm: Art sale at the bar. Ongoing until 11:00 pm, featuring works by the Clockwork Collective and Abigail Larson. Guided tour
4:30 pm: Cutting of Poe’s Birthday Cake
5:00 pm: Reading of “the Raven” and other poems
5:30 pm: Live from London via telecast, a performance of “the Tell-Tale Heart” and other Poe stories by actor Tony Parkin
6:00 pm: Guided Tour
6:30 pm: Film screening of a 2010 animated short of “the Tell-Tale Heart” directed by Michael Swertfager. Guided tour
7:00 pm: Film screening of a 1928 experimental silent version of “the Fall of the House of Usher” directed by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber
7:30 pm: Poe Trivia (with Poe Museum merchandise prizes)
8:00 pm: Living History Walking tour of Poe’s Richmond led by Poe’s fiance, the poetess Sarah Helen Whitman.
9:00 pm: Live music by The Blue and the Grey
10:00 pm: Reading of “The Black Cat”
10:15 pm: Live music continues
11:15 pm: Living History Seance performed by Sarah Helen Whitman
12:00 am: Champagne toast
Click here for photos from last year’s Poe Birthday Bash.
The Poe Museum is regularly contacted by Poe family members looking for information about their relationship to Edgar Allan Poe. Although, the Museum’s main focus is Edgar Allan Poe, but its archives do contain some material related to his extended family. Among the pieces concerning Poe’s genealogy, George Poe, Jr.’s bible and the typescript of The Poe Family of Maryland are the most informative. These documents from the museum’s collection may not be of use to everyone seeking Poe genealogical information, but we hope they will be of interest to both Poe family members and the general public. You can read the documents by clicking on the links below.
The first piece is a Poe family that originally belonged to George Poe, Jr. (1778-1864). George’s father was Edgar’s grandfather’s brother, which means George and Edgar Poe’s father, David Poe, Jr., were first cousins. George Poe, Jr. was a successful banker, and both Edgar Poe and his father asked him for loans. George rejected a 1809 request from Poe’s father but did send Edgar Poe $100 in 1836 in order to help Edgar‘s mother-in-law open a boardinghouse.
This is a picture of George Poe, Sr. (1744-1823) and his wife Catherine Poe (1742-1806).
The most interesting feature of this bible is the family history contained on the pages seen here. Notice the diagram of a Poe family burial plot at Westminster Burying Grounds in Baltimore. Edgar was buried in the same cemetery but in a different plot—that of his paternal grandfather David Poe, Sr. In 1875, Edgar’s remains were moved to their present location near the cemetery gate.
This following link takes you to a PDF of the pages of Poe family births and deaths from the bible:
George Poe’s Bible
The next piece reproduced here is a typescript entitled The Poe Family of Maryland. It was given to the Poe Museum in 1930 by the granddaughter of Edgar Poe’s cousin Amelia Poe, twin sister of Neilson Poe (1809-1888). Edgar called Nielson his “worst enemy in the world.” Before Edgar married his cousin Virginia Clemm, Neilson, who was married to Virginia’s half-sister Josephine Emily Clemm, offered to take Virginia into his own home to see that she was properly educated.
Here is a fine photograph of Neilson Poe’s father Jacob Poe, brother of George Poe, Jr.
The link below takes you to a PDF of the typsecript:
The Poe Family of Maryland
The above images were pasted onto pages of the typescript. Also included was this photograph of a pastel portrait of Edgar Allan Poe. Notice it is copyrighted 1893. That is the year Neilson Poe’s daughter Amelia Poe requested that the original 1868 pastel by Oscar Halling (then in the possession of Neilson’s son John Prentiss Poe) be photographed in order to sell the photos at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Over the years, Poe relatives have contributed to the Poe Museum’s collections by donating pieces like Virginia Clemm Poe’s trinket box, Edgar Allan Poe’s vest, and Amelia Poe’s album containing Poe’s manuscript for “To Helen.” They have also donated portraits of various Poe family members. This is said to represent William Poe (1755-1804), the youngest brother of Edgar’s grandfather David Poe, Sr.
The Poe Museum would not have survived for the past ninety years without the help of Edgar Allan Poe’s relatives around the world. The museum will always be grateful for their contributions.