Although Edgar Allan Poe’s name is most often identified with stories of horror and fear, Barbara Cantalupo’s talk will reveal the less familiar Poe—the one who often goes unrecognized or forgotten—the Poe whose early love of beauty was a strong and enduring draw. Poe’s “deep worship of all beauty,” expressed in an 1829 letter to John Neal when Poe was just twenty, never entirely faded, despite the demands of his commercial writing and editorial career. “The Poe You May Not Know” gives us a look at Poe’s connection to such visual beauty, his commitment to “graphicality” (a word he coined), and his knowledge of the visual arts.
Barbara Cantalupo, associate professor of English at Penn State Lehigh Valley, is the editor of The Edgar Allan Poe Review and author of Poe and the Visual Arts. Copies of her latest book Poe and the Visual Arts will be available for signing at the event. You can preorder your copy here.
While you are in Richmond to hear Barbara Cantalupo’s talk, you will want to stay in town a few more hours to see her husband poet Charles Cantalupo’s performance of his new poetry series “Poe in Place” at 6 p.m. at the Poe Museum. Click here to learn more about Charles Cantalupo and his fascinating performance.
On Thursday, June 4 at 6 p.m. at the Poe Museum in Richmond, poet and Penn State University professor Charles Cantalupo will read a unique series of poems inspired by each of the cities in which Edgar Allan Poe lived. In researching the poems, Cantalupo travelled to the cities connected with Poe and searched for evidence of the ways those places inspired Poe as well as the continuing presence of Poe in each location. After years of research and writing, Cantalupo will perform the entire series for the first time. This thrilling performance will blend sound and rhythm with the poet’s own unique take on each of the cities featured.
As Edgar Allan Poe’s hometown, Richmond is the subject of one of the poems. Cantalupo visited Richmond and the Poe Museum last year and incorporated the city’s people and places, including Shockoe Slip and Linden Row, into the poem. For more information, please contact the Poe Museum at 804-648-5523 or [email protected]
Those coming to see Cantalupo’s performance will also want to hear his wife Barbara Cantalupo, a distinguished Poe scholar, speak about “The Poe You May Not Know” at the Virginia Historical Society earlier the same day at noon on June 4. Click here for more information about her talk.
About Charles Cantalupo Charles Cantalupo is the author of a series of poems on the cities where Edgar Allan Poe lived throughout his life, called “Poe in Place.” Excerpts have been published in The Edgar Allan Poe Review, Poe’s Pervasive Influence, and The Spirit of Poe. Cantalupo’s reading at The Poe Museum will mark the first time “Poe in Place” has ever been performed in its entirety.
Poet, translator, scholar, and documentary filmmaker, Charles Cantalupo is Distinguished Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and African Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. His literary memoir, Joining Africa – From Anthills to Asmara (2012), won a Next Generation Indie Book Award in 2012. His newest collection of poetry, Where War Was, will be published later this year, and he has published three previous collections: Light the Lights (2004), Anima/l Woman and Other Spirits (1996), and The Art of Hope (1985). He is one of the world’s leading translators of African language poetry. A co-author of the historic Asmara Declaration on African Languages and Literatures, he is the writer and director of Against All Odds, a documentary about poets and poetry in Africa. His work has received major support from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations and the World Bank, and he is also the author of books on Thomas Hobbes, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Eritrea.
In honor of National Poetry Month, one of the Poe Museum’s former volunteers, Laura Bittner of Florida, sent us some poetry for our blog. We thank her for sharing her work with the Museum and hope you will enjoy them.
The Dark Curtain
The dark curtain
attached to stone
silently and listlessly blowing
back and forth
no sound from outside
dust particles play
in two-faced light rays;
of curled, grey leaves.
Walking at Night
after the hours/after dark
when the bars
have let out
could make your heart
skip a beat
‘Ere I go
on my own
-so a word never spoke.
on a nightly errand,
From another’s watch
you can never surely keep.
Picking up the pace now.
Hearing steps now.
Clutching my case
closer to my side,
paying no mind
to the dim lights
flittering flames outside
the dark vendor’s signs,
as I go by.
The Eeriness of an Open Gate
-Walking down Main Street
in the dark, past the field
located in the city, between
two buildings. Wind whipping
the several grains, the
sparse clovers. A moonlight
so dim, something hiding
could be obscured.
-Up a little ways,
past a few laughing,
bronzed, gleaming from
the bars, thorns or sharp sticks
crawl like the vines of a fist
next to the open gate.
No one is around.
But someone, did
go through or
and left standing still-
spirits passing through.
To it, time inconceivable;
These sturdy bars of iron,
whose rivulets only serve a purpose
of not striking fear
into the hearts of onlookers.
The city dweller
in his bedroom
shuts his lights off.
Another day past.
And him, unaware of the
history within the
layers of wheat paste
and paper- surrounding
all he owns.
Many nights ago,
this room was someone else’s.
It all looked very
different. The streets
what they are today.
A traveler looking on
unaware of linear time
observes the changes,
the people walking
down his streets,
and wanders on.
The Day Watchman
The day watchman
observing out the
the shop. piles of
papers line the
he protects his
extending an out-
Countless artists have been inspired to translate Edgar Allan Poe’s works into visual art, music, sculpture, film, ballet, and opera; but few know his works have inspired landscape gardens. This will be no surprise to those who have read his short story “The Domain of Arnheim” or his many poems celebrating the beauty of gardens.
When the founders of Richmond’s Poe Museum decided to memorialize Poe with a garden based on one of his works, they chose the relatively obscure poem “To One in Paradise.” Poe was about twenty-four when he wrote the poem, which first appeared in the January 1834 issue of the Lady’s Book as part of the short story “The Visionary.” In this early story, a young man based on Poe’s boyhood idol, the British poet Lord Byron, falls in love with the young wife of a much older man. Suffering from his unrequited love for her, the young man writes the following poem on paper in a book with pages “blotted with fresh tears.”
Thou wast that all to me, love,
For which my soul did pine —
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine,
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers;
And all the flowers were mine.
Ah, dream too bright to last!
Ah, starry Hope, that didst arise
But to be overcast!
A voice from out the Future cries,
“Onward!” — but o’er the Past
(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies,
Mute — motionless — aghast!
For alas! alas! with me
The light of life is o’er.
“No more — no more — no more,”
(Such language holds the solemn sea
To the sands upon the shore,)
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree,
Or the stricken eagle soar!
Now all my hours are trances;
And all my nightly dreams
Are where the dark eye glances,
And where thy footstep gleams,
In what ethereal dances,
By what Italian streams.
Alas! far that accursed time
They bore thee o’er the billow,
From Love, to titled age and crime,
And an unholy pillow! —
From me, and from our misty clime.
Where weeps the silver willow!
After reading the poem, the young man’s friend answers the door to discover the lady has poisoned herself. The friend rushes to tell the young man, who has also just committed suicide. In the context of the story, the poem reads almost like a suicide note written by a man who believes “the light of life is [over].” The poem begins with a description of Paradise as “green isle in the sea” with a fountain and shrine. The garden is filled with “fruits and flowers,” possibly symbolizing ideal and carnal love. Then the narrator writes that this dream is too bright to last. The garden dies. The tree is struck by lightning and killed. He lives his days as if in a trance and spends his nights dreaming of his lost love.
Given the poem’s melancholy tone, one might wonder why it would have been chosen as the model for the Poe Museum’s garden. The answer likely lies with Museum founder and Poe collector James H. Whitty, who believed the poem references a real Richmond garden in which a teenage Poe courted his first fiancée Sarah Elmira Royster. Much like the plot of “The Visionary,” Royster married an older man in 1828, five years before Poe wrote the story and poem. Given the poem’s autobiographical nature and its connection to a lost Richmond garden Poe himself once frequented, “To One in Paradise” seemed the perfect poem for Poe Museum to recreate in its garden.
Not everyone, however, agreed with Whitty. An alternate theory, recorded in Thomas Ollive Mabbott’s edition of Poe’s poems, holds that Poe was inspired by Lord Byron. According to Thomas Moore’s biography of the poet, the day before Byron’s early love was to marry another man, Byron wrote a similar poem to her in one of her books. Since the baron in “The Visionary” very likely based on Byron, this theory makes sense. As a young man, Poe identified closely with Byron and modeled both his early poetry and his public image after the British poet. Poe went so far as to tell people he had tried to join the Greek Wars of Independence just as Byron had done.
Poe reprinted “The Visionary” in 1835 in the Southern Literary Messenger, in 1840 in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, and in 1845 in The Broadway Journal (under the title “The Assignation.” Eventually, he decided the poem was strong enough to stand on its own. Removing the last stanza, Poe published the poem (without the story) in 1839 under the title “To Ianthe in Heaven.” In 1841, he changed the title to “To One Beloved.” Poe first printed the poem under its current title, “To One in Paradise,” in 1843.
Whether the first stanza describes Paradise, Heaven, an island in the sea, the garden in which Poe courted his first love, none of these, or a combination of the above; the vivid description provided rich inspiration for the Poe Museum’s founders who built their garden around a central green isle featuring a fountain and shrine. The perimeter of the garden is planted with flowers and shrubs mentioned in Poe’s poems and short stories. Enclosing the entire garden is a tall brick wall recalling the walled garden in which Poe and Royster spent time. Among the many building materials salvaged and repurposed for use in the Poe Museum’s garden are granite paving stones taken from the paths of the garden Poe knew. At one point, the Poe Museum’s garden also featured a stone urn and a gate latch taken from that garden.
Just as Poe inspired the Poe Museum’s garden, the garden itself has inspired generations of writers, artists, and gardeners. You can see some 1924 paintings of the garden here, and you can learn about this month’s exhibit of new paintings of the garden here. National Poetry Month is the perfect time to find your own inspiration in the Poe Museum’s Enchanted Garden. When you visit, be sure to bring a copy of “To One in Paradise.” Until then, you can listen to it here.
To learn more about some of our other favorite Poe poems, click here and here.
The world of Poe scholarship has produced countless books, papers, and scholarly articles; but rarely has it produced a work of art. While the written works of Poe scholars like Burton Pollin (1916-2009) and Thomas Ollive Mabbott (1898-1968) have contributed greatly to our understanding of Poe’s life and work, the sculpture of Richmond schoolteacher Edith Ragland (1890-1989) has provided posterity an invaluable resource for understanding Poe’s life in Richmond. As meticulously researched as some academic papers, Ragland’s model reconstructs the city Poe knew in a way words alone cannot. That is why the model is the Poe Museum’s Object of the Month for March 2015.
According to an undated manuscript written by Poe Foundation co-founder Annie Boyd Jones (d. 1947), the sculptor Edward Valentine (1838-1930) proposed the project. Valentine studied sculpture with August Kiss in Germany before enjoying a celebrated career in Richmond. In addition to sculpting the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis for Richmond’s Monument Avenue and the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee for the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol, Valentine produced “The Recumbent Lee” for Washington and Lee University. Valentine was also a historian with a special interest in Edgar Allan Poe. In 1875, he became one of the privileged few to be able to interview Poe’s last fiancée Elmira Royster Shelton. In 1898, he and his brother, Mann S. Valentine II, founded the Valentine Museum, which owned a number of Edgar Allan Poe letters in addition to a portrait of Poe’s foster mother Frances Allan. After retiring from sculpting in 1910, he devoted much of his remaining years to the study of Richmond history and the presidency of the Valentine Museum. By 1922, the eighty-four-year-old Valentine took an interest in the newly opened Edgar Allan Poe Museum, speaking at its opening ceremony as well as donating a portrait of Poe’s foster mother to the Museum’s collection.
Mr. and Mrs. Archer Jones
One evening in 1924 or 1925, Mrs. Jones spent several hours talking about old Richmond in Mr. Valentine’s parlor. He told her he had spent the last sixty years researching a book about Richmond history but had accumulated so much information he could not edit it sufficiently to publish it. As she was leaving, he pointed out a photograph of a photograph of a model of old Paris and exclaimed, “Wait a minute girl; here’s what you do. Make a model of Richmond in Poe’s Time and place it in the [Poe Museum’s] Old Stone House!”
Edward Virginius Valentine in his studio
Mrs. Jones offered to manage the project if he would sculpt it, but he replied, “Oh go away girl, you know I can’t work anymore, but you are an enthusiast—you will get it done…Now go ‘long and make it.”
As soon as she returned home, she told her husband, Archer G. Jones, who enthusiastically supported the idea. She later recounted, “I could see his inventive mood creeping into his eyes.”
The first obstacle to constructing the model was finding an artist to do the work. The solution came one day when Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941) visited the Poe Museum. Borglum was an accomplished sculptor who would later rise to fame for his carving of the presidential monument at Mount Rushmore. The party accompanying Borglum to the Poe Museum included Julia Sully (1870-1948, granddaughter of Poe’s friend, the painter Robert Matthew Sully, 1803-1855) and the young teacher Edith Ragland. During the course of the afternoon, Mrs. Jones mentioned her idea for the model of Richmond to Sully, who recommended Ragland for the project. Jones asked Ragland to build the model, but Ragland replied, “I would not know the first or the remotest way to go about.”
“Nonsense,” Sully answered, “You model beautifully. None of us knows how to go about it, so will all learn together.”
In this spirit of collaboration, Edward Valentine and City Hall supplied Ragland Photostats of maps at no charge, and the Poe Museum paid the Virginia State Library for Photostats of more maps. Valentine provided his notes on Richmond history, city directories, and Virginia Mutual Insurance records. Ragland also consulted Samuel Mordecai’s (1786-1865) 1856 book Richmond in By-Gone Days, an account of life in the city during the first half of the nineteenth century.
Ragland Sculpting the Model
Archer Jones insisted that a model of Richmond needed to accurately reflect the city’s hills, so he suggested carving the topography out of wood. According to the Poe Foundation board minutes for March 18, 1925, “Miss Ragland found that she needed some knowledge of engineering in order to make the correct elevations in her model so she set to work to study that subject.” She built the model on three connected stretcher tables covered with blocks of wood nine inches thick. With the assistance of surveyors, she chiseled those blocks into the hills and valleys of 1840s Richmond.
She also wrote to artists to determine which materials to use. Because she had been advised the technique would waterproof the model, Ragland covered the piece with asphaltum, a substance similar to tar. To this, she added a thin layer of plaster. When the plaster dried, she applied a layer of lead white gesso. She modeled the houses and churches from clay and let them air dry rather than firing them. She fashioned trees from pieces of sponge and wire. She then colored them with oil paint.
Ragland built the model in the Poe Museum’s Old Stone House. Upon completion, the model measured approximately eighteen feet wide and six feet deep and represented the city from about Fifth Street to Twenty-Eighth Street and from the James River to Marshall Street. This includes depictions of such sites as Poe’s boyhood home Moldavia, Poe’s mother’s grave at St. John’s Church, and the Virginia State Capitol. The most impressive aspect of the model’s creation is that it was constructed in a room measuring only nine feet wide, leaving the artist about one and a half feet of clearance on each side. Ragland, herself, was self-deprecating when speaking of her accomplishment. In a 1976 interview with Denise Bethel, Ragland humbly recalled that the work was fairly easy because the insurance records and maps told her exactly what structures to place on each block. She boasted that some old-timers told her she had even reproduced the correct trees in the right places.
In 1926, tragedy struck when Annie Jones’s husband committed suicide for financial reasons. Mrs. Jones decided that, once complete, the model would be presented to the Museum in his memory.
When Ragland completed her model in 1927, the Poe Foundation’s president, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and journalist Douglas S. Freemen reported to the Foundation’s board, “This is undoubtedly a work of charm, art and beauty. It is the creation and expression of experts—in invention, engineering, research and execution—but as a map of Richmond complete accuracy is most desirable.” He stressed that the gift would not be accepted by the Poe Foundation “until its accuracy at every point is beyond question.”
The minutes of the January 1928 meeting of the Poe Foundation’s board state that the model’s “accuracy is now vouched for by City engineers and surveyors, by Mr. E. V. Valentine, Dr. Stanard [editor of The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography] and other authorities, and that it ties up with Mordecai—except where he himself is inaccurate.” Dr. Freeman moved that the board formally accept the model into the Poe Museum’s collection, and the motion passed. So accurate was the model that Richmond historian Mary Wingfield Scott was able to create a key that identified most of the houses and buildings. In all, the model contains twenty-two identifiable taverns and hotels, fifteen churches, at least twelve public buildings, and the homes of several “distinguished citizens.”
The Model in 1937
The model was on continuous display in the room of it construction for forty years. In 1963, the Poe Museum renovated a neighboring building for the display of the model. In order to move the model, city workmen cut it into three pieces. Then six off-duty Richmond policemen, five off-duty firemen, and four other city employees volunteered to move the pieces to their new exhibit space. Several buildings and trees detached from the model in the six-hour process.
Ragland returned to the work on her model, reconnecting the three segments and reattaching the fallen houses. The Poe Foundation agreed to pay her $600 for her work in addition to cab fare from her home to the Museum three days a week for three months. Mrs. R. S. Reynolds donated a custom-built glass case for the model. The work was complete (for a second time) by December 6, 1964 when she appeared in a Richmond Times-Dispatch photograph (below) with her freshly restored masterpiece nearly four decades after she began work on it. To protect the work from further damage, Mrs. R. S. Reynolds donated a large glass case to protect it.
Ragland with Repaired Model in 1964
The model’s story continued well after Ragland completed her work. In 1981, an anonymous donor concerned by the object’s apparent state of deterioration offered to pay for its restoration. President of the Richmond Jaycees and graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, Sergei Troubetzkoy conducted the repairs and repainting. Because the model remained on display during this process, he was only able to work on it while the Museum was closed and when he was not working at his day job. As a friend of Edith Ragland’s, Troubetzkoy knew of some details she had intended to include if time had allowed, so he added fences and other buildings he could document. Although he planned to do so, he was unable to add the fence around Capitol Square.
In 1999, the model was almost lost when a fire started in the room housing it. In fact, much of the room was destroyed. The tables underneath the piece were severely damaged, and firemen shattered its glass case. Smoke and water caused additional harm. In the wake of the fire, the Museum called conservators to assess the damage. The wood and paint had cracked. Several houses had again become detached. Additionally, a thick layer of dust and spiders had built up on the model in the years before the fire.
In consultation with 1717 Design Group, the Museum decided to reinstall the model in a new case facing the opposite direction. In order to rotate the model, a volunteer cut it into two pieces using the 1964 cuts as a guide.
With the guidance of historic object conservation specialist Russell Bernabo, artist Chris Semtner and art historian Michelle Dell’Aria cleaned and repaired the model over the course of six months. They first divided the surface into a grid of twelve-inch squares. Each square was carefully dusted into a tiny vacuum attachment. Pieces of rubber sponge were then used to remove grime that was not loosened by the dusting. Only when needed and when it could be performed without damaging the paint layer, wet cleaning was performed using a mixture of alcohol and water. In the course of their work, the conservators found that the original paint was often too unstable to clean but that a previous restorer’s applications of acrylic paint could be cleaned without damaging the surface. Additionally, they observed that the base layer of asphaltum had bled through the plaster and paint to discolor the topcoat. They glued houses back in place and reattached flaking paint and plaster using a solution of B-72 and xylene. In painting was conducted only sparingly. When this work was complete, they reattached the two halves of the model and filled and in-painted the seam.
Carpenters carefully removed the model from its damaged original tables and attached it to a new custom-made table and built a new case around it. In order to make the piece easier for guests to view, the Museum enlisted a team of volunteers from Open High to tilt the model to a twenty degree angle while the carpenters secured it in place. The model was then displayed with one side against the wall. Because the long ends of the model were not perpendicular, the Museum added extensions to allow the long end to sit flush against the back wall.
Museum guests were able to watch the entire conservation process through a large window in the gallery and to ask the conservators questions. Seeing a large dead spider perched atop one of the houses, a guest commented, “If the spiders were that big in Poe’s time, no wonder he wrote the kind of stories he did.”
After this major conservation project, the model received occasional cleanings using soft brushes and vacuums. The most notable of these was conducted in 2008 with the help of volunteers from Hampton Hotels’ Save-a-Landmark program.
Over ninety years after Edith Ragland began her masterpiece, this model of Poe’s Richmond remains a highlight of the Poe Museum’s collection—a resource to visiting historians as well as a favorite with the Museum’s youngest visitors. Like few other historical documents, Ragland’s model helps the viewer visualize the city, its topography, and its structures as Poe would have known them.
Who will be the next Edgar Allan Poe? The Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia intends to find out. From June 21-27, 2015, the Museum will host its annual Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference for high school students. Designed and founded in 2004 by Edgar™ Award-winning author and Edgar Allan Poe’s cousin, Dr. Harry Lee Poe, the Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference attracts students from across the country to take part in a unique and intensive writing experience. In addition to participating in daily workshops, the students will learn from writing professionals including award-winning novelists, editors, journalists, poets, and playwrights. What makes the conference special is its Poe connection. Richmond, Virginia was home to Edgar Allan Poe for thirteen years, and it is here that he began his literary career. Students will learn from and be inspired by Poe by studying his craft as well as by visiting the sites that inspired or served as settings for his greatest works.
Past speakers have included Nero, Lefty, and Shamus Award-winning author Brad Parks; Hammett Prize winning novelist and journalist Howard Owen; Edgar Award™ winning biographer and educator Dr. Harry Lee Poe; and Theresa Pollack Award winning editor Mary Flinn.
The conference is designed to empower students to be leaders, educators, and writing professionals. So far, past students have become published authors and have been accepted into prestigious university writing programs.
To learn more about the conference or to apply, please click here of call the Edgar Allan Poe Museum at 804-648-5523 or [email protected] Click here to download an application. Applications are due April 1.
More Information about the Young Writers’ Conference: The Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference empowers high school students with the skills they need to become the next generation of great writers. In the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe, who encouraged and inspired young writers in his own time, the Poe Museum’s annual conference brings together students with professional journalists, editors, novelists, poets, and others who have devoted their lives to writing. The program is designed to encourage future innovation, expression, and leadership in Richmond’s literary community.
Lectures The participants will learn from the professionals who have devoted their lives to writing. Each morning of the conference, professional editors, technical writers, journalists, playwrights, novelists, and poets will share their experiences and advice with the participants. These speakers have included winners of such prestigious awards as the Edgar™, the Nero, the Lefty, and the Shamus.
Seminars Each day of the conference, the students will practice the craft of writing by participating in group writing exercises with an advanced writing instructor.
Practicing the Craft
Each day’s rigorous schedule would not be complete without time for attendees to practice their newly learned skills by crafting a composition that will be completed by the end of the week.
Focus on Poe
We believe great writing is grounded in an appreciation and understanding of the writers who came before us. Therefore, each day of the conference, time is dedicated to special field trips and activities focused on learn about the art and techniques of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing.
Salon Art is not created in a vacuum but is the result of the sharing of ideas and experiences. Each evening of the conference is devoted to building a fellowship and cooperation among the participants as well as enabling them to one become leaders in the larger writing community.
Young Writers’ Conference Points of Interest Fifty eight students have completed in the conference in its eight years
Many graduates of the conference have been accepted to prestigious writing programs and Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia, and elsewhere.
Two Notable Conferees:
Joy Thomas’s work has been published in Style Weekly.
Rachel Martens has published a series of novels called The Poe Series.
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.
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.
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.