Museum News


Poe Museum Announces First Object of the Month


To give the public a better idea of the variety of artifacts and memorabilia that makes up the Poe Museum’s world renowned collection, we will be profiling a different object each month. Some of these objects may be long-time favorites like Poe’s bed or Poe’s vest, but others may be lesser known pieces that are rarely, if ever, displayed. When making the list of items to profile, we began by asking which pieces tell stories or reveal unknown aspects of Poe’s life or work. We then considered which objects we wish could receive more attention or more time on display. Finally, we wondered which would be the first item to be profiled.

It made perfect sense to begin with a little known object that nonetheless attracts, repulses, and intrigues many of the guests who see it. Our tour guides regularly point it out on their tours because it is small enough to go unnoticed but too important to miss.

That is why the Poe Museum’s first Object of the Month is a lock of Eliza White’s hair.

Eliza White (ca.1820-1888) was the daughter of Poe’s employer, Thomas White, the owner of the Southern Literary Messenger. What little is known of Eliza White is a mixture of exaggeration, legend, and an occasional fact. Poe’s friend Susan Archer Talley Weiss wrote in her notoriously unreliable 1907 book Home Life of Poe, “When I was a girl I more than once heard of Eliza White and her love affair with Edgar Poe. ‘She was the sweetest girl that I ever knew,’ said a lady who had been her schoolmate; ‘a slender, graceful blonde, with deep blue eyes, who reminded you of the Watteau Shepherdesses upon fans. She was a great student, and very bright and intelligent. She was said to be engaged to Poe, but they never appeared anywhere together. It was soon broken off on account of his dissipation. I don’t think she ever got over it. She had many admirers, but is still unmarried.’”

Susan Archer Talley

According to Weiss, when Poe moved to Richmond in 1835 to work at the Southern Literary Messenger, “Mr. White, as a safeguard from the temptation to evil habits, received him as an inmate of his own home, where he immediately fell in love with the editor’s youngest daughter, ‘little Eliza,’ a lovely girl of eighteen [actually twenty-three]. It was said that the father, who idolized his daughter, and was also very fond of Poe, did not forbid the match, but made his consent conditional upon the young man’s remaining perfectly sober for a certain length of time. All was going well, and the couple were looked upon as engaged, when [Poe’s aunt] Mrs. Clemm, who kept a watchful eye upon her nephew, may have received information of the affair, and we have seen the result…Poe now, at once, plunged into the dissipation which was, according to general report, the occasion of Mr. White’s prohibition of his attentions to his daughter. It was she to whom the lines, ‘To Eliza,’ now included in Poe’s poems, were addressed.”

For her 1906 article “Some Memories of Poe” in Bob Taylor’s Magazine, Tula D. Pendleton interviewed Ms. White’s cousin, Miss Bell Lynes, a niece of Thomas H. White. In the resulting article, Cummings reports that, “Eliza, the handsome young daughter of Mr. White, inspired Poe with great admiration, and it was said that he singed his wings at the candles of her shrine. ‘To Eliza’ is his tribute to this fair girl.”

The poem “To Eliza,” originally published in the Southern Literary Messenger under the title “Lines Written in an Album,” reads:

Eliza! — let thy generous heart
From its present pathway part not!
Being every thing which now thou art,
Be nothing which thou art not.

So with the world thy gentle ways —
Thy unassuming beauty —
And truth shall be a theme of praise
Forever — and love a duty.

Though this poem was likely dedicated to Eliza White at that time, Poe had already written it in the album of his cousin Eliza Herring. He would later dedicate the poem to Frances S. Osgood and publish it under yet another name.

Thomas W. White

Of the supposed love affair between Poe and Ms. White, Pendleton continues, “But Mr. White would hear none of Poe as a suitor for his daughter. Miss White rarely spoke of the poet. ‘But,’ said Miss Lynes, ‘Eliza never married…’ Miss Lynes remembers seeing Poe at a party at her ‘Uncle White’s’ house. He and the fair girl made such a handsome couple that all present remarked upon it. “Mr. Poe was the most enthusiastic dancer I ever saw,” said Miss Lynes, “although he remained cold and calm, showing his delight only in his eyes.”

Poe and White remained friends for the rest of his life. She even visited Poe while he was living in Fordham, New York. In an April 22, 1859 letter to Poe’s friend Sarah Helen Whitman, Poe’s mother-in-law Maria Clemm writes of Eliza White, “She passed many months with us at Fordham, before and after Virginia’s death, but he never felt or professed other than friendship for her.”

If Poe’s relationship with White was not romantic, the two certainly shared an affinity for poetry. White’s poems appeared a number of times in the pages of the Southern Literary Messenger. Here is a poem of hers in the December 1835 issue.

The first mention of this lock of Eliza White’s hair comes from the above mentioned article by Tula D. Pendleton. The author writes of Ms. White, “Her greatest physical charm was her beautiful hair. Miss Lynes showed me a long braid of exquisite texture and of a fairness so extreme that when laid upon her own silver head there was scarcely any perceptible difference of shade. This hair was cut from Eliza White’s head many years before her death, which occurred about ten years ago.”

Pendleton acquired the lock from Miss Lynes and donated it to the Poe Museum in 1922. The piece had not been displayed for several years when the present curator, having read about it in the old accessions book, decided to take it out of storage. As a poet and as a friend of Poe’s, Eliza White deserved to have her story told. In the absence of a surviving portrait of her (since her only known portrait was destroyed in a fire in the nineteenth century) this hair serves as a tangible link to this often overlooked figure in Poe’s life.




Little Known Drawings Reveal Details of Poe’s Home


Among the little known treasures in the Poe Museum’s archives are four small pencil sketches of one of Edgar Allan Poe’s boyhood homes. The artist was a fourteen-year-old girl who would grow up to be an important poet. Sally Bruce Kinsolving was born in Richmond in 1876 and would have executed the drawings shortly before the house was demolished in 1890. The house in the drawings is the mansion known as Moldavia, an imposing structure that once stood at the corner of 5th and Main Streets in Richmond. Moldavia was named after its first owners, Molly and David Randolph, who built it in 1800. Poe was sixteen when he moved into the house with his foster parents John and Frances Allan. Poe lived there until he went to the University of Virginia in 1826 and would have stayed there during his visits to Richmond in 1827 (after leaving the University) and 1829 (after his foster mother’s funeral). After Poe’s 1831 expulsion from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Poe was no longer welcome in the home, which by then housed John Allan and his second wife, Louisa G. Allan. She lived there until her death in 1881, and the building was demolished in 1890. Although this Richmond landmark has been lost, the Poe Museum preserves several objects the Allans owned while living in Moldavia, including artwork, salt cellars, and furniture.

Sally Bruce Kinsolving (1876-1962) published her first book of poetry, Depths and Shallows in 1921. This was followed by David and Bathsheba and Other Poems (1922), Grey Heather (1930), and Many Waters (1942). She was a member of the Poetry Society of America and a founder of the Poetry Society of Maryland. Kinsolving was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa Associates, the Academy of American Poets, the Catholic Poetry Society of America, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors, and the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. Kinsolving donated her drawings of Moldavia to the Poe Museum in 1922, the year the Museum opened.

These faint pencil sketches reveal close-up views of elements of the mansion that have not necessarily recorded in the few surviving photographs of the structure. This is why they are an important resource for those researching the Richmond that Poe knew during his childhood. For an artist so young, Kinsolving has done a masterful job of capturing the subtle nuances of light and shadow in images that appear to emerge from the tan paper. In order to make the drawings more visible online, we have adjusted the contrast and enlarged the scans before posting them here, but we hope you can still appreciate the beauty of these little known gems of the Poe Museum’s collection. The captions are the artist’s.

“Cornice at the Back of the House”

“Back Basement Door”

“Front Door”

“South Porch”

Here is a photograph of the same portico for comparison.




Getrude Stein Visits the Poe Museum


If you think 2014 has been cold, you should see this picture of Getrude Stein (1874-1946) taken during her February 7, 1935 visit to the Poe Museum.

The poet spent a few days in Richmond during her six-month tour of the United States in 1934-35. While in the River City, she was entertained at the home of Richmond novelist Ellen Glasgow, gave a lecture about English Literature at the University of Richmond, and was given a reception by the board of the Poe Foundation in the Poe Museum’s Tea House (now its Exhibits Building).

Stein’s friend, the photographer and writer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964), took these photos of her at the Poe Museum. Each photograph is autographed by both Stein and Van Vechten, and Stein wrote captions. Here are the images with their captions.

“To the Poe Foundation with much pleasure”

“For the Poe Shrine and open”

“For the Poe Shrine [illegible]”

This is the same hitching post, in a different location, today.

Stein and Van Vechten are just two of the important literary and cultural figures who have visited the Poe Museum over the past ninety-two years. Others include H.P. Lovecraft, Henry Miller, and Salvador Dali.




Student Donates Artwork to Poe Museum


Last weekend, Victoria Campbell of Holman Middle School in Glen Allen, Virginia donated an original work of art she made entitled “El dios de los muertos” to the Poe Museum. The artist had visited the Museum the previous week and was inspired to base her school project on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Her mixed media artwork includes images of Poe and ravens in addition to a sculpted inkwell and quill pen. We would like to thank Victoria for her donation. The Poe Museum is thrilled, not only at receiving such a beautiful work of art, but also at seeing how Poe’s works continue to inspire readers of all ages. We hope teachers will continue to inspire students like Victoria by sharing with them the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

As a service to teachers, the Poe Museum provides an Educator Information Packet accessible here, or you can download the entire packet here. Information about bringing your class to the Poe Museum can be found here. Please contact us at info@poemuseum.org or 888-21-EAPOE for more information.

If you love visual art and the works of Edgar Allan Poe, be sure to check out our upcoming exhibit Deep into that Darkness peering, an exploration of Poe’s works through visual art by ten of the world’s leading artists running from April 24 until June 22, or you can sign up for a painting workshop in the Poe Museum’s legendary Enchanted Garden with Charles Philip Brooks on April 27. You can see our upcoming event and exhibit schedule here.




Tie the Knot in the Enchanted Garden!


The Enchanted Garden at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum is covered in snow as we write this, but soon Spring flowers will bring this lovely space to life, and with it, love will blossom too in the form of 15 planned weddings so far this year.

“You have weddings, at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum?” you might ask with wonder.  Yes, definitely yes!  We do!

The engagement season has been in full swing since December, and we are getting more interest in the Enchanted Garden as a wedding site than ever before.  Why is this?  Brides tell us they are drawn to the garden because of its intimate setting, as well as its quirky and historic background.  The bounty of nature and lovely plantings makes it even more desirable as a venue for that most special and lovely event in a bride or groom’s life. In these tight budget times, it is one of the most affordable spaces to host a wedding in Richmond.

So what do you get when you chose the Poe Museum as your wedding site?  For starters, you get the satisfaction of knowing you are creating a memorable experience for you and your guests.  As history goes, it is hard to beat the site itself, in business as a cultural center of Richmond since 1922.  As the only literary museum in the state of Virginia, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum has a sense of sophistication and an ambiance that you look for in a wedding site.  It is ideal for ceremonies and receptions, and our Bookings Coordinator Amber Edens will be glad to assist you in making arrangements for all the details that will make your wedding day a big success.  Call or email Amber Edens today to begin the joyful process that ends with the two simple words, “I do!”

You can contact Amber at:
amber@poemuseum.org  or  (804) 648-5523

Tours of the garden available Friday-Sunday 12pm-5pm by appointment.




Poe Birthday Bash Update


Here is the most recent schedule for Poe’s Birthday Bash this weekend. Don’t forget we have overflow parking at the Holocaust Museum’s lower parking lot. Here’s the map. We look forward to seeing you there.

Noon: Event Begins, Edgar Poe and Frances Osgood mingle with guests
12:00 (Ongoing until 8:00)
Trunk Shows Featuring:
Abigail Larson
The Arts of Erzulie and Nicole, of the Clockworks Collective
Brit Austin of BLA Illustration & Design
12:30 Poetry Reading: Edgar Allan Poe and Frances Osgood read their love poetry to each other
1:00 Tour: Walking Tour of Poe’s Shockoe Bottom
1:30 Dance: “Poe in Motion”
2:00 Live Music by Classical Revolutions
2:30 “The Tell-Tale Heart” with Jamie Ebersole
3:00 Performance of “Hop-Frog”
Tour: Tour of Poe Museum by the Curator
(CASH BAR OPENS)
3:30 Live Music by Swamp Dawgs
5:00 Tour: Poe’s Church Hill by the Curator
5:30 Dance: “Poe in Motion”
6:00 Cake Cutting and Birthday Speech
6:30 “The Tell-Tale Heart” with Jamie Ebersole
7:00 Jeffrey Abugel speaks about Poe’s Petersburg
Tour: Tour of Poe Museum by the Curator
7:30 Live Music by Pine Pony
9:00 Reading: “The Conqueror Worm” by Amber Edens
9:30 Book Talk and Signing of “The Poe Murders” by James Mancia
10:00 Live Music by Ameera Delandro
11:30 Preparation for Midnight Toast
Midnight: Toast to Poe in the Poe Shrine




By the Name of Annabel Lee


One of the questions the Poe Museum’s tour guides hear most often is, “Who is Annabel Lee?” Since Poe’s classic poem “Annabel Lee” first appeared in print two days after the author’s death in 1849, readers have speculated about whether or not the poem refers to a real person from the author’s life. Opening just in time for Poe’s Birthday Bash on January 18, the Poe Museum’s new exhibit “By the Name of Annabel Lee” will explore the poem and the people who may have inspired it.

The exhibit will profile the multiple women considered to be inspirations for the poem, and visitors will learn in the words of Poe’s close friend Frances S. Osgood who she believed was “the only woman whom he ever truly loved.” Rare artifacts to be displayed include the manuscript for Poe’s essay about Osgood, original letters by Osgood and others, and stunning portraits of Poe’s muses including Sarah Helen Whitman. The show promises to reveal the rarely seen romantic side of Poe and his work.

The exhibit opens during the Poe Birthday Bash on January 18, and, in honor of the exhibit, the day’s festivities will begin with historical interpreters portraying Poe and Osgood reading their love poetry to each other. The show continues until April 20, 2014.




When Eddie Met Fanny- A Review of Mrs. Poe


The best history, like reality, is messy.  Fiction, on the other hand, cleans up really well.  Personally I prefer history over fiction nine times out of ten, the messier the better.  Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen is good, clean fun if you like that sort of thing.  It is good, clean fun even if you do not like that sort of thing.  Ms. Cullen is an entertaining author whose other works include The Creation of Eve and Reign of Madness. For Mrs. Poe she has entered the abyss others ventured into before her to explore the [alleged] affair between one of literature’s greatest giants, Edgar Allan Poe, and one of the field’s lesser known but competent contributors, Frances Osgood.  

The two met while both were writers in New York, and both were married to other people, more or less faithfully, according to which version you explore.  Poe had, at the time this novel is set, just hit it big with his breakout blockbuster of a poem, The Raven, and while Mrs. Osgood styled herself a poet, she was more famous at the time for her children’s story, Puss In Boots.

As a fictionalized account of their relationship, a romantic novel,  Mrs. Poe is no worse, and somewhat better than other accounts have been.  My guess is that this will not be the final word on the subject either since we are obsessed with celebrities and their every move.  And to give him his due, Poe was one of the first, if not the first celebrity of his day.  The Raven was such a huge hit, Poe read it aloud to packed audiences every chance he got.  He was so famous indeed children on the streets of Richmond taunted him as he passed by, and he cawed and flapped his arms like the legendary bird to amuse them. 

If you are looking for a light diversion on a winter’s day, this and a cup of hot cocoa will fill the bill.  If, however, you require more reality dosed with your history, you may take your own time travel back to those heady days in the budding intellectual community of New York and read the actual poetry that Poe and Osgood wrote to and for each other.  His include two poems, one certainly which is a version of poetic regifting since, true to form, wrote it for someone else before and just rededicated it to F__ O__.  Hers to him, if they are to him, were either to flatter her editor so he would publish her, or to stir up scandal, which is what happened.   The biographic take on Mrs. Osgood has always been that as a lady, and a  married woman, she would not have wanted to draw attention to the affair between herself and Poe, if indeed one existed.  If you study her romantic baggage, however, you will discover that she went to the dark side in her amours, and courting Poe, a major stud muffin of his day, would have been right up her alley.  She liked her boys bad, very bad indeed.  And then of course, there is that  baby… Was it Poe’s or was it her wayward husband’s?  The fact is, we may never know.  But the answer to that question that did not stop Ms. Cullen, as it has not stopped others before her from exploring this tricky area of intriguing mystery.  It is a subject that renders itself tolerably well for a novel, but not quite up to the standard of Poe’s faithful readers.




The Latest Issue of the Poe Museum’s Newsletter


Here is the latest issue of the Poe Museum’s newsletter Evermore. With updates on recent acquisitions, new Poe Foundation officers, and the Poe Birthday Bash. PoeMuseum-winter2013newsletter




Poe’s Birthday Bash Promises 12 Hours of Poe Fun


On January 18, 2014 from noon to midnight, the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia will celebrate Edgar Allan Poe’s 205th birthday with twelve straight hours of Poe-themed fun for the whole family. Included in the day will be dramatic readings, living history, a mock trial of the murderer from Poe’s story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and even interpretive dance inspired by Poe’s stories and poems. Authors Jeff Abugel (Edgar Allan Poe’s Petersburg), Trish Foxwell (A Visitor’s Guide to the Literary South), and contributors to the new anthology Virginia is For Mysteries will be here to sign and discuss their latest books. There will also be live music and appearances by Poe impersonators as well as walking tours of Poe sites in the neighborhood. Don’t forget about the birthday cake. Guests get all this for just $5 for the day.

The day kicks off with Edgar Allan Poe and his friend Frances Osgood reading their flirtatious love poetry to each other. In the Museum’s Exhibit Building, you’ll get to see a new exhibit about Poe’s love poetry including the original manuscript for his essay about Frances Osgood and a letter by Osgood herself. Here is a tentative schedule for the day:

Noon: Event Begins, Edgar Poe and Frances Osgood mingle with guests
12:00 (Ongoing until 8:00) Abigail Larson Trunk Show
12:30 Poetry Reading: Edgar Allan Poe and Frances Osgood read their love poetry to each other
1:00 Tour: Walking Tour of Poe’s Shockoe Bottom
1:30 Dance: “Poe in Motion”
2:00 Live Music by Classical Revolutions
2:30 “The Tell-Tale Heart” with Jamie Ebersole
3:00 Performance of “Hop-Frog”
Tour: Tour of Poe Museum
Book Signing: Virginia is for Mysteries (until 6 P.M.)
(CASH BAR OPENS)
3:30 Live Music
5:00 Tour: Poe’s Church Hill
5:30 Dance: “Poe in Motion”
6:00 Cake Cutting
Silent Auction Ends
Jeffrey Abugel speaks about Poe’s Petersburg
6:30 “The Tell-Tale Heart” with Jamie Ebersole
7:00 Tour of Poe Museum
7:30 Live Music
9:00 Performance: “The Conqueror Worm” by Amber Edens
9:15 – 11:45pm Live Entertainment
Midnight: Toast to Poe in the Poe Shrine