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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The Poe Museum is proud to announce its upcoming exhibit “Poe in Paris,” which runs from June 23 until September 8, 2013 at the Poe Museum at 1914 East Main Street, Richmond, Virginia. Drawing on rare artwork and documents from the Poe Museum and four other collections, the exhibit will explore Poe’s influence on French avant garde artists and writers of the nineteenth century. On Saturday, June 22 from 5 to 9 P.M. the Poe Museum will host a special preview opening and wine pairing for which tickets can be purchased at the museum or at poemuseum.org for $25 in advance or $30 at the door.
About Poe in Paris:
The progressive cultural climate of nineteenth century Paris gave birth to artistic movements like Impressionism, Symbolism, Post-Impressionism, and Fauvism. The writers and artists active there pioneered the concepts which would soon give birth to modern art and literature. One of the most important and influential figures in this incubator of innovative ideas never even visited Paris, but his name was on the lips of almost every member of the city’s avant garde. His works were discussed and imitated by the leading authors and illustrated by the most innovative artists. Though Edgar Allan Poe never saw Paris, some of his most important works were inspired by the city and, in turn, inspired Paris’s leading artists and writers including the painters Edouard Manet and Paul Gauguin and the writers Charles Baudelaire and Jules Verne.
Since most Americans only know Poe for a few of his horror stories, which comprise only a small fraction of his oeuvre, it is easy to forget that Richmond’s greatest writer was also America’s first internationally influential author. After his early death in 1849 and the dismissal of his works by some American critics, it was the Europeans—especially the French—who cultivated an appreciation of Poe’s revolutionary contributions to world literature and aesthetics. Poe and his followers promoted concepts like “Art for Art’s Sake” and “Pure Poetry” which turned the art world upside-down and ushered in the age of Modernism. It should be no wonder that Edouard Manet produced three portraits of him and provided illustrations for a French edition of “The Raven” translated by avant garde French poet Stephan Mallarme. Symbolist painter Paul Gauguin and Fauvist Henri Matisse were among the many French artists to produce Poe-inspired works. Considered the Father of Science Fiction, Jules Verne was inspired by Poe’s science fiction stories and even wrote a sequel to one of Poe’s novels.
The Poe Museum’s intriguing exhibit will feature Poe-inspired artwork by Edouard Manet, Henri Matisse, and more in addition to rare early French translations of Poe’s works by Charles Baudelaire, Stephan Mallarme, and others. Assembled from the Poe Museum’s collection as well as from four other public and private collections, the exhibit will explore Poe’s presence in Parisian culture at the time Modern Art was born.
“Poe in Paris” will run from June 23 until September 8, 2013 with a special preview evening and wine pairing to be held on Saturday, June 22 from 5 to 9 P.M. The exhibit is included in the cost of Poe Museum general admission, but tickets for the preview evening and wine pairing can be purchased at the Poe Museum or on its website for $25 in advance or $30 at the door.
This June 24-26, the Poe Museum and the UVA Small Special Collections Library will host the first-ever Positively Poe Conference devoted to Poe’s life affirming and benefitial contributions to art, literature, culture, and science. This unique conference promises to change the way you think about Poe’s life and work. An international group of the leading Poe scholars, artists, and scientists will converge on the University of Virginia for a new kind of conference to be held in the shadow of some of the very sites that influenced Poe’s greatest works. Conferees will attend a dinner only a short distance from Poe’s dorm room and a picnic in the very Ragged Mountains that appear in Poe’s “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains.” A wide array of speakers will explore previously overlooked aspects of America’s most famous and most misunderstood author. The response so far has been great, and people from around the world have already registered. Don’t miss this opportunity to be a part of this groundbreaking event in Poe studies. You can register for the conference online today. For more information, contact the conference organizer Alexandra Urakova at email@example.com. A tentative schedule appears below.
Monday, June 24, 2013
7:00 Dinner – Rotunda Room.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
All paper sessions in the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library auditorium
9:00 Session One – The Boy Next Door
Chair – Stephen Rachman, Michigan State University
A. Richard Kopley
“Edgar Allan Poe, the Boy Next Door”
B. Chris Semtner
“A Young Girl’s Recollections of Edgar Allan Poe”
C. Jerome McGann,
“Verse and Reverse. Poe and the Poetry of Codependence”.
11:00 Session Two – Literary Circles, Friends and Followers
Chair – Jerome McGann, University of Virginia
A. Philip Phillips
“Yankee Neal and Edgar Poe: The Fruits of a Literary Friendship”
B. John Gruesser
“Poe, Whitman, and Melville in New York and Beyond”
C. Emron Esplin and Margarida Vale de Gato
“‘Excellent system(s) of positive translation(s)’: Why Poe’s Translators Have Neither Been Invisible nor Ephemeral”
12:30 Lunch break
1:30 Session Three – Poe and Art
Chair – Stephen Railton, University of Virginia
A. Scott Peeples
“Poe in Love”
B. Sonya Isaak
“When Music Affects Us to Tears”: Poe’s Silent Music – Divine Aspiration and Lasting Inspiration
C. Anne Margaret Daniel
“Bob Dylan: ‘like being in an Edgar Allan Poe story’”
3:30 Session Four: Collecting Poe
Susan Tane and Harry Lee Poe
6:00 Picnic – The Ragged Mountain (Beth Sweeney’s readers’ theater)
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
All paper sessions in the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library auditorium
9:00 Session One – The Comic Side of Poe
Chair – Richard Kopley, Penn State University
A. Barbara Cantalupo
“‘a little China man having a large stomach’: Poe’s Homely Details in ‘The Devil in the Belfry’
B. Alexandra Urakova
“Shreds and patches”: Poe, Fashion, and The Godey’s Lady’s Book
C. Elina Absalyamova
“A Comic Poe: European Success Story”
11:00 Session Two – Tales: Rethinking the Gothic
Chair – Bill Engel, University of the South
A. Bonnie Shannon McMullen
“The ‘sob from the . . .ebony bed’: The Reanimation of the Gothic Tale in ‘Ligeia’”
B. Susan Beth Sweeney
“Positive Images: Poe and the Daguerreotype”
C. William E. Engel
“Jaunty dialogs with the non-human: a Closer Look at Dogs in the Works of E.A. Poe”
12:30 Lunch break
1:30 Session Three – Poe and Ethics
Chair – Margarida Vale de Gato, University of Lisboa
A. Gero Guttzeit,
“‘Constructive Power’: Poe’s Mythology and Ethics of Authorship”
B. Katherine Rose Keenan,
“You Can’t Escape Yourself”: Poe’s Use of Moral Doppelgangers”
C. Shawn McAvoy and Heather Myrick Stocker
“Selective Symbolism: Poe’s Romantic Theology”
3.30 Session Four – Poetry, Science, and Eureka
Panel Chair – Harry Lee Poe, Union University
A. Stephen Rachman
“From “Al Aaraaf” to the Universe of Stars: Poe, the Arabesque, and Cosmology”
B. René van Slooten
“Religion, Science and Philosophy in Eureka”
C. Murray Ellison
“Judging Edgar Allan Poe’s Eureka after the Author’s Death”
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.
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…”
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.
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.
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.
From January 19 until March 31, 2013, the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia will feature a special exhibit celebrating the 170th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s horror masterpiece “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Opening on Poe’s birthday, January 19, the exhibit brings together the Poe Museum’s recently acquired first printing of the story and loans of sixteen original drawings for comic book adaptations of the story by acclaimed illustrators Richard Corben and Michael Golden.
Michael Golden is one of the world’s most popular comic artists, having provided artwork for G.I. Joe, The Adventures of Superman, Batman, The Micronauts, and several other series. The artwork in the exhibit, which is among his earliest published work, was printed in Marvel Classics #28 in 1977.
Richard Corben began his career in animation before turning to underground comics. In 1976 he adapted a Robert E. Howard story into what is considered the first graphic novel, Bloodstar. His illustrious career has included work in album covers and movie posters, collaboration on a graphic novel with rock musician and filmmaker Rob Zombie, and an award-winning short film Neverwhere. The artwork on display was printed in Edgar Allan Poe’s Haunt of Horror #2 in 2006. One of the pieces will be an unpublished alternative cover design.
Admission to the exhibit is included in the price of Poe Museum general admission. The January 19 opening will coincide with the Poe Museum’s annual Poe Birthday Bash running from noon to midnight and featuring readings, live music, and a lecture about the legacy of “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
The exhibit was made possible by loans of artwork from the collections of Richard Corben and James Vacca.
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:
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 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.
Dear Friend of the Poe Museum,
This morning two busloads of students arrived at the Poe Museum. In addition to touring the museum’s exhibits, the groups participated in a scavenger hunt, watched a performance of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and took a walking tour of neighborhood Poe sites. These are just a few of the programming options we now offer teachers in order to address the ever changing needs of their students. When classes are unable to visit the museum, we bring activities to schools and libraries throughout the Mid-Atlantic region or hold video conferences with schools outside the region. As teachers’ needs evolve, the Poe Museum will continue to adapt and to find new ways to cultivate a lifelong love of reading in audiences of all ages. This is one reason the Poe Museum has continued to serve for the past ninety years, and this is how it will thrive for the next ninety.
With all the changes taking place in its exhibits and programming, now is a great time to be a part of the Poe Museum. Earlier this year, we hosted a major exhibit of dozens of Poe manuscripts and letters which boosted our summer admissions by 26%. In June, students from across the country travelled to Richmond for the Fifth Annual Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference. In October, we placed a marker on the grave of Poe’s first and last fiancée Elmira Royster Shelton because the legend on her gravestone has completely worn away. Throughout the year, the museum’s renowned collection continued to grow with the major acquisitions of the first printing of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the only surviving manuscript for Poe’s poem “To Helen,” and several important books about Poe’s life and work from the collection of influential early twentieth century Poe scholar James Southall Wilson. In the year ahead, we look forward to hosting another Young Writers’ Conference as well as the first Positively Poe Conference, at which leading Poe scholars will explore Poe’s life affirming contributions to the arts and culture. We are already booking group tours for the spring semester and preparing for next year’s exhibits.
As the Poe Museum prepares for another exciting year, we continue to face challenges ranging from recent severe weather that caused the cancellation of several tours and off-site programs to the expenses associated with maintaining both our artifacts and the two-hundred sixty-year-old building that houses them. The Poe Museum has lasted ninety years because generations of donors have supported it along the way, and the museum will continue to promote Poe’s legacy for another ninety years with the help of you and future generations of members and donors. We are mindful that the City of Baltimore has closed the Poe House. As a private museum, we do not take our supporters for granted. If you have not made your annual donation to the Poe Museum this year, now is a perfect time to do so. You can donate right now by clicking this link. Your gift of $20, $50, $100, $500, or more can help us keep the Poe Museum’s programs available and affordable for audiences of all ages.
Harry Lee Poe
Even after ninety years, the Poe Museum’s collection continues to grow. Here are a few of the recent acquisitions made possible by the Poe Museum’s friends.
Almost everyone has read Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous short story of madness and murder, but this week the Poe Museum in Richmond finally acquired the coveted first printing of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The story first appeared in the inaugural issue (January 1843) of the Boston magazine The Pioneer, edited by poet James Russell Lowell (1819-1891). Since only three issues were published before Lowell discontinued the magazine, copies are now relatively rare. Considered the most ambitious literary journal of Antebellum America, The Pioneer’s three issues contained contributions by Poe, Lowell, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Poe Museum President Dr. Harry Lee Poe commented on the Poe Museum’s acquisition of the important first printing, “This is a prize for any collection especially because it is the story that is included in all the anthologies.” The piece will will go on display at the Poe Museum during the Museum’s day-long celebration of Poe’s birthday on January 19, 2013 from noon until midnight.
Though the story is a favorite with today’s readers, “The Tell-Tale Heart” was rejected the first time Poe tried to publish it– the publishers of the Boston Miscellany writing in their rejection letter, “If Mr. Poe would condescend to furnish more quiet articles, he would be a most desirable correspondent.” Lowell, however, liked the story and acquired it for the first issue of his own magazine, paying Poe ten dollars for the work. A number of magazines soon reprinted the story, but, owing to the lax copyright laws of the time, Poe did not receive any royalties for these unauthorized reprints. Two years later, the editor of Poe’s next collection of short stories did not select it for inclusion in what would be the last collection of Poe’s tales published during his lifetime.
The twentieth century’s leading Poe scholar Thomas Ollive Mabbott called Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” “a supreme artistic achievement,” and the tale has long been a favorite among readers. A staple at readings of Poe’s works, the story has been adapted several times to film, including the 2009 movie “Tell-Tale” starring Josh Lucas and the upcoming “The Tell-Tale Heart” starring Rose McGowan. It even inspired an episode of the television program “The Simpsons” in which Lisa built a diorama based on the story.
On October 25, the outgoing Curator of the Poe House and Museum of Baltimore, Jeff Jerome, presented the Poe Museum with a piece of horse hair from the Poe House. The plaster was removed from the interior east wall of the front room during a wall repair, and Jerome saved a few pieces of the plaster the repairmen discarded at that time. This piece, which measures about seven inches in width, may be a remnant of the house’s original (ca. 1830) plaster and would, therefore, date to the time of Poe’s residence in the building from early 1833 until August 1835. During Poe’s residence there, he wrote some of his major early tales including his first horror story “Berenice.” He lived in the house with his grandmother Elizabeth Poe, his cousin Henry Clemm, his aunt (and future mother-in-law) Maria Poe Clemm, and his cousin (and future wife) Virginia Clemm.
This piece will be a welcome addition to the Poe Museum’s collection of building materials from various buildings (most of which have been demolished) in which Poe lived or worked. Among the Poe-related building materials already in the Poe Museum’s collection are bricks from the office in which Poe worked for the Southern Literary Messenger, bricks from the headquarters of Poe’s foster father’s firm Ellis and Allan, granite from the home in which Poe was married, bricks from Poe’s home in New York City, a mantle from Poe’s bedroom in Richmond, locks and hinges from other Richmond buildings associated with Poe, lumber from the Southern Literary Messenger office, an urn from the garden in which Poe courted his first fiancée, and the staircase from Poe’s boyhood home. The Poe Museum’s collection of furnishings from Poe-related buildings includes the author’s bed, the chair on which he sat while editing the Southern Literary Messenger, and paintings from his home.
An Article about Poe
Another fine addition to the Poe Museum’s collection was the recent gift of Michael Blankenship of Roanoke, Virginia. The gift, the April 1891 issue of Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly contains the article “Some Memorials of Edgar Allan Poe” by Clara Dargan Maclean, who reports on her visits to the surviving residences of Poe and her interviews with people who knew him. The article contains some fine engravings as well as some interesting details about Poe’s death. Maclean was a proponent of the theory that Poe’s death resulted from cooping, the practice of abducting and drugging of men to force them to vote multiple times. The actual cause of Poe’s disappearance and death remains a mystery.
Appropriately enough, Blankenship donated the piece to the Poe Museum on Halloween. This magazine will be added to the Poe Museum’s reference library, which boasts already thousands of books and periodicals about Edgar Allan Poe’s life and works.
Below are some of the beautiful engravings from the article.
Join us on Friday, November 30 from 6-10 P.M. when the Poe Museum’s historic Enchanted Garden comes alive with thousands of lights as the Museum rings in the holiday season with the free “Poe Illumination.” Guests will enjoy hot apple cider and traditional Christmas music while costumed interpreters show them what Christmas was like during Poe’s time. Additionally, the Poe Museum will be displaying some of the actual gifts Poe gave his friends and family in Richmond. Included in the display will be a small watercolor Poe himself might have painted and a book of children’s stories he autographed and gave to a young girl. Kids can enjoy making Victorian Christmas crafts while adults can visit our cash bar for mulled wine. Click here for photos of last year’s Poe Illumination.