The Museum Collection
Reviews of Edgar Allan Poe's Parents in The Polyanthos
Description:Joseph T. Buckingham, Editor of the monthly Boston literary magazine The Polyanthos, gives mixed reviews of Edgar Allan Poe's performances as actors on the Boston stage. One of his reviews of Poe's mother, Eliza Poe (1787-1811) was so harsh her husband and Edgar Allan Poe's father, David Poe, Jr. (1784-?) challenged Buckingham to a duel. The review reads, "Mrs. Poe was a very green Little Pickle. We never knew before that the Spoiled Child belonged to that class of being termed hermaphroditical, as the uncouthness of his costume seemed to indicate." In this age of propriety, such a review was even more insulting than it would be today.
Eliza had first played the part of the young boy Little Pickle in the farce The Spoiled Child eleven years earlier, in 1796. Though comedic roles such as this had brought her fame, by 1807 she was outgrowing such parts and trying to establish herself in more serious roles.
Eliza Poe was a gifted and popular actress in her time and performed in the major theaters from Portland, Maine to Charleston, South Carolina. Though she died when his youngest son, Edgar, was only two years old, he cherished her memory and wrote in the July 19, 1845 issue of the Broadway Journal, "The writer of this article is himself the son of an actress -- has invariably made it his boast-- and no earl was ever prouder of his earldom than he of his descent from a woman who, although well born, hesitated not to consecrate to the drama her brief career of genius and of beauty."
Other Reviews of Poe's Parents in this Volume:
"Miss Jenny by Mrs. Poe was well. The hoyden is Mrs. Poe's forte."
A hoyden in a boisterous girl or tomboy. At the age of twenty-one, Eliza Poe was still playing these roles. Miss Jenny was a character in John Vanbrugh?s play The Provoked Husband.
Page 285 (March 1807)
"We know not which is more laughable, the absurd, preposterous conduct of the managers in giving the character of Cordelia to a lady who is so totally inadequate to its representation: or to the ridiculous vanity which prompted her to accept it...Mrs. Poe as Cordelia [in William Shakespeare's King Lear], has once received our approbation, and has again deserved it. But we notwithstanding prefer her comedy." The production was, however, a hit.
A negative notice Poe's father, who was reputed to be a poor actor, also appears on page 281.