The Museum Collection
Anna Estelle "Stella" Lewis Letter to Martin Van Buren Moore
Description:In this letter written nine years after Edgar Allan Poe's death, his acquaintance, Stella Lewis, provides an unflattering depiction of Poe's mother-in-law, Maria Clemm. Lewis (1824-1880) was a regular visitor to the Poes' cottage in Fordham, New York. Although Poe wrote a poem for her and wrote flattering reviews of her work, he is said to have fled his house when informed of her approach. Lewis provided financial support for Poe, and, after his death, assisted his mother-in-law, who occaisionally stayed with the Lewises.
In 1858, the year this letter was written, Stella Lewis divorced her husband, and, by 1874, she moved to London, where she met Poe's English biographer, John Henry Ingram. The recipient of the letter, Martin Van Buren Moore of Taylorsville, Tennessee, (1837-1900) was preparing an anthology and had apparently asked Stella's assistance. The recipient's grandson, Mr. Otis Smith of Richmond, Virginia, donated the letter along with the manuscript for an essay Moore had written about Poe. The donor retained the envelope, which had housed this letter, for possible sale to a stamp dealer.
The letter reads: "Dear Van,/ I had not time to reply to you [sic] letter which reached me the day before I sailed for Europe. I called at Mr. Scribner's on my way to the vessel and told his brother to say to you that I would write the notice of Poe--I will if you can wait. It was his last request of me-- "Write my life--you know better than anyone else." he said. If any one else should write it do not permit the name of that old woman who calls herself his mother-in-law to appear in it. I have heard that she is not his mother-in-law--That she has something else on him. Any how. I believe that she was [the] black cat of his life. And that she strangled him to death. I will tell you about it when we meet. If you get the work out before I return to America put Poe first, and Stella next in the Poets of Maryland. You cannot get it out till next year as it ought to be-- do wait--that is a good Van./ I intend to drop the name of Lewis--but cannot do it at once--What do you think of La Stella or Anna Stella. Call me Stella on all occasions--ring on it in biographical notice-- You know that the Divorce was all in my favor--That is after trying for a year they could not get anything against me--and gave it up--say this in the notice--say that I stood unscathed against the treachery of a half dozen Lawyers. Let me hear from you the moment you get this. Direct to care of Mr. John Monroe, Banker, no 5, Rue de La Paix, Paris--/ Ever Yours/ Stella"