May 11 marks the 112th birthday of one of the twentieth century’s most important artists, Salvador Dalí. What does the great Spanish Surrealist painter Dalí have to do with Edgar Allan Poe? More than you might think.
Dalí mentions Poe at the beginning and the end of his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. In the first anecdote, Dalí describes the cultural climate in Paris in the 1930s and how everyone was reading Poe and Marie Bonaparte’s new psychoanalytical take of Poe’s work. Bonaparte’s search for hidden Freudian meanings in Poe’s work appealed to Dalí and the Surrealists, who were trying to tap into the powers of the subconscious.
Dali painting in Virginia
At the end of Dalí’s autobiography, he describes the process of writing the book. By that time he has fled the war in Europe and is living with friends in Virginia, about an hour north of Richmond. While there, he began Daddy Long Legs of Evening—Hope! (1940), his first picture painted entirely in America, and Slave Market with Disappearing Bust of Voltaire (1940).
During his stay, newspaper accounts say Dalí visited Richmond movie theaters and museums. One of his housemates, the author Henry Miller, signed the Poe Museum’s guest book. Dalí likely also visited the Poe Museum at that time, but his signature has not been located in the guest book. After either hearing Miller’s description of the Poe Museum’s Enchanted Garden or after seeing it for himself, Dalí decorated the garden at the house at which he was staying and entitled his work “The Enchanted Garden.”
Dali’s Enchanted Garden in Bowling Green, Virginia
Whether or not Poe influenced Dalí’s landscaping, he apparently inspired the painter’s writing. In fact, Dalí claimed Poe helped him write his autobiography. According to Dalí, “on certain nights the spectre of Edgar Allan Poe would come from Richmond to see me, in a very pretty convertible car all spattered with ink. One night he made me a present of a black telephone truffled with black pieces of black noses of black dogs, inside which he had fastened with black strings a dead black rat and a black sock, the whole soaked in India ink.”
After leaving Virginia, Dalí took America by storm, producing some of his best paintings, painting celebrity portraits, and collaborating with Hollywood directors Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney. Click here to read more about Dalí’s stay in Virginia.
Dali’s painting Soft Construction in Boiled Beans (1936)
Mystery, madness, and flowers?
While most might associate Edgar Allan Poe with horror and mysteries, the nineteenth century author loved and wrote about gardens. In fact, the centerpiece of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond is an Enchanted Garden based on his poem “To One in Paradise.” The garden, in turn, has inspired the Poe Museum to invite artists to sketch, paint, or photograph the site for its upcoming exhibit Painting the Enchanted Garden 3, which will run from May 26 until July 24, 2016. Artists from Atlanta to Richmond have accepted the challenge to visit the Poe Museum’s garden over the past few months to begin their work, which must be complete in time for the May 26 opening of this popular annual show. The exhibit opening will take place at the May 26 Unhappy Hour which features live music by Margot MacDonald, performances, and refreshments provided by The Luncheonette.
Participating artists include Lisa Mistry, Taylor Wilson, Chris Ludke, Amelia Blair Langford, Anne Argenzio, Hanna Bechtle, Mary Pedini, Mary Beth Johnson, David Bromley, Julie Burleigh, Mike Steele, Jan Priddy, Kenner Fortner, Agnes Grochulska, Renee Gleason, Alyson Parsons, Susie Melton, and Dwight Paulett.
Artwork by Chris Ludke
Editor Nathaniel Parker Willis once burned a manuscript of Poe’s “Fairy-Land.” That seems like pretty harsh treatment from a literary editor; and we wonder why such atmospheric lines as “Dim vales-and shadowy floods- / And cloudy-looking woods” might receive such severe critical feedback? The answer lies in comparing the poem we commonly know with its alternative publishing in Poe’s anthology of poems in 1831.
It was no secret that Poe was always at work altering lines and switching words-“Fairy-Land” was no exception.
Our readers may be familiar with the classic verse, which reads,
Dim vales—and shadowy floods—
And cloudy-looking woods,
Whose forms we can’t discover
For the tears that drip all over:
Huge moons there wax and wane—
Every moment of the night—
Forever changing places—
And they put out the star-light
With the breath from their pale faces.
About twelve by the moon-dial,
One more filmy than the rest
(A kind which, upon trial,
They have found to be the best)
Comes down—still down—and down
With its centre on the crown
Of a mountain’s eminence,
While its wide circumference
In easy drapery falls
Over hamlets, over halls,
Wherever they may be—
O’er the strange woods—o’er the sea—
Over spirits on the wing—
Over every drowsy thing—
And buries them up quite
In a labyrinth of light—
And then, how, deep! —O, deep,
Is the passion of their sleep.
In the morning they arise,
And their moony covering
Is soaring in the skies,
With the tempests as they toss,
Like—almost any thing—
Or a yellow Albatross.
They use that moon no more
For the same end as before,
Videlicet, a tent—
Which I think extravagant:
Its atomies, however,
Into a shower dissever,
Of which those butterflies
Of Earth, who seek the skies,
And so come down again
Have brought a specimen
Upon their quivering wings.
The following is what N. P. Willis had to say about this version of the poem:
It is quite exciting to lean over eagerly as the flame eats in upon the letters, and make out the imperfect sentences and trace the faint strokes in the tinder as it trembles in the ascending air of the chimney. There, for instance, goes a gilt-edged sheet which we remember was covered with some sickly rhymes on Fairy-land….Now it [the flame] flashes up in a broad blaze, and now it reaches a marked verse-let us see-the fire devours as we read:
“They use that moon no more,
For the same end as before-
Videlicet, a tent,
Which I think extravagant.”
Burn on, good fire! (From The Editor’s Table’ of the American Monthly for November, here found in The Poe Log, 99).
Critic Nathaniel Parker Willis
Whether Willis truly burned the manuscript the twenty-year-old Poe poured his heart into, or whether he figuratively made this claim to prove a striking point, we may infer that the notice may have burned Poe so severely that it caused him to turn the memorable piece into a less than memorable one. Here is the following revised version found in his 1831, Poems, just two years after Willis’ scathing review,
Sit down beside me, Isabel,
Here, dearest, where the moonbeam fell
Just now so fairy-like and well.
Now thou art dress’d for paradise!
I am star-stricken with thine eyes!
My soul is lolling on thy sighs!
Thy hair is lifted by the moon
Like flowers by the low breath of June!
Sit down, sit down — how came we here?
Or is it all but a dream, my dear?
You know that most enormous flower —
That rose — that what d’ye call it — that hung
Up like a dog-star in this bower —
To-day (the wind blew, and) it swung
So impudently in my face,
So like a thing alive you know,
I tore it from its pride of place
And shook it into pieces — so
Be all ingratitude requited.
The winds ran off with it delighted,
And, thro’ the opening left, as soon
As she threw off her cloak, yon moon
Has sent a ray down with a tune.
And this ray is a fairy ray —
Did you not say so, Isabel?
How fantastically it fell
With a spiral twist and a swell,
And over the wet grass rippled away
With a tinkling like a bell!
In my own country all the way
We can discover a moon ray
Which thro’ some tatter’d curtain pries
Into the darkness of a room,
Is by (the very source of gloom)
The motes, and dust, and flies,
On which it trembles and lies
Like joy upon sorrow!
O, when will come the morrow?
Isabel! do you not fear
The night and the wonders here?
Dim vales! and shadowy floods!
And cloudy-looking woods
Whose forms we can’t discover
For the tears that drip all over!
Huge moons — see! wax and wane
Again — again — again —
Every moment of the night —
Forever changing places!
How they put out the starlight
With the breath from their pale faces!
Lo! one is coming down
With its centre on the crown
Of a mountain’s eminence!
Down — still down — and down —
Now deep shall be — O deep!
The passion of our sleep!
For that wide circumference
In easy drapery falls
Drowsily over halls —
Over ruin’d walls —
O’re the strange woods — o’er the sea —
Alas! over the sea! (Taken from here).
We question Poe’s motives in changing the poem, causing it to become so lengthy and awkward; even a fellow Poe enthusiast was left shaking their head in confusion, stating, “I don’t even recognize that poem. Isabel-?!” Perhaps this alternate “Fairy Land” is truly that-an alternate “Fairy Land.” Thus, shouldn’t it be treated as its own poem and published, perhaps, alongside our final version of “Fairy-Land?” It is noted in Mabbott’s Complete Poems that Poe never republished “Fairy Land” (which is noted here as “Fairy Land [II]”). He may have been ashamed of his lengthy alternative and thus stuck with his original, scathed “Fairy-Land,” pushing its popularity and thus allowing it to be the one contemporary audiences may be more familiar with. This is not to say that both poems have not been published side-by-side, in some cases, since; however, the author of this post would like to point out that two of her own Poe volumes do not contain “Fairy Land” from 1831 Poems.
What do you think about the alternate piece? Do you think both versions should be, or continue to be, published in future Poe anthologies? Which version do you prefer?
As m Blog on Poe and Science advance, I will be documenting the process I undertook and my findings on Poe and Science, which led to my Master’s Thesis in English Literature in December 2015, at Virginia Commonwealth University. After regular visits to the Poe Museum in early 2013 to conduct research on Eureka: A Prose Poem, the final work that the Poe published under his own supervision, I started reading what other scholars had to say about Eureka: A Prose Poem. I will be discussing their conclusions in detail in a future blog. As my reading advanced, I conceived of the idea of writing a thesis which would propose to evaluate Poe’s scientific treatise, even though Poe had warned critics not to try to evaluate his book in his lifetime. I wondered why he would issue such a disclaimer. Perhaps, he thought that if he warned critics not to evaluate it, they would take it as a challenge and pay closer attention to his book than they might have done otherwise.
After about two decades of his poetry, newspaper reporting, essays, fictional works, and journalistic hoaxes, most people who were paying attention to Poe could not even begin to anticipate what he might do next or understand his ulterior motives. After Eureka was released in 1848, he proved, again, that he was correct. Responses to his book came in from many major newspapers and literary journals in the United States and Europe. Early reviews, before most critics had a chance to study the book in full, were mostly positive. After Eureka had been out for several months, critics were all over the map with their opinions. I will also discuss these reviews in a future blog. Suffice it to say that some critics thought it was brilliant and others ridiculed both Poe and his scientific treatise. During my spring, 2013 Semester as a Master’s student at VCU, I began to formulate some proposals on what type of research on Poe and Science to conduct. Within the next two semesters, I had put some of my ideas and gave workshops at the VCU Graduate Writers Workshop, The William and Mary Humanities, History, and Literature Symposium, the Positively Poe Society Workshop in Charlottesville, and the Young Poe Writers Workshop. The last major workshop I delivered was to the members of the International History of Science in Society (HSS) Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. It was fully funded by the VCU English Department and HSS. I feel very appreciative that VCU professors Karen Rader (History and Science) and Joshua Eckhardt (English Literature) made the funding support possible. I felt excited that Poe was finally being recognized as an important figure in the early history of science in the United States. I was even more encouraged by the enthusiastic report that I received after I delivered my talk. One history professor from Oklahoma showed me positive remarks and comments he had posted on Twitter during my talk. Also, Bernard Lightman, one of the top authorities in the history of science during the Victorian Era, was in my audience. It is a good thing that I did not know this or it would have made me extremely nervous. When he came up to me after my presentation and gave me affirming feedback, I was thrilled. I asked him if I had quoted and interpreted his writing properly. He said, “Absolutely!” I talked again to the Oklahoma professor (I wish I could remember his name) and Bernard Lightman several times during the conference. Both agreed that Edgar Allan Poe needed to be given more credit for being an important early contributor to the History of Science in the Nineteenth Century. The conclusion I reached after my preliminary studies is that we can learn more about the history of nineteenth-century science and about how people received science information from Poe than we can from professional science writers who wrote during that period. This idea is also supported by newer writing that has been coming out in the field of the history of science, which offers four major conclusions about early to mid-nineteenth-century science:
- Science was branching off into many new and highly specialized fields.
- There was much disagreement among scientists about which fields were and were not legitimate.
- The public was amazed at the emerging nineteenth-century technologies but often couldn’t differentiate between the legitimate sciences and the mysterious pseudo-sciences.
- “Popularizers,” like Poe, wrote about how science affected people in ways that the public understood.
My research after the first year and my experiences giving presentations at the above conferences influenced my decision to shift the focus of my thesis away from evaluating Eureka (which I had determined was an almost impossible task) and towards studying how the public’s interest in science influenced Poe’s decision to concentrate on writing about this topic. Conversely, I also decided that, as Poe got more popular, his decision to incorporate scientific topics in his writings further inspired the public’s interest in science. In my next Poe and Science Blogs, I will discuss the conclusions I presented at the Positively Poe Conference about why evaluating Eureka has been, and will continue to be such a difficult challenge.
Levine, Stuart and Susan F. Edgar Allan Poe: Eureka. Eds. Urbana: University of Illinois, 2004.
Limon, John. The Place of Fiction in the Time of Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Lightman, Bernard. Victorian Science in Context. Ed. University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Thomas, Dwight and David Jackson, Ed. The Poe Log- A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849. Boston: G.B. Hall and Company, 1987.
Murray Ellison received a Master’s in Education (1973) and in English Literature (2015). He earned a Doctorate in Education in 1987. He is married and has three adult employed daughters. He retired as the Virginia Director of Community Corrections for the Department of Correctional Education in 2009. Currently, he serves as a literature teacher, board member, and curriculum advisor for the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield, Virginia, and the founder and chief editor of the literary blog, www.LitChatte.com. He is an editor for the “Correctional Education Magazine,” and editing a book of poetry written by an Indian mystic. He also serves as a board member and occasional volunteer tour guide, poetry judge, and all-around helper at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond Virginia. You can write to Murray by leaving a Comment on this Blog, or at [email protected]. You can also receive automatic postings from www.Litchatte.com by submitting your email in the tab to the right of this blog.
Murray at the Richmond Poe Museum
April is National Poetry Month and the perfect time to celebrate all the poetry in the world around us. Whether we read it in a book or listen to it on the radio, we enjoy poetry in countless forms. In Edgar Allan Poe’s time, when poetry was far more popular than it is today, people experienced poetry in a number of different ways. Much like today, poets gave public readings for their work or published it in books or magazines. Poe and his contemporaries also wrote their poems in ladies’ albums.
Ladies’ albums were popular gifts for girls throughout much of the nineteenth century. The owner would send her album to her friends and relatives who would fill them with poetry and drawings in much the same way today’s high school students sign each other’s yearbooks. In the nineteenth century, however, people put a lot more effort into signing their friends’ albums. Here are three good examples from the collection of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum.
The first belonged to Lucy Dorothea Henry (1822-1898), the granddaughter of Revolutionary War orator Patrick Henry. In spite of living on a rural Virginia plantation, she befriended some of the leading authors of her day by writing them to request their autographs for her collection. In the process, she befriended New York editor and autograph collector John Keese who gave her this album.
This is Keese’s inscription.
This page contains a poem by American poet Charles Fenno Hoffman.
Here is poem by Elizabeth Oakes Smith that shows off the poet’s beautiful handwriting.
Henry’s daughters donated both her autograph collection and her album to the Poe Museum in 1928.
The next album belonged to Louisa Anna Lynch (1825-1891), who grew up in Petersburg, Virginia. When she was a girl, Edgar Allan Poe gave her a copy of a book and autographed it for her. Read all about it here. When her descendants donated that book to the Poe Museum, they also donated her autograph album, which is full of poems dating to the early 1840s.
Somebody wrote these unsigned captions for the book’s few illustrations. The captions are quotes from various books and periodicals.
The anonymous writer of this Shakespeare quote has given Louisa the nickname Annie.
One suitor thought he could impress Louisa by writing this essay on friendship in her album.
Here are the closing lines of a poem signed “CMF” and the opening verses of a poem signed “Amicus.”
The third album belonged to Amelia Poe, the twin sister of Neilson Poe, the husband of Josephine Emily Clemm Poe Poe, half-sister of Edgar Poe’s wife Virginia Clemm Poe, who was also Edgar’s first cousin. (If that is confusing, you can read about the Poe family genealogy here.) This album is a treasure trove of poetry, artworks, and pressed flowers.
The person who wrote this poem also decorated the page with drawings.
Here is another elaborate decoration.
When writing in a lady’s album, one could either compose an original poem or quote an appropriate poem by a popular author. In the sample below, someone has quoted a couple verses of Scottish poet Thomas Campbell’s 1799 poem “The Pleasure of Hope” and signed it with a dotted line. If you look very closely, someone wrote some initials in pencil on that dotted line. They appear to be “EAP.”
In either 1829 or 1832-1836, Edgar Allan Poe wrote the first stanza of his poem “To Helen” in the album. Today this is thought to be the only surviving copy of that poem in Poe’s handwriting.
Amelia Poe’s granddaughter donated this album and other Poe family items to the Poe Museum in 1930.
This has been only a small sample of the many poems written throughout each of these albums. At a time when writing in cursive is a dying art and when writing poetry in albums has long-since gone out of fashion, we can read through the poetry in the Poe Museum’s albums to get a sense of the role poetry played in people’s daily lives back in Poe’s time.
I recently came across a curious poem in a Poe anthology entitled “To Isadore.” I was not familiar with it, but it certainly sounded like Poe’s voice throughout the stanzas, at least so I thought. The publishers sure fooled me, for lo’ and behold, it was deemed as being misattributed to Poe and it had been confirmed that it was not a Poe poem (Mabbott 509). What concerned me most about this situation was that there remain to be slipups even among our popular publishers today. The anthology I found this poem in will go unnamed; however, this post is meant to bring awareness to a few commonly misattributed “Poe poems.”
Going off of the “To Isadore” poem, Mabbott explains in his Complete Poems that an A. M. Ide was thought to be Poe, especially since this Ide had published four poems in The Broadway Journal of 1845, the same journal Poe briefly worked for. Mabbott explains, however, that this young writer was Abijah M. Ide (509). In fact, Ide and Poe had corresponded in a few letters, thus further proving that Poe was not Mr. Ide, and thus marking off the following poems from Poe’s “potential poems” list: “To Isadore,” “The Village Street,” “The Forest Reverie,” and “Annette,” all written by Ide.
“To Isadore” was not the first time I had been fooled by believing I had found a new Poe poem to read. A close second that seems to fool many, including private sellers on various auction websites, is “The Fire-Fiend – A Nightmare,” which can be found in the Saturday Press of November 19, 1859. According to Mabbott, this poem was a hoax by Charles D. Gadette, who later explained in his own pamphlet the truth behind the poem and that it was his own. This did not stop the prestigious Southern Literary Messenger from publishing it again, however, in their July 1863 issue (calling it “The Fire Legend”). Finally, this piece continued to fool audiences, even up until 1901, where James A. Harrison, who published it in a Complete Works of Poe, had discussed the poem with W. F. Gill, who called it “The Demon of Fire” (Mabbott 512).
Thomas Dunn English
A third poem to discuss is “The Lady Hubbard,” which can be found in Godey’s Lady’s Book of 1849. What is striking about this piece is that it has been hypothesized to have been written by Thomas Dunn English, rather than Poe, although scholars, including Ruth E. Finley in The Lady of Godey’s, adamantly attribute it to Poe. We might point out that this has not been the first time English and Poe have been mixed up regarding their writing technique; and English has been so convincing of parodying Poe’s writing that other authors blindly accepted prose sent in by English mimicking and claiming to be Poe. This includes “The Ghost of a Grey Tadpole, by Edgar A. Poe,” published in The Irish Citizen of January, 1844. According to Dwight Thomas in The Poe Log, this was a “clever burlesque of Poe’s fiction by Thomas Dunn English” (450). Later that month, George Lippard, a contemporary of Poe’s, republished the story in the Citizen Soldier, “without comment and presumably without recognizing it as a hoax by English,” according to Thomas (451). We cannot blame Lippard for his mistake, however, as English, who had editorial authority of the Irish Citizen took his own liberties to publish the false piece. Only Poe and English would know better about that story. Another poem that English wrote, mimicking Poe’s style was “The Mammoth Squash,” which also remains to be a confusing selling point for many rare booksellers. Unfortunately, again, Poe did not write this poem, and we would frankly be embarrassed if he had. Originally found in the Aristidean of October 1845, the poem caused Poe himself to rise and refute the poem as being his own in an article in the Broadway Journal of 1845. Rather, Poe directed the poem towards the editor of the Aristidean, Thomas Dunn English. This shows that Poe was even dealing with misattributions during his lifetime.
Our fourth piece is one that Mabbott deemed to be “trash,” a harsh word to use in a scholarly book. Charles Bromback assigned this poem, “First of May,” to Poe in 1917; it was originally found in the Atlantic Souvenir. According to Mabbott, the poem ends by exclaiming, “Then how can I be gay / On this merry first of May? / Ah no! I am sad, I am sad” (505). Mabbott ends his short description regarding this poem with a quip, “It is to its unknown author’s credit that no signature was affixed to this trash.” We will have to agree with Mabbott on this one.
Our final poem is one that is fairly commonly known within the Poe community, “Lines on Ale.” This drinking poem managed to confuse Poe scholars aplenty, and many still attribute it to Poe. He was “an alcoholic” after all, so why wouldn’t he write a few verses in honor of the drink? Unfortunately, this poem has been rejected and is not a Poe poem.
George Arnold, author of “Drinking Wine”
Mabbott had mistakenly claimed it as a Poe poem, stating, “Absolutely complete authentication is not possible, but the piece comes in an unsuspicious way, and I regard it as authentic…” (449). The legend claims that Poe may have written the lines at the Washington Tavern in Lowell, Massachusetts and that the manuscript of this poem hung on the wall of the tavern until around 1920. Even a firsthand account given by Jerry Murphy, a source for Mabbott, claimed to have seen it. However, doubts began to seriously arise in 2013 when, according to the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, claims were sent in pointing out strong similarities between Poe’s lines and another poet’s lines. George Arnold’s version, beginning with “Pour the mingled cream and amber,” was first published in 1867, whereas Poe’s version, “Fill with mingled cream and amber,” was supposedly written anytime between 1848-1892 (although it would have had to have been written in 1848 or 1849, considering Poe’s death in 1849, assuming Poe had written it) (EAPoe). Another argument in 2014 explained that perhaps Arnold had plagiarized Poe; however, there is no evidence that proves this either way.
Mabbot’s argument using Murphy’s potentially word-of-mouth claims is not sufficient evidence that Poe would have written this poem, nor is there strictly strong evidence proving that Arnold was the original, and only, author of the poem. If the manuscript still survived, then we might completely know the truth. For now, this poem has been rejected by the Poe community.
Over all, there seem to be many numerous misattributed poems out there, many parodying “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee,” while others claim to have been inspired from Poe’s own voice from the dead. Were you familiar with any of these poems? Were there any that did not make our list? For a complete list, you can visit the following link.
Above: Edgar’s sister Rosalie Mackenzie Poe
In spite of being reared by a frugal businessman who discouraged his writing, Edgar Allan Poe became one of the world’s greatest authors. Why did a boy who grew up in such a home decide to devote himself to a life in the arts? Was Poe born gifted, or was his genius the result of his upbringing? Maybe we can find some of the answers by learning about the family from which Poe was separated when he was orphaned at the age of two.
Above: Handkerchief Case Painted by Rosalie Mackenzie Poe
Talent runs in Edgar Allan Poe’s family. Not only was Edgar a talented writer, but so was his brother William Henry Leonard Poe. His sister was a gifted musician and an art teacher. His mother was a popular actress and singer. In order to shed some light on these forgotten members of Edgar Allan Poe’s family, the Poe Museum in Richmond will host a new exhibit The Unknown Poes: Edgar Allan Poe’s talented Family from April 28 until June 19, 2016. The display will feature a number of Poe family artifacts including clothing, documents, and a Poe family bible. The highlight of the exhibit will be a piece of original artwork painted by Poe’s sister Rosalie. The exhibit will place Poe’s talent in the context of a gifted family of artists, writers, and performers.
Above: Negative review of a performance by Poe’s father from 1806
The exhibit will open on April 28 from 6-9 p.m. with a special Unhappy Hour in the Poe Museum’s Enchanted Garden featuring live music by The Folly.
Above: Bridget Poe’s Dancing Shoes from 1805
Above: Chest of drawers given by Poe’s uncle Henry Herring to his daughter
Above: Poe family bible opened to a page containing a diagram of a Poe burial plot
On Thursday, April 28 from 6-9 p.m. the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia will celebrate its 94th Birthday with an Unhappy Hour featuring live music by The Folly, the opening of the new exhibit The Unknown Poes: Edgar Allan Poe’s Talented Family, poetry readings, games, and a cash bar. Admission for the evening is just $5. Every Unhappy Hour has a special theme, so this month’s will be “A Dream Within a Dream.” For more information, call the Poe Museum at 804-648-5523 or write [email protected].
The event will kick off the 2016 Unhappy Hour season. Each Unhappy Hour features live music, games, a new exhibit, and a cash bar. This year’s Unhappy Hour lineup will continue as follows:
May 26 Unhappy Hour
Theme: The Oval Portrait
The Poe Museum’s new exhibit Painting the Enchanted Garden 3 featuring the works of twenty local artists will open this evening.
June 23 Unhappy Hour
Theme: Masque of the Red Death
The plague visits the Poe Museum with the opening of our new exhibit Pandemics and Poe.
July 28 Unhappy Hour
In celebration of the opening of the Poe Museum’s new exhibit Fakes and Forgeries, the Unhappy Hour will feature a scavenger hunt.
August 25 Unhappy Hour
Theme: The Murders in the Rue Morgue
In conjunction with the opening of the Poe Museum’s exhibit CSI POE: Crime Scene Investigation in Poe’s Time, we will have a murder mystery for our guests to solve.
September 22 Unhappy Hour
Theme: Poe Goes Hollywood
Kick off the Poe Film Festival with a Holly-meets-Poe evening at the Poe Museum.
October 27 Unhappy Hour
Theme: Some Words with a Mummy
America in Poe’s day was obsessed with Ancient Egypt, so we will open a new exhibit about Poe’s short story “Some Words with a Mummy” about a mummy who comes back to life.
Stairs to Poe’s Childhood Home in Richmond-now located in the Poe Museum
On a cold, but sunny day in February 2013, Poe Museum Curator, Chris Semtner, took down the golden fabric rope from its old and long railing. Chris said that the staff of the museum moved the stairs and incorporated them into present building many years ago. The Memorial Building, where they now stand, commemorates Poe’s outstanding contributions to literature. The conference room and repository at the top of these stairs stores many of his rare manuscripts and books, and materials. I looked up and down the old hardwood stairs and experienced a momentary chill. At the front of the steps, I saw a Raven banner (see my photo above), acknowledging his most famous poem. I felt like the illustrious bird was cheering me on to walk up the stairs and enter the game of studying Poe-like I was a football player on the famous Baltimore football team. I felt very privileged to be allowed to walk up these stairs with Chris because I was transitioning from being a retired person to a literary researcher. A month before this visit, I had enrolled in a Master’s program of Literature Studies at the Virginia Commonwealth University(VCU), which is only a few miles west of the museum. In my first class, English Scholarship, Professor, Joshua Eckhardt, assigned his students to find a rare book and to prepare a research term paper related to its publication history and contents. I decided to try to meet this class requirement at the Poe Museum because of a memorable guided tour I had taken a few years ago. I, then, researched the resources available at the museum on the internet. Like many avid readers, I had a working knowledge of many of Poe’s more notable poems and short stories. However, I had never heard of, what I thought, was the most interesting listing in the catalog, a book called, Eureka: A Prose Poem.
The catalog noted that Eureka was the last work that Poe wrote under his own supervision. It described the book as a poetic, metaphysical, and scientific treatise on the Universe. This text appeared completely different from anything else that Poe had ever written. Or was it? That question turned out to be one of the main focuses of my inquiry for the next four years, as I worked on my Master’s thesis on Poe and Science. When I asked Chris about Eureka, he said he would have one or more copies first edition copies of that book available for my examination during a research visit that he later scheduled for me.
A week later, I arrived at the museum and started my journey up Poe’s Stairway, and into his research room. I looked around and saw that there were piles of boxes on a large oval-shaped hardwood table, containing books and folders that the Registrar, Jennifer Camp, was cataloging. She worked in an adjacent room that served as a heavily locked and secure storage room for the files and rare first edition books Some of these books were estimated to be worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars! Jennifer came out to meet me and then went right back to work. On the walls, there were some paintings of Poe and busts of him and of Pallas-the Greek statue that the Raven landed on. On a corner of the table, I saw three copies of Eureka. Chris informed me that the museum generally kept one first edition copy of Eureka on display in a locked case and two others stored at the Virginia Library. He had checked two of these books out of the State Library for my inspection. I looked at all three of these books with a reserved excitement, like they were fossils from a distant time and place.
Rare first Edition Versions of Eureka: A Prose Poem, Published in 1848
Based on my experiences at the VCU Special Archives Library, I thought I would have to wear gloves to examine these precious books. Instead, Chris said that I would only need to wash my hands and handle the pages carefully. He noted that only 500 copies of the book were printed and less than 50 are still accountable. According to Stuart and Susan Levine’s annotated version of Eureka (2004), other known first editions of Eureka are stored at the following locations:
- Library of Congress, Washington, DC
- New York City Public Library
- Henry Huntington Library (San Marino, CA
- Yale University Library, New Haven, CT
- Boston Public Library
- Chapin’s Library- Williams College, Williamstown, MASS
- New York State Library
- William K. Keister
- Peabody Institute, Baltimore, MD
- University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, VA
- Boston Athenaeum
- Owen D. Young, NY
- K. Lilly, Jr., Indianapolis, IND
- Howe Estate, Cincinnati, OH
- Carroll A. Wilson, NY
- University of Chicago
- University of Texas, Austin, TX
- Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
- Viscount Esher, England
- New York University Library, NYC
- H. Rindfleisch, Richmond, VA
- Gabriel Wells (several copies with manuscript annotations throughout by Po
I know that this list is not complete since I found one first edition copy of Poe’s last book at the VCU Library. I went back to Dr. Eckhardt and got his approval to prepare my term report on Eureka. When I told him that I made connections with the Poe Museum, and was scheduled to go there once per week to conduct my study, he was very pleased. On my next visit to the museum, Chris said that Jennifer would be available to secure the materials that I needed and to answer my questions. During the Spring 2012 semester and the subsequent summer, I conducted research at the Poe Museum and at VCU on Eureka.
On one of my subsequent visits, Chris informed me that the museum was in possession of rare facsimile of a Manuscript that Poe wrote in his own handwriting. These notes likely helped him to prepare research on Eureka and some of his other science fiction tales. Chris called the manuscript the “Moon Notes” because they discussed the moon and the planets orbits around the Sun. The original manuscript, he said, were donated to the Poe Museum in 1942 by the family of Rufus Griswold, the literary executor of the Poe Estate. In 1948, the Poe Museum (then called the Poe Shrine) gave the originals to the Harvard University Houghton Library in Boston, which also houses a Eureka first edition. The “Moon-Notes” consists of eight un-ordered and, we thought, previously un-transcribed pages. They start and end in the middle of sentences, indicating that there were other pages; however, no others have been found. Chris thought that it would be a good project for me to try to transcribe the document to see if Poe made some direct or indirect references to Eureka. Jennifer scanned a sample page for me to start my project. I worked on this projects a few hours per week during my first semester at VCU, and also for about half of the summer. I attempted to faithfully transcribe Poe’s writing without attempting to explain the seemingly obvious abbreviations or informal writing. Although Poe’s handwriting was fairly clear and consistent, I needed to have several difficult words cross-checked by Ms. Camp.
The “Moon Notes were ritten by Poe, likely to research Eureka and other science-fiction tales
The supposition of D. de Mairan is that the hemisphere of the moon next to the earth is more dense than the opposite one, + hence the same face w necessarily be kept toward the earth.
Juno is free from nebulosity in appearance yet, according to Schroeter, it has an atmosphere more dense than that of any of the old planets of this system-variable atmosphere.
Vesta no nebulosity.
A telescope wh: magnifies only 1000 times will show a spot on the moon’s surface 122 yds diameter.
Prof. Fraunhofer of Munich recently announced that he had discovered a lunar edifice, resembling a fortified cabin, together with several lines of roads.
Schroeter conjectures the existence of a great city on the east side of the Moon, a little north of the equator an extensive canal, in another place, and fields of vegetation in another. Herschel found since shown this to be false.
It may be demonstrated from the laws of optics that there exists no physical impossibility of the introduction of instruments sufficiently powerful to settle the question of the moon’s being inhabited. The difficulty which prevented the great telescope of Herschel from revealing this secret is not so much the x want of power in the lens, as of light in the tube under objects distinct under such an exposure of the visual rays.”
On the sample transcribed page shown above, Poe writes on theories from several scientists who lived slightly before his time. These notes are scribbled, sometimes in a shorthand style, that is much like the way that modern scholars might take notes on a topic of investigation. Poe writes on the density of the of the moon, the capabilities of modern telescopes, speculation and rejection of the discovery of possible life on the Moon. The following scientists and asteroids are discussed on the single page of “Moon Notes” transcribed by the present researcher:
Jean di Ortous Marian (1678 to 1771) was a French astronomer. In 1719 he discussed the varying obliquity of light. In 1731 he observed nebulosity around a star near the Orion Nebulae (Westfall). Johann Heteronymous Schroter (1745-1816) was an aspiring astronomer, and friend of the Herschel family (Sheehan and Baum 171). Scientists became more interested in distant planets and stars after Wallaston Franenhofer (1787-1826) discovered a powerful telescope with a focal length of thirteen feet and an aperture of nine feet. This telescope made possible the analysis of invisible gasses in the universe such as helium, neon, krypton and argon (Kantor).
Juno’s formal designation is now known as 3 Juno. It was the third asteroid discovered. It is now thought to be about the tenth largest in size (Coffey). Vesta is still considered as one of the largest asteroids in the Solar System, and named after Vesta, the virgin goddess of home and health in Roman Mythology. Sir William Hershel (1738-1822 was “the founder of modern stellar astronomy.” His discovery of Uranus in 1781 was the first identification of a planet in modern times. He developed the theory of nebula’s and described details about the evolution of stars. He cataloged many binary stars and made important modifications to the reflecting telescope. William Herschel also demonstrated that the solar system and the stars move through space, and he discovered infrared radiation, which detected this movement” (Millman 134,141).
It seems clear from my study of this page that Poe was preparing research on scientific principles which could have been used to prepare for his Eureka lecture and/or book tour. It also appeared, after I looked at a summary of Poe’s theories in Eureka, that the topics presented on this single page may have been both relevant and important to his book. Whether he did or didn’t refer to these documents when he wrote Eureka, they certainly confirm that Poe studied the theories of important scientists who made significant discoveries in astronomy. Additionally, from this single page of transcription, I concluded that it would be useful to also transcribe the other seven known pages of the “Moon-Notes.”
When I completed transcribing all eight pages of the “Moon-Notes,” Chris suggested that I send a photocopy of my work to Jeff Savoye, the Director of the International Poe Society in Baltimore, the official repository of the most complete electronic collection of Poe materials in the world. You can access these materials at www.eapoe.org. It did not take very long for Jeff to write me back stating that my transcription was fairly accurate but that it had been transcribed in 1902, and included in the Appendix of the Eureka section, in James A. Harrison’s, the Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Volume XVI. Though I was disappointed that I would not be able to claim that I had made an original transcription, I was delighted that Savoy had connected the “Moon-Notes” to Eureka. In my next Poe and Science Blog, I will discuss the preliminary information and questions I discovered about Eureka and the difficulties that previous researchers have had in conducting evaluations of Poe’s final, and most enigmatic work. I plan to write at least one future Blog per month on my MA Thesis on Poe in Science.
Murray Ellison received a Master’s in Education (1973) and in English Literature (2015). He earned a Doctorate in Education in 1987. He is married and has three adult employed daughters. He retired as the Virginia Director of Community Corrections for the Department of Correctional Education in 2009. Currently, he serves as a literature teacher, board member, and curriculum advisor for the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield, Virginia, and the founder and chief editor of the literary blog, www.LitChatte.com. He is an editor for the “Correctional Education Magazine,” and editing a book of poetry written by an Indian mystic. He also serves as a board member and occasional volunteer tour guide, poetry judge, and all-around helper at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond Virginia. You can write him at [email protected]
Murray Ellison at the Richmond Poe Museum
We are familiar with Poe’s ties to Scotland through his (unofficially) adoptive father, John Allan; but, did you know that Poe officially carried Celtic roots in his blood?
There is one thing that Maria Clemm Poe, David Poe Jr., and Edgar all have in common, being that they come from Irish roots. Muddy, Poe’s mother-in-law and aunt, was born March 17, 1790 to Irish father David Poe Sr., whereas David Poe Jr., Poe’s biological father, was born July 18, 1784. (We might point out that Maria Clemm’s birthday coincidentally falls on St. Patrick’s Day.)
Both descended from their great-grandfather David Poe, who, according to Quinn, is “of Dring, Cavan Co., Ireland” (16-17). Thus, Edgar, the son of David Jr. and son-in-law/nephew of Maria Clemm, descended from Irish ancestors. If we fully look at the genealogy chart provided by Quinn, as well as other sources, we see that David Poe married Sarah Poe (née Clifford), who, we assume, was of full Irish blood. Sarah bore John Poe, who married Jane McBride. According to this source, Jane was born in Bailymena, County Antrim, Ireland-thus, both John and Jane were of Irish blood. She bore David Poe Sr., of Ireland, who married Elizabeth Cairnes of Philadelphia. Elizabeth bore David Jr., who married Elizabeth Arnold, who bore Edgar. Thus, we can assume that this potentially would make Edgar 1/4 Irish.
How do you think Edgar would have celebrated his heritage? Would he have done a quick jig between breaks at the office, or perhaps indulged in a sweet Irish drink now and then? How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? If you are Irish or Scottish, is there a special tradition you and your family do each year?