Museum News

Poet Premieres New Work at Poe Museum

On Thursday, June 4 at 6 p.m. at the Poe Museum in Richmond, poet and Penn State University professor Charles Cantalupo will read a unique series of poems inspired by each of the cities in which Edgar Allan Poe lived. In researching the poems, Cantalupo travelled to the cities connected with Poe and searched for evidence of the ways those places inspired Poe as well as the continuing presence of Poe in each location. After years of research and writing, Cantalupo will perform the entire series for the first time. This thrilling performance will blend sound and rhythm with the poet’s own unique take on each of the cities featured.

As Edgar Allan Poe’s hometown, Richmond is the subject of one of the poems. Cantalupo visited Richmond and the Poe Museum last year and incorporated the city’s people and places, including Shockoe Slip and Linden Row, into the poem. For more information, please contact the Poe Museum at 804-648-5523 or [email protected]

Those coming to see Cantalupo’s performance will also want to hear his wife Barbara Cantalupo, a distinguished Poe scholar, speak about “The Poe You May Not Know” at the Virginia Historical Society earlier the same day at noon on June 4. Click here for more information about her talk.

About Charles Cantalupo
Charles Cantalupo is the author of a series of poems on the cities where Edgar Allan Poe lived throughout his life, called “Poe in Place.” Excerpts have been published in The Edgar Allan Poe Review, Poe’s Pervasive Influence, and The Spirit of Poe. Cantalupo’s reading at The Poe Museum will mark the first time “Poe in Place” has ever been performed in its entirety.

Poet, translator, scholar, and documentary filmmaker, Charles Cantalupo is Distinguished Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and African Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. His literary memoir, Joining Africa – From Anthills to Asmara (2012), won a Next Generation Indie Book Award in 2012. His newest collection of poetry, Where War Was, will be published later this year, and he has published three previous collections: Light the Lights (2004), Anima/l Woman and Other Spirits (1996), and The Art of Hope (1985). He is one of the world’s leading translators of African language poetry. A co-author of the historic Asmara Declaration on African Languages and Literatures, he is the writer and director of Against All Odds, a documentary about poets and poetry in Africa. His work has received major support from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations and the World Bank, and he is also the author of books on Thomas Hobbes, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Eritrea.

Poet Shares Work with Poe Museum

In honor of National Poetry Month, one of the Poe Museum’s former volunteers, Laura Bittner of Florida, sent us some poetry for our blog. We thank her for sharing her work with the Museum and hope you will enjoy them.

The Dark Curtain

The dark curtain
attached to stone
silently and listlessly blowing
back and forth
no sound from outside
dust particles play
in two-faced light rays;
Inevitable residence
of curled, grey leaves.

Walking at Night

after the hours/after dark
when the bars
have let out
and a
dry leaf
could make your heart
skip a beat
‘Ere I go
on my own
-so a word never spoke.
Briskly breezing
on a nightly errand,

From another’s watch
you can never surely keep.

Picking up the pace now.
Thinking I’m
Hearing steps now.
Clutching my case
closer to my side,
paying no mind
to the dim lights
flittering flames outside
the dark vendor’s signs,
store fronts
as I go by.

The Eeriness of an Open Gate

-Walking down Main Street
in the dark, past the field
located in the city, between
two buildings. Wind whipping
the several grains, the
sparse clovers. A moonlight
so dim, something hiding
could be obscured.
-Up a little ways,
past a few laughing,
bronzed, gleaming from
the bars, thorns or sharp sticks
crawl like the vines of a fist
next to the open gate.
No one is around.
But someone, did
go through or
and left standing still-
spirits passing through.
To it, time inconceivable;
These sturdy bars of iron,
whose rivulets only serve a purpose
of not striking fear
into the hearts of onlookers.

The City

The city dweller
in his bedroom
shuts his lights off.
Another day past.
And him, unaware of the
history within the
layers of wheat paste
and paper- surrounding
all he owns.
Many nights ago,
this room was someone else’s.
It all looked very
different. The streets
were not
what they are today.
A traveler looking on
unaware of linear time
observes the changes,
the people walking
down his streets,
and wanders on.

The Day Watchman

The day watchman
observing out the
dusty window,
sun beams
gleaming into
the shop. piles of
papers line the
wooden floors.
he protects his
master’s domain,
extending an out-
stretched claw
while clients

Poe Museum Opened This Week Ninety-three Years Ago

The Edgar Allan Poe Museum turned ninety-three this week. The above photograph was taken at the opening ceremony, which featured distinguished guests, readings of original Poe letters and manuscripts, and a tea party. Below is the program for the event, which was held on April 26-28, 1922.

Museum Brings Poe’s Poem to Life

Countless artists have been inspired to translate Edgar Allan Poe’s works into visual art, music, sculpture, film, ballet, and opera; but few know his works have inspired landscape gardens. This will be no surprise to those who have read his short story “The Domain of Arnheim” or his many poems celebrating the beauty of gardens.

When the founders of Richmond’s Poe Museum decided to memorialize Poe with a garden based on one of his works, they chose the relatively obscure poem “To One in Paradise.” Poe was about twenty-four when he wrote the poem, which first appeared in the January 1834 issue of the Lady’s Book as part of the short story “The Visionary.” In this early story, a young man based on Poe’s boyhood idol, the British poet Lord Byron, falls in love with the young wife of a much older man. Suffering from his unrequited love for her, the young man writes the following poem on paper in a book with pages “blotted with fresh tears.”

Thou wast that all to me, love,
For which my soul did pine —
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine,
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers;
And all the flowers were mine.

Ah, dream too bright to last!
Ah, starry Hope, that didst arise
But to be overcast!
A voice from out the Future cries,
“Onward!” — but o’er the Past
(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies,
Mute — motionless — aghast!
For alas! alas! with me

The light of life is o’er.
“No more — no more — no more,”
(Such language holds the solemn sea
To the sands upon the shore,)
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree,
Or the stricken eagle soar!

Now all my hours are trances;
And all my nightly dreams
Are where the dark eye glances,
And where thy footstep gleams,
In what ethereal dances,
By what Italian streams.

Alas! far that accursed time
They bore thee o’er the billow,
From Love, to titled age and crime,
And an unholy pillow! —
From me, and from our misty clime.
Where weeps the silver willow!

After reading the poem, the young man’s friend answers the door to discover the lady has poisoned herself. The friend rushes to tell the young man, who has also just committed suicide. In the context of the story, the poem reads almost like a suicide note written by a man who believes “the light of life is [over].” The poem begins with a description of Paradise as “green isle in the sea” with a fountain and shrine. The garden is filled with “fruits and flowers,” possibly symbolizing ideal and carnal love. Then the narrator writes that this dream is too bright to last. The garden dies. The tree is struck by lightning and killed. He lives his days as if in a trance and spends his nights dreaming of his lost love.

Given the poem’s melancholy tone, one might wonder why it would have been chosen as the model for the Poe Museum’s garden. The answer likely lies with Museum founder and Poe collector James H. Whitty, who believed the poem references a real Richmond garden in which a teenage Poe courted his first fiancée Sarah Elmira Royster. Much like the plot of “The Visionary,” Royster married an older man in 1828, five years before Poe wrote the story and poem. Given the poem’s autobiographical nature and its connection to a lost Richmond garden Poe himself once frequented, “To One in Paradise” seemed the perfect poem for Poe Museum to recreate in its garden.

Not everyone, however, agreed with Whitty. An alternate theory, recorded in Thomas Ollive Mabbott’s edition of Poe’s poems, holds that Poe was inspired by Lord Byron. According to Thomas Moore’s biography of the poet, the day before Byron’s early love was to marry another man, Byron wrote a similar poem to her in one of her books. Since the baron in “The Visionary” very likely based on Byron, this theory makes sense. As a young man, Poe identified closely with Byron and modeled both his early poetry and his public image after the British poet. Poe went so far as to tell people he had tried to join the Greek Wars of Independence just as Byron had done.

Poe reprinted “The Visionary” in 1835 in the Southern Literary Messenger, in 1840 in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, and in 1845 in The Broadway Journal (under the title “The Assignation.” Eventually, he decided the poem was strong enough to stand on its own. Removing the last stanza, Poe published the poem (without the story) in 1839 under the title “To Ianthe in Heaven.” In 1841, he changed the title to “To One Beloved.” Poe first printed the poem under its current title, “To One in Paradise,” in 1843.

Whether the first stanza describes Paradise, Heaven, an island in the sea, the garden in which Poe courted his first love, none of these, or a combination of the above; the vivid description provided rich inspiration for the Poe Museum’s founders who built their garden around a central green isle featuring a fountain and shrine. The perimeter of the garden is planted with flowers and shrubs mentioned in Poe’s poems and short stories. Enclosing the entire garden is a tall brick wall recalling the walled garden in which Poe and Royster spent time. Among the many building materials salvaged and repurposed for use in the Poe Museum’s garden are granite paving stones taken from the paths of the garden Poe knew. At one point, the Poe Museum’s garden also featured a stone urn and a gate latch taken from that garden.

Just as Poe inspired the Poe Museum’s garden, the garden itself has inspired generations of writers, artists, and gardeners. You can see some 1924 paintings of the garden here, and you can learn about this month’s exhibit of new paintings of the garden here. National Poetry Month is the perfect time to find your own inspiration in the Poe Museum’s Enchanted Garden. When you visit, be sure to bring a copy of “To One in Paradise.” Until then, you can listen to it here.

To learn more about some of our other favorite Poe poems, click here and here.

April 24 Poe and Other 19th Century Writers at VCU

Murray’s Bio:

Dr. Murray Ellison “retired” a few years ago after enjoying more than a thirty year career as a special education teacher, school principal, and a special education director for several school districts in Virginia. During his last ten full-time working years, he served as the Virginia State Director of Community Corrections Programs for the Virginia Department of Correctional Education. Since then, he has continued to be an active editor for the International Journal of Correctional Education. In 2012, he began pursuing a slow but thorough graduate study of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction at VCU. At present, he is working on his MA thesis on Edgar Allan Poe and Nineteenth-Century Science, which he is hoping to defend in the fall of 2015. He is also presently serving as a volunteer tour guide at the Poe Museum in Richmond and a literature teacher at the Lifelong Learning Center of Chesterfield.

Title: “Edgar Allan Poe and Nineteenth-Century Science: The Art of the Science Hoax.”
Panel on Nineteenth-Century Literature by Four VCU Masters’ of Arts Candidates
Date: Friday, April 24, 2015 at 11:45 a.m. in Hibbs Hall, Room 402—next to the Cabel VCU Library
The Author: Edgar A. Poe grew up in Richmond in the early nineteenth century and took his first full-time job in 1835 as a writer and editor for the Richmond-based Southern Literary Messenger.

Abstract: Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) lived at the perfect time to observe and to write about several of the most dramatic technological developments recorded in history. In 1898, renowned scientist Sir Alfred Russell Wallace called the “marvelous inventions and discoveries” of the previous one hundred years, “immensely superior to anything that had been developed up until that time.” Within a few decades, the introduction of new Industrial Age technologies such as electricity, telegraphic communications, railroads, photography, balloon-travel, astronomy, and high-speed printing presses, dramatically altered the lifestyles of the American public in ways that few could ever have anticipated.
While employed as an editor and writer at the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe worked to increase its circulation from about 500 to over 3500 paid subscribers and helped make it one of the most important literary journals in America. In 1837, he moved on to write for several of the other important newspapers in America (in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston). Most readers are familiar with his classic poems like, “The Raven” and Anabelle Lee; and his chilling works of fiction, like, “The Tell-Tale-Heart,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” However, fewer are familiar with the important works he produced about science as a journalist.
This workshop focuses on the ways that Poe’s early career journalistic article for the Southern Literary Messenger, “Maelzel’s Automated Chess Player,” reflected the uncertainties of science during the Industrial Age. Poe uncovered the hidden secrets of the “automated” chess player when it toured Richmond, and broke down the illusion that Maelzel had been trying to create with as much skill as Poe later used to create his own fictional hoaxes. He also concluded, through his journalistic investigations, that the public could be deceived by almost any spectacular false notion supported by circumstantial facts. As his career advanced, Poe also became known as the master hoaxer of his generation— both for his non-fiction and fictional narratives. This topic has increased relevance today because many modern science historians and literary scholars have concluded that they could learn more about nineteenth-century culture and science by reading works by authors like Poe, than by scrutinizing the works of professional scientists of that time-period.
Contact Murray at [email protected] for comments.

Art Celebrates Poe’s Love of Gardens

Pastel by Kailee Cross

In a departure from the darkness and mystery usually associated with the works of author Edgar Allan Poe, the Poe Museum in Richmond will feature an exhibit celebrating the beauty of nature and gardens. From April 23 until June 21, 2015, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond will host Painting the Enchanted Garden 2, its second annual exhibition of new paintings, drawings, and photographs of its legendary Enchanted Garden. In honor of the current restoration of this ninety-three year old landmark by the Garden Club of Virginia, artists were challenged to visit the garden beginning in March in order to produce new work to display in time for the exhibit opening at 6 p.m. on April 23. The artists who took up the challenge in order to participate in the exhibit are David Bromley, Clarise Carnahan, Kailee Cross, Bill Dompke, Kim Hall, Linda Hollett, Chris Ludke, and Dwight M. Paulett.

The Poe Museum’s Enchanted Garden was based on a description of Paradise in Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “To One in Paradise.” The flowers, trees, and shrubs planted there are ones named in Poe’s poems and short stories. Even the paving stones, benches, and bricks were salvaged from buildings in which Poe lived or worked in Richmond and New York. Over the past nine decades, the Enchanted Garden has inspired poems, novels, and visual art from generations of artists. It has even inspired a replica garden in South Carolina.

According to Poe Museum Curator Chris Semtner, “Since the garden was inspired by Poe’s writing, it is fitting that the garden continues to inspire new artists and authors. This exhibit is a fitting document of that legacy of inspiration.”

The paintings in this exhibit will be for sale, and proceeds from the sale benefit the Poe Museum’s educational programs.

View of last year's exhibit with painting by Chris Ludke

Paint the Enchanted Garden for New Exhibit

You can be a part of the Poe Museum’s next exhibit. After the success of last year’s Painting the Enchanted Garden, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia is calling on artists to visit the Museum’s legendary Enchanted Garden to sketch, paint, collage, or photograph the site for a the exhibit Painting the Enchanted Garden 2, which will run from April 23 until June 21, 2015. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the artwork will benefit the Poe Museum’s educational programming.

The exhibit is open to all artists, including ones who participated last year. Since the first call for artists was so well received, the Museum will be displaying this year’s exhibit in a larger gallery on the first floor of the changing exhibits building.

If the weather permits, artists can begin working in the Garden on March 15 and must have their completed works ready for display by April 19. In order to avoid conflict with the Museum’s special events and facility rentals, artists must schedule their painting or sketching visits with the Museum’s curator Chris Semtner by writing him a [email protected] or by calling 804-648-5523. For those interested in joining a group painting session, the Museum will host one on Sunday, April 12 from 2-5 p.m. with artist Chris Semtner.

Interested artists can learn more about this opportunity by contacting [email protected] or calling 804-648-5534. In order to participate, please register for the show by April 1.

A copy of the prospectus can be found here: Prospectus for Painting the Enchanted Garden 2015

Artwork by Chris Ludke

Museum Recreates Poe’s Richmond in Miniature

The world of Poe scholarship has produced countless books, papers, and scholarly articles; but rarely has it produced a work of art. While the written works of Poe scholars like Burton Pollin (1916-2009) and Thomas Ollive Mabbott (1898-1968) have contributed greatly to our understanding of Poe’s life and work, the sculpture of Richmond schoolteacher Edith Ragland (1890-1989) has provided posterity an invaluable resource for understanding Poe’s life in Richmond. As meticulously researched as some academic papers, Ragland’s model reconstructs the city Poe knew in a way words alone cannot. That is why the model is the Poe Museum’s Object of the Month for March 2015.

Edith Ragland

According to an undated manuscript written by Poe Foundation co-founder Annie Boyd Jones (d. 1947), the sculptor Edward Valentine (1838-1930) proposed the project. Valentine studied sculpture with August Kiss in Germany before enjoying a celebrated career in Richmond. In addition to sculpting the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis for Richmond’s Monument Avenue and the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee for the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol, Valentine produced “The Recumbent Lee” for Washington and Lee University. Valentine was also a historian with a special interest in Edgar Allan Poe. In 1875, he became one of the privileged few to be able to interview Poe’s last fiancée Elmira Royster Shelton. In 1898, he and his brother, Mann S. Valentine II, founded the Valentine Museum, which owned a number of Edgar Allan Poe letters in addition to a portrait of Poe’s foster mother Frances Allan. After retiring from sculpting in 1910, he devoted much of his remaining years to the study of Richmond history and the presidency of the Valentine Museum. By 1922, the eighty-four-year-old Valentine took an interest in the newly opened Edgar Allan Poe Museum, speaking at its opening ceremony as well as donating a portrait of Poe’s foster mother to the Museum’s collection.

Mr. and Mrs. Archer Jones

One evening in 1924 or 1925, Mrs. Jones spent several hours talking about old Richmond in Mr. Valentine’s parlor. He told her he had spent the last sixty years researching a book about Richmond history but had accumulated so much information he could not edit it sufficiently to publish it. As she was leaving, he pointed out a photograph of a photograph of a model of old Paris and exclaimed, “Wait a minute girl; here’s what you do. Make a model of Richmond in Poe’s Time and place it in the [Poe Museum’s] Old Stone House!”

Edward Virginius Valentine in his studio

Mrs. Jones offered to manage the project if he would sculpt it, but he replied, “Oh go away girl, you know I can’t work anymore, but you are an enthusiast—you will get it done…Now go ‘long and make it.”

As soon as she returned home, she told her husband, Archer G. Jones, who enthusiastically supported the idea. She later recounted, “I could see his inventive mood creeping into his eyes.”

The first obstacle to constructing the model was finding an artist to do the work. The solution came one day when Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941) visited the Poe Museum. Borglum was an accomplished sculptor who would later rise to fame for his carving of the presidential monument at Mount Rushmore. The party accompanying Borglum to the Poe Museum included Julia Sully (1870-1948, granddaughter of Poe’s friend, the painter Robert Matthew Sully, 1803-1855) and the young teacher Edith Ragland. During the course of the afternoon, Mrs. Jones mentioned her idea for the model of Richmond to Sully, who recommended Ragland for the project. Jones asked Ragland to build the model, but Ragland replied, “I would not know the first or the remotest way to go about.”

“Nonsense,” Sully answered, “You model beautifully. None of us knows how to go about it, so will all learn together.”

In this spirit of collaboration, Edward Valentine and City Hall supplied Ragland Photostats of maps at no charge, and the Poe Museum paid the Virginia State Library for Photostats of more maps. Valentine provided his notes on Richmond history, city directories, and Virginia Mutual Insurance records. Ragland also consulted Samuel Mordecai’s (1786-1865) 1856 book Richmond in By-Gone Days, an account of life in the city during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Ragland Sculpting the Model

Archer Jones insisted that a model of Richmond needed to accurately reflect the city’s hills, so he suggested carving the topography out of wood. According to the Poe Foundation board minutes for March 18, 1925, “Miss Ragland found that she needed some knowledge of engineering in order to make the correct elevations in her model so she set to work to study that subject.” She built the model on three connected stretcher tables covered with blocks of wood nine inches thick. With the assistance of surveyors, she chiseled those blocks into the hills and valleys of 1840s Richmond.

She also wrote to artists to determine which materials to use. Because she had been advised the technique would waterproof the model, Ragland covered the piece with asphaltum, a substance similar to tar. To this, she added a thin layer of plaster. When the plaster dried, she applied a layer of lead white gesso. She modeled the houses and churches from clay and let them air dry rather than firing them. She fashioned trees from pieces of sponge and wire. She then colored them with oil paint.

Ragland built the model in the Poe Museum’s Old Stone House. Upon completion, the model measured approximately eighteen feet wide and six feet deep and represented the city from about Fifth Street to Twenty-Eighth Street and from the James River to Marshall Street. This includes depictions of such sites as Poe’s boyhood home Moldavia, Poe’s mother’s grave at St. John’s Church, and the Virginia State Capitol. The most impressive aspect of the model’s creation is that it was constructed in a room measuring only nine feet wide, leaving the artist about one and a half feet of clearance on each side. Ragland, herself, was self-deprecating when speaking of her accomplishment. In a 1976 interview with Denise Bethel, Ragland humbly recalled that the work was fairly easy because the insurance records and maps told her exactly what structures to place on each block. She boasted that some old-timers told her she had even reproduced the correct trees in the right places.

In 1926, tragedy struck when Annie Jones’s husband committed suicide for financial reasons. Mrs. Jones decided that, once complete, the model would be presented to the Museum in his memory.

When Ragland completed her model in 1927, the Poe Foundation’s president, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and journalist Douglas S. Freemen reported to the Foundation’s board, “This is undoubtedly a work of charm, art and beauty. It is the creation and expression of experts—in invention, engineering, research and execution—but as a map of Richmond complete accuracy is most desirable.” He stressed that the gift would not be accepted by the Poe Foundation “until its accuracy at every point is beyond question.”

The minutes of the January 1928 meeting of the Poe Foundation’s board state that the model’s “accuracy is now vouched for by City engineers and surveyors, by Mr. E. V. Valentine, Dr. Stanard [editor of The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography] and other authorities, and that it ties up with Mordecai—except where he himself is inaccurate.” Dr. Freeman moved that the board formally accept the model into the Poe Museum’s collection, and the motion passed. So accurate was the model that Richmond historian Mary Wingfield Scott was able to create a key that identified most of the houses and buildings. In all, the model contains twenty-two identifiable taverns and hotels, fifteen churches, at least twelve public buildings, and the homes of several “distinguished citizens.”

The Model in 1937

The model was on continuous display in the room of it construction for forty years. In 1963, the Poe Museum renovated a neighboring building for the display of the model. In order to move the model, city workmen cut it into three pieces. Then six off-duty Richmond policemen, five off-duty firemen, and four other city employees volunteered to move the pieces to their new exhibit space. Several buildings and trees detached from the model in the six-hour process.
Ragland returned to the work on her model, reconnecting the three segments and reattaching the fallen houses. The Poe Foundation agreed to pay her $600 for her work in addition to cab fare from her home to the Museum three days a week for three months. Mrs. R. S. Reynolds donated a custom-built glass case for the model. The work was complete (for a second time) by December 6, 1964 when she appeared in a Richmond Times-Dispatch photograph (below) with her freshly restored masterpiece nearly four decades after she began work on it. To protect the work from further damage, Mrs. R. S. Reynolds donated a large glass case to protect it.

Ragland with Repaired Model in 1964

The model’s story continued well after Ragland completed her work. In 1981, an anonymous donor concerned by the object’s apparent state of deterioration offered to pay for its restoration. President of the Richmond Jaycees and graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, Sergei Troubetzkoy conducted the repairs and repainting. Because the model remained on display during this process, he was only able to work on it while the Museum was closed and when he was not working at his day job. As a friend of Edith Ragland’s, Troubetzkoy knew of some details she had intended to include if time had allowed, so he added fences and other buildings he could document. Although he planned to do so, he was unable to add the fence around Capitol Square.

In 1999, the model was almost lost when a fire started in the room housing it. In fact, much of the room was destroyed. The tables underneath the piece were severely damaged, and firemen shattered its glass case. Smoke and water caused additional harm. In the wake of the fire, the Museum called conservators to assess the damage. The wood and paint had cracked. Several houses had again become detached. Additionally, a thick layer of dust and spiders had built up on the model in the years before the fire.

In consultation with 1717 Design Group, the Museum decided to reinstall the model in a new case facing the opposite direction. In order to rotate the model, a volunteer cut it into two pieces using the 1964 cuts as a guide.

With the guidance of historic object conservation specialist Russell Bernabo, artist Chris Semtner and art historian Michelle Dell’Aria cleaned and repaired the model over the course of six months. They first divided the surface into a grid of twelve-inch squares. Each square was carefully dusted into a tiny vacuum attachment. Pieces of rubber sponge were then used to remove grime that was not loosened by the dusting. Only when needed and when it could be performed without damaging the paint layer, wet cleaning was performed using a mixture of alcohol and water. In the course of their work, the conservators found that the original paint was often too unstable to clean but that a previous restorer’s applications of acrylic paint could be cleaned without damaging the surface. Additionally, they observed that the base layer of asphaltum had bled through the plaster and paint to discolor the topcoat. They glued houses back in place and reattached flaking paint and plaster using a solution of B-72 and xylene. In painting was conducted only sparingly. When this work was complete, they reattached the two halves of the model and filled and in-painted the seam.

Carpenters carefully removed the model from its damaged original tables and attached it to a new custom-made table and built a new case around it. In order to make the piece easier for guests to view, the Museum enlisted a team of volunteers from Open High to tilt the model to a twenty degree angle while the carpenters secured it in place. The model was then displayed with one side against the wall. Because the long ends of the model were not perpendicular, the Museum added extensions to allow the long end to sit flush against the back wall.

Museum guests were able to watch the entire conservation process through a large window in the gallery and to ask the conservators questions. Seeing a large dead spider perched atop one of the houses, a guest commented, “If the spiders were that big in Poe’s time, no wonder he wrote the kind of stories he did.”

After this major conservation project, the model received occasional cleanings using soft brushes and vacuums. The most notable of these was conducted in 2008 with the help of volunteers from Hampton Hotels’ Save-a-Landmark program.

Over ninety years after Edith Ragland began her masterpiece, this model of Poe’s Richmond remains a highlight of the Poe Museum’s collection—a resource to visiting historians as well as a favorite with the Museum’s youngest visitors. Like few other historical documents, Ragland’s model helps the viewer visualize the city, its topography, and its structures as Poe would have known them.

Edith Ragland

Poe Museum is in Search of Next Edgar Allan Poe

Who will be the next Edgar Allan Poe? The Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia intends to find out. From June 21-27, 2015, the Museum will host its annual Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference for high school students. Designed and founded in 2004 by Edgar™ Award-winning author and Edgar Allan Poe’s cousin, Dr. Harry Lee Poe, the Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference attracts students from across the country to take part in a unique and intensive writing experience. In addition to participating in daily workshops, the students will learn from writing professionals including award-winning novelists, editors, journalists, poets, and playwrights. What makes the conference special is its Poe connection. Richmond, Virginia was home to Edgar Allan Poe for thirteen years, and it is here that he began his literary career. Students will learn from and be inspired by Poe by studying his craft as well as by visiting the sites that inspired or served as settings for his greatest works.

Past speakers have included Nero, Lefty, and Shamus Award-winning author Brad Parks; Hammett Prize winning novelist and journalist Howard Owen; Edgar Award™ winning biographer and educator Dr. Harry Lee Poe; and Theresa Pollack Award winning editor Mary Flinn.

The conference is designed to empower students to be leaders, educators, and writing professionals. So far, past students have become published authors and have been accepted into prestigious university writing programs.

To learn more about the conference or to apply, please click here of call the Edgar Allan Poe Museum at 804-648-5523 or [email protected] Click here to download an application. Applications are due April 1.

More Information about the Young Writers’ Conference:
The Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference empowers high school students with the skills they need to become the next generation of great writers. In the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe, who encouraged and inspired young writers in his own time, the Poe Museum’s annual conference brings together students with professional journalists, editors, novelists, poets, and others who have devoted their lives to writing. The program is designed to encourage future innovation, expression, and leadership in Richmond’s literary community.

Conference Components

The participants will learn from the professionals who have devoted their lives to writing. Each morning of the conference, professional editors, technical writers, journalists, playwrights, novelists, and poets will share their experiences and advice with the participants. These speakers have included winners of such prestigious awards as the Edgar™, the Nero, the Lefty, and the Shamus.

Each day of the conference, the students will practice the craft of writing by participating in group writing exercises with an advanced writing instructor.

Practicing the Craft
Each day’s rigorous schedule would not be complete without time for attendees to practice their newly learned skills by crafting a composition that will be completed by the end of the week.

Focus on Poe
We believe great writing is grounded in an appreciation and understanding of the writers who came before us. Therefore, each day of the conference, time is dedicated to special field trips and activities focused on learn about the art and techniques of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing.

Art is not created in a vacuum but is the result of the sharing of ideas and experiences. Each evening of the conference is devoted to building a fellowship and cooperation among the participants as well as enabling them to one become leaders in the larger writing community.

Young Writers’ Conference Points of Interest
Fifty eight students have completed in the conference in its eight years
Many graduates of the conference have been accepted to prestigious writing programs and Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia, and elsewhere.
Two Notable Conferees:
Joy Thomas’s work has been published in Style Weekly.
Rachel Martens has published a series of novels called The Poe Series.

Love Is in the Air

Poe was known for being quite the ladies’ man in his day. Women including Sarah Helen Whitman, Frances Sargent Osgood, Sarah Elmira Royster, Mary Starr, and especially his wife, were known for having romantic feelings for the writer. He did not woo only these women, however. Continue reading to find out who else Poe left swooning, as well as letters displaying their adoration, if not infatuation, with him.

If you recall a previous blog post, Elizabeth Ellet was notorious for revealing Osgood and Poe’s correspondence, causing a publicity scandal and the end of their friendship (at least, in the public eye). Ellet did not do this because her character was vindictive, however; she may have had romantic feelings for Poe.

Elizabeth Ellet

Elizabeth Ellet

According to World of Poe online, “There are hints from Charles F. Briggs, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and Poe himself that the attractive young Mrs. Ellet had made some sort of unreciprocated amorous advances towards him. ” However, according to Undine, the author of the blog, we do not know whether this was the case or not. Undine explains that Sarah Helen Whitman is the only source stating that Poe exclaimed that Ellet “…had better look out for her own correspondences.”  Charles Briggs described Poe as displaying Ellet’s letters in his novel, The Trippings of Tom Pepper. According to Undine, “Elizabeth Oakes Smith wrote Whitman a letter in the mid-1870s saying nothing about immodest correspondence, but suggesting that certain ladies who had greatly admired Poe fell into a jealous feud as a result.” A familiar scene includes Ellet discovering Osgood and Virginia laughing at her letters, rousing her into anger. She retrieves her brother and threatens a duel, which ultimately does not occur.

But what became of those letters? According to Undine, it is a bit of a he said/she said situation. Ellet claimed that her letters never existed, where Poe claims that he did, and did not, keep them. What became of these letters is unknown; however, we do have evidence from a few other letters, which display words of affection.

The first letter from Ellet, from around December 15, 1845, according to EAPoe online, ends with a portion of the letter in German, which translates as, “I have a letter for you. Will you not most kindly pick it up or have it sent for after seven o’clock this evening. / O, what a rent you have made in my heart / The senses are still in your bonds / Though the bleeding soul has freed itself.”

This letter is followed by one dated December 16, 1845, which states, “Do not use in any way the memorandum about the So. Ca. College. Excuse the repeated injunction – but as you would not decipher my German manuscript – I am fearful of some other mistake” (EAPoe). Could Ellet have been making her feelings known and then covering it up as a “mistake” afterwards? Their reciprocated or unreciprocated relationship remains unknown.

Another woman whose heart was stolen by the dashing Poe was Mary Elizabeth Hewitt. According to Library Company online, Hewitt was a writer, composing such works as The Songs of Our Land, and Other Poems and The Gem of the Western World. She was notable for editing a memorial of her close friend, Frances Sargent Osgood, after Osgood’s death.

Mary Elizabeth Hewitt

Mary Elizabeth Hewitt

Hewitt and Poe’s acquaintance with one another wasn’t made until 1845, when she wrote a letter to Poe in regard to his poem, “The Raven.” Below are extracts from the letter showing her respect for Poe:

“Dear Sir,

Mr Gillespie tells me that he has mentioned to you the singular coincidence that I related to him, of the simultaneous appearance of your admirable poem, ‘The Raven’, and the receipt of a letter by myself, from a very dear brother resident in Manilla, containing a marvelous history of a ‘white bird’, the which, although the very opposite of the ‘raven,’ struck me as being so singularly like it in ground work as to constitute a ‘remarkable coincidence’.

Mr Gillespie tells me that you would like to see the paraphrase which I have endeavoured to frame out of my subject…”

“…Pray pardon the liberty I have taken in addressing you thus uncerimoniously [sic], and oblige me by returning the letter to my address.

Very respectfully
And truly yours
M. E. Hewitt” (EAPoe).

The letter, which was written March 15, 1845, was replied to promptly by Poe, who responded with the following full text:

“Dear Madam,

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your little package and note.

The coincidence to which you call my attention is certainly remarkable, and the story as narrated by your brother is full of rich interest, no particle of which, most assuredly, is lost in your truly admirable paraphrase. I fear, indeed, that my enthusiasm for all that I feel to be poetry, has hurried me into some indiscretion touching the “Tale of Luzon”. Immediately upon reading it, I took it to the printer, and it is now in type for the “Broadway Journal” of this week. As I re-peruse your note, however, (before depositing it among my most valued autographs) I find no positive warrant for the act — I am by no means sure that you designed the poem for our paper. If I have erred, then, I have to beg that you will point out the penance.

Very respectfully and admiringly

Edgar A Poe” (EAPoe).

Edgar’s reply to Mary seems charming and warm. Whether it is admiration, which she shows for him, or flirtation, she has caught Edgar’s attention, regardless, and is reciprocated with this attention.

He went on to take more notice of her works and, in 1848, for example, he reviewed and critiqued her writing in Literary America (EAPoe). Another example includes a manuscript in which he begins by stating, “I am not aware that Mrs. Hewitt has written any prose; but her poems have been many, and occasionally excellent.” He states that a collection of her poems, “…evince poetic fervor, classicism, and keen appreciation of both moral and physical beauty.” Although he goes on to state that they, “…lack unity, totality [and] ultimate effect,” he praises her sonnets. At the end of his critique, he states,

In character, she is sincere, fervent, benevolent — sensitive to praise and to blame; in temperament melancholy; in manner subdued; converses earnestly yet quietly.  In person she is tall and slender, with black hair and large gray eyes; complexion dark; general expression of the countenance singularly interesting and agreeable (EAPoe).

An alternative and very similar form of this same compliment, as written by Poe, according to Library Company, found in the 1846 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book, states,

In character she is sincere, fervent, benevolent, with a heart full of the truest charity— sensitive to praise and to blame; in temperament, melancholy (although this is not precisely the term); in manner, subdued, gentle, yet with grace and dignity; converses impressively, earnestly, yet quietly and in a low tone. In person she is tall and slender, with black hair and large gray eyes; complexion also dark; the general expression of the countenance singularly interesting and agreeable.

According to Netherlands Poe scholar, Ton Fafianie, “Poe thought Mary a very attractive woman, and she was a nice and talented lady, but she took advantage of him in an effort to promote her poems while he was connected to the Broadway Journal.” In my conversation with him, he continued to explain, “He [Poe] was patient with her as a poetess, and there was one famous woman in educated society who noticed this: Margaret Fuller. Hewitt helped Poe and his family during the dreadful winter of 1846-47. They entertained a spiritual connection but were not ‘in love.'”

Was their connection spiritual, or was there more blossoming between the two?

Finally, another woman made such an impression on Poe, he wrote a poem just for her titled, “For Annie.” But just who was Poe’s “Annie”?

Nancy "Annie" Locke Heywood Richmond

Nancy "Annie" Locke Heywood Richmond

According to World of Poe’s Undine, Nancy Locke Heywood Richmond was the wife of Charles Richmond. She and Poe first met July 1848, and then met again in October of that year and in the spring of the next. According to Undine, however, “…intimates believed the two were no more than friendly acquaintances.” Letters written by her brother indicate no romantic interest between the two, however, Richmond told John H. Ingram, a Poe biographer, that Poe had been deeply in love with her, Undine goes on to explain. The only evidence of this is through copies of letters Poe allegedly had written her.

According to Undine,

These strange, hysterical, poorly-written letters depict Poe as consumed by an unbalanced, obsessive passion for the woman he, for reasons unknown, rechristened “Annie.” This passion, according to the letters, persisted throughout his brief, ill-fated 1848 relationship with Sarah Helen Whitman–who was simultaneously receiving similar letters expressing Poe’s undying love for her. “Annie” apparently was either oblivious or indifferent to the fact that by revealing these letters, she was making Poe look not just like a horribly untalented letter-writer, but an insincere, disloyal human being.

According to the Poe Museum website, Richmond legally changed her name from Nancy to Annie, after the death of her husband in 1873.

Below is the poem, “For Annie,” which portrays Poe’s romantic feelings for her.

Thank Heaven! the crisis,

The danger, is past,

And the lingering illness

Is over at last—

And the fever called “Living”

Is conquered at last.

Sadly, I know

I am shorn of my strength,

And no muscle I move

As I lie at full length—

But no matter!—I feel

I am better at length.

And I rest so composedly,

Now, in my bed,

That any beholder

Might fancy me dead—

Might start at beholding me,

Thinking me dead.

The moaning and groaning,

The sighing and sobbing,

Are quieted now,

With that horrible throbbing

At heart:—ah, that horrible,

Horrible throbbing!

The sickness—the nausea—

The pitiless pain—

Have ceased, with the fever

That maddened my brain—

With the fever called “Living”

That burned in my brain.

And oh! of all tortures

That torture the worst

Has abated—the terrible

Torture of thirst

For the naphthaline river

Of Passion accurst:—

I have drank of a water

That quenches all thirst:—

Of a water that flows,

With a lullaby sound,

From a spring but a very few

Feet under ground—

From a cavern not very far

Down under ground.

And ah! let it never

Be foolishly said

That my room it is gloomy

And narrow my bed;

For man never slept

In a different bed—

And, to sleep, you must slumber

In just such a bed.

My tantalized spirit

Here blandly reposes,

Forgetting, or never

Regretting, its roses—

Its old agitations

Of myrtles and roses:

For now, while so quietly

Lying, it fancies

A holier odor

About it, of pansies—

A rosemary odor,

Commingled with pansies—

With rue and the beautiful

Puritan pansies.

And so it lies happily,

Bathing in many

A dream of the truth

And the beauty of Annie—

Drowned in a bath

Of the tresses of Annie.

She tenderly kissed me,

She fondly caressed,

And then I fell gently

To sleep on her breast—

Deeply to sleep

From the heaven of her breast.

When the light was extinguished,

She covered me warm,

And she prayed to the angels

To keep me from harm—

To the queen of the angels

To shield me from harm.

And I lie so composedly,

Now, in my bed,

(Knowing her love)

That you fancy me dead—

And I rest so contentedly,

Now in my bed

(With her love at my breast).

That you fancy me dead—

That you shudder to look at me,

Thinking me dead:—

But my heart it is brighter

Than all of the many

Stars in the sky,

For it sparkles with Annie—

It glows with the light

Of the love of my Annie—

With the thought of the light

Of the eyes of my Annie.

(Source: Poetry Foundation.)

Ultimately, what do you think? Were Poe’s feelings sincere for these three distinctive women, or were their feelings sincere towards him?

Feel free to comment below and share your ideas!