Virginia Clemm Poe
Every once in a while, a discovery sheds new light on history bringing past events more clearly into view. While historians have preserved descriptions of Edgar Allan Poe’s wedding to his thirteen year old cousin Virginia, no artifacts of the event seem to have survived–until now. Tucked away in private collections for nearly 180 years, two fragments of Virginia Poe’s wedding dress have come to light and will be on display at the Poe Museum in Richmond this summer.
Long a source of public fascination, Poe’s “child-bride” Virginia Poe has been the subject of at least two novels, and she has been a character in such films as The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (1942) and Edgar Allan Poe (1915). In spite of countless Poe biographies, articles, and studies, few verifiable facts about the ceremony and even fewer artifacts have come to light. There is even dispute about which house hosted the ceremony.
Rev. Amasa Converse, who performed Poe’s wedding ceremony
Based on eye-witness accounts, the small private ceremony took place in the parlor of a house in downtown Richmond, either at 8th and Main or at 11th and Bank Streets. The minister performing the ceremony, Amasa Converse, recalled Virginia was “polished, dignified and agreeable in her bearing… [possessing] a pleasing manner but…very young.” One of the wedding guests, Virginia’s young playmate Jane Foster, later recalled Virginia was “attired in a new traveling dress, and ‘yore her hat.” This is likely the dress from which the present fragments were taken. Thanks to the research of a renowned Poe scholar, we now a little more about this important dress and are able to envision how it looked. While modern viewers are accustomed to seeing white wedding gowns, many will be surprised to see how brightly colored Virginia’s wedding dress actually was.
The pieces of fabric are on loan from Poe scholar Dr. Richard Kopley of Penn State University, who purchased them in 1992 from a descendant of Poe’s sister’s foster brother John Hamilton Mackenzie. According to the provenance, Mackenzie’s mother-in-law paid for Virginia Poe’s wedding dress, from which these fragments were taken to be sewn into a quilt. The pieces were later removed and placed in an envelope kept with other Mackenzie and Lanier family papers. During the course of his research into Poe’s early years, Kopley acquired this collection.
John Hamilton Mackenzie
Thanks to a generous loan from Dr. Kopley, the Poe Museum is pleased to announce it will display the two pieces of fabric cut from Poe’s wife’s wedding dress this summer until September 30. These unusual artifacts are the only known surviving pieces of Poe’s wife’s clothing and will be displayed alongside her mirror and trinket box from the Poe Museum’s permanent collection.
Fabric from Virginia Poe’s Dress
On Friday, June 26 from 7-8:30 p.m., the Poe Museum at 1914 East Main Street in Richmond, Virginia will host a reading and reception at which the students of the 2015 Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference will read the works they produced during the week-long residential writing conference. This year’s students will be coming from Virginia, Kansas, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Michigan, and Puerto Rico to learn the craft of writing from professionals in the field and to be inspired by the places featured in Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems. Admission to the reading and reception is free.
About the Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference
From June 21-27, 2015, a select group of eleven high school students from across the country will come to Richmond, Virginia to learn from and to be inspired by American author Edgar Allan Poe at the Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference. Among the speakers addressing the students during the conference will be Pollack Prize and Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award winning novelist Gigi Amateau; novelist and blogger Julie Farley; author and journalist Harry Kollatz; poet Joanna Lee; and Theresa Pollack Award-winner and New Virginia Review Editor Mary Flinn. When not attending lectures and writing workshops in the Parish Hall at St. John’s Church (where Poe’s mother is buried), the students will seek inspiration by visiting a number of Poe sites including the the cemetery in which his foster parents and first love are buried, the setting of his short story “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains,” and the locations that inspired some of Poe’s best-known stories and poems. The students will also visit major Poeana collections including that of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, where students will conclude the week with a reception and reading.
The attendees of this unique conference will follow in Poe’s footsteps, visiting the places his lived or worked and seeing the places that inspired his poems and short stories. Founded in 2004 by Edgar™ Award-winning author and Poe relative Dr. Harry Lee Poe, the conference has attracted students from California to Massachusetts over the years.
Illustration for the 1843 first printing of “The Gold-Bug”
Poe was much more than the Master of the Macabre. He was also the Master of Mystery, the inventor of detective fiction, and an avid cryptographer who introduced puzzles and codes into his poems and short stories. His short story “The Gold-Bug” features an encrypted treasure map and a search for clues and codes that set the standard for such popular films as National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code. This spring the Poe Museum planted a new Gold-Bug Garden modeled after this setting of this important story. In honor of the opening of the new Gold-Bug Garden at the Poe Museum in Richmond, on Tuesday, June 23 at 6 p.m., Poe scholar Richard Kopley will deliver “Decoding the Gold-Bug,” a talk about Edgar Allan Poe’s influential treasure hunt mystery “The Gold-Bug.” Admission is free.
About Richard Kopley:
Richard Kopley is Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus, at Penn State DuBois. He is the author of Edgar Allan Poe and the Dupin Mysteries, as well as numerous articles, chapters, and reviews on Poe. He is the editor of Poe’s Pym: Critical Explorations and the co-editor, with Jana Argersinger, of Poe Writing, Writing Poe. He has spoken on Poe widely in the United States, and he has given papers on Poe in Spain, Italy, Poland, Russia, and (by DVD) Japan.. He is a former president of the Poe Studies Association, organizer of several Poe conferences, co-organizer of the recent Fourth International Edgar Allan Poe Conference in New York City, and a member of the program committee for the next international Poe-Hawthorne Conference, scheduled for June 21-24, 2018, in Kyoto, Japan.
About the Poe Museum’s Gold-Bug Garden:
Designed by Riely and Associates, the firm that restored the gardens at the Virginia Executive Mansion, Monticello, and the University of Virginia, the Poe Museum’s Gold-Bug Garden recreates the Low Country setting of “The Gold-Bug” with an unusual combination of palms, umbrella plants, fatsia, and banana shrubs. This garden is only one stage in the Garden Club of Virginia’s restoration of the Poe Museum’s gardens, which date back to 1922.
David Lupton, illustrator of the Folio Society’s new edition of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, took a few minutes from his busy schedule to answer some questions about his work and his interest in Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe Museum: I have seen your illustrations for “Dracula’s Guest,” “Death & the Myrmidon,” and “The Monkey’s Paw.” What accounts for your personal interest in illustrating dark subject matter?
David Lupton: I’ve always had a predilection for a darker and melancholy subject matter. I’m not entirely sure where this comes from, but from an early age I had a love of gothic horror fiction (stories, film, artwork etc…) and I remember being particularly obsessed with the old Universal and Hammer horror films. As I grew older my love for genre fiction grew deeper and I knew that I wanted to create work that existed within the boundaries of the horror and gothic genres. I think also that I’ve always empathised with the characters of gothic fiction, who tend often to be outcasts or outsiders, and I strive to evoke a narrative that concerns these characteristics within my illustrations. My work also tends to have fantastical element (usually of a macabre and unsettling nature) and for this reason I have always created drawings and sought out commissions that would allow me to indulge in my love of this subject matter.
PM: Do you have a personal interest in the works of Edgar Allan Poe? If so, what does Poe’s work mean to you?
DL: As a lover of old horror films my first exposure to Poe’s work was through the films of Roger Corman often starring Vincent Price in the lead role (The Pit and the Pendulum and The Fall of the House of Usher being particular favourites). Although these films now seem a little schlocky they were a good inroad into his actual writing and for me to further explore the themes and ideas contained within his work.
I feel that Poe’s interest in death and the questions that surround death (physical and spiritual) have directly influenced my drawing style and the content of my work. I think that influence is evident in my attempts to create expressionistic work that represents themes of life and mortality, albeit within macabre and gothic trappings.
PM: Had you read any of his works, including The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, before taking on the project?
DL: I had read a number of the short stories but I wasn’t actually aware of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym before taking on this project. Reading Poe’s only full length novel was interesting though and although the book is a bit more of a straight forward adventure narrative, it still contains Poe’s constant themes of death and mortality (not to mention a fair amount of bloody violence and cannibalism).
I would love to go on and illustrate other works by Edgar Allan Poe. The Masque of the Red Death is a particular favourite of mine and to explore it’s visual detail; the castle setting, colour coded interiors and general atmosphere of dread would be a joy for me as a visual artist.
We look forward to seeing Lupton’s future projects and hope he will have the opportunity to illustrate more of Poe’s works. To learn more about this new edition of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, click here.
The Poe Museum recently received a small slip-cased volume in the mail. While most of the books that cross my desk contain Poe’s tales of terror (“The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Black Cat,” and the like), this case holds an edition of the only novel Poe ever finished, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket Comprising the Details of a Mutiny and Atrocious Butchery on Board the American Brig Grampus, on Her Way to the South Seas, in the Month of June, 1827. With an Account of the Recapture of the Vessel by the Survivers; Their Shipwreck and Subsequent Horrible Suffering from Famine; Their Deliverance by Means of the British Schooner Jane Guy; the Brief Cruise of This Latter Vessel in the Antarctic Ocean; Her Capture, and the Massacre of Her Crew Among a Group of Islands in the Eighty-Fourth Parallel of Southern Latitude; Together with the Incredible Adventures and Discoveries Still Farther South to Which That Distressing Calamity Gave Rise. (Let’s just call it Pym.)
The unusual title suggests something of its strange contents which feature cannibalism, a sea voyage to the Antarctic, and a ghostly white figure.
Poe printed the first installments of what was intended to be a serialized novel in the Southern Literary Messenger just before he left the magazine. After moving from Richmond to New York, Poe completed Pym while adding a preface to explain that the parts that appeared in the Messenger had been written by Poe on behalf of Arthur Gordon Pym while the rest of the book was written by Pym himself. The preface, signed by “A.G. Pym,” further confesses that Poe and Pym had previously pretended the first installments were fiction. Since “A.G. Pym” states that all the details in the novel are absolutely true, some readers believed it might be a real account. The Evening Post noted, “The air of reality in the narrative is assumed with no small skill.”
Others were unconvinced and assumed it was just another hoax by Richard Adams Locke, author of “The Moon Hoax” a few years earlier. In a December 1838 review of Pym in Burton’s Gentlemen’s Magazine, William Burton declares, “A more impudent attempt at humbugging the public has never been exercised; the voyages of Gulliver were politically satirical, and the adventures of Munchausen, the acknowledged caricature of a celebrated traveller. Sindbad the sailor, Peter Wilkins, and Moore’s Utopia, are confessedly works of imagination; but Arthur Gordon Pym puts forth a series of travels outraging possibility, and coolly requires his insulted readers to believe his ipse dixit.”
Poe saw this criticism and later wrote Burton, “You once wrote in your magazine a sharp critique upon a book of mine — a very silly book — Pym. Had I written a similar criticism upon a book of yours, you feel that you would have been my enemy for life, and you therefore imagine in my bosom a latent hostility towards yourself.”
Some reviewers were more positive in their assessments. The New York Gazette called Pym “a very extraordinary volume purporting to be a narrative of ‘Arthur Gordon Pym,’ who it is said [is] lately deceased in some melancholy way, and his adventures as well as his death are referred to as of perfect notoriety.” The New-Yorker declared it “a work of extraordinary, freezing interest beyond anything we ever read.” The Morning Courier wrote, “the volume is highly interesting in the story, well written, and to the lovers of marvellous fiction will be quite a treasure.”
Harper and Brothers published an unknown number of copies in New York in 1838, but sales were disappointing. Within a year, the book was reprinted in England where it saw its first success. When the first British edition sold well, a number of British bootleg versions appeared in a multiple editions. Herman Melville’s brother was one of many who bought one of these unauthorized copies for which the author received no compensation.
Although Americans were mainly unconvinced by this apparent hoax, some English readers believed it was a true story. George Putnam recounted, “The grave particularity of the title and of the narrative misled many of the critics as well as ourselves, and whole columns of these new ‘discoveries,’ including the hieroglyphics (!) found on the rocks, were copied by many of the English country papers as sober historical truth”
The edition now on my desk was published earlier this year by the Folio Society, which has been printing finely bound and illustrated books since 1947 because—according to their website—they believe “great books deserve to be printed in a form worthy of their contents.” Their books are designed to be read, collected, and cherished by those who love great literature. With an astute introduction by novelist Marilynne Robinson and illustrations by David Lupton, the Folio Society’s edition is sure to be a collector’s item.
The Folio Society’s Editorial Director Tom Walker explained that this new edition of Pym was originally proposed by a reader. “We then wrote to a large number of our customers about a wide range of novels and this consistently came top of their list of books they wanted to see in a Folio edition. I think that is partly because we have already (some years ago now) published many of Poe’s short stories, and this underpublished novel was seen as a natural next step. Our readers of course admire Poe as one of the greatest of nineteenth-century authors, and the combination of classic status with horror and seafaring was I think irresistible for them!”
An admirer of her work, Walker chose Pulitzer Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson to write the introduction, which he deemed “all I hoped it might be – intense and broad reaching itself, and cleverly bringing the novel into the light of [Poe’s last book] Eureka.” Walker was also pleased with Lupton’s “dark, brooding” illustrations.
Aside from the fine illustrations (see below), the Folio Society’s Pym is notable for its craftsmanship, its sturdy binding designed to be handled and read by generations of readers, and its small size—in imitation of the small size of Poe’s first editions from the 1830s and 1840s. Click here to find out more about the book. To read an interview with the illustrator David Lupton, click here.
Learn about the Poe Museum’s newest garden, its strangest artifacts, and upcoming visits by Charles Cantalupo and Richard Kopley. The latest issue of the Poe Museum’s newsletter Evermore is now online. Click here to find out more about the Poe Museum’s new exhibits, events, and acquisitions.
Think you know Poe? Think again. On June 4 at noon, Barbara Anne Cantalupo will deliver a Banner Lecture entitled “The Poe You May Not Know” at the Virginia Historical Society at 428 North Boulevard in Richmond.
Although Edgar Allan Poe’s name is most often identified with stories of horror and fear, Barbara Cantalupo’s talk will reveal the less familiar Poe—the one who often goes unrecognized or forgotten—the Poe whose early love of beauty was a strong and enduring draw. Poe’s “deep worship of all beauty,” expressed in an 1829 letter to John Neal when Poe was just twenty, never entirely faded, despite the demands of his commercial writing and editorial career. “The Poe You May Not Know” gives us a look at Poe’s connection to such visual beauty, his commitment to “graphicality” (a word he coined), and his knowledge of the visual arts.
Click here for more information.
Barbara Cantalupo, associate professor of English at Penn State Lehigh Valley, is the editor of The Edgar Allan Poe Review and author of Poe and the Visual Arts. Copies of her latest book Poe and the Visual Arts will be available for signing at the event. You can preorder your copy here.
While you are in Richmond to hear Barbara Cantalupo’s talk, you will want to stay in town a few more hours to see her husband poet Charles Cantalupo’s performance of his new poetry series “Poe in Place” at 6 p.m. at the Poe Museum. Click here to learn more about Charles Cantalupo and his fascinating performance.
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.
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;
of curled, grey leaves.
Walking at Night
after the hours/after dark
when the bars
have let out
could make your heart
skip a beat
‘Ere I go
on my own
-so a word never spoke.
on a nightly errand,
From another’s watch
you can never surely keep.
Picking up the pace now.
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,
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 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
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
the shop. piles of
papers line the
he protects his
extending an out-
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.