Museum News

Charles Dickens Meets Edgar Allan Poe

Poe (left) and Dickens (right)

Charles Dickens turned 200 today. Many readers know the novels of Dickens, but few may know that he and Poe were personally acquainted. Edgar Allan Poe was an admirer of Dickens’s works since “strongly recommending” Dickens’s works to American readers in a June 1836 review from the Southern Literary Messenger. In an 1839 issue of Burton’s Magazine, Poe wrote, “Charles Dickens is no ordinary man, and his writings must unquestionably live.”

Three years later, during Dickens’s 1842 tour of the United States, he met Poe in Philadelphia. Though we do not know exactly what was said during their conversation, we can assume Dickens agreed to help Poe find publishers for his work in England. There is no evidence Dickens told Poe about the death of his pet raven Grip, but, by the time of their meeting, Poe had already read Dickens’s novel Barnaby Rudge, which features a talking raven.

Today, three letters from Dickens to Poe survive as evidence of the meeting of Poe and Dickens. The texts are printed below.

Upon receiving Poe’s invitation to meet, Dickens wrote Poe:

United States Hotel, March 6, 1842.
My Dear Sir, — I shall be very glad to see you whenever you will do me the favor to call. I think I am more likely to be in the way between half-past eleven and twelve, than at any other time. I have glanced over the books you have been so kind as to send me, and more particularly at the papers to which you called my attention. I have the greater pleasure in expressing my desire to see you on this account. Apropos of the “construction” of “Caleb Williams,” do you know that Godwin wrote it backwards, — the last volume first, — and that when he had produced the hunting down of Caleb, and the catastrophe, he waited for months, casting about for a means of accounting for what he had done?
Faithfully yours always,
Charles Dickens.

After returning to London, Dickens wrote Poe:

London, 1 Devonshire Terrace, York Gate, Regent’s Park,
November 27, 1842.
Dear Sir, — by some strange accident (I presume it must have been through some mistake on the part of Mr. Putnam in the great quantity of business he had to arrange for me), I have never been able to find among my papers, since I came to England, the letter you wrote to me at New York. But I read it there, and think I am correct in believing that it charged me with no other mission than that which you had already entrusted to me by word of mouth. Believe me that it never, for a moment, escaped my recollection; and that I have done all in my power to bring it to a successful issue — I regret to say, in vain.
I should have forwarded you the accompanying letter from Mr. Moxon before now, but that I have delayed doing so in the hope that some other channel for the publication of our book on this side of the water would present itself to me. I am, however, unable to report any success. I have mentioned it to publishers with whom I have influence, but they have, one and all, declined the venture. And the only consolation I can give you is that I do not believe any collection of detached pieces by an unknown writer, even though he were an Englishman, would be at all likely to find a publisher in this metropolis just now.
Do not for a moment suppose that I have ever thought of you but with a pleasant recollection; and that I am not at all times prepared to forward your views in this country, if I can.
Faithfully yours,
Charles Dickens.

Almost four years later, Dickens wrote Poe:

1 Devonshire Terrace, London. Nineteenth March 1846.
Dear Sir,
Although I have not received your volume, I avail myself of a leisure moment to thank you for the gift of it.
In reference to your proposal as regards the Daily News, I beg to assure you that I am not in any way connected with the Editorship or current Management of that Paper. I have an interest in it, and write such papers for it as I attach my name to. This is the whole amount of my connection with the Journal.
Any such proposition as yours, therefore, must be addressed to the Editor. I do not know, for certain, how that gentleman might regard it; but I should say that he probably has as many corespondents in America and elsewhere, as the Paper can afford space to.
I am Dear Sir
Faithfully Yours
Charles Dickens
Edgar A. Poe Esquire

More Selections from James Carling’s “Raven” Drawings

The Poe Museum’s new special exhibit “Stormier, Wilder, and More Weird: James Carling and ‘The Raven'” opened on January 14, and visitors were in awe of Carling’s 43 masterful drawings, which fill both floors of the Exhibit Building.

The artist who produced these drawings, James Carling, was born in 1857 in Liverpool. He was fifth son of Henry Carling, a blacking maker. When James was five years old, he began to earn a living as an errand boy and singer. He would even recite the poetry of Shakespeare on street corners for spare change. Encouraged by his older brothers, James started drawing pictures on sidewalks, and he soon found passersby filling his hat with pocket change. At the age of seven, he was arrested for drawing on the sidewalk and was jailed overnight before being sentenced to seven days in a workhouse. He was sent to a technical school for six years. Though the court had sentenced Carling to attend the school, it demanded his father pay for tuition. When Carling’s father refused to pay, he was thrown in jail, where he died. Carling was fourteen when he completed his sentence at the school. Upon his release, he travelled with his brothers to the United States, where they resumed their careers as street artists. Carling eventually found work as a vaudeville performer billed as the “Lightning Caricaturist” and “the Fastest Drawer in the World.” In 1883, it was announced that Harper Brothers would be publishing an edition of Poe’s poem “The Raven” with illustrations by the French artist Gustave Dore. It was about this time that Carling began his own set of drawings for the poem. The drawings remained unpublished at the time of Carling’s death, four years later in 1887. He was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave. The drawings remained in storage for over fifty years until Carling’s brother decided to exhibit them in 1930. Response to the work was so positive that the Poe Museum purchased the set in 1937.

Below is a small sample of the work on display. These pieces have so many strange and subtle details that the photos provided below can only give a faint impression of the experience of seeing the entire series up close. For more information about the Poe Museum’s collection of James carling’s illustrations for “The Raven,” visit our Collections Database. The exhibit continues until May 1, 2012, so be sure not to miss it.

Edgar Allan Poe’s 203rd Birthday Bash

The Museum will be open from 10am – Midnight with events starting at NOON. Admission is $5 for the whole day, and you may come and go as you please so you can check out all the events you want to see!!! Events are still being added to the schedule, but see the current line-up below:


10:00am- 1:00pm: Gift shop sale! ( Take 15% off your entire purchase of $10 or more!)

12:00pm: Exhibit Opening (Stormier, Wilder and More Weird: James Carling and “The Raven” | and Curator talk.) *A MUST SEE*

1:00pm -1:15pm: Lucretia and Lavinia (belly dance duo )

1:15pm – 1:30pm: Aeon Yahweh (musician)

4:00pm – 5:00pm: Lucretia and Lavinia (belly dance duo)/ Sadira (dancer) and DragonSong (band)

5:00pm- on: Mulled Wine, Butter Beer and non-alcoholic beverage cash bar with free snacks.

5:30pm: Poe Birthday Cake

7:00pm – 8:00pm: Lucretia and Lavinia (belly dance duo)/ The Muse (dancer)/ Madame Onça (dancer)

8:00pm: Theatrical Victorian Seance. (See a Victorian Seance combining 19th century tricks and modern day effects)

9:00pm: Theatrical Victorian Seance. (See a Victorian Seance combining 19th century tricks and modern day effects)

11:30pm: Champagne Toast to Poe

*Additional events are still being finalized. Call the Museum at 804-648-5523 for more information (or) e-mail: [email protected]

Lucretia and Lavinia

Aeon Yahweh

Madame Onça

Stormier, Wilder and More Weird: James Carling and “The Raven”

In 1887, the promising young artist James Carling was buried in a pauper’s grave in Liverpool. He was only twenty-nine. During his lifetime, he had been celebrated as the “Fastest Drawer in the World” and the “Lightning Caricaturist.” Though his “lightning” drawing skills had brought him from a childhood in poverty on the streets of Liverpool to the acclaim of audiences throughout the United States, he aspired to something greater. Carling sought to outdo the world’s most popular illustrator, the French artist Gustave Dore, by illustrating Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” better than Dore had done in his own celebrated illustrated 1882 edition of the poem.

Comparing his illustrations to Dore’s, Carling wrote, “Concerning ‘The Raven,’ I have been ‘dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.’ As well as Dore, I have illustrated ‘The Raven.’ Our ideas are as wide as the poles. Dore’s are beautiful; there is a tranquil loveliness in them unusual to Dore. Mine are stormier, wilder and more weird; they are horrible; I have reproduced mentality and phantasm. Not one of the ideas were ever drawn before. I feel that Poe would have said that I have been faithful to his idea of the ‘Raven,’ for I have followed his meaning so close as to be merged into his individuality. The series will be more numerous than Dore’s.”

In spite of (or perhaps because of) their originality and weirdness, Carling’s illustrations remained unpublished at the time of his death. He entrusted the drawings to his brother Henry, himself a successful artist. Over fifty years later, in 1930, Henry Carling exhibited the drawings, which were received with such enthusiasm that, six years later, the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia purchased them, for display in a “Raven Room.” Many a long-time Richmonder recalls with a shudder the time, decades ago, they were terrified by the “Raven Room” filled with James Carling’s masterful illustrations. After forty years on display at the Poe Museum, the drawings were taken down and placed in storage to protect them from damage by light and humidity. For some time the drawings were replaced with small black-and-white reproductions, which, over time, were also removed to make way for other exhibits. Since the 1970s the complete set of James Carling’s illustrations for “The Raven” have been in storage, but in January 2012 in honor of Poe’s 203rd birthday and the Poe Museum’s 90th anniversary, the Poe Museum will once again display Carling’s masterpiece for the first time in a generation. The exhibit will open on January 14, 2012 and will continue until May 1, 2012, after which the artwork will return to storage to prevent further deterioration so that the drawings may be safely exhibited for the enjoyment of future generations.

Unhappy Hour on the Night’s Plutonian Shore

Our September Unhappy Hour featured Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poem, “The Raven”.

The evening was visited by a veritable flock of winged visitors thanks to some lovely Raven masks – some of which were made for the Poe Museum by a local craftsperson.

Ravens having fun at Unhappy Hour

The evening featured the U.S. debut of an art exhibit entitled “The Raven, Terror and Death” featuring works by U.S. and Mexican artists inspired by the famous poem.

People checking out the new Raven-inspired exhibitPeople checking out the new Raven-inspired exhibit

People checking out the new Raven exhibit

We also had several readings of the poem by people during the course of the evening. Here is a video sample featuring the actor Chris Patrick as Edgar Allan Poe:

(Chris Patrick is playing Poe this weekend in a Haunts of Richmond / Poe Museum co-production of Poe’s Haunted Homecoming Tour. We are grateful that Mr. Poe was able to give us a reading of “The Raven” at the Poe Museum before the show began at historic Shockoe Hill Cemetery. )

Excellent jazz accompaniment for the evening’s festivities was provided by Jack Winn Duo and Poe fans young and old (plus a stray bat or two) really got into the spirit of the event.

Fun at Unhappy HourThe Jack Winn Duo at Unhappy Hour Cute Kid getting into the Unhappy Hour spirit

Of course, this Unhappy Hour also served as the Poe Museum’s first event of our busy fall season. Make sure that you check our events calendar for information about all kinds of exciting things that will be happening in October.

First up on Sunday October 2nd from 2-4pm is the launch party for Richmond Macabre a horror anthology dedicated to Poe and featuring stories set right here in the River City. We hope to see folks at as many of our October events as possible. October is Poe’s month after all!

Poe Museum to Host U.S. Debut of Raven Art

On Thursday, September 22, 2011 from 6-9P.M., the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia will celebrate the opening of the United States debut of a new art exhibit, The Raven, Terror & Death, with an Unhappy Hour devoted to Edgar Allan Poe’s 1845 poem “The Raven.” Guests will enjoy raven readings, films, music, games, and, of course, this unique artistic tribute to the poem featuring over 60 artists from the United States and Mexico. The Raven, Terror & Death was first exhibited earlier this year at Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas in Mexico. In addition to showcasing a wide variety of different contemporary artists’ responses to Poe’s poem, the exhibit also offers a rare opportunity for Richmonders to see new art by some of Mexico’s most respected artists.

Exhibit organizers, George Rivera, PhD, Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Colorado, and Dr. José Daniel Manzano Águila, Director of the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas, offered a select group of contemporary artists the challenge of creating work in response to Poe’s poem, “The Raven.”
According to Rivera, “Since art has the capacity to build bridges between people by addressing what is universal among human beings, the exhibition of “El Cuervo” [“The Raven”] in the United States is timely… Dr. Manzano understands the importance of the artistic spirit in the New Millennium. The artists who he has gathered from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas have created excellent examples of art that transcends borders.”
The Co-Curator, Manzano says of the Mexican artists in the exhibit, “This sample integrated with 24 works created by the same number of participants, all educators of the National School of Plastic Arts of the UNAM, will contribute in the promotion and diffusion of the artistic work and will serve as a homage to the highly esteemed writer Edgar Allan Poe, who bequeathed the humanity an extraordinary abundance of literary works. It is also our desire that this exposition serve to preserve the Poe Museum, where the literary creator lived part of his life, carrying out the magisterial work that can be found translated into almost all the languages of the world.”
Professor Rivera will be attendance at the exhibit opening to answer questions about the extraordinary range of works on view. The exhibit will continue through January 1, 2012. Admission is free during the exhibit opening and thereafter is included with Poe Museum general admission.

Below are a few samples of the work to be displayed.

Small Fry Visit Museum

Raven Puppets at the Poe Museum!

Kids showing off their freshly made Raven puppets (photo courtesy of Tammy Breeding)

For the past few weeks, the Poe Museum has played host to several primary school aged groups who were interested in learning about Edgar Allan Poe as part of their summer enrichment. Our usual bailiwick is middle and high school aged pupils, but we at the Museum were more than happy to help introduce Poe to younger folks.

Children received a special tour of the museum and then got to participate in an activity designed to introduce them to poetry via Poe’s most famous poem, “The Raven”. They also got to make their own Raven puppets to take home.

The kids (and the Poe Museum guides) all seem to have had a great time. Hopefully, we are helping to instill an early appreciation for poetry in general and Poe in particular for the young people that have visited us this month. Maybe we will even inspire someone to go on to write poetry or short stories of their own.

The Raven Receives Fan Mail

In what may possibly be a Poe Museum first, we received a letter addressed to “The Raven” in care of the museum.

The envelope - click for a larger version

Needless to say, the staff was intrigued and we passed the letter along to the Raven.

The Raven was so pleased by the letter, that he asked me to share it on the museum blog. (Ravens lack opposable thumbs, which makes blogging difficult for them.)

So here is the letter:

The letter - click for a larger version

The Raven composed a reply and had me put it in the mail this morning. We hope that Mr. Martell will enjoy the letter.

The Raven has also graciously consented to allowing his reply to be published on this blog, so here it is:

The Raven's Reply - click for larger version

A little bird told us this might be the start of a trend…