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EDGAR A. POE.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD:
Will you allow me to correct through your columns the story which is now being circulated -- from the pen of Mrs. Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and originally appearing in the Home Journal -- in regard to the “case of the death of Edgar A. Poe.”
It is to be regretted that Mrs. Smith should have allowed herself to be imposed upon by so very extraordinary and improbable a story, and still more so that she should have given it to the public without having first proven its truth by reference to proper authority. She asserts -- on what or whose authority is not mentioned that “a woman” with whom Mr. Poe had corresponded, exasperated at Poe’s refusal to return her letters, caused him to be “beaten in a most ruffianly manner,” that “a brain fever supervened,” and that Mr. Poe thereupon “went to Baltimore, which he barely reached when he died.”
As truth in all things is always desirable allow me to state to you the following facts, which, with the corroborative testimony of twenty persons of the highest respectability, now living in this city (Richmond), will prove the foundationless character of the story alluded to, and which Mrs. Smith, unfortunately, too readily credited: --
In July, 1849, Mr. Poe came to Richmond and here he remained up to the period of his leaving for Baltimore, where, on his arrival, he died. During this time he sometimes occupied a room at the old-fashioned Swan Hotel, but was generally a guest of Mrs. Mackenzie, a lady of the highest social standing. She had known and been fond of Poe from a child, having adopted his little sister Rosalie at the time when he himself had been adopted by Mr. Allan. Mr. Poe, like his sister, always called her “Ma,” and had grown up in intimate relation with her sons, who were at home at the time of his visit of which I speak.
Mrs. Mackenzie’s residence, Duncan’s Lodge, was in the suburbs of the city. We were her near neighbors, and, the two families being very intimate and in daily communication, we were necessarily acquainted with all concerning Mr. Poe. He was himself an almost daily visitor at my mother’s, and was accustomed to speak freely of what interested or concerned himself.
As this time a report circulated, but not credited, was that Mr. Poe was engaged to a Mrs. S----, a widow residing on Church Hill, a very plain person, wealthy and considerably older than Mr. Poe. He at first visited her, but after a while discontinued this attention and it was known that they were not friends, and that Mr. Poe had refused to return certain letters of hers until she should consent to also give up his own, which she declined to do, asserting that they had been destroyed -- a statement of which he expressed some doubt.
Some three weeks before Mr. Poe left Richmond he had a brief but sever illness, the result of a day’s dissipation, of which certain gentlemen now living in this city were witness. Two of his friends, both physicians, placed him in a light wagon and took him to Mrs. Mackenzies, where assiduous nursing and attention saved his life. This attack both gentlemen, who are still residents of Richmond, assert to have been mania a potu, and declared that “ another such excess would have proved fatal to him.” Thenceforth while he remained in Richmond his friends were constantly with him, and certainly nothing could have happened to him without their knowledge. He soon recovered, and remained well and sober up to his leaving for Baltimore. In this time he was often at my mother’s and the evening of the day before that fixed for his departure he spent with us. On this occasion I had a long conversation with him, in which, notwithstanding my being little more than a child, he spoke very freely of his plans for the future, especially in regard to the publication of his projected paper. The Iris [[Stylus]], of the success of which he seemed sanguine. I had never seen him apparently in better health or spirits than when I bade him goodby. That night he spent at Duncan’s Lodge, and thence on the morrow some gentlemen of the family accompanied him to town, and saw him on board the steamboat which he took for Baltimore. They all unite in saying that he left in remarkably good spirits, and to several of them he had expressed his intention of “turning over a new leaf” in life.
Until the appearance of this account of Mrs. Smith’s in the Home Journal not one of Mr. Poe’s friends among whom he had spent the last three months of his life had ever heard a hint of the extraordinary circumstance thus set forth, although if such a thing had occurred, as stated, it must have occurred in our midst. Very truly yours, SUSAN ARCHER WEISS.
RICHMOND, April 10, 1876.
[As for most recollections of Poe, Mrs. Weiss's comments are of interest, but not to be taken as gospel.]
[S:0 - NYH, 1876, clipping-I]