Text: Anonymous, “She Lives over an Evening with Poe,” New York Herald, February 19, 1905, section 3, p. 4, cols. 1-3


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


SHE LIVES OVER AN EVENING WITH POE

———

Miss Susan Ingram Tells of Poet’s Gift of Copy of “Ulalume.”

———

RECITING POETRY BY SOUTHERN SEA

———

One of His Few Living Friends Pays Tribute to the Author’s Loyalty.

———

HAD LOST TRACK OF LETTER

———

Regrets Parting with Poem Given to Her by the Poet and Which is to be Sold.

———

Sitting on the veranda of the old Hygeia Hotel, at Old Point Comfort, one Sunday evening more than half a century ago were Edgar Allan Poe and several young persons, two of whom, Miss Susan Ingram and her sister, Mrs. Bosher, are still living.

“I was very young,” said Miss Ingram when seen at her home, 536 Madison avenue, by a member of the New York Herald staff. “You wouldn’t call me a young lady nowadays, but then we girls of the South ‘came out’ early. I was from Virginia and Mr. Poe was one of my friends and my enthusiasm, and he is that yet. He liked me, too. It was one of those instances where it takes no time for a liking to grow. He did not despise me as a mere chit of a girl, but talked to me freely and seemed to like to have me talk to him.

Stands Out Like A Picture.

“Above everything else that Sunday evening in early September at Old Point stands out like a lovely picture. I cannot describe it fitly. There was more in it than may be expressed in mere words there were several of us girls, all friends, and all of us knew Mr. Poe. I can see just how we looked sitting about there in our white dresses. There was a young collegian, too, who was my particular friend. He is gone long years since and all the others in that little group have passed away except sister and myself.

“Mr. Poe sat there in that quiet way of his which made you feel his presence. After a while my aunt, who was nearer his age, said: “This seems to be just the time and place for poetry, Mr. Poe.”

“And it was. We all felt it. The old Hygeia stood some distance from the water, but with nothing between it and the ocean. It was moonlight and the light shone over everything with that undimmed light that it has in the South. There were many persons on the long veranda that surrounded the hotel, but they seemed remote and far away. Our little party was absolutely cut off from everything except that lovely view of the water shining in the moonlight and its gentle music borne to us on the soft breeze. Poe felt the influence. How could a poet help it? And when we seconded the request that he recite for us he agreed readily.

Puzzled Poe Himself.

“I do not remember all of the poems that he recited. There was ‘The Raven’ and ‘Annabel Lee,’ and last of all he gave us ‘Ulalume,’ including the last stanza, of which he remarked that he feared that it might not be intelligible to us, as it was scarcely clear to himself, and for that reason it had not been published.

“I was not old enough or experienced enough to understand what the words really meant as he repeated:

Said we, then we two then, “Ah, can it

Have been that the woodlandish ghouls —

The pitiful, the merciful ghouls,

To bar up our way and to ban it

From the secret that lies in these wolds —

From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds —

Have drawn up the spectre of a planet

From the limbo of lunary souls —

This sinfully, scintillant planet

From the hell of the planetary souls!

“I did, however, feel their beauty, and I said to him when he had finished. ‘It is quite clear to me, and I admire the poem very much.’

Copy in Beautiful Script.

“He seemed pleased to have me speak so, and the next day I was greatly surprised to receive from him a manuscript copy of the poem. It made quite a scroll and must have taken him a long time to write out. The 10 stanzas were written on five large sheets of paper pasted together in the neatest possible way, end to end. He wrote such a beautiful, fair hand it was a joy to look upon it. Not only did he acknowledge his appreciation of my appreciation by sending me this precious manuscript, but he accompanied it with the kindest sort of a note.

“The note read:

MONDAY EVENING.

I have transcribed “Ulalume” with much pleasure, dear Miss Ingram — as I am sure I would do anything else at your bidding — but I fear that you will find the version scarcely more intelligible today in my manuscript than last night in my recitation. I would endeavor to explain to you what I really meant — or what I really fancied I meant — by the poem if it were not that I remember Dr. Johnson’s bitter and rather just remarks about the folly of explaining what if worth explanation would explain itself. He has a happy witticism, too, about some book which he calls “as obscure as an explanatory note.” Leaving “Ulalume” to its fate, therefore, and in good hands, I am yours truly.

EDGAR A. POE.

“This was only a little more than two weeks, as I remember, before Poe’s death, but I saw him again before he went to Baltimore, where he died.

No Sign Of Intemperance.

“We went from Old Point Comfort to our home, near Norfolk, Va., and he called on us there and again I had the pleasure of talking with him. Although I was only a slip of a girl and he what seemed to me then quite an old man and a great literary one, at that, we got on together beautifully. He was one of the most courteous gentlemen I have ever seen, and that gave a great charm to his manner. None of his pictures that I have ever seen look like the picture of Poe that I keep in my memory. Of course they look like him, so that anyone seeing them could have recognized him from them, but there was something in his face that is in none of them. Perhaps it was in the eyes, perhaps in the mouth, I do not know; but anyone who ever met him would understand what I mean.

“There were no indications of dissipation apparent when we saw Poe in Virginia at that time. I think he had not been drinking for a long time. If I had not heard or read what was said about his intemperance I should never have had any idea of it from what I saw in Poe. To me he seemed a good man, as well as a charming one, very sensitive and very high-minded.

Was Engaged To A Widow.

“I believe he was engaged at that time to be married to a widow, but he did not mention that matter to us.

“I remember one little incident that illustrates [column 2:] how loyal he was to the memory of those who had been kind to him. I was fond of orris root and always had the odor of it about my clothes. One day when we were walking together he spoke of it. ‘I like, too,’ he said. ‘Do you know what it makes me thin of? My adopted mother. Whenever the bureau drawers in her room were opened there came from them a whiff of orris root, and ever since when I smell it I go back to the time when I was a little boy and it brings back thoughts of my mother.’”

It is hard to realize that Miss Ingram really knew Poe — there are so few left who did — and she is still so young in appearance and in feeling. She is an intelligent, cultured and attractive woman, who is from and of the South, but has spend much time in New York. She keeps her enthusiasms, and while she talked of the poet she seemed to forget entirely the environment of the conventional drawing room in Madison avenue, New York, and to see, as if it had been yesterday, the moonlight on the water as seen from the hotel veranda, and to hear the musical voice of Edgar Allan Poe declaiming the lines which fitted in so harmoniously with such a scene.

Regrets She Parted With Copy.

Only one little shadow fell upon Miss Ingram as she talked. The beautiful, melancholy lines of “Ulalume,” written down for her by the author, passed from the keeping of Miss Ingram several years ago. “I have often regretted that I was prevailed upon to give them up, but I feel even worse about the letter. I had always expected to get that back. I had lost track of both the poem and the letter util I saw that they were to be sold.”

Women are among the most loyal admirers and the staunchest defenders of Edgar Allan Poe, especially Southern women. In the office of the firm that has the selling of these interesting relics there is a Southern woman who touches them with reverential hands.

“I should be perfectly willing to be dead if I could have known Poe,” she asserts. In her possession is an old album that belonged to her aunt and in which are autograph verses by E. A. Poe and by his gifted brother, William Henry Poe, who died at the age of 28 years.

Is Named Lenore.

This young woman is named Lenore and was born into and brought up to an ardent devotion to Poe. The first thing she did when she arrived in New York was to make a pilgrimage to Fordham to see the house where Poe had lived, and heartsick she was over such a place as she found it.

In addition to the letter and manuscript [column 3:] formerly belonging to Miss Ingram, there are several other articles of interest to admirers of Poe that are to be sold this week at an auction room.

One of the most interesting is an original daguerrotype portrait of the poet, said by Gabriel Harrison, an authority of daguerrotypes and an acquaintance of Poe, to be the most characteristic of all the portraits of Poe known to him. There are also an original water color drawing of Poe’s residence in Amity street, New York city and a letter to Cornelius Mathews on the copyright question.

Story Of The Poem.

In regard to the manuscript of “Ulalume,” a note in te catalogue states that it is “of superlative interest being the manuscript of one of the most imaginative of the poet’s productions. The last stanza does not appear in the printed version and was doubtless suppressed by the author. The reason therefor will be apparent to the reader on its perusal. It was both unnecessary as an ending and unsatisfactory in its composition. Some minor changes and omissions will also be found.” All of these Poe papers belonged to the late Thomas McKee, of New York, whose library was sold recently in that city. The poem brought $1,100 and the letter $250.

“Ulalume” bears in a marked degree the stamp of Poe’s peculiar genius, very full of sorrow, pain and yearning melodiously expressed. It was written in what he called his “most immemorial year,” the year in which he lost his beautiful wife. It first appeared anonymously in Colton’s American Review, in December, 1847, and on a later republication in another magazine was credited to N. P. Willis.

The skies they were ashen and sober;

The leaves they were crisped and sere —

The leaves they were withering and sere;

It was night in the lonesome October

Of my most immemorial year:

It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,

In the misty mid region of Weir: —

It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,

In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

His Loyalty to Women.

Thus the bereaved man speaks in verse of his somber wanderings and goes on to tell of the days when his “heart was volcanic.”

It was also in October, and less than two years afterward in October, “as the leaves were withering and sere,” that he joined his lost bride in the far beyond.

His great loyalty to women, to his wife, his mother-in-law and the many women whom he numbered living as his friends, has begotten an undying loyalty to his memory on the part of the one or two women yet alive who knew him personally, and to an undiminished degree among the daughters and granddaughters of those who passed away.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


Notes:

Miss Ingram was Susan V. C. Ingram. The stanza incorrectly noted as “suppressed” was, in fact, included in every version of the poem published during Poe’s lifetime except the one that appeared in the Providence Journal. It is also omitted from the version printed by Griswold in the 1850 Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe.

Accompanying the article in the original printing is a photograph of the daguerrotype of Poe that was coming up for auction, and a facsimile of the three-page letter by Poe.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

[S:0 - NYH, 1905] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Miss Ingram Tells of Poet's Gift of a Copy of Ulalume (Anonymous, 1905)