Text: Frederick William Thomas, “Recollections of Edgar A. Poe,” manuscript notes (but apparently lost), 1864-1866


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Recollections of Edgar A. Poe

By Frederick William Thomas

“I was intimate with Poe’s brother in Baltimore during the year 1828. He was a slim, feeble young man, with dark inexpressive eyes, and his forehead had nothing like the expansion of his brother’s. His manners were fastidious. We visited lady acquaintances together, and he wrote Byron poetry in albums, which had little originality. He recited in private and was proud of his oratorical powers. He often deplored the early death of his mother, but pretended not to know what had become of his father. I was told by a lawyer intimate with the family that his father had deserted his mother in New York. Both his parents had visited Baltimore when he was a child, and they sent money from Boston to pay for his support.”

[. . .]

“Henry Poe visited his brother in Richmond twice, the last time in 1825. He said Edgar had quarrelled with Mr. Allan after coming from college, about the small allowance of money he was receiving, and left him. He worked his own passage abroad in a vessel, reaching the metropolis of England after a rough voyage. There he met with disappointment in finding employment, and his funds being low proceeded to Paris, still hoping to find work. What money he had left was taken from him, with the exception of a sum sufficient to pay his passage back to London. Thus left without money and without friends he hurried back to England, where he took passage in a vessel for America, bound for a New England port.”

[. . .]

“I removed to the country in 1829 and lost sight of Poe’s brother. In 1831 I emigrated to Cincinnati, and for some years afterwards travelled through the West, along the Ohio and Mississippi. On one of these trips of pleasure from Pittsburg to New Orleans in a first-rate steamer, I made the acquaintance of an interesting character named James Tuhey, belonging to the steamer’s crew. He possessed more than ordinary musical ability and was especially proficient with the flute. I would sit with him for hours in a quiet corner and listen to his sailor lore. He observed my manuscript as I was writing to a Cincinnati newspaper and wanted to know if I was writing poetry. I told him no. He replied that so much manuscript reminded him of a Baltimore acquaintance named Poe. I thought at once that he had reference to Henry Poe, but soon found that it was Edgar A. Poe he knew. I also learned that Tuhey lived at Fells Point in Baltimore, when I left there, and had only recently come out to the West. He was a native of Ireland. In Baltimore he had an acquaintance with a family named Cairnes. They were some connection of Poe’s. At their house he often met Poe.

“Tuhey spoke of him as stopping alternately with one relative, and then another, but later on spending all his time with the widow, Mrs. Clemm. He wrote for the newspapers, but earned small pay. While living with the Cairnes, Poe made the acquaintance of Miss Deveraux, a dark-eyed beauty, whose parents came from Ireland. The family lived near the Cairnes residence and were intimate. They were often seen together and Poe wanted her to marry him at once. She was young and told her parents, who, with the Cairnes, interfered and broke off the affair. Poe became despondent after this and went with Tuhey in a sailing vessel to the coast of Wexford, Ireland, and back. It was on this trip that Tuhey had seen Poe’s manuscript, which mine had recalled to his memory. Before leaving Baltimore in 1834, Tuhey said that he often met Poe at a house on Caroline Street near Wilkes, Fells Point. There Poe would sit in silence for hours listening to sailor stories of the sea, the only interruption being now and then a tune from Tuhey’s musical flute.”

[. . .]

“I met Poe in Philadelphia during September, 1842. He lived in a rural home on the outskirts of the city. His house was small, but comfortable inside for one of the kind. The rooms looked neat and orderly, but everything about the place wore an air of pecuniary want. Although I arrived late in the morning Mrs. Clemm, Poe’s mother-in-law, was busy preparing for his breakfast. My presence possibly caused some confusion, but I noticed that there was delay and evident difficulty in procuring the meal. His wife entertained me. Her manners were agreeable and graceful. She had well formed, regular features, with the most expressive and intelligent eyes I ever beheld. Her pale complexion, the deep lines in her face and a consumptive cough made me regard her as the victim for an early grave. She and her mother showed much concern about Eddie, as they called Poe, and were anxious to have him secure work. I afterwards learned from Poe that he had been to New York in search of employment and had also made effort to get out an edition of his tales, but was unsuccessful.

“When Poe appeared his dark hair hung carelessly over his high forehead, and his dress was a little slovenly. He met me cordially, but was reserved, and complained of feeling unwell. His pathetic tenderness and loving manners towards his wife greatly impressed me. I was not long in observing with deep regret that he had fallen again into habits of intemperance. I ventured to remonstrate with him. He admitted yielding to temptation to drink while in New York and turned the subject off by telling an amusing dialogue of Lucian, the Greek writer. We visited the city together and had an engagement for the following day. I left him sober, but he did not keep the engagement and wrote me that he was ill.”

[. . .]

“Poe kept up a continuous warfare upon Griswold in the Museum, poking fun at him, and alluding to him as Mr. Driswold of Graham’s Magazine, in childish humor.”

[. . .]

“Poe sent me the notes for the Museum biography, but I evaded writing them. I told him afterwards that I knew more of his history than he had sent me. He was amused, and laughed the matter off by confessing that the story was intended to help the magazine project. I was confined to my room by sickness when Poe came to Washington early in 1843. He was sober when I saw him, but afterward in the company of old friends he drank to excess. My physician attended him for several days, and he suffered much from his indiscretion.”

[. . .]

“Poe stated that ‘The Raven’ was written in a day. The idea of having it appear anonymously was a whim of his, like Coleridge’s publication of his ‘Raven.’ He afterwards thought it a mistake, and conceived the idea of having it introduced in Willis’s paper with his name. Poe read all the older English poets with fondness, and his name of Quarles merely had reference in his mind to the old English poet.”

[. . .]

F. W. Thomas, who was conversant with many of Poe’s as well as Mrs. Clemm’s affairs, states that “Poe was never paid for the poem [“The Bells”] by Sartain’s Union Magazine.”

 


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Notes:

These recollections were intended for a volume of Poe’s poems. Text taken from Whitty, 1911, pp. xxi, xxxi-xxxii, xxxiii-xxxv, xliii-xliv, xlv, xlvii, xlviii) [see also pp. 195, 196, 232, 233-234, 243] the notes are presumably from 1864-1866 since Whitty states that Thomas’s death ended the projected edition and Thomas died in 1866.)

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[S:0 - Whitty, 1911] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Recollections of Edgar A. Poe (F. W. Thomas, 1911)