Text: John H. Ingram, “Chapter 20,” Edgar Allan Poe: Life, Letters, and Opinions (1880), pp. 187-221


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


[page 187:]

CHAPTER XX.

ANNIE.”

IT will now be necessary to turn back some months, to resume the poet’s story where it was broken off in order to complete the episodical narrative of his engagement to Mrs. Whitman. In the early summer of 1848 Poe, as already stated, lectured at Lowell, on “The Female Poets of America.” Some months later he again visited the city and lectured upon “The Poetic Principle.” During this sojourn in the “American Manchester,” the poet was the guest of the Richmonds, a family whose acquaintance he had made upon the occasion of his former visit. The friendship which Poe formed with this amiable family, although, unfortunately, so near the close of his sad career, was one of its brightest incidents: they aided him in the darkest days of his “lonesome latter years;” they believed in him when he was calumniated; they received him as an honoured guest when the world contemned him; they remained faithful to him through all adversity; and, when death released [page 188:] his wearied spirit, afforded a lengthy and hospitable shelter to his broken-hearted mother, Mrs. Clemm.

Miss Heywood, a member of this generous family, has favoured us with some fresh and charming recollections of Edgar Poe, as he appeared to her girlish but appreciative ken: —

“I have ‘in my mind’s eye,” she remarks, “a figure somewhat below medium height, perhaps, but so perfectly proportioned, and crowned with such a noble head, so regally carried, that, to my girlish apprehension, he gave the impression of commanding stature. Those clear sad eyes seemed to look from an eminence, rather than from the ordinary level of humanity, while his conversational tone was so low and deep, that one could easily fancy it borne to the ear from some distant height. I saw him first in Lowell, and there heard him give a Lecture on Poetry, illustrated by readings and recitations. His manner of rendering some of the selections constituted my only remembrance of the evening: it fascinated me, although he gave no attempt at dramatic effect. Everything was rendered with pure intonation and perfect enunciation, marked attention being paid to the rhythm: he almost sang the more musical versifications. I recall more perfectly than anything else, the modulations of his smooth baritone voice, as he recited the opening lines of Byron’s ‘Bride of Abydos’ — ‘Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtle’ — measuring the dactylic movement as perfectly as if be were scanning it: the effect was very pleasing. He insisted strongly upon an even metrical flow in versification, and said that hard and ‘unequally stepping poetry’ [page 189:] had better be done into prose. He made no selections of a humorous character, either in his public or parlour readings; indeed, anything -of that kind seems entirely incompatible with his personality. He smiled but seldom and never laughed, or said anything to excite mirth in others. His manner was always quiet and grave — ‘John Brown of Edinboro’ ’ might have characterised it as ‘lonely!’ In thinking of Mr. Poe in later years, I have often applied to him the line of Wordsworth’s Sonnet (on Milton), ‘Thy soul was like a star and dwelt apart.’

“I did not hear the conversation at Mrs. Richmond’s after the lecture, when a few persons came in to meet him, but I remember that my brother spoke with great enthusiasm of Mr. Poe’s demeanour and the grace of his conversation. In alluding to it he always says, ‘I have never seen it equalled.’ A lady in the company differed from Mr. Poe, and expressed her opinions very strongly. His deference in listening was perfect, and his replies were models of respectful politeness. Of his great satirical power his pen was generally the medium; if he used the polished weapon in conversation, it was so delicately and skilfully handled that only a quick eye would detect the gleam. Obtuseness was always perfectly safe in his presence, although in his capacity of literary critic he gave his victim many a ‘palpable hit!‘”

“A few months later than this,” resumes Miss Heywood, “Mr. Poe came out to our home in Westford. My recollections of that visit are fragmentary, but very vivid. During the day he strolled off by himself, ‘to look at the bills,’ he said. I remember standing in the low porch with my sister, as we saw him returning, and as soon as he stepped from the dusty street on to the green award which [page 190:] sloped from our door, he removed his hat, and came to us with uncovered head, his eyes seeming larger and more luminous than ever with the exhilaration of his wall I recall his patiently unwinding from a nail a piece of twine that had been carelessly twisted and knotted around it, and then hanging it back again on the nail in long straight loops. It was a half-unconscious by-play of that ingenious mind which deciphered cryptographs, solved enigmas of all kinds, and wrote the ‘Gold Bug,’ and the ‘Balloon Hoax.’

“My memory photographs him again,‘’ the lady continues, “sitting before an open wood fire, in the early autumn evening, gazing intently into the glowing coal, holding the hand of a dear friend — ‘Annie’ — while for a long time no one spoke, and the only sound was the ticking of the tail old clock in the corner of the room. (I wish I could tell you what he was thinking about during that rapt silence!)

“Later in the evening he recited, before a little Reading Club, several of his own poems; one of Willis’s commencing, ‘The shadows lay along Broadway’ (which he said was a special favourite with him), and one or two of Byron’s shorter poems. To me everything seemed perfect, though some said more effect might be given to his own unique poems. I suppose his voice and manner expressed the ‘Runic rhyme’ better than the ‘tintinnabulation of the Bells — bells — bells.’ That poem was then fresh from the author’s brain, and we had the privilege of hearing it before it was given to the world.

“The next morning I was to go to school, and before I returned he would be gone. I went to say ‘Good-bye’ to him, when, with that ample gracious courtesy of his which [page 191:] included even the rustic school-girl, he said, ‘I will walk with you.’ He accompanied me to the door, taking leave of me there in such a gentle, kingly manner, that the thought of it now brings tears to the eyes that then looked their last upon that finished scholar and winning, refined gentleman.”

The “dear friend” above alluded to was the lady to whom the poet indited his most melodious poem of “For Annie.” “Annie” was one of those “rare and radiant” spirits it was Poe’s happiness — amid all his woe — to meet with in his journey through life. With her he carried on a most voluminous and characteristic correspondence during the last year of his eventful life, but, as a considerable portion of it refers to persons who have not yet followed the writer into the “Hollow Vale,” only detached portions can be quoted. Poe’s letters, as Mrs. Osgood phrased it, “were divinely beautiful,” but their tenor is often liable to be miscomprehended, and misrepresented, by those accustomed only to the coldly — conventional manufactured epistles of everyday folk. A spirit kindred to the poet’s is, almost, necessary to a thorough comprehension of the passionate gratitude, burning affection, and intense sympathy which Poe felt — for the time at least — for those who “sorrowed for his fate,” and sought to aid him as he passed by on his life’s journey. During the latter years of his career he appeared utterly unable to exist apart from the sympathy and encouragement [page 192:] of some friend — some unselfish person to whom he could turn for advice — upon whom he might depend for consolation, and to whom he might unveil the darkest mysteries of his mind. After his wife’s death he appeared always seeking for such a friend; for Mrs. Clemm, whatever may have been her affection for her son-in-law, was utterly unsuited, both by age and intellect, to supply such a desideratum. Mrs. Osgood, Mrs. Spew, and Mrs. Whitman attempted, as has been seen, more or less to befriend the helpless poet, but, as they, one after the other, deemed it necessary to let him go his ways, he sank deeper and deeper into the “Slough of Despond.”

At the time when his cravings fox sympathy were, doubtless, most urgent, he became acquainted with “Annie,” and to her and her family he clung for consolation and guidance more tenaciously than to any other of his many friends. Unfitted, at least in his “lonesome latter years,” to take an active part in the world’s work, he sought more naturally the society of refined women than that of his own sex, and, like nearly all men of a poetic temperament, being feminine (though not effeminate) in his tastes, therein found his firmest and most congenial friends. The fervour and passion of his impulsive nature may well be gleaned from these extracts of a characteristic letter, dated: — [page 193:]

“FORDHAM, Nov. 16, 1848.

“Ah, Annie, Annie! my Annie! what cruel thoughts . . . must have been torturing your heart during the last terrible fortnight in which you have heard nothing from me — not even one little word to sap that I still lived. . . . How shall I explain to you the bitter, bitter anguish which has tortured me since I left you!

“You saw, you felt the agony of grief with which I bade you farewell — you remember my expression of gloom — of a dreadful horrible foreboding of Ill. Indeed — indeed it seemed to me that Death approached me even then and that I was involved in the shadow which went before him. . . . I said to myself, ‘It is for the last time, until we meet in Heaven.’ I remember nothing distinctly from that moment until I found myself in Providence, I went to bed and wept through a long, long, hideous night of Despair — When the day broke, I arose and endeavoured to quiet my mind by a rapid walk in cold, keen air — but all would not do — the Demon tormented me still. Finally, I procured two ounces of laudanum, and without returning to my hotel, took the. cars back to Boston. When I arrived I wrote you a letter, in which I opened my whole heart to you to you. . . . I told you how my struggles were more than I could bear. . . . .I then reminded you of that holy promise which was the last I exacted from you in parting — the promise that, under all circumstances, you would come to me on my bed of death. I implored you to come then, mentioning the place where I should be found in Boston. Having written this letter, I swallowed about half the laudanum, and hurried to the Post Office, intending not to take the rest until I saw you — for, I did not doubt for one moment, that Annie would keep her sacred [page 194:] promise. But I had not calculated on the strength of the laudanum, for, before I reached the Post Office my reason was entirely gone, and the letter was never put in. Let me pass over — my darling sister — the awful horrors which succeeded. A friend was at hand, who aided and (if it can be called saving) saved me, but it is only within the last three days that I have been able to remember what occurred in that dreary interval. It appears that, after the laudanum was rejected from the stomach, I became calm, and to a casual observer, sane — so that I was suffered to go back to Providence.* . . . It is not much that I ask, sweet sister Annie — my mother and myself would take a small cottage —— oh, so small — so very humble — I should be far away from the tumult of the world — from the ambition which I loathe — I would labor day and night, and with industry, I could accomplish so much. Annie! it would be a Paradise beyond my wildest hopes — I could see some of your beloved family every day, and you often. Do not these pictures touch your inmost heart? . . . I am at home now with my dear mother, who is endeavoring to comfort me — but the sole words which soothe me are those in which she speaks of ‘Annie’ — She tells me that she has written you, begging you to come on to Fordham. Ah, Annie, is it not possible? I am so ill — so terribly, hopelessly ill in body and mind, that I feel I cannot live. . . . Is it not possible for you to come — if only for one little week? Until I subdue this fearful agitation, which, if continued, will either destroy my life or drive me hopelessly mad.

Farewell — here and hereafter — for ever your own

“EDDY.” [page 195:]

With this heartrending epistle of the impulsive poet was sent the following note from Mrs. Clemm: —

“MY DEAR ANNIE, — God has heard my prayers and once more returned my poor, darling Eddy to me. But how changed! I scarcely knew him. I was nearly distracted at not hearing from him. I knew something dreadful had occurred. And oh 1 how near I was losing him! But our good and gracious God saved him. The blood about my heart becomes cold when I think of it. I have read his letter to you, and have told him I think it very selfish, to wish you to come; for I know, my darling child, it would be inconvenient. . . . Eddy has told me of all your kindness to him. God bless you for it, my own darling. I beg you will write often. He raved all night about you, but is now more composed. I too am very sick, but will do all I can to cheer and comfort him, How much I felt for you, dearest, when I read the awful account of your poor cousin’s death. Have you heard anything of Mrs. L —— since her tragic performance? I never liked her, and said so from the first. Do tell me all about, her. — Good-bye, dearest, your own M. C.

Nov. 16, 1848.”

A week later, and the poet is found sending this impassioned appeal to his dear friend’s sister: —

“FORDHAM, NOV. 23, 1848

“If there is any pity in your heart, reply immediately to this, and let me know why it is I do not hear from Annie.’ . . . I fancy everything evil: sometimes I even think that I have offended her, and that she no longer [page 196:] cares for me. I wrote her a long letter eight days ago, enclosing one from my mother, who wrote again on the 19th. Not one word has reached us in reply. If I did not love your sister with the purest and most unexacting love, I would not dare confide in you — but you do know how truly — how purely I love her, and you will forgive me_ . . . You know also how impossible it is to see and not to love her . . . so goodso trueso nobleso pureso virtuous. Her silence fills my whole soul with terror. Can she have received my letter I If she is angry with me, say to her, that on my knees, I beseech her to pardon me — tell her that whatever she bids me do, I will do — even if she says I must never see her again, or write to her. Let me but hear from her once more, and I can bear whatever happens. . . . You would pity me, if you knew the agony of my heart, as I write these words. Do not fail to answer me at once. God bless you, my sweet sister —

“EDGAR.”

The next letter would appear to have been written on December 28th, but it is not fully dated. It was accompanied by a letter from Mrs. Clemm, in which she remarked, “I feel so happy in all my troubles. Eddy is not going to marry Mrs. W. How much will I have to tell you. . . . All the papers say he is going to lead to the altar the talented, rich, and beautiful Mrs. W. . . . but I will tell you all in my next.” Poe’s note reads: —

Thursday Morning —— 28.

“ANNIE, — My own dear Mother will explain to you how it is that I cannot write to you in full — but I must write [page 197:] only a few words to let you see that I am well, lest you suspect me to be ill. All is right! . . . I hope that I distinguished myself at the Lecture — I tried to do so, for your sake. There were 1800 people present, and such applause! I did so much better than I did at Lowell. If you had only been there. . . . Give my dearest love to all — EDDY.”

Before continuing this correspondence with “Annie” into 1849, it will be as well to take a short glance at the literary work Poe had been performing during the last few months of the expiring year. To Graham’s Magazine, and the Southern Literary Messenger, he continued to contribute his suggestive “Marginalia,” and, besides revising and arranging his critical sketches for republication, laboured ceaselessly at his projected journal, the Stylus. As a specimen of the lengthy letters he wrote upon this subject, and of his tireless industry — when not disabled, mentally and physically, for work — may be cited the following epistle to the late Mr. Edward Valentine, a relative of his adoptive mother, the first Mrs. Allan: —

“NEW YORK, Nov. 20th, 1848.

“DEAR SIR, — After a long and bitter struggle with illness, poverty, and the thousand evils which attend them, I find myself at length in a position to establish myself permanently, and to triumph over all difficulties, if I could but obtain, from some friend, a very little pecuniary aid. In looking around me for such a friend, I can think of no one, with the exception of yourself, whom I see the least [page 198:] prospect of interesting in my behalf — and even as regards yourself, I confess that my hope is feeble. In fact I have been so long depressed that it will be a most difficult thing for me to rise — and rise I never can without such aid as I now entreat at your hands I call to mind, however, that, during my childhood, you were very kind to me, and, I believe, very fond of me. For this reason and because I really do not know where else to turn for the assistance I so much need at this moment, I venture to throw myself upon your generosity and ask you to lend me $200. With this sum I should be able to take the first steps in an enterprise where there can be no doubt of my success, and which, if successful, would, in one or two years, ensure me fortune and very great influence. I refer to the establishment of a Magazine for which I have already a good list of subscribers, and of which I send a Prospectus. If for the sake of ‘auld lang syne’ you will advance me the sum needed, there are no words which can express my gratitude. — Most sincerely yours, EDGAR A. POE.

“EDWARD VALENTINE, Esq.”

Mr. Valentine, whatever feelings of affection he may have still retained for his handsome little favourite of yore, is scarcely likely to have complied in toto with the poet’s appeal. Much as Poe was admired and beloved by those in immediate contact with him, by those to whom he was personally unknown, or not known through years of estrangement, his public reputation was not of the kind to cause a stranger — as Mr. Valentine now was — to open his [page 199:] purse-strings very wide. However, some help was, probably, rendered him in this case.

To the September number of the Literary Messenger Poe contributed an enthusiastic critique on the writing of “Stella” (Mrs. Lewis), a lady from whom both he and his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, had received much kindness, as their many letters testify. In the two following numbers of the same magazine, appeared the long-promised “Rationale of Verse.” In this work, amongst much that was, in many ways, quite characteristic of its author, were not wanting signs of his intellectual decadence. Whilst his readers will, doubtless, conclude with him, that as yet, none of the grammars have written much, or anything, on the subject of verse worth reading, it is to be feared they will, also, arrive at the conclusion that Poe has, if possible, in this instance, made “confusion worse confounded.” The study of his own harmonious verse will afford better instruction than all the prosodies ever published.

For the forthcoming year the poet agreed to contribute a further series of “Marginalia” to the Southern Literary Messenger and Graham’s Magazine, and to write the literary notices for a projected publication, to be called the American Metropolitan. Of the last named magazine only two numbers were published, and to one of them Mrs. Whitman sent a poem entitled “Stanzas [page 200:] for Music.“* From these verses, which were intended to meet Poe’s eyes and, in all probability, did come under his notice, their authoress firmly believed the poet was induced to write, as some kind of a response, his beautiful ballad of “Annabel Lee.” Mrs. Whitman’s lines are as follows, the words italicised being those supposed to have more directly suggested Poe’s presumed reply: —

“Tell him I lingered alone on the shore,

Where we parted, in sorrow, to meet never more;

The night wind blew cold on my desolate heart,

But colder those wild words of doom, ‘Ye must part!’

“O‘er the dark, heaving waters, I sent forth a cry;

Save the wail of those waters there came no reply.

I longed, like a bird, o‘er the billows toffee,

From our lone island home and the moan of the sea.

“Away — far away — from the dream-haunted shore,

Where the waves ever murmur, ‘No more, never more;’

When I wake, in the wild noon of midnight, to hear

That lone song of the surges, so mournful and drear.

“When the clouds that now veil from us heaven’s fair light,

Their soft, silver lining turn forth on the night;

When time shall the vapors of falsehood dispel,

He shall know if I loved him; but never how well.”

With whatever feelings Poe may have regarded these lines, he certainly evinced no desire to respond to them, unless “Annabel Lee” be deemed a reply, and during the short remainder of his career omitted [page 201:] all mention of their writer’s name. About this time he sent a somewhat revised version of “The Letter found in a Bottles’ published in “Eureka,” to Mr. Godey’s Lady’s Book, in which publication it appeared in February 1849, as a tale, under the title of “Mellonta Tauta.” It was accompanied by the following letter: —

To the Editor of the ‘Lady’s Book:’ —

I have the honor of sending you, for your magazine, an article which I hope you will be able to comprehend rather more distinctly than I do myself. It is a translation by my friend Martin Van Buren Mavis (sometimes called the ‘Toughkeepsie Seer‘), of an odd-looking MS. which I found, about a year ago, tightly corked up in a jug floating in the Mare Tenebrarum — a sea well described by the Nubian geographer, but seldom visited, nowadays, except by the transcendentalists and divers for crotchets. Truly yours, EDGAR A. POE.”

It is now necessary to return to the correspondence with “Annie,” to whom Mrs. Clemm is found writing on the 11th of January (1849): —

“The match is entirely broken off between Eddy and Mrs. Whitman. He has been at home three weeks and has not written to her once. . . . Dear Eddy is writing most industriously, and I have every hope that we will, in a short time, surmount most of our difficulties. He writes from ten till four every day. . . . We have found out who wrote those verses that we attributed to Grace Greenwood: they were written by Mrs. Welby, of Kentucky. Have you a copy [page 202:] of them? If so, Eddy says he will be so much obliged to you for them. . . . Eddy wrote a tale and sent it to the publisher, and in it was a description of you with the name of the lady, ‘Darling Annie.‘* It will be published about the 20th of next month, and then I will send it to you. Did you see the lines to Eddy in a new magazine just come out, called the Metropolitan? They use by Mrs. Osgood, and very beautiful. . . . Have you seen Lowell’s satire, and Mrs. Osgood’s letter about the lineal Something about Eddy in both.”

Enclosed in Mrs. Clemm’s letter was a lengthy epistle from Poe himself, and from it the following extracts may be made: —

“It seems to me so long since I have written you that I feel condemned, and almost tremble lest you should have evil thoughts of Eddy. . . . But no, you will never doubt me under any circumstances — will you? It seems to me that Fate is against our meeting soon. . . O ‘Annie,’ in spite of so many worldly sorrows — in spite of all the trouble and misrepresentation (so hard to bear) that Poverty has entailed on me for so long a time — in spite of all this — I am so, so happy. . . . I need not tell you, ‘Annie,’ hour great a burden is taken off my heart by my rupture with Mrs. W.; for I have fully made up my mind to break the engagement. . . . Nothing would have deterred me from the match but — What I tell you. . . .

“Write to me whenever you can spare time, if it be only a line. . . . I am beginning to do very well about money as [page 203:] my spirits improve, and soon — very soon, I hope, I shall be quite out of difficulty. You can‘t think how industrious I am. I am resolved to get rich — to triumph. . . . When you write tell me something about Bardwell. Has he gone to Richmond? or what is he doing? Oh, if I could only be of service to him in any way! Remember me to all — to your father and mother and dear little Caddy, and Mr. R. and Mr. C. And now good-bye, sister! Annie! “’

Again, on or about the 23rd of January (the letter is not dated), Poe is found inditing the following communication to his friend: —

Faithful ‘Annie!’ How shall I ever be grateful enough to God for giving me, in all my adversity, so true, so beautiful a friend! I felt deeply wounded by the cruel statements of your letter and yet I had anticipated nearly all. . . . From the bottom of my heart I forgive her all, and would forgive her even more. Some portions of your letter I do not fully understand. If the reference is to my having violated my promise to you, I simply say, Annie, that I have not, and by God’s blessing never will. Oh, if you but knew how happy I am in keeping it for your sake, you could never believe that I would violate it. The reports — if any such there be — may have arisen, however, from what I did, in Providence, on that terrible day — you know what I mean: — Oh — I shudder even to think of it, That . . . her friends will speak ill of me is an inevitable evil — I must bear it. In fact, ‘Annie,’ I am beginning to grow wiser, and do not care so much as I did for the opinions of a world in which I see, with my own eyes, that to act generously is to be considered as designing, and that [page 204:] to be poor is to be a villain. I must get rich — rich. Then all will go well — but until then I must submit to be abused. I deeply regret that Mr. R. should think ill of me. If you can, disabuse him — and at all times act for me as you think best. I put my honor, as I would my life and soul, implicitly in your hands; but I would rather not confide my purposes, in that one regard, to any one but your dear sister.

“I enclose you a letter for Mrs. Whitman. Read it — show it only to those in whom you have faith, and then seal it with wag and mail it from Boston. . . . When her answer comes I will send it to you: that will convince you of the truth. If she refuse to answer I will write to Mr. Crocker. By the by, if you know his exact name and address send it to me. . . . But as long as you and yours love me, what need I care for this cruel, unjust, calculating world ? . . . In all my present anxieties and embarrassments, I still feel in my inmost soul a divine joy — a happiness inexpressible — that nothing seems to disturb. . . .

“I hope Mr. C. is well. Remember me to him, and ask him if he has seen my ‘Rationale of Verse,’ in the last October and November numbers of the Southern Literary Messenger. . . . I am so busy, now, and feel so full of energy. Engagements to write are pouring in upon me every day. I had two proposals within the last week from Boston. I sent yesterday an article to the Am. Review about ‘Critics and Criticism.’ Not long ago I sent one to the Metropolitan called ‘Landor’s Cottage:’ it has something about ‘Annie’ in it, and will appear, I suppose, in the March number. To the S. L. Messenger I have sent fifty pages of ‘Marginalia,’ five pages to appear each month of the current year. I have also made permanent engagements with every magazine in America (except Peterson’s [page 205:] National) including a Cincinnati magazine, called The Gentlemen’s. So you see that I have only to keep up my spirits to get out of all my pecuniary troubles. The least price I get is $5 per ‘Graham page,’ and I can easily average 1 1/2 per day — that is $7 1/2. As soon as I returns’ come in I shall be out of difficulty. I see Godey advertises an article by me, but I am at a loss. to know what it is. You ask me, Annie, to tell you about some book to read. Have you seen ‘Percy Ranthorpe’ by Mrs. Gore?* You can get it at any of the agencies. I have lately read it with deep interest, and derived great consolation from it also. It relates to the career of a literary man, and gives a just view of the true aims and the true dignity of the literary character. Read it for my sake.

“But of one thing rest assured, ‘Annie,’ — from, thus day forth I shun the pestilential society of literary women. They are a heartless, unnatural, venomous, dishonorable set, with no guiding principle but inordinate self-esteem. Mrs. Osgood is the only exception I know. . . . Kiss little Caddy for me, and remember me to Mr. R. and to all.

“I have had a most distressing headache for the last two weeks.“. . .

The above unsigned letter was succeeded, early in February, apparently, by the following communication simply dated Thursday —— 8th: —

“DEAR ‘ANNIE,’ — My mother is just going to town, where, I hope, she will find a sweet letter from you or from Sarah; but, as it is so long since I have written, I must send a few words to let you see and feel that Eddy, even when silent, keeps you always in his mind and heart — [page 206:] I have been so busy, ‘Annie,’ ever since I returned from Providence — six weeks ago. I have not suffered. a day to pass without writing from a page to three pages. Yesterday, I wrote five, and the day before a poem considerably longer than the I Raven.’ I call it I The Bells’ How I wish ‘Annie’ could see it! Her opinion is so dear to me on such topics — on all it is everything to me — but on poetry in especial And, Sarah, too. . . . I told her when we were at W —— , that I hardly ever knew any one with a keener discrimination in regard to what is really poetical. The five prose pages I finished yesterday are called — what do you think? — I am sure you will never guess — ‘Hop-Frog!’ Only think of your Eddy writing a story with such a name as ‘Hop-Frog!’ You would never guess the subject (which is a terrible one) from the title, I am sure. It will be published in a weekly paper, of Boston. . . . not a very respectable journal, perhaps, in a literary point of view, but one that pays as high prices as most of the magazines. The proprietor wrote to me, offering about $5 a c Graham page,’ and as I was anxious to get out of my pecuniary difficulties, I accepted the offer. He gives $5 for a sonnet, also.; Mrs. Osgood, Park Benjamin, and Mrs. Sigourney are engaged. I think ‘The Bells’ will appear in the American Review. I have got no .answer yet from Mrs. Whitman. . . . My opinion is that her mother has intercepted the letter and will never give it to her. . . .

“Dear mother [[Muddy]] says she will write you a long letter in a day or two, and tell you how good I am. She is in high spirits at my prospects and at our hopes of soon seeing ‘Annie.’ We have told our landlord that we will not take the house next year. Do not let Mr. R., however, make any arrangements for us in —— , or W —— , for, being poor, [page 207:] we are so much the slaves of circumstances. At all, events we will both come and see you, and spend a week with you in the early spring or before — but we will let you know some time before. Mother sends her dearest, dearest love to you and Sarah and to all. And now good-bye, my dearAnnie.’ — Your own EDDY.”

On the 19th of the same month the poet is found writing sadly, but proudly, to this esteemed correspondent, to repel some cruel accusations which had been made against him by certain mischief-makers: —

FORDHAM. Feb. 19, Sunday.

MY SWEET FRIEND AND SISTER — I fear that in this letter, which I write with a heavy heart, you will find much to disappoint and grieve you — for I must abandon my proposed visit, and God only knows when I shall see you, and clasp you by the hand. I have come to this determination to-day, after looking over some of your letters to me and my mother, written since I left you. You have not said it to me, but I have been enabled to glean from what you have said, that Mr. R —— has permitted himself (perhaps without knowing it) to be influenced against me by the malignant misrepresentations of Mr. and Mrs. —— . Now, I frankly own to you, dear ‘Annie,’ that I am proud, although I have never shown myself proud to you or yours, and never will. You know that I quarrelled with the L —— s solely on your account and Mr. R’s. It was obviously my interest to keep in with them, and, moreover, they had rendered me some services which entitled them to my gratitude up to the time when I discovered they had been blazoning their favors to the world. Gratitude, then, as [page 208:] well as interest, would have led me not to offend them; and the insults offered to me individually by Mrs. L —— were not sufficient to make me break with them. It was only when I heard them . . . (speak against) your husband . . . it was only when such insults were offered to you, whom I so sincerely and most purely loved, and to Mr. R —— , Whom I had every reason to like and respect, that I arose and left their house and ensured the unrelenting vengeance of that worst of all fiends, ‘a woman scorned.’ Now feeling all this, I cannot help thinking it unkind in Mr. R —— , when I am absent and unable to defend myself, that he will persist in listening to what these people say to my discredit. I cannot help thinking it, moreover, the most unaccountable instance of weakness — of obtuseness — that ever I knew a man to be guilty of women are more easily misled in such matters. In the name of God, what else bad I to anticipate in return for the offence which I offered Mrs. L —— s insane vanity and self-esteem, than that she would spend the rest of her days in ransacking the world for scandal against me (and the falser the better for her purpose), and in fabricating accusations where she could not find them ready made? I certainly anticipated no other line of conduct on her part; but, on the other hand, I certainly did not anticipate that any man in his senses would ever listen to accusations from so suspicions a source. . . . Not only must I not visit you at L —— , but I must discontinue my letters and you yours. I cannot and will not have it on my conscience, that I have interfered with the domestic happiness of the only being in the whole world, whom I have loved at the same time with truth and with purity — I do not merely love you, ‘Annie’ — I admire and [page 209:] respect you even more — and Heaven knows there is no particle of selfishness in my devotion — I ask nothing for myself, but your own happiness — with a charitable interpretation of those calumnies which — for your sake, I am now enduring from this vile woman — and which, for your dear, dear sake, I would most willingly endure if multiplied a hundredfold. The calumnies, indeed, ‘Annie,’ do not materially wound me, except in depriving me of your society — for of your affection and respect I feel that they never can. As for any injuries the falsehoods of these people can do me, make your mind easy about that It is true that ‘Hell has no fury like a woman scorned,’ but I have encountered such vengeance before, on far higher grounds — that is to say, for a far less holy purpose, than I feel the defence of your good name to be. I scorned Mrs. E —— , simply because she revolted me, and to this day she has never ceased her anonymous persecutions. But in what have they resulted? She has not deprived me of one friend who ever knew me and once trusted me — nor has she lowered me one inch in the public opinion. When she ventured too far, I sued her at once (through her miserable tools), and recovered exemplary damages — as I will unquestionably do, forthwith, in the case of —— , if ever he shall muster courage to utter a single actionable word. It is true I shrink with a nameless horror from connecting my name in the public prints, with such unmentionable nobodies and blackguards as L —— and his lady — but they may provoke me a little too far — You will now have seen, dear Annie, how and why it is that my Mother and myself cannot visit you as we proposed. . . . I could not feel at ease in his (her husband’s} house, so long as he permits himself to be prejudiced against me, or so [page 210:] long as he associates with such persons as the L —— s. It had been my design to ask you and Mr. R —— (or, perhaps, your parents) to board my Mother while I was absent at the South, and I intended to start after remaining with you a week, but my whole plans are now disarranged — I have taken the cottage at Fordham for another year — Time, dear Annie, will show all things. Be of good heart, I shall never cease to think of you — and bear in mind the too solemn promises I have made you. The one I am now religiously keeping, and the other (so help me Heaven!) shall sooner or later be kept. — Always your dear friend and brother, EDGAR.”

From the neat communication, unsigned but dated, it is Been that the traducers are still at work From it these passages may be cited: —

March 23, 1849.

“Will not ‘Annie’ confide the secrets about Westford? Was it anything I did which caused you to ‘give up hope‘? Dear Annie, I am so happy in being able to afford Mr. R. proof of something in which he seemed to doubt me. You remember that Mr. and Mrs. L —— strenuously denied having spoken ill of you to me, and I said ‘then it must remain a simple question of veracity between us, as I had no witness — ’ but I observed afterwards — ‘Unfortunately I have returned Mrs. L her letters (which were filled with abuse of you both), but, if I am not mistaken, my mother has some in her possession that will prove the truth of what I say.’ Now, Annie, when we came to look over these last, I found, to my extreme sorrow, that they would not corroborate me. I say ‘to my extreme sorrow;’ [page 211:] for, oh, it is so painful to be doubted when we know our own integrity. Not that I fancied, even for one moment, that you doubted me, but then I saw that Mr. R —— and Mr. C —— did, and perhaps even your brother. Well! what do you think I Mrs. L —— has again written my mother, and I enclose her letter. Read it! you will find it thoroughly corroborative of all I said. The verses to me which she alludes to, I have not seen. You will see that she admits having cautioned me against yon, as I said, and in fact admits all that I accused her of. Now you distinctly remember that they both loudly denied having spoken against you: — this, in fact, was the sole point at issue. I have marked the passages alluded to. I wish that you would write to your relation in Providence and ascertain for me who slandered me as you say-I wish to prove the falsity of what has been said (for I find that it will not do to permit such reports to go unpunished), and, especially, obtain for me some details upon which I can act. . . . Will you do this? . . . I enclose also some other lines ,For Annie’ and will you let me know in what manner they impress you? I have sent them to the Flag of our Union. By the way, did you get ‘Hop-Frog‘? I sent it to you by mail, not knowing whether you ever see the paper in ——. I am sorry to say that the Metropolitan has stopped and ‘Landor’s Cottage’ is returned on my hands unprinted. I think the lines ‘For Annie‘* (those I now send) much the best I have ever written; but an author can seldom depend on his own estimate of his own works, so I wish to know what ‘Annie’ truly thinks of them — also your dear sister and Mr. C ——. [page 212:]

“Do not let the verses go out of your possession until you see them in print — as I have sold them to the publisher of the Flag. . . . Remember me to all.”

The tale of “Hop-Frog” above referred to was founded by Poe upon a terrible tragedy related by Froissart, as having occurred in the court of Charles the Sixth of France. The poet appears to have derived his knowledge of the incident from Lord Berner’s quaint old English version of the chronicler’s story, and in his rendering of the tale he has contrived to attract more sympathy for “Hop-Frog” — for the poor crippled dwarf, notwithstanding his awful revenge, who had no fondness for wine as it excited him “almost to madness” — than Poe’s ideal heroes generally obtain.

As regards the lines “For Annie,” spoken of and enclosed in the foregoing communication, this letter to N. P. Willis will be of interest: —

“FORDHAM, April 20, 1849.

“MY DEAR WILLIS: — The poem which I enclose, and which I am so vain as to hope you will like, in some respects, has been just published in a paper for which sheer necessity compels me to write now and then. It pays well — as times go — but unquestionably it ought to pay ten prices; for whatever I send it I feel I am consigning to the tomb of the Capulets. The verses accompanying this, may I beg you to take out of the tomb, and bring them to light in the Home Journal? If you can oblige me so far [page 213:] as to copy them, I do not think it will be necessary to say ‘From the Flag,’ — that would be too bad: — and, perhaps, ‘From a late paper’ would do.

“I have not forgotten how a ‘good word in season’ from you made ‘The Raven,’ and made ‘Ulalume,’ (which, by-the-way, people have done me the honor of attributing to you) — therefore I would ask you (if I dared), to say something of these lines — if they please you. Truly yours ever, EDGAR A. POE.”

Those unacquainted with the intensely grateful nature of the poet towards all those whom he deemed himself indebted to, would be inclined to consider some portions of the above note intended for sarcasm Poe, however, doubtless did believe that Willis had assisted in making “The Raven” famous, although he could hardly have considered it an honour for himself that “Ulalume” had been fathered upon the author of “Hurrygraphs.”

The letter following that last cited is undated and unsigned; it gives a vivid picture of the horrors the unfortunate Poe was exposed to in his attempt to live by the work of his pen, and of the melancholia by which he was so often oppressed: —

“ANNIE, — You will see by this note that I am nearly, if not quite, well — so be no longer uneasy on my account. I was not so ill as my mother supposed, and she is so anxious about me that she takes alarm often without cause. It is not so much ill that I have been as depressed in spirits — I [page 214:] cannot express to you how terribly I have been suffering from gloom. . . . You know horn cheerfully I wrote to you not long ago — about my prospects — hopes — how I anticipated being soon out of difficulty. Well! all seems to be frustrated — at least for the present As usual, misfortunes never come single, and I have met one disappointment after another. The Columbian Magazine, in the first place, failed — then Post’s Union (taking with it my principal dependence); then the Whig Review was forced to stop paying for contributions — then the Democratic — then (on account of his oppression and insolence) I was obliged to quarrel, finally, with —— ; and then, to crown all, the “ —— —— ” (from which I anticipated so much and with which I had made a regular engagement for $10 a week throughout the year) has written a circular to correspondents, pleading poverty and declining to receive any more articles. More than this, the S. L. Messenger, which owes me a good deal, cannot pay just yet, and, altogether, I am reduced to Sartain and Graham — both very precarious. No doubt, Annie, you attribute my “gloom” to these events — but you would be wrong. It is not in the power of any mere worldly considerations, such as these, to depress me. . . . No, my sadness is unaccountable, and this makes me the more sad. I am full of dark forebodings. Nothing cheers or comforts me. My life seems wasted — the future looks a dreary blank: but I will struggle on and I hope against hope.’ . . . What do you think? I have received a letter from Mrs. L —— , and such a letter! She says she is about to publish a detailed account of did that occurred between us, under guise of romance, with fictitious names, &c., — that she will make me appear noble, generous, &c. &c. — nothing bad — [page 215:] that she will I do justice to my motives,’ &c. &c. She writes to know if ‘I have any suggestions to make.’ If I do not answer it in a fortnight, the book will go to press as it is — and, more than all this — she is coming on immediately to see me at Fordham. I have not replied — shall I? and what? The ‘friend’ who sent the lines to the ‘H. J.’ was the friend who loves you best — was myself. The Flag so misprinted them that I was resolved to have a true copy. The Flag has two of my articles yet — ‘A Sonnet to my Mother,’ and ‘Landor’s Cottage.’ . . . I have written a ballad called ‘Annabel Lee,’ which I will send you soon. Why do you not send the tale of which you spoke?”

Appended to the above epistle are these few pathetic lines from Mrs. Clemm: — “Thank you a thousand times for your letter, my dear ‘Annie.’ Do ! not believe Eddy; he has been very ill, but is now better. I thought he would die several dunes. God knows I wish we were both in our graves — it would, I am sure, be far better.”

An intervening communication to “Annie” has been lost, wherein the poet announced his intention of once more visiting the Southern States, in order to obtain aid for his projected magazine — the ignis fatuus of his life — both by lectures and by procuring subscribers’ names. The next letter, written on the 16th of June, shows Poe on the eve of departure, but — although not unhopefully worded — detained from day [page 216:] to day by some disappointing circumstances, probably of a pecuniary nature.

“FORDHAM, —— June 16.

“You asked me to write before I started for Richmond, and I was to have started last Monday (the 11th) — so, perhaps, you thought me gone, and without having written to say I good-bye’ — but indeed, Annie, I could not have done so. The truth is, I have been on the point of starting every day since I wrote — and so put off writing until the last moment — but I have been disappointed — and can no longer refrain from sending you, at least, a few lines to let you see why I have been so long silent. When I can go now is uncertain — but, perhaps, I may be off to-morrow, or next day: — all depends upon circumstances beyond my control. Most probably, I will not go until I hear from Thompson (of the S. L. Messenger), to whom I wrote five days ago — telling him to forward the letter from Oquawka, instead of retaining it until he sees me. The reason of the return of my draft on Graham’s Magazine (which put me to such annoyance and mortification while I was with you) was, that the articles I sent (by mail) did not come to hand. No insult (as I had half anticipated) was meant — and I am sincerely glad of this; for I did not wish to give up writing for Graham’s Magazine just yet — I enclose the publisher’s reply to my letter of enquiry. The Postmaster here is investigating the matter, and, in all probability, the articles will be found, and the draft paid by the time you get this. So all this will be right. . . .

“You see I enclose you quite a budget of papers: the letter of Mrs. L —— to Muddy — Mrs. L —— ’s long MS. [page 217:] poem — the verses by the ‘Lynn Bard,‘* which you said you wished to see, and also some lines to me (or rather about me), by Mrs. Osgood, in which she imagines me writing to her. I send, too, another notice of ‘Eureka,’ from Greeley’s Tribune. The letter of Mrs. L —— you can retain if you wish it.

“Have you seen the ‘Moral for Authors,’ a new satire by J. E. Tuel? — who, in the name of Heaven, is J. E. Tuel! The book is miserably stupid. He has a long parody of the ‘Raven’ — in fact, nearly the whole thing seems to be aimed at me. If you have not seen it and wish to see it I will send it. . . . No news of Mrs. L —— yet. .If she comes here I shall refuse to see her. Remember me to your parents, Mr. R —— , &c. —— And now Heaven for ever bless you — EDDIE.

“I enclose, also, an autograph of the Mr. Willis you are so much in love with. Tell Bardwell I will send him what I promised very soon. . . . My mother sends you her dearest — most devoted love.”

Some days later the poet indited the following interesting epistle to an old literary correspondent: —

“NEW YORK, June 26, 49.

“On the principle of ‘better late than never’ I avail myself of a few moments’ leisure to say a word or two in reply to your last letter — the one from Brunswick.

“You have had time to form an opinion of ‘Eureka.’ Let me know, frankly, how it impresses you. It is accomplishing all that I prophesied — even more. [page 218:]

“In respect to D ——. By a singular coincidence, he is the chief of the very sect of Hogites to whom I refer as the most intolerant and intolerable set of bigots and tyrants that ever existed on the face of the Earth.’ A merely perceptive man, with no intrinsic force no power of generalisation — in short, a pompous nobody. He is aware (for there have been plenty to tell him) that I intend hire in ‘Eureka.’

“I do not comprehend you about my being the ‘autobiographer of Holden’s Magazine.’ I occasionally hear of that work, but have never seen a number of it.

“‘The Rationale of Verse’ appeared in the last November and December numbers of the Southern Literary Messenger. In the February number I published (editorially) a review of ‘The Fable for Critics’ — It is not much. Lowell might have done better.

“I have never written any poem called ‘Ullahana’ What makes you suppose I have? I enclose the last poem (of any length) which I have published (i.e, ‘For Annie‘). How do you like it? You know I put much faith in your poetical judgments. It is from Willis’s H. Journal. Do you ever see the Literary World?

“Touching the Stylus: Monk Lewis once was asked how he came, in one of his acted plays, to introduce black banditti, when, in the country where the scene was laid, black people were quite unknown. His answer was: ‘I introduced them because I truly anticipated that blacks , would have more effect on my audience than whites — and if I had taken it into my head that, by making them sky-blue the effect would have been greater, why sky-blue they should have been.’ To apply this idea to the Stylus — I am awaiting the best opportunity for its issue; and if by waiting [page 219:] until the day of judgment I perceive still increasing chances of ultimate success, why until the day of judgment I will patiently wait. I am now going to Richmond to I see about it’ — and possibly I may get out the first number next January.

“Write soon and more frequently. I always receive your letters with interest. Cordially your friend,

“EDGAR A. POE.

“Please re-enclose the verses.”

Among the friendships Poe made during his last days was that with “Stella,” the authoress of “Records of the Heart,” and other popular works. She says, “I saw much of Mr. Poe during the last year of his life. He was one of the most sensitive and refined gentlemen I ever met. My girlish poem — ‘The Forsaken’ — made us acquainted. He had seen it floating the rounds of the press, and wrote to tell me how much he liked it: ‘It is inexpressibly beautiful,’ he said, ‘and I should like much to know the young author.’ After the first call he frequently dined with us, and passed the evening in playing whist or in reading to me his last poem.”

On the 21st of June the poet wrote to this friend with reference to a projected publication of hers: —

“I have been spending a couple of hours most pleasantly . . . in reading and re-reading your ‘Child of the Sea.’ When it appears in print — less enticing to the eye, perhaps, than your own graceful MS. — I shall endeavor to do it critical [page 220:] justice in full; but in the meantime permit me to say, briefly, that I think it well conducted as a whole — abounding in narrative passages of unusual force — but especially remarkable for the boldness and poetic fervor of its sentimental portions, where a very striking originality is manifested. The descriptions, throughout, are warmly imaginative. The versification could scarcely be improved. The conception of Zamen is unique — a creation in the best poetic understanding of the term.. I most heartily congratulate you upon having accomplished a work which will live. — Yours most sincerely, EDGAR A. POE.”

“The day before he left New York for Richmond,” continues Stella, “Mr. Poe came to dinner, and stayed the night. He seemed very sad and retired early. On leaving the next morning he took my hand in his, and, looking in my face, said, ‘Dear Stella, my much beloved friend. You truly understand and appreciate me — I have a presentiment that I shall never see you again. I must leave to-day for Richmond. If I never return, write my life. You can and will do me justice.’

“‘I will!’ I exclaimed. And we parted to meet no more in this life. That promise I have not yet felt equal to fulfil.”

Mrs. Clemm was with her ill-fated nephew on this occasion, and spent her last few hours with him at “Stella’s” house. Notwithstanding the gloomy presentiments which oppressed him he attempted to cheer his poor “mother” and friends, by drawing hopeful [page 221:] pictures of his ultimate success: “Cheer up, darling mother,” he said, “your Eddy will yet be a comfort to you. I now see my future before me.” But for all this, Mrs. Clemm records, he “left in such wretched spirits. Before he left home he arranged all his papers, and told me what to do with them should he die. When we parted on the steamboat, although he was so dejected, he still tried to cheer me: ‘God bless you, my own darling mother,’ he said; do not fear for Eddy! See how good I will be while I am away from you, and will come back to love and comfort you.‘” And with these last words they parted.


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 194:]

* Where and when he engaged himself to Mrs. Whitman. — J. H. I.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 200:]

* Subsequently enlarged and published as “Our Island of Dreams.” — J. H. I.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 202:]

* Apparently the tale referred to, “Landor’s Cottage,” did not appear until after Poe’s death. — J. H. I.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 205:]

* By G. H. Lewes? — J. H. I.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 211:]

* Beginnng, “Thank Heaven! the crisis — the danger — is past.” — J. H. I.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 217:]

* “Lines to Edgar A. Poe,” in the Lady’s Book, April 1847. — J. H. I.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


Notes:

None.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

[S:0 - EAP:HLLO, 1880] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: His Life, Letters and Opinions (J. H. Ingram) (Chapter 20)