Text: John H. Ingram, “Appendix D,” Edgar Allan Poe: Life, Letters, and Opinions (1880), pp. 258-262


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[page 258:]

APPENDIX D.

LADY FRIENDSHIPS.

DESPITE all the sorrow and misfortune of his brief career it was the frequent good fate of Poe to encounter, and be associated with, high and self-sacrificing women, and, probably, no higher testimony could be cited in favour of his goodness than the 4anduring and friendly sympathy manifested for him by these ladies. Besides the life-long love of his wife, and the never-wavering affection of Mrs. Clemm, it has been seen during various portions of his story, that he inspired the truest and most disinterested friendship of Mrs. Stannard (the ” Helen ” of his youth) Mrs. Shelton, his first and last love; Mrs. Shew (“Marie Louise”); Mrs. Osgood; Mrs. Whitman; “Annie”; “Stella” and others.

The reader of Edgar Poe’s history cannot but feel interested in the fate of these ladies. Some of them, happily, still dwell among us, whilst others have gone before, and of these latter, Mrs. Osgood, Mrs. Shew, and Mrs. Whit man, it behoves us to speak a few words additional. The career of Frances Sargent Osgood, a lady whom Poe admired with intense and long-lasting affection, has already been adverted to in the preceding pages, it suffices, therefore, to say that although they did not meet for some years prior to the poet’s death, her friendship for [page 259:] him suffered no abatement. Shortly before her decease, which occurred on Sunday, 12th of Nay 1850, just seven months after Poe’s, she wrote the charming recollections cited in this work. About the same time her last and nearest complete volume of verse was published, and its final poem was this: —

“The hand that swept the sounding lyre

With more than mortal skill,

The lightning eye, the heart of fire,

The fervent lips, are still

No more, in rapture or in woe,

With melody to thrill,

Ah! Nevermore!

“Oh ! bring the flowers he cherished so,

With eager childlike care;

For o‘er his grave they‘ll love to grow —

And sigh their sorrow there:

Ah me! no more their balmy glow

May soothe his heart’s despair,

No! Nevermore!

“But angel hands shall bring him balm

For every grief he knew,

And Heaven’s soft harps his soul shall calm

With music sweet and true,

And teach to him the holy charm

Of Israfel anew,

For evermore!

“Love’s silver lyre he played so well

Lies shattered on his tomb;

But still in air its music spell

Floats on through light and gloom;

And in the hearts where soft they fell

His words of beauty bloom

For evermore!‘’ [page 260:]

The inspiration of these pathetic lines cannot be misunderstood, Portraits of their authoress, and of her” Israfel,” both painted by Mr. S. dsgood, are on the walls of the New York Historical Society’s Library.

Few and simple words are needed to tell Mrs. Shaw’s subsequent story, for her life has left no ostentatious or monumental emblems, and her memory survives only in her children’s love; her friends’ affection; and in the gratitude of those whose afflictions she comforted, and whose needs she supplied. After having been some years the wife of the Rev. Dr. Roland S. Houghton, she followed her husband rapidly to the grave, 11 entering into rest,” as she herself bad aptly styled it, on the third of September 1877.

Mrs. Whitman’s name has, probably, been more closely connected with Poe’s than that of any lady mentioned in this biography, and yet their personal acquaintanceship was the shortest, and, doubtless, her influence on his career the slightest, of any of those noble women whose names have been grouped around his. The details, as full as could be furnished, have been given of their short-lived intercourse. After the rupture of their engagement, and up till the time of his death, Poe does not appear to have alluded to Mrs. Whitman again, save in the most conventional manner; but the lady always cherished, with unfading affection, the memory of her connection with the poet. In her delightful correspondence and conversation, in her melodious song, and, above all, in her truly beautiful little monograph. on “Edgar Poe and his Critics,” Mrs. Whitman invariably contrived to bring more prominently [page 261:] forward the brighter traits of her hero’s character than bas been accomplished by any other person — by any other means.

Mr. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, in a paper on Poe,* thus pleasantly alludes to this lady as she appeared to her friends in the autumn-tide of her life. She had, he says, “outlived her early friends, and loves, and hopes, and perhaps her literary fame, such as it was: she had certainly outlived her recognised ties with Poe, and all but his memory. There she dwelt in her little suite of rooms, bearing youth still in her heart and in her voice, and on her hair also, and in her dress. Her dimly-lighted parlour was always decked, here and there, with scarlet; and she sat, robed in white, with her back always turned to the light, thus throwing a discreetly tinted shadow over her still thoughtful and noble face. She seemed a person embalmed while still alive; it was as if she might dwell for ever there, prolonging into an indefinite future the tradition of a poet’s love: and when we remembered that she had been Poe’s betrothed, that his kisses had touched her lips, that she still believed in him, and was his defender, all criticism might well, for her sake, be disarmed, and her saintly life atone for his stormy and sad career.” Mrs. Whitman expired on the 27th of June 1878, in the seventy-sixth year of her age.

The two sonnets which follow are among the latest tributes to the departed poet; and are by “Stella” (Mrs. S. A. Lewis); one of the friends above mentioned: — [page 262:]

I.

FIRST MEETING.

WHEN first the sad notes of my youthful lyre

Attracted thee unto my tuneful way —

That up life’s rugged steep before me lay,

By fancy fashioned to my young desire,

And made alluring by Hope’s beacon fire —

I dare not lift to thins my timid gaze,

But, open-eared, my soul took in thy praise,

And spread its pinions for a region higher

Than Fame or Fate had taught it to aspire;

And when, to teach to me poetic art,

Thy “Raven,” piecemeal, thou didst take apart,

With eloquent discourse that could not tire,

I felt how much of Heaven there was in thee —

The chalice of my soul o‘erflow‘d with melody.

II.

BENEATH THE ELM.

BENEATH the elm before thy cottage door

At Fordham — whilst the sun his slanting beams

Shot through the dark green boughs in golden gleams,

And all around respectful silence wore —

I‘ve listened to thy song and classic lore;

Followed thee in thy wild, poetic dreams

Over Parnassus and Olympian streams;

Where Phoebus and the Muses dwelt of yore,

Making melodious all the Grecian shore;

Through Dante’s “Hell” of writhing souls that teems

With thoughts that later bards have made their themes,

Midst Virgil’s storms and Homer’s battle roar,

Until thou didst not seem of mortal birth,

But some lone spirit sent from Heaven to earth.

LONDON, December 1879. STELLA.*


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 261:]

* The Boston Literary World, March 15th, 1879.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 262:]

* New York Home Journal, February 11, 1880.


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Notes:

None.


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