Text: Arthur Hobson Quinn, “Chapter 01,” Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (1941), pp. 1-50


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[page 1:]

CHAPTER I
 
The Heritage

On April 15, 1796, at the end of the second act of Andrews’ Gothic melodrama, The Mysteries of the Castle, a little girl of nine came out on the stage of the old Boston Theatre and sang the popular song of “The Market Lass.” It was the first appearance of Elizabeth Arnold on any stage, and her mother, who had come from England in January to strengthen the Boston Company, undoubtedly sent her out as a tribute to the friendly audience who had honored her on her benefit night.(1)

From that moment the life of Elizabeth Arnold was the life of the American theatre. Fortunately, perhaps, the little girl could not look into the future. She could not foresee that day on January 19, 1809, when, again in Boston, struggling against anxiety and uncertainty, she had left the stage of the same theatre for a brief respite, to become the mother of Edgar Poe. To some women the joy of watching the genius of their sons develop and the recognition of their achievements have been given in full measure. But Elizabeth Poe, dying in Richmond in 1811 under distinctly miserable circumstances, could leave her two-year-old boy only her high heart, her unremitting industry, and that indefinable charm which made her a favorite from Boston to Charleston among the theatre-goers of that day.

Since we know so little of Edgar Poe’s parents in their personal histories, the records of their careers in the theatre become of unusual significance. What was their professional standing, what characters did they portray, and above all, how did the circumstances of the actors’ life affect the lives of their children? As we shall see later, a close search of the theatre records has revealed for the first time the date and circumstances of their marriage.

It was indeed a hard life that little Elizabeth Arnold entered in 1796. To a large section of the public, especially in New England, the theatre was an immoral institution, the resort of the vicious and the extravagant, and the actors were without the pale. Four years before, the legislature of Massachusetts had refused to repeal the laws prohibiting [page 2:] theatrical productions, and among those protesting against this repeal was that staunch old advocate of personal liberty, Samuel Adams. When the actor Morris and his wife made an attempt to evade the law by playing The School for Scandal as a “moral lecture,” another noted liberal, John Hancock, then Governor, took pleasure in punishing the offenders.

The first record of Edgar Poe’s maternal ancestry that is based on more than rumor(2) is an entry in the marriage records of St. George’s Church, Hanover Square, London, which may refer to the wedding of his grandparents:

Henry Arnold and Elizabeth Smith, both of this Parish were Married in this Church by Banns, this 18th Day of May, 1784 by me the Rd Pitt, Curate.

in the Thos. Topson
Presence
of Calbeb [?] Greville (3)

Although the witnesses wrote their names, both husband and wife only made their marks, their names being written by the clerk who entered the record. This may indicate illiteracy on their part, and invalidate the entry as referring to two actors, who must have been able to read and write. The custom of making a cross instead of a signature on a religious document may, on the other hand, have accounted for the form of the entry. But such a custom was rare as late as 1784.

If Henry, or William Henry, Arnold was the father of Elizabeth Arnold, he does not appear in any records of which I feel sure.(4)

But of Mrs. Arnold there is definite information(5). She first appears [page 3:] on the stage at Covent Garden Theatre, February 28, 1791, in a “vocal part” in the comic opera of The Woodman, which must have been popular for it was given thirty-one times during the season. Mrs. Arnold was announced to sing “A sailor’s life’s a life of woe” as part of A Rural Masquerade on September 19, 1791, and she sang several times in Juliet’s funeral procession, as her daughter was to do some years later. She was “an Aerial Spirit” in the pantomime of Blue Beard in January, 1792, and was one of “the Principal Shepherdesses, Furies and Shades of Departed Heroines,” a sufficiently versatile part, in Orpheus and Eurydice, on March 6, 1792.

On May 11, 1792, she is featured for the first time in large type on the program as Pallas in the burletta of The Golden Pippin. There is no record of her performance in 1793, but on October 3, 1794, she played Catalina, the rather frisky servant maid in The Castle of Andalusia, a part which her daughter was to play in Baltimore in 1799.

On January 14, 1795, she was cast for Theodosia, the young gentlewoman and second lead in Bickerstaffe’s popular opera, The Maid of the Mill, and she repeated this part on June 13th, the last night on which her name appears. On May 29, 1795, she had taken the part of Laura, the grasping courtesan in Mrs. Cowley’s Bold Stroke for a Husband. She was evidently progressing from minor rôles and soon she determined to try her fortune in America.

A friendly notice in the Massachusetts Mercury for January 5, 1796, tells the story of her arrival in America:

On Sunday [January 3rd] arrived in this Port in the Ship Outram, Capt. Davis, from London, Mrs. Arnold and Daughter from the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, and Miss Green. Both engaged by Mr. Powell, for the Boston Theatre, Each of the Ladies are tall and genteel — have an expressive Countenance — And Move with a Symetry [sic] unequalled. Mrs. Arnold is about in her four and twentieth year. . . Miss Green apparently 20. They will be valuable acquisitions to our Theatre, and we anxiously hope they will be engaged.

———

Other passengers by Captain Davis, Mr. Tubbs, . . .

It is to be noted that the line separating the theatrical notices from the record of his arrival indicates that Mr. Tubbs, who was soon to marry Mrs. Arnold, was not yet an actor!

Mrs. Arnold made her American debut at the Boston Theatre on [page 4:] February 12, 1796, as Rosetta in Love in a Village. (6)  During that season she sustained twenty-one parts, varying from romantic noblewomen of melodrama like Alinda in The Sicilian Romance, Constantia in The Mysteries of the Castle, or Lady Alford in The Children in the Wood to lighter fare like Rosetta, or Caroline in The Prize. (7)

After the close of the Boston season on May 16, 1796, Mrs. Arnold gave concerts at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and other New England towns, assisted by her daughter. About this time she married Mr. Tubbs, (8) or indeed she may have married him in England. No data are available.

On November 17, 1796, the Portland Eastern Herald and Gazette of Maine announced that “Mrs. Tubbs, late Mrs. Arnold of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, who arrived from England last January. . . proposes having a CONCERT OF VOCAL AND INSTRUMENTAL MUSICK on Monday Evening next, November 21st, at the Assembly Room. . . . after which Mr. Tubbs intends setting up a THEATRE and performing some of the most admired PLAYS AND FARCES, having engaged a few able and eminent performers for that purpose. The day of arrival of the other comedians is uncertain.”

The hall in which they played was a modest two-story building in which the arrangements of the stage must have been primitive, and to those acquainted with the history of the theatre, the last sentence of Mr. Tubbs’ announcement tells a familiar story. Evidently the company of Mr. Tubbs was a family venture, and while the advertisements give no casts, we may glean from the infrequent criticisms that Elizabeth Arnold was an important asset to the company. In fact, I suspect that she and Mrs. Tubbs were the only women in the plays. We may be sure she sang at the concert on November 21st, and we know that on the opening night of the Portland Theatre, November 25, 1796, she played Biddy Bellair in Garrick’s farce, Miss in Her Teens.

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Elizabeth Arnold - Handbill [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 5]
 
Playbill featuring Poe’s grandmother, Elizabeth Arnold, at Covent Garden

Elizabeth Arnold was, like her famous son, a precocious child. To [page 6:] maintain this leading part of Biddy she had to flirt with three lovers, with a dexterity that seems extraordinary. Of her performance, “a correspondent who was present at the exhibition on Friday evening” [November 25th], after commenting favorably on the acting of Mrs. Tubbs, “in Le[o]nora and Tag,” continues, “But Miss Arnold, in Miss Biddy, exceeded all praise. Although a Miss of only nine years old, her powers as an Actress would do credit to any of her sex of maturer age. It is hoped that Gentlemen of the town will attend once more. But the Ladies, perhaps ought not to attend till it is known whether their ears are again to be offended with expressions of obscenity and profanity.”(9)

Of the performance on November 28th when Murphy’s The Citizen and Yarrow’s farce, Trick upon Trick, or The Vintner in the Suds were given, the same correspondent remarks: “Mrs. Tubbs and her daughter, Miss Arnold, received and certainly deserved the warmest marks of approbation.”(10)  Elizabeth must have played Solomon Smack, a young boy, in the farce, for she played it later in Newport. Since the criticisms make no mention of actresses besides Mrs. Tubbs and Miss Arnold, it is reasonable to assume that she played regularly. Indeed, with a knowledge of the later history of Elizabeth Arnold, it would not be hard to indicate her probable parts in the nineteen performances which took place in her first season as an actress. But judging only from those plays in which there is definite criticism of her acting, it was a distinct personal success. On December 20th, the opera of Rosina and the farce of The Spoiled Child were selected for her benefit. Rosina became later one of her favorite parts, and she may have played it here, but of Little Pickle in The Spoiled Child we are sure.(11) The correspondent grows eloquent upon this performance: “. . . Mrs. Tubbs always does well. Her vocal powers we believe are equal to any of her sex who have appeared in this country. But the powers of her daughter, Miss Arnold, astonish us. Add to these her youth, her beauty, her innocence, and a character is composed which has not, and perhaps will not again be found on any Theatre. — Lovely [page 7:] child! thy youth we know will not long continue; thy beauty soon must fade; but thy Innocence! may it continue with and support thee in every character while on the theatre of this world.”(12)

The season, however, was not proving too profitable, for on January 12, 1797, Elizabeth took another benefit, apologizing in her announcement for doing so. Charles Dibdin’s The Deserter, a musical drama, would have afforded her an opportunity to sing, either in the parts of Louisa or Jenny, and in Foote’s The Mayor of Garratt she would have had to assume the more mature parts of a shrew or of an ill-treated wife. When the theatre closed, on January 17th, a farewell Epilogue, written “by a gentleman of Portland,” was spoken by Elizabeth. In it we have definite proof of her versatility. After the usual compliments, she continues:

Accept my warmest thanks for favours shown;

I claim no merit — candour is your own.

But tho to merit I can lay no claim,

To please has been my never-ceasing aim;

And to effect this end, to me you find

What various characters have been assigned,

A miss just in her teens, a rigid nurse,

A boy to please old maids, O lud! that’s worse;

Sometimes I have appeared a ghost, ‘tis true,

But yet — I’m flesh and blood — as well as you;

A sailor too — “O pity, pity” Jack —

Sun in a cloud, and taken all aback;

A lover I have been — but how perplexing!

And to our sex the thing is always vexing!

But, Ladies, pardon me, ‘twas by direction,

And nothing — nothing — nothing — but a fiction.

Here are clearly reflected Biddy Bellair in Miss in Her Teens, and Little Pickle in The Spoiled Child, for in the latter she played the part of a boy who is disguised both as a sailor and the lover of his own aunt! The “ghost” would seem to point to Mrs. Centlivre’s The Ghost; or the Dead Man Alive, which was played for Mr. Tubbs’ benefit on January 13th, but it is hard to imagine Elizabeth as Sir Jeffrey Constant. The “rigid nurse” is even harder to identify. But the impression she made upon Portland is unquestionable.

After a brief association with the Harper Company, first in Newport where she played Little Pickle again in April for her mother’s [page 8:] benefit, and was announced as “a young girl of ten years,”(13) Elizabeth Arnold accompanied her parents South.

Elizabeth Arnold’s first appearance in New York City was due to the war of the theatres that raged between the Old American Company, under the management of Dunlap and Hodgkinson, now entrenched in New York, and the company which the great low comedian Wignell had started in Philadelphia. John Sollee, the manager of the City Theatre in Charleston, formed an alliance, defensive and offensive, with Hodgkinson and Dunlap, and on his way to open a rival to Wignell’s New Theatre in Philadelphia, he stopped for two nights at the old John Street Theatre in New York. With him were Mrs. Tubbs, and her little daughter, who played Maria, the sister of Little Pickle, on August 18, 1797. It was apparently her only appearance at this time.(14)

Sollee had planned to invade Philadelphia, but the yellow fever, which interfered so often with theatrical plans, prevented him. So Elizabeth and her mother began the season of 1797-1798 at Charleston. They must have been pleased with the difference in the atmosphere. Charleston had been friendly to the theatre since 1736, when its first season opened. Life was easier in the South than in New England and amusement was welcome. Elizabeth’s first appearance was on November 18, 1797, when she sang her song of “The Market Lass.”(15)

At first she played such parts as “The Child” in The Adopted Child, or as “a Dancing Nymph” in that remarkable musical and allegorical Masque, Americana and Eleutheria, which, when read today, excites our wonder at the energy of John Sollee. Elizabeth had a fair opportunity in the part of Julia in The Sicilian Romance, for while the part is a minor one, Julia is the one natural character in an absurdity. On December 6, 1797, she played her first Shakespearean character as the Duke of York in Richard III. This character as represented by Shakespeare is that of a rather pert boy who has a ready answer to all questions, and it probably suited Elizabeth Arnold. Trouble, however, was brewing in Sollee’s Company, and after a “secession” in which Mr. Tubbs figured prominently, and a visit to Wilmington, North Carolina, [page 9:] they were reorganized under the management of Mr. Edgar, one of the Company, as the “Charleston Comedians.” This group included Mr. and Mrs. Tubbs and Miss Arnold. Elizabeth now had an opportunity to revive parts like Biddy Bellair or Little Pickle, to act young gentlewomen like Nancy in Murphy’s Three Weeks After Marriage, or Sophia in Holcroft’s The Road to Ruin; rustic maids like Phoebe in Rosina, besides less important rôles. At the close of the season of the Charleston Comedians, she delivered the Farewell Address “written by an American Gentleman for and to be spoken by Miss Arnold.”(16)

Into the bitter feelings caused by this Charleston “secession” it is not necessary to go.(17)  But is it not within the range of possibility that Elizabeth Poe, looking years later for a name for her second son, should remember the first manager outside of her own family who gave her an opportunity to develop her powers as an actress? Sollee had no time for Edgar, but as he had helped to break up Sollee’s Company, the former manager may have been a bit prejudiced. The newspapers give a different impression of Edgar.(18)

After a reading and concert on May 2, 1798, at which Mr. and Mrs. Tubbs and Miss Arnold performed, her mother disappears from the record. The yellow fever may have claimed her, but not in Charleston, for the city was unusually free from an epidemic during the summer and winter of 1798, and even sent aid to the sufferers in Philadelphia,(19) where it was raging. Since it was with the New Theatre Company in Philadelphia that Elizabeth Arnold next appears, her mother may have fallen a victim there. The young girl was apparently under the protection of Mr. Tubbs and of an actress, Miss L’Estrange, in real life Mrs. Snowden, and later Mrs. Usher, who had joined Wignell’s Company in December, 1796, with her father and mother. The New Theatre was closed from May 5, 1798, to February 5, 1799, on account of the yellow fever. On March 18, 1799, Elizabeth Arnold is announced as Miss Biddy Bellair, and as “from the Charleston Theatre, being her first appearance on this stage.”(20) [page 10:]

During this season, Elizabeth Arnold acted in afterpieces, in which her qualities as a singer were in demand. In several of the parts, like Moggy McGilpin in The Highland Reel, Fanny in The Shipwreck, or Nina in The Prisoner, she disguised herself as a soldier or a sailor, and played a rôle which required agility at least. In her last appearance for the season on May 27, 1799, she acted Beda, a singing attendant, in Colman’s Blue Beard, a play in which she was to take the leading rôle of Fatima, in Baltimore in 1802.

May 31, 1799, found her making her first appearance at the New Theatre in Baltimore, in her favorite character of Biddy Bellair. Mr. Tubbs was still looking after her, for on June 7th he played the “Master of the Hotel,” a very minor part in Holcroft’s farce, He’s Much to Blame, for her benefit night.

In the Baltimore season of Wignell’s Philadelphia Company, Miss Arnold played for the first time on October 4, 1799, the rural maid, Molly Maybush, in O’Keeffe’s The Farmer. Her principal part was that of Prince John in First Henry IV, in which she represented a gallant young soldier, who, however, is not required to fight on the stage. We would like to have been present on October 9th, when she took part in a ballet as a portion of a celebration of the victory of the Constellation over L’Insurgente — dim echoes of the abortive war with France. The modern dance as representative of national ideas and impulses has a long ancestry. On October 30th she played Catalina in The Castle of Andalusia, a rôle her mother had sustained at Covent Garden in 1794. Other new parts were the “Little Midshipman” in The Rival Soldiers; or, Sprigs of Laurel, by O’Keeffe, and Annette, the page, in Robin Hood.

Tryout towns were not unknown even in those days, and Miss Arnold repeated a number of parts which she had just offered Baltimoreans, when she returned to the regular season in Philadelphia. This lasted until May 17, 1800. On December 26 and 30, 1799, she assisted in a monody on the death of Washington.

It was during this spring season in Philadelphia that she met her future husband, Charles Hopkins, who made his debut on March 14, 1800, as Tony Lumpkin.(21)  He seems to have been a successful comedian and even to have attempted Hamlet at his benefit in Philadelphia. During the theatrical season of the Philadelphia Company in Baltimore from May 27 to June 10, 1800, Elizabeth Arnold was industrious, as usual. On June 3rd she not only played Nancy in The Naval Pillar, but also appeared as “one of the Females” in The Mountaineers, [page 11:] and danced in the ballet! On June 5th she shared a benefit with Messrs. Blissett and Hopkins, in which she repeated her part of Nancy in The Naval Pillar.

Elizabeth Arnold next took part in an auspicious event, the opening of the first theatre in Washington. Thomas Wignell, the manager of the Philadelphia Company, brought to it the full strength of his corps, and the United States Theatre, as it was called, was dedicated on August 22, 1800, by a splendid production of Venice Preserved. In the afterpiece, Elizabeth Arnold was selected to lead in her popular part of Little Pickle in The Spoiled Child.(22)  On September 5th she danced a “Minuet de la Cour” and a new Gavotte during the first act of Romeo and Juliet. The season closed on September 19th.

On October 8, 1800, the Chesnut Street Theatre Company opened its season in Philadelphia, among the newcomers being Mr. Usher. He seems to have joined Mrs. Snowden, whom he married, in looking after Elizabeth Arnold, and his name in all probability suggested the title of one of Poe’s greatest short stories. Miss Arnold appeared regularly through the season, which lasted until April 11, 1801. Again her singing and dancing were in demand. On nineteen occasions she took parts of priestesses, villagers, and even an Indian woman in Columbus, without counting repetitions, and at least ten times was cast for a fairly important rôle, such as Irene, the sister of Fatima in Blue Beard, Cupid in Cymon and Sylvia, or Celia in A Trip to Fontainbleau. In each of these she was supporting actresses in major rôles, to which she afterwards attained. She played the lead, Priscilla Tomboy, in The Romp, which Mrs. Jordan had made noteworthy at Drury Lane. On January 2, 1801, she played Prince Edward in Richard III, a promotion from her earlier part of the Duke of York. In March she was the charming child Rosina in The Corsicans, playing a girl of thirteen. In May and June, 1801, she visited Baltimore with the company, where she was employed constantly, being promoted from Dolly to Laura in Lock and Key.

It was in the summer season of 1801, in Philadelphia, however, that she assumed her first important Shakespearean part. The old Southwark Theatre, built in 1766 and superseded by the Chesnut Street Theatre, was reopened, and here on September 23rd she appeared as Ophelia,(23) a fact hitherto unnoted by her biographers. It would have been interesting if we could have had a contemporary criticism of the manner in which this girl of fourteen sustained this difficult rôle. In [page 12:] this new season of 1801-1802 she did not add many new parts. Her performance of “a fair Quaker” in The Wags of Windsor did not seem to be an improvement, according to the sage critic in the Portfolio — as though the part of Grace Gaylove were likely to be! On April 7, 1802, she shared a benefit with Mr. Usher and Mrs. Snowden, in Speed the Plough, and the season closed.

Miss Arnold’s growing importance in the Philadelphia Company was shown on the opening night of the Baltimore season, April 22, 1802. She was first advertised as “one of the Reapers” in Rosina, but later was announced as playing Phoebe, in place of Mrs. Oldmixon, one of the leading actresses of the time. She had been given the part by Edgar in Charleston in 1798, an illustration of his belief in her ability. She was promoted in Blue Beard, also, from Beda to Irene and Fatima. For her benefit, June 4th, she played Irene. She was still announced as “Miss Arnold” when she sang “Moggy, or the Highland Bell,” on the last night of the season, June 12th. Her experience with the Philadelphia Company had given her opportunities to strengthen her stage equipment through contact with the foremost group of players in the United States, and to play in her first great part.

Sometime between June 12 and August 11, 1802, she was married to Charles Hopkins,(24) and joined Green’s Virginia Company, with which Hopkins had acted in the spring of 1802. Green opened his season at Alexandria, Virginia, on August 2nd, and Hopkins played on August 6th. But the first mention of “Mrs. Hopkins” is her appearance in her old part of Fanny in The Shipwreck(25) on August 11th. She played farcical parts and was employed mainly for singing and dancing until the season closed on September 16th with “a grand concert.”

On March 9, 1803, when the new season of Green’s Virginia Company opened at the New Theatre on Fenchurch Street in Norfolk, Virginia, Hopkins played Tilman Totum, and Mrs. Hopkins took the leading part of Louisa, in the Prince Hoare adaptation of Kotzebue’s Sighs; or, Poverty and Honor. She was announced as “Late Miss Arnold, of the Philadelphia Theatre, being her first appearance here.”(26) She also sang Rosina in Rosina. The editorial comment was only mildly appreciative: “She appeared at the commencement of the play much abashed, and we were sorry to perceive that in some respects [page 13:] she was badly supported. . . however, towards the conclusion she seemed at home and gave general satisfaction.”(27)

It was evidently a rough life, for “one of the audience” wrote protesting against the disorders incident upon an obnoxious critic being kicked downstairs by one of the actors and the doorkeeper. He remarks, “With the solitary exceptions of Mrs. Hopkins in Moggy McGilpin [in The Highland Reel] and Mr. Sully in Shelty, who kept alive the drooping spirits of the audience, the rest were ‘weary, stale, flat and unprofitable’ in the extreme.”(28)

The girl of sixteen was, as usual, doing her best in discouraging circumstances. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, during the season, which lasted until July 13, 1803, she appeared in twenty-one different parts, not including repetitions, and on five other occasions she was clearly playing, although her part is not given. Her talent for singing was in demand, the part of Mary Tactic in The Rival Soldiers, which she was to play as late as 1808, being repeated. Recognition came to her in the assignments of romantic parts like Elmira in The Sultan, which Mrs. Inchbald had played at Drury Lane in 1787; gentlewomen, like Rose Sydney in Morton’s Secrets Worth Knowing, and, most important, Constance Neville in She Stoops to Conquer.

In the meantime David Poe, Jr., the father of Edgar, had also begun his career in the theatre. Unlike Elizabeth Arnold, however, there was no theatre in his blood. Dismissing as without foundation the mythical tales which connect Edgar Poe with noble families of Europe, it seems certain that his great-great-grandfather was David Poe, a tenant-farmer in Dring, in the parish of Kildallon and County Cavan, Ireland, who died in 1742. David’s son, John Poe, emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1749 or 1750,(29) having married Jane McBride, daughter, it is [page 14:] possible, though not certain, of a clergyman, Reverend Robert McBride, and sister of an admiral of the Blue, John McBride. After living for a time in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, John Poe moved to Baltimore, where he died in 1756.

John’s eldest son, David, had been born in Ireland in 1742 or 1743. He carried on his business of making spinning wheels and clock reels, on Market Street in Baltimore from 1775.(30) He was one of the “Whig Club” who, in 1777, attacked William Goddard, the editor of the Maryland Journal, and drove him out of town. The article, signed “Tom Tell Truth,” which excited the ire of the “Whig Club,” was intended by Goddard to be ironical, and read today, it seems that the Club had little sense of humor. Goddard appealed to the House of Delegates for protection and the Club was rebuked. According to his pamphlet, The Prowess of the Whig Club (1777) he was a martyr to the cause of the freedom of the Press. In a “postscript” to this pamphlet he gives a list of thirty persons who belong to the Club, “David Poe, Spinning Wheel Maker” being the last named.(31) Goddard was not [page 15:] a Tory, but judging from the “Queries, Political and Military,“(32)  reflecting on Washington’s honesty and conduct of the war, which he published in 1779, he was playing a dangerous game. It is, moreover, interesting that David Poe, Sr., was the first of three generations to answer the criticisms of objectionable editors by force!

David Poe was a member of Captain John McClellan’s Company of Baltimore troops in 1778 and 1779, and was commissioned Assistant Deputy-Quartermaster General for the City of Baltimore(33) with the rank of Major on September 17, 1779. He was a patriot who took responsibility cheerfully. His published correspondence with Governor Lee, of Maryland, shows that he purchased supplies with his own money in 1780, when his license was delayed. In another letter, to General Smallwood, March 20, 1782, he says:

“I received your favor, of the 17th instant, by Colo. Gunby; at present I am almost out of forage, but rather than the public property should suffer, I shall struggle hard, as it has ever been my inclination, to endeavour by all means in my power to preserve it, and will, therefore, once more try my credit, in order to procure forage to preserve the horses from perishing.”(34)

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Poe's Family Tree [thumbnail]

[Illustration on pages 16-17]
 
Poe’s Family Tree

An unpublished letter(35) of September 14, 1782, proves that he was entrusted with the responsibility of transporting a large portion of the French Allies from Baltimore by sea and across the Susquehanna River. So well known were Major Poe’s services that he became brevetted in the eyes of the public and was known for many years as “General” Poe.(36) His wife, Elizabeth Cairnes, born in 1756 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, also of Irish descent, shared in his energy and patriotism. When LaFayette passed through Baltimore in 1781 with the ragged Colonial troops, Mrs. David Poe was one of the women who furnished clothing for them. It was due to these services that LaFayette, during the ball given in his honor when he visited Baltimore in 1824, turned to one of the committee and said, “I have not seen among these [the surviving officers of the Revolution who were present] my friendly and patriotic commissary, Mr. David Poe, [page 18:] who resided in Baltimore when I was here, and out of his own very limited means supplied me with five hundred dollars to aid in clothing my troops, and whose wife, with her own hands, cut five hundred pairs of pantaloons, and superintended the making of them for the use of my men.”

When Lafayette was told that David Poe had died in 1816, but that his widow was still alive, he expressed an anxious wish for a meeting, at which he paid an eloquent tribute to the memory of his friend.(37)  In the Baltimore Directories of 1810 and 1812 David Poe, Sr., is entered as “a gentleman,” at his residences, 19 Camden Street and Park Lane. “General” Poe seems also to have taken part in the defense of Baltimore in 1814 against the British attack. He died October 17, 1816.(38)  His widow survived him until 1835.

Whether the Irish strain in Edgar Poe was responsible for any imaginative quality would be difficult to establish. The Celtic flame in literature does, however, kindle into a mysticism which concerns itself with those dim regions in which the relations of man and the supernatural are depicted. Symbolism, too, is the air which the Celt has always breathed, and in symbolism Poe revelled. One Irish trait — of a more tangible quality — may more certainly be attributed to his Poe ancestry. As any descendant of that race knows, there is a tendency to refuse to conform to what appears to be one’s best interests at the moment in favor of another course which will provide more spiritual, or emotional, satisfaction at a later time. This quality is spoken of as perverseness. Edgar Poe described one phase of this quality in his story “The Imp of the Perverse,” but that tale deals with the soul driven to do the very thing he knows is to his disadvantage. As we shall see, the younger David Poe seems to have been animated by that unfortunate tendency at times, when he threatened with physical violence the theatrical critics upon whose favor his very livelihood depended. How often the career of his gifted son has to be explained by this apparent perversity will appear in the records of his life. Certainly his father’s choice of a profession seems to have been dictated by it. To enter the actors’ career without training at a time when almost no native Americans had preceded him, when reputation from success on the English stage was a necessity, whose lack forced even such a skilled actor as John Howard Payne to leave his native country, [page 19:] certainly calls for an explanation which no biographer has been able to offer. He had probably been a member of an amateur group in Baltimore about which little is known, and there seems no reason except sheer love of the theatre and perhaps distaste for the law, which he was studying, to urge him to seek the stage. The old stories about his joining the profession on account of Elizabeth Arnold are disproved by the records of the stage.

Perhaps another brilliant American of Irish descent, Philip Barry, has best described this quality in his novel, War in Heaven: “You can usually tell them by their eyes, which like his, have a way of looking past the instant day, the immediate objects in it, the present quick concerns of it, and past the night of the day as well. As a rule they are not happy people.”

David Poe, Jr., was born in Baltimore, July 18, 1784, and baptized on September 21st.(39) He was therefore only nineteen when he made his debut on the stage of the Charleston Theatre, on December 1, 1803, as an officer in the pantomime, taken from Kotzebue’s La Peyrouse. On December 5th he played Laertes, a young Danish nobleman attending upon Christina in Brooke’s Gustavus Vasa, announced as “his second appearance on any stage.”(40) On December 7th he was advanced to the part of Harry Thunder in Wild Oats, the second lead, a part in which he probably felt at home, for Harry runs away from his father to join a group of strolling players. On December 9th David Poe played his first Shakespearean rôle, Donalbain in Macbeth. The company left for Savannah on December 23rd, and from its return on January 31, 1804, to the end of the season in April, Poe was given a variety of parts. Criticism was divided as usual. “A Friend of the Drama,” (Dr. John B. Irving) calls attention to an apparent defect in pronunciation which was to cause the less friendly critics of New York in 1809 to literally hound Poe off the stage: “He is also extremely diffident; indeed so much so, that the slightest lapse in his speech throws him from the little confidence he has acquired, back into his first night’s trepidation. We hope he will excuse our suggesting to him, [page 20:] that speaking slower will not only help him to get rid of those fears more quickly, by making him less subject to lapses, but will improve his delivery, and give meaning and effect to his words. He ought to practise before some judicious friends, and beg of them candidly to set him right, when he is wrong.”(41)

David Poe was evidently by stature and appearance qualified to play a young lover, especially a patrician. “Thespis,” probably Stephen Cullen Carpenter, tells us that he performed the character of Stephano in Holcroft’s A Tale of Mystery handsomely. “He looked it well.”(42) Again, “Young Poe in the character of Tressel [in King Richard III] did more to justify our hopes of him than he has done in any character since his return from Savannah.”(43) When he played Don Pedro, in Much Ado About Nothing, “Thespis” remarks, “Young Poe being less than usual under the dominion of that timid modesty which so depresses his powers, acted Don Pedro so respectably as to animate the hopes we have entertained of his future progress.”(44)  One significant fact emerges from the criticisms. Poe was best in his Shakespearean parts and he was given better ones as the season progressed. On April 12th he played Hortensio in Catharine and Petruchio, and while the part of Bianca’s husband is less prominent in this abridgment of The Taming of the Shrew, it is still an important rôle.

During this first season, David Poe sustained twenty-four rôles varying from important parts like Hortensio or Harry Thunder to minor characters like Don Antonio Gaspard in Liberty in Louisiana.

Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins were with Green’s Virginia Company in Richmond early in 1804. While the casts are not always given, Hopkins was playing Sir Simon Rochdale in John Bull on January 18th, and while his wife is not mentioned until March 21st, when her benefit occurs, the fact that she was given one proves she was acting regularly. For her benefit The Point of Honor and The Agreeable Surprise were given, but there is no indication of her rôles. If it was Charles Kemble’s Point of Honor, based on Mercier’s Le Déserteur, she must have played Bertha, the young lead; and Laura, in The Agreeable Surprise, became later one of her favorite parts. Green evidently kept his Company on at Richmond until May, but Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins are not mentioned in the infrequent casts. The great fire in Norfolk may have kept them from playing the usual spring season there. The [page 21:] Virginia Gazette of June 30, 1804, announced that the “Temporary Theatre” in Richmond was opened “for the season” and “Mr. Poe from the Charleston Theatre, will (likewise) make his first appearance on our boards this evening.” He played Henry, and Mrs. Hopkins, Susan Ashfield, in Speed the Plough, possibly for the first time.

There was evidently some trouble in the Company, for on July 18th the proprietress and manager of the theatre relinquished their interest and a new management headed by Hopkins was given control.(45) All three were constantly employed, either repeating former rôles or attempting new ones. Poe was given Henry Morland in Colman’s The Heir at Law, Charles Kemble’s well-known part, and Mrs. Hopkins, Caroline Dormer, while Hopkins played Dr. Pangloss. Poe delivered “an original Epilogue.” At the benefit of Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins on August 11th, Poe played Lindorf and Mrs. Hopkins, Stella, the two leads in Boaden’s Maid of Bristol, while Hopkins was cast for Cranium. Several of Poe’s new parts were minor ones like Jacob in The Road to Ruin, or Nat Putty in The Flitch of Bacon. At his benefit on August 15th, however, when George Barnwell was offered, he probably played the title rôle, as he certainly did on December 26th, and he played the important part of the Duke of Buckingham in Jane Shore on August 25th. In Colman’s John Bull on December 19, 1804, Poe played Frank Rochdale, the charming young hero-villain, and Mrs. Hopkins, Mary Thornberry, the heroine who has loved him too well.

In January, 1805, Mrs. Hopkins was given the part of Emily Worthington in Colman’s The Poor Gentleman, which she was to repeat in Boston on April 15, 1807. Poe played Sir Charles Cropland.

Unfortunately, the Norfolk Herald gives few casts in the season of 1805, when the Virginia Company played in that city. David Poe played the minor part of Joey, speaking a rural dialect, in Allingham’s Hearts of Oak on April 6th, Hopkins having the lead as Argent. On April 15th Poe took part in a “Strathspey” with Mrs. Hopkins. Many of the other plays put on were in their repertoires, but in the absence of definite information, we may not chronicle their parts.

On June 7, 1805, David Poe made his first appearance on the stage of Baltimore, his home town, in the leading part of young Norval in Home’s Douglas. On August 28, 1805, Mrs. Hopkins and three friends gave a vocal and instrumental concert at the Haymarket Gardens at Richmond, but Hopkins is not mentioned.(46) [page 22:]

In 1805 the Washington Theatre was located at 11th and C Streets, N. W., and here on September 9th Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins began together his last season on the stage. He played Lord Priory in Wives as They Were and Maids as They Are. In the afterpiece of Colman’s Ways and Means, or A Trip to Dover, Elizabeth was Kitty Dunder, a rather charming if flighty young gentlewoman, one of the leading parts. She was to play it again in Charleston in 1811, the year of her death. On September 26th David Poe played Joseph Surface and Hopkins Sir Peter Teazle in The School for Scandal.(47)  Green, the manager of the Virginia Players, was having trouble in this season, and bolstered up his productions with recitations, of which David Poe gave one on October 2nd. At Hopkins’ benefit on October 7th on which occasion the play, ironically enough, was The Wife of Two Husbands, the Intelligencer gives us three songs and recitations by him, but no indication of the parts he or Elizabeth took. Hopkins died on October 26th,(48) and his widow was given a benefit on November 6th. She probably played Orilla, the lead, in Adelmorn the Outlaw, since she had taken the part in Norfolk, but we cannot be sure. Newspaper criticism is friendly but general. We learn, too, that owing to the unfortunate deaths of Mr. Hodgkinson, Mr. Hopkins, and Mrs. Douglass, the Company was much weakened. The theatre closed on December 21, 1805.

During the Richmond season, from January to May, 1806, both Poe and Mrs. Hopkins added some interesting rôles to their repertoires. Mrs. Hopkins played the trying part of Sophia Woodbine and Poe the equally difficult rôle of Villars, suspected but innocent of evil, in The Blind Bargain. Poe was to appear later as Jack Analyze and as Tourly in the same play. On January 25th Mrs. Hopkins played Anna the confidante, and for her benefit on March 29th, the leading part of Lady Randolph in Home’s Douglas, “for the first time and that night only.” On February 26th Poe and Mrs. Hopkins took the leading parts of Harry Harebrain and Harriet Manly in Dibdin’s comedy, The Will for the Deed, announced as “performed for the first time in America.”(49) Since Harry runs away from his father to join a troupe of actors, the part was probably once more appealing to Poe.

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Marriage Bond - D. Poe Jr. and Elizabeth A. Hopkins [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 23]
 
Marriage bond of David Poe, Jr. and Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins

On March 14, 1806, a fact which has escaped the research of biographers, a marriage bond was executed between David Poe, Jr., and Mrs. Eliza Hopkins. It was filed in the County Court House of [page 24:] Henrico County, Virginia, in which Richmond is located. The bond is still there, in one of the dusty packages in which the legal records of the County are preserved. By a curious chance, the bond was filed with those of 1800 instead of 1806, probably due to the endorsement of the original clerk who wrote 180ò [[sic]] on the outside of the document. It contains the only fully authenticated complete signature of David Poe, Jr.

On April 5, 1806, “Mrs. Hopkins” is announced for April 7th, Easter Monday, as Irene in Blue Beard, while on April 9th, the advertisement, in speaking of the benefit of Mrs. Green, on April 10th, gives the two leading parts of Malford and Mrs. Malford in The Soldier’s Daughter to “Mr. and Mrs. Poe.”(50) The marriage therefore took place certainly between March 14 and April 9, 1806, and probably between April 5th and April 9th, in Richmond. Since Easter fell on April 6th, it is not improbable that the young actors took a brief honeymoon on that day.

Criticism, definite or implied, in certain biographies of her son, concerning the interval that elapsed between the death of Charles Hopkins and the marriage of his widow to David Poe, proves to be unwarranted.(51) The conditions of theatrical life at that time made the lot of a widowed girl of eighteen difficult if not impossible, and there need be no speculation concerning her acceptance of David Poe’s protection.

The New Theatre in Philadelphia was opened for eight nights beginning June 18, 1806, and Mr. and Mrs. Poe were engaged. Poe made his first appearance in Philadelphia on June 20th as Young Norval, and played other important parts such as Jack Analyze in The Blind Bargain or Captain Loveit in Miss in Her Teens. Mrs. Poe gave Philadelphians an opportunity to compare her performance of Priscilla Tomboy in The Romp with that of 1801, and played her old favorites like Biddy Bellair and a new part, Miss Kitty Sprightly, in All the World’s a Stage. On July 16, 1806, the Poes were at the Summer Theatre at Vauxhall Garden in New York City. Mrs. Poe repeated her [page 25:] favorite parts like Priscilla Tomboy and Rosina. Poe played Captain Belleville, the handsome villain in Rosina on the 18th, and Frank, the young farmer, in Fortune’s Frolic.

It was probably with high anticipations that the young actor and actress looked forward to October 13, 1806, when they took part in the opening night of the season at the Federal Street Theatre in Boston. The rapid fittings of the Virginia Company, the rough crowds, the insufficient support, were, they hoped, to be over. They were to be integral members of a well-organized company, not as good, to be sure, as Wignell’s Company in Philadelphia, but perhaps on the other hand there would be more opportunity for leading rôles. To Mrs. Poe, at least, it must have seemed like coming home, to the stage on which she had sung her first song in 1796. For the next three years they were to remain in Boston and here two of their children were to be born. Their apprenticeship was over, and if they were to succeed upon the stage, they must win a secure place with the public and the critics. That they were reëngaged for three successive seasons may be looked upon as testimony to their merits.

The Poes began their Boston career with Thomas Morton’s Speed the Plough, a melodramatic comedy in which David played Henry, the noble youth whose parentage is doubtful, and who saves the heroine, Miss Blandford, from the fire, and unmasks the villain. Elizabeth played Miss Blandford. The Polyanthos, a monthly journal edited by J. T. Buckingham, and devoted largely to the theatre, received the newcomers calmly:

Morton’s favourite comedy of Speed the Plough was selected for the first night’s performance. The parts of Henry and Miss Blandford were filled by Mr. and Mrs. Poe from the Virginia theatres, their first appearance in Boston. Estimating the talents of this couple by comparison, we might say the same characters have been more ably sustained on our boards. A first performance however does not always afford a criterion by which merit may be estimated. Mr. Poe possesses a full manly voice, of considerable extent; his utterance clear and distinct. The managers will undoubtedly find him a useful, and the town a pleasing, performer in the Henrys, Charles Stanleys, &c. — Of the talents of Mrs. Poe we are disposed to judge favourably.(52)

During the season they were given important parts, sometimes in the same play. He was Frederick to her Amelia in Lovers’ Vows; he was cast for Charles Stanley, the handsome young lover, while she was [page 26:] Jessy Outland, the charming country girl, in A Cure for the Heartache. He played George Barnwell in that tragedy on October 22nd, and notwithstanding the unfavorable criticism, was chosen to repeat it in March, 1807. He sustained the difficult part of Sir George Touchwood in The Belle’s Stratagem and even the critic of The Emerald, a weekly journal, had a grudging word of praise:

“No objection is made to the appearance of Mr. Poe in Sir George Touchwood. The character is certainly not a bustling one; we think it susceptible of more life than he infused into it. We were however sometimes gratified with displays of correct spirit; we hardly expected it, and the audience appreciated and rewarded it as a novelty.”(53)

On November 14, 1806, Poe played the character part of Maurice, the blind father of the Countess Belflor in The Wife of Two Husbands. Even the critic of the Polyanthos said, “Of Mr. Poe’s Maurice justice compels us to speak the language of approbation.”(54)

On November 19th they played Frank Rochdale and Mary Thornberry, the two leads in John Bull, and in December Count Basset and Miss Jenny in Vanbrugh’s The Provoked Husband, which drew an encomium for her, at least. Poe was the hero, Altamont, in Rowe’s The Fair Penitent in January. They had the two leads, Frederick and Mariana, in Fielding’s The Miser, two good high comedy parts. Mrs. Poe was constantly used for singing parts and on January 12, 1807, she sang Clorinda, the lead in McNally’s opera of Robin Hood. On the same evening David played Harry Torrid in The Secret and a newspaper critic remarked: “The claims of Mr. Poe were never more strongly urged than on this evening. He certainly possesses talent, which merits cultivation. He wants however a deliberation and a temperance of speech without which his articulation must ever be too rapid to be discriminate.”(55) On January 16, 1807, Poe played Beauchamp, the young, attractive soldier, and Elizabeth was Sophy Pendragon, the low comedy part, in Mrs. Cowley’s Which Is the Man? These were the parts which had been entrusted to Hodgkinson and Mrs. Hodgkinson, two of the most talented actors of our early stage.

From January 16 until February 25, 1807, Mrs. Poe is not mentioned in the announcements. William Henry Poe was born on January 30, 1807.(56) David Poe, however, was constantly on the stage, sustaining parts like Laertes in Hamlet, Malcolm in Macbeth, Tressel [page 27:] in Richard III, the Duke of Medina in Rule a Wife and Have a Wife. One of the difficulties of an actor in those days was the sudden change of bill. On February 16th The School for Scandal was substituted for the play announced and Poe was assigned to Charles Surface. A distinctly unfriendly critic remarked: “We are ready to make allowances for Mr. Poe’s deficiency in Sir Charles Surface, in manners, spirit and orthoepy. The suddenness with which the character must have been assumed is a mantle, which like charity, covers a multitude of sins.”(57)

On February 25th the Poes were together once more in The Poor Soldier. Elizabeth was announced to support Fennell in King Lear on March 2nd, but as the great tragedian was ill, George Barnwell with Poe in the lead was substituted, a sufficient indication of the opinion of the management concerning him. Elizabeth, however, did play Cordelia to Fennell’s Lear on the 11th. A criticism in The Centinel reveals the writer’s feeling that she was not up to the part, but it shows also the recognition of her personal character: “Of Mrs. Poe in Cordelia we would speak with the strictest delicacy and tenderness. Her amiable timidity evidently betrayed her own apprehension, that she had wandered from the sphere of her appropriate talent; while her lovely gentleness pleaded strongly for protection against the rigid justice of criticism. She was so obviously exiled from her own element by the mere humor of authority that we cannot in charity attempt any analysis of her performance. . . . — Mrs. Poe has one credit and that of no mean value: — she did not mutilate the language of Shakespeare.” David was cast for the Duke of Albany in Lear, and for the Duke of Austria in King John when Elizabeth played Blanch. On March 25th she was selected to play the leading part of Cora, the priestess of the sun, while Poe was Orozimbo, the Indian ruler, in Morton’s Columbus; or, America Discovered. On Mrs. Poe’s benefit, she played Sophia with Poe as Young O’Donovan in O’Keeffe’s The Lie of a Day, and she also sang the part of Sylvia in Cymon and Sylvia. On April 24th, David played Ferdinand, and Elizabeth was cast as Ariel, in The Tempest. On May 22nd, their joint benefit, Poe played Bertrand in Tobin’s The Curfew, which he had already presented on May 6th, and Elizabeth acted the queer but amusing Queen Dollalolla in Fielding’s Tragedy of Tragedies. The season closed on May 25th, 1807.

Mrs. Poe began the season of 1807-1808 on September 18th with two of her favorite parts, Rosina in Rosina and Clorinda in Robin Hood. Both David and Elizabeth repeated many of their earlier characters. Among her new parts were Donna Clara in Sheridan’s Duenna [page 28:] and Rosalie Somers in Morton’s Town and Country. She played Ophelia and Jessica during Fennell’s engagement and Poe played Sir Richard Vernon in Henry IV. He was sometimes in the lead, but more often in supporting parts like Milford in The Road to Ruin. When Cooper, the leading Shakespearean actor, came to Boston in January and February, 1808, Elizabeth played Ophelia to Cooper’s Hamlet. She also played Cordelia, and David, the Duke of Albany to his Lear; David was Volusius, the Volscian leader in Coriolanus, and Malcolm to Cooper’s Macbeth. At their joint benefit on March 21, 1808, Elizabeth played Cora, the heroine, in Kotzebue’s Virgin of the Sun, while David was cast in the important rôle of Ataliba, the King of Quito. On the same night she played Selina in Holcroft’s A Tale of Mystery. They were the leads in Mrs. Inchbald’s version of Kotzebue’s The Wise Man of the East, Poe playing the rich young man, Claransforth, whose changes of character would have called for some good acting. On April 18, 1808, Mrs. Poe played Amelia, and Poe, Francis, the villain, in The Robbers, Schiller’s famous melodrama. Having been killed as Amelia, Elizabeth came to life to play on the same night the intensely emotional part of Ella Rosenberg in Kenney’s play of that name, in which she suffers almost every kind of persecution. Poe, having hanged himself in The Robbers, was revived to play the Elector of Brandenburg, who turns the tragedy into melodrama. Pursuers of psychoanalysis might have made much of the fact that just nine months later Edgar Poe was born, and that pride, love, and death, three of his favorite themes, are found within these two turgid plays. But whether or not their themes can have had any prenatal influence upon Edgar Poe, the anxiety under which his parents were struggling may well have had its effects. In announcing their second benefit, they felt it necessary to make a strong appeal to the public:

“Mr. and Mrs. Usher and Mr. and Mrs. Poe present their respects to the town of Boston and its vicinity, and beg leave to inform them that from the great failure and severe losses sustained by their former attempts, they have been induced, by the persuasion of friends, to make a joint effort for public favor, in hopes of that sanction, influence, and liberal support, which have ever yet distinguished a Boston audience.”(58)

Even the critic of The Emerald,(59) in a similar appeal, speaks of Poe as “an improving performer” and of Mrs. Poe “as the favorite of the public, and the delight of the eye.” Their first benefit on March 21st [page 29:] had apparently resulted in a loss rather than a gain, notwithstanding the editorial appeal in their behalf:

If industry can claim from the public either favor or support, the talents of Mrs. Poe will not pass unrewarded. She has supported and maintained a course of characters, more numerous and arduous than can be paralleled on our boards, during any one season. Often she has been obliged to perform three characters on the same evening, and she has always been perfect in the text, and has well comprehended the intention of her author.

In addition to her industry, however, Mrs. Poe has claims for other favors, from the respectability of her talents. Her Romps and Sentimental characters have an individuality which has marked them peculiarly her own. But she has succeeded often in the tender personations of tragedy; her conceptions are always marked with good sense and natural ability. . . .

We hope, therefore, that when the united recommendations of the talents of both Mr. and Mrs. Poe are put up for public approbation, that that public will not only not discountenance virtuous industry and exertion to please, but will stretch forth the arm of encouragement to cheer, to support and to save.(60)

During the long vacations, Mr. and Mrs. Poe were not idle. On Friday, July 8, 1808, “the public [of Richmond] are respectfully informed that Mr. and Mrs. Poe, Mr. Burke and Mrs. Shaw from the Boston Theatre intend to give an Entertainment at the Hay Market Theatre on Monday evening next. Particulars made known in future advertisements.”(61) The “particulars” do not appear, but it is evident that the Poes were in the South, and earned what they could.

The Boston season of 1808-1809 opened on September 26th, but the first mention of the Poes occurs on October 19th, when Mrs. Poe played Cordelia and Poe Edmund in King Lear, supporting Fennell. In November Elizabeth repeated her performance of Arabella in Mrs. Cowley’s More Ways than One, which she had played in March, 1808, but this time David was in the cast also as Canton, a rather difficult “straight part,” in a social comedy. Among his other important parts were Ennui, the affected young man of Reynolds’ The Dramatist, and Virolet, the second male lead of The Mountaineers. On December 23, [page 30:] 1808, David Poe took the part of Captain Miles Standish in a production “written by a gentleman of Boston,” entitled The Pilgrims; or, The Landing of Our Forefathers on Plymouth Rock. During November and December Mrs. Poe is not frequently mentioned. She repeated Queen Dollalolla on November 18th, but obviously it must have been ill health which kept her off the stage. On January 4, 1809, Fawcett’s pantomime ballet of The Brazen Mask was announced with Poe as Leczinsky, and Mrs. Poe’s voice was useful as one of the peasants. This notice was repeated on January 6th, 9th, 13th, and 20th, obviously incorrectly, if, as we believe, Edgar Poe was born on January 19, 1809.(62) The Gazette welcomed Mrs. Poe back on February 9th: “We congratulate the frequenters of the theatre on the recovery of Mrs. Poe from her recent confinement. This charming little Actress will make her reappearance tomorrow evening as Rosamonda in the popular play of Abaellino the Great Bandit, a part peculiarly adapted to her figure and talents.”(63) [page 31:]

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Elizabeth A. Poe [thumbnail]

[Illustration facing page 30]
 
Elizabeth Arnold Poe

At the time of Edgar Poe’s birth, his parents were living in a section of Boston south of the Common and near the Charles River. As usual, there is a dispute among antiquarians as to the exact location of their home, whether it was in a house then on Haskins Street and afterwards No. 62 Carver Street, or at No. 38 Hollis Street. I am inclined to the first theory, but since the streets were close together, it is quite possible that actors like the Poes moved from one house to the other. Neither house has survived and local tradition is shadowy.(64)

Meanwhile David Poe was constantly employed, among his important rôles being Belville in The Country Girl, Garrick’s alteration of The Country Wife. On Mrs. Poe’s return, however, while she is given leading rôles, like Charlotte in The Apprentice, David drops for a time out of the picture. He had gone South, probably to borrow money to meet the expenses attendant upon Edgar’s birth. A letter kept until recently from publication illuminates not only the character of David Poe, Jr., but also his relations with his family and his own attitude toward his profession. The letter, while long, is not completed, signed, or fully addressed, and as it presents several problems, it is given so far as it relates to our interest:

Stockerton, March 6, 1809.

My dear Bill,

I am mortified by the reflection of my want of even civility which alone ought to have induced an answer to your first letter — I entreat you to think it did not spring from any lack of friendship, but to attribute to the right cause, which is that I did not then feel exactly in that frame of mind which is indispensibly necessary to me when I would write you a letter — I confess I wrote John two or three letters since I have written you one, but then you must recollect they were mere letters of business full of mercantile phrases, technical terms & prices current that would ill suit the ears of a Pastoral swain surrounded by his flocks & herds purling streams and murmuring rills &c as you are. — Therefore having as I hope made a sufficient apology for my seeming forgetfulness we will drop the subject — I am really very glad to find Catharine & William have recovered and hope they may enjoy perfect health —

As for the note we’ll say nothing about that — I am convinced [page 32:] you will as soon as you can & sooner you know you cannot — only remember that the sooner the more to my advantage — I have been somewhat troubled within the last few days by a couple of Baltimoreans, connexions of ours — You may have heard my Father speak of a visit I had a few days ago from young Roscius. well, [[sic]] he is one of the Gentlemen alluded to; the other “tho’ last not least” in my estimation for respectability in society, is Mr. Thomas Williams, familiarly called by those well acquainted with him Yellow Tom, alias Tom Gibson or by others who take pleasure in reversing the order of “things” (as old Whelan used to say) Gibsons Tom —

[A portion dealing with “Tom” but of no interest to us is omitted. Then comes a sentence which helps identify the writer.]

I persuaded Tom that Philadelphia was far enough from his wife & quite as good a place as New York; it seemed to strike him that it was so, and then you know Master George, said he, if she was to come here she couldn’t run me in debt.

[Resuming the letter after some irrelevant details]

The first mentioned Gentleman [David Poe] did not behave so well. One evening he came out to our house — having seen one of our servants (that is one of the two we keep) he had me called out to the door where he told me the most awful moment of his life was arrived, begged me to come and see him the next day at 11 o’clock at the Mansion house, [s]aid he came not to beg, & with a tragedy stride walked off after I had without reflection promised I would call — in obedience to my promise I went there the next day but found him not nor did I hear of him until yesterday, when a dirty little boy came to the door & said a man down at the tavern desired him to bring that paper and fetch back the answer — it is only necessary for me to copy the note here that you may see the impertinence it contains

Sir, You promised me on your honor to meet me at the Mansion house on the 23d — I promise you on my word of honor that if you will lend me 30, 20, 15 or even 10$ I will remit it to you immediately on my arrival in Baltimore. Be assured I will keep my promise at least as well as you did yours and that nothing but extreem [sic] distress would have forc’d me to make this application — Your answer by the bearer will prove whether I yet have “favour in your eyes” or whether I am to be despised by (as I understand) a rich relation because when a wild boy I join’d a profession which I then thought and now think an honorable one. But which I would most willingly quit tomorrow if it gave satisfaction [page 33:] to your family provided I could do any thing else that would give bread to mine — Yr. politeness will no doubt enduce you to answer this note from Yrs &c

D. POE JR.

To this impertinent note it is hardly necessary to tell you my answer — it merely went to assure him that he [need] not look to me for any countenance or support more especially after having written me such a letter as that and thus for the f[uture] I desired to hear not from or of him — so adieu to Davy —

The writer of this letter is evidently named “George.” He was George Poe, Jr.,(65) son of George Poe, Sr., and nephew of David Poe, Sr. He was, therefore, first cousin of David Poe, Jr. The “Dear Bill” was William Clemm, Jr.,(66) who had married George Poe’s sister, Harriet Poe. Their two eldest children, Catherine and William, are probably those whose recovery is mentioned in the letter. George Poe, Jr., was accustomed to write to William Clemm, Jr., for a letter from Curaçoa March 17, 1806, to him is extant. The handwriting is the same as that of the “Stockerton” letter.(67)

This is the only letter known to be written by David Poe, Jr. It reveals clearly the dislike of the family concerning David Poe’s career as an actor, and his resentment at that attitude. In its appeal for money and its prophecy of dire distress if the loan is not forthcoming, it is strangely like some of the epistles Edgar Poe wrote. If George Poe related the circumstances accurately, David was unreliable in [page 34:] keeping his appointments. While there is danger in reading too much into one letter, there is an indication of habits which Edgar Poe may have inherited from him. In any final judgment upon the frailties of his son, this letter of David Poe must be an important witness.

In April, 1809, when John Howard Payne, at the beginning of his career, but already well known, came to Boston, Mrs. Poe was selected to support him. On April 5th she was Palmyra to Payne’s Zaphna in Mahomet, the only woman in the cast; on April 7th, Juliet to his Romeo; on April 10th, Irene to his Selim in John Brown’s Barbarossa; on April 14th, Sigismunda to his Tancred in Thomson’s Tancred and Sigismunda, a part played by Mrs. Henry Siddons at Drury Lane. On April 17th, when Payne had his benefit, Mrs. Poe played Ophelia and David Poe Laertes to Payne’s Hamlet. According to The Patriot of April 19th, “Mrs. Poe respectfully informs the public that in consequence of repeated disappointments in obtaining places during Master Payne’s engagement he has consented to play one night longer at her benefit.” She selected Kotzebue’s Pizarro; or The Death of Rolla, in which she played Cora to Payne’s Rolla and David took the important part of Alonzo, the Spaniard loved by Cora, the Priestess of the Sun. On the same night she sang Darina in Dibdin’s Il Bondocani with Poe as Abdalla. On May 5th she played Cordelia in Lear, and on May 12th she closed her season in the difficult part of Miss Marchmont in Kelly’s comedy of manners, False Delicacy.

Illness and other difficulties of Mr. and Mrs. Poe must have been augmented by the severe criticism which their efforts met. If the more favorable criticism of David Poe has been preferred for quotation, it is evidently based on more careful observation, undisturbed by personal dislikes. One of the most severe critics wrote many years later a more sober judgment than he had expressed in 1806-1809:

The theatrical criticisms are all my own. Some of them are severe, but I am not aware that any were unjust. The players, however, at least some of them, were of a different opinion. One of them, during a representation of Sheridan’s farce, — The Critic — paid off the score, by invoking the mercy of the editor of the Polyanthos! Mr. Poe — the father of the late Edgar A. Poe, — took offence at a remark on his wife’s acting, and called at my house to chastise my impertinence, but went away without effecting his purpose. Both he and his wife were performers of considerable merit, but somewhat vain of their personal accomplishments.(68) [page 35:]

If the visit of David Poe was prompted by the criticism of his wife’s performance as Little Pickle in The Spoiled Child — “We never knew before that the Spoiled Child belonged to that class of beings termed hermaphroditical, as the uncouthness of his costume seemed to indicate”(69) — we can only sympathize with the natural resentment of a gentleman. It did not endear him, however, to the most influential critic in Boston.

The Poes were to leave Boston for New York. It was a professional advance, but it was to bring them both into a fiercer competition and to personal attacks besides which the strictures of the Polyanthos were mild indeed. Professionally, the three years in Boston were successful ones. Both David and Elizabeth Poe were recognized as important and valued members of the Company. Their personal lot could hardly have been a very happy one, and the absence, at times, of their names in the announcements, followed by their reappearance in important rôles, indicates illness or absence from Boston. Yet at her death Mrs. Poe left a sketch of Boston Harbor, entitled “Morning, 1808,” made by herself. On the back of this she afterwards wrote, “For my little son Edgar, who should ever love Boston, the place of his birth, and where his mother found her best, and most sympathetic friends.”(70)

A notice in the Commercial Advertiser of New York indicates again illness or other difficulty in the Poe family. Caulfield, with whom Mrs. Poe had played in Boston, was announced to provide entertainment for June 6, 1809, at Mechanics’ Hall and Mrs. Poe was to sing. But on that day Caulfield had to postpone the event “on account of the sudden disappearance of Mrs. Poe.”(71)

To the Poes, their engagement at the Park Theatre in New York, which began its season on September 6, 1809, under Price and Cooper, must have seemed a promotion. Elizabeth played Angela, the leading part, and a strenuous one, in M. C. Lewis’s Castle Spectre, in which she baffled ghosts and villains through five full acts. Notwithstanding the demands of this part which had taxed the powers of Mrs. Jordan so greatly in the London performance that she had to omit her song,(72) Elizabeth also played Priscilla Tomboy in the afterpiece, in which David was Captain Sightly. He played a Negro, Hassan, in The Castle Spectre. [page 36:]

Cooper, whom Mrs. Poe had supported in Boston, must have brought her to New York. During September she played Cora to his Rolla, Ophelia to his Hamlet, Rosamonda to his Abaellino, and Desdemona to his Othello. On September 22nd she sustained the intensely tragic part of Imma in Adelgitha. She was also repeating her lighter parts in the afterpieces, and David was cast for good parts in them, and even took Eugene to her Laura in The Agreeable Surprise. But evil days were coming for David Poe. The critic of The Ramblers’ Magazine and New-York Theatrical Register did his best to hound him off the stage. As Falieri in Abaellino Poe had apparently mispronounced “Dandoli” and from that time on he was “Dan Dilly” to this critic. The very violence of the personalities bear evidence to the unfairness of this critic’s judgment. The following shows how even the editor felt called upon to protest:

By the sudden indisposition of mr. [[sic]] Robertson, the entertainments announced for the evening (Pizarro and Princess or [sic] no Princess) necessarily gave place to the preceding. Mr. Poe was mr. [[sic]] R’s substitute in Alonzo; and a more wretched Alonzo have we never witnessed. This man was never destined for the high walks of the drama; — a footman is the extent of what he ought to attempt: and if by accident like that of this evening he is compelled to walk without his sphere, it would bespeak more of sense in him to read the part than attempt to act it; — his person, voice, and non-expression of countenance, all combine to stamp him — poh! et praeterea nihil.*

* Here, as well as in some other passages of the Theatrical Register, our correspondent it [is] too acrimonious; and I must take the liberty to differ from him, in some measure, respecting mr. [[sic]] Poe’s talents, who, if he would take pains, is by no means contemptible.(73)

Notwithstanding this opinion, the management gave Poe the important part of the prince Almarick in Thomas Dibdin’s Princess and No Princess on September 29th, Mrs. Poe playing Elisena.(74) On October 2nd he played his last Shakespearean part, that of Sir Richard Ratcliff in Richard III, one of the last of the King’s retainers to remain true to him, while Mrs. Poe played the Prince of Wales. But another blast from The Rambler indicates that David Poe may have threatened the [page 37:] critic. He had been cast for Amos, a black servant in To Marry or Not to Marry, on October 6th.

Dan Dilly played Amos, and in spite of the coat of lampblack that covered his muffin face, there was no difficulty in penetrating the veil and discovering the worthy descendant of the illustrious Daniel. By the by, it has been said, that this gentleman has taken some of our former remarks very much in dudgeon; but whether this be true or not, we entertain very great doubts, for certainly we have said nothing but the truth, and that should give no man offence. If it is the case, however, we are sincerely sorry for it; for from his amiable private character, and high professional standing, he is among the last men we would justly offend. We owe this to our friend Dan from having heard much of his spirit; for, for men of high spirit, we have a high respect, though no fear. This we beg to be explicitly understood; for as there are men who will sometimes mistake motives, it may happen that this conciliatory conduct on our part be imputed to causes foreign from the truth.(75)

On October 16th he was cast for the second lead, the romantic young lover, Virolet, in The Mountaineers. On October 18, 1809, David Poe made his last appearance on the stage. He played Captain Cypress in Richard Leigh’s Grieving’s a Folly, the part of a young officer who is the villain of the piece and tries to seduce the heroine. The play was announced for repetition, but a note in The Rambler tells us: “Friday [October] 20th. Castle SpectreBlue Devils — and Don Juan.  It was not until the curtain was ready to rise that the audience was informed that, owing to the sudden indisposition of mr. [[sic]] Robertson and Mr. Poe, the Castle Spectre was necessarily substituted for Grieving’s a Folly.”(76)

Two points in this note are significant in their implications. The absence of David Poe was important enough to warrant, in part at least, a change of play. But it is even more significant that his “indisposition” caused his non-appearance. From that date his name does not appear in any theatrical notice. “Indisposition” is a term used often in theatrical notices of that day to cover intoxication, which would support the theory that accounts by heredity for Edgar Poe’s infirmity. It is likely that the combination of drink, ill health, and unfavorable criticism brought on despair. The Rambler even descended to personal abuse, by the publication of these verses: [page 38:]

Sur un POE de Chambre

Rendons hommage au rédacteur

Du Ramblers’ Magazine;

Il juge bien de chaque acteur

Les talens à la mine:

Suivant lui surtout,

Jamais du bon goût,

Monsieur Poh n’eut l’empreinte,

Son père était pot,

Sa mère était broc,

Sa grand mere était pinte.(77)

How severe also was the ordeal from the temper of the audiences of that day may be gleaned from the tragic account of the suicide of the actor Fullerton, who threw himself into the Delaware River, owing to the pitiless hissing which drove him from the stage.(78) That there were differences of opinion concerning Poe’s ability is shown by a passage in a magazine, Something, edited by “Nemo Nobody, Esquire” in Boston. Under date of December 14, 1809, he addressed a letter:

To our brother Editors of New-York.

Gentlemen,

We strongly and feelingly recommend to your encouragement and protection, the talents of Mr. Poe. — He has talents, and they may be improved or ruined by your just or incautious observations. We think, that the duty of an editor is first to feel, next to weigh, and lastly to determine. — We are well aware of the errors of this gentleman, but we know that such errors have frequently been introduced by unfeeling criticism. It is disgraceful in any editor to make actors on the stage a mere mark to shoot at. — If your intentions are to do good, encourage; If after you have done your duty, they do not improve — censure freely.

N. N.

If, as is possible but not certain, “Nemo Nobody” was the actor James Fennell, his opinion is worth more than that of an unfriendly critic. But perhaps it is not necessary to indulge in any more speculations concerning David Poe’s disappearance from the casts. On October 25, 1810, Edmund Simpson, later to be the co-manager of the theatre, [page 39:] arrived from England. He was admirably fitted for the parts for which David Poe had been cast, and he was a better actor.

Notwithstanding the care of a husband, either an invalid or out of work, and of her two little children, Mrs. Poe kept up her valiant struggle. In November she played Jessica in The Merchant of Venice, and The Rambler notes that while the Mock Doctor of Fielding was badly put on, “Twaits, Mrs. Poe and Mrs. Young did their best.”(79) The critic also praises her performance of Zamora in her disguise as Eugenio in The Honeymoon, and of Rosabelle in The Foundling of the Forest. Other important parts were Parisatis in Alexander the Great and the Prince of Wales in Richard III. When she played Cora in Pizarro and Dolly Bull in John Bull at Fontainbleau on December 11, 1809, the critic was again pleased: “In the afterpiece, mrs. [[sic]] Poe was excellent. It is in this line of characters she particular [sic] delights and to which she should bend her chief attention. It is difficult to be sprightly without being fantastic, and to act the hoyden, without being gross and mawkish. Mrs. Poe has hit the happy medium; and let her cultivate it with assiduity. It is one of the most difficult and most important departments of female comedy.”(80)

The Park Theatre was closed from January 16 to February 22, 1810, owing to the poor business. Payne came in March and Mrs. Poe played Ophelia and Juliet in his support. She had the lead, the Widow Bellair, in The Widow or Who Wins, a part Mrs. Charles Kemble had taken at Covent Garden. In April she played Catherine in The Exile, a leading part in what seems to have been a great success. In May she repeated Imma in Adelgitha and played Regan in Lear, and had second leads in comedy. In June she sang Ulrica in a melodramatic part in The Free Knights. For her benefit on July 2nd she selected Rosamonda in Abaellino and Narcissa in Colman’s Inkle and Yarico, the English girl who has a singing part. On her last appearance in New York, July 4, 1810, she repeated Ulrica in The Free Knights and Rosa in The Caravan.”(81)

The assumption that Mrs. Poe was not reëngaged because of failure on her part is not a necessary one. As Odell remarks: “The four years [1806-1810] were among the most pointless in the whole history of the New York stage.” She turned her attention again to the South, where the Placide family were managing the theatres. Whether David [page 40:] Poe was still with her is uncertain. He apparently did not die in New York City.(82)

Mrs. Poe opened the season of the Richmond Theatre on August 18, 1810, as Angela in The Castle Spectre and Maria in Of Age Tomorrow. She played leading parts like Florence in The Curfew, in which, disguised as a youth, she baffled an energetic band of robbers. For her benefit on September 21st, she sang and danced, and probably played Letitia Hardy in The Belle’s Stratagem, a charming and effective lead in a comedy of manners. A correspondent of the Richmond Enquirer of September 21st writes a long letter, a portion of which must suffice: “From an actress who possesses so eminently the faculty of pleasing, whose powers are so general and whose exertions are so ready, it would be unjust to withhold the tribute of applause. Were I to say simply that she is a valuable acquisition to the Theatre, I should dishonor her merit, and do injustice to the feeling of the public. . . . On her first moment of entrance on the Richmond Boards she was saluted with the plaudits of admiration, and at no one moment since has her reputation sunk.”

After September 21st, she is not mentioned in the casts which, indeed, were infrequently given. The season in Richmond lasted until November 13, 1810. This period of inaction for Mrs. Poe was probably caused by the birth of Rosalie Poe.(83)

In January, 1811, Mrs. Poe joined Placide’s Company at Charleston, where she had played last in 1798. On her first night, January 23rd, owing to Mrs. Young’s “indisposition” she sustained again the arduous rôles of Angela and Priscilla Tomboy. There were many new parts to learn, among them Jacintha in The Suspicious Husband, Lydia Languish [page 41:] in The Rivals, Lady Eleanor in Everyone Has His Fault, Lady Teazle in The School for Scandal. These, it is to be noticed, were comedies of manners. She took also two leading parts in the rôle of Floribel in The Doubtful Son and Flora in The Midnight Hour, those managing maids which she knew so well how to play. She must have been charming as Donna Clara in Two Strings to Your Bow, in her mingled bravery and confusion, in which, disguised as her brother Felix, she has to fight a duel.

That she was given less important parts in Shakespeare’s plays was due to the presence of Mrs. Beaumont, a “star” from Covent Garden. If she had to content herself with parts like Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice and Mopsa in The Winter’s Tale, she may at least have appeared in the first American production of the latter in its unabridged form. In April she played Sally in The Purse; it must have carried her back to the night in Charleston in 1797 when she played a page in the same play.

For her benefit on April 29th, she played Violante in Mrs. Centlivre’s The Wonder; or, A Woman Keeps a Secret, the part of a generous woman who keeps her friend Isabelle’s secret at the risk of her own happiness. She also repeated her old part of Moggy McGilpin and took part in the “Comick Pantomical [sic] Ballet, Hurry Scurry,” besides singing a song! For one evening this was a full program. Constant postponements indicate that the business was not good, and Placide was driven to spectacles and pantomimes, in which Mrs. Poe did her share. On one night she played Nancy Joblin in W. C. White’s Poor Lodger, sang Maria in Of Age To-morrow, and was Columbine in the pantomime of Harlequin’s Restoration. The season closed May 20, 1811, with another triple bill, in which she played Emma in The Birthday, sang Lucy in The Review, and played Almeida, a Moorish princess, in Blackbeard! She was, as usual, doing her full share. She had acted sixteen new parts, nearly all leads.

The visit of the Company to Norfolk was prefaced by the sale of the theatre there at public auction, an ominous prologue. Absence of information in the advertisements concerning the casts makes the parts Mrs. Poe played at Norfolk uncertain. On July 24th she probably repeated Fanny Growse in Arnold’s comedy Man and Wife, which she had just played in Charleston, and she almost certainly repeated Donna Violante in The Wonder and Leonora in The Padlock for her own benefit on July 26th. A letter to The Herald on July 26, 1811, expresses the feelings of a correspondent, “Floretta,” who, despite her emotiona1 language, paints an interesting picture of the situation: [page 42:]

And now, Sir, permit me to call the attention of the public to the Benefit of Mrs. Poe and Miss Thomas for this Evening, and their claims on the liberality of the Norfolk audience are not small. The former of those ladies, I remember, (just as I was going in my teens) on her first appearance here, met with the most unbounded applause — She was said to be one of the handsomest women in America; she was certainly the handsomest I had ever seen. She never came on the Stage, but a general murmur ran through the house, “What an enchanting Creature! Heavens, what a form! — What an animated and expressive countenance! — and how well she performs! Her voice too! sure never anything was half so sweet!” Year after year did she continue to extort these involuntary bursts of rapture from the Norfolk audience, and to deserve them too; for never did one of her profession, take more pains to please than she. But now “The scene is changed,” — Misfortunes have pressed heavy on her. Left alone, the only support of herself and several small children — Friendless and unprotected, she no longer commends that admiration and attention she formerly did, — Shame on the world that can turn its back on the same person in distress, that it was wont to cherish in prosperity. And yet she is as assiduous to please as ever, and tho’ grief may have stolen the roses from her cheeks, she still retains the same sweetness of expression, and symmetry of form and feature. She this evening hazards a Benefit, in the pleasing hope that the inhabitants of Norfolk will remember past services, And [[sic]] can they remember and not requite them generously? — Heaven forbid they should not.

Floretta also remarks that The Wonder has been played in Charleston in April for Mrs. Poe’s benefit and “the result answered the lady’s most sanguine expectations.” That she was not without friends in Norfolk is revealed by the one note in her handwriting that has been preserved:

Mrs. Poe’s respectfull [sic] compliments to Mrs. Taswell [sic] returns Mrs Liverne thanks for her great kindness — Mrs. P — being to sail this Eve Mrs. T will excuse the haste with which this is written

Tuesday Eve(84)

Mrs. Tazewell was the wife of Littleton W. Tazewell, Governor of Virginia, who resided in Norfolk from 1802.

­

Letter from Elizabeth A. Hopkins [thumbnail]

[Illustration on page 43]
 
Autograph letter of Poe’s mother

Where David Poe was during this period is still uncertain, but he [page 44:] was evidently not with his wife and family. No contemporary account gives the date of his death.(85)

Mrs. Poe played her last season in Richmond. The company opened on August 16, 1811, but she is first mentioned on September 20th as one of the three graces in Cinderella. On September 27th she played the leading part of Emily Bloomfield in William Ioor’s Battle of Eutaw Springs. When her benefit came on October 9th, with Alexander the Great and Love Laughs at Locksmiths, her name does not appear in the notices, but on October 11th, at the benefit of Miss Thomas, Mrs. Poe played the Countess Wintersen in The Stranger, the gentlewoman who helps to reconcile Mrs. Haller and her husband in that popular melodrama. It was her last appearance on the stage.

A letter from Samuel Mordecai, later to be the social historian of Richmond, sent to his sister Rachel and dated “2 November, 1811,” gives us the only authoritative picture of the last days of Elizabeth Poe:

“A singular fashion prevails here this season — it is — charity. Mrs. Poe, who you know is a very handsome woman, happens to be very sick, and (having quarreled and parted with her husband) is destitute. The most fashionable place of resort, now is — her chamber — And the skill of cooks and nurses is exerted to procure her delicacies. Several other sick persons also receive a portion of these fashionable visits and delicacies — It is a very laudable fashion and I wish it may last long.” (86)

When another benefit was announced for her on November 29th, the managers stated that it was given because of the “serious and long continued indisposition of Mrs. Poe and in compliance with the advices and solicitations of many of the most respectable families.” (87) On the same day, the Enquirer contained this notice:

“To the Humane Heart

“On this night, Mrs. Poe, lingering on the bed of disease and surrounded [page 45:] by her children, asks your assistance and asks it perhaps for the last time. The Generosity of a Richmond Audience can need no other appeal. For particulars, see the Bills of the day.”

The brief announcement of her death came soon after: “Dec. 10, 1811 — Tuesday. Died, on last Sunday morning, [December 8] Mrs. Poe, one of the Actresses of the Company at present playing on the Richmond Boards. By the death of this lady the Stage has been deprived of one of its chief ornaments. And to say the least of her, she was an interesting Actress, and never failed to catch the applause and command the admiration of the beholder.”

Notwithstanding the dramatic accounts of Mrs. Poe’s death in a little house, now numbered 2220½ Main Street, and shown in all its unsavory surroundings to visitors as the spot where she spent her last days, it is practically certain that she never lived there. By an admirable piece of research,(88) Mrs. Elizabeth Valentine Huntley of Richmond has proved through the investigation of the tax records, the deed books, and the insurance records of the Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia that the land on which the supposed death scenes of Mrs. Poe took place, was, in 1811, a portion of a vacant lot. The first appearance of this building on an insurance plat was in 1830.

Moreover, the second Indian Queen Tavern, so often referred to by biographers as standing next to this “last residence” of Mrs. Poe, and, therefore, on the northwest corner of Twenty-third and Main (or E Street as it was then called), was not located on that spot. From 1806 to 1821, when it burned down, the Indian Queen Tavern was located on the northeast corner of Twenty-third and Main Streets. The relation of the “little house” to the so-called “actors’ boarding houses” of “Mrs. Phipps” is equally discredited, for the records seem to prove conclusively that these buildings were put up for the first time in 1816. Again, unfortunately for romantic biography, Mrs. Phipps herself becomes a very uncertain figure, for no advertisements give any woman by that name a shop on Main Street between Twenty-second and Twenty-third Streets. Finally, it seems unlikely that Mrs. Poe, who must have been in ill health for some time before her death, should have chosen to live fifteen blocks from the Richmond Theatre. This theatre stood on Broad Street, east of Twelfth Street, where the Monumental Church now stands, and in order to reach it, Mrs. Poe [page 46:] would have had to climb a steep hill both in going to and returning from what is now 2220½ Main Street.

Mrs. Huntley has suggested another location for the hard-working actress. From advertisements in the Virginia Patriot and the Enquirer, it is clear that Placide, the manager of the Virginia Company, as well as others in the Company, lived in or near the Washington Tavern, which had been known up to 1797 as the Indian Queen, and that the Tavern was used as a meeting place for the people of the theatre. From this Tavern, which stood at the northwest corner of Ninth and Grace Streets, the site of the present Hotel Richmond, Mrs. Poe need walk only one block to Broad Street and three blocks to Twelfth Street, and would have been near her children in any emergency. That Mrs. Poe should have brought Edgar, a child under three years of age, the long distance from Twenty-second Street, and by some accident, have passed by Mrs. Allan’s home and attracted her attention to Edgar, is distinctly unlikely. It is easy to see, therefore, how rumor, confusing the old “Indian Queen” with the newer one, and transferring it from Ninth and Grace Streets to Twenty-third and Main Streets, collecting on the way “Mrs. Phepoe,” who had a millinery shop at Turner’s Tavern, on the corner of Fourteenth and Main Streets, and turning her into “Mrs. Phipps,” should finally locate Mrs. Poe in a tenement that did not exist in 1811! Unfortunately, there is no house now standing at Ninth and Grace Streets which we can dramatize, as all the former buildings have been torn down to make way for larger edifices.

On December 26, 1811, the Richmond Theatre, a brick building which had been erected in the rear of the Old Academy or Theatre Square, was burned. Seventy-two persons perished, and the whole city went in mourning. But this tragic event could have had little effect on the two children whom Mrs. Poe left unprotected, since they were already provided for. Within a few days after Mrs. Poe’s death, Edgar was taken by Mrs. John Allan, and Rosalie by Mrs. William MacKenzie, matrons of Richmond. Mr. and Mrs. Allan and Edgar were staying during the Christmas holiday with Bowler Cocke, a planter living at Turkey Island, and thus escaped the fire or its aftermath.(89)

The reaction of the city may be read in “The Players’ Address to the Citizens of Richmond,” which evidently refers to Mrs. Poe:

“In this miserable calamity we find a sentence of banishment from your hospitable city. — No more do we expect to feel that glow of [page 47:] pleasure which pervades a grateful heart, while it receives favours liberally bestowed. Never again shall we behold that feminine humanity which so eagerly displayed itself to soothe the victim of disease; and view with exultation, the benevolent who fostered the fatherless, and shed a ray of comfort to the departed soul of a dying mother.” (90)

A summary of the parts played by Elizabeth and David Poe reveals in a striking fashion the variety and the extent of their repertory. When Mrs. Poe died at twenty-four, she had to her credit, disregarding mere chorus, vocal, or dancing parts, two hundred and one different rôles.(91) Of these, fourteen were Shakespearean: Ariel, Ophelia, Cordelia, Juliet, Desdemona, Regan, Nerissa, Jessica, Prince John in First Henry IV, Blanch in King John, Prince of Wales and Duke of York in Richard III, Mopsa in A Winter’s Tale, Valeria in Coriolanus.

She sustained leading tragic parts like Palmyra in Mahomet, Sigismunda in Tancred and Sigismunda, Laura in Lewis’s Adelgitha, Lady Randolph in Douglas. In the romantic melodrama, often verging on tragedy, which was then so popular, she played twenty-four parts, mostly leads, like Cora in The Virgin of the Sun, in Pizarro, and in Columbus, Amelia in The Robbers, Rosamonda in Abaellino, Christina in Gustavus Vasa, Angela in The Castle Spectre, and Parisatis in Alexander the Great. She had a few good parts also in romantic farces, like Donna Clara in Two Strings to Your Bow. In her largest number of rôles she represented the gentlewoman of comedy, social or domestic. Among her eleven parts in the comedy of manners were Lydia Languish in The Rivals, Lady Teazle in The School for Scandal, Letitia Hardy in The Belle’s Stratagem, Miss Marchmont in False Delicacy, Constance Neville in She Stoops to Conquer, and Louisa Courtney in The Dramatist.

In that indeterminate dramatic sphere where the social and domestic comedy blend, Mrs. Poe sustained forty-three parts. She could play both the gentlewoman, Miss Blandford, and the country girl, Susan Ashfield, in Speed the Plough. She often portrayed the gentlewoman in distress, like Caroline Dormer in The Heir at Law, Emily Worthington in The Poor Gentleman, Lady Eleanor in Everyone Has His Fault, or Stella in Boaden’s Maid of Bristol. She seems to have [page 48:] appealed strongly in those emotional parts, often of an orphan, poor but proud, who ultimately marries a gentleman, after incidental persecutions, of which Mary Thornberry in John Bull is an example. She also represented those extraordinary heroines, adapted from Kotzebue, like Ellen Metland in The Wise Man of the East. While she was popular in the light farcical parts like her first, Biddy Bellair, only nine can be so classified. They resemble the pert hoydenish characters in musical afterpieces like Little Pickle in The Spoiled Child, or Priscilla Tomboy in The Romp, in both of which she sang, but their constant repetition has caused them to be overstressed. In reality there are only eight of her singing parts in which she played a hoyden. In twenty-six of these afterpieces she sang, and often was disguised as a boy or a soldier, once even as a Negro servant! But it seems to have been her charming figure and pleasant voice rather than any buffoonery that made her popular as Moggy McGilpin in The Highland Reel, or Rosabelle in The Foundling of the Forest, when her “sprightly characteristic performance” was praised by The Rambler. Twenty-two of her singing parts were in romantic opera like Rosina, or in poetic drama like The Honeymoon, in which she played Eugenio, the page. Her remaining parts were those of maids, some of which were quite important, and there were several minor characters which need not be classified.

During his six years on the stage, David Poe played one hundred and thirty-seven parts. Nineteen of these were Shakespearean: Don Pedro in Much Ado, Tressel in Richard III, Duncan, Malcolm, and Donalbain in Macbeth, Laertes, Rosenkranz, and Bernardo in Hamlet, Decius Brutus in Julius Cæsar, Sir Richard Vernon in Henry IV, Montano in Othello, Duke of Austria in King John, Ferdinand in The Tempest, Edmund and Duke of Albany in King Lear, Volusius in Coriolanus, Salanio in The Merchant of Venice, Hortensio in Catharine and Petruchio, Ratcliff in Richard III. Forty of David Poe’s parts were those of gentlemen, often soldiers, in social or domestic comedy, such as Colonel Raymond in The Foundling, Harry Harebrain in The Will for the Deed, Charles Stanley in A Cure for the Heartache, Harry Thunder in Wild Oats, Henry Morland in The Heir at Law. In the comedy of manners, he played Joseph Surface in The School for Scandal, and Sir George Touchwood in The Belle’s Stratagem. In domestic drama of a more serious, even tragic, nature, he was cast in eleven parts, the principal ones being George Barnwell, Villars in The Blind Bargain, Malford in The Soldier’s Daughter, and Frederick in Lover’s Vows. In the romantic play, in verse or prose, his thirty rôles [page 49:] were frequently important ones like Ataliba in The Virgin of the Sun, Alonzo in Pizarro, Altamount in The Fair Penitent, the Duke of Buckingham in Jane Shore, Norval in Douglas, Bertrand in The Curfew, or the Duke of Medina in Rule a Wife and Have a Wife. He was also cast for character parts like Ennui in The Dramatist, Le Gout in More Ways Than One, Sir Larry MacMurragh in Who Wants a Guinea?, Negro parts like Hassan in The Castle Spectre, old men like Maurice in A Wife of Two Husbands. His other parts were less important.

In the light of these facts, we must reconstruct the traditional figure of David Poe as a negligible actor. Managers were not so lacking in talent that they could afford to risk failure by constant employment of a nonentity. The nature of the unfavorable criticism, resting evidently upon personal hostility, makes it of less value than the undeniable record of employment. But if the new light thrown upon David Poe by his complete stage record raises his stature as an actor, it makes clearer the unstable nature which he transmitted to his son. If Edgar Poe inherited from his father a handsome presence and that quality of impetuous chivalry that disturbed the critics of New York and Boston, he owed to him also that perverse tendency to hurt his own prospects and that weakness for drink which brought to the surface the bitterness revealed by David Poe’s letter to his cousin George. Years later, Edgar Poe, in his reply to Dr. English, must have had his father in mind when he wrote:

“The errors and frailties which I deplore, it cannot at least be asserted that I have been the coward to deny. Never, even, have I made attempt at extenuating a weakness which is (or, by the blessing of God, was) a calamity, although those who did not know me intimately had little reason to regard it otherwise than as a crime. For, indeed, had my pride, or that of my family permitted, there was much — very much — there was everything — to be offered in extenuation. Perhaps, even, there was an epoch at which it might not have been wrong in me to hint — what by the testimony of Dr. Francis and other medical men I might have demonstrated, had the public, indeed, cared for the demonstration — that the irregularities so profoundly lamented were the effect of a terrible evil rather than its cause. — And now let me thank God that in redemption from the physical ill I have forever got rid of the moral.”(92)

The qualities Edgar Poe inherited from his mother were quite different. There was evidently a spark of genius in that sprite-like figure, [page 50:] and that her courage and charm descended to her son there need be little doubt. In 1845 when Edgar Poe was speaking of the Evangelical prejudice against the stage which Mrs. Mowatt had to combat, he paid a tribute to his mother:

“The writer of this article is himself the son of an actress — has invariably made it his boast — and no earl was ever prouder of his earldom than he of his descent from a woman who, although well born, hesitated not to consecrate to the drama her brief career of genius and of beauty.”(93)

We may think of her also as the friend of people of breeding who remembered her with pleasure. Years later Beverley Tucker wrote of the beauty of Elizabeth Poe, and introduced himself to Edgar Poe as one who had known her.(94)

There is unfortunately another side to the picture. In the year of Edgar Poe’s birth, Anne Holbrook, an English actress, put the case briefly but forcibly.(95) “An actress can never make her children comfortable. . . . The mother returning with harassed frame and agitated mind, from the varying passions she has been pourtraying, instead of imparting healthful nourishment to her child, fills it with bile and fever, to say nothing of dragging them long journies, at all seasons of the year.” It would seem as though she were describing Elizabeth Poe’s career. Is it any wonder that Edgar Poe was born with that physical handicap which made his life a struggle not only against a civilization as yet unaccustomed to genius, but also against a weakness, which was constantly “wearing its own deep feeling as a crown?” But, on the other hand, is it hard to believe that these two young actors, who lived among the symbolic figures of the stage, transmitted to their son that capacity to create those marvellous symbols of love, of pride, of death, and of beauty, which animate his poetry and his prose, and are his great gift to the literature of the world?


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 1:]

(1)  Massachusetts Mercury, April 15, 1796.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 2:]

(2)  The speculations concerning the ancestry of Henry Arnold and Elizabeth Smith in Mary E. Phillips’ Poe the Man are interesting, but I cannot see that they are conclusive. She and her informant, R. M. Hogg, however, are entitled to credit for the first discovery of the marriage record, at Hanover Square, although he failed to notice that the principals made their marks.

(3)  Entry 245 of the year 1784. Copy made for me by Dr. A. F. Gegenheimer, Harrison Fellow in English, University of Pennsylvania.

(4)  Under Dr. Gegenheimer’s direction research was made of the London directories and all printed Church Registers in London, the index of the Gentlemen’s Magazine, etc., and no actor of that name was found at the time in question. Registrations of births, deaths and marriages did not begin until 1839 and were not compulsory until about 1864, so Somerset House was not helpful.

(5)  The information concerning Mrs. Arnold’s theatrical career is based on photographs of the playbills in the Gabrielle Enthoven Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 4:]

(6)  THEATRE. TO-MORROW EVENING Feb. 11th [evidently error for Feb. 12th] will be presented the COMIC OPERA, called LOVE IN A VILLAGE. (The part of Rosetta, by Mrs. Arnold, from the Theatre Royal Covent-Garden, being her first appearance in America.) To which will be added, an ENTERTAINMENT called, THE DEUCE IS IN HIM.” [Boston] Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser, February 11, 1796.

(7)  For complete list of her rôles during the season, see G. O. Seilhamer, History of the American Theatre, III, 307-311.

(8)  Seilhamer, III, 313.

(9)  Eastern Herald and Gazette of Maine, Monday, November 28, 1796. See issue of November 24th, announcing opening on the 25th — usually given by biographers as the 21st. See especially James Moreland’s “The Theatre in Portland in the Eighteenth Century,” New England Quarterly, XI (June, 1938), 331-342.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 6:]

(10)  Eastern Herald and Gazette of Maine, December 1, 1796.

(11)  See Epilogue, p. 7, and she is recorded in the part at Newport, April 12, 1797. Seilhamer, III, 374-375.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 7:]

(12)  Eastern Herald and Gazette of Maine, Thursday, December 22, 1796.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 8:]

(13)  Seilhamer, III, 374-375.

(14)  J. N. Ireland in his Records of the New York Stage gives Elizabeth Arnold as Agnes in The Mountaineer on August 20th. G. C. D. Odell, however, in his Annals of the New York Stage gives Mrs. Williamson in the part on August 21st. Where there is a conflict Odell is always to be preferred, especially in this case, since August 20, 1797, fell on Sunday!

(15)  For complete list of parts played by her in this and succeeding seasons, with supporting references, see Appendix.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 9:]

(16)  City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, April 30, 1798.

(17)  See Eola Willis, The Charleston Stage in the XVIII Century, pp. 384-412.

(18)  The City Gazette and Daily Advertiser of November 23, 1797, states that George Barnwell “was given with all that ability which so highly distinguishes the performance of Edgar.” The same journal praises his acting as young Norval on November 18th, and speaks generally of him with respect.

(19)  City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, October 1, 1798.

(20)  Claypoole’s Daily American Advertiser, March 18, 1799.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 10:]

(21)  True American Commercial Advertiser, March 14 and 28, 1800.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 11:]

(22)  Georgetown Centinel of Liberty, August 22, 1800.

(23)  American Daily Advertiser, September 23, 1801.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 12:]

(24)  Marriage records of Baltimore show no listing of a marriage between March 1st and August 15th.

(25)  Columbian Advertiser of Alexandria, August 11, 1802. The files are not complete, nor are the casts always given.

(26)  Norfolk Herald, March 8, 1803.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 13:]

(27)  Herald, March 12, 1803.

(28)  Herald, April 14, 1803. See also editorial comment dwelling on the same disorders, which seemed to be caused quite as much by some of the actors as by the audience.

(29)  Sir Edmund T. Bewley, The Family of Poe or Poë (Dublin, 1906). Bewley searched the baptismal records of the Presbyterian Church at Croghan, near Dring, and found no baptismal records after February, 1748/9, of any member of the Poe family. Bewley’s dates may be accepted so far as the Irish ancestors of David Poe, Sr., are concerned. I do not follow, however, his attempt to provide them with an ancestry dating from 1665 on the basis of the similarity of “Poe” to “Powell.” Curiously enough, Dr. Leonard Poe — d. 1630 — a distinguished English physician, whose first name might seem to be the origin of William Henry Leonard Poe’s third name, seems to have no connection with the Poes of Dring.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 14:]

(30)  An advertisement in the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser for June 3, 1776, announces:

“The Subscriber takes this method of acquainting the public, that he has removed from where he formerly lived, near the upper end of Market St. to a house next door to where Doctor John Boyd lately lived, a few doors below Calvert street, in Market St. aforesaid, where he continues as usual to make and repair all sorts of Spinning Wheels, Clock Reels, Weavers’ Spools, &c. He would also express his Gratitude to those Gentlemen and Ladies who have hitherto favoured him with their custom, presuming he has, and still means to give general Satisfaction, being well provided with every material necessary for carrying on said business. — Gentlemen at a distance, giving a few days Notice, by Letter or otherwise, may be supplied with a Quantity, on reasonable Terms, by the Public’s very humble Servant

“David Poe”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 14, running to the bottom of page 15:]

(31)  Goddard prefaces this list by the following paragraph, which includes the manuscript notes made by him in the printed copy now in the possession of the American Antiquarian Society.

“[Who these Gent” are is not yet known, but] The under-mentioned Personages, it is said, have been the most renowned for their Prowess and Legionary Manoeuvres in [and out of] WHIG-CLUB; but having, alas! become wretchedly brainsick, (not by too much Learning) Humanity bespeaks suitable Apartments for them in an AMERICAN BEDLAM, proposed to be instituted for the Reception of mad Whigs, mad Heroes, and mad Politicians!

The manuscript now in the John Carter Brown Library, of the second and unpublished part of the Prowess of the Whig Club, contains a small [page 15:] broadside, in which Goddard specifically mentions David Poe as one of those who had assaulted him.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 15:]

(32)  J. T. Scharf, The Chronicles of Baltimore, (Baltimore, 1874), pp. 159, 172-175.

(33)  Maryland Journal, September 28, 1779, p. 3, col. 2.

(34)  Papers Relating Chiefly to the Maryland Line During the Revolution, ed. by Thomas Balch (Philadelphia, 1857), p. 171.

(35)  In the E. J. Wendell Collection, Harvard College Library.

(36)  Scharf, p. 186.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 18:]

(37)  Scharf, p. 415.

(38)  “Died yesterday, in his 74th year, David Poe, a native of Ireland, and for the last 40 years a resident of Baltimore.” Federal Gazette, October 18, 1816.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 19:]

(39)  Records of First Presbyterian Church, Baltimore.

(40)  City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, of Charleston, December 1 and 5, 1803. Miss Eola Willis in The Bookman, LXIV (November, 1926), 289, quotes a lengthy criticism from the Courier concerning the advent of “a young gentleman” in the part of Belmour in Jane Shore, and assumes that it was David Poe. Since the only performance of Jane Shore during that season was on November 19, 1803, it must have been some other young gentleman.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 20:]

(41)  Charleston Courier, December 10, 1803.

(42)  Courier, February 4, 1804.

(43)  Courier, February 13, 1804.

(44)  Courier, February 29, 1804.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 21:]

(45)  Virginia Gazette, July 18, 1804.

(46)  Virginia Gazette, August 28, 1805.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 22:]

(47)  National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser, September 25, 1805.

(48)  Virginia Gazette of Richmond, November 6, 1805.

(49)  Virginia Gazette, February 22, 1806.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 24:]

(50)  Virginia Gazette of Richmond, April 5 and 9, 1806.

(51)  Woodberry (Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1909, I, 9) states, “Within a month [of Hopkins’ death on October 26, 1805], Mr. Poe, with some pecuniary aid from a friend, married Mrs. Hopkins, and early in February they were already playing in Richmond.” Mr. Hervey Allen (Israfel, the Life of Poe, 1926, I, 10), after paraphrasing this sentence, adds, “Whether the young widow’s haste was due to the natural ardor of her temperament or the failure of the deceased to engage her affections, must remain in those realms of speculation sacred to the theologians.” Mr. Allen states also in his Appendix (II, 853) that the marriage took place “in January, 1806.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 25:]

(52)  Vol. III, p. 205.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 26:]

(53)  Vol. I, p. 329.

(54)  Vol. III, p. 278.

(55)  The Centinel, January 14, 1807.

(56)  T. H. Ellis Ms., Valentine Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 27:]

(57)  The Emerald, II (February 21, 1807), 90.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 28:]

(58)  Boston Gazette and Columbian Centinel, April 16 and 18, 1808.

(59)  New Series, I (April 16, 1808), 311.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 29:]

(60)  Boston Gazette, March 21, 1808. The system of “benefits” provided that the players received the profits for the performance after all the expenses had been paid. The managers evidently required those actors for whom the benefit was arranged to make up any losses, if the receipts did not equal the expenses.

(61)  Virginia Gazette, of Richmond, July 8, 1808.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 30:]

(62)  New confirmation of this date has been found in the Valentine Museum of Richmond in the handwriting of Charles Ellis, son of Charles Ellis, the partner of John Allan:

“Ed. V. Valentine, Esq

Dear Sir   I enclose you a copy of the extract I made from the family bible of the late John Allan, deed — which you will find on the opposite sheet —

Very truly yours  
CHARLES ELLIS

Enclosure:

“William Henry Poe was born on the 30th day of January, 1807 —

Edgar Allan Poe was born on the 19th day of January, 1809 —

Jno Allan married 5th Oct. 1830 L. G. Allan, (Mrs. Allan was Miss Louisa G. Patterson of Elizabethtown, New Jersey — C. E.)

John Allan,   son of above, born 23d Aug 1831

Wm. G. Allan,       5th Oct. 1832

Patterson Allan,       26th Jan. 1834

Jno Allan Sr died 27th March, 1834 —”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 30, running to the bottom of page 31:]

(63)  Boston Gazette, February 9, 1809. There is in the Library of the University of Virginia a program of the Boston Theatre, dated February 8, 1809, which states after giving the principal play, False Alarms; or, My Cousin, in which the Poes do not appear, “To which will be added, for the 9th time, a new Grand Serious Pantomime called Brazen Mask; or, Alberto and Rosabella. . . . Lechinsky [sic] Mr. Poe,” and among the peasants, Mrs. Poe. As the Gazette would hardly have announced her return on February 10th in the issue of February 9th if she had really appeared on the 8th, the playbill is probably in error. She would hardly have chosen to “reappear” in such a minor rôle. The names of the peasants were probably [page 31:] kept standing by the printer. In the printed play (1809) the character Poe played is given as “Leczinsky (the Baron’s officer).” It is a very minor part. The “peasants” had singing parts.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 31:]

(64)  See Appendix III for a summary of the arguments for the two locations.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 33:]

(65)  George Poe, Jr., was born in Baltimore, November 12, 1778. He was supercargo (1799-1806) to South America, and a banker in Pittsburgh and Mobile. He was well off and as the letter indicates was accustomed to requests for aid from his family. He married Anna Maria Potts in December, 1808. She was the daughter of James Potts of the well-known Pennsylvania family. Her mother, Anna Stocker, was also a member of a prominent family which gave its name to Stockerton, a town in Lehigh County, northeast of Easton, Pennsylvania.

(66)  William Clemm, Jr., was born in Baltimore, May 1, 1779. He married first in 1804, Harriet Poe, by whom he had four children. His third child, Josephine Emily, married her cousin, Neilson Poe. Harriet Poe Clemm was buried, according to St. Paul’s Church records, January 8, 1815. William Clemm married on July 12, 1817, Maria Poe, and was therefore the father of Virginia Clemm.

(67)  Permission for the publication of this letter has been given through the courtesy of Dr. Joseph Wheeler, Librarian of the Enoch Pratt Library of Baltimore. The complete letter is published in Edgar Allan Poe Letters and Documents in the Enoch Pratt Library, edited by A. H. Quinn and R. H. Hart (New York, 1941).

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 34:]

(68)  Joseph T. Buckingham, Personal Memoirs and Recollections of Editorial Life (Boston, 1852), I, 57.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 35:]

(69)  Polyanthos, IV (March, 1807), 282.

(70)  Mrs. Shew to Ingram, copying this letter of Mrs. Poe from Mrs. Shew’s Journal. Autograph Ms., Ingram Collection, University of Virginia.

(71)  Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, II, 324.

(72)  Introduction to London, 1818, ed. of play.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 36:]

(73)  Ramblers’ Magazine, I, 27.

(74)  See Ramblers’ Magazine, I, 28-29.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 37:]

(75)  Ramblers’ Magazine, I, 92-98.

(76)  Ramblers’ Magazine, I, 100.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 38:]

(77)  Ramblers’ Magazine, I, 88. The meaning is not clear. Broc means “pitcher” and pinte may mean “pint.” The reference is probably to David Poe’s drinking.

(78)  See Mirror of Taste and Dramatic Censor, Philadelphia, I (1810), 505.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 39:]

(79)  Vol. I, p. 185.

(80)  Ramblers’ Magazine, I, 211-212.

(81)  New York Post and Commercial Advertiser, July 3, 1810.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 40:]

(82)  Searches of the burial records of every Protestant church then existing in New York City, made by the courtesy of the present rectors, produced no evidence of David Poe’s death. No records of deaths were kept by the City of New York in 1810.

(83)  This has been given on very uncertain evidence as December 20, 1810, at Norfolk, Virginia, at the Forrest home. This date originated, apparently, with J. H. Whitty on the authority of “the Mackenzie Bible.” I have made a vain search in Richmond for any trace of this Bible, or any documentary evidence concerning the birth date. Rosalie was baptized in Richmond, September 3, 1812 (see p. 58), but the Church records for that date have been lost or destroyed. There are no vital statistics in Norfolk for the period, and the newspapers did not carry birth notices. The Forrest house on 16 Brewer Street, Norfolk, was owned in 1810 by Andrew Martin, who, from court records, apparently maintained a boarding house on the premises.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 42:]

(84)  Original autograph Ms., J. K. Lilly Jr. Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 44:]

(85)  A press clipping without date or place stating that he died October 19, 1810, at Norfolk, is on the authority of Dr. T. O. Mabbott, printed on paper that proves it to be of much later origin. A careful search of wills, inventories, and audits of estates for the Borough and County of Norfolk and of the City and County records at Richmond discloses no record of the death of David Poe. The Charleston Bureau of Vital Statistics has no death records prior to 1821. See Appendix for discussion of Mrs. Weiss’s account of the Poes in Norfolk.

(86)  Mordecai MSS., Duke University Library. See J. B. Hubbell, “Poe’s Mother,” William and Mary Quarterly, XXI (July, 1941), pp. 250-54.

(87)  Virginia Patriot, November 29, 1811.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 45:]

(88)  Since the detailed statement, prepared for this biography by Mrs. Ralph T. Catterall, Honorary Curator of Prints and Manuscripts of the Valentine Museum, on the basis of Mrs. Huntley’s notes, is printed in Appendix V, I have given here only a brief résumé.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 46:]

(89)  T. H. Ellis Ms., Valentine Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 47:]

(90)  Particular account of the Dreadful Fire at Richmond, Virginia, December 26, 1811 (Baltimore, 1812), p. 30, see J. B. Hubbell, “Poe’s Mother.”

(91)  See Appendix for list, as complete as possible. If casts had always been printed in the notices, the total would be still larger.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 49:]

(92)  J. A. Harrison, Virginia Ed., XVII, 242, quoting the Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, July 10, 1846.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 50:]

(93)  Broadway Journal, II (July 19, 1845), 29.

(94)  Letter of Beverley Tucker to T. W. White, November 29, 1835.

(95)  The Dramatist or Memoirs of the Stage (Birmingham, 1809), p. 60.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


Notes:

Dr. Quinn’s detailed account of the acting careers of David and Elizabeth Poe may reflect his personal and professional interest in the early American theatre. He taught English and Drama at the University of Pennsylvania 1895-1945. Among his other books are: History of the American Drama from the Beginning to the Civil War (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1923; reprinted several times and revised in 1944, published by F. S. Crofts & Co.) and History of the American Drama from the Civil War to the Present Day (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1927; reprinted several times and revised in 1946, published by F. S. Crofts & Co.). Both of these books are still considered standard texts on the subject.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

[S:1 - EAP:ACB, 1941] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: A Critical Biography (A. H. Quinn) (Chapter 01)