Text: Arthur Hobson Quinn, “Chapter 18,” Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (1941), pp. 572-614


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[page 572:]

CHAPTER XVIII
 
“To Helen” and “For Annie”

Poe was recalled from Richmond by a message from Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman, a widow living in Providence, Rhode Island, whose relation to him is one of the most difficult for a biographer to make clear. Mrs. Whitman knew him in his loftiest and in his weakest moods. They became engaged to be married and their love story was broken in a manner painful to both. Poe’s distress, according to his own story, led him even to attempt suicide. Yet although Mrs.Whitman broke the engagement, she defended him at all times, and she wrote in 1860 the first book in his defence — which still remains not only a convincing personal tribute but also one of the most sympathetic and brilliant interpretations of his poetry and fiction. So contradictory and at times so garbled have been many of the accounts of this relation, that it is necessary to give the details in full and to document each one.(1)

Sarah Helen Power Whitman was forty-five years old in 1848, an attractive woman, living with her mother and eccentric sister in Providence. Her poetry was not bad by any means. She had been publishing verse in the magazines since 1829, and was deeply impressed by the spiritualistic interest then rampant. She was an unworldly being, dressing with a distinctly individual taste and likely to drop her veils and scarfs in any spot, if the conversation grew tense. She was a favorite with both men and women, had a wide acquaintance here and later abroad, but there is a note of protecting fondness in those who have described her.(2)

Poe saw Mrs. Whitman first when he visited Providence with Mrs. Osgood in the summer of 1845, but he made no attempt at that time to meet her. She was standing on her front step as they passed, and [page 573:] was not in her garden, which, incidentally, could hardly be recognized in Poe’s later romantic description. Mrs. Whitman made the first move by sending, at Miss Lynch’s request, a valentine to be read on February 14, 1848, at a party in New York. Mrs. Whitman wrote verses addressed to Poe, who was not present, entitled “The Raven,”(3) closing:

“Not a bird that roams the forest

Shall our lofty eyrie share.”

Through Miss Lynch and Mrs. Osgood the verses reached Poe, and were published in Willis’s Home Journal, March 18, 1848. Poe sent her anonymously on March 2nd(4) a leaf torn out of his printed poems, containing his earlier “To Helen.” Early in June(5) Poe sent her his new poem, “To Helen,” and he offered it for publication to Bayard Taylor for the Union Magazine of New York on June 15, 1848. It was published in the November issue simply as “To ——.”

The second “To Helen” is hardly in the same class of poetry as the masterpiece of 1831. It is in blank verse, and while it is not insincere, the tone is that of the idealized, overstressed emotion in which this courtship was carried on. The heartfelt adoration of Poe’s early tribute to Mrs. Stanard, the more homely gratitude of the verses to Mrs. Shew, the pulsing passion of the later “For Annie,” the profound tenderness of “Annabel Lee,” — they are not here. The beauty of the scenic background engages him:

“The mossy banks and the meandering paths,

The happy flowers and the repining trees,

Were seen no more: the very roses’ odors

Died in the arms of the adoring airs.”

The images are not fused into creation, they remain purely descriptive. The eyes of his beloved play a part somewhat like the conceits of the Caroline poets in England: the poet is playing with the idea of the eyes remaining after the rest of the vision has gone. It is dangerous business. Some years later “Lewis Carroll” was to satirize this type of [page 574:] romance through the grin of the Cheshire Cat, which stayed after the cat had gone. But in the forties it was the accepted tone, and unless the wooing of Mrs. Whitman is understood as a literary adventure, in which two poets entered heartily and with their eyes wide open, it becomes an episode of folly or worse. And this certainly it was not. But it was as a poet rather than as a lover that Poe wrote of her eyes — incidentally they were her best feature —

“They fill my soul with Beauty (which is Hope).”

Mrs. Whitman did not reply at once, possibly because of Mrs. Osgood’s warning: “I see by the Home Journal that your beautiful invocation has reached ‘The Raven’ in his eyrie and I suppose ere this he has swooped upon your little dove-cot in Providence. May Providence protect you if he has! — He is in truth, ‘A glorious devil, with large heart and brain.’ ”(6)

Poe meanwhile was making inquiries. On June 14th he wrote to Miss Anna Blackwell, whom he had known in Fordham: “Do you know Mrs. Whitman? I feel deep interest in her poetry and character. I have never seen her — but once - - - Her poetry is, beyond question, poetry, instinct with genius. Can you not tell me something about her — anything — everything you know — and keep my secret — that is to say let no one know that I have asked you to do so?”(7)

This letter found its way to Mrs. Whitman, through the feminine circle in Providence, and inspired Mrs. Whitman’s communication to Poe at Richmond. This of course consisted of verses, concluding

“And gazing on night’s starry cope,

I dwell with ‘Beauty which is Hope.’ ”

She evidently liked the poem “To Helen” since she quoted from it. But this last stanza was omitted when she published the verses “A Night in August,” in her volume of poems in 1853.

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Edgar Allan Poe in 1848 [thumbnail]

[Illustration facing page 574]
 
Edgar Allan Poe in 1848

Late in August(8) or very early in September Poe returned to Fordham, [page 575:] and resumed the campaign by writing under an assumed name. The script, while disguised, might have been recognized by her, as she had probably seen it, in New York.

New York — Sept. 5. 48

Dear Madam — Being engaged in making a collection of autographs of the most distinguished American authors I am, of course, anxious to procure your own, and if you would so far honor me as to reply, however briefly, to this note, I would take it as a very especial favor.

Resy,  
Yr. Mo. Ob. St.

EDWARD S. T. GREY(9)

Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman

Mrs. Whitman did not reply, but Poe, armed with a letter of introduction from Miss M. J. McIntosh, dated September 15th, went to Providence and called on Mrs. Whitman on September 21st. His wooing was ardent, even though at least one interview was in a cemetery. But his own description of the first meeting is vivid with unreality:

And now, in the most simple words at my command, let me paint to you the impression made upon me by your personal presence. — As you entered the room, pale, timid, hesitating, and evidently oppressed at heart; as your eyes rested appealingly, for one brief moment, upon mine, I felt, for the first time in my life, and tremblingly acknowledged, the existence of spiritual influences altogether out of the reach of the reason. I saw that you were Helenmy Helen — the Helen of a thousand dreams — she whose visionary lips had so often lingered upon my own in the divine trance of passion — she whom the great Giver of all Good had prëordained to be mine — mine only — if not now, alas! then at least hereafter and forever, in the Heavens. — You spoke falteringly and seemed scarcely conscious of what you said. I heard no words — only the soft voice, more familiar to me than my own, and more melodious than the songs of the angels. Your hand rested within mine, and my whole soul shook with a tremulous ecstasy. And then but for very shame — but for the fear of grieving or [page 576:] oppressing you — I would have fallen at your feet in as pure — in as real a worship as was ever offered to Idol or to God. And when, afterwards, on those two successive evenings of all-Heavenly delight, you passed to and fro about the room — now sitting by my side, now far away, now standing with your hand resting on the back of my chair, while the preternatural thrill of your touch vibrated even through the senseless wood into my heart — while you moved thus restlessly about the room — as if a deep Sorrow or a more profound Joy haunted your bosom — my brain reeled beneath the intoxicating spell of your presence, and it was with no merely human senses that I either saw or heard you. It was my soul only that distinguished you there. I grew faint with the luxury of your voice and blind with the voluptuous lustre of your eyes.(10)

Poe asked her to marry him, but she sent him home, promising to write. Her message came on September 30th, and on the next day, he poured out his feelings to her in the long letter from which I have just quoted. In it he told her that “It is my diviner nature — my spiritual being — that burns and pants to commingle with your own.” He acknowledged that she had not yet said she loved him. Unfortunately we do not have Mrs. Whitman’s letter, but from the quotations which Poe incorporates in his own, she said to him: “Had I youth and health and beauty I would live for you and die with you. Now were I to allow myself to love you, I could only enjoy a bright brief hour of rapture and die.”(11) Poe also hints here at a possible physical reason for her reluctance to remarry. Her health was apparently frail. Poe continues:

How selfish — How despicably selfish seems now all — all that I have written. Have I not, indeed, been demanding at your hands love which might endanger your life?(12) . . . But oh, darling! if I seem selfish, yet believe that I truly, truly love you, and that it is the most spiritual of love that I speak, even if I speak it from the depths of the most passionate of hearts. Think — oh, think for me, Helen, and for yourself! Is there no hope? — is there none? May not this terrible [disease?](13) be conquered? Frequently it has [page 577:] been overcome. And more frequently are we deceived in respect to its actual existence. Long-continued nervous disorder — especially when exasperated by ether or [word cut out] — will give rise to all the symptoms of heart — [sic] — di[sease an(14)]d so deceive the most skillful physicians — as even in [my o(15)]wn case they were deceived. But admit that this fearful evil has indeed assailed you. Do you not all the more really need the devotionate care which only one who loves you as I do, could or would bestow? On my bosom could I not still the throbbings of your own? Do not mistake me, Helen! Look, with your searching — your seraphic eyes, into the soul of my soul, and see if you can discover there one taint of an ignoble nature! At your feet — if you so willed it — I would cast from me, forever, all merely human desire, and clothe myself in the glory of a pure, calm, and unexacting affection. I would comfort you — soothe you — tranquillize you. My love — my faith — should instil into your bosom a praeternatural calm. You would rest from care — from all worldly agitation. You would get better, and finally well. And if not, Helen, — if not — if you died — then at least would I clasp your dear hand in death, and willingly — oh, joyfully — joyfully — joyfully — go down with you into the night of the Grave.

Write soon — soon — oh, soon! — But not much. Do not weary or agitate yourself for my sake. Say to me those coveted words which would turn earth into Heaven. If Hope is forbidden, I will not murmur if you comfort me with Love. — The papers of which you [speak(16)] I will procure and forward immediately. They will cost me nothing, dear Helen, an[d](17) I therefore re-enclose you what you so thoughtfully s[ent(18)]. Think that, in doing so, my lips are pressed ferv[ently(19)] and lingeringly upon your own. And now, in closing this long, long letter, let me speak last of that which lies nearest my heart — of that precious gift which I would not exchange for the surest hope of Paradise. It seems to me too sacred that I should even whisper to you, the dear giver, what it [page 578:] is. My soul, this night, shall come to you in dreams and speak to you those fervid thanks which my pen is all powerless to utter.

Edgar.

P. S. Tuesday Morning — I beg you to believe, dear Helen, that I replied to your letter immediately upon its receipt; but a most unusual storm, up to this moment, precludes all access to the City.(20)

Mrs. Whitman must have replied about the tenth of October, and evidently told Poe of some of the accusations that had been made against him, among others that he had “no principle — no moral sense.” Poe denied these naturally, but in his efforts to prove that he had high, even quixotic — standards of honor, he descended pretty far in the other direction.

I swear to you that my soul is incapable of dishonor — that, with the exception of occasional follies and excesses which I bitterly lament, but to which I have been driven by intolerable sorrow, and which are hourly committed by others without attracting any notice whatever — I can call to mind no act of my life which would bring a blush to my cheek — or to yours. If I have erred at all, in this regard, it has been on the side of what the world would call a Quixotic sense of the honorable — of the chivalrous. The indulgence of this sense has been the true voluptuousness of my life. It was for this species of luxury that, in early youth, I deliberately threw away from me a large fortune, rather than endure a trivial wrong. It was for this, at a later period, I did violence to my own heart, and married, for another’s happiness, where I knew that no possibility of my own existed.(21)

Knowing how ardently, in his letter of August 29, 1835, he begged Virginia to marry him,(22) this statement to Mrs. Whitman is a deliberate falsehood, and is no more to be believed than his statement concerning a fortune which John Allan had no intention of giving him. But even if Poe’s reference to Virginia had not been false, what excuse can there be for a man who sacrifices the memory of a love as devoted as Virginia’s on the altar of a new idol?

Let us hope Poe was more sincere in his rejoicing to learn that [page 579:] Mrs. Whitman was not wealthy but was wholly dependent upon her mother. He closes the letter of October 18th, acknowledging that he had been in Providence on “the Monday you mention,” which must have been on October 9th or 16th, but had not gone to see her, fearing another farewell. On his way to Lowell to lecture later in October, he saw her and urged her to marry him. She declined to promise him, but agreed to write him at Lowell, in care of the Richmonds. She delayed writing, not wishing to hurt him, but being equally unwilling to agree to a marriage. The letter was indecisive when it came to Poe. The lecture had to be postponed on account of the excitement concerning the presidential election of 1848,(23) and he started for Providence, probably on November 2nd. According to Poe’s letter to Mrs. Richmond on November 16th, he remembered nothing distinctly until he arrived in Providence.(24) After a bad night, he purchased two ounces of laudanum, took the cars back to Boston, swallowed half the laudanum, which was fortunately rejected, and he was ill in consequence.

Mrs. Whitman had expected him on Saturday, November 4th but he apologized in a brief note on November 7th.

Dearest Helen — I have no engagements, but am very ill — so much so that I must go home, if possible — but if you say “stay,” I will try & do so. If you cannot see me — write me one word to say that you do love me and that, under all circumstances, you will be mine. Remember that these coveted words you have never yet spoken — and, nevertheless, I have not reproached you. It was not in my power to be here on Saturday as I proposed, or I would undoubtedly have kept my promise. If you can see me, even for a few moments do so — but if not write — or send some message which will comfort me.(25)

Mrs. Whitman noted on the letter — “Written the day on which Mr. Poe returned from Lowell. I sent him word I would meet him in half an hour at the Atheneum.”

After a painful interview, in which Mrs. Whitman showed him some letters which had been sent to her, warning her against him, [page 580:] Poe wrote her a letter of renunciation, which has apparently disappeared. He came to her home the next day, however, in an excited state, begging her to save him from a terrible doom. A physician was called and diagnosed the case as one of cerebral congestion. Poe was taken care of by William J. Pabodie, a common friend. Believing, she said, that Poe’s salvation depended upon her, Mrs. Whitman, on November 13th, consented to an engagement, conditional upon his abstaining from drink.(26) On November 14th Poe wrote on board one of the Sound steamers, running between Providence and New York, that he had kept his promise to her.(27)

By an ironic chance Mrs. Whitman wrote him on November 17th, the day after Poe sent off his ardent epistle to “Annie,” and Poe assured her on the 22nd that the “terrible excitement” had subsided and that no one but her could reassure him.(28) On November 24th, he wrote Mrs. Whitman a long letter, beginning:

Friday the 24th

In a little more than a fortnight, dearest Helen, I shall, once again, clasp you to my heart: — until then I forbear to agitate you by speaking of my wishes — of my hopes, and especially of my fears. You say that all depends on my own firmness. If this be so, all is safe — for the terrible agony which I have so lately endured — an agony known only to my God and to myself — seems to have passed my soul through fire and purified it from all that is weak. Henceforward I am strong: — this those who love me shall see — as well as those who have so relentlessly endeavored to ruin me. It needed only some such trials as I have just undergone, to make me what I was born to be, by making me conscious of my own strength. — But all does not depend, dear Helen, upon my firmness — all depends upon the sincerity of your love.

You allude to your having been “tortured by reports which have all since been explained to your entire satisfaction.” On this point my mind is fully made up. I will rest neither by night nor by day until I bring those who have slandered me into the light of day — until I expose them, and their motives, to the public eye. I have the means and I will ruthlessly employ them. On one point let [page 581:] me caution you, dear Helen. No sooner will Mrs. E.[llet] hear of my proposals to yourself, than she will set in operation every conceivable chicanery to frustrate me; — and, if you are not prepared for her arts, she will infallibly succeed — for her whole study, throughout life, has been the gratification of her malignity by such means as any other human being would die rather than adopt. You will be sure to receive anonymous letters so skillfully contrived as to deceive the most sagacious. You will be called on, possibly, by persons whom you never heard of, but whom she has instigated to call & villify me — without even their being aware of the influence she has exercised. I do not know any one with a more acute intellect about such matters than Mrs. Osgood — yet even she was for a long time completely blinded by the arts of this fiend & simply because her generous heart could not conceive how any woman could stoop to machinations at which the most degraded of the fiends would shudder.(29)

Poe was still hearing echoes of his visits to Mrs. Whitman’s home. — “I confess, too, that the insults of your mother and sister still rankle in my heart.” On November 26th he proposes to Mrs. Whitman “to establish in America the sole unquestionable aristocracy — that of intellect.” And he does not forget to ask her for copies of his critical articles which he needs for his new lecture [The Poetic Principle], which he is writing. He also tells her that “Mrs. O’s(30) ‘Ida Grey’ is in ‘Graham’ for August — 45,” which implies that Mrs. Osgood’s career was still of interest to him. Poe also noted in this letter that the management of the lecture course wished him to appear on December 6th and that he could not be in Providence before December 13th. It has been assumed that Poe was in Providence again on December 15th, because on that day two legal documents were drawn, one a demand on the administrator of the Marsh estate, by Mrs. Anna [Marsh] Power to transfer the property to her, the second an agreement signed by Sarah Helen Whitman and her sister Susan Anna Power that the transfer should be made. To the first of these Poe’s name is also signed, although legally it was not necessary. But following these is a brief note — [page 582:]

Whereas a Marriage is intended between the above named Sarah H. Whitman and the Subscriber Edgar A. Poe, I hereby approve of and assent to the transfer of the property in the manner proposed in the papers of which the preceding are Copies.

Providence, December 22, 1848

In presence of
William J. Pabodie

EDGAR A. POE.(31)

Since Poe was asked to sign or approve copies, it looks as though they had been sent to him, and that his final action took place after his arrival in Providence. Moreover, his next letter to Mrs. Whitman is dated,

“New York City —
Saturday, 2. P. M.  

My own dearest Helen — Your letters — to my mother & myself — have just been received, & I hasten to reply, in season for this afternoons mail. I cannot be in Providence until Wednesday [Dec. 20] morning; and, as I must try and get some sleep after I arrive, it is more than probable that I shall not see you until about 2 P. M. Keep up heart — for all will go well. My mother sends her dearest love and says she will return good for evil and treat you much better than your mother has treated me. Remember me to Mr. P. & believe me

Ever your own

EDGAR.(32)

Mrs. Whitman wrote on this letter “Dec. 17, 1848” and this date has been accepted by Poe’s biographers. But December 17th did not fall on Saturday in 1848, but on Sunday, and the date therefore refers to the receipt by her. Poe therefore wrote on December 16th, acknowledging letters from Mrs. Whitman, which would not have been written had he been in Providence on December 15th. The issue is not simply a matter of the error of one day; it proves almost with certainty that he was keeping away from Providence until the date of his lecture on the 20th. The reference to Mrs. Power’s treatment of him indicates clearly that he is referring to the legal documents which he has probably received, enclosed in Mrs. Whitman’s letter. What emotions they raised in him we can only conjecture. Poe was never [page 583:] grasping in money matters but the transaction showed not only a lack of confidence in him, but it also changed Mrs. Whitman’s status from that of an heiress in her own right, to a daughter whose mother could cut her off from any share in the family estate. It is quite possible to attribute to Edgar Poe a selfish reluctance to proceed with a marriage to a woman without property. But it is just as possible to attribute his hesitancy to an unwillingness to ask Mrs. Whitman to share his poverty with himself — and Mrs. Clemm. On the afternoon of December 19th, the day he left New York for Providence, he called on Mrs. Mary Hewitt, and the following conversation occurred:

“Mr. Poe, are you going to Providence to be married?” “No, Madam,” replied the poet, “I am not going to Providence to be married, I am going to deliver a lecture on Poetry.” Then after a pause, and with a look of great reserve, he added, “That marriage may never take place.”(33)

Poe lectured in Providence on December 20th on the “Poetic Principle” before an audience of about two thousand people.(34) He stayed at the Earl House, and fell in with a group of young men who persuaded him to drink. On one evening, he came to Mrs. Whitman’s home partially intoxicated but was very quiet and made no such disturbance as Griswold afterwards described. This may have been on December 22nd, the day on which he signed his consent to the transfer of the property. Pabodie gives no definite dates but Mrs. Whitman is more explicit. Among the many letters she wrote afterwards concerning these events, one to Mrs. Hewitt on September 25 or 27, 1850, is to be preferred on account of its avoidance of dramatization: [page 584:]

Our engagement was from the first a conditional one. My mother was inflexibly opposed to our union, and being in a pecuniary point of view entirely dependent upon her, I could not, if I would, have acted without her concurrence. Many painful scenes occurred during his several visits to Providence in consequence of this opposition. The story of the “Police” is without a shadow of foundation. Neither did Mr. Poe, after obtaining my mother’s reluctant consent to our immediate marriage, commit any of those excesses which have been charged to him. This consent was not obtained until the evening of Dec. 22. On the 23 of December Mr. Poe wrote a note to the Rev. Dr. Crocker requesting him to publish our intention of marriage on the ensuing Sunday [Dec. 24] — he also wrote a letter to Mrs. Clemm informing her that we should be married on Monday and should arrive at Fordham on Tuesday in the second train of cars. We rode out together in the morning & passed the greater part of the day in making preparations for my sudden change of abode. In the afternoon, while we were together at one of the circulating libraries of the city, a communication was handed me cautioning me against this imprudent marriage & informing me of many things in Mr. Poe’s recent career with which I was previously unacquainted. I was at the same time informed that he had already violated the solemn promises that he had made to me & to my friends on the preceding evening. I knew that, even had I been disposed to overlook these things myself, they must within a few hours come to the knowledge of my friends & would lead to a recurrence of the scenes to which I had been already subjected, and I felt utterly helpless of being able to exercise any permanent influence over his life. On our return home I announced to him what I had heard &, in his presence, countermanded the order, which he had previously given, for the delivery of the note he had addressed to Dr. Crocker. He earnestly endeavoured to persuade me that I had been misinformed, especially in relation to his having that very morning called for wine at the bar of the hotel where he boarded. The effect of this infringement of his promise was in no degree perceptible, but the authority on which I had received this & other statements concerning him, was not to be questioned. I listened to his explanations & his remonstrances without one word of reproach and with that marble stillness of despair so mercifully accorded to us when the heart has been wrought to its highest capacity of suffering. Nor was I, at that bitter moment, unsolaced by a sense of relief at being freed from the intolerable burden of responsibility which he had sought to impose upon me, by persuading me that his fate, for good or evil, [page 585:] depended upon me. I had now learned that my influence was unavailing. My mother on being informed of what had transpired had a brief interview with Mr. Poe which resulted in his determination to return immediately to New York. In her presence & in that of his friend, Mr. Pabodie, I bade him farewell, with feelings of profound commiseration for his fate — of intense sorrow thus to part from one whose sweet & gracious nature had endeared him to me beyond expression, and whose rare & peculiar intellect had given a new charm to my life. While he was endeavouring to win from me an assurance that our parting should not be a final one, my mother saved me from a response by insisting upon the immediate termination of the interview. Mr. Poe then started up and left the house with an expression of bitter resentment at what he termed, the “intolerable insults” of my family. I never saw him more — (35)

The original letter to Dr. Crocker reads:

Will Dr. Crocker have the kindness to publish the banns of matrimony between Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman and myself, on Sunday and on Monday. When we have decided on the day of the marriage we will inform you, and will thank you to perform the ceremony.

Respy Yr. Ob. St

EDGAR A. POE.(36)

It is undated, and if Mrs. Whitman’s dates are correct, December 23rd being Saturday, the marriage could hardly have taken place on Monday, which would have been Christmas day. Moreover the note clearly states that the date is not yet decided upon.

Mr. Pabodie makes clear why the banns were not published:

He [Poe] was still urgently anxious that the marriage should take place before he left the City. That very morning, he wrote a note to Dr. Crocker, requesting him to publish the intended marriage, at the earliest opportunity, and intrusted this note to me, with the request that I should deliver it in person. The note is still in my possession. I delayed complying with his request, in the hope that the union might yet be prevented. Many of Mrs. W’s friends deprecated this hasty and imprudent marriage; and it was their urgent solicitations, and certain representations, which were that afternoon made by them to Mrs. W. and her family, [page 586:] that led to the postponement of the marriage, and eventually to a dissolution of the engagement. In the evening of that day Mr. Poe left for New York. These are the facts, which I am ready to make oath to, if necessary. You will perceive, therefore, that I did not write inadvisedly, in the statements published in the Tribune.(37)

Poe, however, was in earnest up to the last. His note to Mrs. Clemm, undated, reads: “My own dear Mother — We shall be married on Monday, and will be at Fordham on Tuesday in the first train.”

Rumors, of course, began to spread at once. To kill two birds with one stone, Poe wrote to Mrs. Richmond, inclosing a letter to Mrs. Whitman, which “Annie” was to mail. “Annie” kept a copy of it which she sent to Ingram later. Some of this letter, dated January 25, 1849, is of importance; and since so many others have spoken, Poe is entitled to his day in court: It begins — “Dear Madam, In commencing this letter need I say to you after what has passed between us — no amount of procrastination on your part or on the part of your friends shall induce me to speak ill of you, even in my own defence?” Then after requesting equal forbearance on her part, he continues, “My object in now writing you is to place before you an extract from a letter recently addressed to myself.” Poe then quoted part of a letter to him from Mrs. Richmond, which repeated some of the amiable scandals then circulating, but which I need not give since Pabodie’s statement has already denied them. Poe and this gentleman were not entirely in accord, however, for Poe continues to Mrs. Whitman: “Mr. Pabodie who at my request, forbore to speak to the minister about publishing the first banns on the day I left. . . . — Your simple disavowal is all that I wish — You will of course write me immediately on receipt of this — only in the event of my not hearing from you within a few days will I proceed to take more definite steps. . . . I blame no one but your Mother. Mr. Pabodie will tell you the words which passed between us, while from the effects of those terrible stimulants you lay prostrate without even the power to bid me farewell.” Here is evidence that Mrs. Whitman’s dramatic picture of her throwing a handkerchief soaked in ether over her face has some foundation, but it disposes at the same time of the romantic conversation between them, which has brightened so many biographies! Poe then continues “So far I have assigned on[?] reason for my declining to fulfill our engagement. I had none but the suspicions and grossly insulting parsimony [page 587:] of the arrangements into which you suffered yourself to be forced by your Mother. . . . It has been my intention to say simply, that our marriage was postponed on account of your ill health — Have you really said or done anything which can preclude our placing the rupture on such footing? If not, I shall persist in the statement and thus, this unhappy matter will die quietly away.”(38)

On the contrary, it went sounding on for many years. Mrs. Richmond notes on the letter that, “Mrs. Whitman’s reply exonerated him completely, yet I think they [Mr. Richmond’s relatives in Providence] were inclined to discredit it and believe him still a very unprincipled man.” How to reconcile Mrs. Richmond’s note concerning “Mrs. Whitman’s reply” with the latter’s statement — “His letter I did not dare to answer” must be left to those capable of doing so.(39)

This episode was almost over. The evidence proves conclusively that Poe did not break the engagement or create a scene in order that it should be broken, as was for many years believed on Griswold’s authority. That Mrs. Whitman was relieved and yet regretted the breach is also clear. All one has to do is to look at the grim countenance of Mrs. Power(40) to see that Poe had little chance.

Neither Poe nor Mrs. Whitman was heartbroken, however. He was solacing himself with thoughts of “Annie,” and “Helen” was recovering from the great sentimental adventure of her life. Another letter to Mrs. Hewitt is illuminating:

“I could not have written to you so freely of these things my dear Mrs. Hewitt if the interest I feel in Mr. Poe had partaken of the character of what is usually termed love. It is something at once more intimate & more remote — a strange inexplicable enchantment that I can neither analyze nor comprehend.”(41)

That was the real trouble!

While Poe was in the throes of the episode with Helen Whitman, he had turned for sympathy to Mrs. Richmond. Poe describes her in “Landor’s Cottage.” [page 588:]

As no bell was discernible, I rapped with my stick against the door, which stood half open. Instantly a figure advanced to the threshold — that of a young woman about twenty-eight years of age — slender, or rather slight, and somewhat above the medium height. As she approached, with a certain modest decision of step altogether indescribable, I said to myself, “Surely here I have found the perfection of natural, in contradistinction from artificial grace.” The second impression which she made on me, but by far the more vivid of the two, was that of enthusiasm. So intense an expression of romance, perhaps I should call it, or of unworldliness, as that which gleamed from her deep-set eyes, had never so sunk into my heart of hearts before. I know not how it is, but this peculiar expression of the eye, wreathing itself occasionally into the lips, is the most powerful, if not absolutely the sole spell, which rivets my interest in woman. “Romance,” provided my readers fully comprehend what I would here imply by the word — “romance” and “womanliness” seem to me convertible terms; and, after all, what man truly loves in woman, is, simply, her womanhood. The eyes of Annie (I heard some one from the interior call her “Annie, darling!”) were “spiritual gray”; her hair, a light chestnut: this is all I had time to observe of her.(42)

Poe stayed with the Richmonds at their home in “Westford” during his visits to Lowell to lecture, and the family, including Sarah Heywood, Annie’s younger sister, and Carrie or Caddy, a child apparently, became his warm friends. Sarah has left a charming picture of his visits.

“I have ‘in my mind’s eye,’ ” she remarks, “a figure somewhat below medium height, perhaps, but so perfectly proportioned, and crowned with such a noble head, so regally carried, that, to my girlish apprehension, he gave the impression of commanding stature. Those clear sad eyes seemed to look from an eminence, rather than from the ordinary level of humanity, while his conversational tone was so low and deep, that one could easily fancy it borne to the ear from some distant height. I saw him first in Lowell, and there heard him give a Lecture on Poetry, illustrated by readings and recitations. His manner of rendering some of the selections constituted my only remembrance of the evening: it fascinated me, although he gave no attempt at dramatic effect. Everything was rendered with pure intonation and perfect enunciation, marked attention being paid to the rhythm: he almost sang the more musical versifications.

. . . . . . . . . . . . [page 589:]

“My memory photographs him again,” the lady continues, “sitting before an open wood fire, in the early autumn evening, gazing intently into the glowing coal, holding the hand of a dear friend — ‘Annie’ — while for a long time no one spoke, and the only sound was the ticking of the tall old clock in the corner of the room. (I wish I could tell you what he was thinking about during that rapt silence!)”(43)

Poe was evidently a privileged character, and his attachment to Mrs. Richmond was quite understood at the beginning of their friendship. Poe’s relations with Mrs. Richmond need quite as much explanation as his episode with Mrs. Whitman, but for a different reason. It was not a literary adventure; it was a heartfelt love, in the sense in which they meant the word “love.” Both used it, from our point of view, somewhat indefinitely. Mrs. Richmond, for example, spoke of “loving” Nat Willis, and Poe commented on her “loving” Willis, without jealousy. It must constantly be remembered that it was an age of overemphasis.

Poe’s letters to Annie are too voluminous for them all to be quoted, but they must not be censored, as Ingram printed them, in the interest of later Victorian standards. In Mrs. Whitman’s case, I felt that the episode should be treated as a unit, but Poe made such a confidant of Annie, pouring out his hopes and his successes and failures that his letters to her become a valuable source for other events than the love story, and it is better to weave them into the pattern of his later life.

Poe’s first important letter to Mrs. Richmond was written while he was recovering from his disastrous visit to Providence on November 7, 1848. The letter is one which must be printed complete or not at all:(44)

Ah, Annie Annie! my Annie! What cruel thoughts about your Eddy, must have been torturing your heart during the last terrible fortnight, in which you have heard nothing from me — not even one little word to say that I still lived & loved you. But [page 590:] Annie, I know that you felt too deeply the nature of my love for you, to doubt that, even for one moment, & this thought has comforted me in my bitter sorrow — I could bear that you should imagine every other evil except that one — that my soul had been untrue to yours. Why am I not with you now darling that I might sit by your side, press your dear hand in mine, & look deep down into the clear Heaven of your eyes — so that the words which I now can only write, might sink into your heart, and make you comprehend what it is that I would say — And yet Annie, all that I wish to say — all that my soul pines to express at this instant, is included in the one word, love — To be with you now — so that I might whisper in your ear the divine emotions which agitate me — I would willingly — oh joyfully abandon this world with all my hopes of another: — but you believe this Annie — you do believe it, & will always believe it — So long as I think that you know I love you, as no man ever loved woman — so long as I think you comprehend in some measure, the fervor with which I adore you, so long, no worldly trouble can ever render me absolutely wretched. But oh, my darling, my Annie, my own sweet sister Annie, my pure beautiful angel — wife of my soul — to be mine hereafter & forever in the Heavens, how shall I explain to you the bitter, bitter anguish which has tortured me since I left you? You saw, you felt the agony of grief with which I bade you farewell — you remember my expressions of gloom — of a dreadful horrible foreboding of Ill — Indeed — indeed it seemed to me that death approached me even then, & that I was involved in the shadow which went before him — As I clasped you to my heart, I said to myself — “it is for the last time, until we meet in Heaven” — I remember nothing distinctly, from that moment until I found myself in Providence. I went to bed & wept through a long, long, hideous night of despair — When the day broke, I arose & endeavored to quiet my mind by a rapid walk in the cold, keen air — but all would not do — the demon tormented me still. Finally I procured two ounces of laud[a]num & without returning, to my Hotel, took the cars back to Boston. When I arrived, I wrote you a letter, in which I opened my whole heart to you — to you — my Annie, whom I so madly, so distractedly love — I told you how my struggles were more than I could bear — how my soul revolted from saying the words which were to be said — and that not even for your dear sake, could I bring myself to say them. I then reminded you of that holy promise, which was the last I exacted [page 591:] from you in parting — the promise that, under all circumstances, you would come to me on my bed of death — I implored you to come then — mentioning the place where I should be found in Boston. Having written this letter, I swallowed about half the laud[a]num, & hurried to the Post-office — intending not to take the rest until I saw you — for, I did not doubt for one moment, that my own Annie would keep her sacred promise. But I had not calculated on the strength of the laudanum, for, before I reached the Post office my reason was entirely gone, & the letter was never put in. Let me pass over, my darling sister, the awful horrors which succeeded. A friend was at hand, who aided & (if it can be called easing) eased me, but it is only within the last three days, that I have been able to remember what occurred in that dreary interval. It appears that, after the laudanum was rejected from the stomach, I became calm, & to a casual observer, sane — so that I was suffered to go back to Providence — Here I saw her, & spoke, for your sake, the words which you urged me to speak — Ah Annie Annie! my Annie! — is your heart so strong? — is there no hope? — is there none? — I feel that I must die if I persist, & yet, how can I now retract with honor? — Ah beloved, think — think for me & for yourself — do I not love you Annie? do you not love me? Is not this all? Beyond this blissful thought, what other consideration can there be in this dreary world! It is not much that I ask, sweet sister Annie — my mother & myself would take a small cottage at Westford — oh so small — so very humble — I should be far away from the tumult of the world — from the ambition which I loathe — I would labor day & night, and with industry, I could accomplish so much — Annie! it would be a Paradise beyond my wildest hopes — I could see some of your beloved family every day, & you, often — oh very often — I would hear from you continually — regularly & our dear mother would be with us & love us both — ah darling — do not these pictures touch your inmost heart? Think — oh think for me — before the words — the vows are spoken, which put yet another terrible bar, between us — before the time goes by, beyond which there must be no thinking — I call upon you in the name of God — in the name of the holy love I bear you, to be sincere with me — Can you, my Annie, bear to think I am another’s? It would give me supreme — infinite bliss to hear you say that you could not bear it — I am at home now with my dear muddie who is endeavoring to comfort me — but the sole words which soothe me, are those in which she speaks of “my Annie” — She tells me that she [page 592:] has written you, begging you to come on to Fordham — Ah beloved Annie, IS IT NOT POSSIBLE? I am so ill — so terribly, hopelessly ILL in body and mind, that I feel I CANNOT live, unless I can feel your sweet, gentle, loving hand pressed upon my forehead — Oh my pure, virtuous, generous, beautiful, beautiful sister Annie! — is it not POSSIBLE for you to come — if only for one little week? — until I subdue this fearful agitation, which if continued, will either destroy my life or, drive me hopelessly mad — Farewell — here & hereafter

forever your own

EDDY

This letter is only one of the evidences of the duality of Poe’s nature. That he loved “Annie” as a man loves a woman, while he loved Helen Whitman as a poet loves a poetess, is clear. That he had not yet recovered from the Boston episode is also clear. Poe’s attempt at suicide may be described correctly but in view of his statement that he remembered nothing of the trip from Boston to Providence, this is doubtful. If it is correct, it provides a definite proof that Poe was not in the habit of taking opium, for the drug would not have had such an effect upon an addict. Finally, his naïve suggestion of the cottage at Westford where, chaperoned by Mrs. Clemm, he could have seen constantly not only Annie, but also all her family, gives an unworldly flavor to the epistle.

It is not necessary, however, to delve deeply into psycho-analysis to explain this agony of indecision on Poe’s part. Many a perfectly normal man has approached his engagement or his wedding with one woman, whom he loves well enough to marry, clouded by his knowledge that if another woman were free, he would be trying to win her instead. Poe’s reluctance to “say the word” is quite understandable. Usually, the man keeps quiet about it, or tells a friend in those moments of confidence that precede important events in his life. Poe poured out his emotions to the woman whom, next to Virginia, he really loved. There is something curiously alike in the letter to Mrs. Clemm and Virginia of August 29, 1835, and this letter to Annie.

Mrs. Richmond did not reply to this epistle at once, for Poe wrote her sister, Sarah, on November 23rd, to know why, and assured her “If I did not love your sister with the purest and most unexacting love, I would not dare confide in you.”(45) [page 593:]

On December 28th(46) Poe wrote Annie concerning the success of his lecture at Providence, and during this fall and winter he did not let his sentimental excursions occupy all his attention. A letter to Mrs. Richmond, on January 25, 1849, in which he inclosed the missive to Mrs. Whitman,(47) reveals not only his sentiments for Annie, but also his literary engagements. After the customary assurances of devotion, Poe continued:

I deeply regret that Mr. R. should think ill of me. If you can, disabuse him — and at all times act for me as you think best. I put my honor, as I would my life and soul, implicitly in your hands; but I would rather not confide my purposes, in that one regard, to any one but your dear sister.

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

I hope Mr. C. is well. Remember me to him, and ask him if he has seen my “Rationale of Verse,” in the last October and November numbers of the Southern Literary Messenger. . . . I am so busy, now, and feel so full of energy. Engagements to write are pouring in upon me every day. I had two proposals within the last week from Boston. I sent yesterday an article to the Am. Review, about “Critics and Criticism.” Not long ago I sent one to the Metropolitan called “Landor’s Cottage:” it has something about “Annie” in it, and will appear, I suppose, in the March number. To the S. L. Messenger I have sent fifty pages of “Marginalia,” five pages to appear each month of the current year. I have also made permanent engagements with every magazine in America (except Peterson’s National) including a Cincinnati magazine, called The Gentlemen’s. So you see that I have only to keep up my spirits to get out of all my pecuniary troubles. The [page 594:] least price I get is $5 per “Graham page,” and I can easily average 1½ per day — that is $7 ½. As soon as “returns” come in I shall be out of difficulty.

But of one thing rest assured, “Annie” — from this day forth I shun the pestilential society of literary women. They are a heartless, unnatural, venomous, dishonorable set, with no guiding principle but inordinate self-esteem. Mrs. Osgood is the only exception I know. . . . Kiss little Caddy for me, and remember me to Mr. R. and to all.(48)

“Landor’s Cottage” came back to him, however, and the article on “Critics and Criticism” was not published until after his death. But Poe was working hard and steadily and his mind was clearing. A letter dated vaguely “Thursday — 8th” but evidently written in February, again proves how Poe was recovering his energies, and what rates he secured for his work:

[I have been so busy, dear “Annie,” even since I returned from Providence — six weeks ago. I have not suffered a day to pass without writing from a page to three pages. Yesterday, I wrote five, and the day before a poem considerably longer than the “Raven.” I call it “The Bells.”] How I wish my Annie could see it! Her opinion is so dear to me on such topics. On all it is everything to me — but on poetry in especial. And Sarah, too. — I told her, when we were at Westford, that I hardly ever knew any one with a keener discrimination in regard to what is really poetical. The 5 prose pages I finished yesterday are called — what do you think? — I am sure you will never guess — Hop-Frog! Only think of your Eddy writing a story with such a name as “Hop-Frog”! You would never guess the subject (which is a terrible one) from the title, I am sure. It will be published in a weekly paper, of Boston, called “The Flag of Our Union” — not a very respectable journal, perhaps, in a literary point of view, but one that pays as high prices as most of the Magazines. The proprietor wrote to me, offering about 5$ a “Graham page” and as I was anxious to get out of my pecuniary difficulties, I accepted the offer. He gives $5 for a Sonnet, also. Mrs. Osgood, Park Benjamin, & Mrs. Sigourney are engaged. I think “The Bells” will appear in the “Am. Review.” — I have got no answer yet from Mrs. W. who, I understand, has left Providence (for the first time in her life) and gone [page 595:] to New Bedford. My opinion is, that her mother (who is an old devil) has intercepted the [letter and will never give it to her].

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

YOUR OWN EDDY.(49)

“Hop-Frog” is not only one of his most powerful stories, but it also illustrates in a striking manner, Poe’s method of writing fiction. “Hop-Frog” is a story of the revenge of a court jester, a dwarf and cripple, who as a cruel joke is forced to drink wine by the king, although the jester hates it. Perhaps Poe’s own reaction to those who urged him, against his will, to drink the one glass that took away his self-control, was the model for the behavior of the dwarf. But the king is not satisfied with this jest. A girl, Trippetta, a friend of the jester, begs the king to cease plying the dwarf with wine, and the monarch brutally throws the wine in her face. Hop-Frog plans his revenge. He is commanded to provide entertainment for the masquerade that evening. He suggests that the king and his seven councillors disguise themselves as ourang-outangs, and frighten the other guests. He dresses them in garments saturated with tar, covers them with flax, chains them together, and produces, to the king’s delight, consternation among the guests as he and his companions rush into the room. By a clever trick, Hop-Frog drags them up in the air, sets fire to their coats, and soon they hang, amid his jibes, a burnt and hideous mass.

The source of this story is usually given as Lord Berners’ translation of Froissart, but Froissart’s tale merely relates an incident at the court of Charles VI of France. At the suggestion of a Norman squire, King Charles and five others, including the squire, dress as satyrs, with pitch and flax covering their clothes. They are accidentally [page 596:] set on fire. The king not being chained to the rest, plunges into water and is saved.(50) But Poe must have seen an excerpt from this tale, printed in the Broadway Journal(51) and need not have read the original at all, for all the details he uses are in the Journal. What makes the story a great one, however, is the way Poe breathes into the jester the incarnate spirit of a revenge taken by the physically weak but mentally alert cripple for a wrong done to the woman he loved. There is no jester and no revenge in Froissart. But there is a tale which may have given Poe a suggestion for the character of the jester. Poe certainly knew the story of “Monos and Daimonos” by Bulwer. In the same number of the New Monthly Magazine(52) in which this appeared, there was a story, “Frogère and the Emperor Paul,”(53) which told of a trick played upon a jester by Emperor Paul of Russia, who apparently exiles the jester to Siberia, but really has him driven a long distance and returned to court. The jester is a party to the Emperor’s death. The story, incidentally, is signed “P.” Did Poe then combine these two incidents in “Hop-Frog”? The titles indicate it, but the point is that Poe contributed those elements which make the story important. The mere names become characters, the motive of revenge is not simply indicated, but is made the climax of the story. It is really a critical stupidity to speak of the “sources” at all; they are merely suggestions out of which a creative artist made something new.

Of the other stories of this period “Mellonta Tauta”(54) is a satirical narrative of a balloon journey in 2848, which has been thrown into the sea in a bottle just as the balloon collapses. Quite a large share of the bottle is filled with a modified form of the initial portions of Eureka. “Von Kempelen and his Discovery”(55) is one of those successful attempts of Poe to imitate a scientific report upon the supposed discovery of a method of turning lead into gold. In a letter to Duyckinck Poe suggested that the hoax would be believed “and that thus, acting as a sudden, although a very temporary, check to the gold-fever, it will create a stir to some purpose.”(56) “X-ing a Paragrab” is a satiric [page 597:] trifle. “Landor’s Cottage,” Poe’s last published story,(57) has already been discussed.

Poe was not to be left in his peaceful labors very long. Mrs. Locke, who felt herself aggrieved, stirred up her husband and both tried to break up the friendship between Poe and Annie. Poe’s next letter to Mrs. Richmond must be read as an antidote to the letter of November 16, 1848. He was in better command of his faculties.

Fordham, Feb. 19, Sunday.(58)

Dear, dearest Annie, My sweet Friend and Sister — I fear that in this letter, which I write with a heavy heart, you will find much to disappoint and grieve you — for I must abandon my proposed visit to Lowell, and God only knows when I shall see you, and clasp you by the hand. I have come to this determination to-day, after looking over some of your letters to me and my mother, written since I left you. You have not said it to me, but I have been enabled to glean from what you have said, that Mr. Richmond has permitted himself (perhaps without knowing it) to be influenced against me by the malignant misrepresentations of Mr. and Mrs Locke. Now, I frankly own to you, dear “Annie,” that I am proud, although I have never shown myself proud to you or yours, and never will. You know that I quarrelled with the Lockes solely on your account and Mr. R.’s. It was obviously my interest to keep in with them, and, moreover, they had rendered me some services which entitled them to my gratitude up to the time when I discovered they had been blazoning their favors to the world. Gratitude, then, as well as interest, would have led me not to offend them; and the insults offered to me individually by Mrs. Locke were not sufficient to make me break with them. It was only when I heard them declare that thru’ their patronage alone you were admitted into society, that your husband was every thing despicable — that it would ruin my mother even to enter your doors, it was only when such insults were offered to you, whom I so sincerely and most purely loved, and to Mr. Richmond, whom I had every reason to like and respect, that I arose and left their house and incurred the unrelenting vengeance of that worst of all fiends, “a woman scorned.” Now feeling all this, I cannot help thinking it unkind in Mr. Richmond, when I am absent and unable [page 598:] to defend myself, that he will persist in listening to what these people say to my discredit. I cannot help thinking it, moreover, the most unaccountable instance of weakness — of obtuseness — that ever I knew a man to be guilty of: women are more easily misled in such matters. In the name of God, what else had I to anticipate in return for the offence which I offered Mrs. Locke’s insane vanity and self-esteem, than that she would spend the rest of her days in ransacking the world for scandal against me (and the falser the better for her purpose), and in fabricating accusations where she could not find them ready made? I certainly anticipated no other line of conduct on her part; but, on the other hand, I certainly did not anticipate that any man in his senses would ever listen to accusations from so suspicious a source. That any man could be really influenced by them surpasses my belief and the fact is “Annie,” to come at once to the point, I cannot and do not believe it — The obvious prejudices of Mr. R. — cannot be on this ground. I much fear that he has mistaken the nature — the purity of that affection which I feel for you and have not scrupled to avow, an affection which first entered my heart, I believe, through a natural revulsion of feeling at discovering you, you the subject of the debased Mrs. L’s vile calumnies, to be not only purer than Mrs. L. but finer and nobler, at all points, than any woman I have ever known or could have imagined to exist upon the earth. God knows dear, dear Annie with what horror I would have shrunk from insulting a nature so divine as yours, with any impure or earthly tone. But since it is clear that Mr. R. cannot enter into my feelings on this topic & that he even suspects what is not, it only remains for me beloved Annie to consult your happiness which under all circumstances will be and must be mine. Not only must I not visit you at Lowell, but I must discontinue my letters and you yours. I cannot and will not have it on my conscience, that I have interfered with the domestic happiness of the only being in the whole world, whom I have loved at the same time with truth and with purity — I do not merely love you, “Annie” — I admire and respect you even more — and Heaven knows there is no particle of selfishness in my devotion — I ask nothing for myself, but your own happiness — with a charitable interpretation of those calumnies which — for your sake, I am now enduring from this vile woman — and which, for your dear, dear sake, I would most willingly endure if multiplied a hundredfold. The [page 599:] calumnies, indeed, “Annie,” do not materially wound me, except in depriving me of your society — for of your affection and respect I feel that they never can. As for any injury the falsehoods of these people can do me, make your mind easy about that. It is true that “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned,” but I have encountered such vengeance before, on far higher grounds — that is to say, for a far less holy purpose, than I feel the defence of your good name to be. I scorned Mrs. Ellet, simply because she revolted me, and to this day she has never ceased her anonymous persecutions. But in what have they resulted? She has not deprived me of one friend who ever knew me and once trusted me — nor has she lowered me one inch in the public opinion. When she ventured too far, I sued her at once (through her miserable tools), and recovered exemplary damages — as I will unquestionably do, forthwith, in the case of Mr. Locke, if ever he shall muster courage to utter a single actionable word. It is true I shrink with a nameless horror from connecting my name in the public prints, with such unmentionable nobodies and blackguards as Locke and his lady — but they may provoke me a little too far — You will now have seen, dear Annie, how and why it is that my Mother and myself cannot visit you as we proposed. In the first place my presence might injure you in your husband’s opinion — & in the second I could not feel at ease in his house, so long as he permits himself to be prejudiced against me, or so long as he associates with such persons as the Lockes. It had been my design to ask you and Mr. R — (or, perhaps, your parents) to board my Mother while I was absent at the South, and I intended to start after remaining with you a week, but my whole plans are now disarranged — I have taken the cottage at Fordham for another year — Time, dear, dear Annie, will show all things. Be of good heart, I shall never cease to think of you — and bear in mind the two solemn promises I have made you. The one I am now religiously keeping, and the other (so help me Heaven!) shall sooner or later be kept. — Always your dear friend and brother,

EDGAR.(59)

This is the letter of a self-respecting man and not of a philanderer. When Mrs. Richmond sent this letter to Ingram, she added a postscript: [page 600:]

In justice to my dear husband, I feel in duty bound to tell you, that he never suspected Mr. Poe of anything dishonorable, though the Locke’s did their best to poison him in every way & make him believe their atrocious falsehoods — on receipt of this letter, be wrote them (the Lockes) denouncing them in the strongest terms, & the acquaintance ended there & then. He also requested me to urge Mrs. Clemm & Mr. Poe to come on & said she was welcome to stay as long as she wished. If I ever see you I shall have many many things to tell you and to explain.

Yours always

A.L.R.

On March 23rd, Poe sent the verses “For Annie” to Mrs. Richmond, telling her that they had been sold to the Flag of Our Union, where they appeared on April 28, 1849. Poe also sent them to Willis asking him to copy them in the Home Journal, where they appeared on the same day. Poe always considered his poetry as his own property which he could reprint anywhere he chose. Indeed his note to Willis indicates that Willis is doing him a favor by giving the verses wider publicity. Naturally some of the editors who paid him for the first insertion did not agree with this position. But considering how little they gave him, he had a certain amount of justice on his side. “For Annie” is one of Poe’s finest poems, notwithstanding some curious lapses as in the second stanza. In “The Bells” he had imitated sounds by other sounds. In “For Annie” he did something much more difficult. He reproduced an emotional state by a short throbbing measure, in which the very incoherencies mirror perfectly the mood. The poet who wrote the lines

“And the fever called ‘Living’

Is conquered at last”

had not ceased to possess the secret of the magnificent phrase.

While Poe was conducting this correspondence with Mrs. Richmond, he was not neglecting his editorial and literary associates. On January 13, 1849, he wrote to John R. Thompson, Editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, proposing a new series of “Marginalia” for two dollars a page.(60) Thompson accepted his offer and published installments from April to September, 1849 but evidently without any immediate payment.

Among these last installments of “The Marginalia” the best are Poe’s discussion of songwriting; his defence of Bayard Taylor’s [page 601:] Rhymes of Travel; his analysis of the feelings of a soul far superior to the race, who would in consequence have enemies at all points; the definition of art as the “reproduction of what the senses perceive in nature through the veil of the soul.” While he used at times earlier material, there is no evidence of any falling off in his ability to write pungent paragraphs.

In the postscript of Poe’s letter to Thompson, he said, “I am about to bestir myself in the world of letters rather more busily than I have done for three or four years past.” Poe was evidently able to plan and to carry out a return to creative writing, if luck again had not been against him.

Poe’s letter to F. W. Thomas, of February 14, 1849, strikes a fairly cheerful note:

Fordham, February 14, 1849

My dear Friend Thomas, — Your letter, dated November 27, has reached me at a little village of the Empire State, after having taken, at its leisure, a very considerable tour among the Post Offices — occasioned, I presume, by your indorsement “to forward” wherever I might be — and the fact is, where I might not have been, for the last three months, is the legitimate question. At all events, now that I have your well-known MS. before me, it is most cordially welcome. Indeed, it seems an age since I heard from you, and a decade of ages since I shook you by the hand — although I hear of you now and then. Right glad am I to find you once more in a true position — in the field of Letters. Depend upon it, after all, Thomas, Literature is the most noble of professions. In fact, it is about the only one fit for a man. For my own part, there is no seducing me from the path. I shall be a littérateur at least all my life; nor would I abandon the hopes which still lead me on for all the gold in California. Talking of gold, and of the temptations at present held out to “poor-devil authors,” did it ever strike you that all which is really valuable to a man of letters — to a poet in especial — is absolutely unpurchasable? Love, fame, the dominion of intellect, the consciousness of power, the thrilling sense of beauty, the free air of Heaven, exercise of body & mind, with the physical and moral health which result — these and such as these are really all that a poet cares for: then answer me this — why should he go to California? Like Brutus, “I pause for a reply” — which like F. W. Thomas, I take it for granted you have no intention of giving me. I have [page 602:] read the Prospectus of the “Chronicle,” and like it much, especially the part where you talk about letting go the finger of that conceited booby, the East, which is by no means the East out of which came the wise men mentioned in Scripture. I wish you would come down on the Frogpondians. They are getting worse and worse, and pretend not to be aware that there are any literary people out of Boston. The worst and most disgusting part of the matter is that the Bostonians are really, as a race, far inferior in point of anything beyond mere talent to any other set upon the continent of North America. They are decidedly the most servile imitators of the English it is possible to conceive. I always get into a passion when I think about [it]. It would be the easiest thing in the world to use them up en masse. One really well-written satire would accomplish the business: but it must not be such a dish of skimmed-milk-and-water as Lowell’s. I suppose you have seen that affair — the “Fable for Critics,” I mean. Miss Fuller, that detestable old maid, told him once that he was “so wretched a poet as to be disgusting even to his best friends.” This set him off at a tangent and he has never been quite right since — so he took to writing satire against mankind in general, with Margaret Fuller and her protégé, Cornelius Matthews [sic] in particular. It is miserably weak upon the whole, but has one or two good but by no means original things, — oh, there is “nothing new under the sun,” and Solomon is right — for once. I sent a review of the “Fable” to the “S. L. Messenger,” a day or two ago, and I only hope Thompson will print it. Lowell is a ranting abolitionist, and deserves a good using up. It is a pity that he is a poet. I have not seen your paper yet, and hope you will mail me one — regularly if you can spare it. I will send you something whenever I get a chance. With your coeditor, Mr. — I am not acquainted personally, but he is well known to me by reputation. Eames, I think, was talking to me about him in Washington once, and spoke very highly of him in many respects, so upon the whole you are in luck. The rock on which most new enterprises in the paper way split is namby-pambyism. It never did do & never will. No yea-nay journal ever succeeded. But I know there is little danger of your making the “Chronicle” a yea-nay one. I have been quite out of the literary world for the last three years, and have said little or nothing, but, like the owl, I have “taken it out in thinking.” By and by I mean to come out of the bush, and then I have some old scores to settle. I fancy I see some of my friends already [page 603:] stepping up to the Captain’s office. The fact is, Thomas, living buried in the country makes a man savage — wolfish. I am just in the humor for a fight. You will be pleased to hear that I am in better health than I ever knew myself to be — full of energy, and bent upon success. You shall hear of me again shortly — and it is not improbable that I may soon pay you a visit in Louisville. If I can do anything for you in New York, let me know. Mrs. Clemm sends her best respects, and begs to be remembered to your mother’s family if they are with you. You would oblige me very especially if you could squeeze in what follows, editorially.(61) The lady [Mrs. Lewis] spoken of is a most particular friend of mine, and deserves all I have said of her. I will reciprocate the favor I ask, whenever you say the word, and show me how. Address me at N. York City as usual, and if you insert the following, please cut it out and enclose it in your letter.

Truly your friend,

EDGAR A. POE.(62)

Thompson did publish Poe’s review of Lowell’s Fable for Critics, in March, 1849. Poe criticized his former friend unmercifully for his omission of Southern writers, in which he was not entirely unjustified, since Poe was the only Southern author Lowell mentioned. Poe quoted the now famous lines beginning

“Here comes Poe with his Raven, like Barnaby Rudge —

Three-fifths of him genius, and two-fifths sheer fudge,”

which evidently rankled. Yet, in the same review, Poe defended Lowell and Longfellow from Margaret Fuller’s criticism and spoke of them as upon the whole, perhaps our best poets.”

Mrs. Richmond’s friendship for Poe, which was that of a self-respecting woman, who had no desire to break up her home, but who was truly devoted to Poe, did not come to an end. In a letter to her, undated, but belonging evidently to the spring of 1849, Poe told her of his illness and of his disappointments in his magazine contacts:

Annie, — you will see by this note that I am nearly, if not quite, well — so be no longer uneasy on my account. I was not so ill as my mother supposed, and she is so anxious about me that she [page 604:] takes alarm often without cause. It is not so much ill that I have been as depressed in spirits — I cannot express to you how terribly I have been suffering from gloom. I begin to have a secret terror lest I may never behold you again — Abandon all hope of seeing me soon. You know how cheerfully I wrote to you not long ago — about my prospects — hopes — how I anticipated being soon out of difficulty. Well! all seems to be frustrated — at least for the present. As usual, misfortunes never come single, and I have met one disappointment after another. The Columbian Magazine, in the first place, failed — then Post’s Union (taking with it my principal dependence); then the Whig Review was forced to stop paying for contributions — then the Democratic — then (on account of his oppression and insolence) I was obliged to quarrel, finally, with —; and then, to crown all, the “ —— ——” (from which I anticipated so much and with which I had made a regular engagement for $10 a week throughout the year) has written a circular to correspondents, pleading poverty and declining to receive any more articles. More than this, the S. L. Messenger, which owes me a good deal, cannot pay just yet, and, altogether, I am reduced to Sartain and Graham — both very precarious. No doubt, Annie, you attribute my “gloom” to these events — but you would be wrong. It is not in the power of any mere worldly considerations, such as these, to depress me. . . . No, my sadness is unaccountable, and this makes me the more sad. I am full of dark forebodings. Nothing cheers or comforts me. My life seems wasted — the future looks a dreary blank: but I will struggle on and “hope against hope” . . . What do you think? I have received a letter from Mrs. L[ocke], and such a letter! She says she is about to publish a detailed account of all that occurred between us, under guise of romance, with fictitious names, &c., — that she will make me appear noble, generous, &c. &c. — nothing bad — that she will “do justice to my motives,” &c. &c. She writes to know if “I have any suggestions to make.” If I do not answer it in a fortnight, the book will go to press as it is — and, more than all this — she is coming on immediately to see me at Fordham. I have not replied — shall I? and what? The “friend” who sent the lines to the “H. J.” was the friend who loves you best — was myself. The Flag so misprinted them that I was resolved to have a true copy. The Flag has two of my articles yet — “A Sonnet to my Mother,” and “Landor’s Cottage.”. . . I have written a ballad called “Annabel Lee,” which I [page 605:] will send you soon. Why do you not send the tale of which you spoke?”(63)

Poe does not mention in this letter to Annie his poem, “Eldorado,” which was published in The Flag of Our Union on April 21, 1849, so the letter was probably written after this date. “Eldorado” is mainly interesting because it reveals once more Poe’s inspiration for a poem through current American events. The gold rush was on, and though no mention is made of it, the symbolism is evident.

Far more important was Poe’s sonnet “To My Mother,” which appeared on July 7th in The Flag of Our Union.

“Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,

The angels, whispering to one another,

Can find, among their burning terms of love,

None so devotional as that of ‘Mother,’

Therefore by that dear name I long have called you —

You who are more than mother unto me,

And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you,

In setting my Virginia’s spirit free.

My mother — my own mother, who died early,

Was but the mother of myself; but you

Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,

And thus are dearer than the mother I knew

By that infinity with which my wife

Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.”

The sincerity of feeling, and the exquisite taste of this tribute to Mrs. Clemm and to Virginia reveal Poe in that exaltation of soul which arises when gratitude to the living is rekindled by the memory of the beloved dead. Overlooking the occasions on which Mrs. Clemm had proved to be a handicap, he paid this tribute to her warm affection and her devotion, which are beyond question. But his tribute to his mother-in-law is only a means through which he rises to the loftier tribute to Virginia. Any theory that Poe was failing in 1849 in mental power is confuted by this poem, which shows his complete mastery of the sonnet structure. Poe wrote in the English sonnet form, which really consists of three quatrains and a couplet, but he also was aware of the power of the Italian form, with its rise to a climax at the end of [page 606:] the octave. Combining these two forms, he brings to both the climax of the octave and the final climax of the Sonnet the expression of his undying love for his wife. How seldom in poetry the word “wife” has been happily used is known to every student of English verse. Even when a wife is celebrated, the word is avoided, probably on account of its domestic flavor. Only a great poet can overcome the danger that arises when the most intimate of all relations is exposed to the devastating test of print. But with his usual scorn of danger, Poe placed the word in the concluding couplet, the most conspicuous position in the poem.

Since Poe speaks of “Annabel Lee” in this same letter to Mrs. Richmond, it belongs in the spring of 1849. When it was published(64) after Poe’s death, several claimants arose for the honor of being his inspiration. But the best judgment agrees with Mrs. Osgood, who spoke in her letter to Griswold of “the exquisite pathos of the little poem lately written, of which she [Virginia] was the subject, and which is by far the most natural, simple, tender and touchingly beautiful of all his songs. I have heard it said that it was intended to illustrate a late love affair of the author; but they who believe this, have in their dullness, evidently misunderstood or missed the beautiful meaning latent in the most lovely of all its verses — where he says,

“A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

My beautiful Annabel Lee,

So that her high-born kinsmen came,

And bore her away from me.’ ”

­

Maria Clemm [thumbnail]

[Illustration facing page 606]
 
Maria Clemm

I have already(65) called attention to the carrying over from “Tamerlane” of the idea expressed in “Annabel Lee” by the lines,

“With a love that the wingéd seraphs in Heaven

Coveted her and me.”

Thus in Poe’s first and in his last poem he struck a similar note of youthful love, lasting beyond death. The utter simplicity and unity of the poem do not reveal at first the artistic use of those elements of variety of which Poe was still a master. He called the poem a ballad, which it is not, in the historical sense, but he was probably thinking of the alternation of four and three stress rising measures, characteristic [page 607:] of the ballad in its prime. Through a subtle variation of this arrangement Poe produced such marvellous effects as,

“The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,

Went envying her and me —

Yes! that was the reason (as all men know,

In this kingdom by the sea)

That the wind came out of the cloud, chilling

And killing my Annabel Lee.”

The word “chilling” in this stanza or in that quoted by Mrs. Osgood, while apparently due to a wrenching of accent, is really the one inevitable word in its place, and the meaning triumphs again over mere metrical rules.

Although “The Poetic Principle,” Poe’s last constructive criticism of importance, was not published until August 31, 1850 in the Home Journal,(66) it had been prepared as a lecture for the fall of 1848, and it probably underwent revision during 1849. It is on the whole the best of his critical articles on poetry. While he repeats frequently his earlier definitions, the essay is free from the artificial quality of the “Philosophy of Composition” and the incorrect theories of metre found in “The Rationale of Verse.” Poe’s style is almost beyond criticism, the cadences of the sentences rising and falling, not with a sing song monotony but with an effect varied and forcible. The essay is free also from those carping criticisms of individuals which disfigured so many of his reviews.

He sought in this essay to state the true function of poetry, and he found it, as before, in the “rhythmical creation of beauty.” But while he still insisted that “unless incidentally, it has no concern whatever either with Duty or with Truth,” he modified his earlier stand by saying:

“It by no means follows, however, that the incitements of Passion, or the precepts of Duty, or even the lessons of Truth, may not be introduced into a poem, and with advantage; for they may subserve, incidentally, in various way, the general purposes of the work: — but the true artist will always contrive to tone them down in proper subjection to that Beauty which is the atmosphere and the real essence of the poem.” [page 608:]

Poe’s eloquence in defence of his worship of the beautiful rose to a height he had not previously reached:

An immortal instinct, deep within the spirit of man, is thus, plainly, a sense of the Beautiful. This it is which administers to his delight in the manifold forms, and sounds, and odors, and sentiments amid which he exists. And just as the lily is repeated in the lake, or the eyes of Amaryllis in the mirror, so is the mere oral or written repetition of these forms, and sounds, and colors, and odors, and sentiments, a duplicate source of delight. But this mere repetition is not poetry. He who shall simply sing, with however glowing enthusiasm, or with however vivid a truth of description, of the sights, and sounds, and odors, and colors, and sentiments, which greet him in common with all mankind — he, I say, has yet failed to prove his divine title. There is still a something in the distance which he has been unable to attain. We have still a thirst unquenchable, to allay which he has not shown us the crystal springs. This thirst belongs to the immortality of Man. It is at once a consequence and an indication of his perennial existence. It is the desire of the moth for the star. It is no mere appreciation of the Beauty before us — but a wild effort to reach the Beauty above. Inspired by an ecstatic prescience of the glories beyond the grave, we struggle, by multiform combinations among the things and thoughts of Time, to attain a portion of that Loveliness whose very elements, perhaps, appertain to eternity alone. And thus when by Poetry — or when by Music, the most entrancing of the Poetic moods — we find ourselves melted into tears — we weep then — not as the Abbate Gravina supposes — through excess of pleasure, but through a certain, petulant, impatient sorrow at our inability to grasp now, wholly, here on earth, at once and for ever, those divine and rapturous joys, of which through the poem, or through the music, we attain to but brief and indeterminate glimpses.

His selection of poems to illustrate his poetic theories, while limited almost entirely to love poetry, began however with Longfellow’s “Proem” to “The Waif.” Poe praised it for its natural quality. The old bitterness against Longfellow had gone, and no bad taste cropped out to stultify his criticism. Indeed the very selections Poe made for recitation are conspicuous examples of his good taste.

It seemed as though Poe’s true self flashed out in the peroration of “The Poetic Principle”:

We shall reach, however, more immediately a distinct conception of what the true Poetry is, by mere reference to a few of the [page 609:] simple elements which induce in the Poet himself the true poetical effect. He recognizes the ambrosia which nourishes his soul, in the bright orbs that shine in Heaven — in the volutes of the flower — in the clustering of low shrubberies — in the waving of the grain-fields — in the slanting of tall, Eastern trees — in the blue distance of mountains — in the grouping of clouds — in the twinkling of half-hidden brooks — in the gleaming of silver rivers — in the repose of sequestered lakes — in the star-mirroring depths of lonely wells. He perceives it in the songs of birds — in the harp of Æolus — in the sighing of the night-wind — in the repining voice of the forest — in the surf that complains to the shore — in the fresh breath of the woods — in the scent of the violet — in the voluptuous perfume of the hyacinth — in the suggestive odor that comes to him, at eventide, from far-distant, undiscovered islands, over dim oceans, illimitable and unexplored. He owns it in all noble thoughts — in all unworldly motives — in all holy impulses — in all chivalrous, generous, and self-sacrificing deeds. He feels it in the beauty of woman — in the grace of her step — in the lustre of her eye — in the melody of her voice — in her soft laughter — in her sigh — in the harmony of the rustling of her robes. He deeply feels it in her winning endearments — in her burning enthusiasms — in her gentle charities — in her meek and devotional endurances — but above all — ah, far above all — he kneels to it — he worships it in the faith, in the purity, in the strength, in the altogether divine majesty — of her love.

He was describing here in words of compelling fitness the inspirations that had created his own standards. The charm of nature, the impulse of chivalry, the love of woman, these were the ideals he had cherished and which were never to desert him.

If the “Poetic Principle” represents Poe in the full command of his faculties, a letter to his friend Mrs. Shew written on June 19, 1849, reveals him in one of those moods of despair which alternated with his happier moments.

Can it be true, Louise, that you have the idea fixed in your mind to desert your unhappy and unfortunate friend and patient? You did not say so, I know, but for months I have known you were deserting me, not willingly, but none the less surely — my destiny —

“Disaster, following fast and following faster,”

& I have had premonitions of this for months. I repeat, my good spirit, my loyal heart! must this follow as a sequel to all the benefits [page 610:] and blessings you have so generously bestowed? Are you to vanish like all I love, or desire, from my darkened and “lost Soul”? — I have read over your letter again and again, and cannot make it possible with any degree of certainty, that you wrote it in your right mind. (I know you did not without tears of anguish and regret.) Is it possible your influence is lost to me? Such tender and true natures are ever loyal until death; but you are not dead, you are full of life and beauty! Louise, you came in with the parson in your floating white robe — “Good morning, Edgar.” There was a touch of conventional coldness in your hurried manner, and your attitude as you opened the kitchen-door to find Muddie, is my last remembrance of you. There was love, hope, and sorrow in your smile, instead of love, hope, & courage, as ever before. O Louise, how many sorrows are before you! Your ingenuous and sympathetic nature will be constantly wounded in contact with the hollow, heartless world; and for me, alas! unless some true and tender, and pure womanly love saves me, I shall hardly last a year longer alive! A few short months will tell how far my strength — (physical and moral) will carry me in life here. How can I believe in Providence when you look coldly upon me? Was it not you who renewed my hopes and faith in God? — and in humanity? Louise, I heard your voice as you passed out of my sight — leaving me with the parson, “the man of God, the servant of the Most High.” He stood smiling and bowing at the mad man, Poe. But that I had invited him to my house, I would have rushed out into God’s light and freedom! But I still listened to your voice. I heard you say with a sob, “Dear Muddie.” I heard you greet my Catarina, but it was only as a memory. . . nothing escaped my ear, and I was convinced it was not your generous self that was repeating words so foreign to your nature — to your tender heart! I heard you sob out your sense of duty to my mother, and I heard her reply “Yes, Loui. . . yes!” It was the mother of Alma, that child with the Madonna eyes. She is good and pure and passably loving but she is of her father’s type. She has not your nature. Why sacrifice your angelic prerogative for a commonplace nature? Why turn your soul from its true work for the desolate, to the thankless and miserly world? Why I was not a priest is a mystery, for I feel I am now a prophet and I did then, and towered in mind and body over my invited guest in spite of the duties of hospitality and regard for your feelings, Louise, when he said grace and you said a low “Amen.” I felt my heart [page 611:] stop, and I was sure I was then to die before your eyes. Louise, it is well — it is fortunate — you looked up with a tear in your dear eyes, and raised the window, and talked of the guava you had brought for my sore throat. Your instincts are better than a strong man’s reason for me — I trust they may be for yourself. Louise, I feel I shall not prevail — a shadow has already fallen upon your soul, and is reflected in your eyes. It is too late — you are floating away with the cruel tide. I am a coward to write this to you, but it is not a common trial — it is a fearful one to me. Such rare souls as yours so beautify this earth! so relieve it of all that is repulsive and sordid, so brighten its toils and cares, it is hard to lose sight of them even for a short time. Again I say I am a coward to wound your loyal unselfish and womanly heart but you must know and be assured of my regret and my sorrow if aught I have ever written has hurt you. My heart never wronged you. I place you in my esteem — in all solemnity — beside the friend of my boyhood — the mother of my schoolfellow, of whom I told you, and as I have repeated in the poem, “The Beloved Physician,” as the truest, tenderest of this world’s most womanly souls, and an angel to my forlorn and darkened nature. I will not say “lost soul” again, for your sake. I will try to overcome my grief for the sake of your unselfish care of me in the past, and in life or death, I am ever yours gratefully and devotedly,

EDGAR A. POE.(67)

June 1849

Poe continued through 1849 the comparatively mild literary flirtation begun in 1848 with Mrs. Sarah Anna Lewis, who wrote under the pen name of “Estelle Anna Lewis,” or “Stella.” She had been of service to Mrs. Clemm, and Poe paid the price! He had written for her one of his feeblest poems, “An Enigma,”(68) and for a consideration he edited her poems and wrote favorable reviews of them. In May, 1849, he tried to interest George P. Putnam in a new edition of Mrs. [page 612:] Lewis’s Child of the Sea.(69) There is something especially artificial in Poe’s friendship with “Stella.” She was evidently a vain woman, whose husband, Sylvanus D. Lewis, was able and willing to pay for her vanities. Later she took care of Mrs. Clemm.

Poe did his best for Mrs. Lewis, as this letter proves.

New York, June 28-49

Dear Griswold, — Since I have more critically examined your “Female Poets” it occurs to me that you have not quite done justice to our common friend, Mrs. Lewis; and if you could oblige me so far as to substitute, for your no doubt hurried notice, a somewhat longer one prepared by myself (subject, of course, to your emendations) I would reciprocate the favor when, where, and as you please. If you could agree to this, give me a hint to that effect, and the MS. is ready. I will leave it sealed with Mrs. L. who is unaware of my design — for I would rather she should consider herself as indebted to you for the favor, at all points. By calling on Mrs. L., and asking for a package to your address, you can at any moment get it. I would not, of course, put you to any expense in this matter: — all cost shall be promptly defrayed.

Truly yours,

EDGAR A. POE.(70)

That Poe thought of Griswold as his friend is easily seen in his desire to have the anthologist take the credit for the substitution.(71)

Poe was concerned during the spring of 1849 with another attempt at the publication of a magazine. He had kindled some interest in E. H. N. Patterson, who lived at Oquawka, or Yellow Banks, a town in Illinois on the Mississippi River. Poe wrote to Patterson in April, 1849, replying to a letter of December 18, 1848, and outlined once more his plans for a five dollar journal, hopeful as ever of a circulation of 20,000. Patterson wished to be the publisher in his own town, but Poe, naturally being dubious of Oquawka as a magazine metropolis, insisted on either New York or St. Louis. It is evident from Poe’s [page 613:] letters to John R. Thompson that he was becoming convinced that the section in which he could best hope to succeed was the South. He asked Patterson in May for fifty dollars to take a trip through the South and West in the interest of the proposed magazine. The letters between Poe and Patterson are detailed, but since the enterprise came to nothing, they are now of interest mainly because they tell us of Poe’s movements at this time. He went to Boston and Lowell on May 23rd, to spend a week. It was the last time he saw Mrs. Richmond, and on June 16th he wrote his final letter to her:

Fordham, — June 16.

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

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

Have you seen the “Moral for Authors,” a new satire by J. E. [page 614:] Tuel? — who, in the name of Heaven, is J. E. Tuel? The book is miserably stupid. He has a long parody of the “Raven” — in fact, nearly the whole thing seems to be aimed at me. If you have not seen it and wish to see it, I will send it. . . . No news of Mrs. L[ocke] yet. If she comes here I shall refuse to see her. Remember me to your parents, Mr. R[ichmond], &c. — And now Heaven for ever bless you —

EDDIE.

I enclose, also, an autograph of the Mr. Willis you are so much in love with. Tell Bardwell I will send him what I promised very soon. . . . My mother sends you her dearest — most devoted love.(72)

Poe left Fordham by way of Brooklyn where he and Mrs. Clemm spent the night with Mr. and Mrs. Lewis. “Stella’s” statement that as he parted from them all on June 30th, he asked her to write his life, may be doubted. But Mrs. Clemm’s memory of his parting words to her on the steamboat ring more true.

“ ‘God bless you, my own darling Mother,’ ” he said; “ ‘do not fear for Eddy! See how good I will be while I am away from you, and [?] will come back to love and comfort you.’ ”(73)

She was never again to stand between him and weakness or temptation, or to place upon his shoulders the obligations which he had to satisfy at the expense of his critical integrity.


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 572:]

(1)  I am fortunate in being provided with photostats of the extensive collection of Poe-Whitman material, including Poe’s letters to her, through the courtesy of J. K. Lilly, Jr.

(2)  See especially the Autobiography of Elizabeth Oakes Smith, ed. by M. A. Wyman (Lewiston, 1924), pp. 100-102.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 573:]

(3)  For the poem as she sent it, see Poe’s Helen, by Caroline Ticknor (New York, 1916), pp. 45-46. It is much changed in the edition of Mrs. Whitman’s Hours of Life and Other Poems (Providence, 1853), pp. 66-69.

(4)  The date is from the postmark on the letter, now in the collection of J. K. Lilly, Jr.

(5)  Original Autograph Ms. letter of Friday [Nov.?] 24th. Poe to Mrs. Whitman, J. K. Lilly, Jr. Collection. Poe is incorrect in some of the dates in these letters, but Mrs. Whitman leaves this one uncorrected.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 574:]

(6)  Caroline Ticknor, Poe’s Helen (New York, 1916), p. 48.

(7)  Original Autograph Ms., J. K. Lilly, Jr. Collection.

(8)  Poe says in his letter of October 18th that he received her poem on September 10th, but Mrs. Whitman notes on the margin of the original letter, “It was earlier,” and his letter of September 5th is good evidence that he was then at Fordham. Poe was often confused about his dates. It is best to accept his statements only when Mrs. Whitman leaves them undisturbed. She was not impeccable either.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 575:]

(9)  The original autograph Ms., J. K. Lilly, Jr. Collection, is dated, including postmark, September 5th. Yet the biographies give September 8th. On the back of the letter Mrs. Whitman wrote, “Sent by E. A. P. under an assumed name, in order to ascertain if I was in Providence.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 576:]

(10)  Original Autograph Ms., Poe to Mrs. Whitman, October 1, 1848. Collection of J. K. Lilly, Jr.

(11)  These lines are crossed out, but Mr. Lilly has, I believe, restored the original words correctly. “Hour” may be “heaven.”

(12)  Another restoration of words of the original letter that had been crossed out.

(13)  The word that has been cut out may be disease.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 577:]

(14)  The letters enclosed in square brackets have been cut out — they are thought to be sease an.

(15)  The letters enclosed in square brackets have been cut out — they are thought to be my o.

(16)  The letters that have been cut out are thought to be “speak.”

(17)  The letter that has been cut out is thought to be d.

(18)  The letters that have been cut out are thought to be “ent.”

(19)  The letters that have been cut out are thought to be “ently.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 578:]

(20)  Original Autograph Ms., Lilly Collection.

(21)  Original Autograph Ms., October 18, 1848, Lilly Collection.

(22)  See also Poe’s letter to Lowell, p. 432, concerning the happiness of his married life.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 579:]

(23)  Mrs. Whitman to Stoddard, September 30, 1872 — Stoddard, Life, pp. 156-157.

(24)  To avoid repetition, the reader is referred to this letter to Mrs. Richmond, p. 590. It should be read in connection also with Mrs. Whitman.

(25)  Original Autograph Ms., J. K. Lilly, Jr. Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 580:]

(26)  Mrs. Whitman to Ingram — Autograph Ms., University of Virginia.

(27)  This letter has apparently been lost. It is printed in Ingram, II, 178, and there is a copy in an envelope bearing Mrs. Whitman’s statement that Mr. Pabodie had borrowed it. J. K. Lilly, Jr. Collection.

(28)  Original Autograph Ms., J. K. Lilly, Jr. Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 581:]

(29)  Original Autograph Ms., Lilly Collection. Then follows the account of the Ellet episode, which I have given in its appropriate place, see p. 498.

(30)  Reproductions of this letter, beginning with the Last Letters, give this as “Mrs. B,” but the “O” is perfectly clear in the original letter in the Lilly Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 582:]

(31)  Original Ms., Lilly Collection.

(32)  Original Autograph Ms., Lilly Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 583:]

(33)  Mrs. Whitman’s copy of Mrs. Hewitt’s letter to her, pasted on the reverse of sheet three, of Griswold’s letter to Pabodie, June 8, 1852. In the Lilly Collection. Another copy by Mrs. Whitman, dated October 2, 1850, is substantially identical except for the important difference in Poe’s remark — “That marriage will never take place.” The latter is among the Griswold Mss. in the Boston Public Library, and might be preferred, except that there is an allusion to the banns being published, which Mrs. Whitman asserts is incorrect.

(34)  The best accounts of these few days come from the letters of William J. Pabodie, a friend of Mrs. Whitman and of Poe, who, however, did not wish the marriage to take place. His letter to the New York Tribune, written June 2, 1852, and his subsequent letter to Griswold (who unsuccessfully challenged his statements) on June 11, 1852, will impress any fair-minded person with their clarity and authenticity. There is a Ms. of this letter to Griswold in the Lilly Collection, probably the first draft. There is another in the Boston Public Library.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 585:]

(35)  First printed in “New Letters About Poe,” by Stanley T. Williams, Yale Review, N. S., XIV (1925), 761-763, from the original Ms.

(36)  J K. Lilly Collection.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 586:]

(37)  Original Autograph letter, Pabodie to Griswold, June 11, 1852, Lilly Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 587:]

(38)  “Mrs. Richmond’s letter, copying Poe’s to Mrs. Whitman, is in Ms. at the University of Virginia. Her Ms. reads clearly, “I have assigned on reason for my declining to fulfill our engagement.” There is a blur which may indicate that the word is “one,” or it may be her error for “no.”

(39)  See Mrs. Whitman’s letter to Griswold, December 12, 1849, reprinted in part on p. 651.

(40)  Poe’s Helen, p. 120.

(41)  “New Letters About Poe,” Stanley T. Williams, Yale Review, N. S., XIV (1925), 770.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 588:]

(42)  Complete Works, Virginia Edition, VI, 268-269.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 589:]

(43)  Ingram, II, 188-190; one vol. ed., pp. 389-390.

(44)  It is here printed from the copy, made by Mrs. Richmond, which is in the Library of the University of Virginia. At the head of the letter she wrote the words, “Copy of a letter written at Fordham, November 16, 1848.” The original letter has apparently disappeared. Ingram omitted several important passages. I am indebted to the courtesy of Dean James Southall Wilson for permission to print the letter as it was written by Poe.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 592:]

(45)  Ingram, Life, II, 195.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 593:]

(46)  This letter is dated only “Thursday Morning — 28,” but that would have been December, in 1848.

(47)  See pp. 586-587.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 594:]

(48)  Ingram, II, 203-205; one vol. ed., pp. 401-403.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 595:]

(49)  Original Autograph Ms., Morgan Library. The letter is slightly torn and passages in brackets have been supplied from Ingram, Life, II, 206. Ingram “edited” the letter, as usual.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 596:]

(50)  The Chronicles of Froissart, translated out of French by Sir John Bourchier, Lord Berners. Cap. CXXXVIII, ed. London, 1903, VI, 96-100.

(51)  I (February 1, 1845), 71.

(52)  New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, XXVIII (1830), 387-392.

(53)  Pp. 491-496.

(54)  Godey’s Lady’s Book, February, 1849.

(55)  Flag of Our Union, April 14, 1849.

(56)  Poe to Duyckinck, March 8 [1849], Autograph Ms., New York Public Library.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 597:]

(57)  Flag of Our Union, June 9, 1849.

(58)  February 19th fell on Monday in 1849, but the letter clearly belongs to that year.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 599:]

(59)  Copy by Mrs. Richmond, now in the Library of the University of Virginia.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 600:]

(60)  Original Autograph Ms., Huntington Library.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 603:]

(61)  This refers to an appended Ms. containing a rather pitiful example of Poe’s praise of women poets. A note on it says it was not published.

(62)  Autograph Ms., Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 605:]

(63)  Ingram, II, 213-15; one vol. ed., pp. 409-10. The fifth and sixth sentences are from Ingram’s article in Appleton’s Journal, May, 1878. He omitted them in the Life.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 606:]

(64)  New York Tribune, October 9, 1849.

(65)  P. 123.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 607:]

(66)  Probably from advance sheets of the Griswold Edition, as an introduction in the Home Journal states. It also appeared in Sartain’s Union Magazine for October, 1850, “printed from the original manuscript.” Sartain says he paid thirty dollars for it.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 611:]

(67)  This letter is given without date in Ingram’s Life, II, 157-159, but in his article in Appleton’s Journal, in 1878, it is dated “June 1849.” In Woodberry’s Life, II, 261-264, and in later biographies it is undated but placed in 1848. It is clearly dated in Mrs. Shew-Houghton’s copy, which she sent to Ingram, not only at the end of the letter, but also in her comments, as “1849.” Copy is now in the Library of the University of Virginia, included in her letter of April 3 [1875?] to Ingram. I have corrected two obvious misspellings in Mrs. Houghton’s extraordinary handwriting, and I have made no attempt to reproduce her punctuation.

(68)  See Mrs. Shew’s account of Poe’s real opinion of Mrs. Lewis, p. 563.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 612:]

(69)  Autograph Ms. letters to Mrs. Lewis, May 17, 1849, and to Putnam, May 18th, are in the W. H. Koester Collection.

(70)  Original Autograph Ms., Griswold Collection, Boston Public Library.

(71)  The letter that Griswold prints in his “Preface,” without date, but as “early in 1849” contains also an appeal for Mrs. Lewis. Its contents however consist largely of praises of Griswold. Until I see the original Ms. I shall disbelieve in its existence — at least in the form in which Griswold gives it.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 614:]

(72)  Ingram, II, 216-217; one vol. ed., p. 411.

(73)  Ingram, II, 221; one vol. ed., p. 415.


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Notes:

In the original, the heading for this chapter appears as:

To Helen and For Annie

using italics instead of quotation marks for the titles of the poems. This curious inconsistency has been editorially adjusted in this presentation.

In the last paragraph of page 596, Quinn neglects to italicize Eureka, a minor error that has been corrected as presented above.


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[S:1 - EAP:ACB, 1941] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: A Critical Biography (A. H. Quinn) (Chapter 18)