Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Washington Irving — July 18, 1842 (LTR-141b)


July 18. 42

Dr Sir,

It gives me pleasure to comply with the very flattering request embodied in your letter of June 18th.  My absence from this city will, I hope, serve as sufficient apology for the tardiness of this reply.

With Respect

Edgar A. Poe

Oscar T. Keeler Esqre



This letter is printed here from the manuscript, with the permission of the owner (as of February 16, 1999), a private collector who prefers to be identified only as “the eastern collector.” This letter is not given in Ostrom, though it is indirectly noted in the checklist as entry 382, where it is confused with item 141a (on pp. 698-699 of the supplement of the 1966 revised edition.). Ostrom presumed that the letter from Poe to J. and H. G. Langley was the “A.L.S.” sold by the Anderson Galleries in 1904, along with a March 1, 1844 letter from Poe to J. C. Myers, Samuel Williams, or William Greaff, Jr.  The March 1, 1844 letter is clearly identified by a selected quotation, but the July 18, 1842 item is curiously lacking even the name of the addressee. The full provenance of this item is given below.

Poe signs many of his letters as here, with an abbreviated form of “Your obedient servant.”  Poe’s signature, the name “Oscar T. Keeper” and the date beneath the return address are each underscored by a simple, doubled-over flourish. The 1-page letter was folded 4 times, dividing the page into 9 irregularly sized segments and forming an envelope. The address appears in the middle segment as “Oscar T. Keeler Esqre” then on the next three lines, “33 William St”, “New-York” and “N.Y.”  At the lower left edge appear Poe’s initials “EAP.” The circular postmark, in the upper left corner, just touching the “O” of “Oscar,” reads “Philadelphia, PA, JUL 18.” The wax seal was broken without damaging the paper and the letter has been stored flat and unfolded for most of its existence, in part accounting for its excellent condition.

Oscar T Keeler was an early autograph collector, who began his collection about 1838 and assiduously accumulated items for nearly 30 years. As noted in the Preface to catalogue for the auction of December 7, 1868, “Were it not that the recent war and its results deprived me of my property, and forced me to dispose of this collection, it would never have been offered for sale.” On that date, Keeler (then living in Columbus Ohio) arranged for the sale of his collection by the Clinton Hall Art Galleries & Book Sale Room in new York. (In the catalogue, it appears on page 43 as item 754: “POE , EDGAR A., POET; A. L. S. , ports.”) The letter was sold for $3.50 to John Harvey Vincent Arnold, in whose collection it remained until 1904. On April 19, 1904, the letter and its accompanying portrait and biography of Poe from the 1845 Graham’s Magazine, were sold for $23.75. (In the Anderson Auction Company catalogue, this letter appears on page 70 as item 689: “ ——— A. L. S.  I P. 4TO .  PHILADELPHIA , JULY 18, 1842.  FINE LETTER, WITH ADDRESS .  Portrait and cuttings.”) The purchaser, Dr. Edward Wilberforce Lambert, passed the letter along to his descendants, who kept it until 1983, when it was sold to a book dealer in New York. That dealer sold it to another bookseller in California, who then sold it to the current owner prior to 1984. The provenance of this letter was carefully researched by “the eastern collector,” to whom we are grateful for both letter and most of the information provided here.]

The name of Oscar T. Keeler appears on Poe’s handwritten list of subscribers to the Penn/Stylus, perhaps written 1846-1848. For this list, see Alexander G. Rose III and Jeffrey A. Savoye, eds, Such Friends As These: Edgar Allan Poe’s List of Subscribers and Contributors to His Dream Magazine, Baltimore: Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1986, p. 24.

The letter is known as “The Philadelphia Shroud” because it shows a ghostly image of Poe when held up to the light. This image, vaguely reminiscent of the famous Shroud of Turin, is a faint transfer of the 1845 Graham’s portrait, which was kept in direct contact with the letter for so many years.


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to W. Irving (LTR141b/RCL382a)