Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (and E. A. Poe), “To Miss Louise Olivia Hunter,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 396-399 (This material is protected by copyright)


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­[page 396, continued:]

TO MISS LOUISE OLIVIA HUNTER

This poem was surely written, very shortly before the date it bears, for Miss Lynch’s annual Valentine Soirée. Poe did not attend, but the identity of the author of these verses cannot have been uncertain, as he did not disguise his hand.

The date has been needlessly called in question. After his ­[page 397:] wife’s death Poe was very ill, and Marie Louise Shew urged him to rest but apparently thought writing some poetry would be of therapeutic value. She may have suggested that he might like to send a poem to a very young poetess at the party. Such compliments were not supposed to be taken seriously, of course, but there is a strangely wry quality of thoughtfulness in these lines of impersonal gallantry.

The circumstances of the poet’s meeting with Miss Hunter are now fully known. In a volume compiled by Charles W. Kent,(1) there is a reminiscence by Charles E. West:

My acquaintance with Poe began in New York sixty years ago. Our boarding houses were opposite each other in East Broadway. I had just entered upon my duties as Principal of Rutgers Female Institute. Mr. Poe was writing for the New York papers and making a very scanty living. He soon moved to Fordham, where I called to see him. He was holding a loaf of bread, and said, “Here is all the food I have in the world for myself and family.” He was almost in a state of despair. I did what I could to cheer him, assuring him that there was something of good in life for him. In 1845 he served as chairman of a committee to examine the compositions of the collegiate department of my institution and award the gold medal to the writer of the prize composition, which he read at the sixth commencement of the Institute.

Poe’s letter to West has been found, and in 1944 it was presented by Mr. Christian Zabriskie to the New York Society Library. It is now first published, by permission of Miss Sylvia C. Hilton, Librarian of that institution:

Office of the Broadway Journal
June 20th, 1845

Dear Sir;

The previous letter to which you allude did not reach me. I trust, therefore, that you will exonerate me from the charge of discourtesy.

I shall be very happy to oblige you in any way — and it will give me very great pleasure to act as one of a Committee in which I shall be associated with two gentlemen whom I so highly respect as Drs. Griswold and Snodgrass.(2) ­[page 398:]

My time is entirely at your disposal — whenever you will be kind enough to let me know that you require it.

Very respectfully,
Yr. ob. Svt.
Edgar A. Poe.

Charles E. West, Esqr.

The commencement exercises were held on July 11 in the Rutgers Street Presbyterian Church at the northwest corner of Rutgers and Henry Streets and Poe read Miss Hunter’s poem, of about one hundred lines. It was printed in a long article on the ceremonies in the New-York Mirror of July 19, 1845. The poem is without title; it begins, “Deep in a glade by trees o’erhung.”

Poe met Miss Hunter at this time, and perhaps on later occasions. She greatly admired Mrs. Osgood. Griswold published in the International Magazine of December 1, 1850 (2:133), a letter dated March 6, 1850, to Mrs. Osgood from the girl. In it Miss Hunter wrote, “You know how, from childhood I have worshipped you, that since our first meeting you have been my idol.” Perhaps Poe thought that a compliment to Louise Hunter might be taken as an indirect one to Mrs. Osgood.

Miss Hunter composed both poetry and fiction for Godey’s, Graham’s, Sartain’s, Peterson’s Ladies’ National, and the American Metropolitan Magazine. Of her later career I have no details.

 

TEXTS

(A) Manuscript, dated February 14, 1847, now in the Koester Collection at the University of Texas; (B) New York Times, February 14, 1932; (C) Colophon, Autumn 1935 (n.s. 1:185), with facsimile, in an article by Sydney R. McLean.

Text A, which shows no changes, is given here by courtesy of Mr. William H. Koester. It was first published when the manuscript was owned by Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach. The poem is collected here for the first time.

 


VARIANTS

9  ’Neath / Neath (A, B, C) apostrophe added editorially

 


[page 399, continued:]

NOTES

Title:  The lady’s name was given as “Louisa” in the Mirror, but her printed works are usually signed “Louise.”

7f.  The reference is to the supposed fascination of a serpent’s bright eyes for its prey.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 397:]

1  The Unveilng of the Bust of Edgar Allan Poe, October 7, 1899 (Lynchburg, Virginia: J. P. Bell Company, n.d.; preface signed May 1, 1901), p. 67.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 397, running to the bottom of page 398:]

2  W. D. Snodgrass was an inactive committeeman, and Joy Bayless, Rufus Wilmot Griswold (1943), pp. 99, 275, records that when that editor decided not to go to the committee meeting, Henry T. Tuckerman took his place. Tuckerman and Poe met on the evening of July 10, for the first time. The next day Charles Fenno Hoffman wittily wrote Griswold, “Odd . . . that the women, who divide so many, ­[page 398:] should bring these two together!” See Homer Barnes, Charles Fenno Hoffman (1930), p. 264.

 


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Notes:

Errata:

  • TOM provides no variants, although he should have noted the addition of an apostrophe at the beginning of line 9. To account for this change, a variant has been added editorially. (For this reason, the variants section above has no page number. Had it been included in the print edition, the variant section would have appeared on p. 399.)
  • TOM erroneous omits the comma after “beguiling” in line 10, although it is clear in the manuscript.

Addendum:

  • TOM was unaware that Poe borrowed the poem from one published by William Gilmore Simms in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1840 (“There are Dreams of Bowers,” numbered IX, but the first of the “Early Lays,” appearing in the issue for January 1840, vol. VI, no. 1, 6:36). The extent of Poe’s changes is the omission of the first stanza. It is thus better considered as rejected, at least as an original poem by Poe, although the manuscript is certainly authentic. (See Ton Fafianie, “Poe’s Purloined Poem: ‘To Miss Louise Olivia Hunter’,” Simms Review, vol. 19, Nos. 1/2 (Summer/ Winter 2011) 19:18-44.)


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[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (To Miss Louise Olivia Hunter)