Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “To Miss Louise Olivia Hunter” [Text-01], manuscript, February 14, 1847


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To Miss Louise Olivia Hunter.

Though I turn, I fly not —

I cannot depart;

I would try, but try not

To release my heart.

And my hopes are dying

While, on dreams relying,

I am spelled by art.

 

Thus the bright snake coiling

[[’]]Neath the forest tree

Wins the bird, beguiling,

To come down and see:

Like that bird the lover

Round his fate will hover

Till the blow is over

And he sinks — like me.

February 14. [1847.]


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Notes:

Miss Hunter was a youthful admirer of Poe’s friend, Frances S. Osgood. In 1845, Poe agreed to judge, along with Henry Tuckerman, literary compositions written by a number of female college students. The winner was Miss Hunter, whose poem Poe read aloud at the commencement services on July 11, 1845. This little poem appears to have been written by Poe for Miss Hunter as part of one of Anne C. Lynch’s annual Valentine’s Day parties. That nothing truly romantic is intended is evidenced by the poem’s rather impersonal tone. If the date of 1847 is correct, the sadness of the final line may partly be ascribed to the death of Poe’s wife Virginia on January 30, 1847.

The year portion of the date at the bottom of the manuscript, given here in square brackets, has been disputed and even noted as being in a hand other than Poe’s. The date of 1847, however, has generally been accepted as correct, though Joseph Moldenhauer assigns the tentative date of 1846 in  A Descriptive Catalog of Edgar Allan Poe Manuscripts in the Humanities Research Center Library, Austin: The University of Texas at Austin, 1973, p. 8. In this attribution, Moldenhauer follows the article by Syndey R. McLean, “Poeana: A Valentine,” Colophon, ns I, no. 2, Autumn 1835, pp. 183-187. The McLean article includes a facsimile of the poem on page 185.

This poem was first collected by Thomas Ollive Mabbott, with a few minor punctuation and indentation modifications, in The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe: Volume I - Poems, Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1969, pp. 398-399. The punctuation and indentation of the original manuscript have been retained here, with the punctuation including details noted by Moldenhauer, and the indentation agreeing with that given by Mabbott. (For some reason, Moldenhauer incorrectly states that there is a comma after “Thus” in the first line of the second stanza, and erroneously insists that Mabbott has altered the indentation slightly for lines 6 and 7.) The original is on a single sheet of ornately bordered paper, measuring 7 15/16 inches wide by 9 13/16 inches high. The paper is watermarked “J WHATMAN 1845.” It is mostly white, although there is blue in the background of the ornate border, which imitates lace-work. (The McLean facsimile includes the border, but renders it as black and white.) On the original, the date of 1847 appears to have been written in pencil, perhaps by another hand. The McLean facsimile, thus, is somewhat unreliable, by misrepresenting the 1847 as being part of the original ink dating. The manuscript was displayed as part of a special Bicentennial Exhibit at the University of Virginia, Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library: “From Out That Shadow: the Life and Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe” (March 7-August 1, 2009).

As one might expect in a manuscript intended for presentation, it is written in Poe’s most ornate hand, and he uses the old-fashioned “long s” so that it appears as “To Miſs Louise Olivia Hunter.” According to McLean, her name is more properly Louisa Olivia Hunter. It may seem curious that the manuscript is not signed, but this was common for a valentine, as the identity of the person writing it was generally granted an air of mystery even if it was obvious or already known.

In correspondence with the Poe Society in July 2011, Ton Fafianie, of the Netherlands, communicated the fact that he has identifed a poem by William Gilmore Simms, originally published in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1840 and reprinted in a revised version in Areytos; or Songs of the South (Charleston: Russell & Jones, 1846), as the source of Poe’s valentine. Coallating the versions published by Simms, Fafianie is confident that Poe used the 1846 text, further supporting the date of Poe’s valentine as being 1847. Poe’s valentine to Miss Hunter, therefore, must be removed from the canon proper of his poems, and be relegated, at best, to one what Mabbott loosely designated as his “collaborations.” Ton Fafianie’s findings are documented in “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 - MS, 1847] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - To Miss Louise Olivia Hunter [Text-01]