Text: Mary Elizabeth LeDuc (nee Bronson), “Recollections of Edgar A. Poe,” Home Journal (New York), series for 1860 (about vol. 15), no. 29, whole no. 754, July 21, 1860, p. 3, cols. 1-2


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Recollections of Edgar A. Poe.

LOOKING over a collection of daguerreotypes and photographs of old friends and acquaintances, a short time since, the fact of Edgar A. Poe wakened many recollections of my acquaintance with him, and others connected with him. Although thirteen years ago, it seems but a very short time since I left school, and with my father made a summer visit to the city.

It so happened that I had opportunity during my visit to form the acquaintance of many of our first authors and artists then in town; and among others, that of Mr. Poe, which occurred in this wise. I was talking to a new acquaintance one day, (with, perhaps, something of school girl enthusiasm of the pleasures of the city life, and of my enjoyment at meeting so many famous people,) who smilingly said, “I will take you to Fordham next week to see Mr. Poe, if you would like to go.” Upon being assured that the visit would not be considered an intrusion, and impatiently waited the appointed day. We left the city by an early morning train, (the distance is only fourteen miles, I believe,) and it was quite early in the forenoon when we reached the depot, from which we walked up a pleasant winding road with branching trees on either side, to Mr. Poe’s cottage. I silently recalled “The Raven,” by way of sobering my spirits to enter the presence of a grave and melancholy poet, as I imagined Mr. Poe to be.

We saw Mr. Poe walking in his yard, and most agreeably was I surprised to see a very handsome and elegant-appearing gentleman, who welcomed us with a quiet, cordial, and graceful politeness that ill accorded with my imaginary sombre poet. I dare say I looked the surprise I felt, for I saw an amused look on his face as I raised my eyes a second time, to be assured that his were the handsomest hazel eyes I ever saw. The expression of his mouth was not so pleasing; his lips were thin, and usually compressed; his voice, however, was agreeable.

Mrs. Clem [[Clemm]] — Poe’s mother-in-law — whose face bore the traces of many sorrows, but who was always refined and ladylike, met us on the veranda. I noticed, in speaking to Mr. Poe, she always called him Eddie; and in her voice and actions showed ll a mother’s love. She kept house for him. His wife, who had been dead about a year, I heard from others, was a very lovely woman, and tenderly attached to her husband. They kept no servant, but the house was a model of neatness and order; the parlor floor was covered with matting, and was simply furnished. A round table, with writing materials, some magazines, a few books, light chairs, and a pretty French print of a young girl hanging on the wall completed the furniture of the room. Here we sat. some one remarking upon the picture, Mr. Poe said, “No, it is not the lost Lenore,” and smiled as though the fair ideal was a very pleasant memory instead of a sad one. “Some of my friends,” he added, “look above the door, as if in search of ‘The Raven.’”

After dinner, we all walked along the banks of the Bronx, Mr. Poe pointing out his favorite ramble, where he was seldom interrupted, saying he liked it even on a rainy day. Tired with the walk, we sat under the trees, and while the gentleman criticized the new books of the day and their authors, the ladies listened in admiring silence for the most part. Mr. Poe spoke much and well of the science of composition, more particularly of his own style — of “The Raven” — mentioning that he had recently written an article for one of the magazines on this subject. As a critic, I thought him severe to himself as well as others of whom he spoke; his quick perception of the beautiful and the heroic, together with his fine artistic sense and elegance of expression, rendered graceful and charming even his severest criticisms.

Among a number of other authoresses mentioned by Mr. Poe, was the name of Mrs. Osgood. Her poetry was characterized as sometimes careless, but always graceful and natural; more often beautiful and highly poetical — that she had an intuitive sense of the melody of verse, etc. in one of the pauses of this pleasant talk, one of the ladies placed on the head of the poet an oak-leaf wreath; and as he stood beneath the tree, half in the shade, the sun’s rays glancing through the dark-green leaves, and lighting up his broad white forehead, with a pleasant, gratified smile on his face, my memory recalls a charming picture of the poet, then in his best days. * * *

Mr. Poe and Mrs. Clem [[Clemm]] afterward called to see us in the city, and spent the day. I remember, on this occasion, to have worn an old-fashioned coral necklace, with a cross attached, which attracted the attention of Mr. Poe, and led to an animated conversation upon dress and ornaments, Mr. Poe remarking that he liked the necklace, and added:

“ ‘Upon her snowy breast a sparkling cross she wore,

Which Jews might kiss and Infidels adore.’ ”

I inquired, “Whose are the lines? Yours, Mr. Poe?”

“No; Pope’s. Had you not read them?”

“No,” I answered; “I don’t like Pope — he is prosy to me.”

“But very sensible,” added Mr. Poe. “Then there are those lines of Eloise to Abelard, impassioned enough to touch the heart of any woman. But we were speaking of ornaments. Nothing is in good taste that is not needed to arrange the dress. It must be useful, or have the appearance of use; so the brooch fastens the collar of a lady’s dress, a necklace and bracelets dress the neck and arms when bare; as for ear-rings! well, that is a pretty feminine caprice which I half like; they will do to hang poetic fancies on.”

At another time, speaking of engravings, and the unsatisfactory idea usually obtained of the appearance of authors from their portraits, as usually prefixed to their works, it occurred to me that I might make a small private collection of daguerreotypes, and Mr. Poe good-naturedly consented to make the beginning of my collection. He went with my father at once to the daguerreian’s, and on their return brought me the likeness, a copy of which I have enclosed you with these recollections, remarking that it was “the most natural-looking he had ever seen of himself.” Mrs. Clem [[Clemm]] added, “It is perfect.”

At this time, Mr. Poe talked much of a new monthly magazine, and hope, with the aid of others, to establish it. He was sanguine of success, but was disappointed. We left the city, and did not return until September. I learned then that Mr. Poe was in straitened circumstances, and that all of his projects had proven unsuccessful.

When again I saw Mrs. Clem [[Clemm]], she was looking very anxious, though she spoke hopefully of what Eddie could do if he only could obtain some regular employment worthy of his abilities. [column 2:] Mr. Poe had grown thin, and I noticed a degree of nervousness unusual. Mindful of this state of his affairs, —— proposed to him to write a poem suitable for recitation, about the length, and somewhat of the character, of Collins’ “Ode to the Passions.”

A few weeks afterward, I saw Mrs. Clem [[Clemm]]. She told me eagerly that Mr. Poe had written a beautiful poem — better than anything before; and the next day the following note was received by ——:

“I am anxious to see you for many reasons, not the least of which is I have not seen you for a long time. But among other things, I wish to ascertain if the poem which, at your suggestion, I have written, is of the length, character, etc., desired; if not, I will write another, and dispose of this one to Mrs. Kirkland. Cannot Miss —— and yourself pay us a visit this afternoon, or to-morrow?

“Truly your friend,  

It being inconvenient at the time to accept the invitation, Mr. Poe was so informed, and bringing the poem in the next day, —— was absent, and the manuscript was handed to me. I asked if I might read it. He not only assented, but opened the roll, which consisted of leaves of paper wafered neatly together, and I noticed then and afterward that the writing was beautifully distinct and regular, almost like engraving. It was the “Ballad of Ulalume.” He made one or two remarks in regard to the ideas intended to be embodied, answering my questions while he read it to me, and expressing his own entire satisfaction with it.

Not long afterward, he commenced writing a series of lectures, proposing to read them before different literary societies. I think he went soon after to Providence; but lectures were not in so much demand then as now, and his did not proposer. He grew melancholy, but worked with great industry, asking no assistance but honorable employment. He was proud and reserved as to his private affairs. I learned from others that sometimes he was intemperate, but I never saw him excited by liquor or any other stimulant. He was always, when I have seen him, a gentleman in the highest sense of the term; of manners most agreeable, the attentive deference with which he listened to others, and the manly independence, earnestness, and often eloquence, with which he sustained his own opinions, rendered his presence and conversation most desirable and interesting. There are many little fragments of his conversation that I can now recall, but I have already spun out these recollections beyond a reasonable limit.

MRS —— ——.




Mary Elizabeth LeDuc was the daughter of Rev. C. P. Bronson.

Copies of the Home Journal for this year are extremely scarce. A clipping of the article has been noted as being amoung the uncatalogued material in the Koester Collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. A bound volume for 1860 is in the Rubenstein Library of Duke University.

Perhaps because it was a large newspaper format, and not expected to be kept, as would be smaller periodicals such as Graham’s Magazine and Godey’s Lady’ Book, did not record volume numbers. Instead, it listed each issue as part of the series for the calendar year in which it appeared. The first issue appeared on November 21, 1846, superceding the earlier National Press.



[S:0 - HJ, 1860] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Recollections of Edgar A. Poe (M. E. LeDuc, 1860)