Text: J. H. Ingram, “Unpublished Correspondence by Edgar A. Poe,” Appleton's Journal, vol. 4, no. 5, May 1878, pp. 421-429


[page 421:]


THE following letters and documents relating to the last three years of Edgar A. Poe's life are entirely drawn from original sources. They ought to be read in connection with the memoirs of Poe, as they throw an entirely new light on a part of his life never hitherto unexplored — viz., the poet's relations with three high-minded women, around whose names the documents naturally group themselves. The story of his first and last love, as romantic and interesting as was ever penned by poet, is given in the simple and unaffected words of the lady most immediately concerned. From unnecessary comment we purposely refrain. Poe's letters tell their own sad tale.

Our first letter is one written by the poet to his wife — perhaps the only one he ever wrote to her — shortly after their removal to Fordham; the contents are self-explanatory:

June 12, 1846.

“MY DEAR HEART — MY DEAR VIRGINIA — Our mother will explain to you why I stay away from you this night. I trust the interview I am promised will result in some substantial good for me — for your dear sake and hers — keep up your heart in all hopefulness, and trust yet a little longer. On my last great disappointment I should have lost my courage but for you — my little darling wife. You are my greatest and only stimulus now, to battle with this uncongenial, unsatisfactory, and ungrateful life.

“I shall be with you to-morrow ... P. M., and be assured until I see you I will keep in loving remembrance your last words, and your fervent prayer!

“Sleep well, and may God grant you a peaceful summer with your devoted Edgar.”


From the date of this tender little note it will be necessary to pass to the initial month of 1847, which witnessed the climax of the most terrible trial Edgar A. Poe had to undergo. The poet was too ill to write, and his adored wife, deprived of every requisite the consumptive need, was sinking rapidly to the grave. Among the many who visited the pretty little Fordham cottage, and witnessed the misery of the hapless family, was Mrs. Gove-Nichols. More thoughtful, or more compassionate, than the numerous — far too numerous! — callers who rendezvoused at the poet's home, Mrs. Nichols, on her return to New York, enlisted the unostentatious sympathy of Mrs. Shew, “a lady whose heart and hand were ever open to the poor and miserable.” Mrs. Shew knew nothing of the poet or his family save that they were helpless and needed aid. She at once headed a private subscription, and in a day or two carried sixty dollars to them. From that day she became a ministering angel to the suffering family: she called on them and watched over them continually, tending both [column 2:] the dying and the living, and the gratitude with which she inspired the poet and his dear ones may be gleaned from this little note:

“KINDESTDEAREST FRIEND — My poor Virginia still lives, although failing fast and now suffering much pain. May God grant her life until she sees you and thanks you once again! Her bosom is full to overflowing — like my own — with a bound less — inexpressible gratitude to you. Lest she may never see you more — she bids me say that she sends you her sweetest kiss of love and will die blessing you. But come — oh come to-morrow! Yes, I will be calm — everything you so nobly wish to see me. My mother sends you, also, her ‘warmest love and thanks.’ She begs me to ask you, if possible, to make arrangements at home so that you may stay with us to-morrow night. I inclose the order to the Postmaster.

“Heaven bless you and farewell


”FORDHAM Jan. 29, 1847.”

The very day this letter was written Mrs. Shew called at the cottage, but was obliged soon to leave again to see after some comforts for the invalid. When bidding good-by to Mrs. Poe, the poet's wife took a portrait of her husband and gave it to Mrs. Shew; she also presented her with a little jewel-case that had belonged to his mother, and gave her two worn letters to read. They were from the wife of Poe's adopted father, and had been carefully preserved by Virginia as means of exonerating her husband from the responsibility of domestic dissensions. The next day the poet was wifeless.

After all was over, and the poet was left to face the world with no one but his wife's mother as a companion, he fell ill again. Mrs. Shew, in faithful pursuance of her promise to his dying wife, still continued to befriend him.

For a few days Poe, under the careful nursing he received, appeared to revive, and during this temporary convalescence indited the lines to” M— L— S—” (Marie Louise Shew) which have always been incorrectly placed among the “Poems written in Youth.” In these lines, the overflowing of a deeply-grateful heart, the poet poured forth his thanks with all the impassioned vehemence of a nature unaccustomed to the ordinary conventionalities of every-day life. They are dated February 14, 1847, and were sent as a valentine to her to whom he owed

“The resurrection of deep-buried faith’

In Truth-in Virtue-in Humanity.”

The poet's convalescence was of short duration; in a few days he suffered a relapse, and for a while his life was in danger. Mrs. Shew still continued her friendly exertions on his behalf; but, having many other claims, was not enabled to provide for all his [page 422:] requirements. She wrote to a friend in the New York Union Club on the subject, and he brought the matter before some of the members, several of whom were personally acquainted with Poe. General Scott, who was present at the time, gave five dollars, saying, “I wish I could make it five hundred,” adding that he believed “Poe to be much belied; that he had noble and generous traits, which belonged to the old and better school. True-hearted America,” concluded the old hero, what was quite a speech for him, “ought to take care of her poets as well as her soldiers.” (General Scott was uncle to the second wife of Mr. Allan Poe's adopted father, and it was through his influence the poet obtained his nomination to the West Point Military Academy.) A private collection of about one hundred dollars was made, and with it old debts were paid, and the most urgent necessities provided for.

Mrs. Shew saw the poet frequently in 1847, and in her diary has the following interesting reminiscence: “Mr. Poe came to town to go to a midnight service with a lady friend and myself. He went with us and followed the service like a churchman, looking directly toward the chancel, and holding one side of my prayer-book; sang the psalms with us, and to my astonishment struck up a tenor to our soprano; and got along nicely during the first part of the service, which was on the subject of the sympathies of our soul with our wants. The passage being often repeated, “He was a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief,” he begged me to remain quiet, and, saying he would wait for us outside, he rushed out, too excited to stay. I knew he would not leave us to return home alone (although my friend thought it doubtful), and so, after the sermon, I began to feel anxious — as we were in a strange church — I looked back and saw his pale face. As the congregation rose to sing the hymn, ‘Jesus, Saviour of my soul,’ he appeared at my side, and sang the hymn, without looking at the book, in a fine clear tenor. He looked inspired. ... I did not dare to ask him why he left, but he mentioned, after we got home, that the subject’ was marvelously handled.’”

During the greater part of 1847 Poe was working on his great philosophical “prose-poem” “Eureka” and, while engaged upon it, says Mrs. Shew, he was quite certain of success. But, she remarks, “I did not expect him to live long; I knew that organic disease had been gaining upon his physical frame through the many trials and privations of his eventful life. I told him in all candor that nothing would or could save him from sudden death but a prudent life of calm, with a woman fond enough and strong enough to manage his affairs for him. ... I was often subjected to his irony for my lectures, coming, as they did, from a woman so little skilled in worldly troubles or cares as I was then. ... He said I had never troubled myself to read his works or poems; which was true, for my heart found so much sorrow to sympathize with in the griefs of those I came in contact with ... but I was ‘a rest for his spirit’ for this very reason.” [column 2:]

In the latter part of 1847 Poe wrote his “most musical, most melancholy” dirge of “Ulalume,” and published it in December of that year. Early in 1848 he indited some fresh lines “To Marie Louise,” a portion of which were published after his death, without a title. But the complete poem does not appear to have ever been printed.

In May the poet is found inditing the following characteristic letter to this constant friend:

Sunday Night.

“MY DEAR FRIEND LOUISE — Nothing for months has given me so much real pleasure as your note of last night. I have been engaged all day on some promised work, otherwise I should have replied immediately, as my heart inclined. I sincerely hope you may not drift out of my sight before I can thank you. How kind of you to let me do even this small service for you, in return for the great debt I owe you! Louise! my brightest, most unselfish of all who ever loved me! ... I shall have so much pleasure in thinking of you and yours in that music-room and library. Louise, I give you great credit for taste in these things, and I know I can please you in the purchases. During my first call at your house after my Virginia's death, I noticed with so much pleasure the large painting over the piano, which is a masterpiece indeed; and I noticed the size of all your paintings, the scrolls instead of set figures of the drawing-room carpet, the soft effect of the window shades, also the crimson and gold. ... I was charmed to see the harp and piano uncovered. The pictures of Raphael and ‘The Cavalier’ I shall never forget — their softness and beauty! The guitar with the blue ribbon, music-stand, and antique jars! I wondered that a little country maiden like you had developed so classic a taste and atmosphere. Please present my kind regards to your uncle, and say that I am at his service any or every day this week; and ask him, please, to specify time and place.

“Yours sincerely,


In explanation of the above communication it may be added that Mrs. Shew had asked Poe to assist her uncle in selecting furniture for a new house she had taken. She remarks: “I gave him carte blanche to furnish the music-room and library as he pleased. I had hung the pictures myself, ... placing over the piano a large painting by Albano. Poe admired it for hours, and never tired of gazing upon it. ... Mr. Poe was much pleased at my request, and my uncle said he had never seen him so cheerful and natural — ‘quite like other people.’”

In the autumn of the year he wrote his first rough draft of “The Bells” at Mrs. Shew's residence. “One day he came in,” she relates, “and said: ‘Marie Louise, I have to write a poem; I have no feeling, no sentiment, no inspiration.’” His hostess persuaded him to have some tea. It was served in the conservatory, the windows of which were open, and admitted the sound of neighboring [page 423:] church-bells. Playfully, Mrs. Shew said, “Here is paper; “ but the poet, declining it, declared: “I so dislike the noise of bells to-night, I cannot write. I have no subject — I am exhausted.” The lady then took up the pen, and, pretending to mimic his style, wrote, “The Bells. By E. A. Poe;” and next, in sportiveness, began, “The bells, the little silver bells,” Poe finishing off the stanza. She then suggested for the next verse, “ The heavy iron bells;” and this Poe also expanded into a stanza. He next copied out the complete poem, and headed it, “By Mrs. M. L. Shew,” remarking that it was her poem; she having suggested it, and composed so much of it.(1) Mrs. Shew adds: “My brother came in, and I sent him to Mrs. Clemm to tell her that ‘her boy would stay in town, and was well.’ My brother took Mr. Poe to his own room, where he slept twelve hours, and could hardly recall the evening's work. This showed his mind was injured — nearly gone out for want of food and from disappointment. He had not been drinking, and had only been a few hours from home. Evidently his vitality was low, and he was nearly insane. While he slept we studied his pulse, and found the same symptoms which I had so often noticed before. I called in Dr. Francis (the old man was odd, but very skillful), who was one of our neighbors. His words were,’ He has heart-disease, and will die early in life.’ We did not waken him, but let him sleep. ... After he had breakfasted, I went down-town with him, and drove him home to Fordham in my carriage. He did not seem to realize that he had been ill, and wondered why’ Madame Louise’ had been so very good as to bring him home.”

Mrs. Shew long continued to befriend the poet, but, ultimately, his eccentricities compelled her to define certain limits to their intercourse. Poe took umbrage at this, and in June, I849, wrote his last letter to her. From it the following extracts are taken; and with respect to them the lady says: “I believe I am the only correspondent of Mr. Poe's to whom he called himself ‘a lost soul.’ He did not believe his soul was lost — it was only a sarcasm he liked to repeat to express his sufferings and despair. I never saw a quotation from ‘The Raven’ in any letter of his but this. ... Mr. Poe's cat always left her cushion to rub my hand, and I had always to speak to it before it would retire to its place of rest again. He called her ‘Catarina:’ she seemed possessed. I was nervous and almost afraid of his wonderful cat. Mr. Poe would get up in the night to let her in or out of the house or room, and it would not eat when he was away. The cat died while Mrs. Clemm was in an unsettled state, breaking up housekeeping. She found it dead when she returned for her last load of boxes. I was glad when I heard this cat was dead, as all she seemed to love was also dead.”

June, 1849.

“Can it be true, Louise, that you have the idea fixed in your mind to desert your unhappy and unfortunate [column 2:] 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, till his songs one burden bore

Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore — of ‘Never-never more.’

So 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 and blessings you have so generously bestowed? Are you to van ish 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 ... 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, and courage, as ever before. Oh, Louise, how many sorrows are before you! Your ingenuous and sympathetic nature will be constantly wounded in its 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 ... 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 ... 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.’ ... Why turn your soul from its true work for the desolate to the thankless and miserly world? ... I felt my heart 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 ... 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 [page 424:] short time ... but you must know and be assured of my regret and my sorrow, if aught I have ever written has hurt you I 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, ... 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,


With this characteristic communication, the poet's correspondence with his disinterested and generous friend came to an end. They never met again.

II. — “ANNIE.”

A distinguished living poet recently pronounced the ninth stanza of Poe's exquisite lines, “For Annie,” to be one of the most melodious pieces of verse ever penned. The lady who inspired the poet to indite this “thing of beauty,” was one of those “rare and radiant “ spirits it was Poe's happiness to meet in his rough journey through life. With “Annie” the poet's correspondence was both frequent and voluminous, but, owing to the considerable amount of personal and private matter embodied in it, only detached portions can be quoted here. “Annie,” it should be premised, in conjunction with the various members of her amiable family, aided the poet in the darkest hours of his adversity; believed in him when he was calumniated; received him as an honored guest when the world contemned him; remained faithful to him through all, and, when death released his wearied spirit, not only defended his name and fame, but afforded a long and hospitable shelter to his broken-hearted “more than mother,” Mrs. Clemm.

Mrs. Osgood, in her charming recollections of the poet, has declared that it was in “his conversation and his letters, far more than in his published poetry and prose writings, that the genius of Poe was most gloriously revealed. His letters,” she continues, “were divinely beautiful; “ and many portions of those addressed to “Annie,” although — through the reasons given above — only partially quotable, and, therefore, deteriorated, will be found redolent of passionate fervor and poetic beauty.

“FORDHAM, November 16, 1848.

“Ah, Annie, Annie! what cruel thoughts ... 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. ... But, Annie, I know that you felt too deeply the nature of my love for you to doubt that, even for one moment, and 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 [column 2:] not with you now, that I might press your dear hand in mine, and look deep 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. ... But, oh, my own sweet sister Annie, my pure beautiful angel ... 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 expression of gloom — of a dreadful, horrible foreboding of Ill. Indeed — indeed it seemed to me that Death approached me even then, and that I was involved in the shadow which went before him. ... 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 and wept through a long, long, hideous night of Despair — when the day broke, I arose and 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 laudanum, and, 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. ... I told you how my struggles were more than I could bear. ... I then reminded you of that holy promise which was the last I exacted 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 laudanum, and hurried to the Post Office — intending not to take the rest until I saw you — for, I did not doubt for one moment, that 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, and 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 and (if it can be called saving) saved 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, and — to a casual observer, sane — so that I was suffered to go back to Providence. ... It is not much that I ask, sweet sister Annie — my mother and myself would take a small cottage at ——— 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 and 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, and you often. ... Do not these pictures touch your inmost heart? ... I am at home now with my dear mother who is endeavoring to comfort me — but the sole words which soothe me are those in which she speaks of Annie — she tells me that she has written you, begging you to come on to Fordham. Ah, Annie, is it not possible? I am so ill — so terribly, hopelessly ill in body and [page 425:] 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 and hereafter — forever your own


A week later, and we find the poet sending this passionate appeal to the sister of his friend:

“FORDHAM, November 23, 1848.

“DEAR SARAH — My own dear sister Sarah. If there is any pity in your heart, reply immediately to this, and let me know why it is I do not hear from Annie. If I do not hear from her soon, I shall surely die. I fancy everything evil: sometimes I even think that I have offended her, and that she no longer ... cares for me. I wrote her a long letter eight days ago, inclosing one from my mother, who wrote again on the 19th. Not one word has reached us in reply. Oh, Sarah, if I did not love your sister with the purest and most unexacting love, I would not dare confide in you — but you do know how truly, how purely I love her, and ... you know also how impossible it is to see and not to love her. In my wildest dreams I have never fancied any being so totally lovely — so good — so true — so noble — so pure — so virtuous — her silence fills my whole soul with terror. Can she have received my letter? If she is angry with me, dear Sarah, say to her, that on my knees, I beseech her to pardon me — tell her that I am her slave in all things — that whatever she bids me do, I will do — if even she says I must never see her again, or write to her. Let me but hear from her once more, and I can bear whatever happens. Oh, Sarah, you would pity me, if you knew the agony of my heart, as I write these words. Do not fail to answer me at once.

“God bless you, my sweet sister —


On January 11, 1849, Mrs. Clemm is found writing to “Annie,” and, in inclosing a long letter from Poe, says, “Our dear Eddy ... is writing most industriously, and I have every hope that he will, in a short time, surmount most of our difficulties. He writes from ten until four every day. ... We have found out who wrote those verses that we attributed to Grace Greenwood: they were written by Mrs. Welby, of Kentucky. Have you a copy of them? If so, Eddy says he will be so much obliged to you for them. ... Eddy wrote a tale, and sent it to the publisher, and in it was a description of you with the name of the lady, ‘darling Annie.’ It will be published about the 20th of next month, and then I will send it to you. ... Did you see the lines to Eddy in a new magazine just come out, called the Metropolitan? They are by Mrs. Osgood, and very beautiful. ... Have you seen Lowell's ‘Satire,’ and [column 2:] Mrs. Osgood's letter about the lines? Something about Eddy in both.” Poe's letter then follows:

... Annie! ... It seems to me so long since I have written you that I feel condemned, and al most tremble lest you should have evil thoughts of ... Eddie. ... But no, you will never doubt me under any circumstances — will you ... ? ... It seems to me that Fate is against our meeting again soon — but oh, we will not let distance diminish our affection, and by-and-by all will go right. Oh, Annie, in spite of so many worldly sorrows — in spite of all the trouble and misrepresentation (so hard to bear) that Poverty has entailed on me for so long a time — in spite of all this I am so — so happy to think that you really love me. If you had lived as long as I, you would understand fully what I mean. Indeed, in deed, Annie, there is nothing in this world worth living for except love — love not such as I once thought I felt for Mrs. ———, but such as burns in my very soul for you — so pure — so unworldly — a love which would make all sacrifices for your sake. ... Could I have accomplished what I wished, no sacrifice would have seemed to me too great, I felt so burning — so intensely passionate a longing to show you that I loved you. ... Write to me ... when ever you can spare time, if it be only a line. ... I am beginning to do very well about money as my spirits improve, and soon — very soon, I hope, I shall be quite out of difficulty. You can’t think how industrious I am. I am resolved to get rich — to triumph — for your sweet sake. ... Kiss dear Sarah for me — tell her I will write to her soon — we talk so much about her. When you write tell me something about B——. Has he gone to Richmond? or what is he doing? Oh, if I could only be of service to him in any way! Remember me to all — to your father and mother and dear little Caddy, and Mr. R—— and Mr. C———. And now good-by, my own dear sister Annie!”

The next letter addressed to “Annie” by the poet is not dated, but was written, presumedly, on or about January 23, 1849:

“My own faithful Annie! How shall I ever be grateful enough to God for giving me, in all my adversity, so true, so beautiful a friend! I felt deeply wounded by the cruel statements of your letter — and yet I had anticipated nearly all. ... Some portions of your letter I do not fully understand. If the reference is to my having violated my promise to you, I simply say, Annie, that I have not, and by God's blessing never will. Oh, if you but knew how happy I am in keeping it for your sake, you could never believe that I would violate it. The reports, if any such there be — may have arisen, however, from what I did in Providence on that terrible day — you know what I mean: — Oh — I shudder even to think of it. That . ... will speak ill of me is an inevitable evil — I must bear it. In fact, Annie, I am beginning to grow wiser, and do not care so much as I did for the opinions of a world in which I see, with my [page 426:] own eyes, that to act generously is to be considered as designing, and that to be poor is to be a villain. I must get rich — rich. Then all will go well — but until then I must submit to be abused. 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. ... As long as you and yours love me, my true and beautiful Annie, what need I care for this cruel, unjust, calculating world? Oh, Annie, there are no human words that can express my devotion to you and yours. My love for you has given me renewed life. 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. For hours at a time I sit and think of you — of your lovely character — your true faith and unworldliness. I do not believe that any one in this whole world fully understands me except your own dear self. ... How glad I am to hear about Sarah's living with you, and about the school. Tell her that she is my own dear sister, whom I shall always love. Do not let her think ill of me; 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 American 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. ... You ask me, Annie, to tell you about some book to read. Have you seen ‘Percy Ranthorpe’ by Mrs. Gore? You can get it at any of the agencies. I have lately read it with deep interest, and derived great consolation from it also. It relates to the career of a literary man, and gives a just view of the true aims and the true dignity of the literary character. Read it for my sake. ... 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. —— is the only exception I know. Our dear mother sends you a hundred kisses (fifty for Sarah). She will write very soon. Kiss little Caddy for me, and remember me to Mr. R—— and to all. ...

This letter was not signed, and is followed by [column 2:] one written, apparently, in February, but simply headed —

“Thursday, —— 8th.

“DEAR, DEAR ANNIE — Our darling mother is just going to town, where, I hope, she will find a sweet let ter from you, or from Sarah, but, as it is so long since I have written, I must send a few words to let you see and feel that your Eddy, even when silent, keeps you always in his mind and heart — in his inmost heart. I have been so busy, dear Annie, ever 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 W——, that I hardly ever knew any one with a keener discrimination in regard to what is really poetical. The five 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. ... I think ‘The Bells’ will appear in the American Review. I have got no answer yet from ——————, ... My opinion is that her mother has intercepted the letter and will never give it to her. ... And now good-by, my dear Annie.

“Your own EDDY.”

On the 19th the poet writes to repel some cruel accusations certain mischief-makers had spread about among his dearest friends:

“FORDHAM, Feb. 19, Sunday.

“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 —— 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. R—— has permitted himself (perhaps without knowing it) to be influenced against me by the malignant misrepresentations of Mr. and Mrs. ——. 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 ——s 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 [page 427:] Mrs. —— were not sufficient to make me break with them. It was only when I heard them declare ... that your husband was everything despicable ... it was only when such insults were offered to you, whom I sincerely and most purely loved, and to Mr. R—— , whom I had every reason to like and respect, that I arose and left their house, and insured the unrelenting vengeance of that worst of all fiends, ‘a woman scorned.’ Now, feeling all this, I cannot help thinking it unkind in Mr. R——, when I am absent and unable 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. ——'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. ... Not only must I not visit you at ——, 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 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 in juries 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. E——, 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. ——, if ever he shall muster courage to utter a single actionable word. ... You will now have seen, dear Annie, how and why it is that my Mother and myself cannot visit you as we proposed. ... It [column 2:] 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 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 I) shall sooner or later be kept.

“Always your dear friend and brother,


From the next communication is learned that the traducers are still at work; it is too lengthy to quote in full. This letter is unsigned, but dated —

March 23, 1849.

... Will not Annie confide ... the secret about W——? Was it anything I did which caused you to ‘give up hope?’ Dearest Annie, I am so happy in being able to afford M. R—— proof of something in which he seems to doubt me. You re member that Mr. and Mrs. —— strenuously denied having spoken ill of you to me, and I said ‘then it must remain a simple question of veracity between us, as I had no witness ‘ — but I observed afterward — ‘ Unfortunately I have returned Mrs. —— her letters (which were filled with abuse of you both), but, if I am not mistaken, my mother has some in her possession that will prove the truth of what I say.’ Now, Annie, when we came to look over these last, I found, to my extreme sorrow, that they would not corroborate me. I say ‘to my extreme sorrow,’ for oh, it is so painful to be doubted when we know our own integrity. Not that I fancied, even for one moment, that you doubted me — but then I saw that Mr. R—— and Mr. C——— did, and perhaps even your brother. Well! what do you think? Mrs. —— has again written my mother, and I inclose her letter. Read it! You will find it thoroughly corroborative of all I said. The verses to me which she alludes to I have not seen. You will see that she ... in fact admits all that I accused her of. Now, you distinctly remember that they both loudly denied having spoken against you! — this, in fact, was the sole point at issue. I have marked the passages alluded to. I wish that you would write to your relation in Providence and ascertain for me who slandered me as you say. I wish to prove the falsity of what has been said (for I find that it will not do to permit such reports to go unpunished), and, especially, obtain for me some details upon which I can act. ... Will you do this? I inclose also some other lines, ‘For Annie’ — and will you let me know in what manner they impress you? I have sent them to the ... By the way, did you get ‘Hop-Frog?’ I sent it to you by mail, not knowing whether you ever see the paper in ——. I am sorry to say that the Metropolitan has stopped, and ‘Landor's Cottage’ is returned upon my hands unprinted. I think the lines ‘For Annie ‘ (those I [page 428:] now send) much the best I have ever written — but an author can seldom depend on his own estimate of his own works — so I wish to know what my Annie truly thinks of them — also your dear sister and Mr. C———. Do not let these verses go out of your possession until you see them in print — as I have sold them to the publisher of the —— ...

The next letter is without date, but was evidently written soon after that just quoted from:

... Annie — You will see by this note that I am nearly, if not quite, well — so be no longer un easy on my account. I was not so ill as my mother supposed, and she is so anxious about me that she 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 through out 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 at tribute my ‘gloom ‘ to these events — but you would be wrong. It is not in the power of any mere worldly consideration, 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. ——, 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 —— so misprinted them that I [column 2:] was resolved to have a true copy. The —— 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 will send you soon. Why do you not send the tale of which you spoke ——?”

To the above Mrs. Clemm appends these words: “Thank you a thousand times for your letter, my dear Annie. Do not believe Eddy; he has been very ill, but is now better. I thought he would die several times. God knows I wish we were both in our graves — it would, I am sure, be far better.”

From the last letter of this series the following passages are selected:

“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-by’ — but in deed, 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. ...

On June 29th Poe left his home at Fordham never to return; Mrs. Clemm (“Muddy ”) never be held him again. Upon July 9th she wrote to “Annie “Eddy has been gone ten days, and I have not heard one word from him. Do you wonder that I am distracted? O Annie, Annie, I fear everything. He left in such wretched spirits. He was so much distressed at not hearing from you. ... Do you wonder that he has so little confidence in anyone? Have we not suffered from the blackest treachery? ... Eddy was obliged to go through Philadelphia, and how much I fear he has got into some trouble there. ... Before he left home he arranged all his papers, and told me what to do with them should he die. ... If Eddy gets to Richmond safely and can succeed in what he intends doing, we will be relieved of part of our difficulties.” In a letter from Mrs. Clemm, of June 30th, she informs “Annie “ that she has heard from “Eddy,” and that he is now in Richmond. With Poe's last visit to Richmond is connected and concluded one of the most romantic episodes of his history.


Referring to the boyish poet-love of Byron, Edgar Poe says, “It was born of the hour, and of the youthful necessity to love,” adding that in similar circumstances of frequent and unrestricted inter course, such as the children are represented to have enjoyed, “it was not merely natural, or merely probable; it was as inevitable as destiny itself.” That any maiden, not positively repulsive, would have [page 429:] served “sufficiently well as the incarnation of the ideal that haunted the fancy of the poet,” he also opines, notwithstanding the fact that the affection may not have been reciprocated, or “if she felt at all, it was only while the magnetism of his actual presence compelled her to feel.” Finally, with evident remembrance of the ideal of his own boyhood, he deems that “He, to her, was a not unhandsome, and not ignoble, but somewhat portionless, some what eccentric, young man;” while “she, to him, was the Egeria of his dreams; the Venus Aphrodite that sprang, in full and supernal loveliness, from the bright foam upon the storm-tormented ocean of his thoughts.”

Reading his own story by these words, how suggestive and how intensely interesting is it to be enabled, owing to the cordial cooperation and generous frankness of the still living “Egeria “ of Edgar Poe's own boyish passion, to record the incidents of his first, as it was also his last, love!

Between the years 1822-‘25, Edgar Poe was a scholar in a well-known Richmond academy. The adopted son and reputed heir of a wealthy Scotch man, the lad — during this period being between thirteen and sixteen years of age, and already well-grounded in general education from several years’ tuition in England — was enabled to make no mean figure among his fellow-students. His memory is still cherished by some of them for his classical attainments, his athletic feats, and for a certain magnetic, rather than sympathetic, influence which he exercised upon them. Foremost among those, how ever, who fell more completely under the spell of his nobler qualities was a little maiden, but a year or two younger than himself. Elmira Royster's parents lived opposite to the Allans in Richmond, and in the usual course of events she made the acquaintance of their adopted son. Edgar, she says, “was a beautiful boy; he was not very talkative, and his general manner was sad, but when he did talk his conversation was very pleasant. He was devoted to the first Mrs. Allan, and she to him. Of his own parents he never spoke. I have seen his brother Henry, who was in the navy. He had very few associates, but he was very intimate with Ebenezer Berling, a widow's son, of about the same age as himself. Berling was an interesting, intelligent young man, but somewhat inclined to dissipation. They used to visit our house together very frequently.” Berling, it may be mentioned, was to have accompanied Poe when he started for Europe to offer his services to the Greek insurgents, but died before the departure of the poet, who had to journey to Europe alone.

“Edgar,” continues the lady, “was warm and zealous in any cause he was interested in, being enthusiastic and impulsive. He had strong prejudices, and hated everything coarse and unrefined. I can still remember him saying to me, when an acquaintance made an unladylike remark, ‘I am surprised you should associate with any one who could make such a remark!’

“He was very generous. He drew beautifully, [column 2:] and drew a pencil likeness of me in a few minutes. He was passionately fond of music. ... It dis tresses me greatly when I see anything scurrilous written about him. Do not believe a tenth part of what is said. It is chiefly produced by jealousy and envy. I have the greatest respect for his memory. ... Our acquaintance was kept up until he left to go to the university, and during the time he was at the university he wrote to me frequently. But my father intercepted the letters because we were too young — for no other reason. I was between fifteen and sixteen when we were engaged. I was not aware that he had written to me from the university until after I was married, when I was seventeen, to Mr. Shelton.”

Many years passed by; Mr. Shelton died, and left his widow wealthy. Of Poe she lost sight for years. At last, in the summer of 1849, returned to the scenes of his childhood, and, again in Richmond, called upon his boyhood's love. Mrs. Shelton thus describes the meeting:

“I was ready to go to church, when a servant entered and told me that a gentleman in the parlor wished to see me. I went down and was amazed at seeing him” (i. e., Poe), “but knew him instantly. He came up to me in the most enthusiastic manner, and said, ‘Oh! Elmira, is it you?’ I told him I was going to church, that I never let any thing interfere with that, and that he must call again. ... When he did call again he renewed his ad dresses. I laughed; he looked away serious, and said he was in earnest, and had been thinking about it for a long time. When I found out that he was very serious, I became serious also, and told him that, if he would not take a positive denial, he must give me time to consider. He answered, ‘A love that hesitated was not a love for him.’ ... But he stayed a long time, and was very pleasant and cheerful. He came to visit me frequently. ... I went with him to the ‘Exchange Concert-Room,’ and heard him read. ... When he was going away he begged me to marry him, and promised he would be everything I could desire. He said, when he left, that he was going to New York to wind up some business matters, and that he would return to Richmond as soon as he had accomplished it, al though he said, at the same time, that he had a presentiment he should never see me any more. ... I was not engaged to him, but there was a partial understanding. ... He was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was one of the most fascinating and refined men I ever knew. I never saw him under the influence of wine. I admired him more than any man I ever knew.”

Nothing can be added to this history of the poet's first and his last love, which the gracious kind ness of the lady concerned permits us to use. A week after parting from Mrs. Shelton, Edgar Poe was found unconscious and dying in the streets of Baltimore.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 423, column 1:]

1 This manuscript is now in my possession. — J. H. I.



Although unpublished prior to the time of the present article, of course, all of these letters have long since been accumulated and printed in editions of Poe's correspondence.

Someone who was very upset by this article, and published a response, was Sarah Helen Whitman. It was printed in the Providence Daily Journal, and reprinted by John Grier Varner in his dissertatoi on Mrs. Whitman.

In the original article, the letters are not indented or printed in a smaller font, presumably because the text was printed in fairly narrow columns and in a font that was already quite small. In this presentation, the letters have been indented to improve readability.


[S:0 - AJ, 1878] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Unpublished Correspondence of Edgar A. Poe (J. H. Ingram, 1878)