Text: Anonymous, “Poe the Poet: Recollections of Two Citizens Who Knew Him Well,” State (Richmond), November 29, 1885, p. 1, cols. 3-4


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Ex-Mayor Clarke, of Manchester, Tells of Poe’s Career at the University, and Mr. David Bridges, of Richmond, Recalls Incidents in the Early Life of the Poet.

Many years have passed since the writer of “The Raven,” a poem that will make its author’s name forever shine on the pages of American literature, fell into that sleep which knows no waking and is no respecter of persons, though they be kings or emperors, priests or poets. The memory of Edgar Allen [[Allan]] Poe will long be cherished, not alone in Richmond, where the days of his early life were spent, or in the busy city of Baltimore, where he passed to that bourne from which no traveller has ever yet returned, but in every land and under every sky where true poetic genius is honored and respected. Few of his companions remain. Most of them have crossed over the dark river to find a home beyond the tomb.


the venerable James A. Clarke, of Manchester, recalls recollections of the gifted poet and writer. Mr. Clarke, who s in his eighty-second year, has been in feeble health for some time, but until he fell down the other day and hurt himself, he would and did walk about the streets. Since then he has [[much confined himself to???]] his room at the boarding-house on Hull between Fourth and Fifth streets. It was not very long ago that Mr. Clarke, in conversation wtih a STATE reporter, recalled some incidents in the life of Poe. “I knew Poe well,” he said, “and at the University we were together frequently. He was a pretty wild young man and took much interest in athletic sports. He was not above mediocrity then, and his fellow students never thought that he would become a noted man.”

Did he write poetry while at the University? Mr. Clarke was asked. In reply he slowly said, as his memory went rushing back over half a century: “The first poetic effusion I knew Poe to write was suggested by some trouble occurring between Poe and a room-mate. It was written and posted in a conspicuous place, and I remember the incident as clearly as if it happened yesterday. I did not see Poe much after he left the University, but I heard of him often.


A question changed the subject of our conversation, and Mr. Clarke, in response, said: “Oh, yes; I have seen Jefferson,” and, as his countenance lighted up while recollections of the author of the Declaration of Independence played over his memory, he continued ‘Mr. Jefferson was a good man, and when I was at the University I took breakfast with him a number of times.”

“But to recur to Poe,” said the reporter. “Do you remember the time he swam from Mayo’s island to Warwick?”

“I recollect the time very well,” said Mr. Clarke; “but I did not see him do it.” Leaning back in an old arm chair and resting his feet upon a table in the office of the clerk of the Hustings Court of Manchester, Mr. Clarke was about to recall other events in the life of the poet, when several lawyers entered the room and compelled all in there to listen to a discussion of writs, ejectments, suits and appears instead of an interesting reminiscence of Poe and Jefferson.


While a STATE reporter was at the Capitol pondering over Stoddard’s “Life of Poe,” Col. Sherwin McRae remarked, “David Bridges, at the Tobacco Exchange, went to school with Edgar Allen [[Allan]] Poe, and can give you some interesting reminiscences of him.”

Later in the day, while at the Tobacco Exchange, the reporter entered Mr. Bridges’s office and saw him there alone perusing a paper.

“Did you know Edgar Allen [[Allan]] Poe?” was asked.

“Yes,” said Mr. Bridges; “I knew him intimately; he was one of my closest friends, and we were with each other every day, I always called him Edgar, and he called me David.”

“Did you go to school with him?”

“Yes, he and I went to school to old Mr. Ewing, who taught on Eighth and Main streets, in this city. Know Edgar Poe,” Mr. Bridges exclaimed, as dreams of boyhood seemed to come back to him, and the subject he was discussing to gradually became more interesting; “I should think I did know him. Edgar — for that is what I told you I called him — was a boy who had great ambition to excel his companions in any sport in which they would engage. I have read in the newspapers and in books many stories about him. I call them stories, because they are not true. They relate to his private life and to his death. I have just a little while ago finished reading a paper sent to me which said that Edgar Allen [[Allan]] Poe was driven from home by Mr. Allen [[Allan]]. This is all wrong. Mr. Allen [[Allan]] loved Edgar Poe as dearly as if he was his own son. He was completely wrapt up in Edgar, and there was nothing that he would not do for him. But Edgar Poe did not treat Mr. Allen [[Allan]] right, and this brought sorrow to the old Scotchman.”

“Do you recollect the time Poe swam to Warwick?” asked the reporter.


“I should think so; I swam with him, and I will tell you all about it. Edgar was a good swimmer, and he and I often visited Mr. Lyle’s at Whitby. One day Mr. Lyle bet Edgar that he could not swim from Mayo’s Island to Whitby, which is several miles down the river. The wager was accepted, and one hot summer day he and I pulled off our clothes, jumped into the river at the end of the island, now called Mayo’s Island, and started to swim to Whitby. Several persons followed us in a boat. A strong tide was against us. We swam slowly along, and when we reached Rocketts I was so tired I felt as if I could not go any further. Strange to day, that feeling soon passed off, and I proceeded without any difficulty. We kept close to each other. When we got opposite Whitby Edgar was a little ahead of me. I ‘hollered’ to look out for the wreck — an old schooner which had sunk near shore. It had been there for years, and as I had, at low tied, fished off of it when a boy, I knew pretty much where it was. The high tide had covered the old wreck, and I, thinking that Edgar might strike against the sharp planks, warned him to turn out towards the centre of the river. He did not do this, but kept on, and pretty soon he reached the wreck as I expected. He crawled over it, and kept on towards Warwick. I stopped at the wreck, and with those in the boat begged Edgar not to swim any further. He would not stop, but kept on until he reached Warwick, two miles farther down the river, and five miles from Mayo’s Island.

“When he got up on the shore he was pretty well worn out. The sun had made


on his back, and he was so tired he could scarcely move. We had to wait down there some time for him, and while we were waiting we rubbed his back with milk. I have seen in print that when Edgar Poe reached Warwick he was not much fatigued, and to prove it he walked back to Richmond, going up on the Chesterfield side. This is not true, for I was with him and remember all about it. He came back in the boat with the rest of us.

“I could tell a great many things about [column 4:] Edgar Poe,” continued Mr. Bridges. “Mr. Valentine has asked me to write my reminiscences of Poe, but I don’t see any use in my doing it since so much has been said about him. When Edgar,” said Mr. Bridges, “had gotten a position on the Literary Messenger which paid him $1,800 a yea he made up his mind upon the strength of his salary to get married. He had no means, and had to borrow money from his most intimate friends to meet the expenses. I gave him my check for $150, and several other friends contributed as liberally. Edgar was never able to pay the money, although he had promised and fully expected to pay it all within six months.”

The conversation then turned upon


For an hour or more Mr. Bridges talked of the people who had figured in Richmond in the days of Auld Lang Syne, and commented upon the old buildings which have long since passed away to give place to others of a more modern style. Men and measures of sixty years ago or more were referred to. The visit to Richmond of the Marquis de Lafayette, the friend of Washington and America, was touched upon, special allusion being made to the part taken at the receptions by the Morgan Legion, composed of youths, and named after GEN. Morgan of Revolutionary fame. Mr. Bridges was an officer in the Morgan Legion and was privileged at the banquet to touch glasses with the great Frenchman and join in the general toast for the perpetuation of American freedom and the continuance of civil liberty in all the States.



The present article survives as a clipping in the Ingram Collection, item #855.


[S:0 - RS, 1880 (I)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Poe the Poet: Recollections of Two Citizens Who Knew Him Well (Anonymous, 1880)