Text: George E. Woodberry, “Chapter 14,” The Life of Edgar Allan Poe: Personal and Literary (1909), vol. II, pp. 265-293


[page 265, unnumbered:]

Chapter XIV


ON his visit to Boston, in the summer of 1845, while passing through Providence Poe had seen a lady among the roses of her garden in the moonlight. He learned she was a poetess, Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman,(1) and a verbal description of her romantic temperament had further attracted him. No meeting took place, but when three years later they became acquainted, Poe [page 266:] described to her the state of his mind during the interval: —

“She [Miss Anna Blackwell] had referred to thoughts, sentiments, traits, moods, which I knew to be my own, but which, until that moment, I had believed to be my own solely — unshared by any human being. A profound sympathy took immediate possession of my soul. I cannot better explain to you what I felt than by saying that your unknown heart seemed to pass into my bosom — there to dwell forever — while mine, I thought, was translated into your own. From that hour I loved you. Since that period I have never seen nor heard your name without a shiver, half of delight, half of anxiety. — The impression left upon my mind was that you were still a wife, and it is only within the last few months that I have been undeceived in this respect. For this reason I shunned your presence and even the city in which you lived. You may remember that once when I passed through Providence with Mrs. Osgood I positively refused to accompany her to your house, and even provoked her into a quarrel by the obstinacy and seeming unreasonableness of my refusal. I dared neither go nor say why I could not. I dared not speak of you — much less see you. For years your [page 267:] name never passed my lips, while my soul drank in, with a delirious thirst, all that was uttered in my presence respecting you. The merest whisper that concerned you awoke in me a shuddering sixth sense, vaguely compounded of fear, ecstatic happiness, and a wild inexplicable sentiment that resembled nothing so nearly as a consciousness of guilt.”(1)

Mrs. Whitman, on her part, had been informed of frequent commendatory allusions to herself made by Poe, and was prevailed upon to address some verses to him for the entertainment of what was termed a valentine party given February 14, 1848, at the house of Anne C. Lynch, in New York, to what appears to have been the entire body of the literati.(2) The two did not meet on this occasion. The verses entitled “The Raven,” in Mrs. Whitman's “Poems,” were published by Willis, with the characteristic note with which he prefaced his reprints of Poe's poems, in the “Home Journal,” March 18, 1848. They had been sent to Poe. He says, in the continuation of the letter just quoted, that he was thrown into a state of ecstasy by this proof of [page 268:] her regard, and, as he could not express his emotion in spontaneous lines, took down a volume of his old poems and read “To Helen,” with the result that the identity of name and the apt ness of the sentiment, which “to one accustomed to the Calculus of Probabilities” wore “an air of positive miracle,” overwhelmed him with the belief that their destinies were conjoined. He sent her the printed lines from his old poems. He was, also, aroused to the point of composition, and replied to her valentine with the lines “To ——,” afterwards elaborated into the lines “To Helen,” which is supposed to commemorate his first sight of this lady among the roses; he sent these to her anonymously in manuscript, and, in June, to the “Union Magazine” with his name. Whether the legend be true or not, — and there is no reason to doubt it, — the scene of the lines is clearly a mere elaboration of that suggested in the seventh stanza of Mrs. Whit man's “The Raven,” in connection with the vista obviously repeated from his lines of the previous year to Mrs. Shew. This poem drew no acknowledgment from its object. On June 19, 1848, he applied to his informant of the previous autumn, Miss Blackwell, who was then at Providence, and, in the course of a letter of [page 269:] literary advice respecting the publication of her poems, begged her to write him something about Mrs. Whitman, and added, “Keep my secret — that is to say, let no one know I have asked you to do so.”(1) This lady did not answer his note; on the contrary, hearing Miss Maria Mclntosh, another literary woman, tell Mrs. Whitman that one evening at Fordham a month previously Poe had talked only of her, Miss Blackwell gave the letter at once to Mrs. Whitman herself, who continued to observe an obstinate silence towards her admirer.(2) This was the month when Mrs. Shew broke off all communication with him, as has been related.

Poe went to Lowell, Massachusetts, the residence of his old correspondent, Mrs. Locke, and lectured July 10 on “The Poetic Principle.” There he made acquaintance with a family, the Richmonds, who became his devoted friends. Immediately upon his return to New York, July 13, being furnished with funds for his long-delayed journey in behalf of the “Stylus,” derived possibly from this lecture or the two advances made by Wiley & Putnam on “Eureka,” [page 270:] he started for Richmond July 16. In that city Mr. John R. Thompson, editor of the “South ern Literary Messenger,” found him: —

“I accidentally learned that a person calling himself Edgar A. Poe had been, for a fortnight, in a debauch, in one of the lowest haunts of vice upon the wharves in this City. If you have ever visited Richmond, you may perhaps know that the business portion of the town and the sites occupied by residences exclusively are distant from the shipping by a mile and a half, so that very few persons not actually engaged in commercial affairs ever visit the landing at all. As soon as I heard the name Poe in this connection my worst suspicions were excited, and I at once took a carriage and went to seek him. It was a very warm day in the latter part of May or early in June [July]. When I reached the purlieus of this abandoned quarter, I learned that such a person had indeed been there, drunk, for two weeks, and that he had gone a few hours previous, without hat or coat, to the residence of Mr. John MacKenzie, some three miles distant in the country, alone and on foot. It was Poe. The next day he called on me with Mr. MacKenzie. From that time until his death we were much together and in constant correspondence. [page 271:]

I did all I could to restrain his excesses and to relieve the pressure of his immediate wants (for he was extremely indigent), but no influence was adequate to keep him from the damnable propensity to drink.”(1)

Poe made Thompson's office a resort and had bachelor lodgings with Mr. Pleasants, editor of the “Whig.” His friends received him kindly, especially the MacKenzies, with whom his sister Rosalie was still living, and in whose home, Duncan Lodge, he himself had always been welcomed like a child of the house. He led a Bohemian life, scenes of which survive in Richmond tradition; there were nights of genius and days of little labor. He passed a pleasant six weeks between his lodgings and Duncan Lodge and visits to his female friends. One of these, Mrs. Clarke, who had been a fellow-boarder with him in the old “Messenger” days, says(2) that he called on her daily and sometimes oftener, and represents him as sharing [page 272:] the sports of the group of young men at the Lodge. In his worst estate, Poe was subject to cheerful moments, just as in the midst of his sentimental passions he could attend soberly enough to business affairs; so now, if he read the “Raven” by daylight in a darkened room by the light of an astral lamp, he also played leap-frog with the young men in the broad alleys of the garden, “skimming over their backs like a bird.” One recalls the days after Virginia's death, when he gave the party on winning his libel suit,(1) and the tale of another Southern lady(2) who took pleasure in “romping with him and dancing while his sister Rosalie Poe played waltzes and polkas.” It was this vein of social gayety and natural happiness, familiar to him in boyhood, that was renewed in the friendliness he found in his old haunts and the social warmth of that community which was the only one he ever really belonged to; elsewhere he was always an exile, misunderstood, unattached, incomprehensible. He read and recited at friends’ houses, and gave one public reading at the Old Exchange Hotel, but it was a failure; only thirteen persons were [page 273:] present. Meanwhile he had got into trouble with one of his newspaper friends, Daniels, editor of the “Examiner,” with regard to both the two principal causes of duels, — a debt and a lady, — and challenged him. He was at this point, it is said, when he received from the lady, Mrs. Whitman, who had begun to question the propriety of her summer neglect, two stanzas of her poem, “A Night in August,” unsigned, and sent, she says, after a lapse of more than two months, in “playful acknowledgment” of his own anonymous lines. In the letter already quoted, Poe represents his state of mind during her silence as a hoping against hope culminating in a spirit far more reckless than despair; and he concludes, referring, as is claimed, to his challenge, which was farcically settled, “Your lines reached me in Richmond on the very day in which I was about to enter on a course which would have borne me far, far away, from, you, sweet, sweet Helen, and from the divine dream of your love.” There had been much brightness and some calm in this checkered visit to the old city; its convivial side was known to his male companions, younger men, some of whom were physicians, but Poe must have felt that he was turning from a kind and hospitable community, [page 274:] however lost was his place in it, when he went back, soon after receiving Mrs. Whitman's anonymous verses, to Fordham. The first step Poe took in prosecuting his suit for Mrs. Whit man was to write in a disguised hand, or cause to be written, a request for her autograph, under the assumed name of Edward S. T. Grey. This note was dated September 8, at New York. A week later, September 15, he obtained a letter of introduction from Miss Mclntosh. He found time to write an open letter, September 20, to Mr. C. F. Hoffman of “The Literary World,” in reply to a criticism on “Eureka” which had appeared during his absence, and in which he observes that the ground covered by Laplace compares with that covered by his own theory as a bubble with the ocean on which it floats; and on the next day presented himself with, his letter of introduction to his poetical correspond ent, passed two evenings in her company, and, with a characteristic choice of place, asked her, as they were walking in the cemetery, to marry him. Mrs. Whitman, who had delayed her reply, wrote to him a letter in which, as may be gathered from Poe's indignant protest against confounding so spiritual a love as his with merely mortal matters, she referred to her age, — she had been [page 275:] born on the same day of the month, January 19, as Poe, but six years earlier, and was forty-five, and had been widowed for the past fifteen years, — her personal appearance, and her ill ness; but such objections could not withstand the sentiment of Poe's vein, and she was forced to acknowledge, though rather by suggestion than confession, the real ground of her refusal, which was the representations of her friends in regard to Poe's character. To this he replied, October 18, with a protestation that “with the exception of occasional follies and excesses which I bitterly lament but to which I have been driven by intolerable sorrow, and which are hourly committed by others without attracting any notice whatever — I can call to mind no act of my life which would bring a blush to my cheek — or to yours.”(1) He reminded her of the enemies he had made by his published criticisms, of the result of his libel case, and of her distance from his friends, and concluded with a sketch of the secluded Eden he had fancied for their abode (out of “Landor's Cottage,” which he was then writing), and expressions of his sorrow that his dream was not to be realized, of his deep devotion to herself, and his utter hopelessness. [page 276:]

Soon after dispatching this letter, however, being on his way to Lowell to deliver a new lecture, he stopped at Providence, and, calling upon Mrs. Whitman, he again urged her to accept his hand and realize the last and brightest hope that remained to him in life. She promised still to entertain his proposal, and to write to him at Lowell the decision at which she should arrive. Thither he went, and though he did not deliver his lecture, cemented his acquaintance with his new friends the Richmonds, and spent some days at the village of Westford, where he rested, waited, strolled off “to look at the hills,” and enjoyed the society of “Annie,” Mrs. Richmond, whom he had taken into his confidence, and of her sister. The latter, who was then a school-girl, in her reminiscences of Poe, draws the familiar portrait of him, self-possessed, serious, deferential to all women, distinguished by the large, deep eyes and low baritone voice that charmed so many of them; but she adds no thing of novel interest except a quiet indoor scene, vividly illustrative of the speed with which he established a habit of intimacy with married women.

“My memory photographs him, sitting before an open wood fire, in the early autumn evening, [page 277:] gazing intently into the glowing coal, holding the hand of a dear friend — ‘Annie’ — while for a long time no one spoke, and the only sound was the ticking of the tall old clock in the corner of the room.”(1)

About the 2d of November, having received an indecisive letter from Mrs. Whitman, who seems to have been always struggling between her own inclination and her friends prudence, and having replied that he would call at her house on Saturday, November 4, he left this pleasant home.

Two weeks later he wrote to his friend at Low ell, referring to what happened after he bade her farewell, as follows: —

“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 [page 278:] 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 that 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.”(1) [page 279:]

On Tuesday morning, November 7, Poe called at Mrs. Whitman's; but she, having been alarmed, it is said, by his failure to keep his engagement the previous Saturday, which she distinctly ascribes to his having become intoxicated in Boston, refused to see him until noon, despite all the messages that he could invent. In ther afternoon he again called, by appointment, and once more implored her to marry him at once and return with him to New York. He excused his excesses in Boston on the ground of his anx iety in respect to her decision, and on that and the following day continued to plead his cause with all his eloquent abandonment of language and manner. The details of the termination of this interview and of its consequences have been narrated by Mrs. Whitman herself with slight variations. The earliest account, so far as is known, is contained in a private letter of March, 1860. In this, after mentioning that Poe “had vehemently urged me to an immediate marriage,” she continues as follows: —

“As an additional reason for delaying a marriage which, under any circumstances, seemed to all my friends full of evil portents, I read to him some passages from a letter which I had recently received from one of his New York associates. [page 280:]

He seemed deeply pained and wounded by the result of our interview, and left me abruptly, saying that if we met again it would be as strangers. He passed the evening in the bar room of his hotel, and after a night of delirious frenzy, returned the next day to my mother's house in a state of great mental excitement and suffering, declaring that his welfare for time and eternity depended on me. A physician, Dr. O. H. Oakie, was sent for by my mother, who, perceiving indications of brain fever, advised his removal to the house of his friend, W. J. Pabodie, of this city, where he was kindly cared for until his recovery.”(1)

Later and possibly more accurate accounts change some of these details and amplify others. In the interview of November 8, according to these, Mrs. Whitman showed Poe several letters, one of which especially moved him; on reading it, further confidential conversation being pre vented by visitors, he took leave at once with a look of strange excitement, and made no reply to her invitation, “We shall see you this evening?” He did not, however, return, but sent a note of renunciation. On the next day when Poe called he was so uncontrollable that his passionate appeals [page 281:] rang through the house. “Never have I heard anything so awful,” records Mrs. Whitman, “awful even to sublimity. It was long before I could nerve myself to see him. My mother was with him more than two hours be fore I entered the room. He hailed me as an angel sent to save him from perdition. ... In the afternoon he grew more composed, and my mother sent for Dr. Oakie.”(1)

In consequence of this exhibition of Poe's state, and with the hope of helping him in what seemed to be a last struggle for life itself, Mrs. Whitman consented within a few days to a conditional engagement. Forced to be content with this, Poe, having on his side repeated the promise of reform that he had given to every woman whom he had known intimately, returned to New York on November 14, and on the same evening wrote to assure his fiancée that he had not dared to break his pledge.

In spite, however, of his success in so difficult and indeed desperate a wooing, he felt little of the happiness of an accepted lover. He arrived at Fordham safely, but so changed in outward appearance by the wear of the last fortnight that Mrs. Clemm declares, in a letter to “Annie,”

[page 282:] written two days later, he was hardly recognizable. All the previous night, according to the same authority, he had raved about this last lady, and the same day, November 16, he also wrote to her a letter which is inexplicable on the theory that he put any faith in the happy issue of his betrothal, since after giving the account, already quoted, of what happened at Boston, he proposes to take a cottage for his mother and himself at Westford, where he might see her family every day and herself often, and concludes with a passionate appeal that she would come on to Fordham at once, if only for a week, saying, “I am so ill — so terribly, hopelessly ill in body and mind, that I feel I cannot live.”(1) In his next letter, however, written four days later, to Edward Valentine, the brother of the first Mrs. Allan, sent under cover to Mrs. Weiss, then Miss Talley, and containing merely a request for the loan of $200 to start the “Stylus,” he expresses a strong hope of surmounting his difficulties. On November 21, 22, and 24, and presumably on other dates, he wrote to Mrs. Whitman, warning her against his slanderers, particularly the women, begging her to be true to him, as his sole hope was in her love, and drawing golden anticipations [page 283:] of their worldly triumph. Meanwhile, on November 23, he had written to “Annie's” sister, already mentioned, in hardly less affectionate terms than to herself or Mrs. Whitman, protesting his love for “Annie “and imploring an answer to his former letter to the latter, containing the Boston episode, with a fervor amply indicated by a single line: “Her silence fills my whole soul with terror.”(1)

With such conflicting and exhausting emotions, which happily have not been further dis closed by his confidants, Poe passed another fortnight, when, about December 12, he is said to have visited Providence, but no record of the journey remains; it may be conjectured, however, that it had to do with financial arrangements relating to his marriage. On December 20 he again left Fordham to give the fifth lecture before the Franklin Lyceum of Providence. At the New York station he met Mrs. Hewitt, who said to him, “Mr. Poe, are you going to Providence to be married?” “I am going,” he re plied, “to deliver a lecture on Poetry.” Then he added, after a moment, “That marriage may never take place.” Mrs. Whitman's friend, Mr. Pabodie, in describing this interview, states that [page 284:] “circumstances existed which threatened to postpone the marriage indefinitely, if not altogether to prevent it.”(1) On reaching Providence he delivered the lecture, “The Poetic Principle,” the fifth in the Franklin Lyceum course, in Howard's Hall, the same evening, December 20, to a large audience, said to have numbered eighteen hundred, and was greatly pleased with his success. He remained in the city, and still pleaded with Mrs. Whitman to be married and to return with him to Fordham. He was stopping at the Earl House, and there occasionally drank at the bar with some young men of the city. On Friday evening, December 22, he called at Mrs. Whitman's, partially intoxicated; but, says Mr. Pabodie, who was present, he was quiet and said little, which perhaps was not surprising, as his business was to affix his signature, as a prospective husband, to a legal instrument transferring all Mrs. Whitman's property to her mother. The next morning he was full of contrition for his intemperance and profuse of promises for the future, and he persuaded Mrs. Whitman to appoint Monday evening [page 285:] for the ceremony. He then wrote to Dr. Crocker, engaging him to officiate, and to Mrs. Clemm, advising her to expect himself and his wife on Tuesday at Fordham. In the afternoon, however, Mrs. Whitman received a note from a friend, informing her that Poe had that morning again drunk at the bar of his hotel, and she there fore finally decided to break off the match. When Poe called, says Mrs. Whitman, “no token of the infringement of his promise was visible in his appearance or manner.”(1) This circumstance, however, she disregarded, and carried out her predetermined plan. “Gathering together some papers,” she says, “which he had intrusted to my keeping, I placed them in his hands without a word of explanation or reproach, and, utterly worn out and exhausted by the mental conflicts and anxieties and responsibilities of the last few days, I drenched my handkerchief with ether and threw myself on a sofa, hoping to lose my self in utter unconsciousness. Sinking on his knees beside me, he entreated me to speak to him, — to speak one word, but one word. At last I responded, almost inaudibly, What can I say? Say that you love me, Helen. ‘I love you.’ These were the last words I ever spoke to [page 286:] him.”(1) She adds, in another account, that her mother, worn out by his long stay, “hastened his departure” by some expressions of her own; “turning to the door, he exclaimed bitterly, Mr. Pabodie, you hear how I am insulted. “ The two gentlemen went at once to the station and Poe left for Fordham. It was just three months since he had first left New York to meet Mrs. Whitman. About three weeks later he ad dressed a last letter to her, in respect to some slanderous misrepresentations of his conduct in this affair, which had been put in circulation; but to this, which he had first sent unsealed to “Annie,” Mrs. Whitman made no reply, except, weeks afterward, indirectly by some “Stanzas for Music,” published in “The Metropolitan” for February, and now included, in a revised version, in her “Poems” as “The Island of Dreams.”

This episode has been narrated in minute de tail because gross perversions of the facts were once common; and in the relation it has not been possible to ignore, as one would desire to do, the letters written by Poe, during this period, to Mrs. Whitman, “Annie,” and her sister. If Poe's correspondence with other women — with [page 287:] Mrs. Osgood, for example, who terms his letters “divinely beautiful” — bore any resemblance to that of the last year of his life, fortune has been more than usually kind in destroying it; but all his intimate correspondence with women seems to be of the same tissue. Not one word from these letters ought ever to have been published, but now it is too late to exclude them from the record. Poe had made up his mind to adopt Mrs. Shew's advice, and to try to save himself in what she had declared the only possible way, — marriage. He meant to extricate himself from his poverty by marrying a woman with property. This was his practical plan, wholly aside from his entanglement with any particular woman; but he worked it out under the conditions of his temperament. He had found romantic attachments consistent with his previous marriage, and he did not consider them inconsistent with his wooing. He was irresponsible in all his relations with women, — governed by no manly principle but by what they would permit in endearing language and behavior, and using the power of his fascination to satisfy his own craving. The contact of two such abnormal natures as Poe and Mrs. Whitman was full of danger. Mrs. Whit man herself, notwithstanding her many virtues [page 288:] and admirable qualities of heart, so finely exercised in her lifelong devotion to Poe's memory, was eccentric, susceptible to romantic fancies and mystical moods, one of those strange transcendental women, bred in New England, of whom Emily Dickinson was the latest example. She dressed in white, and is said to have carried the odor of ether wherever she went. She was in particular a believer in occult spiritual influences, and she liked to think herself akin by blood to Poe. She wrote, with reference to this trait of her book on Poe, a short passage to a correspondent who says: —

“The lady addressed me on Jan. 15, 1865, relative to the spiritual suggestions in her little volume. She says: It is strange that, in no notice of the book, have I ever seen an allusion, the most distant, to this part of the book, which to me is the most significant and important feature in it. Do you remember that I once wrote you a letter, in answer to some enquiries of yours, in which I spoke of the strange spiritual energy or effluence which seemed to surround or ensphere the “Raven,” and which acted on those who were en rapport with him, enhancing and intensifying the spiritual faculties of insight and intuition? and do you remember that I instanced an impression [page 289:] which suddenly flashed on me of the original identity of the names of Power’ (her maiden name) ‘and Poe — an impression which I told you was afterwards corroborated, if not authenticated?

“The instancing of that impression was, substantially, as follows: We were sitting together [in the autumn of 1848], when it all at once flashed upon me that we were blood-relations. I looked up at him. His eyes were fixed in tensely upon me. On my naming the thought which had come to me, he said: “Helen, you startle me — thereby hangs a tale.” He then gave me an outline of the history of his ancestors, as he reckoned them — of the Powers, the le Poers, the De la Poes.’”(1)

Poe, in his letters to her and in the recorded fragments of their conversation, rhapsodized about these affinities, as if that were the sure chord to respond to his touch. In all this correspondence there is a total and absolute absorption of his mind in his own affairs, — his injuries, distresses, and hopes; indeed, to one familiar with his modes of expression, it seems almost an accident that these letters were addressed to Mrs. Whitman. The language, confidential [page 290:] and studded with terms of endearment, is such as he habitually used both in written and spoken words to other women who he thought understood him. So far as his need of sympathy, pity, consolation, was concerned, he put more trust in “Annie's” heart, just as he wrote to her with more freedom and besought her aid with more simplicity. Infatuation was at all times characteristic of his acts and words. It was temperamental and took many forms, intellectual in “Eureka,” sentimental in his love affairs, practical in his projects; a striking instance of such obsession is this brief passage: —

“Was I right, dearest Helen, in my first impression of you? — you know I have implicit faith in first impressions — was I right in the impression that you are ambitious? If so, and if you will have faith in me, I can and will satisfy your wildest desires. It would be a glorious triumph, Helen, for us — for you and me. I dare not trust my schemes to a letter — nor indeed have I time even to hint at them here. When I see you I will explain all — as far, at least, as I dare explain all my hopes even to you. Would it not be ‘glorious,’ darling, to establish in America, the sole unquestionable aristocracy — that of intellect — to secure its supremacy — to lead [page 291:] and to control it? All this I can do, Helen, and will — if you bid me — and aid me.”(1)

Such a wooing fortunately ended in disaster, and this may be ascribed to her friends; but an element of prudence, the cynicism of real life, as it might seem, was also grimly present in the romance on both sides. She divested herself of her worldly goods, and, to use the words of the editor of these letters, “there is reason to think that Poe's common-sense came to his rescue, and saved him from a marriage with a lady all of whose property had just been legally transferred to his future mother-in-law.”(2)

On reaching FordhamPoe found Mrs. Clemm, who had never favored the match, overjoyed to see him unaccompanied by a wife, and, were it possible, more devoted to himself. He set to work, and wrote several hours each day; but, in consonance with the view that has been taken, although doubtless bitterly aggrieved, he exhibited no regret at the event which he had always considered likely, and no fidelity to the woman whose loyalty to his memory in after years was almost ideal. On January n, 1849, he wrote to “Annie” as follows: — [page 292:]

“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. ... I need not tell you how great a burden is taken off my heart by my rupture with Mrs. W.; for I have fully made up my mind to break the engagement. ... Nothing would have deterred me from the match but — what I tell you.”(1)

Two weeks later he enclosed to the same correspondent a last letter to Mrs. Whitman, in which, after referring to the evil reports of him originating at Providence, he declared, “No amount of provocation shall induce me to speak ill of you [Mrs. Whitman], even in my own defense,”(2) with directions to read it, seal it with wax, and mail it in Boston; and to this singularly indelicate act, which is excused only by the circumstance that “Annie's” confidence in him had been shaken by these same slanders, he added the dishonor of a hasty expression of his pique in words too violently in contrast with the line just quoted to escape notice.

“Of one thing rest assured, from this day forth I shun the pestilential society of literary [page 293:] women. They are a heartless, unnatural, venomous, dishonorable set, with no guiding principle but inordinate self-esteem. Mrs. Osgood is the only exception I know.”(1)

It is said, on one hand, that Mrs. Whitman's name never afterwards passed his lips, and, on the other, that he stated on his last visit to Richmond that she “made repeated efforts toward a reconciliation, which he refused.”(2)


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 265:]

1 The story of this chapter has been told by Mrs. Whitman in her Edgar A. Poe and his Critics, New York, 1860, and in her correspondence with Poe's biographers, printed in their memoirs of Poe. She furnished to Ingram the correspondence published by him. Her literary executors published new documents and letters, Poe and Mrs. Whitman (by James A. Harrison and Charlotte F. Dailey), The Century, lxxvii, 3 (January, 1909), and it is there editorially announced that Professor Harrison “has prepared a paper in which Poe's letters are given without omission, garbling, or diversion, and in their proper order and arrangement, instead of as they have hitherto appeared in the version brought out by Mr. Ingram,” which latter is described as of “imperfect character.” The quotations from Ingram in this chapter must be read subject to this intimation. Mrs. Whitman's verses, several of which relate to Poe, are most accessible in Poems, by Sarah Helen Whitman, Boston, Houghton, Osgood & Co., 1879.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 267:]

1 Poe to Mrs. Whitman, no date. Ingram, ii, 161, 162.

2 A full account of this party is given in the Life and Letters of Bayard Taylor, i, 115, 120. Cf. Home Journal, March 4,

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 269:]

1 Ingram, ii, 165.

2 Cf. Mrs. Whitman to R. H. Stoddard, September 30, 1872. Stoddard, cxxxiv-cxxxix.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 271:]

1 Thompson to Patterson, November 9, 1849, America, April 11, 1889. This letter, most accessible in The Virginia Poe, xvii, 403, gives the frankest account of Poe's life in Richmond. Compare also Thompson's reminiscences, Harper's New Monthly Magazine (by R. H. Stoddard), September, 1872.

2 Mrs. Weiss, p. 159.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 272:]

1 The Curio (by J. P. Beecher), January-February, 1888.

2 Reminiscences of Mrs. Mary Andre Phelps, Newark Courier, July 19, 1900.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 275:]

1 Ingram, ii, 171.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 277:]

1 Ingram, ii, 190.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 278:]

1 Poe to “Annie,” November 16, 1848. Ingram, ii, 193, 194.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 280:]

1 Mrs. Whitman to Eveleth. MS.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 281:]

1 Ingram, ii, 176.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 282:]

1 Ingram, ii, 194.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 283:]

1 Ingram, ii, 196.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 284:]

1 Pabodie to Griswold, June 11, 1852. Gill, 224. The interview with Mrs. Hewitt has been variously related, but the substance of it was a prediction that the marriage would not occur.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 285:]

1 Ingram, ii, 184, 185.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 286:]

1 Ingram, ii, 184, 185.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 289:]

1 G. W. Eveleth to the author, July 9, 1883.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 291:]

1 Poe to Mrs. Whitman, November 22, 1848. Ingram, ii, 180, 181.

2 The Century, lxxvii, 3 (January, 1909), p. 446.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 292:]

1 Ingram, ii, 202.

2 Ingram, ii, 185.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 293:]

1 Ingram, ii, 205.

2 Richmond Times-Dispatch (by J. H. Whitty), January 17, 1909.





[S:0 - LEAPPL, 1909] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Life of EAP (G. E. Woodberry) (Chapter 14)