Text: Hervey Allen, “Appendix 05,” Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (1926), volume 2, pp. 880-881


[page 880:]


OWING to conflicting statements as to the date of Poe’s alleged first marriage to Virginia Clemm (in Baltimore), now current in biographies, the following letter and certificate are here printed showing that the license was issued September 22, 1835, and not 1834 as sometimes wrongly stated.

License Number 409


[SEAL]   Baltimore City, SCT.   [SEAL]

I hereby Certify to all whom it doth or may Concern, That on the twenty-second day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-five a LICENSE issued from the OFFICE OF THE CLERK OF BALTIMORE COUNTY COURT, directed to the Reverend Mr. —— or any other person qualified by Law to CELEBRATE THE RITES OF MARRIAGE between a certain Edgar A. Poe and Virginia E. Clemm of Baltimore County, according to Law, there appearing to him no lawful cause, or just impediment by reason of any consanguinity or affinity to hinder the same, as by the records of said Court appears, which records are now in my keeping.


IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I hereto subscribe my name and affix the Seal of the Superior Court of Baltimore City, this twentieth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . day of February, A.D., 1926.



Clerk of the Superior Court of Baltimore, City

No direct proof of the marriage of Edgar A. Poe and Virginia Clemm in Baltimore in 1835, prior to their later public marriage in Richmond, can be found. The inference that it took place is not only aroused by the fact of a license having been issued, but made more certain by a reluctant admission, later on by Mrs. Clemm, that such a private marriage had taken place in Baltimore. The so-called “family tradition,” assigning the place of marriage in Baltimore as St. Paul’s, is difficult to trace to its source. The tradition was that the marriage had been performed by the Reverend John Johns, later Bishop of Virginia. In 1900, Professor James A. Harrison was informed by Mr. A. S. Johns, [page 881:] a son of the Bishop, that no tradition of such a marriage was known to the Johns family, and Professor Harrison was then referred to the records at Christ Church, Baltimore, where no record of the first Poe-Clemm marriage can be found. Similar searches at St. Paul’s Parish, made for Professor Woodberry in September 1884, and for Professor Harrison in November, 1900, by Charles Handfield Wyatt, showed that Mr. Wyatt may have been mistaken as to the date of the marriage — “I think it was prior to 1828.” Further search was therefore made again at St. Paul’s.


Baltimore, Maryland

February 24, 1926


I have examined the Parish books, in my possession as Registrar, and find therein no record of the marriage of the late Edgar Allan Poe.

Cordially yours  

The search has not been carried on exhaustively so far. The author has examined the columns of the available files of the Baltimore newspapers for September and October, 1835, without result. Further search in other church records of the date in and about Baltimore might bring results. It must be remembered that Poe was, at the time, anxious to conceal this marriage with a child from the relatives in Baltimore, hence no clergyman’s record. It may have been before a justice of the peace. Such a marriage would have been kept doubly secret, at the time, as it was a social disgrace. Thus — a newspaper clipping of about a century ago —

A marriage before a Justice of Peace is shocking to morals and good manners. It goes further than the design of degrading and insulting the Church; it humbles and degrades the parties, particularly that party, which the ceremony is chiefly intended to benefit and exalt, — the woman. A marriage of this kind would have more the appearance of indentures of apprenticeship in the city, or of hiring servants at a statute fair, than of any serious or solemn class of contract and obligation. We scarcely need add, how little suitable it would be to a country which has always been remarked for the delicacy and modesty of its women. Baltimore North American.



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 881:]

937.  Search was made for the author by the kindness of Mrs. Sally Bruce Kinsolving, wife of the Rector of St. Paul’s Parish, Baltimore, Maryland.






[S:0 - HVA26, 1926] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (H. Allen) (Appendix 05)