Text: Hervey Allen, “Chapter 21,” Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (1934), pp. 417-465


[page 417:]


ONE evening towards the end of January, 1842, the twentieth, there was a small party gathered for the evening at Poe’s Coates Street house. There was a coal fire, and Mrs. Clemm, with the cat following her about, was preparing to preside at the coffee urn in which she delighted, and to dispense some simple evening hospitality while Eddie read or talked. The birds were asleep, with a cloth drawn over their cage. Virginia, as she often did, was to provide the music for the occasion. Poe took a special pride in this, as he had taught her nearly all the simple accomplishments that she knew — a little French and some songs. The harp was brought out, and the girl-wife with the large bright eyes and the waxen face ran her childish hands over the wires and began to sing. There was something peculiarly angelic and ethereal about this sight of Virginia playing the harp in the parlor by her own fireside, that almost transported Poe. She was delicately, morbidly angelic. Everybody noticed that, and upon such occasions her voice came to him like that of “Ligeia” or “Eleonora” speaking to him in his most paradisical dreams. It was indeed her voice that gave a color to them all. Dressed in white, singing in the glow of the lamplight, she became the personification of a Victorian heroine.

The notes mounted higher, very true and clear — suddenly she stopped, clutched her throat, and a wave of crimson rushed down over her breast. Poe — all of them sprang to her.(593) For a while it seemed certain that she must die. Stained with her life blood, he carried her upstairs and laid her on her bed. While Mrs. Clemm wrung out cold cloths, and used her simple housewife skill, Eddie went for the doctor.

It was a trip clear across town. Dr. John Kearsley Mitchell lived at 228 Chestnut Street. He must have found a frantic young man pulling at his brass bell-knob that January night, and have driven back [page 418:] to Coates Street madly. No doubt before the lights on the river came into view again, and they drew up at the white doorstep of the little house, an eternity had passed for Poe. His sanity was, in a peculiar way, bound up with the life of Virginia. She embodied, for him, the only possible physical compromise with reality, in a sexual predicament so complex and subtle that it can scarcely be understood in all its vital ramifications. The very thought of losing her was a species of madness. He had always feared it and trembled. Now that the first unmistakable scarlet flag of danger had been displayed, the world seemed to reel and the sky to totter.

This fatal warning at the evening party in January, 1842, marked not only the beginning of the end for Virginia, but nervous disorganization for Poe. Dr. Mitchell in reality had two patients on his hands, and, as a matter of fact, found Poe’s condition more perplexing than his wife’s, whose complaint, if then incurable, was at least not a puzzle to diagnose.(594) There are indications that, from this time on, things began to go awry at the office. Mr. Poe was often “irregular” and now again began to drink. Virginia continued to have relapses, each one of which drove her husband to despair. He would go out, take a drink, and sometimes be absent for days. Towards the end of the Winter these periods were evidently frequent. There was an attack of his old heart trouble in the Spring. Mr. Graham was forced to call in outside editorial help. It was Griswold.

Of the cause of the resort to stimulants which, from now on, more or less beset him, Poe wrote in 1848 in answer to a friend who had questioned him about the “irregularities”:

You say, Can you hint to me what was the ‘terrible evil’ which caused the ‘irregularities’ so profoundly lamented? Yes, I can do more than hint. This ‘evil’ was the greatest that can befall a man. Six years ago (1842) a wife, whom I loved as no man ever loved before, ruptured a blood-vessel in singing. Her life was despaired of. I took leave of her forever, and underwent all of the agonies of her death. She recovered partially and I again hoped. At the end of a year, the vessel broke again. I went througjh precisely the same scene. . . . Then again — again — and even again at varying intervals. Each time I felt the agonies of her death — and at each successioii of the disorder I loved her more dearly and clung to her life with more desperate pertinacity. But I am constitutionally sensitive — nervous in a very unusual degree. I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. During these fits of absolute unconsciousness, I drank — God only knows how often or how much. As a matter [page 419:] of course, my enemies referred the insanity to the drink, rather than the drink to the insanity. I had, indeed, nearly abandoned all hope of a permanent cure, when I found one in the death of my wife. This I can endure as becomes a man. It was the horrible, never-ending oscillations between hope and despair which I could not longer have endured, without total loss of reason. In the death of what was my life, then, I received a new but — Oh, God! — how melancholy an existence.(595)

As a matter of fact he never did attain a “permanent cure”; the descent, from 1842 on, was at a constantly accelerated rate.

Poe had become acquainted with a young lawyer of a pleasing and endearing personality, but with rather eccentric habits. This friend was Henry Beck Hirst, whose law office was on Prince Street. Poe was much interested in copyright law at that time, a subject which he and Thomas mention occasionally in their correspondence, so Poe spent a great deal of time at Hirst’s office. His interest in copyright arose from the international situation, then as now far from satisfactory, but infinitely worse then, as the rights of both English and American authors in the “other man’s country” were mutually and inevitably disregarded by the publishers.(596) Poe was always anxious to publish in England. His experience with the English edition of Arthur Gordon Pym had been a case in point, and he may have had some sort of a clandestine arrangement for articles with the Edinburgh Review or Blackwood’s.(597) Besides all this, it was noised about that Charles Dickens was coming to Philadelphia in March, 1842. Poe intended to see Dickens, hoping to gain his help in placing a book of collected stories in London, while at the same time he thought to secure his aid in agitating for better international copyright conditions.

There must have been much more behind all this than the mere references in correspondence indicate. Poe undoubtedly devoted much time to informing himself about the legal status of copyright. The publishing [page 420:] aspects were only too well known to him already. He seems to have had some idea of persuading Thomas and others to use their influence in getting a new copy-right bill through Congress. Mr. Kennedy, of course, would be asked to help. Nor was this entirely visionary. With the editorial influence Poe had, and his knowledge of newspaper manipulating for his own ends, something might really have been done. The upshot of all this sudden interest in law was that Poe found himself thrown quite frequently with the decidedly interesting young law student. For such Hirst was when the two first met in November, 1841.

Henry B. Hirst was by no means absorbed by the law. His family — whom he afterwards alienated by an unwelcome marriage — seems to have been moderately well off, and Henry found himself more interested in studying birds, collecting their nests and eggs, and writing poetry, than in memorizing what Mr. Blackstone has to say about torts. He was much given to rambling about the country.

Hirst was a friend of George Lippard, a young Philadelphia eccentric of the day, who wore his hair in long shaggy locks. He dressed in a blue coat buttoned tight at the waist, and flourished a scalloped velvet collar in total disregard of prevailing fashions.

It was Lippard’s custom, by night, to shelter in a large abandoned building near Franklin Square, whose one hundred vacant rooms were open to various types of tenants by squatters’ right. Lippard used to sleep there with his head on a carpetbag and imagine terrible things. He called the place “Monk’s Hall” and wrote a mad “Gothic” romance about it in which skulls grinned, hooded figures vanished up halls, and strange, coffin-like shadows lay upon the moonlit floor.(598)

Conditions under the blind and stolid respectability of Philadelphia were then, as now, surprising to the respectable. From his house at Apple Street, near Jefferson, Lippard poured forth novels and plays characterizing the city as “Wounto’s Sodom,” stories which aroused howls of protest, and a mob headed by the mayor to stop a play. This “young petrel who swooped, gyrated and cut his circles over the roofs and chimney tops of Philadelphia, sailing up the Wissahickon and down the Brandywine, now scouting its romantic history and now its foolishness and vice, was as odd a creature as is known to the literary annals of the neighborhood.”(599) We must leave him being married in Indian costume by moonlight on the Wissahickon. Through Hirst, it is likely that Lippard first met Poe. In a way they were three of a kind.

It was Hirst’s custom to visit Joseph Bonaparte, the ex-King of Spain, at his home in exile near Trenton, where, for a time, the young [page 421:] lawyer was welcome. Hirst mixed drinks excellently well and knew good wine, which seems to have been the ostensible cause of both his friendship and sudden parting with Napoleon’s brother, and others. He and Poe used to drop in frequently at John Sartain’s printing office. Sartain drank absinthe, Hirst loved brandy, so these late parties of the artist-engraver, the mad young bird-nesting law student, and the author of The Raven undoubtedly caused “Muddie” considerable alarm.(600)

Next to F. W. Thomas, Hirst was the closest friend that Poe had in the Philadelphia days. Thomas lived in Washington, and the touch with him was mainly by letters, or much enjoyed but rare visits. Just as Poe had rambled about Baltimore with Wilmer, he now did the same with Hirst around Philadelphia, walking out towards Doylestown, where buttonless Dunkards and bearded Moravians passed along the pike in long, canvas-covered wagons, the buckets slung beneath, while the two young men talked poetry and literature, and rambled.

The Raven, it seems, which was now under way, was much discussed. Some of its ideas and figures must have been thrashed out between them. Hirst, whose mind gradually became befuddled by drink, recalling those excursions afterward, “remembered” that it was he who had “written” it. This he stubbornly maintained in after years, and since his close association with Poe was well known to many persons in Philadelphia, there were, as usual, a few to be found who pitied him and believed. John Sartain, who also saw Poe in a period of madness, had a somber last recollection of Hirst, poor, and wrecked mentally and physically, trying to write a line of poetry in a half-witted and muttering way.

The only certain recollection of the conversations that took place upon these excursions and rambles, comes from the pen of Poe himself in his sketch of Henry B. Hirst.(601) Finding some secluded nook, the two young poets would read their poetry to each other. Poe was especially fond of Hirst’s little poem about The Owl:

When twilight fades and evening falls

Alike on tree and tower,

And Silence like a pensive maid,

Walks round each slumbering bower, —

When fragrant flowerets fold their leaves,

And all is still in sleep,

The horned owl on moonlit wing

Flies from the donjon keep. [page 422:]


And he calls aloud — ‘too-whit! too-whoo!’

And the nightingale is still.

And the pattering step of the hurrying hare

Is hushed upon the hill:

And he crouches low in the dewy grass

As the lord of the night goes by,

Not with a lordly whirring wing

But like a lady’s sigh.

Hares, donjon keeps, and nightingales are rarely met with about Philadelphia — yet there is a “pensive charm” about these lines that gives one a glimpse of a wistful, weak young law student reciting them hopefully to his critical friend as they sauntered in chestnut shade down some lane out Westchester way. “No one,” says Poe, moved by the memories of those times — even after a quarrel with his friend — “No one; but a poet at heart could have conceived these images, and they are embodied with much skill.”

It was in all probability on these rambles with Hirst that the “Raven” first began to croak his “Nevermore,” for Poe had then lately discovered him in Barnaby Rudge. Hirst on his part read his own poetry to Poe. Some of the poems of both young men, when they were published a few years later, bore indubitable evidence of their authors’ close association. Hirst closed the last stanza of his long poem of Endymion, which he published complete in Graham’s for January, 1844, with the following lines:

Both hands upon his brow — terror, and sadness

And horror in his eyes, with speechless face,

He pierced the depths of space,

Glaring, like one struck dumb with sudden madness,

While in the distance died that sad

“For ever! For ever and for ever!”

In the Southern Literary Messenger for July, 1844, Hirst published the first canto of Endymion, which shows that the poem was already under way some time before, during his association with Poe.

The admirably contrasted figures of “Astarte” and “Dian,” which Poe afterwards used in Ulalume, seem also in a general way to be traceable to Hirst. In Hirst’s Endymion “Dian” shines approvingly on the hero of the poem. “Venus” and “Dian” are, however, identified in canto I, stanza 20 of Endymion, quoted by Poe. The idea of contrasting the two ideas, and using “Astarte” as a personification of lust, while “Dian represents a noble and chaste love, the central theme in Ulalume, may have been suggested to Poe by Thomas Holley Chivers’ poem of Nacoochie, where such a contrast of the two actually occurs. Hirst, however, closes his Coming of the Mammoth volume with a sonant called Astarte that contains both “Astarte” and “Dian,” and Poe noticed [page 423:] this sonnet particularly, toward the close of his review of the Mammoth in 1845, shortly before Ulalume appears to have been written.

In 1849 Hirst published a volume of poems called The Pennance of Roland. In this book, in a poem called Berenice (on page 99), a poet lies at his lady’s feet and gazes at

The radiant glory of a face

Which even in dreams adorns the Italian skies

Of passionate love, — the Astarte of their space!

On the very next page —

We’d pause, entranced by Dian’s amber light.

It is very difficult to tell in this case whether Poe was borrowing from Hirst, or Hirst from Poe. Ulalume had been published by 1849. On the other hand, The Pennance of Roland is full of Poeisms, and in the poem of that name published in Graham’s January, 1848, Hirst actually “lifted” phrases from Lenore, and embodied the demon eye of the “Raven,” and the apostrophe to the bird. Hirst had already complained in an anonymous article in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier of Poe’s borrowing from his Endymion. Poe, in 1845, had made a similar complaint of Hirst in the Broadway Journal. Thus the unfortunate controversy continued. Poe made the nature of his borrowing sufficiently clear in the sketch he did of Hirst. It was the old story, genius had appropriated from mediocrity and created something immortal; mediocrity went muttering to its grave, forgotten except for the vital contact. “To be a good imitator of Henry B. Hirst,” said Poe with his tongue in his cheek, “is quite honor enough for me.”(601)

But in Philadelphia their rambles went on for two or three years. They continued firm friends; sipped absinthe with John Sartain; forgathered at Hirst’s little law office on Prince Street; drank brandy; read copyright law or poetry — and talked. On Sunday mornings, Hirst repaired to Poe’s little house near Spring Garden Street for breakfast. There is one record of an especially sumptuous repast on potted Delaware shad and baked potatoes, while “Muddie” supplied the plates of smoking Maryland waffles.

Early in March, 1842, when Poe’s relations with Mr. Graham were beginning to get involved, Charles Dickens came to Philadelphia to lecture and stopped at a then famous hostelry which displayed the screaming eagle, he so much detested, as its sign, It was the old United States Hotel on Chestnut Street Dickens’ immense popularity in America can scarcely be understood, now, by a generation which reads him little except at school. Reading aloud after supper was then, with family prayers, the regular routine of hundreds of thousands of firesides where the grown-ups gathered about the hearth eagerly, and the [page 424:] children laughed and sobbed over “Little Dorrit,” “Tiny Tim,” and “Oliver Twist.” There were literally thousands of persons who had pages of Dickens by heart. His advent on the western side of the Atlantic was more of a triumph than a tour. Men, women, and children loved the man who had conjured for them, as no one else has ever done in English prose.

Poe could not have been so ardent an admirer of some one else’s work, but he did not neglect the opportunity of making himself known. He wrote to Dickens at the United States Hotel, enclosing his forecast of the plot in the review of Barnaby Rudge, together with the two volumes of his published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. Mr. Dickens was interested and immediately replied:

United States Hotel, March 6, 1842

MY DEAR SIR, — I shall be very glad to see you whenever you will do me the favor to call. I think I am more likely to be in the way between half past eleven and twelve than at any other time. I have glanced over the books you have been so kind as to send me, and more particularly at the papers to which you called my attention. I have the greater pleasure in expressing my desire to see you on this account. Apropos of the ‘construction’ of Caleb Williams, do you know that Godwin wrote it backwards, the last volume first, — and that when he had produced the hunting dream of Caleb and the catastrophe, he waited for months, casting about for a means of accounting for what he had done?

Faithfully yours always,  

It is probable that, in his letter to Dickens asking for the interview, Poe alluded to a similarity between the man hunt in the Gordon Riots at the end of Barnaby Rudge and a scene in Godwin’s novel. Dickens says “apropos” of Caleb Williams. It was characteristic of Poe that he could always find “the similarity” — that was annoying — but it always secured attention. Even Charles Dickens seated before his coal fire at the United States Hotel, eating Philadelphia scrappel, which he called, “a kind of black pudding,” blinked at the “similarity” as he opened his morning mail and read the beautiful, clear handwriting of “your obedient servant, Edgar Allan Poe.” Here was a young Yankee it might be well to meet. Poe had two long interviews.

Dickens had suffered greatly from having his work pirated in America. Philadelphia, with its many publishers, was one of the most offending of localities, so the malodorous condition of international copyright was much on his mind. The conversation between him and Poe turned on that matter and Poe’s hope of obtaining recognition in England. He asked Dickens’s aid in placing a volume in London which the latter promised willingly.(602) Evidently the big-bearded man with the deep [page 425:] eyes, bright green necktie slipped through a diamond ring under the then unusual stiff linen collar, and a velvet vest with a gold chain and cameo charm dangling across it,(603) found the young man with the olive complexion, the raven black hair, scrupulously brushed and oiled beaver hat, and mended gloves, an interesting person. Poe came back again to talk with his friend in the dressing-gown with quilted violet facings, probably to impress further the importance of his work on the Englishman. There was also some talk of Tennyson, and Poe read a poem by Emerson. Dickens was impressed, he never forgot Poe, and on his second visit looked up Mrs. Clemm in Baltimore after Poe had died.(604)

Since their realms of imagination and interest were worlds apart, it seems a strange quirk of fate that Charles Dickens should have suggested The Raven to Edgar Allan Poe.

Dickens’s own visit was only an interlude, however important, in a time of general disintegration for Poe. Through the entire Spring of 1842, Virginia’s condition was most precarious, and this was reflected in Poe’s conduct. By April, matters had almost come to an impasse with Graham. There is no doubt that Poe was exceptionally hard to get along with at this time. Charles Peterson, who was a man of considerable vigor, and felt his subordinate position in the office at times keenly, became engaged in an argument with Poe one day while Mr. Graham was present.(605) This brought matters to a climax. Although Mr. Graham, in later defending Poe from Griswold’s ruthless attacks, softened the story down, he is known to have told a friend, Professor A. H. Smyth of Philadelphia, that he discharged Poe, and he confirmed the statement later to Mr. Sartain saying, “Either Peterson or Poe would have to go — the two could not get along together.”(600)

The truth is Mr. Graham was most loath to part with Poe. He understood the cause of his editor’s troubles, and was in all ways most sympathetic. Although there was certainly a great disappointment on Poe’s part, and dissatisfaction with Mr. Graham for not carrying out his promise to help found the new magazine, yet there was never any personal [page 426:] quarrel between them as there had been with Burton. The parting resembled more the parting with Mr. White of the Messenger some years before. Throughout Virginia’s illness, the Grahams remained solicitous, calling with the carriage and the greys to take her out riding. This reminiscence of Mr. Graham’s probably belongs to 1842.

I rode out one summer evening with them, and the remembrance of his watchful eyes, eagerly bent upon the slightest change of line to that loved face, haunts me yet as the memory of a sad strain. It was this hourly anticipation of her loss that made him a sad and thoughtful man, and lent a mournful melody to his ‘undying song.’ [i.e., the theme of the “Lost Beloved.”]

One day in April, when Poe came to the office after an absence, he found the Reverend Rufus Griswold occupying the editorial chair. Poe took the situation in at a glance, turned on his heel never entered the place again.

Force of circumstances and his own failings had produced the result, rather than any direct action on the part of Graham. Nevertheless, it was an accomplished fact. Griswold’s assertion that Poe never contributed again to Graham’s was untrue; Griswold himself must have seen the manuscript from Poe’s pen that continued to come to the office even while the latter was editor. From time to time after leaving, Poe contributed altogether fifty items to Graham’s. April, 1842, indeed, saw the important review of Longfellow’s Ballads and Other Poems, and in May The Masque of the Red Death. A review of Hawthorne’s Twice Told Tales was continued in May from the April number, which was the last that Poe edited. In June, there was a review in Graham’s from Poe’s hand of Griswold’s anthology, after which there was a hiatus through the summer, while he was away and ill, until September. Poe’s own account of the parting with Graham is contained in a letter he wrote a few months later.(606)

. . . My connection with Graham’s Magazine ceased with the May number, which was completed by the first of April — since which, period the conduct of the journal has rested with Mr. Griswold. . . . I have no quarrel with either Mr. Graham or Mr. Griswold — although I hold neither in especial respect. I have much aversion to communicate with them in any way, and perhaps it would be best that you should address them yourself. . . . I am making earnest although secret exertions to resume my project of the Penn Magazine, and I have every confidence that I shall succeed in issuing the first number on the first of January (1843). You may remember that it was my original design to issue it on the first of January 1842. I was induced to abandon the project at that period by the representations of Mr. Graham. He said that if I would join him as a salaried editor, giving up for the time my own scheme, he himself would unite with me at the expiration of six months, or certainly at the end of a year. As Mr. Graham was a man of capital and I had no money, I thought it most prudent to fall in with his views. The result has proved his want of faith and [page 427:] my own folly. In fact I was continually laboring against myself. Every overture made by myself for the benefit of Graham, by rendering that Magazine a greater sotirce of profit, rendered its owner at the same time less willing to keep his word with me. At the time of our bargain (a verbal one), he had 6,006 Subscribers — when I left him he had 40,000. It is no wonder that he has been tempted to leave me in the lurch. . . .

As usual, most of the resentment was on the part of Poe. Neither Graham nor Griswold was even cool, and both continued to be most friendly, the latter at least in appearance, when occasion served. Even Peterson wrote to Lowell trying to reassure him in a vague way about Poe.(605) Peterson and Griswold did not get along, and Mr. Graham said he afterward discharged Griswold for writing a treacherous and secret attack on Peterson while they were both on Graham’s.

The loss of the important position on the magazine he had done so much to build up was not taken so coolly by Poe as his letters seem to indicate. In the first place he was plunged into immediate poverty by the situation. There is some doubt as to just where he was living in Philadelphia at this time, as the Coates Street house seems to have been abandoned in the Spring of 1842. This is doubtful, though. There is, however, no doubt whatever about his physical condition. Desperate over the loss of his position and Virginia’s health, he was now for the first time drinking heavily. The curtain, at this time, must again be raised for us by Mary Devereapx, Poe’s former Baltimore sweetheart, who had married and was living in Jersey City.(422)

While Virginia was lying on what seemed her death-bed, probably at Coates Street in Philadelphia, Poe went on a spree and finally arrived in New York, where he looked up Mary’s husband and obtained her address.(607) On the way over to Jersey City on the ferry boat he forgot it, and attracted much attention by wandering up and down, asking everybody whom he met for Mary’s address. The ferry boat arrived in Jersey City and returned with Mr. Poe still aboard. Another trip was made, and the boat returned with Mr. Poe still aboard. Still another trip was made, and yet another, with what the passengers took to be a lunatic questioning them. Finally Poe found a deck hand who knew where the former Miss Devereaux resided. As the hatless man in the very black stock fixed him with eyes that did not focus, and insisted with mouth awry, that the address he would get if he “had to go to hell for it,” the navvy, faced by the imperious Virginian, hastily complied. When Mary’s husband later returned from work on the [page 428:] same boat, he was informed that a “crazy man had been looking for his wife.” In the meantime Poe had found Mary.

When Mr. Poe reached our house I was out with my sister, and he opened the door for us when we got back. We saw he was on one of his sprees, and he had been away from home for several days. He said to me: ‘So you have married that cursed ——! Do you love him truly? Did you marry him for love?’ I answered, ‘That’s nobody’s business; that is between my husband and myself,’ He then said, ‘You don’t love him. You do love me. You know you do.’

As to whose business this was, we do not learn. Mr. Poe, we are informed, stayed to tea, of which he drank only one cup. Even this, however, had an astonishing effect, for during the conversation at the table he became very much excited, and seizing a dish of radishes before him, took up a table knife and proceeded to reduce them to mincemeat with such enthusiasm that “the pieces flew over the table, to everybody’s amusement,” After “tea,” Mr. Poe insisted upon music, and that Mary should sing him the old Baltimore song, his favorite, Come Rest in this Bosom. He then departed for parts unknown.

A few days later Mrs. Clemm, half frantic, having left Virginia in the care of the neighbors, appeared looking for “Eddie dear,” whom she had evidently tracked from Philadelphia to Jersey City and Mary’s house. Virginia, she said, was crazy with anxiety.

By this time, perhaps, no one was very much amused. A kindly posse of obliging citizens from Hoboken and its vicinity, together with “Muddie” and Mary, then set out in search, and the author of The Imp of the Perverse was finally found in the woods on the outskirts of Jersey City. Mosquitoes were then not unknown, even in that neighborhood, and the single cup of tea at Mary’s is the last record of “food” some days before. “He was,” she says, “wandering about like a crazy man. Mrs. Clemm took him back with her to Philadelphia.” There would be an agony of penitence and several days in bed. Virginia would be coughing in one room and Eddie delirious in another — and there was no money. Only Mrs. Clemm knew how to weather this. It must often have been the basket again; there was no other way. But it was always mercifully and carefully hidden from the callers. Only those awful home-comings! The neighbors could not help but see them.

Not long after severing connection with Graham’s, Poe and the family moved from Coates Street to a house much nearer the then publishing district of Philadelphia.(608) The new abode was a three-story, [page 429:] brick building in the rear of a typical Philadelphia residence, situated at 234 (now 530) North Seventh Street.(609) The house appears to have been built originally for servants’ quarters, and stands in a rear lot, a short block from Spring Garden Street. The door opened on Brandywine Alley, then Wistar Lane, there being a private school between Poe’s house and Spring Garden Street from 1842 to 1844.

No other house occupied by the poet during his manhood, with the possible exception of the Fordham Cottage in New York City, is so closely related with the intimate joys and tragedies of Poe’s life as this brick cottage. It was under its roof that the last vestiges of his brief prosperity disappeared, and that the swift descent into the whirlpool of despair took on an accelerated motion.

This house, which is still standing (1926) in much the same condition in which Poe left it, connected with the front quarters of the landlord, who was, in 1842, a Mr. Albruger. It was of solid brick construction with a basement that, in Poe’s day, contained a cistern. There were large paneled doors with wrought iron locks, and three rows of square-paned windows, those on the third floor being casements. It contained a living-room on the first floor with an open fireplace and a rather handsome mantel. There was a small hall with narrow stairs, across which lay the kitchen, where “Muddie” spent most of her time, and two rooms on the second floor.

The front room, with a black slate mantel, was Poe’s, the other being the guest chamber. Mrs. Clemm’s and Virginia’s apartments on the third floor were reached by narrow stairs. Mrs. Clemm had the rear room just across the hall from Virginia. “Sis” for the most part, lay ill in a small low-ceilinged bedroom containing three little casement windows almost like ships’ ports, an open fireplace, and two large cupboards, more than ample for her scant wardrobe.

The house was, at first, fairly well furnished with items wbfeh gradually disappeared as Mrs. Clemm, during the next two years, was forced to pawn them piece by piece. Virginia’s piano, now silent, was in the little downstairs living-room, with “a large hair-lined mahogany sofa.” The white curtains, flowers, painted chairs, potted plants, framed engravings and woodcuts from magazines, and the caged birds, served to give the house an air of homelike comfort and charm which all who came there noticed. Poe’s scant library, and a profusion of flowering [page 430:] plants blooming even in the winter time, helped to complete a background for the poet which none who partook of Mrs. Clemm’s excellent repasts — served on snowy cloths in the sitting-room with a bright fire glinting on the simple china — failed to remark. No matter how extreme the poverty, “the small dwelling of a great poet” was always spotless. By the grace of “Muddie” and Virginia, it cast a charm.

Poe, too, contributed and helped. To him the place was his only refuge from a hostile universe, his dwelling in Arnheim, the land of dreams. Some years later he wrote a letter defending himself against accusations made by a small magazine called the Weekly Universe. Since it details his mode of private life, it is entitled to be constantly kept in mind:(610)

The fact is this: — My habits are rigorously abstemious, and I omit nothing of the rational regimen requisite for health — i.e., I rise early, eat moderately, drink nothing but water, and take abundant and regular exercise in the open air. But this is my private lifemy studious and literary lifeand of course escapes the eye of the world. The desire for society comes upon me only when I have become excited by drink. Then only I go — that is, at these times only I have been in the practice of going among my friends; who seldom, or in fact never, having seen me unless excited, take it for granted that I am always so. Those who really know me, know better. . . .

Poe, of course, like everyone else suffered from the fact that one’s frailties and idiosyncrasies attract public attention and become the stuff of remark, gossip, and anecdote, while the long blameless hours of domestic innocence are too trite to stain any page, even a white one. And there is something pathetic and plaintive about this short paragraph of defense against a chorus of abuse, which, whatever its cause, was afterward coarse and unwarrantably profuse. It is the confession of a sensitive nervous spirit, so sensitive that it could only meet the real world when fortified by stimulants. Yet it is the expression of this very sensitivity in the poet for which the world values him.

The reminiscences of some of the neighbors who lived about the Spring Garden cottage in Philadelphia, where, for a time, the house of Usher was situated, — before it, too, like its dream prototype collapsed and crumbled, — recorded a variety of things.

The house, in the days when Poe lived there, was situated in a part of the city which still wore a semi-rural aspect. The dwelling was surrounded by a garden, and shaded by a giant pear tree. In the summer, there was a riot of bright flowers and tangled vines. “The little garden in summer and the house in winter were overflowing with choice flowers of the poet’s selection.” In the little parlor, Poe sat and wrote to Lowell [page 431:] and Dickens, or to his friend Thomas. Mrs. Clemm, in her widow’s cap and gingham apron, sought the shade under the pear tree and peeled potatoes, or moved about the garden with her expert shears. Here The Gold Bug was written while Poe let his dreams wander back to the days of youth and the lonely, idle hours on Sullivan’s Island near Fort Moultrie, recalling the very sound of the palmettoes as they grated in the sea breeze. In the Summer, there was a blaze of hollyhocks and geraniums, and a noise of bees, while the teachers and children next door remembered hearing the sound of a subdued girlish singing, and of having seen the pale face of Virginia at the upper casement. Poe had carried her harp upstairs.

Here Eliza White came again to call, Poe’s old Richmond friend; her father, the good editor of the Messenger, was in ill health and dying. Mary Devereaux also visited “over from Jersey City.” Sometime in 1842 Mrs. James Warner (Miss Herring), Poe’s cousin and Baltimore sweetheart (now widowed), came to call with her parents. She had unexpectedly met Mrs. Clemm and Virginia on Chestnut Street one day. The Grahams, Petersons, Hirst, English with his whiskers “like antennae” Alexander the printer, Sartain, Dr. Mitchell, Captain Mayne Reid, F. W. Thomas, Mr. Thomas Clarke, Louis Godey, F. O. C Darley, the artist, and many others came, too. The neighbors and their children, in love with Virginia, were much in and out. Even Rufus Griswold came to see, and was softened, almost to tenderness, in spite of himself. It was here, perhaps, that he heard that inspired conversation of which he was afterward moved to speak, even while damning the lips that could no longer reply.

His conversation was at times almost supra-mortal in its eloquence. His voice was modulated with astonishing skill, and his large and variably expressive eyes looked repose or shot fiery tumult into theirs who listened, while his own face glowed or was changeless in pallor, as his imagination quickened his blood, or drew it back frozen to his heart. His imagery was from the worlds no mortal can see but with the vision of genius — Suddenly starting from a proposition exactly and sharply defined in terms of utmost simplicity and clearness, he rejected the forms of customary logic, and in a crystalline process of accretion, built up his ocular demonstrations in forms of gloomiest and ghostliest grandeur, or in those of the most airy and delicious beauty, so minutely, and so distinctly, yet so rapidly, that the attention which was yielded to him was chained till it stood among his wonderful creations —, till he himself dissolves the spell, and brought his hearers back to common and base existence, by vulgar fancies or by exhibitions of the ignoble passions. . . .(611)

But it was no Watteau pastoral that the Spring Garden house was to frame. It was poverty complete and devastating, with both Poe and Virginia ill, and the salary from Graham’s cut off. Mrs. Clemm was soon forced to her old expedients, and they were now, sometimes, all in vain. [page 432:] We hear from Hirst of shad and waffles; but we also hear from Mrs. Catherine Bergin, of a Philadelphia charitable society, that Mrs. Clemm applied to her for aid in the Summer of 1842, when there was nothing in the house but bread and molasses, and not very much of that. Adding up everything that Poe received during 1842 for all that he wrote, what the family lived on is still a mystery. The piano disappeared, and various other articles, until, in a year or two, the house was almost bare and Mrs. Clemm had a handful of pawn tickets. Only a few chairs, and a beautiful red carpet that she clung to till the last, and the beds were left. It was fortunate, indeed, that marketing was cheap.

About midsummer, Virginia had another attack which drove Poe almost mad. It was his custom to slip out by the Wistar Street door and go down town, entering public houses as he passed, till Mrs. Clemm followed and brought him back. Philip Wagner, who kept a conveyancing office at the corner of Seventh and Spring Garden Streets, saw the sad tipsy return with the pleading, anxious woman; and the Baileys, good neighbors on Seventh Street, close by, also remembered.

Virginia, it appears, despite her invalidism, was often merry and loved to receive visitors. Among them was the little of Thomas C. Clarke, who used to call frequently, and sit by her bedside. She afterward remembered singing a comic little tune, to which she had supplied some childish jargon, with a chorus about “The Wife of Mr. Poe.” This delighted Virginia, who received it with “peal after peal of merry laughter.”

It was a life of enormous, absurd, and grotesquely tragic contents. There would be an afternoon spent idly with Henry Hirst talking poetry; snatches of great conversation, while Poe warmed to some ethereal theme, and conjured cloud palaces and domes. Then feitewed a popping of Hirst’s pistol at a mark set up in some coitalry kae, or a mad shot at a badly scared farmer’s chicken (“he once shot a chicken on the wing at fifty yards”)(601) then a walk back to town, and a pouring of drinks at Henry’s “law office.” Poe would return in an agony of remorse at the thought of the day wasted, of “Muddie” waiting stark with anxiety. The night would be spent with Virginia, ‘trying to stop her terrible choking. He would walk the floor with her, the telltale red spots on his shirt bosom next morning driving him half insane. And yet — the Stylus was to come out January first!

From June to September there was scarcely a line from his pen. At times he was delirious that summer. Dr. Mitchell, a good Scotchman from Ayreshire, who had lived in Richmond, doubtless had many a talk with him about the High Street at Irvine, where Poe had played and gone to school as a little boy, and of the Allans and Galts and Fowlds — and what might have been. The Doctor took a remarkable interest in his patient, and may have interested the lady at Saratoga Springs to [page 433:] invite him there about midsummer. There was not enough money to take Virginia along, but Dr. Mitchell somehow secured cash, and letters of introduction for Poe. In August, he left.(612)

In the Summer of 1842, Poe was seen at Saratoga Springs, then the most fashionable watering place in America, driving in a handsome carriage with a married woman from Philadelphia, well enough known to have her name worth talking about.(612) Every day, for a week or so, he came with her in the morning and took the water.

Near the lady’s house was a garden with big trees and trout ponds where a little boy played. And there is something more than a legend that the child gradually became fond of the gentleman in black with the flashing eyes and strange gestures, who walked in that garden and talked to himself, telling a story over and over again to no one visible, about a raven that talked and whose name was “Nevermore” — a word which the gentleman boomed out and waved his hands over. One day the boy remarked that he never heard of a bird with a name like that, at which the gentleman appeared much delighted and wrote something down. Later on other people read about it:

For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being

Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door —

Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door

With such name as ‘Nevermore.’ —

And it was perfectly true; no one ever had. At any rate, in the Summer of 1842 or 1843, while at Barhyte Trout Ponds, at Saratoga Springs, Poe showed a draft of The Raven to a correspondent of the New York Mirror.

Unfortunately, some Philadelphians, summering at the Springs, noticed that Mr. Poe, the distinguished-looking editor of Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine, was there without his wife and driving out with a married woman! A great deal of foul talk, that later on played its part in driving that editor out of the Quaker City, got under way.

Poe returned to Philadelphia, where Virginia had been having hemorrhages about that time, and almost succumbed to an attack of heart failure himself, the third since 1834-35. This, as usual, seems to have brought him up with a round turn, and he seems again to have given up alcohol for a time. The trip to Saratoga, on Dr. Mitchell’s advice and advances, was probably a step in the right direction. Poe was in a condition now where he could not do without stimulants.

Mrs. Warden, his cousin, was now much at the house. She was considerably [page 434:] concerned over the state of affairs, and sat often by Virginia’s bedside. To the invalid she brought small gifts from time to time — wine glasses and a little perfume bottle — greatly cherished by the girl-wife who looked “only fourteen years of age.” Mrs. Warner (Miss Herring) contributed an important piece of evidence. She says that about this time she had often seen him (Poe) decline to take even one glass of wine but . . . that for the most part, his periods of excess were occasioned by a free use of opium. . . . During these attacks he was kept entirely quiet, and they did all possible to conceal Ms faults and failures.”(614)

During the entire year 1842, a more or less faithful correspondence went on between Poe and his friend, F. W. Thomas, in Washington, with a notable hiatus during the months of July and August. From these letters, a rather intimate insight into Poe’s doings may be gleaned. The chief affairs discussed were literary, personal, and the plan to secure for Poe the benefits of government employ.

The lever chosen to move the stone of political indifference was Robert Tyler, a son of the President, to whom Poe was known by reputation. The entering wedge was made by Poe’s first expressing a favorable opinion of one of Robert Tyler’s poems. Thomas brought this to young Tyler’s notice on a visit to the White House, and then wrote to Poe:

. . . Robert Tyler expressed himself highly gratified with your favorable opinion of his poems which I mentioned to him. He observed that he valued your opinion more than any other critic’s in the country, — to which I subscribed. I am satisfied that any aid he could extend to you would be extended with pleasure. Write me frankly upon the subject. . . .(615)

The plan at first was to interest Robert Tyler in the scheme for the new magazine, the Stylus, about which Thomas was enthusiastic. It was hoped that Tyler would invest, or use his influence to throw some government printing in the way of the new magazine, but this plan was soon abandoned as impracticable, and Poe, after calling on Judge Blythe in Philadelphia, who evidently had the local federal patronage in hand, wrote to Robert Tyler(616) saying he thought with his continued influence that an appointment at the Philadelphia Custom House might be secured.

Tyler replied (March 31, 1842) giving the required recommendation. The matter, as usual in such cases, dragged on. On May 21, [page 435:] 1842, we find Thomas again writing to Poe, after another visit to see young Tyler at the White House.

. . . Last night I was speaking of you, and took occasion to suggest that a situation in the Custom House, Philadelphia, might be acceptable to you, as Lamb (Charles) had held a somewhat similar appointment, etc., etc., and as it would leave you leisure to pursue your literary pursuits. Robert replied that he felt confident that such a situation could be obtained for you in the course of two or three months at farthest, as certain vacancies would then occur. What say you to such a plan? Official life is not laborious — and a situation that would suit you and place you beyond the necessity of employing your pen, he says he can obtain for you there. . . .

The essential reason for Poe’s desire to secure government patronage comes out in his reply to Thomas four days later:

. . . Nothing would more precisely meet my views. Could I obtain such an appointment, I would be enabled thoroughly to carry out all my ambitious projects. It would relieve me of all care as regards a mere subsistence, and thus allow me time for thought, which, in fact, is action.

What Mr. Poe thought of the relative value of being apprenticed to such men as Burton and Graham, and of the necessity of leisure for literature stands out plainly here.

Poe was now again pressing the Stylus project earnestly. In July, he writes to Thomas about it:

I feel that now is the time to strike. The delay after all, will do me no injury. My conduct of Graham’s has rendered me better and I hope more favorably known than before. I am anxious, above all things, to render the journal one in which the true, in contradistinction from the merely factitious, genius of the country shall be represented. I shall yield nothing to great names — nor to the circumstances of position. I shall make war to the knife against the New England assumption of ‘all the decency and all the talent.’

In letters written to Thomas Holley Chivers on June 6, Poe had proposed that the latter finance the new magazine, a proposal which Chivers did not accept, although he promised to help with lists. Nothing daunted by this, however, Poe again announced in August, to one of his Georgia Poe relatives, that the first issue would certainly come out the first of the new year. Prudently regarding the Custom House appointment as merely a basis of living upon which to carry out the magazine scheme, Poe had been exerting himself in Philadelphia, probably immediately after his return from Saratoga, definitely to secure the place. In angling for a position he was, of course, confronted by the local condition of affairs in the contemporary political carp pond. It was very muddy.

The Whigs had elected their candidate, Harrison, largely on an anti-Jackson policy of treasury reform. Harrison’s death, a month after his inauguration, brought in Tyler, the first Vice-President to succeed to [page 436:] the Presidency. Tyler refused to carry out the fiscal policies of his party, with the result that he split the Whigs and attempted to build up a party of his own, composed of both Whigs and Democrats, but based almost wholly on a ruthless use of the veto and a merciless chopping off of heads in federal patronage. Tyler was especially unpopular in Philadelphia, and the “T-party” there was composed of the most blatant type of politicians in a city famous for bad politics. It was with such an Ali Baba company that Israfel was now trying to ingratiate himself. One Smith was Collector of the Port, by virtue of his vices.

Towards the end of August, just after his breakdown, and while still nervous and depressed, Poe began to pay his political calls after a reassuring message, through a friend, from “Rob” Tyler. “I have, also, paid my respects to General J. W. Tyson, the leader of the T. party in the city, who seems especially well disposed, — but, notwithstanding all this, I have my doubts. A few days will end them . . .” he writes Thomas. “My poor wife still continues ill, I have scarcely a faint hope of her recovery. . . .”(617) It was a most trying time, and Poe seems again to have resorted to his usual palliatives for sorrow.

Towards the end of September, 1842, F. W. Thomas paid a visit to the Poes at Spring Garden Street, while on a political and literary business trip to Philadelphia. His account of the house and its inmates at that time is straightforward and significant:

Poe was living in a little home on the rural outskirts of the city in a house that is described by Thomas as small but quite comfortable within. Although the whole aspect of the cottage testified to the poverty of its tenants, the rooms impressed the visitor as being neat and orderly. Thomas arrived quite late in the morning but found Mrs. Clemm busy cooking Poe’s breakfast. The caller produced quite an evident confusion by his sudden advent, and there was some difficulty in arranging to include him at the board. In the meanwhile, Virginia entertained the guest. Thomas found the poet’s wife to be both graceful and agreeable, and he remarked not only her regular and well-formed features but the most expressive pair of eyes that had ever gazed upon him. Nevertheless, her excessive pallor, a consumptive cough, and the deep facial lines caused him to look upon her as a victim to be claimed by an early grave. Both Virginia and Mrs. Clemm were much concerned about their “Eddie,” and made it quite plain to Thomas that they hoped most ardently that the head of the house might soon be able to secure some steady work.

Poe, who had evidently Just arisen, now appeared to greet his friend. A mop of dark hair tangled carelessly over his high forehead, and contrary to his general habit, his clothes were rather slovenly. Poe’s greeting to Thomas was cordial, although a little restrained, and Thomas noted that his friend complained of feeling unwell. Poe told him that he had gone to New York to find employment, and also remarked that an effort to publish a new edition of his tales had been unsuccessful. Like so many others who visited the Poes, Thomas was forever impressed by Poe’s pathetic tenderness and loving manner toward Virginia, but the visitor from Washington could not help but observe at the same [page 437:] time, and with the deepest regret, that his friend had again been yielding to intemperate habits. Thomas was so worried as to venture to remonstrate with Poe who admitted that he had lately been drinking “while in New York” — and then changed the subject by relating a humorous dialogue of Lucian.

Later on during the same day, the two friends visited town together. Thomas says that Poe was sober when they parted and they were to meet by appointment next day.(618)

Poe had promised to be present to hear Thomas make a political! speech on Saturday night at Independence Hall, and to say good-by to him before his departure. A few days later, September 21, 1842, Poe writes:

. . . The will to be with you was not wanting — but, upon reaching home on Saturday night, I was taken with a severe chill and fever — the latter keeping me company all next day. I found myself too ill to venture out, but nevertheless, would have done so had I been able to obtain the consent of all parties. As it was I was quite in a quandary, for we keep no servant and no messenger could be procured in the neighborhood. I contented myself with the reflection that you would not think it necessary to wait for me very long after nine o’clock, and that you were not quite so implacable in your resentments as myself. I was much in hope that you would make your way out of the afternoon. Virginia and Mrs. were much grieved at not being able to bid you farewell. . . . .

For a rare glimpse, Poe opens the door of his own home in this. Thomas was by no means “implacable” and again interested himself in his friend’s behalf in Washington. Why Mr. Poe had chills and fever Saturday night, and why his wife and mother-in-law would not let him go out, Thomas knew only too well.

A few days later, Mr. Smith thrust a rude thumb into the bubble of political preferment. On November 19 — the time for announcing the customs house appointments had come and passed — Poe writes to Thomas:

. . . Some of the papers announced four removals and appointments. Among the latter I observed the name of —— Pogue. Upon inquiry among those behind the curtain, I soon found that no such person as —— Pogue had any expectation of an appointment, and that the name was a misprint or rather a misunderstanding of the reporters, who had heard my own name spoken of at the Customs House.(619)

Poe waited for two days before calling on the genial Mr. Smith, who had promised “that he would send for me when he wished me in.” He had already called thrice before. Mr. Smith to swear him in in four days. When Mr. Poe called to hold up his hand Mr. Smith was out. Mr. Smith and Mr. Poe seem to have engaged in a game of hide-and-go-seek in which Mr. Poe was “it.” Mr. Poe again [page 438:] called and was informed that a messenger would be sent for him when Mr. Smith was ready, but the latter neglected to take the former’s address. Mr. Poe then waited a month and called again, but he was not asked to take a seat —— “I will send for you, Mr. Poe” — and that was all. Yet once more the unsent-for Mr. Poe reappeared, when the following colloquy took place:

‘Have you no good news for me?’

‘No, I am instructed to make no more removals.’

‘But I have heard from a friend, from Mr. Robert Tyler, that you were requested to appoint me.’

‘From whom (sic) did you say?’

‘From Mr. Robert Tyler.’

(I wish you could have seen the scoundrel, — for scoundrel, my dear Thomas, in your private ear, he is — )

‘From Mr. Robert Tyler! ‘ says he — ‘Hem! I have received orders from President Tyler to make no more appointments, and shall make none.’(619)

Before Mr. Poe left, Smith, however, vouchsafed one other remark. He had, it seems, made just one more appointment. It was that of another man to the place that had been promised to Poe, who now returned to Spring Garden Street to write a furious letter to Thomas.

You can have no idea of the low ruffians and boobies — men, too, without a shadow of political influence or caste — who have office over my head. If Mr. Smith had the feelings of he would have perceived that from the very character by which I mean want of claim — he should have made my appointment an early one . . . I would write more, my dear Thomas, but my heart is too heavy. You have felt the misery of hope deferred, and will feel for me. . . .

Thus ended the first of the only two instances in which the . States customs service has been sought out to provide fat Pegasus. The second befell in the “reign” of Theodore who had such a taking way, even with customs officers, that the United States Government for a brief while was surprised into cherishing literature. Mr. Tyler and his “T party” proved less sustaining to Mr. Poe.

The Fall of the year 1842 is also notable, in the annals of Poe, for the commencement of an intimate correspondence with James Russell Lowell. Poe admired Lowell’s work, and had said so in print on several occasions. Towards the end of 1842, Lowell was busily engaged in arranging for the debut of his new magazine, the Pioneer, that was to begin to appear monthly with January, 1843. Poe now wrote to him from Philadelphia, — “I should be glad to furnish a short article each month of such a character and upon such terms as you could afford in the beginning.” Lowell replied immediately that he had already intended to ask Poe to contribute to the Pioneer because “. . . it assures me of the friendship of almost the only fearless American critic. . . . [page 439:] Had you not written you would soon have heard from me. I give you carte blanche for prose or verse as may best please you — with one exception. . . .”(620)

This “exception” was to the spirit an article, entitled Rufus Dawes: A Retrospective Criticism, which had appeared in Graham’s the month before. The “retrospect” was Poe’s own remembrance of Dawes’ paper’s treatment of Al Aaraaf when it appeared in Baltimore in 1829.(354) The bitter taste had remained in Poe’s mouth for almost fourteen years, and, in the columns of Graham’s, in October, 1842, he spit it back venomously. Lowell did not like this rancorous vein in Poe, one from which he himself suffered at Poe’s hands later, and, at the beginning, he took good care to give Poe notice that the pages of the Pioneer would not be open for the prosecution of any literary vendettas — “I do not wish an article like that of yours on Dawes, who, although I think with you that he is a bad poet, has yet I doubt not tender feelings as a man which I should be chary of wounding.”(620) This was a point of view which nature had made it impossible for Poe to understand. He was the first to complain of the lack of it in others, and its absence in himself.

The inadvertent revelation of self in the letters of these two intriguing. Although no matters of very great moment were discussed between them, little tell-tale phrases and typical attitudes towards life leap out, from time to time, revealing the soul that directed the pen. Although these letters bear the postmarks of Philadelphia and Boston respectively, in realitythey passed each other bound for the antipodes. Poe lived at the north pole of egotism, and Lowell in the more genial lands of an altruistic hemisphere. To Poe the inhabitants of that place “did walk upon their hands.” He could not, for the life of him, get a correct view of their actual mode of locomotion. The icebergs that surrounded the north pole of egotism compelled Poe to rule, as the lonely and mysterious wizard, over the frozen deserts of his own nature. It was a strange land of almost perpetual night, lit fearfully by the sardonic face of a tottering moon, and wheeling zodiacal signs that marked the lairs of lions and the houses of dragons. On the borders of this country, which marched afar off with the faintly rumored kingdoms of humanity, the griffins of imagination trafficked with the sons of men for gold. The full summer sun never rose there, and it was haunted only by the wailing ghosts of dead women. Nothing disturbed it, and the Wizard who ruled there, except the recurrence of terrific earthquakes. Then the ice would be melted by the hot volcanic springs that burst up from beneath, [page 440:]

As the scoriac rivers that roll . . .

That groan as they roll down, Mount Yaanek

In the realms of the boreal pole.

Diplomatic relations with the king of this realm were always difficult, and there were few postmen who continued ta deliver letters there for any considerable time. For some time Mr. Lowell’s persisted. It was the news from this strange realm of Poe’s which Lowell most desired from him — “for good stories (imaginative ones) and if you are inspired to mystery of that kind I shall be glad to get it.”(620) Poe was to receive $13 for every article. Sometime in December, 1842, he arranged to place the manuscript of his story The Tell-Tale Heart in Lowell’s hands for the first number of the Pioneer. The flourish of trumpets in the correspondence about this is typical:


MY DEAR FRIEND, — I ought to have written to you before, but I have had so much to distract me, and so much to make me sick of pen and ink I could not. Your story of The Tell-Tale Heart will appear in my first number. Mr. Tuckerman (perhaps your chapter on Autographs is to blame) would not print it in the ‘Miscellany’ and I was glad to get it for myself. It may argue presumptuousness in me to dissent from his verdict. . . .(621)

On Christmas Day, 1842, Poe mailed his answer to Lowell:

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I send you a brief poem for No. 2, with my best wishes. I . . . thank you for reversing the judgment of Mr. Tuckerman, — the author of the Spirit of Poesy which, by the way, is somewhat of a misnomer — since no spirit appears. . , . Should he, at any time, accept an effusion of mine I should ask myself what twattle I had been perpetrating, so flat as to come within the scope of his approbation. He writes . . . ‘If Mr. Poe would condescend to furnish more quiet articles. . .’ All I have to say is tihat if Mr. T, persists in his quietude, he will put a quietus on the Magazine. . . .

After which, no doubt, Mr. Poe enjoyed his Christmas dinner, if there was one, all the more. Lowell’s Pioneer came out with The Tell-Tale Heart the first of the new year, but there was no sign of the Stylus. Nevertheless, it was the main issue now being considered by Poe. So sure of its success was he that he had refused an offer of Mr. Graham to return to his old position at a better salary and with more influence.(622) Mr. Griswold was proving satisfactory only to himself. The bells of Philadelphia rang merrily for New Year’s, 1843.


The early Winter and Spring of 1843 were largely given tip to the schemes for publishing the Stylus, which was the new name chosen for [page 441:] the old Penn, due to the fact that under a new title the promotion of the same project had a fresh disguise. This plan to start a magazine of his own was a central fact in Poe’s literary history. He never gave it up, and even at the time of his death, six years later, the Stylus was still being actively projected.(628)

In 1843, he came Bearer than at any other time to seeing himself actually ensconced in his own sanctum. The cause of his failure must soon be recounted. It constituted, perhaps, the literary, if not the moral crisis of his life, as all his hopes, ambitions and prospects were bound up with it. Poe felt that the delay with the Penn, and the experience he had gained on Graham’s, were in reality to his advantage. He so wrote Thomas, who encouraged him, and there is no doubt his greatly enhanced reputation as editor of Graham’s was all in his favor.

In the meantime he strove to support himself by doing hack work of any kind, and selling stories here and there. Some of these were taken by Lowell. Graham’s still continued to carry his work. During the year, two reviews of some importance appeared there from his hand. Another periodical, however, at this period was more used by him. This was the Philadelphia Saturday Museum.

The exact nature of Poe’s connection with the Saturday Museum, an obscure sheet of which no complete file is known, is very indefinite. He was in some way closely associated with it, and the paper announced, early in 1843, that he was to become its assistant editor. It is likely that Poe allowed the owners to think that he might do this, and so kept them in good fettle while he used the sheet for his own purposes. It had for a time a considerable circulation and was a good medium for advertising himself and pushing the Stylus. That he never intended to connect himself with it permanently, is shown by his own statement in a letter to Lowell in March, 1843, in which he says the announcement had been made “prematurely.” Hirst also wrote for the Museum, and Poe also took advantage of that for his own advancement.

During January and February, Poe spent much of his time at Hirst’s office and at the house of Thomas C. Clarke at 206 South Twelfth Street, Philadelphia, where the prospects for the new magazine were earnestly discussed. Mr. Clarke was a publisher, an editor, and a gentleman of some means, and was finally persuaded by Poe and Hirst, now bosom friends, and by the favorable letter and encomiums from Thomas in Washington, to back Poe financially. Thomas, as a writer and a politician, had much influence with Clarke, who depended upon Poe’s Washington friend to obtain the subscriptions and endorsements, of [page 442:] prominent men in the Capital City. In some way or other, the scheme to get Poe a government position, which had not been entirely abandoned, was bound up with the magazine. By the end of January the matter had been arranged, and Poe, Hirst, F. O. C. Darley, an artist, and W. D. Riebsam, a friend of Hirst’s, all met with Thomas Clarke, when an agreement with Darley was signed by Clarke and Poe, for the artist to furnish illustrations to the new magazine. Hirst and Riebsam signed as witnesses.(624)

The agreement carried out Poe’s ideas as to the nature of magazine illustration which he had earlier enunciated in the Penn prospectus. Darley was one of the best illustrators in Philadelphia, and has left sketches which have successfully captured the peculiar aspect of the times. The signing of an agreement with a well-known artist who bound himself not to work for other magazines for the ensuing year, shows that the financial arrangements for the Stylus were completed, and that the final success of the scheme now rested with Poe. It was his great opportunity; one which he lost.

The next move was to advertise Poe himself as a literary figure, and to announce the new magazine widely. To do this, the columns of the Saturday Museum were employed.

Poe wrote in February to Thomas asking him to do a sketch of his life for the Museum. Congress was in session and Thomas, on account of a press of work, had to refuse.(625) The material, notes, and clipped items of praise for Poe’s work, were then turned over to Hirst, who wrote the sketch, which was accompanied by a portrait, a poor one, and was published in the Museum about the end of February, 1843. Through influence or good will, other papers noticed it.

The Spirit of the Times (Philadelphia) remarked:

The Saturday Museum of this week contains a very fine likeness of our friend Edgar Allan Poe, Esq., with a full account of his truly eventful life. We look upon Mr. Poe as one of the most powerful, chaste, and erudite writers of the day, and it gives us pleasure to see him placed through the public press in his proper position before the world.

The Saturday Museum then took up the cry and replied:

We are glad to hear so good a paper as the Times speak thus highly of Mr. Poe, not only from the justice which it renders that powerful writer, but because [page 443:] we have been so fortunate as to secure his services as associate editor of the Saturday Museum, where we intend it (i.e., his fame) shall be placed beyond the reach of conjecture. So great was the interest excited by the biography and poems of Mr. Poe published in the Museum of last week, that to supply those who were disappointed in obtaining copies we shall be at the expense of an extra edition, which will be printed with corrections and additions. Of this extra we shall publish an edition on fine white paper. It will be ready for delivery at the office Saturday morning.

In Hirst’s “biography,” Poe included some of his cryptograms and elaborated on his skill in solving them. Other papers copied this, as far off as Baltimore. It was a good lay, and throws an amusing light on the current methods of puffing. A little later the prospectus of the Stylus, practically a repetition of Poe’s doctrines of magazine publishing given in the prospectus of the Penn a year, before, was published in the Museum. Thomas showed a copy of the biography to Robert Tyler and other Washington friends, who were impressed.(629) Poe’s articles on cypher, and his stories had created a considerable stir in Washington, and, through the efforts of Thomas and others, arrangements were now made for him to go on and deliver a lecture there, be received at the White House, and secure the endorsements and subscriptions of prominent men and government clerks. It was his great chance to make the darling project of his literary ambition a fact. Mr. Clarke advanced the necessary cash, and, on March 8, 1843, with a little money in his pocket and hopes never higher, Poe took the train for Washington at the old Eleventh and Market Street Station, and set out. He was, of course, as always on important occasions, laboring under great nervous excitement and a sublime egotistic confidence.

Thomas, who was a bachelor, had his rooms at Fuller’s Hotel. Luck, as usual, was against Poe, and upon his arrival at the hostelry to which he had been bidden by his friend, he found Thomas ill. It was an unimportant fact apparently, but it was another crux in Poe’s literary career. Had his good friend been well he might have protected Poe against himself. The fact was, he was not able to go about with him, and turned him over to a mutual friend, J. E. Dow, who was known to his friends, not without good cause, as “Rowdy Dow.”

Mr. Fuller, the proprietor of the hostelry, was a famous host, and, on the evening of Poe’s arrival, there was a party in which the Fuller House port wine played an important part. Dow says Poe was “over-persuaded” to take some port wine. Mr. Fuller was a host who would not be denied. The next day Poe was ill and had evidently spent all his money, for he had a shave and hair cut in preparation for the presidential [page 444:] interview at the barber shop just above Fuller’s. He could not pay the “levy” fee and had to let it go on credit. The next day (March 11) he was better, and went through all of the government departments getting subscriptions. On account of his condition, however, Dow, who accompanied him, would not take him to the White House. On returning to the Hotel Fuller, Poe, being out of cash, wrote the to his financial backer, Mr. Clarke:

Washington, March 11, 1843

MY DEAR SIR, — I write merely to inform you of my well doing, for, so far, I have done nothing.

My friend, Thomas, upon whom I depended, is sick. I suppose he will be well in a few days. In the meantime I shall have to do the best I can.

I have not seen the President yet.

My expenses were more than I thought they would be, although I have economized in every respect, and this delay (Thomas being sick) puts me out sadly. However, all is going right. I have got the subscriptions of all the departments, President, etc. I believe that I am making a sensation which will tend to the benefit of the magazine.

Day after to-morrow I am to lecture. Rob Tyler is to give me an article, also Upsher. Send me $10 by mail as soon as you get this. I am grieved to ask you for money in this way, but you will find your account in it twice over.

Very truly yours,  

Thos. C. Clarke, Esq.

Mr. Poe was certainly making a sensation, but not one calculated to benefit the magazine. Upon calling at the White House later with Dow, he had been in such a state as to make his condition evident to Robert Tyler, and it was thought best that he should not see the President. Mr. Poe, as usual, wore a Spanish-looking cloak and it was his peccadillo while in Washington to insist upon wearing it wrong-side out, an eccentricity that certainly did cause somewhat of a sensation, evidently not a comfortable one to Dow, who upon the evening of the fourth day also felt called upon to address Mr. Clarke.

Washington, March 12, 1843

DEAR SIR, — I deem it to be my bounden duty to write you this hurried letter in relation to our mutual friend E. A. P.

He arrived here a few days since. On the first evening he seemed somewhat excited, having been over-persuaded to take some port wine.

On the second day he kept pretty steady, but since then he has been, at intervals, quite unreliable.

He exposes himself here to those who may injure him very much with the President, and thus prevent us from doing for him what we wish to do if he is himself again in Philadelphia. He does not understand the ways of politicians nor the manner of dealing with them to advantage. How should he?

Mr. Thomas is not well and cannot go home with Mr. P. My business and the health of my family will prevent me from so doing. [page 445:]

Under all circumstances of the case, I think it advisable for you to come on and see him safely back to his home. Mrs. Poe is in a bad state of health and I charge you, as you have a soul to be saved, to say not one word to her about him until he arrives with you. I shall expect you or an answer to this letter by return mail.

Should you not come, we will see him on board the cars bound for Philadelphia, but we fear he might be detained in Baltimore and not be out of harm’s way.

I do this under a solemn responsibility. Mr. Poe has the highest order of intellect, and I cannot bear that he should be the sport of senseless creatures, who, like oysters, keep sober, and gape and swallow everything.(627)

I think your good judgment will tell you what course you ought to pursue in the matter, and I cannot think it will be necessary to let him know that I have written you this letter; but I cannot suffer him to injure himself here without giving you this warning.

Yours respectfully,

To Thos. C. Clarke, Esq.
Philadelphia, Pa.

This is evidently the letter of a kindly and thoughtful, but very worried gentleman. It is one of the most forbearing and yet wisest letters that was ever written about Poe. That Dow should have thought it necessary to inform Clarke, from whom it was important to keep such facts under ordinary circumstances, tells the story. His remark about Baltimore is almost prophetic. Poe was to have delivered a lecture in Washington on the thirteenth, but that had to be given up. He borrowed money from both Thomas and Dow and succeeded in making a spectacle of himself.

On New York Avenue near Thirteenth and H Streets, Poe, Dow, one Dr. Lacey, Brady, who afterwards distinguished himself taking photographs of Civil War scenes, and a man Who was apparently a Spaniard (sic), held a roaring party in which mint juleps played the star rôle. Poe whose risibilities were always stirred by mustachios, made considerable fun of those adorning the countenance of the “Don,” and trouble ensued. Mr. Poe was taken back to Fuller’s.(628) No sign of Mr. Clarke’s appearing, and apparently no word from him, induced Thomas and Dow to persuade Poe to return immediately. His appearance in Washington in clothes turned wrongside out, and in an excited state, talking, gesticulating and rowing with bearded gentlemen, after being puffed as the “most powerful, chaste, and erudite writer of the day,” [page 446:] was a fatal outcome. Dow took Poe home, where, it appears, he caused considerable chagrin to his friend, whose wife was ill.

It had been the hope of Thomas to present Poe at the White House to the President, and secure the official promise of the first reversion of the Custom House job at Philadelphia. Smith, the Collector there, had been appointed ad interim by Tyler and was having difficulty in being approved by Tyler’s recalcitrant Congress. Hence Dow’s worry over Mr. Poe’s appearance on being presented to political friends. Washington, indeed, was the last place Poe should have appeared in. The convivial way of politicians, and hotel life at the Capital, was an impossible gantlet for him to run. It had been a fatal adventure. The “oysters who stayed sober but gaped and swallowed everything” could not believe that in the funny, maudlin gentleman to whom they were introduced, they beheld the greatest literary figure of their age. The lecture had been cancelled. Mr. Robert Tyler, it appears, was shocked, and Poe’s worst weaknesses exhibited in the White House parlor itself. It was all a huge fiasco. Worst of all, Mr. Clarke knew why. Dow, it seems, had to tell Poe that he had written Clarke, probably in order to prevail upon him to return.

Poe departed on the night of the thirteenth, the date of his lecture, evidently in such a condition that it was necessary to notify Mrs. Clemm to meet him. On the way home he began to realize the necessity of smoothing matters over with Mr. Clarke, for he got a shave and good breakfast in Baltimore and returned by the Susquehanna Railroad, lunching on the way. Mrs. Clemm was waiting for him “at the car office,” in what state of mind can be imagined. Poe’s appearance, he himself describes “as quite decent” Nevertheless, he went home for supper, did his best to soothe Virginia, and took a warm bath. He then called to make his peace with Mr. Clarke. The rest can best be told in his letter from Spring Garden Street the next day (March 16, 1843) to —


I never saw a man in my life more surprised to see another. He (Clarke) thought by Dow’s epistle that I must not only be dead but buried, and would as soon have thought of seeing his great-great-great-grandmother. He received me, therefore, very cordially, and made light of the matter. I told him what had been agreed upon — that I was a little sick, and that Dow, knowing I had been, in times past, given to spreeing upon an extensive scale, had become unduly alarmed, etc., etc., that when I found he had written, I thought it best to come home. He said my trip had improved me, and that he had never seen me looking so well! — and I don’t believe I ever did. This morning I took medicine, and, as it is a snowy day will avail myself of the excuse to stay at home — so that by to-morrow I shall be really as well as ever. Virginia’s health is about the same; but her distress of mind has been even more than I anticipated. She desires her kindest remembrances to both of you — as also does Mrs. C. [page 447:]

Clarke, it appears, wrote to Dow, who must have received the letter this morning. Please reenclose the letter to me, here, so that I may know how to guide myself. And, Thomas, do write immediately as proposed. If possible, enclose a line from Rob Tyler — but I fear under the circumstances, it is not so. I blame no one but myself.

The letter which I looked for, and which I wished returned, is not on its way — reason no money forthcoming — Lowell had not yet sent it. He is ill in New York, of ophthalmia. Immediately upon receipt of it, or before, I will forward the money you were both so kind as to lend, which is eight to Dow, and three and a half to Thomas. What a confounded business I have got myself into, attempting to write a letter to two people at once!

However, this is for Dow. My dear fellow, thank you a thousand times for your kindness and great forbearance, and don’t say a word about the cloak turned inside out, or other peccadilloes of that nature. Also, express to your wife my deep regret for the vexation I must have occasioned her. Send me, also if you can, the letter to Blythe. Call, also, at the barber’s shop just above Fuller’s and pay for me a levy which I believe I owe. And now, God bless you, for a nobler fellow never lived.

And this for Thomas. My dear friend, forgive me my petulance and believe I meant, all I said. Believe me, I am very grateful to you for your many attentions and forbearances, and the time will never come when I shall forget either them or you. Remember me to the Don, whose mustachios I do admire after all, and who was about the finest figure I ever beheld — also to Dr. Fraily. Please express my regret to Mr. Fuller for making such a fool of myself in his house, and say to him (if you think necessary) that I should not have got half so drunk on his port wine but for the rummy coffee with which I was forced to wash it down. I should be glad, too, if you would take an opportunity of saying to Mr. Rob Tyler that if he can look over matters and get me the inspectorship I will join the Washingtonian’s forthwith. I am serious as a judge — and much (more) so than many. I think it would be a feather in Mr. Tyler’s cap to save from the perils of mint julep — and ‘Port Wines’ — a young man of whom all the world thinks so well and who thinks so remarkably well of himself.

And now, my dear friends, good-bye, and believe me most truly yours,


F. W. Thomas put a note on this letter which coming from the hand of Poe’s best friend has an important bearing on his character:

This letter explains itself. While his friends were trying to get Poe a place he came on to Washington in the way he mentions. He was soon quite sick, and while he was so Dow wrote to one of his friends in Philadelphia about him! Poor fellow. A place had been promised his friends for him, and in that state of suspense which is so trying to all men, and particularly to men of imagination, he presented himself in Washington certainly not in a way to advance his interests. I have seen a great deal of Poe, and it was his excessive and at times marked sociality which forced him into his ‘ frolics/ rather than any morbid appetite for drink, but if he took but one glass of weak wine or beer or cider, the rubicon of the cup had been passed with him, and it almost always ended in excess and sickness. But he fought against the propensity as hard as ever Coleridge fought against it, and I am inclined to believe, after his sad experience and suffering, if he could have gotten office with a fixed salary, beyond the need of literary labour, that he would have redeemed himself at least this time. The [page 448:] accounts of his derelictions in this respect after I knew him were much exaggerated. I have seen men who drank battles of wine to Poe’s wine-glasses who yet escaped all imputations of intemperance. His was one of those temperaments whose only safety is total abstinence. He suffered terribly after any indiscretion. And after all what Byron said of Sheridan was truer of Poe: —

’. . . Ah, little do they know

That what to them seemed vice

might be but woe’

and, moreover, there is a great deal of heartache in the jestings of this letter.

This is kindly and well meant, but like much interested evidence offered to the jury must be largely struck out as irrelevant. Whether Poe drank by the bottle or the cup, steadily or at infrequent intervals, is all beside the mark. The point is, after all, that from some cause, drink he did; and, when he did so, the results were disastrous. With an already shattered nervous system the effect of alcohol was to make him impossible. All the evidence points to the fact that, when alcoholically inspired, he was insufferable. To this, and his own implacable literary vendettas, he owed the worst and most inveterate enemies he made. His intellectual greatness, insight, and even pompous dignity; his morbid sensitiveness, were alike set at naught and outraged by the caricature of himself which he exhibited when under the influence. Leonardo da Vinci once remarked, “The worst thing in the world is a bad reputation — the cause of a bad reputation is vice.” Poe’s spiritual excuse lies in the fact that he was not vicious. He did not drink because he was abandoned, but because a nervous weakness demanded the artificial courage of a stimulant of some kind to enable him to confront the world.(610) It was, at once, an escape and an apparent means to temporary strength. Conviviality no doubt played a part. What is there “mysterious” about all this? A million such persons walk the streets today. The inevitable results of such excesses, and the hopelessness of appeal to those whose will power is subservient to a chemical reaction, is an universal phenomenon familiar to all mankind. In the case of Poe, it was a concomitant rather than a cause. His prime trouble lay infinitely deeper.

To those who are familiar with some of the outstanding types of American character, there is a niche into which Edgar Allan Poe fits to a certain extent in his minor aspects. It is that of the proud, quixotic, cavalierly mannered, and superficial Southerner a little military training; more specifically, a Virginian of a brand. For some reason, probably partially connected with slavery, the old South of the plantation system conserved and bred this type to perfection. It is picturesque, professionally ardent, and regards itself so unmistakably as a social ornament and boon, that its superficial ear marks are often accepted at more than par value. Its motive force is a provincial pride. [page 449:] Add a little, or a great deal of alcohol, as the case may be, or any other “spiritual” irritant to this human compound, and the result is more than usually insufferable: Pride becomes arrogance; manners became mannerisms; courage becomes foolhardiness; and self-assurance turns to insult. The predicament, never understood by themselves, in which such types are then placed, is one of hostility with the world at large — a much larger world than provincialism permits them to surmise. To the immigrant generations following the American Civil War this “cavalier type” has become harmless and romantic. At an earlier date, its social and political implication to the times was more clearly understood. In some quarters, therefore, there was, to such a gentleman from the plantations, a smouldering hostility rooted in fear.

Poe had been brought up in Richmond, Virginia, in a family which aspired to, and partially succeeded, in establishing itself in the aristocracy of the plantation. That he had not been included, that to a certain extent he had been thrust out of its bosom, only confirmed in him the determination to persist in the characteristic manners and attitudes of the Cavalier School. “I am a Virginian — at least I was born and raised in Richmond,” is his own statement of the case. He had chosen to reside in the North. When “the great Southern Poet” went on a spree, the world in general was not privy to any more subtle cause for the trouble which followed, than the liquor from the same bottle out of which it also replenished its own glass. The results with Mr. Poe were abnormal, but they were nevertheless characteristic. In these years of grace, a discourse on the technique of carrying liquor is not in order. The year 1843, however, was another regime, and, without digressing, it may be safely inferred that whatever small skill Mr. Poe may have had in that gentlemanly art hailed from south of the Potomac. To his own unpsychological generation, he appeared upon numerous occasions in the then well-known character of “A Bad Man from Virginia on a spree.” Nor is this by any means so superficial a characterization as might, at first blush, appear. Differences of manners and custom, indicating, as they often do, the springs of moral action, are among the most profound which provoke the antipathies of men.

Poe’s behavior on the trip to Washington in March, 1843, seems to have been a case in point. He lost and alienated many friends. Thomas was forced to apologize to himself and others about him, as we have seen; and Dow, who was certainly not one to be squeamish, was hardly very glad. He never resumed intercourse with Poe on the same cordial basis. The fact that he never received back the eight dollars which he lent to Poe, may have had some bearing in so personal a matter.(721) Poe, it must be said, was indeed hard pressed from now on — close-followed by misfortune after misfortune. The last scene of the comedy to obtain [page 450:] for him the government position now took place in Washington, as his next stroke of ill luck.

On March 26, Thomas visited the White House. He there had an interview with President Tyler who inquired in a kindly way about Mr. Poe. Robert Tyler was out, but the President’s other son John, who was in the room, bluntly told his father that he wished he would appoint Poe to an office in Philadelphia. Before the President could reply, a servant entered and called him out. The interruption was fatal, for the necessary executive “remark,” whatever it might have been, was never made.(629)

If matters up to a certain point had fared well for the Stylus, Lowell’s venture with the Pioneer proved to have been planted in stony ground. The magazine failed with the fourth number in March, 1843, leaving Lowell bankrupt, while, for a time, it appeared that he was going blind. The omissions in the letters he wrote to Poe at this time show that he could hardly see, yet a kindly spirit and a great courage breathes through them. Both Poe and Lowell were under great tribulations in the Spring of 1843 and yet, in their touch, both seem to have brought out the best in each other’s nature. When Lowell wrote to Poe (March 24, 1843) telling him of the wreck of his hopes, but promising to pay for The Tell-Tale Heart and other items, Poe replied:

MY DEAR FRIEND, — I have just received yours of the 24th, first that you should have been so unfortunate, and secondly that you should have thought it necessary to offer me any apology for your misfortunes, As for the few dollars you owe me — give yourself not one moment’s concern about them. I am poor, but must be very much poorer, indeed, when I think of demanding them. . . .(630)

How he could have been much poorer than he was when he wrote this, it is hard to surmise. The wolf was once more at the door. Poe and Lowell continued to write each other through the Spring and early Summer. In the same letter in which he reassures Lowell about his debts to him, Poe announces that the Stylus is to appear the first of July following, and asks Lowell to obtain an article from Hawthorne for the first number. Later on Lowell himself is requested to contribute a sketch of his life and a portrait, which he promises to do. He also contributed a poem. Their communication in this time of adversity was affectionate.(631) “With all truth and love I remain your friend, J. R. L.” — and with Poe it was “My dear Friend,” a most unusual form of address for him. Lowell had retired to his father’s house in Cambridge to write Prometheus. His eyes had recovered. [page 451:]

My address will be ‘Cambridge, Mass.’ in future. I do hope and trust your magazine will succeed. Be very watchful of your publisher and agents. They must be driven as men drive swine, take your eyes off them for an instant and they bolt between your legs and leave you in the mire.(632)

J. R. L.

It was more of a prophecy than a warning. Less than a month later Poe writes Lowell, “Alas! my magazine scheme has exploded.” Mr. Clarke had withdrawn. Poe lays it to his “idiocy” and “imbecility,” but that was probably only a disappointed man’s expression for the common sense of his more cautious partner.

The Washington irregularities seem to be indicative of what went on, quite frequently, through the rest of the year. Mr. Clarke’s faith was no doubt thoroughly shaken by the events of the trip, after Dow’s letter, and ensuing lapses seem to have confirmed him in the opinion that, however brilliant Poe may have been as an editor or from a literary standpoint, he was by no means the type of man, from a business perspective, upon which one could risk a considerable and hard accumulated capital. The Stylus was dead! Poe never gave it up; he had come so near! The engravings and the articles were all ready — Lowell’s poem went to Griswold — but the magazine remained a dream that never materialized. It failed to take form, as it failed again, for the same cause.(623)

Poe’s financial predicament was now of the worst. There was literally not a sou in the house, and Virginia was again very ill, as this letter shows:

DEAR GRISWOLD, — Can you not send me $5? I am sick and Virginia is almost gone. Come and see me. Peterson says you suspect me of a curious anonymous letter. I did not write it, but bring it along with you when you make the visit you promised to Mrs. Clemm. I will try to fix the matter soon. Could you do anything with my note?(633)

Yours truly,
E. A. P.

That Poe should have had to appeal to Griswold shows that his need was indeed extreme. The money it appears was sent. Poe had been playing fast and loose with Griswold in his reviews of the latter’s anthology and had used the columns of the Museum to poke a good deal of annoying sarcasm at “Dr. Driswold.”

Griswold was living in a boarding-house at Eighth and Chestnut Streets where he had met a lady who was supposed to be wealthy. The pair were married, and the wealth proved to be a dream. As the lady is said to have been possessed of even less beauty than gold, Mr. Griswold’s state of mind was for some time quite savage.(600) It seems to [page 452:] have been about this time that he began to persecute his colleague, Peterson, by anonymous letters and articles. Mr. Graham afterward discharged him for this. It is probably such a letter to which Poe refers and denies writing. Griswold had evidently attempted to pin the blame on Poe. He knew that Poe had again been offered the chair at Graham’s that Mr. Graham was dissatisfied with him (Griswold), and that Peterson was an able man. The inference, taking the character of the Reverend Doctor into consideration, seems plain.

It was about this time that Poe himself began to be greatly troubled by anonymous rumors circulated in Philadelphia about him. For those in regard to his drinking he had himself to blame. In addition to this, however, his name was coupled in a highly scandalous manner with the good lady who had opened her house to him at Saratoga Springs while he was ill.(634) The sources of these rumors can never be proved, but one of them may be strongly suspected. The beginnings of a nervous state of mind which later permitted Poe to harbor genuine delusions of persecutions were already present, and these rumors were undoubtedly a prime cause in driving him out of Philadelphia. It was a dénouement which, in certain quarters, was highly welcome.

During these periods when Poe was ill, Mrs. Clemm’s strength and efforts alone supported the household. What little strength Poe had, was used up in writing, and he had no energy left with which to vend his wares.

She was the ever-vigilant guardian of the home watching it against the silent but continuous sap of necessity, that appeared every day to be approaching closer and doser. She was the sole servant, keeping everything clean; the sole messenger, doing the errands, making pilgrimages between the poet and his publishers, frequently bringing back such chilling responses as ‘The article not accepted’ or, ‘The check not to be given until such and such a day,’ often too late for his necessities. And she was also the messenger to the market; from it bringing back not ‘the delicacies of the season,’ but only such commodities as were called for by the dire exigencies of hunger.

Thus runs the evidence of Captain Mayne Reid who was much about the Spring Garden Street house at that time. The Sunday morning breakfasts with Hirst must have now been few and far between, although Poe was still a great deal at his office.

As a consequence on July 19, 1843, he registered in the District Court of Philadelphia as a student of law with Henry B. Hirst for legal preceptor. [page 453:] This, of course, came to nothing, and was probably merely a result of his interest in copyright law and Hirst’s influence.(600)

After the Stylus bubble had burst, Poe addressed a letter to his cousin William Poe of Baltimore asking for a loan of $50, and describing his misfortunes. The latter had replied (May 15, 1843) refusing the loan, and evidently reproaching Poe for his weakness. By this time, the news seems to have been pretty well abroad. Poe did not reply, and, in a second letter a month later, his cousin in a somewhat softened tone again writes him congratulating him on winning a prize offered by the Dollar Newspaper. One passage in the letter is significant and much quoted:

There is one thing I am anxious to caution you against and which has been a great enemy to our family,(635) — I hope, however, in your own case, it may prove unnecessary, — ‘a too free use of the Bottle.’ Too many, and especially literary characters, have sought to drown their sorrows and disappointments by this means, but in vain, and only, when it has been too late, discovered it to be a deeper source of misery. But enough of this say you, and so say I. . . .

The only outstanding success of the year 1843 was the prize secured by Poe’s most widely read story, The Gold Bug. He had originally written it, probably in 1842, for publication in the Stylus. That not being possible, he had offered it to Mr. Graham who had accepted it. The Dollar Newspaper, published just below Graham’s in the same building, had later offered a prize of $100 for the best short story submitted under the terms of a contest. Poe now begged the story from Mr. Graham who returned the manuscript, accepting a critical article instead. The Dollar Newspaper was edited by Joseph Sailor who knew Poe well. Although this had no bearing on the award of the prize, which was made by a committee of judges, Sailor’s notices of the award were exceedingly laudatory of Poe. The Gold Bug, appeared in the Dollar Newspaper for June 21, and 28,1843, and was again reprinted as a whole with two other prize stories, as a supplement for July 12. It was by far the most popular of any tale Poe had done and had a large success, attracting wide notice and printed comment. The story was cleverly illustrated by F. O. C. Darley who was to have been the artist for the defunct Stylus.

The great popularity of this story was undoubtedly partly due to the fact that, in it, the morbid strain so predominant in Poe was largely absent. A few skulls and corpses crept in, but they might be expected in a story of pirate gold. The retrospective tendency, which Poe had already shown in several of his other stories, was, in this, especially strong, and the author seems to have remembered with almost photographic accuracy the details of his environment on Sullivan’s Island [page 454:] fifteen years before.(636) The only characteristic of the Philadelphia period which crept into it was the cryptogram, a subject which Poe could not then get out of his mind. The example of cipher writing, Poe gives here, is comparatively simple. That he had taken great pains with the story, there can be no doubt. As first printed, the cryptogram was not entirely correct, and several years later Poe was at some pains to correct it and make further minor alterations and additions to the text.(299)

Not long after The Gold Bug appeared, the United States Saturday Post, which was a temporary disguise assumed by the Saturday Evening Post, published a charge that the story had been plagiarized from one called Imogene, or the Pirate’s Treasure by a Miss Shesburne, in the Spirit of the Times. That publication made considerable noise in favor of Miss Shesburne, but a refutation in the Dollar Newspaper for July 12, put the ghost to rest. The real merit of The Gold Bug lay in the originality of the plot and the sheer fascination of narrative. The characters are only sketched, and the realism lies in the accurate reproduction of the scenes. This tale, in reality, belongs, in spirit, to the “grotesques.”

The only other stories of importance, published in the year 1843, were The Tell-Tale Heart, probably an imaginative rendering of Poe’s attack of heart disease in 1842, and The Black Cat in the United States Saturday Post for July. The latter shows a strongly marked tendency to return to the horrors of Arthur Gordon Pym, and accentuates the fact, that no matter what the plot, Poe’s consciousness insisted upon forcing upon him the same kind of imagery, regardless of the medium or the material he used. The treatment the cat received from its master, the terrible effect of its eye, and the punishment which fell upon its persecutor, represent the fact that Poe could not help but revel in such cruelty, yet he must condemn it too, and bring punishment upon the perpetrator. He thus attempted to absolve himself from the feeling of conscious condemnation which his involuntary dreams aroused. In The Murders in the Rue Morgue, the moral issue is entirely dodged by making the criminal an ape; thus a double horror was invoked without the necessity of blame.(637) [page 455:]

The high tide of Poe’s creative ability had been reached in 1841-42. The Gold Bug, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Black Cat, although published later, belong to the earlier period of his working crest, as well as the, for him, singularly charming and innocent sketch of The Elk [[about the elk]]. From 1842 on, Poe began physically and mentally to disintegrate. In 1843 the process was rapid, most of his work was of the hack variety, or critical articles of doubtful value. In August, he writes his friend Tomlin, “I was obliged to make a vow I would engage in the solution of no more cryptographs.” The reason he gives is, that by the number offered for solution, he was “absolutely overwhelmed.” In reality he had neither the vigor nor the inclination to continue. There was never any period when he had more time. He now grew more irritable and suspicious, scented plagiarism in the air, and became more biting in his criticism. Even his friend Henry B. Hirst was partially cast off some time before Poe left Philadelphia. Hirst, it seems, had committed the unpardonable sin of parodying Poe —

Never seraph spread a pinion

Over fabric half so fair.

Had been rendered by the madcap young lawyer —

Never nigger shook a shin-bone

In a dance-house half so fair.

The breakfasts at Spring Garden Street and the Sunday excursions were immediately a thing of the past.(638)

There is some evidence that, in the Summer of 1843, Poe again visited at the house of the lady at Saratoga Springs, but the matter is somewhat confused.(612) He was greatly worried by the talk which now went around about it, however, and there was other gossip which found its way into print and private letters.

During the Summer, an anonymous article containing a peculiarly vicious attack on Poe appeared in one of the Philadelphia newspapers. Poe very rightly suspected Griswold, who had by that time been dismissed by Mr. Graham for the similar attempt on Charles Peterson, the source of which had been traced down. Whatever unfortunate basis of truth there was behind the assertions of Poe’s bibulous and, at times, irresponsible conduct, it still remains as a cold fact that Rufus Griswold undoubtedly played the part to Poe during his life, and after his death, of a false friend. After sending the $5 which Poe had begged from him in the letter in June,(635) Griswold had visited next day at Spring Garden Street and afterward described the cottage: [page 456:]

When he once sent for me to visit him, during a period of illness caused by protracted and anxious watching at the side of his sick wife, I was impressed by the singular neatness and the air of refinement in his home. It was a small house, in one of the pleasant and silent neighborhoods far from the center of the town, and though slightly and cheaply furnished everything in it was so tasteful and so fitly disposed that it seemed altogether suitable for a man of genius. For this and for most of the comforts he enjoyed, in his brightest as in his darkest years, he was chiefly indebted to his mother-in-law, who loved him with more than maternal devotion and constancy.

There can be no doubt that it was in Philadelphia, during the Spring and Summer of 1843, that Griswold became unhappily familiar with the presence of Mrs. Clemm, who was frequently at that time forced to carry Edgar’s manuscripts to Graham’s, or the offices of other publications, and to call upon the editors to dun them for payment or advances while playing upon their sympathy. Through Mrs. Clemm, Griswold and others became privy to the inmost troubles of the Poe household and the shadow of its tragedy. That Griswold used this information to strike with a concealed hand against Poe, and that he afterward exploited Mrs. Clemm in her dire poverty, while at the same time realizing upon the writings of his dead friend and damning his reputation, is a proven fact which must be remembered when taking his evidence.

Poe also suspected his friend, L. A. Wilmer of intimate Baltimore memories, of attacking him, and on August 28, 1843, writes to his friend Tomlin, the literary postmaster at Jackson, Tennessee, as follows:

And now my dear friend, have you forgotten that I asked you, some time since, to render me an important favor. You can surely have no scruples in a case of this kind. I have reason to believe that I have been maligned by some envious scoundrel in this city, who has written you a letter respecting myself. I believe I know the villain’s name. It is Wilmer. In Philadelphia no one speaks of him. He is avoided by all as a reprobate of the lowest class. . . .

This was going it a bit strong. Wilmer had indeed, for a while, been treading the primrose path, knocking about from one newspaper to another, and burning the candle at both ends. He was not without many friends, however, and later on — having sowed the fields of youth with considerable zest — settled down to a decided minor success. After Poe’s death, he became one of his most zealous defenders against the attacks of Griswold, whom he detested. Tomlin enclosed Wilmer’s letter to Poe which proved harmless enough, in reality, although disturbing:

Edgar A. Poe (you know him by character, no doubt, if not personally) has become one of the strangest of our literati. He and I are old friends, and have known each other from boyhood, and it gives me inexpressable pain to notice the vagaries to which he has lately become subject. Poor fellow; he is not a teetotaller by any means, and I fear he is going to destruction, moral, physical and intellectual. . . . [page 457:]

It was the pity in this, as much as anything else, that would offend Poe. But there can be little doubt that Wilmer’s statement was literally true.

August, 1843, to the Spring of 1844, when Poe left Philadelphia, may be regarded as a swift slope in the life of Poe, down which he slid rapidly to emerge on the plain of New York a man much altered for the worse. The main causes for this must be seen in the sick-bed of Virginia in the Spring Garden cottage, and the stimulants which, at this time, Poe resorted to for surcease from troubles which were more than he could bear.

As we have seen, Virginia represented for him a compromise with the driving passion of life, which was necessary to his peace of mind. The explanation which is reluctantly forced upon one, as the whole of the facts of his strange marriage and Poe’s relations with other women are passed in review, and calmly considered, is that Poe was psychically inhibited. That he was actually physically Impotent does not appear, either in the appearance of the mad, the facts of his history, or the record of his creative work. There is a virility, even if a thwarted and sometimes morbid kind, in his creative and critical writing which is decidedly masculine. His continued interest in women is also indicative. To state that Poe was literally impotent is to assume a theory that is beyond the realm of proof.

The difficulty in presenting and understanding Poe and the relation of his personality to his creative work is that his physical and psychic make-up were enormously and peculiarly complex. Any simple and easy explanation, however desirable and superficially attractive to a biographer and his audience, is bound to be misleading and contrary to fact.

At best, since the man himself is removed beyond the realms of a direct medical inquiry, only an approach to the problem can be made, though the evidence strongly points to the conclusion that the root of Poe’s misfortunes, agony, and shipwreck, as well as his power as a literary artist, lay in some inhibition of his sexual life.

That Virginia could never have provided for him the normal relations of the adult married state is scarcely to be rationally disputed. She was a child of thirteen when he married her, and her rapid progress down the steep glacis of tuberculosis precludes the possibility of any considerable time when normal relations could have been established. In Philadelphia, in January, 1842, as we have seen, her invalidism became acute with periods of sinking and hemorrhages of the lungs. From then on she was dying. At times both Poe and Mrs. Clemm gave her up for lost. There is also the evidence of Mrs. Clemm about the nature of his marriage with her daughter, the character of which she afterward did not attempt to disguise. A Mrs. Phelps who knew her says:(639) [page 458:]

. . . Mrs. Clemm, his aunt, was my mother’s dear friend. I know something, about . . . (the marriage) having heard my mother and Mrs. Clemm discuss it. He did not love his cousin, except as a dear cousin, when he married her, but she was fondly attached to him and was frail and consumptive. While she lived he devoted himself to her with all the ardor of a lover. . . .

Why was it, then, that he devoted himself to her “with all the ardor of a lover,” as there can be no doubt that he did, and that the very thought of losing her at times drove him temporarily mad? It was not because he was physically incapable, but because, consciously or unconsciously, he feared the devastating effects upon himself of being released to other women, where the full implications of love were inevitably involved. That Poe pitied and “loved” Virginia with the yearning of a truly noble sympathy it is useless and cruelly narrow to deny, but that his madness at the contemplation of her loss involved himself primarily and her secondarily, is also and more pertinently true.

The man was so nervously and complexly organized that the strong emotions of sex, the most profound and disturbing in the world, threatened not only to make all creative work impossible but literally to drive him insane. The anticipation of it was more than he could bear; the realization of it, after Virginia’s death at Fordham, confirmed his fears. In a few months, after a desperate effort to again attain some basis of physical and mental equilibrium, he was thrown off the edge of the world by the momentum of his own hopeless troubles with a cry for mercy to the Spirit of the gulf beyond. Strange as it may seem, while she existed, this frail, barren and tubercular little girl constituted for Edgar Allan Poe, the dreamer, an essential compromise with reality. His decline was largely coincident with hers. As the pale blue flame of her life flickered and jumped at the wick and threatened to go out, he solaced himself and found refuge in drugs and alcohol. These, in turn, produced and added their own fatal elements to the facts of disintegration so that the result was vastly accelerated. It was in the Summer of 1843 that Wilmer writes to his friend Tomlin, “ I fear he is going to destruction, moral, physical, and intellectual.” Mr. Poe was angry, but his friend was right.

A few weeks later, September 13, 1843, Poe himself writes to Lowell. “Since I last wrote you (June 20), I have suffered much from domestic and pecuniary misfortune, and at one period, had nearly succumbed.” He is then forced to ask him for the $10 due, which Lowell remitted although in great financial distress. For the most part Poe was now sitting by Virginia’s bedside nursing her, but ill himself, and in an agony of apprehension. When he did sally forth it was to wander about the streets in that condition described afterward by Griswold who knew him most intimately at this time:

. . . He walked the streets, in madness or melancholy, with lips moving in indistinct curses, or with eyes upturned in passionate prayers, (never for himself, [page 459:] for he felt, or professed to feel, that he was already . damned,) but for their happiness who were at the moment the objects of his idolatry; or with his glance introverted to a heart gnawed with anguish, and with a face shrouded in gloom, he would brave the wildest storms; and at night, with drenched garments and arms wildly beating the wind and rain he would speak as if to spirits that at such times only could be evoked by him from that Aidenn close by (behind) whose portals his distributed soul sought to forget the ills to which his constitution subjected him. . . .

It was such wanderings as this that gave rise to the rumors that so troubled him. When he was thus loose in the streets, there was no telling where he might go, and it was generally Mrs. Clemm who rescued him and nursed him back to some resemblance to normal manhood. The rambles of Israfel, however, were not always so spiritually romantic as the style of Dr. Griswold might lead us to believe.

Howard Paul, a young Philadelphian, the nephew of Mr. Clarke who had backed the Stylus, remembered Poe vividly and tells of him in a convivial and social hour, “warmed with wine and in a genial, glowing mood” — of his brilliant, and, as the dinner progressed, erratic conversation. Paul has left an excellent word picture of Poe as he appeared in 1843:

Poe was a slight, small boned, delicate looking man, with a well-developed head, which at a glance, seemed out of proportion to his slender body. His features were regular, his complexion pale; and his nose was Grecian and well-moulded, his eyes large and luminous, and when excited, peculiarly vivid and penetrating. He dressed with neatness, and there was a suggestion of hauteur in his manner towards strangers. He was impatient of restraint or contradiction, and when his Southern blood was up, as the saying goes, he could be cuttingly rude and bitterly sarcastic.(640)

Thomas Dunn English also noticed the small bones — “the hands like bird claws” — and the rest of Paul’s description tallies with several others. From Paul also comes the information that Poe about this time had again turned his attention to drama. There is here a unique mention of the scenario of a tragedy that he projected about this time with a Philadelphia friend, Dr. Bird. About this “play” nothing more is known.

When the generosity of his friends, or his connection with the press would permit, he visited the theater, and, it is said, he became friends with the father of Edwin Booth (J. B. Booth). Returning from the play one night, when both were in a highflown condition, they laid hands upon an unfortunate Jew who offended them and suspended him “by his breeches on the spikes of a convenient area railing, where they left him kicking and howling while they pursued their tortuous way in gladsome mood.” It was precisely the kind of joke which would have appealed to the practical side of the curious humor of Mr. Poe. [page 460:]

After Dr. Griswold’s dismissal from Graham’s, Poe began once again to contribute, to some extent, to the critical columns. It was apparently in the Winter of 1843-44, when his fortunes were at so low an ebb, that he attempted to sell an early draft of The Raven to his old friend and editor there. According to Rosenbach, who had known Poe both on Burton’s and Graham’s, the poet came into the office one day with the manuscript of the poem in his pocket saying that his wife and Mrs. Clemm were starving and that he was destitute of funds. The poem was then read by those in the office, Graham, and probably Charles Peterson, who did not care to accept it. Godey seems also to have been present. Poe, however, was insistent both as to the poem’s merits and his own needs. So Mr. Graham, in order to arrive at some solution, called in the rest of the magazine force and agreed to abide by their decision. Poe then read The Raven himself to the audience of clerks and ink-faced printers’ devils, who agreed with Mr. Graham. The poem was not accepted, but out of commiseration for its author, and pity for their former editor, the hat was passed among those present and $15 was collected for Virginia and Mrs. Clemm. The money was given to Mrs. Clemm. Godey It would appear from this that the nadir had about reacted. It was greatly to the benefit of the poem, however, for Poe continued to work upon it for several years.

Almost all of the work and projects of this time bear the marks of having been undertaken by a man in a nervous state who could not carry any long task to a conclusion. With the waning of his power to do long sustained work in prose, Poe now began, after an interval of some years, to turn his attention to poetry. He was, as we have seen, working sporadically at The Raven. January, 1843, had seen his first notable new poem for some time, The Conqueror Worm, published in Graham’s. Lowell had received Lenore, a vastly improved version of the verses written first at West Point, and dealing with the lost loves of the Richmond period. Naturally enough, with Virginia’s state, the theme was again brought to mind, and death stalked notably in The Conqueror Worm.

Poe now, also, again attempted another issue of his collected prose tales published in Philadelphia sometime during the Fall of 1843. This was to have been a cheap edition for popular consumption to be completed by further numbers. Evidently the project failed, probably through lack of sales, and only one issue is known in paper covers, originally priced at 12 1/2 cents, entitled: The Prose Romances of Edgar A. Poe. . . . No. I. The Murders of the Rue Morgue and The Man that was Used Up. 1843, 8vo, pp. 40, paper. Philadelphia: published by William H. Graham, No. 98 Chestnut Street, 1843.

In the list of Poe’s books, this may be considered his seventh “volume.” [page 461:] It was handled by at least two bookstores in Philadelphia with small success, and was soon allowed to go out of print with no further numbers added to the unique “No. I.” Copies of it are excessively rare.

As neither his work nor his publishing ventures brought him enough to live on, like many another poet in a similar financial quandary, Poe now began to lay plans to deliver lectures. In March, 1843, he had published in Graham’s his Rationale of Verse. Lowell tried to obtain for him an appearance before the Boston Lyceum, but the proposal received a cold shoulder, a fact which may have influenced Poe in his hostility to the same audience some years later, as he never forgot a repulse. On November 25 he delivered & lecture before the William Wirt Literary Institute in Philadelphia on “American Poetry,” in which he took the occasion to pay his respects to Griswold in revenge for the anonymous article. The affair created a considerable stir at the time. Both the Doctor and his anthology came in for some well-placed and very caustic criticism. He and Poe were not “on terms” again for about two years. This was the only occasion upon which Poe appeared personally before a fashionable “Quaker” audience. On January n, 1844, he repeated the same lecture at Odd Fellows’ Hall in Baltimore. The returns, of course, were small.

Poe was now about at the end of his string in Philadelphia, He had “withdrawn” from the editorship of two magazines; failed to start one of his own; and was known to be unreliable in his habits and a doubtful quantity to deal with personally in a dozen other magazine sanctums and newspaper offices in the town. Mrs. Clemm had made her rounds; publishers had found his tales a useless venture and — worst of all — scandal was busy with his name. With the outstanding literary reputation of the locality, Poe’s personality, misfortunes, and irregularities, in a place where they were common gossip, made further advantageous contacts and associations impossible. The situation was much the same in both Baltimore and Richmond. His attacks on Longfellow and the New England school had also marked Boston off the list of possible removes. New York was therefore the only great literary center left where he might still hope to make a new place for himself.

For the first four months of 1844, the whereabouts and doings of Poe cannot be satisfactorily traced. Some little time before leaving Philadelphia the family must have given up the Spring Garden Street house, whence most of the pawnable articles had disappeared already. During Poe’s occupancy of the place it had changed hands, having been bought from the landlord, William M. Albruger, who owned it when Poe first rented it, by Jessie White on January 7, 1843. Before the end came, Mrs. Clemm had evidently resorted to every known means to keep the kettle boiling. A schoolteacher who lived near by describes the [page 462:] appearance of the little house with its giant pear tree, the scraggly rosebush, carefully pruned by Mrs. Clemm, that grew over the little porch, and the dooryard with the grass plot and garden.

Twice a day, on my way to and from school, I had to pass their house; and in summer time often saw them. In the mornings Mrs. Clemm and her daughter would be generally watering the flowers, which they had in a bed under the windows. They seemed always cheerful and happy, and I could hear Mrs. Poe’s laugh before I turned the corner (Seventh and Spring Garden). Mrs. Clemm was always busy. I have seen her of mornings clearing the front yard, washing the windows and the stoop, and even white-washing the palings. You would notice how clean and orderly everything looked. She rented out her front rooms to lodgers, and used the middle room, next to the kitchen for their own living room or parlor. They must have slept under th£ roof. We never heard they were poor, and they kept pretty much to themselves in the two years we lived near them. I don’t think that in that time I saw Mr. Poe half a dozen times. We heard he was dissipated, but he always appeared like a gentleman, though thin and sickly looking. . . .(641)

From the same evidence it also appears that Mrs. Clemm was a dress and coat maker, and that Virginia helped her and was at times to be seen sewing on the front stoop. “She was pretty, but not noticeably so. She was too fleshy.”

Towards the end of the Philadelphia stay, in the Spring of 1844, Poe, it appears, was much away from the house.

His dissipation was too notorious to be denied; and for days, and even weeks at a time, he would be sharing the bachelor life and quarters of his associates, who were not aware that he was a married man. He would, on some evenings when sober, come to the rooms occupied by himself and some other writers for the press and, producing the manuscript of The Raven, read to them the last additions to it, asking their opinions and suggestions. He seemed to be having difficulty with it, and to be very doubtful as to its merits as a poem. The general opinion of these critics was against it. . . .(642)

Even the published work of this Spring, which was, of course, written some time before it appeared, reflects the exigencies of the period. The attempt to gain an English publishing contact through the influence of Dickens having failed,(602) Poe now took up the work of an obscure British playwright by the name of R. H. Home, and in the March issue of Graham’s gave his cabinet play Orion a tremendous puff, saying that, in some respects, it surpassed Milton. Some correspondence then passed between the astonished but delighted Englishman and his American reviewer, in which Poe sought to have his favors [page 463:] returned by endeavoring to use Home to arrange for a London edition of the Tales. This also came to nothing, although Home evidently tried.

The rest of the literary output that came to print now was for the most part retrospective or contemplative, The Elk [[Morning on the Wissahiccon]], already mentioned, and a strong return to the past in A Tale of the Ragged Mountains, published in Godey’s Lady’s Book for April, 1844. This story harked back to school days at the University of Virginia. In the beautiful mountains where he had walked in 1826, dreaming of Elmira Royster, he now took refuge again in vivid imagination from a sea of troubles.(643)

Diddling, Considered as one of the Exact Sciences, which later appeared in the Broadway Journal, is a grotesque essay on the various dodges of cheats; how to get something for nothing, dishonestly but cleverly. This is one of the most elaborate of Poe’s attempts to be humorous. Evidently Poe derived considerable amusement from the distress and surprise of those despoiled. The petty crooks and scoundrels of the story are the heroes, and the laugh is supposed to come when the victim discovers his loss. There is a curious parallel between this effusion and Poe’s own childish and almost unbalanced delight in a hoax of any kind. For those who wish a sidelight on a curious ramification of the man’s character, Diddling, considered as one of the Exact Sciences supplies the text. Poe used tobacco, like most of the male population, juvenile and adult, in the ‘40s, and was often hard put to it in his dire poverty at times to secure a plug of even so humble a sedative. In Diddling we are told how one may secure a plug for nothing by confusing a stupid shopkeeper about the change. A year later a shopkeeper in New York tells us how Poe came into his shop after looking into the window wistfully for some time.(644) “In a moment he entered and asked the price of tobacco. When I had told him he made no move to buy, and after a few general remarks started to leave. . . . So I offered the man a piece of tobacco. He accepted, thanked me and departed.” In the story the clever hero confuses the shopkeeper by his superior ways and secures the tobacco as a prize. Mr. Poe was too honest to actually do that. It was beneath the dignity of a gentleman, but in his imagination he reveled in gulling the poor tradesmen whose wares he needed, but whose calling he despised. In the story Poe takes revenge, imaginatively, not only upon tobacco merchants, but upon furniture dealers, boarding-house keepers, and clerks. There is no doubt [page 464:] that, at the time the story was written, their importunities and even kindnesses must have been more than usually annoying to the poverty-stricken but always clever and proud Mr. Poe.

At the beginning of April, 1844, Poe seems rather suddenly to have decided to leave Philadelphia to try to break ground anew in New York. His life in Philadelphia had become, for him, a nightmare of physical suffering and mental and spiritual confusion. Whispers and scandals about his drinking, the destitution of his family, and the Saratoga Lady already began to lay the basis of a sense of persecution, to which his abnormally sensitive nature made him prone. All his former openings were closed, and it was also probably psychically important to change the scene to a place where every aspect, and chance acquaintances met on the street did not evoke some ramification of the memories of failure. He had no particular plan in mind, and knew neithef what he would do nor where he would live. A vague hope, again to persuade his friend, Professor Anthon, to induce Harpers to publish his collected tales, was the only shred of plan in his mind. Mrs. Clemm was left to dispose of the miserable remnant of his effects and affairs. A few friends remembered, and cherished the cuttings from the garden which she and Virginia now gave them. The landlady afterward told of some carpets and plain painted chairs that she reluctantly claimed for the long arrears of rent. After Poe’s departure Mrs. Clemm sold off his little library to William A. Leary, a neighboring bookseller on North Seventh Street.(645) There was not enough money to take her to New York, and she was left alone with her memories, her forebodings, and the cat. Catarina, having no marketable value, alone remained. She was a large tortoise shell, beloved by Virginia, and the pet of a childless house.

Taking Virginia with him, — “Sissy coughed none at all,” — with only $11 in his pocket, Poe left Philadelphia in the early Spring morning. The train via the Perth Amboy route left at six o’clock A.M., but, on the morning of April 6, 1844, it was almost an hour late.(646) After some dispute with the driver over the baggage fee, Poe took Virginia over to the Depot Hotel while he read the morning newspapers contemptuously [page 465:] and waited. It was near the Walnut Street wharf, and the streets were alive with the early morning venders and their cries.

De hominy man am on his way

From de navy yahd

Wid his hominy

Or the more alluring chant over a little brazier trundled on wheels —


All hot, all hot!

Makee back strong

Makee live long

Come buy pepper pot . . .

About seven o’clock a small locomotive with a huge diamondshaped smoke-stack and a large brass bell puffed and clanged its way out of town, the pale face of Virginia looking out of one of the car windows, framed, like the proscenium of a toy stage, with little red-plush curtains. Doubtless the gallant Mr. Poe had secured for “Sissy” a seat, nearby, but not too dose to the stove. The roar of the drays on the cobbles of the Philadelphia water front died away. As the train gathered speed, Poe may well have clutched his “Spanish looking cloak” closer about him and shivered. For him, Philadelphia had become the City of Dreadful Night. They changed at Perth Amboy to the steamer, and arrived late that afternoon in New York in the midst of a downpour. The next morning, Poe wrote to Mrs. Clemm after breakfast.



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 417:]

593.  Poe’s cousins, the Herrings, formerly of Baltimore, had come to live in Philadelphia sometime in 1840 or 1841. See Woodberry, 1909, vol II, appendix, page 429. She, Mrs. Warner, formerly Moss Herring, then a widow, had gone to live with her father in Philadelphia and met Virginia and Mrs. Clemm unexpectedly one day on Chestnut Street. The Herrings were present on the evening when the misfortune overtook Virginia. The account comes from them, and from Poe’s own letter of January 4, 1848, — Ingram, I, page 215. There are also accounts by a neighbor of the Poes at Fordham, of a similar attack of Virginia’s in 1847, see page 572, Chapter XXIII.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 418:]

594.  The attitude of the age toward tuberculosis is now almost impossible to understand. All its symptoms were delicate, poetic, and fashionable. The disease itself was, like cancer, then considered shameful and only mentioned by a pretty name. One went into a fashionable “decline,” which was later whispered to be “consumption.” Paradoxically it was something to be proud and ashamed of at the same time. It is forgotten attitudes like this that explain and govern the lives of humanity, and remain enigmas to other epochs.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 419:]

595.  Poe to G. W. Evelth, New York, January 4, 1848, see note 593.

596.  Over 15,000 copies of Macaulay’s History of England had been sold in the United States without any return to the author. Macaulay made a famous speech in Parliament which secured the English Copyright Act of 1842. In the same year an attempt was made to get Congress to change the American copyright law, but in vain. The matter was much in the air. Such men as Poe and Charles Dickens who understood the importance of the measure were vitally interested in having adequate laws and international agreement. See the account of Poe’s interview with Dickens on page 520. Dickens’ letters to Lea & Blanchard in Mathew Carey, Bradsher, Columbia University Press, appendix IX.

597.  The evidence for this rests upon Poe’s own statements in his correspondence, and upon certain articles on international copyright in English magazines, anonymous but apparently from his pen. See Poe to Snodgrass, September n, 1839, and June 7, 1841. Mention of being in touch with Disraeli — Poe to Cooke, September 21, 1839. In notes furnished to Griswold, March 29, 1841, Poe says “[I] lately have written articles continuously for two British journals whose names I am not permitted to mention,” Prof. Wilson may have brought some of these out in Blackwood’s Magazine as anonymous pseudo-editorial matter on copyright (sic).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 420:]

598.  See illustrations of title page, page 522. These stories of Lippard’s represented a tendency in the literature of the time which left its trace on Poe in a vague way.

599.  The description is taken from L. P. Oberholtzer’s Literary History of Philadelphia.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 421:]

600.  Poe in Philadelphia, by Alexander Harvey, the Press (Philadelphia), Sunday, June 19, 1892. Sartain contributed reminiscences to the author of this article, who also had considerable local knowledge about Hirst.

601.  Henry B. Hirst, by E. A, Poe. See Poe’s Collected Works in four volumes, vol. III, pages 209-12, W. J. Widdleton, New York, 1868. Much is to be gathered from this sketch, especially between the lines.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 424, running to the bottom of page 425:]

602.  Later on in the Summer of 1842 Poe became impatient at not hearing from Dickens on the subject, and appears to have written him again in care of Putnam’s, just before Dickens left New York. Dickens did not receive the letter until sometime later in England, when he replied, November 27, 1842, saying he had never forgotten his promise. He tried in vain, with Moxon, to place some work of Poe’s, probably the Tales — “I have mentioned it to publishers with whom I have influence, but they have, one and all, declined the venture. . . . Do not for a moment suppose that I have ever thought of you but with a pleasant recollection; and that I am not at all times prepared to forward your views hi this country . . .” etc. See Woodberry, 1909, vol. I, pages 328-29.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 425:]

603.  Description of Dickens taken from a portrait of him painted in Philadelphia.

604.  See Chapter XVII, page 323.

605.  Some doubt has been cast on this, as on May 31, 1842, Peterson wrote to Lowell: “Poe is a splendid fellow, but as unstable as water.” Something had evidently occurred to call for faint praise. Both Peterson and Graham probably understood the cause of Poe’s moods. Graham’s own statements to Sartain tend to confirm the fact that the office was at times pretty lively — for the source see note 600. Also see Woodberry, 1909, vol. I, page 330.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 426:]

606.  Poe to Daniel Bryan, Esq., of Alexandria (then D. C.), July 6, 1842.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 427:]

607.  On July 6, 1842, see note 606, Poe writes Daniel Bryan, “Upon my return from a brief visit to New York a day or two since . . .” etc. This may date the visit to Mary (sic). Or it may have been earlier just after losing his position at Graham’s. The author of Poe’s Mary, see note 422, dates the occurrence at that time, and says Poe found Griswold in charge when he returned, The exact date is doubtful but “Mary” says, “in the Spring of 1842.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 428, running to the bottom of page 429:]

608.  This house, which is still standing on the present Brandywine Alley, in the rear of 530 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, was visited by the author in April, 1926. The present tenant of the Poe quarters is a Mr. William Owens and his The place is little altered, but in poor repair. The pear tree was blown a storm some years since. Contemporary descriptions are taken from T. C. Clarke, Sartain, Griswold, Graham, Thomas, Mayne Reid, and others, is the only city where Poe lived which has neglected to honor some connected with his name.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 429:]

609.  Poe to Thomas, May 25, 1842: “I have moved from the old place, (Coates Street) — but should you pay an unexpected visit to Philadelphia, you will find my address at Graham’s.” This looks as if Poe were not yet certain of his new residence and was boarding for a while.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 430:]

610.  Poe to G. W. Eveleth, New York, February 29, 1848. Harrison, Life and Letters, vol. II, page 285, gives one version, but for the complete text see Letters of Edgar A. Poe to George W. Eveleth, edited by James Shouthall Wilson, Alumni Bulletin, University of Virginia, January, 1924.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 431:]

611.  From The Ludwig Article — Griswold’s obituary notice of Poe.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 433:]

612.  Poe, in his reply to Thomas Dunn English.

613.  See Mrs. Susan Archer Weiss, Home Life of Poe, pages 103-104; for an account of the Saratoga incident, pages 105-107. See Woodberry, 1909, vol. II, pages 112-113, for further remarks on the Saratoga incident. The source for the Saratoga story is mainly Dr. W. E. Griffis in the Home Journal for November 5, 1884.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 434:]

614.  Woodberry, 1909, vol. II, Poe and Opium, page 428, prints a letter from Miss Poe to him (August 28, 1884) in which Miss Herring is quoted.

615.  Thomas to Poe, Washington, February 6, 1842.

616.  Poe to Robert Tyler — letter in the University of Wisconsin collection. Young Robert Tyler and his actress wife, the mistress of the White House, gathered about them such wits, literati, and material for a salon as the muddy capital city then afforded. Virginians and Southerners were especially welcome, which accounts for Thomas being so often at the White House, and for Robert Tyler’s interest in Poe being so cordial.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 436:]

617.  Poe to Thomas, August 27, 1842.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 437:]

618.  J. H. Whitty, Memoir, large edition of Complete Poems, pages xliii and xliv, prints Thomas’ text.

619.  Poe to Thomas, November 19, 1842.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 439:]

620.  Poe to Lowell, November 16, 1842, and Lowell to Poe, November 19, 1842.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 440:]

621.  Lowell to Poe, December 17, 1842.

622.  Poe to Thomas, September 12, 1842. Graham had made Poe an offer to return at advantageous terms on account of dissatisfaction with Griswold.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 441:]

623.  See Poe to E. H. N. Patterson as late as August 7, 1849, only two months before Poe’s death. On October 1, 1849, Poe told Mrs. Weiss (Susan Archer Tally) that he was preparing a critique of her poems for the Stylus — for January, 1850. See Last Days of Edgar Poe, Scribner’s Monthly, March, 1878, Mrs. Weiss.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 442:]

624.  Agreement between Felix O. C. Darley and Thomas C Clarke with A, Poe signed January 31, 1843. Witnesses, present, Henry B. Hirst, W. D. Riebsam. For text see Harrison, Life and Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, vol. II, pages 126-127.

625.  F. W. Thomas said: That Poe sent him the notes for the Museum biography, feat he had evaded writing them. Thomas told Poe afterwards that he knew more of Poe’s history than had been sent him. Poe was amused and laughed the matter off by admitting that the story was intended to help the magazine project. . . . All of which throws a side-light on Poe’s statements about his own life. See also Thomas’s letter to Poe, Washington, February 1, 1843.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 443:]

626.  “Yes, I saw the Saturday Museum in Mr. Robert Tyler’s room, and happened to light upon the article in which we are mentioned. I read that portion of it to him and shall take care that he is not misinformed on the subject, I remember Mr. Hirst.” Thomas to Poe, Washington, February 1, 1843.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 445:]

627.  The italics have been supplied here. This is one of the most significant about Edgar Allan Poe.

628.  According to Thomas’s account and Poe’s own letter to Thomas and Dow after arriving home, “the party” was continued at Fuller’s. Doctor Fraily, for whom Poe had solved a cryptogram some time before, was present at the hotel, and came in for some abuse from Poe. Poe must have been hurried off home without further delay, that night, as he breakfasted at Baltimore next morning.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 450:]

629.  Thomas to Poe, Washington, March 27, 1843.

630.  Poe to Lowell, March 27, 1843.

631.  Lowell to Poe, May 8, 1843, “Your early poems display a maturity which astonishes me and I recollect no individual (and I believe I have read all the poetry that was ever written) whose early poems were anything like as good. Shelley is nearest, perhaps.”

632  Lowell to Poe, April 17, 1843.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 451:]

633.  Written in June 11, 1843, to Griswold at the office of Graham’s Magazine.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 452:]

634.  Thomas Dunn English, Reminiscences of Poe, the Independent, October 22, 1896, speaking of Poe’s reasons for leaving Philadelphia: “I happen to know why, and there were several others who knew all about it. They are all, I believe dead, I am the sole possessor of the scandalous secret, and as its recital would do no good to any one, the whole affair should be buried with me.” See also Woodberry, 1909, vol. II, notes, page 424.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 453:]

635.  Too much has been made of this quotation. The same remark might be made about almost any “family.” There are few who cannot remember hearing of several bibulous relatives.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 454:]

636.  For a full discussion of The Gold Bug and the environment from which it sprang, see Chapter XI, Israfel in Carolina.

637.  The attempt to use these stories and other works of Poe as models which young “authors,” desirous of obtaining a mechanical proficiency in writing the short story, can follow, is one of the most absurd exercises yet devised by the academic mind attempting to be a wet nurse to the creative. No consciousness except the peculiar and abnormal one of Poe could conceive such imagery, the events, or the order in which they occur. The suggestion that, by their logical analyses, a similar deranged and morbid product will be fostered in the pupa is the inference that must be drawn. Nor is Poe’s style to be “taught.” Style above all things is the man himself. The fascination of these stories lies in the fact that their logic is the mad rationalization of a dream. Both the dream and the order of words in which it congealed, are the product of a peculiar personality which, to try to reproduce in the alembic of the classroom, is a laughable waste of tone.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 455:]

638.  Statement by T. H. Lane. This cannot be entirely substantiated. Poe seems later, according to Mr. J. H, Whitty, to have helped both Hirst and his relatives in placing poems with the Southern Literary Messenger.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 457:]

639.  Newark Courier, July 19, 1900.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 459:]

640.  Howard Paul in Munsey’s Magazine for September, 1892.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 462:]

641.  From a description given by the schoolteacher to Mrs. Weiss. The school was probably the one next door to the Poes’ on the corner of Spring Garden and North Seventh Streets.

642.  Col. John J. Du Solle, editor of Noah’s New York Sunday Times, to Mrs. Weiss. See her Home Life of Poe, page 99. Du Solle was, for a long time, a Philadelphia newspaper man and editor there of the Spirit of the Times. See illustration, page 301.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 463:]

643.  See this chapter, page 529. Also note 602.

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

644.  In 1844, Gabriel Harrison, an actor-politician, kept a store at Broadway and Prince Street, New York City. Poe used to loaf at this corner-shop and the description is taken from Mr. Harrison’s Reminiscences. These appeared in the New York Times in March, 1899.

That Diddling was written in Philadelphia, appears from the fact that Poe mentions it in a letter, Poe to Lowell, New York, May 28, 1844.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 464:]

645.  See the Poe-Duane Letters. Endorsement by William Duane, once Secretary of the Treasury, on Poe’s letter to him from New York, January 28, 1845, relative to borrowed copies of the Southern Literary Messenger which “was sold by the said Poe among a lot of books belonging to himself to William A. Leary, a bookseller on North Seventh Street. . . .” This bookseller would have been not far from the Poe cottage on the same street. See also Chapter XXII, page 585, for a full discussion of the “Poe-Duane Controversy” over the matter. Poe’s postscript to Mrs. Clemm, April 7, 1844, shows that Mrs. Clemm knew about the books.

646.  The statements in this description are literally exact. From Poe’s letter to Mrs. Clemm next day (April 7, 1844) from contemporary descriptions of the locality of the railroad station, prints, and from Table No. 16, of The Traveler’s Guide, A Map of the Railroads, Roads, Canals, and Steamboat Routes of the United States, by H. S. Tanner, Philadelphia, Oberholtzer’s Literary History of Philadelphia, etc., etc.






[S:0 - HVA34, 1934] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (H. Allen) (Chapter 21)