Text: Hervey Allen, “Chapter 26,” Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (1934), pp. 630-669


[page 630:]


MRS. CLEMM, poor soul, who had no doubt been wondering what her status would be in the household with the new wife, was greatly relieved when the train pulled into Fordham with Eddie — and no bride. Poe’s reactions to the whole affair were curious. He was one of those personalities in whom pride and conscience were synonymous. His pride had been wounded, and he never forgave that. He hoped to pass the whole matter off quietly, by giving out that the engagement had been postponed. In this report he desired Mrs. Whitman to join.

The emotional tempest which he had just passed through had worn itself out, and, as it were, cleared the atmosphere. From the total of the correspondence which immediately followed, one gathers a distinct feeling of relief, and a sense of settling down to the real business of his life, writing. The last Christmas was spent with “Muddie” at Fordham, and, along with a feeling of relief and a deceptive vigor, there was a temporary rise in the tide of well-being, even a sense of returning health as the New Year’s bells rang for 1849.

What the world thought of the engagement with Helen Whitman is caught in the lines of a letter that Horace Greeley wrote to Griswold in January — evidently he had not yet learned that the engagement was broken.

Do you know Sarah Helen Whitman? Of course, you have heard it rumored that she is to marry Poe. Well, she has seemed to me a good girl, and — you know what Poe is. Now I know a widow of doubtful age will marry almost any sort of a white man, but this seems to me a terrible conjunction, Has Mrs. Whitman no friend within your knowledge that could faithfully explain Poe to her? I never attempted this sort of thing but once, and the net product was two enemies and the hastening of the marriage; but I do think she must be deceived. Mrs. Osgood must know her. . . .(854)

About the same time, Poe was writing to Annie, saying that “a great burden is taken off my heart by my rupture with Mrs. W., for I have fully made up my mind to break the engagement.” He was not able to maintain this pose, however, as the reports of the doings in Providence were soon flying about, with the usual tendency of the gossips’ snowball to grow into an avalanche, when once set rolling. Towards the end of [page 631:] January, Poe again wrote to Annie enclosing, to her, a letter to Mrs. Whitman to be read first by Annie, then to be sealed, and mailed to Mrs. Whitman. This was to clear himself with Annie, who had heard the gossip about the last scenes at Providence, and, at the same time, to assure Mrs. Whitman that he was not responsible for the reports going about, “No amount of provocation shall enduce me to speak ill of you (Helen) even in my own defense.”(855)

The truth is, Poe was heartily sick of it all. He was still determined to do something to alleviate his poverty, which left him no chance to rest, but, in the same letter to Annie, in which he enclosed Mrs. Whitman’s, he boils over and remarks:

. . . Of one thing rest assured, from this day forth, I shun the pestilential society of literary women. They are a heartless, unnatural venomous, dishonorable set, with no guiding principle but inordinate self-esteem. Mrs. Osgood is the only exception I know. . . .(856)

It was a natural, although certainly, under the circumstances of the letter and its enclosure, not a delicate thing to say.

About the room in the cottage of Fordham, where he now began once more to throw himself into writing almost as a feverish refuge, an immense web of gossip began to gather. It had, as a matter of fact, very little to do with what has made him famous. The curious student may still follow its scandalous, and ludicrous, mystic mazes through reams of correspondence, and learn nothing but the nature of the petty characters of those who surrounded Poe. It is now fairly plain what happened.(857)

All the realities of life lay, for Poe, in the realm of the Imagination. It was only there that he could, in any way, integrate the world. He longed for a logical, and a complete, consistency never found in the realm of the physical, and the world which he constructed for himself was a refuge that suited the peculiarities of his nature. There can be no doubt that, whatever the cause, he was not capable of enduring, during his later years, the excitement of passion, while at the same time remaining sane.(858) Love, like everything else, could be perfect for him [page 632:] only imaginatively. Only in the imagination could he find an ideal satisfaction. Every woman whom he loved was exalted into the dream angel whom he could worship imaginatively, rather than physically enjoy. Virginia, for a while, had provided for him an ideal personality to so exalt. The physical implications, there, must have been reduced to the minimum, if present at all. As her dissolution approached, and after her death occurred, it became necessary to find other women upon whom to center the sensations which he exalted into the ideal love of his soul. Several ladies followed in quick succession. Mrs. Osgood, Mrs. Shew (and Mrs. Richmond and Mrs. Whitman simultaneously). The very fact that they were, in some cases, married helped to remove them from the physical realm. Poe’s attitude toward each was the same, and in each case the ideal woman, the angel, emerged from his imagination. It was a mere accident who produced the effect. Someone who was near, kind, sympathetic, and comforting was all that was needed. About them all, he managed to throw the glamour of his psychic romance.

All this was hard, impossible, at the time, to understand. Mrs. Shew and Mrs. Richmond seem to have grasped the situation. Mrs. Whitman did so afterward. It was “spiritual love”; she enthroned him as her ideal. Unfortunately for Poe, such a futile and hopeless equipment for the realities of physical life involved him with the world, which could not grasp his motives, in a conflict, and a maze of difficulties that helped to hound him to death.

Husbands, who found “Israfel” rhapsodizing in their wives’ parlors, could not understand that the gentleman, the dangerously romantic poet, who seemed to be talking to Fanny, or Louise, or Annie, as the case might be, was in reality merely addressing the accidental embodiment which “Lenore,” or “Helen,” or “Ligeia,” or “Annabel Lee” had, at that particular date, assumed. Other interests of a more mundane nature were naturally inferred. Trouble, swift, sure, and devastating, occurred. And “Israfel” was once more left alone.

To women, it was all enormously intriguing. All the passion of the man, all of the life instinct lived and burned in his conversation and letters. They had never dreamed of such talk from a man. The banal “pass the coffee,” of James or Henry, was suddenly, by Poe’s lips, transformed, exalted into the accents of archangels upon the tongue of man. It is easy to discount, or laugh at this now, but it was quite different, quite another thing, to sit listening to the news from Aidenn leaning against the same sofa back with Edgar Allan Poe. [page 633:]

If this aspect of the man at first overwhelmed, and attracted women, his boundless need, and pathetic pleas for sympathy, and utter spiritual possession of the object of his admiration knew no bounds. As it was impossible to be an angel in paradise, “to dwell alone in a world of moan,” the “Helen” or “Annie,” who had been enticed there, always withdrew, sometimes regretfully and tactfully, sometimes indignantly — but always, as was perfectly natural and feminine, disappointed. In the meantime, during the celestial episode, a great deal of mundane talk had been going on.

Such a man as Poe was bound to arouse a stir in feminine circles. There is an almost psychic sense with women that leads them, instinctively, to feel when the normal attitude of the male to the female is altered, or lacking. With Poe it was present; it aroused them, and yet, — it was elusive, strange, something new. They pursued him and persevered. They wanted to find him out. To the spectator males, there was only one, the universal, obvious explanation.

For Poe, the man, it was a fatal, and a disastrous predicament. It involved a nature, endowed with the mad pride of Lucifer, in squabbles and predicaments so ludicrous, and petty, as to produce in him a spiritual nausea. All the flashing glades of heaven, the bowers of paradise, wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers, were invaded by gesticulating old women shouting about real estate, or Mr. Lummises with derringfers in their coat-tails. Imaginatively, the bowers of love were removed farther and farther away, out of space, out of time. They became Valleys of Many Colored Grass, or the heavily curtained chamber of Rowena, yet all would not do. Mrs. Elizabeth Frieze Ellet penetrated — discovered even the lone isles in the sea — and the dreams, the lovely, supernal visions, vanished in the sulphur smoke of gossip, accusations of seduction, or the horrible whiskered face of an English, glimmering through an alcoholic mist over pistols on the table. No, Poe would have to apologize, cringe, make a cur of himself — or next morning the New York Mirror would tell why — and it did.

But, then again, there was something else — had he not written, twenty years before in Tamerlane, dreaming of Elmira? — “Tamerlane,” the great “Tamerlane,” was dying, thinking of why love had been lost and snatched from him — just as “Israfel,” the great “Israfel,” was dying now — and still murmuring:

Young Love’s first lesson is — the heart:

For mid that sunshine and those smiles,

When from our little cares apart,

And laughing at her girlish wiles,

I’d throw me on her throbbing breast.

And pour my spirit out in tears —

There was no need to speak the rest — [page 634:]

No need to quiet any fears,

Of her — who asked no reason why,

But turned on me her quiet eye.

And yet — and yet

How was it that ambition crept

Unseen, amid the revels there,

Till growing bold, he laugh’d and leapt

In the tangles of Love’s brilliant hair.(859)

No, he could stand them no longer; the terrible gossips in hoop-skirts, the suspicious husbands, the little gad-fly magazines, hounding him, printing coarse parodies of the immortal dreams, beloved faces vanishing, always vanishing. And was he not sick with long months of headache,(860) haunted by terrific visions, poor as Lazarus, a laughing-stock, and yet great? He knew it, — capable of putting into words, at lucky intervals, dreams that would haunt eternity, music that, with a melancholy magic, covers the tragedy of humanity with a pall of stars. He only, of all the millions of beings who have spoken English, caught up in the meshes of language the cosmic sorrow of the ocean while, from the sounding beaches, the angels abducted his “Annabel Lee.” This was no small thing. No one had done it before, and no one will ever do it again in just his way.

But it was all getting quite unbearable now, in 1849, — something must be done. Even before Helen Whitman withdrew, he wrote:

. . . for the terrible agony which I have so lately endured — an agony known only to my God and to myself — seems to have passed my soul through fire and purified it from all that is weak. Henceforward I am strong: — this, those who love me shall see — as well as those who have so untiringly endeavored to ruin me. It needed only some such trials as I have undergone to make me what I was born to be, by making me conscious of my strength.(861)

What was his strength? In the Winter of 1849, the balked, and nervously ruined man who had again retreated to the cottage at Fordham, pursued by the hissing and laughter of the world, seems compounded of weakness. His strength was his imagination.

The very elements that were fast making his physical existence impossible had been so mixed in him that all the passion, and love, the tenderness that yearned over the happy fireside of Annie, and wished to be identified with it, overflowed through his pee, and became embodied in the only world he could control, and order as he desired, the sphere of imaginative literature. All else about him dissolved, withdrew, vanished away into time, until the objective world itself, its concrete [page 635:] things, and its three-dimensioned denizens seemed more dreamlike, less palpably real than his dream within a dream.

And they have remained so to the generations that followed. The era, the peculiar mid-Nineteenth Century in which he lived and moved, has become a lost country to those who have followed. It is more remote and peculiar than Siam. As one looks at its queer costumes, its strange rococo architecture, its faiths, prejudices, hopes, and ambitions, its now meaningless conventions that bounded its motives, — but above all, as one attempts to approach it through its popular literature, — it seems like a strange ocean of mist in which, through vaguely glimpsed streets in dreamfully grotesque towns, there move, for forgotten reasons, the ghosts of costumes. Out of this vaguely agitated, and greyly-twinkling land, like a steeple above a city fog, beneath which the noise of unseen traffic rolls on, a few objects stand forth, outlined and clearly defined. One of these is the imaginative prose and poetry of Edgar Allan Poe.

The time will perhaps come when it will be found worth while to penetrate down into the mist of “middle America,” and to examine more fully the edifice upon which the pinnacles rest. The spirits who once lived there, moved in the boundaries and the conventions of their time. The Athens of Plato, the Florence of Dante, the Paris of Villon, and the London of Dr. Johnson are comparatively plain. We are at great pains to understand them, while the cities of our grandfathers glimmer mysteriously as Atlantis, despised and discounted, within the yellow borders of old prints.

Yet there was a great stir there. Something important, and significant was going on. All the potentialities of the past were being released. Out of the thirteen republics — the words have almost been forgotten — that lined the Atlantic seaboard, arose a giant that has laid his hand heavily upon the home of man. The time will come when it will not be thought beneath the dignity of scholars both to profess, and really to know.

The paragraph about the literary women with whom he would have no more to do, penned irritably in the letter to Annie, was no mere caprice. It was the result of an experience so painful, so real a reality, that it penetrated even the dream world of Poe. To traffic any longer with such witches, was to barter away his soul. From now on, he would devote himself to writing! This time, the Stylus would become a fact! From January to June of 1849, the preparations for the great campaign went on. Helen would not come to sit beside him on the throne which he would occupy. Be it so then, he would reign there alone. The last, the briefest, but one of the most important of his creative periods began. Out of it came the finished Bells, and the great ballad of Annabel Lee. [page 636:]

Nor is the half-mad, the apparently insane ambition to be despised. Humbleness in the great, in the “sports” of intellect, is, at best, but a lubricant upon the contemporary wheels that manufacture fame, a wise, though not a necessary stock in trade. Genius knows itself the rose that justifies its tree; a blossom upon the fruitless bushes of ambition. Only madmen, according to grocers’ standards, retire to caverns to be fed by ravens; it is insane to pit fishermen and tent-makers against proconsuls and Caesars; masons can see no monumental material in paper, yet the dreams of poets outlast the golden countenances of kings. Were it not for the magnificent eccentrics, society, like a community of insects, would crystallize forever in the ignoble efficiency of caste.

And all of these mad dreamers, the glorious company of egoists who fear not the god of their neighbors, always fail. Columbus sails for Cathay, and only finds another world; Napoleon fails to found a dynasty. Shelley leaves God alone with Oxford; Coleridge was unable to finish Christabel or Kubla Khan. Yet the same line which marks the extremity of such failures becomes the boundary of political empires, and of literary kingdoms.

Poe had also greatly failed. His mad dream of becoming the arbiter of American letters was never, could not, in the nature of things, have been attained. He only succeeded in achieving a niche in the literature of the English language. Whether an humble heart is consonant with such an eventuality, may wen be doubted. Poe was very proud. And, on the whole, there was distinctly something to be proud of. It was doing fairly well for the poor orphan boy, the lonely clerk who had pored over the columns of English reviews, in the dim book loft of Ellis & Allan in the provincial town of Richmond, only twenty years before. He had triumphed over enormous handicaps.

Poe has been accused of being unreliable, flighty, and inconsistent. From the standpoint of a Burton or a Graham, this was true. But in one thing he had been supremely faithful, driving steadily through poverty, disease, death, frustration, and the despair of his weaknesses — be had been faithful to his literary work:

How I labored — how I toiled — How I wrote! Ye Gods, did I not write? I knew not the word ‘ease.’ By day I adhered to my desk, and at night, a pale student, I consumed the midnight oil. You should have seen me — you should. I leaned to the right. I leaned to the left. I sat forward. I sat backward. I sat upon end. I sat tête baisée, bowing my head dose to the alabaster page. And, through good report and through ill report, I — wrote. Through sunshine and through moonshine, I — wrote. What I wrote it is unnecessary to say. The style? — that was the thing. . . .(882)

The letters which Poe sent to Annie from Fordham in the early months of 1849 plainly show that he had now made up iris mind [page 637:] to devote himself to literature with the objects of enhancing his fame, and gaining enough money to raise him out of poverty, and put him in the way of starting the Stylus. Women, love, and the troubles these brought upon him, he fondly believed he had, after his recent terrible experience, dropped out of his life. In the stanzas For Annie, which he addressed to Mrs. Richmond about this time, occur some significant lines:

Thank Heaven! the crisis —

The danger — is past,

And the lingering illness

Is over at last, —

And the fever called ‘Living’

Is conquered at last. . . .

And oh! of all tortures,

That torture the worst!

Has abated — the terrible

Torture of thirst

For the napthaline river

Of Passion accurst: —

I have drank of a water

That quenches all thirst. . . .

And about the end of January he writes:

. . . I am so busy, now, and feel so full of energy. Engagements to write are pouring in upon me every day. I had two proposals within the last week from Boston. I sent yesterday an article to the Am. Review, about Critics and Criticism. Not long ago I sent one to the Metropolitan called Landor’s Cottage it has something about ‘Annie’ in it, and will appear, I suppose in the March number. To the S. L. Messenger I have sent fifty pages of Marginalia, five pages to appear each month of the current year. I have also made permanent engagements with another magazine, called The gentlemen’s. So you see that I have only to keep up my spirits to get out of all my pecuniary troubles. The least price I get is $5 per ‘Graham page,’ and I can easily average 1 1/2 per day — that is $7 1/2. As soon as ‘returns’ come in I shall be out of difficulty.(863)

By the middle of February, he evidently felt he was on his feet again. Several allusions to a sense of returning health belong to this period, and, on February 14, we find him resuming, after a long interval, his correspondence with F. W. Thomas, who had left Government employ in Washington, and was, at that time, engaged in editing the Louisville (Kentucky) Chronicle.

. . . right glad am I to find you once more in a true position — ‘in the field of letters.’ Depend upon it after all, Thomas, literature is the most noble of professions. In fact, it is about the only one fit for a man. For my own part there is no seducing me from the path. I shall be a litterateur at least, all my life; nor would I abandon the hopes which still lead me on for all the gold in California. Talking of gold and temptations at present held out to ‘poor-devil authors’ did [page 638:] it ever strike you that all that is really valuable to a man of letters — to a poet in especial — is absolutely unpurchasable? Love, fame, the dominion of intellect, the consciousness of power, the thrilling sense of beauty, the fee air of Heaven, exercise of body and mind, with the physical and moral health which result — these and such as these are really all that a poet cares for: — then answer me this — why should he go to California? . . .(864)

The excitement of the gold rush was evidently a good deal on Poe’s mind. As we have seen, he felt that his own richest vein of ore lay within. It is almost certain that the poem, Eldorado, dates from about this time. The theme was also treated by him in prose. On March 8, Poe wrote to Duyckinck enclosing “the Von Kempelen Article,” which he hoped his literary agent could place for him. He had, he said, prepared the story to be published as a hoax In Boston in the Flag of Our Union, but he thought it would be “thrown away” in that publication.

The story purported to relate the arrest, in Bremen, of a certain American chemist, Von Kempelen, suspected of counterfeiting. A chest of gold was found in his room, which turned out to be the result of alchemy — “All that yet can fairly be said to be known is,[[“]] that “Pure gold can be made at will, and very readily from lead in connection with certain other substances, in kind and proportions, unknown.”(865) It was of this story that Poe wrote to Duyckinck.

My sincere opinion is that nine persons out of ten (even among the best-informed) will believe the quiz (provided the design does not leak out before publication) and that this, acting as a sodden although, of ‘course, a very temporary, check to the gold fever, it will create a stir to some purpose.(866)

In a letter to Eveleth, at the end of February, occurs the first reference to Poe’s contemplated move to Richmond,(867) “I mean to start for Richmond on the 10th (of) March.” Poe and Mrs. Clemm had intended to go to Lowell to be near the Richmonds, but a serious cloud had overshadowed the poet’s intentions to be near Annie and her family. Mrs. Locke, Mrs. Osgood’s sister-in-law, had assumed the rôle of Mrs. Ellet. A great many of the doings at Providence were detailed to Mr. and Mrs. Richmond, together with the history of Poe’s relations with the Osgoods.(868) Mr. Richmond and his wife seem to have acted with a great deal of judgment and cool-headedness in the matter. Although they were alarmed, they still continued to cherish a warm, and even an affectionate regard for Poe. [page 639:]

The whole affair is now remote and obscure. As nearly as can be made out, Poe, on his lecture at Lowell, had gone there largely through the influence of Mrs. Locke, who was delighted to play the role of patroness which she had really played to some purpose just after Virginia’s death. Poe, it seems, after meeting Mrs. Richmond, paid very little attention to Mrs. Locke, even staying at the Richmonds’ in preference to the other lady’s house. Mrs. Locke was in communication with Helen Whitman, who said that “She (Mrs. Locke) conceived herself to have been deeply wronged. . . . I saw that she was too much under the influence of pride to exercise a calm judgment in the matter.” Mrs. Locke was doubly indignant at having to watch Poe go through all the same motions with Annie which had marked his affair with Mrs. Osgood, who was then dying of consumption. Mrs. Locke, therefore, determined to produce, if possible, an end to the affair with Annie similar to that of Mrs. Osgood’s. She was partially successful in a rôle which the long aftermath of her acrimonious and tittle-tattling correspondence discloses her to have been well fitted for. Mrs. Richmond was alarmed, although she, who undoubtedly understood Poe, refused to misconstrue his attentions to her.

A large part of the correspondence between Poe and Mrs. Richmond, during the early months of 1849, is concerned with the charges, countercharges, and rebuttals that Mrs. Locke’s activities involved.(869) Both the letters of Annie and Sarah to Poe and especially to Mrs. Clemm, now took a tone which made it plain to Mrs. Clemm, at least, that a residence in the neighborhood of the Richmonds, or any further visits there on Poe’s part, would be decidedly unwelcome.(870)

Mrs. Clemm called Poe’s attention to this, and it would seem that it was her attitude which induced him to give up the scheme. It is probable, although it cannot be proved by letters, that it was at this time that Mrs. Clemm suggested to Poe his going to Richmond, with the possibility of looking up Elmira Royster (Mrs. Shelton) again. A great deal of conversation must have taken place between the two about their plans for a new place of residence, if the lease on the Fordham cottage were allowed to expire, as it was about to do.(871) [page 640:] time, Poe seemed to have felt it best that even the correspondence with Annie should cease. On February 19 he wrote to her:

I cannot and will not have it on my conscience that I have interfered with the domestic happiness of the only being in the whole world, whom I have loved at the same time with truth and with purity . . . you have not said it to me, but I have been enabled to glean from what you have said, that Mr. Richmond has permitted himself (perhaps without knowing it) to be influenced against me by the malignant misrepresentations of Mr. and Mrs. (Locke). . . .

Poe’s initial quarrel with the Lockes had arisen over Mrs. Locke’s assertions about Mrs. Richmond, so Poe states to Annie. His decision not to come to Lowell evidently greatly relieved matters, for correspondence was resumed with the Richmonds, and also went on with the Lockes. Ten days after the letter quoted above, Poe writes Eveleth he is going to Richmond.

All seemed going well, when the usual tide of misfortune, that always overtook Poe at crucial times, now delivered a double blow. Most of the periodicals for which he had been so briskly writing, and upon which he depended for his livelihood, either suspended or defaulted payment, and he was simultaneously attacked by a relapse into ill-health attended by sinking spells, and an unaccountable depression. He was, indeed, in a process of physical dissolution. Even poor, patient “Muddie” now writes to Annie, “I thought he would die several times. God knows I wish we were both in our graves. It would I am sure, be far better.” A little later, Poe writes to Annie that he is better, — but —

. . . You know how cheerfully I wrote to you not long ago — about my prospects — hopes — how I anticipated being soon out of difficulty. Well! all seems to be frustrated — at least for the present. As usual, misfortunes never come single, and I have met one disappointment after another. The Columbian Magazine, in the first place, failed — then Post’s Union (taking with it my principal dependence); then the Whig Review was forced to stop paying for contributions — then the Democratic — then (on account of his oppression and insolence) I was obliged to quarrel, finally, with —— ; and then, to crown all, the ‘ ——— ——— ‘ (from which I anticipated so much and with which I had made a regular engagement for $10 a week throughout the year) has written a circular to correspondents, pleading poverty and declining to receive any more articles. More than this, the S. L. Messenger which owed me a good deal, cannot pay just yet, and altogether, I am reduced to Sartain and Graham both very precarious. No doubt, Annie, you attribute my ‘gloom’ to these events — but you would be wrong. It is not in the power of any mere worldly considerations, such as these, to depress me. . . . No, my sadness is unaccountable, and this makes me the more sad. I am full of dark forebodings. Nothing cheers or comforts me. My life seems wasted — the future looks a dreary blank: but I win struggle on and ‘hope against hope.’ . . . What do you think? I have received a letter from Mrs. Locke. She says she is about to publish a detailed account of all that occurred between us, under guise of romance, with fictitious names, etc., — that she will make me [page 641:] appear noble, generous, etc., etc., — nothing bad — that she will ‘do justice to my motives,’ etc., etc. . . .(872)

Poe’s illness was undoubtedly a relapse after the serious illness following the Whitman affair. His periods of relapse were now accentuated, and came upon him suddenly after any excitement or exertion. He had worn himself out in the period between December, 1848, and March, 1849, composing, sending off articles and poems to the magazines, to the newspapers, and to Griswold, and by conducting a feverish correspondence.

Every line in manuscript and correspondence was, of course, in those days carried on in long hand. Poe was too poor to afford, at anytime, an amanuensis, and he was pedantically meticulous about his manuscripts. The labor of composing, redrafting, and editing, and then making perfect fair-copies, with the added labor of writing long, and often beautifully composed letters, is almost impossible to exaggerate. Much of this, at a time of weakness and depression, was now found of no avail, by the failure of magazines, and some of the manuscripts were thrown back on his hands. Landor’s Cottage, which, for Annie’s sake, he had spent much labor upon, and that he was therefore doubly anxious to publish, had met the latter fate.

The records of his illnesses from 1847 on, show that his heart was giving out. Mrs. Shew, as we have seen, together with Dr. Francis, felt that he could not live long, even two years before. This condition, we can be morally certain, was the cause of that depression that he could not explain. In addition, the symptoms of a lesion of the brain, which were several times medically noted, now became more acute. He is described, about now, as having had periods of “brain fever “that point to some sort of cerebral inflammation and congestion, and he complains to Annie of a headache that lasted for months.

Poe’s periods of collapse and depression had, hitherto, occurred at long intervals. From 1847 to 1849 the process is obviously accelerated, the recovery less complete, and the intervals of prostration greatly prolonged.

It is highly probable that, during the end of the stay at the cottage in Fordham, he again resorted to drugs for stimulation and surcease. There is no mention of alcohol, but a few months later, in June, 1849, immediately after leaving New York, Poe appeared to a friend in Philadelphia completely unmanned, shaking, and begging for laudanum.(873) The same drug had been procured by him in Providence in December, 1848, when he intended to commit suicide, so he was evidently familiar with it. The dose then taken, he said, acted as an [page 642:] emetic, but it was sufficient to have killed any normal person not inured to its effects. He had swallowed about an ounce. It was in such a debilitated condition that he continued to pour forth great poetry and distinguished prose.

The Winter and early Spring of 1849 were Barked by the publication of Mellonta Tauta in Godey’s Lady’s Book for February. This had been written before Eureka, for Poe quoted from it in the introduction to the latter.

Mellonta Tauta, under the guise of being written on April Fool’s Day, 2848, contains some of the most important of Poe’s inferences about the future that are, in many instances, prophetic. The philosophy in it elaborates many of the points made in Eureka, and it is probable that it was meant for an introduction to the prose poem or, at least, as a companion piece. The author’s satire on his own times, its social theories, fashions, and architecture is decidedly interesting.

Poe had also been contributing to the Flag of Our Union, an obscure Boston sheet, that had the sole merit of paying him promptly and fairly well. In it appeared the little understood allegory of Hop-Frog, the sonnet To My Mother, and A Valentine, written in 1846, and addressed to Mrs. Osgood — these during February and March. The Southern Literary Messenger published a review of Lowell’s Fable for Critics, also in March. It is the same period that we hear of the composition of The Bells, Annabel Lee, For Annie, Lenore, and, by inference, El Dorado. All of these belonged to the finest order of his works.

With the correspondence in hand, it is not difficult to glance into the cottage at Fordham, and see what was going on. On February 8, Poe writes:

. . . I have been so busy, ‘Annie’ ever since I returned from Providence — six weeks ago. I have not suffered a day to pass without writing from a page to three pages. Yesterday, I wrote five, and the day before a poem considerably longer than The Raven. I call it The Bells. How I wish ‘Annie’ could see it! . . . The five prose pages I finished yesterday are called — what do you think? — I am sure you will never guess — Hop-Frog!

About a month later we find him writing to Griswold (undated).

I enclose perfect copies of the lines For Annie and Annabel Lee, in hopes that you may make room for them in your new edition. As regards Lenore (which you were kind enough to say you would insert) I would prefer the concluding stanza, to run as here written. . . .(874)

Poverty now once more had him in its grip, but both he and Mrs. Clemm appear to have been relieved somewhat by the generosity of “Stella” (Mrs. S. A. Lewis), whose literary reputation Poe was furthering. [page 643:] His review of “Stella’s” poem The Child of the Sea, in the September, 1848, Southern Literary Messenger, was undoubtedly colored by the relief which she had, even then, brought to his desperate necessities. Mrs. Clemm had become quite intimate with Mrs. Lewis, and Poe, who at first detested her, had become reconciled, and had even grown to like her. The friendship and correspondence with Mrs. Shew were also resumed about now, and she from time to time once more appeared at Fordham. On March 30, he writes:

You see that I am not yet off to Richmond as I proposed, I have been detailed by some very important and unexpected matters which I will explain when I see you. What is the reason you have not been out?(875)

All through the correspondence of the spring months of 1849 is to be found a running reference to the constantly deferred trip to Richmond. Along with this, as another biographer has noted, there is, in the Annie letters, what amounts to a chorus of, “I must get rich, get rich.”(876) The postponement of the Richmond trip was, of course, due to poverty, and this Poe knew he could no longer cope with in his debilitated condition. To continue to exist, to provide a home for Mrs. Clemm, and to start the Stylus, a life of decent comfort freed from the fear of the wolf, was necessary. His was undoubtedly the controlling motive in the last year of Poe’s life, and the key to his contemplated trip to Richmond, and engagement with Mrs. Shelton. He desired to be with Annie, but that could not be. Mrs. Lewis, to a minor degree, was now playing the part of Mrs. Shew, both as lady bountiful and as the “dear friend.” The perverse fate which the nature of the man invoked, but which circumstances united strangely, all through his life, to make dramatically perfect, now, in the guise of a friend interested in the Stylus, stepped in to provide the means to speed him towards the gulf. The passive instrument of fate was an innocent young man in Illinois, one Edward Horton Norton Patterson.(877)

Oquawka, or Yellow Banks, was a small town in Illinois, first settled in the 1830’s on the Mississippi River, halfway between the Des Moines, and the Rock Island Rapids. In 1837, an old Philadelphia map describes it as being laid out in two sections on an extensive scale. “The soil was sandy.” By 1849, although the anticipation of the “extensive scale” had not yet been realized, “the two large warehouses, one grocery, two taverns and several dwelling houses” had increased to [page 644:] several dwelling houses more. There was “a neat and substantial bridge” over the Henderson River, and a weekly newspaper, the Oquawka Spectator.

This sheet had been founded by J. B. Patterson from Winchester, Virginia, who arrived in Oquawka in September, 1835. In the years that followed, he had begotten Edward Howard Norton, written a Life of Black Hawk, edited the Spectator, and passed to his reward, leaving a tidy little sum to Edward, who came of age in 1849. The son continued to edit the Spectator.

For some years, young Patterson had been reading the columns of exchanges which came to the little office of the Spectator. Poe’s work in Graham’s, Godey’s, and other sheets had attracted his attention, and he admired. Poe’s announcements and plans for the great American magazine had also become known to him, and, in 1849, being in possession of his father’s money, ambitious, and inexperienced, out of a clear sky he wrote to Poe, making a proposition tantamount to backing the Stylus. Patterson wrote his first letter on December 18, 1848, but the poverty-stricken Mr. Poe did not receive it until April, 1849. It must have dropped into his lap like manna. He immediately replied:

No doubt you will be surprised to hear that your letter, dated Dec. 18, has only this moment (about the middle of April) reached me. I live at the village of Fordham, about 14 miles from New York, on the Harlem Railroad — but as there is no Post Office at the place, I date always from New York, and get all my letters from the city Post Office. When by accident or misapprehension letters are directed to me at Fordham, the clerks — some of them who do not know of my arrangements — forward them to West Farms, the nearest Post Office town, and one which I rarely visit. Thus it happened with your letter. . . . Should you now have changed your mind on the subject, I should be pleased to hear from you again. . . .

Experience, not less than the most mature reflection on this topic, assured me that no cheap magazine can ever again prosper in America. We must aim high — address the intellect — the higher classes — of the country (with reference, also, to a certain amount of foreign circulation) and put the work at $5: — going about 112 pp. (or perhaps 128) with occasional wood-engravings in the first style of the art, but only in obvious illustration of the text. Such a Mag. would begin to pay after 1000 subscribers; and with 5000 would be a fortune worth talking about: — but there is no earthly reason why, under proper management, and with energy and talent, the work might not be made to circulate, at the end of a few years — (say 5) 20,000 copies in which case it would give a dear income of 70 or 80,000 dollars — even if conducted in the most expensive manner. . . . I need not add that such a Mag. would exercise a literary and other influence never yet exercised in America. I presume you know that during the second year of its existence, the S. L. Messenger rose from less than 1000 to 5000 subs., and that Graham, in 8 months after my joining it, went up from 5000 to 52,000. [page 645:] I do not imagine that a $5 Mag. could even be forced into so great a circulation as this latter; but under certain circumstances, I would answer for 20,000. The whole income from Graham’s 52,000 never went beyond 15,000$: — the proportioned expenses of the $3 Mags, being so much greater than those of $5 ones.

My plan, in getting up such work as I propose, would be to take a tour through the principal States — especially West and South — visiting the small towns more particularly than the large ones — lecturing as I went, to pay expenses — and staying sufficiently long in each place to interest my personal friends (old college and West Point acquaintances scattered all over the land) in the success of the enterprise. By these means, I could guarantee in 3 months (or 4) to get 1,000 subs. in advance, with their signatures — nearly all pledged to pay at the issue of the first number. Under such circumstances, success would be certain. I have now about 200 names pledged to support me whenever I venture on the undertaking — which perhaps you are aware I have long had in contemplation — only awaiting a secure opportunity. . . .

I will endeavor to pay you a visit at Oquawka, or meet you at any place you suggest. . . .(879)

Patterson replied on May 7 next, rather enthusiastically, and at great length. He was youthfully in earnest. “. . . My plan then (with certain modifications which we can agree upon) is this”:

I will furnish an office and take upon myself the sole charge and expense of Publishing a Magazine (name to be suggested by you) to be issued in monthly numbers at Oquawka, Illinois, containing in every number, 96 pages . . . at the rate of $5 per annum. Of this magazine you are to have the entire editorial control, furnishing at your expense, matter for its pages, which can be transmitted to” me by mail or as we hereafter agree upon. . . . You can make your own bargains with authors and I am to publish upon the best terms I can . . . and share the receipts equally. . . . If my plan accords with your , you will immediately select a title, write me to that effect, and commence operations. We ought to put out the first number January next. Let me hear from you immediately.

Poe did reply immediately, under date of May 7, enclosing a design for the cover of the Stylus and remarking:

. . . Today I am going to Boston & Lowell to remain a week, and immediately afterwards I will start for Richmond, where I will await your answer to this letter. Please write to me there, under cover, or to the care of John R. Thompson, Ed. of the South Lit. Messenger. On receipt of your letter (should you still be in the mind you now are) I will proceed to St. Louis and there meet you. . . .

I fancy I shall be able to meet the expenses of the tour by lecturing as I proceed; but there is something required in the way of outfit and as I am not overstocked with money (what poor devil author is?) I must ask you to advance half of the sum I need to begin with — about $100. Please, therefore, enclose $50 in your reply, which I will get at Richmond. . . .

Leaving the matter of the Stylus thus, in a highly promising condition, Poe now departed on his trip northward, and paid a visit of [page 646:] about a week to Annie. Matters in Lowell had then been accommodated, and, for a few days, he was happy by the fireside of those he loved, and who returned his almost childlike affection. Here he wrote the third draft of The Bells, and returned to Fordham a few days later.

The cottage there, as we have seen, had been taken for another year. Poe was in arrears for rent, and desperately pressed, so poor in fact that he could not raise the carfare to Richmond. He was, therefore, under the necessity of writing to Richmond to ask that Patterson’s letter containing the $50 be forwarded to him in New York. Just as Mr. Clarke had paid for a trip to Washington to start the magazine in 1843, Mr. Patterson was now paying for a trip to Richmond in 1849 — with same result. Yet such were the inexplicable contradictions of Poe that, of June 26, he wrote to Eveleth:

. . . I am awaiting the best opportunity for its issue; and if by waiting until the day of judgment I perceive still increasing chances of ultimate success, why until the day of judgment I will patiently wait. I am now going to Richmond to ‘see about it’ — and possibly I may get out the first number next January. . . .

All of which means, if it means anything, that Poe did not intend to get out the Stylus at all. It too, like all his great dreams, he preferred to have remain where they could be perfect, i.e. in the realms of the imagination.(880) There were sordid aspects to conducting a real magazine in a workaday world, which “Israfel” could no longer bring himself to face. In the meantime he would go to Richmond. New York had become, like Philadelphia in 1844, a town haunted with strangely hostile ghosts. How had it all come about? He was not quite certain — not his fault, of course! He would show them all yet — wait till the Stylus was started! In the meantime he would — go home!

But from the first, there was a certain fatality about it, a sense of finality. He was again, inexplicably depressed. Another attack was coming on. The heart that had been pounding away for forty years, sometimes fluttering and throbbing, was giving out. His nerves were tautened to the last notch, and the bird-like hands were trembling. There were never to be any more great poems or weird stories from that brain. It was still filled with visions, but they were too strange, too overpowering now for utterance. They were almost insane, like a mad rattle in the shell of a man. The cottage at Fordham was “temporarily closed.” The “50$” had come. Eddie was leaving for Richmond, and, for the time being, “Muddie” was to stay with the kind Mrs. Lewis, in the house in Brooklyn where the stuffed raven perched over Pallas. It was the end of June, 1849.

Poe wrote to Dr. Griswold, asking him to superintend the collection of his works. Willis was to write the accompanying biography. [page 647:] The fame of Israfel seemed to him to have been left in good hands. One catches a final glimpse of him upon a sunny morning in Manhattan, nigh a century ago. It is in the parlor of Elizabeth Oakes Smith. As they sat in the long-vanished room chatting, Mrs. Smith’s canary, that had been let out of its cage for morning exercise, fluttered about the apartment, and alighted upon the head of Apollo on the mantelpiece.(881)

‘See, Mr. Poe,’ I said, ‘I do not keep a raven but there is song to song. Why did you not put an owl on the head of Pallas? However, there would have been no poem then.’

‘No, there is mystery about the raven.’

Then he referred to Mrs. Whitman. . . .

‘Such women as you and Helena, and a few others ought to be installed as queens, and artists of all kinds should be privileged to pay you court. They would grow wise and holy under such companionship. . . .’

The last time I saw him he called when my carriage was at the door on my way to Philadelphia, where I was to lecture. He seemed greatly disappointed, even grieved, saying over and over:

‘I am sorry I cannot talk with you, I had so much to say. So very much I wished to say.’

And so she left him, as the carriage went down the street, haunted always afterwards by “. . . his look of pain, his unearthly eyes, his weird look of desolation” as he stood there in the sunshine, looking greatly disappointed and murmuring, “I had . . . so much, so very much, I wished to say.”

The plans which finally interrupted all further conversation were completed by June 29.(882) On that day, in company with Mrs. Clemm, in great distress at the prospect of parting, Poe crossed the ferry to Brooklyn where he and “Muddie” spent the night at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Sylvanus D. Lewis, the latter the poetess frequently mentioned, a Baltimore girl of some attainments, and the author of The Child of the Sea, which Poe had lately and favorably reviewed.

The Lewises were most kindly, and the parting the next morning, darkened by the poet’s prophetic gloom, and conviction of impending disaster, was affectionately dramatic. One catches a fleeting glimpse of the little group on the steps of the old Brooklyn house at 125 Dean Street. There is the legal looking Sylvanus, “Stella,” with her coiffure of luxuriant ringlets, Mrs. Clemm crying, and Edgar, also weeping, standing on the sidewalk, with his carpet-bag in his hand. He turned to say goodbye to Mrs. Lewis: [page 648:]

He took my hand in his, and looking in my face, said, ‘ Dear Stella, my much beloved friend. You truly understand and appreciate me — I have a presentiment that I shall never see you again . . . If I never return write my life. You can and will do me justice.’(883)

Then he and Mrs. Clemm left together for the boat.

‘God bless you, my own darling mother. Do not fear for Eddy! See how good I will be while I am away from you, and will come back to love and comfort you.’(884)

These were the last words the trembling woman heard as the boat pulled out, leaving her to return to spend weeks of helpless anxiety. Eddie did not return. The mission which fate had conferred upon Maria Clemm was over. Her reward was a pair of painfully rheumatic, and absolutely empty hands.

The traveler to Richmond via Philadelphia continued on his way. He was passing over the same route which he had followed eighteen years before, but he was now speeding on the last lap of his voyage much more rapidly. The city he gazed back upon for the last time had grown, as if by magic. In two decades the face of nature had been altered. The smoke was darker, and there was an enormous convention of stacks and sails. One wonders what the author of Mellonta Tauta thought as he gazed behind him at the Island, and, none too ‘hopefully, before thinking, prophetically, perhaps, of “the entire area . . . densely packed with houses, some of them twenty stories high, land (for some unaccountable reason) being considered as especially precious in just this vicinity. . . . They were by no means civilized, however, but cultivated various arts and sciences after the fashion of their time. . . .”(885)

Mr. James K. Polk was in the White House. The War with Mexico was over, and, in Philadelphia, the lithographers were thriving at re-printing American maps. A red tinge had leaped southwestward to the Pacific. Mr. Poe remarked ‘that, “The women . . . were oddly deformed by a protuberance of the region just below the small of the back — although most unaccountably, this deformity was looked upon altogether in the light of beauty.”(885) The steamboat went on, faster than it had in 1831, locomotives also were swifter. Mr. Poe must have hurtled into Philadelphia amid a shower of sparks, sometime about the late afternoon of July 1, 1849.

In his scantily packed, but flowered carpet-bag, there were two lectures, one of them certainly on The Poetic Principle, — and in his pockets [page 649:] there may have been as much as $40.(886) The station was not far from the water front, and the water front was then roaring with all the mad excitement of the Gold Rush of 1849. There were many saloons, all of them liberally patronized, and in one of them it is certain, that after the dusty ride in the cars from Perth Amboy, somewhere along the hot cobbled streets of Philadelphia, Mr. Poe entered and took a drink. As one of the minor consequences, he remained in Philadelphia for a fortnight.

The precise order of the events, and calamities which now overtook the man can never be precisely reconstructed.(887) His affairs no longer moved by any means to a lute’s well tuned law. Confusion, utter and horrible, surrounded him, because confusion was complete within. He was overtaken by delirium tremens. From the mercifully reticent recollections of his friends, and some correspondence, a few facts remain.

The office of John Sartain, then the proprietor of Sartain’s Magazine, was invaded suddenly, one July day, by a disheveled and trembling caricature of a great poet crying out for protection, and fleeing from the imaginary pursuers who were in conspiracy against him. This was an habitual hallucination with Poe when in a condition approaching collapse. The long yeaxs of embittered controversy, the frequent receipt of angry, and sometimes threatening and scandalous letters, had left an indelible impress on his sensitive mind. As he walked the streets of Philadelphia, it seemed to him that the corner loungers looked at him malevolently, and that conspirators were on his tracks. His old friend, Sartain, took him home, where Poe demanded a razor to shave off his mustache, in order to disguise himself from his imaginary tormentors. This, for obvious reasons, was refused. With difficulty, Sartain persuaded him to lie down, and watched through the night, as he was afraid to leave him alone, and Poe felt that he needed protection. The attentions of the friend continued all next day while

. . . without cessation Poe poured forth, in the rich, musical tones for which he was distinguished the fevered imageries of his brilliant but over-excited imagination. The all absorbing theme which still retained possession of his mind, was a fearful conspiracy that threatened his destruction. Vainly his friend endeavored to reassure and persuade him. He rushed on with unwearied steps, threading different streets, his companion striving to lead him homeward but still in vain.(888) [page 650:]

During this terrific ramble, Poe led Sartain to the Fairmount Reservoir, where they climbed together the steep flights of stairs leading to the top, while the infernal-heavenly tongue went on and on, hinting at suicide, “insisting upon the imminence of peril, and pleading touchingly for protection.” After some persuasion, Poe returned with his companion to the house. The experience of the kindly and patient Sartain seems to have given him an incandescent glimpse into landscapes beyond Pennsylvania. Nor were his trials yet over. Poe escaped from the house and wandered off to spend the night in a field. Here he “fell into a slumber” in which a white-robed vision appeared to him, and warned him against suicide. It was probably a dream of Virginia. This seems to have quieted him somewhat.

Just how the days passed, neither Poe nor his friends ever knew. He was completely beyond himself, incapable of explanation. He was arrested for being intoxicated, and taken to Moyamensing Prison where he spent a night.(889)

Here on the battlements appeared a white female form that addressed him in whispers. “If I had not heard what she said,” he declared, “it would have been the end of me.” Next morning he was haled in with the other unfortunates before Mayor Gilpin, and was recognized. “Why, this is Poe, the poet,” was remarked, and he was dismissed without a fine. When asked by Sartain why he had been incarcerated, he replied, probably troubled by remembrance of the English accusations, that he had forged a check. A symptom, frequent in cases suffering from Poe’s complaint, now developed. One which Poe mentions as “cholera.”

His wandering evidently continued for some time. He was under hallucinations about the death of Mrs. Clemm, and, while with Sartain, begged him persistently for laudanum. Two old friends, Chester [[Charles]] Chauncey Burr and George Lippard, the latter the poet-novelist who had known him in the days of friendship with Henry Beck Hirst, now rescued him, from the streets, and cared for him. On July 7, he was able to write to Mrs. Clemm:(890)

MY DEAR, DEAR MOTHER, — I have been so ill — have had the cholera, or spasms quite as bad, and can now hardly hold the pen.

The very instant you get this come to me. The joy of seeing you will almost compensate for my sorrows. We can but die together. It is of no use to reason [page 651:] with me now; I must die. I have no desire to live since I have done Eureka. I could accomplish nothing more. For your sake it would be sweet to live, but we must die together. You have been all — all to me, darling ever beloved mother, and dearest truest friend.

I was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched.

I have been taken to prison once since I came here for getting drunk; but then I was not. It was about Virginia.

Poe evidently had little remembrance of what Sartain had done for him.(891) He remained in the care of his friends, Burr and Lippard. The latter called upon Poe’s old employers for help, and Graham with his usual charity spoke of Poe with great pity, and contributed $5. Charles Peterson, who was still in the office at Poe’s old desk, did likewise. It was probably he who had helped Poe in August, 1847, under similar circumstances.(892) The old friends in Philadelphia understood it all only too well — and helped when they could. Burr now purchased a steamboat ticket for Poe as far as Baltimore, and provided with the $10 contributed by Graham and Peterson, he set out for Richmond with his carpet-bag that had been lost for ten days. The lectures had been stolen, and the discovery of this loss was a staggering blow. He was accompanied to the dock by the faithful Burr. It was Friday, the thirteenth.

The trip from Philadelphia to Richmond is, for so obscure an event, remarkably clear. A boat leaving Baltimore for Richmond on Friday evening was taken by the traveler, and, as it neared Richmond, he wrote a short note in the cabin to Mrs. Clemm:

Near Richmond

The weather is awfully hot, and besides all this, I am so homesick I don’t know what to do. I never wanted to see any one half so bad as I want to see my own darling mother. It seems to me that I would make any sacrifice to hold you by the hand once more, and get you to cheer me up for I am terribly depressed. I do not think that any circumstances will ever tempt me to leave you again. When I am with you I can bear anything, but when I am away from you I am too miserable to live.(893)

The parting from Mrs. Clemm, with its almost immediately fatal results, brings out clearly the fact that Poe’s existence had been prolonged by her. Poe was genuinely worried about having to leave her alone, but there runs through all of his thoughts and delusions in Philadelphia about Mrs. Clemm, an undercurrent of fear that with Virginia buried, and he himself away, she might make a home for herself some place else. Nothing was further from her thoughts.

Her movements and doings, during the time of Poe’s trip to Richmond, have been preserved in her letter written July 9,1849, to Annie. She had evidently not received the letter written to her by Poe from [page 652:] Philadelphia on the seventh. She said she had not heard from Eddie for ten days. “Eddy was obliged to go through Philadelphia and I much fear for him. . . . Oh, if any evil has befallen him what can comfort me?” The day after Poe had left New York, Mrs. Clemm had left Mrs. Lewis’s house for Fordham. On the way out she called on a “rich friend,” who had made her promises of help, but who had never been told the whole desperate situation. Mrs. Clemm unburdened herself, at which the friend advised her to leave Poe. “Anyone to propose to me to leave my Eddy,” she says, “what a cruel insult! No one to nurse him and take care of him when he is sick and helpless!” A few days later she must have received every confirmation of her worst fears, by the delivery of his shocking letters. He was, of course, in the deepest gulf of remorse, gloom, and self-disgust after the Philadelphia interval, and appears, upon his arrival in Richmond, to have almost succumbed.

Poe arrived in Richmond on the night of Saturday, July 14, and went by instinct directly to Duncan Lodge.(894) There he was assured of tender care from Rosalie and the Mackenzies, and that his infirmities, and terrible condition of body, clothes, and mind would be decently concealed. He seems to have remained there, at most, for only a very few days. On the evening of his arrival, a few hours after the note written on the steamer, he again addressed a letter to Mrs. Clemm:

. . . I got here with two dollars over — of which I enclose you one. Oh, God, my Mother, shall we ever meet again? If possible, oh COME! My clothes are so horrible and I am so ill. Oh, if you could come to me, my mother. Write instantly — Oh do not fail. God forever bless you.


A few days later Poe moved to the Old Swan Tavern, between Eighth and Ninth on Broad Street, which had once been a place of considerable repute, but was now of a distinctly past reputation, the boarding place of bachelor business men, and their associates. In a small frame house on Broad Street next to the Swan, there lived, at that time, Dr. George Rawlings, who, during the early days of Poe’s stay, was called in to visit him. This was apparently during the aftermath of the Philadelphia experience. Dr. Rawlings said Poe was still violent at intervals, and at one time drew a pistol and threatened to shoot him.(896) He soon afterwards recovered and writes Mrs. Clemm, “I have not drank anything since Friday morning, and then only a little Port Wine.” This [page 653:] was on the nineteenth, and “Friday” refers to the day he left Philadelphia the week before.

Once in the hands of kind friends and medical attention, his recovery was rapid. He received a letter from Mrs. Clemm which greatly cheered him, and five days after his arrival he wrote to “Muddie” again in a more hopeful mood:

Richmond, Thursday, July 19

MY OWN BELOVED MOTHER — You will see at once by the handwriting of this letter, that I am better — much better — in health and spirits. Oh! if you only knew how your dear letter comforted me! It acted like magic. Most of my sufferings arose from the terrible idea that I could not get rid of — the idea that you were dead. For more than ten days I was totally deranged, although I was not drinking one drop; and during this interval I imagined the most horrible calamities.

All was hallucination, arising from an attack which I had never before experienced — an attack of mania-á-potu. May heaven grant that it prove a warning to me for the rest of my days. . . .

All is not lost yet, and ‘ the darkest hour is just before daylight.’ Keep up courage, my own beloved mother — all may yet go well. I will put forth all my energies. . . .

On the same date, he also dispatched a letter to Patterson, giving an attack of cholera in Philadelphia as the cause of his delay in acknowledging the $50, and for interrupting his correspondence. For a short time now the ghost of the Stylus and other troublesome things were laid aside. Israfel had come home to the only part of the real world that he loved.

As the gloom of the pit which he had just escaped was deep, so was the old familiar light upon the hills and streets, that he knew and loved from boyhood, bright, and tinged with the amber glow of melancholy memory so dear to his heart. It is pleasant to record that the scene in which he now, for the first time, took an accepted and applauded part, just before the curtain fell, was enacted in the atmosphere of an Indian Summer of youth, and a renaissance of old loves and friendships. Richmond had changed, and had grown, but not to a disturbing degree. A new generation had grown up, but many of the old places, the old faces, the customs and manners, the tricks of speech, and the Southern attitude of living for being rather than for possessing, — which so well suited his own temperament, — were still there. An infinite host of memories must have rushed in and transported him, as he breathed once more the syrupy odor of tobacco, peculiar to the Richmond air. Before he remembered anything at all, it was through this Virginia atmosphere that Frances Allan had carried him home from the milliner’s house to Tobacco Alley.

During the last stay, in what must be regarded as his native city, the returned exile divided his time very largely among the houses of his [page 654:] friends: the Mackenzies at Duncan Lodge, Mrs. Shelton’s house on Church Hill, and Talevera, the home of the Talleys.

Broad Street . . . extended several miles in a straight line from Chimborazo Heights and Church Hill on the east, where Mrs. Shelton (Elmira) had her residence, to the western suburbs, where Duncan Lodge and our home of Talevera were situated. This was the route which Poe traversed in his visits to Mrs. Shelton. There were no street cars in those days, hacks were expensive, and the walk from The Swan to Church Hill was long and fatiguing. Poe would break his journey by stopping to visit at the office of Dr. John Carter, a young physician who lived about halfway between these points.(897)

This young doctor had considerable influence with Poe, and later on attended him at Duncan Lodge. The poet’s fame, the report that he was in the city to pay attention to Mrs. Shelton, and the influence of Mrs. Julia Mayo Cabell, who entertained for him, thus in a sense lifting the family ban, made Poe’s reception in Richmond entirely different from any that he had received before.(898) The bitter feeling in regard to “his conduct to his guardian” had largely subsided, except in a few implacable directions, and open doors were more frequent, and wider than ever before.

Poe, on his part, was most careful in his social attitude. His manner was now not only dramatic, but assured and distinguished, and he was careful, knowing the old prejudice against him, to make no advances, especially to women. Although the younger generation, particularly, were anxious to meet him, he seems to have confined himself very largely to the society of old friends.

Of Poe in his latter years, while in Richmond, there are several excellent descriptions by competent observers. Basil C. Gildersleeve, the great classical scholar, then a youth, remembered meeting him frequently upon Broad Street.

A poetical figure, if there ever was one, dad in black as was the fashion then — slender — erect — the subtle lines of his face fixed in meditation. I thought him wonderfully handsome, the mouth being the only weak point.(899)

Poe’s fame was even then quite startling. Professor Gildersleeve tells of being too shy to seek an introduction, but of obtaining, through J. R. Thompson, Poe’s autograph, of which the lad was extremely proud. Edward V. Valentine, then a young boy of about twelve, remembers seeing Poe pass the house, and hearing his uncle say, “There goes Edgar Poe,” whereupon he jumped up, ran out into the street, [page 655:] and peered up into the famous gentleman’s face, who smiled and passed on. All these were small straws that showed how the wind blew.

He was now greatly pestered to read The Raven, which he did on several occasions at various houses. Rosalie also, it appears, annoyed him a good deal by following him about like the lamb which Mrs. Hale forever conferred upon Mary. Rosalie was tremendously fond of her brother; delighted at the applause when he read; and was always seeking to do him little kindnesses. Rosalie Poe was, by no means, the feeble-minded woman that she has been represented to be. She was, says a personal acquaintance,(900) “rather pretty, and resembled ‘himself’ somewhat in appearance, but was as different as possible in mental capacity (i.e.), she was amiable, and sweet-tempered, but as a companion wholly tiresome and monotonous. She seemed to have little or no individuality or force of character.” Miss Poe had taught writing at Miss Jane Mackenzie’s school for nine years, and was an elegant needlewoman. Rosalie was, at worst, a rather high grade moron. Various other lower mental classifications used to describe her have been technically misapplied. Poe was, nevertheless, much annoyed by her upon occasions, particularly when calling upon Mrs. Shelton. The same curiosity which had annoyed Mrs. Clemm at Fordham in 1846, now bothered him. He would send her home, or elsewhere, upon suddenly remembered and mythical errands.

The wooing of Elmira now went on apace. Mrs. A. Barrett Shelton had now been a widow for some years. She had borne two daughters, both named for her, and both of whom died in infancy, and a son who was then a youth.(901) Mr. Shelton had been a successful merchant, and had left the income of a considerable property to his wife. The estate, on her death, was to go to other heirs. Not long after his arrival in Richmond, Poe called upon her. She was then a rather personable middle-aged woman, with a good deal of self-possession, and pious.

Upon being informed by the servant that a gentleman had called, Mrs. Shelton came downstairs. It was Sunday, and she was dressed for church. Upon her entering the room, Poe rose, saying, with considerable emotion, “Oh! Elmira, is it you!” Mrs. Shelton knew him at once, and received him cordially but continued on her way to church, with which she said she never allowed anything to interfere. She asked Poe to call again. He did so. Old times were talked over, and Poe now proposed that Elmira keep the promise which she had made to him twenty-four years before.(902) She at first thought he was jesting romantically, [page 656:] but he soon convinced her he was in earnest. At this time, probably towards the end of July, she arrived at what she later described as an “understanding” with her old flame.

The relations between the two are now fairly clear. Poe’s early love for the little Elmira was undoubtedly one of the most normal and complete that he ever experienced. It was even more than “Helen” Stanard’s the great romance of his youth; Tamerlane, Henry Poe’s contributions in Baltimore,(908) Merlin, by L. A. Wilmer, and a mass of biographical references all prove this. It was partly the loss of Elmira which had driven Poe from Richmond. Elmira, on her part, had found herself deceived by her parents into marrying Mr. Shelton, and, as we have seen, had cherished an affection for her boy lover, whose letters from the University had never reached her. Her resentment over the affair had afterward alarmed her husband. As the years went on, all this had, of course, been laid aside, but the memory of it, with all its connotations, must have made Poe’s renewal of his old suit seem like a revival of her girlhood. It was a refreshing draught from the fountain of romance and of youth. Poe, we may be sure, approached her on the basis of the fulfillment of her old promise. He was now famous, an embodiment of his own words in Tamerlane.

Her own Alexis, who should plight,

The love he plighted then — again,

And raise his infancy’s delight,

The Bride and Queen of Tamerlane.(238)

She remembered him leaning over her at the piano, while they sang. It is certain that all this, flimsy as it may seem, played a great part in the renewal of their friendship. She asked Poe to give her one of the little sketches that he had made for her in 1825. He wrote to Mrs. Clemm about it, and later on must have found it after all, for it was discovered among her effects.(904) (See illustration, page 145.)

Of the other and worldly considerations there is little need to speak. They were undoubtedly present. Poe saw in Elmira a woman for whom he had once cherished an ardent flame, and who may still have been attractive to him. She could make him comfortable, provide him with a home, and the basis of a social reputation in Richmond, where he intended now to remain on one of the newspapers, and it is also probable that he hoped to be able, under these circumstances, to use his intended wife’s fortune as a better basis upon which to conduct the Stylus than that offered by Patterson. Above all, he would be living [page 657:] in Richmond, and Mrs. Clemm would be provided with a home. He was very explicit, and anxious about that, as Mrs. Shelton’s letter to Mrs. Clemm discloses. Such were some of the factors which, in all probability, entered into this Indian Summer romance. Poe told Mrs. Shelton that she was his “Lost Lenore.”

To Robert Sully, his old boyhood friend, of whom he now once more saw a great deal, spending hours with him in his studio, he gave the picture, called the “Fatal Letter,” which Mrs. Osgood had noticed hanging over his desk at 85 Amity Street. It seems to have been an illustration for one of Byron’s poems, and to Poe represented the despair of Elmira when she had discovered one of his own love letters after her engagement to Mr. Shelton. There was an inscription on the back, now obliterated, with some reference to the Lost Lenore in The Raven, and his signature.(905)

The course of true love was not all smooth even now, however. Poe’s reputation was, of course, known to Elmira, who, it is said, was somewhat worried about her fortune, and not especially enthusiastic about the Stylus scheme. She now made some arrangements to protect her property that are said to have nettled Poe. They had been seen at church together, and talk of the engagement was rife, but, about the beginning of August, a coolness arose between them that threatened for a while to break off the affair. Mrs. Shelton wrote demanding her letters, and she was for a while publicly avoided by Poe.(906)

On August the seventh, he lectured before a small but enthusiastic audience of his friends and admirers in the Exchange Concert Rooms on The Poetic Principle. Several accounts of the occasion remain. Mrs. Shelton was present, but, after the talk was concluded, Poe ignored her and joined the Talley party from Talavera. All the press notices were entirely laudatory except that written by Daniel, whom Poe had “challenged” the Summer before. This appeared in the Richmond Examiner for August 21 and was, in part, as follows:(907)

Poe’s subject was The Poetic Principle and he treated it with all the acuteness and imagination that we had expected from him. We were glad to hear the lecturer explode what he properly pronounced to be the poetic ‘heresy of modern times,’ to wit: that poetry should have a purpose, an end to accomplish beyond that of ministering to our sense of the beautiful. . . .

Mr. Poe made good his distinction with a great deal of acuteness and in a very clever manner. His various pieces of criticism upon the popular poets of the country were for the most part just, and were very entertaining. But we were disappointed in Mr. Poe’s recitations. We had heard a good deal of his manner, but it does not answer our wants. His voice is soft and distinct, [page 658:] but neither clear nor sonorous. He does not make rhyme effective; he reads all verse like blank verse; and yet he gives it a sing-song of his own more monotonous than any versification. On the two last syllables of every sentence he invariably falls a fifth. He did not make his own Raven an effective piece of reading. At this we would not be surprised were any other than the author its reader. The chief charm perhaps of that extraordinary composition is the strange and subtle music of the versification. As in Mr. Longfellow’s rhythm we can hear it with our mind’s ear while we read it ourselves, but no human organs are sufficiently delicate to weave it into articulate sounds. For this reason we are not surprised at ordinary failures in reading these pieces. But we anticipated some peculiar charm in their utterances by the lips of him who created the verse, and in this we were disappointed. A large audience was in attendance. Indeed the concert room was completely filled. Mr. Poe commenced his career in this city, and those who had not seen him since the days of his obscurity of course felt no little curiosity to behold so famous a townsman. Mr. Poe is a small thin man, slightly formed, keen visaged, with dark complexion, dark hair, and we believe dark eyes. His face is not an ordinary one. The forehead is well developed and the nose somewhat more prominent than usual. Mr. Poe is a man of very decided genius. Indeed we know of no other writer in the United States who has half the chance to be remembered hi the history of literature. But his reputation will rest on a very small minority of his compositions. Among all his poems there are only two pieces which are not execrably bad, — The Raven and Dream-Land. . . . Had Mr. Poe possessed talent in the place of genius, he might have been a popular and money-making author. He would have written a great many more good things than he has; but his title to immortality would not and could not be surer than it is. For the few things that the author has written which are at all valuable are coins stamped with the unmistakable die. They are of themselves; sui generis, unlike any diagram in Time’s kaleidoscope, either past, present, or to come — and gleam with the hues of Eternity.

On the other hand the Richmond Whig hoped that Mr. Poe’s lecture would be repeated. Basil Gildersleeve was present, and remembers Poe’s reading of The Raven. Professor Gildersleeve said that upon that occasion Poe was not dramatic in his delivery, but was so sensitive to the music of his own verse that he emphasized it markedly in his delivery. Poe was greatly elated over his success, and reception, and made enough money to exist. However, he writes Mrs. Clemm that he can, as yet, send her nothing, commenting enthusiastically upon his press notices, nevertheless.

There were also frequent readings of The Raven at the houses of friends, once at the Talleys where he was especially en rapport, and we hear of one occasion when a June-bug ruined the solemnity of the occasion while an old lady tried to protect the poet from the attentions of the insect with her fan. Poe was vastly annoyed.

On the same date as the lecture (August 7th), Poe again wrote to Patterson, once more alluding to the effects of cholera, calomel, and a [page 659:] state akin to congestion of the brain, as the cause for his not having written more. In this letter, which closed the correspondence,(908) Poe balked at the idea of a $3 magazine which Patterson was inclined to favor, and argued for his favorite figure of $5. He was now evidently inclined to put the matter off, probably on account of other prospects, and suggests meeting Patterson at St. Louis, and deferring the appearance of the Stylus to July 1, 1850. It was the last glimmer of a ghost that had haunted him since the 1830’s.(453) He had, as he hinted to Eveleth that he might do, put its appearance off until the Day of Judgment. The darling dream of his ambition thus slipped unnoticed into the glimmering oblivion of eternity.

A round of parties and entertainments continued. Poe did not have a dress coat, and was embarrassed — and there were other complications. It was hard not to take what was pressed upon him, and in August he was again overtaken by another attack of his old trouble, and was attended at Duncan Lodge by his friend on Broad Street, Dr. Carter. There had been another occasion earlier, when he had been nursed in his rooms at the Old Swan by the Mackenzies. On the second occasion he was taken home by them. It was very serious. In his condition, one drink would have been sufficient to bring it on. Only the skill of a medical man saved him, and Dr. Carter warned him that one more indulgence would certainly be fatal. The conversation was long and earnest.

Poe told the medical friend of his own desperate efforts to free himself from the clutch of alcohol, and how earnestly he desired to do so. There is no use denying that his condition, his history, and his admissions mark him at this time as a dipsomaniac. At this interview with Dr. Carter, he burst into tears, asserting with all the solemnity, and pathetic earnestness that any soul could be capable of, that he would restrain himself, that he would hereafter withstand the temptation. There can be no doubt that he meant it, and trembled at the thought of failure.

To give all possible force to his own resolutions, of whose weakness he knew only too well, it seems to have been shortly after this last seizure that he joined the Shockoe Hill Division of the Sons of Temperance, where he was administered the oath to abstain totally by W. J. Glenn, the presiding officer of the Society. Glenn avers that, until Poe’s death in Baltimore, nothing irregular was noticed in his conduct, although a brother teetotaler of the same lodge, who kept a cobbler’s shop on Broad Street, was awakened one night shortly afterward, about two [page 660:] hours before daylight, by the loud knocks of Israf el demanding a pair of boots that had been left with the shoe-maker some days before for repairs.(909) A notice of Mr. Poe’s having joined the ranks of the Sons of Temperance appeared in the Philadelphia Bulletin, copied from the Richmond Whig early in September. His doings, in fact, were noticed widely. Notices of the successful lecture appeared even in the Cincinnati Atlas.(909)

As Summer neared its end, Poe was much seen about Broad Street. He still spent some of his time at the office of the Messenger with his friend Thompson. In August, a long review of Mrs. Osgood’s poems appeared in that paper, when a series of the Marginalia, Numbers 11 to 15 inclusive, had been coming out from May to September, 1849. Thompson, who knew Poe’s strength and weakness, was uniformly kind, and practically helpful.

Poe had now made for himself a new journalistic connection in his home town. He was a newspaper man, and felt at home in journalistic offices, drawn to the noise of presses, and the desk piled with proof. Like many professional writers, he connected the pen and the press, and must often have composed in the same building where his manuscript went to print. Dressed in a white linen coat and trousers, a black velvet vest, and a broad, planter’s Panama hat, Mr. Poe might have been seen in the late Summer of 1849 about the office of the Richmond Examiner.

. . . He was the most notable figure among the group of specialists that gathered around John M. Daniel, editor of the Richmond Examiner. Daniel was an electric battery, fully charged, whose touches shocked the staid and lofty-minded leaders in Virginia politics. There was about him that indefinable charm that draws men of genius towards one another, though differing in the quality and measure of their endowment. There was Robert W. Hughes, with his strong judicial brain, just starting on his path of distinction. There was Patrick Henry Aylett, a descendant of the great orator, and a rising young lawyer. There was Arthur Petticolas, who had an aesthetic touch that gave his dissertations on Art a special charm and value. The Examiner under Daniel was a free lance: it made things lively for all sorts of readers.

Mr. Poe naturally found his way thereto as literary editor. He had already attained celebrity as a writer whose prose and poetry was unlike those of all other persons. The reading public was watching him expectantly, looking for greater things. There was about him something that drew especial notice. His face was one of the saddest ever seen. His step was gentle, his voice soft, yet clear; his presence altogether winning. Though unlike in most particulars, Poe and Daniel affiliated in dealing with a world in which sin and folly on the one hand provoked their wrath and scorn, and on the other appealed to their pity and helpfulness. [page 661:]

That Mr. Poe was battling with tragic threatenings at this time, now seems pretty clear. The literary public of Richmond knew enough of him to elicit a profound interest in his behalf. . . .(910)

Mr. John M. Daniel was the same “electric battery” with whom, only the Summer before, Mr. Poe had been on the verge of fighting a duel.

Most of the August days of 1849 must have been spent at the office of the Examiner. Judge Robert W. Hughes tells of Poe sitting hour after hour revising his poems, and having them set up in the composing room for reference. On the proofs which were then taken, Poe made corrections and alterations. Only two poems were published at the time, The Raven in its final form, and Dream-Land, but the proofs were afterward put into the hands of Poe’s good friend, F. W. Thomas, when he came East as literary editor of the Inquirer. Thus the time was spent to advantage, even as the last sands were running out.(911)

He was much seen upon Broad Street, going to and from the hotel, — forward looking, erect, close buttoned, the haunting poetical face leaving a memorable impression, with the eyes burning, and mystical under the broad brows and the brim of the Panama hat. Many of the old haunts were revisited. The Allan house, of course, was closed to him, but there must have been a heart thrilling walk past the real house of his youth, still unaltered, at Fourteenth Street and Tobacco Alley. The ghosts of Frances Allan and “Pa” were there, and the proud wraith of an orphan boy. These old days haunted the inmost recesses of his brain. Memory with Poe was a passion.

The Hermitage, the old Mayo house, full of lost ghosts and old cherished dreams, where he had once gone with Rob Stanard, and old “Uncle Billy” to gather chinquepins, was now deserted and falling into ruin, a visible symbol of the loss of his youth. One afternoon he went there with Susan Archer Talley:

On reaching the place our party separated, and Poe and myself strolled slowly about the grounds. I observed that he was unusually silent and preoccupied, and, attributing it to the influence of memories associated with the place, forebore to interrupt him. He passed slowly by the mossy bench called the ‘lover’s, seat,’ beneath two aged trees, and remarked, as we turned toward the garden, ‘There used to be white violets here.’ Searching amid the tangled wilderness of shrubs, we found a few late blossoms, some of which he placed carefully between the leaves of a notebook. Entering the deserted house, he passed from room to room with a grave, abstracted look, and removed his hat, as if involuntarily, on entering the salon, where in old times many a brilliant company had assembled. Seated in one of the deep windows, over which now grew masses [page 662:] of ivy, his memory must have borne him back to former scenes, for he repeated the familiar lines of Moore:

‘I feel like one

Who treads alone

Some banquet hall deserted’

and paused with the first expression of real sadness I had ever seen on his face. The light of the setting sun shone through the drooping ivy-boughs into the ghostly rooms, and the tattered and mildewed paper-hangings, with their faded tracery of rose garlands, waved fitfully in the autumn breeze. An inexpressibly eerie feeling came over me . . .(912)

The overpowering effect of such reveries, and the melancholy mood that suddenly overwhelmed him was noticeable to all during this final interlude, even when mixing in the gay society of those days, and in the circles he best knew.

For a while he would stand exchanging repartees with all his old pleasure; his face would light up as some old friend approached, and as time went on he began to lose the haunted and haggard look, and the reserve of hauteur and cold civility. The men whom he knew he greeted cordially, and his old Byronic air with women now returned, mixed with a quixotic reverence that was found delightful. He was often seen laughing and talking with young people — then suddenly — as if he felt it all to be a dream — a melancholy would fall upon him and he would retire to sit alone or to wander with a solitary friend through the garden, talking musically of vanished days. His personality left an indelible impression upon all. He was a figure that seemed to personify poetic fame, speaking with a modulated voice of things fit to be rapt in poetic numbers. “Here is something to be remembered,” thought those who walked with him. The world, which forgets so easily, went on record as being impressed. It was this living human quality that friends afterward insisted upon talking about, that they tried to preserve for those to follow. And it is just that which we must miss in all that has been written about the man, that no one now can ever really know.

By the beginning of September, he was once more in the good graces of Mrs. Shelton, and sometime shortly before September 5 they became engaged to be married, for on that date he writes to Mrs. Clemm, still at Fordham, plainly indicating that the engagement had definitely taken place.

. . . And now, my own precious Muddy, the very moment I get a definite answer about everything I will write again and tell you what to do. Elmira talks about visiting Fordham, but I do not know whether that would do. I think, perhaps, it would be best for you to give up everything there and come on here in the Packet. Write immediately and give me your advice about it, for you know [page 663:] best. Could we be happier in Richmond or Lowell? for I suppose we could never be happy at Fordham, and Muddy, I must be somewhere where I can see Annie. . . .(913)

He could not forget Mrs. Richmond. A little later in the same letter he returns to the same theme and says, “we could easily pay off what we owe at Fordham, but I want to live near Annie. . . . I got a sneaking letter today from Chivers. Do not tell me anything about Annie. I cannot bear to hear it now — unless you can tell me that Mr. (Richmond) is dead — I have got the wedding ring, and shall have no difficulty, I think, in getting a dress coat.” So, at the last, it was Annie after all. But Mr. Richmond, after the obstinate manner of husbands, survived Poe, who was also worried as to how he was going to appear at his wedding to Elmira without a dress coat. It was certainly a difficult world!

In the meantime, poor “Muddie” at Fordham had nearly starved to death. She did not have enough money to get into town to make the rounds of her friends. Since the last of June she had received $1 from Poe. He had none to send her. There were promises and hopes. Mr. St. Leon Loud had called at the Examiner, and offered Poe $100 to edit his wife’s poems. She was a Philadelphian poetess, — “Of course I accepted . . . the whole labor will not occupy me three days . . .” but this brought no bread into the cottage at Fordham, where “Muddie” now waited, alone with her memories. On August 27th, she had been forced to appeal to Griswold in a piteous letter for a “small sum,” — “Indeed I have suffered.” A week went by and she wrote again, By this time she was back again living with Mrs. Lewis in Brooklyn. Griswold was elusive. He had already written a letter to Poe, promising to accept the commission to edit his works in case of Poe’s sudden death.(914)

Meanwhile, in Richmond, time was getting on, while Israfel was spending his last few hours with Lenore upon the edge of the world. It was as if, for a while, the traveler had emerged upon a happy plateau at sunset, and walked with renewed confidence to the edge of the gulf. Early in September, Mrs. Shelton left for the country on a brief visit, while Poe remained in town. All the little last appearances of the man were now remembered, and afterward set down with the peculiar care and atmosphere of importance that last happenings inevitably assume. One catches final glimpses of him going about of, evenings, calling on his old friends, as the darkness began to fall.

On September 3rd, he called at the Strobias, and on September 4th, on his old sweetheart Catherine Potiaux. She had refused to see him [page 664:] the year before. Now he came into the room where she was sitting, saying, “Old friend, you see I would not be denied!” Catherine was Frances Allan’s god-child. Poe and she had climbed apple trees together in long vanished gardens, and she had written him his first “love letter.”(915) He stayed only a few minutes, and then rose to go. A shade seemed to fall upon his face — “such as I had never before seen save on the face of the dying.” “When shall I see you again?” asked the startled woman. Looking at her, he repeated the words of The Raven, and was gone.

At Sanxey’s old book store (where he had met Thomas Bolling in 1829, and talked over adventures with the newly printed Al Aaraaf in his hand), J. W. Rudolph, who now kept the place, remembered Poe as he dropped in one day to browse, and how he inquired if old Sanxey, who, in other days, had loaned him many a volume, was still alive. Hearing that Sanxey was too feeble to go out, he delighted the old heart by paying a call. There were also calls at the Lamberts, and the Bernards, relatives of Thomas White and Frances Allan.(916)

Before Elmira returned, he went to deliver a lecture at Norfolk, probably leaving Richmond on Saturday, September 8. At Norfolk, he called upon some friends, the Ingrams, and made himself especially agreeable to Miss Susan, the younger daughter of the house. As the custom then was, a party was organized, and Poe with several others went over to take Sunday dinner at the hotel on the beach at Old Point Comfort. Over half a century later, Miss Ingram still vividly recalled the scene.

It was a warm September night and the little company, consisting mostly of young folks, sat on the beach talking quietly. There were Poe, a young collegian, the girls, and Susan’s aunt by way of chaperone. Behind them loomed the large frame bulk of the old Hygeia House. The distant dance music from the hotel orchestra, and bugle calls from Fortress Monroe, came over the moonlit water full of many sad, secret memories for an exsergeant major, late of the First United States Artillery:

Mr. Poe sat there in that quiet way of his which made you feel his presence. After a while my aunt, who was nearer his age, said: ‘This seems to be just the time and place for poetry, Mr. Poe.’ And it was. We all felt it. The old Hygeia stood some distance from the water, but with nothing between it and the ocean. It was moonlight, and the light shone over everything with that undimmed light that it has in the South. There were many persons on the long verandas that surrounded the Hotel, but they seemed remote and far away. Our little party was absolutely cut off from everything except that lovely view of [page 665:] the water shining in the moonlight, and its gentle music borne to us on the soft breeze. Poe felt the influence. How could a poet help it? And when we seconded the request that he recite for us he agreed readily. He recited, The Raven, Annabel Lee and last of all Ulalume with the last stanza of which he remarked that he feared it might not be intelligible to us, as it was scarcely clear to himself. . . .

We went from Old Point Comfort to our home near Norfolk, and he called on us there, and again I had the pleasure of talking with him. Although I was only a slip of a girl and he what then seemed to me quite an old man, and a great literary one at that, we got on together beautifully. He was one of the most courteous gentlemen I have ever seen, and that gave a great charm to his manner. . . .

I remember one little instance that illustrated how loyal he was to the memory of those that had been kind to him. I was fond of orris root and always had the odor of it about my clothes. One day when we were walking together he spoke of it.’ I like it, too,’ he said. ‘Do you know what it makes me think of? My adopted mother. Whenever the bureau drawers in her rooms were opened there came from them a whiff of orris root, and ever since when I smell it I go back to the time when I was a little boy and it brings back thoughts of my mother.’ (917)

Perhaps Miss Susan’s orris root drew its memory-evoking strength from deeper ground than she knew. On Monday evening after the party, Poe sent his young friend a wistfully charming note enclosing Ulalume.

I have transcribed Ulalume with much pleasure, Dear Miss Ingram — as I am sure I would do anything at your bidding. . . . I would endeavor to explain to you what I really meant — or what I fancied I meant, by the poem, if it were not that I remembered Dr. Johnson’s bitter and rather just remarks about the folly of explaining what, if worth explanations, would explain itself. . . , Leaving Ulalume to its fate, therefore, and in good hands. . . .(917)

One ponders at the perfumed ghost of Frances Allan, little Susan, and Ulalume, all recalled by one of the last letters that bore the signature “Edgar A. Poe.” It was the last touch of moonlight, that evening by the sea.

Through the week, while at Norfolk, Poe called upon his friends several times. On Friday, September 14, he delivered his lecture in the Norfolk Academy on The Poetic Principle. A round of entertainments followed, some of the most brilliant that he had received. For three days, the Norfolk American Beacon announced, reported, and praised him to his heart’s content. Norfolk was quite a little triumph. “I cleared enough to settle my bill at the Madison House with $2 over,” he writes Mrs. Clemm from Richmond, September 18, the night after returning — “Elmira has just got home from the country. I spent last evening with her. I think she loves me more devotedly than I ever knew and I cannot help loving her in return.” [page 666:]

Everything was coming out all right after all. On Tuesday, he tells Mrs. Clemm he will leave for Philadelphia. A day there will do for Mrs. Loud’s poems, then (with the $100 in his pocket) “possibly on Thursday I may start for New York.” He would go straight over to Mrs. Lewis’s, and send out to Fordham for “Muddie.” There were too many sorrowful memories for him to go to Fordham now. “It will be better for me not to go — don’t you think so?” As yet he could not send Mrs. Clemm even one dollar, although — “the papers here are praising me to death . . . keep up my file of the Literary World.” Mrs. Clemm, no doubt, faithful to the last, kept up the file, wondering what she would wear at Eddie’s third wedding.

At the end of September it seemed as if the pleasant, level plateau over which his feet had for a brief time carried him, sloped suddenly. Down it he walked unusually confident. There was a brief acceleration of human events, a whirl of delirious horror at the edge of the gulf, and then —

On the twenty-second of September he spent the evening at Mrs. Shelton’s. All was happily arranged. The marriage was set for October 17. He was especially happy, for Elmira had consented to write to Mrs. Clemm, which she now did. For a moment it seemed as if all the story might end with the old fairy tale formula. Poe had given Elmira a large cameo brooch, from which she would never afterward be parted. After Edgar left, she sat down and wrote to Mrs. Clemm.

Richmond, Sept. 22nd, 1849

MY DEAR MRS. CLEMM, — You will no doubt be much surprised to receive a letter from one whom you have never seen, although I feel as if I were writing to one whom I love very devotedly, and whom to know is to love. . . . Mr. Poe has been very solicitous that I should write to you, and I do assure you, it is with emotions of pleasure that I now do so. I am fully prepared to love you, and I do sincerely hope that our spirits may be congenial. There shall be nothing wanting on my part to make them so.

I have just spent a very happy evening with your dear Edgar, and I know it will be gratifying to you to know that he is all that you could desire him to be, sober, temperate, moral, & much beloved. He showed me a letter of yours, in which you spoke affectionately of me, and for which I feel very much gratified & complimented. . . . Edgar speaks frequently & very affectionately of your daughter & his Virginia, for which I love him but the more. I have a very dear friend (to whom I am much attached) by the name of Virginia Poe. She is a lovely girl in character, tho’ not as beautiful in person as your beloved one.

I remember seeing Edgar, & his lovely wife, very soon after they were married. . . . It is needless (I know) for me to ask you to take good care of him when he is (as I trust he soon will be) again restored to your arms.

‘I trust a kind Providence ‘ will protect him and guide him in the way of truth, so that his feet slip not. I hope, my dear friend, that you will write to me, and as Edgar will perhaps reach you as soon as this does, he will direct your letter. [page 667:]

It has struck 12 o’clock, and I am encroaching on the Sabbath, and will therefore conclude. ‘Good night, Dear friend,’ may Heaven bless you and shield you, and may your remaining days on earth be peaceful and happy. . . .

Thus prays your attached tho’ unknown friend


Poe’s trip back North was to close the cottage at Fordham, certainly to see Griswold, who had undertaken to edit the Collected Works, and to bring “Muddie” back to Richmond for the marriage. His last movements in Richmond can be confidently traced.

On Monday, September 24, he delivered his final lecture, again on The Poetic Principle, before an audience of friends who had now, hearing rumors of his engagement, and guessing his necessity, gathered in considerable numbers at the Exchange Hotel “with a view to giving him pecuniary assistance in a delicate way . . . there was a touch of old Virginia in the way this was done.” At this lecture, from various accounts, it would seem that a decent sum must have been raised. It was sufficient at least for him to start North to get Mrs. Clemm.(919)

The next afternoon (Tuesday the twenty-sixth) he spent at Talavera with his old friends the Talleys, where he told his future biographer, Susan Talley (Mrs. Weiss), that his trip to Richmond had been the happiest experience of many years, and that when he finally left New York to come South, he would feel that he was shaking off the dust of the trouble and vexation of his past life. “On no occasion had I seen him so cheerful and hopeful as upon this evening.” He sat chatting to the Talleys in the sitting-room, avoiding a party of guests in the parlors to have a few last words with his intimate friends. He was sorry to have to leave Richmond at all, he said, but he would certainly be back again in two weeks. He begged them to write to him while he was away. The other guests left slowly. Poe remained, hating to cut the thread. His hostess and her daughters went to the door with him to say a final goodbye. To the very last, all accidents with him were weirdly consistent — none of them ever forgot the one that followed:

We were standing in the portico, and after going a few steps he paused, turned, and again lifted his hat in a last adieu. At that moment a brilliant meteor appeared in the sky directly over his head, and vanished. . . .(920) [page 668:]

Poe went to Duncan Lodge where he spent the night, depressed and thoughtful, smoking in the open window of his room. The next morning he had his trunk packed, and carried down to the Swan Tavern. As it was being carried out of the house, a lamp was broken, and Rosalie remarked to Mrs. Mackenzie that no complaint should be made as it was broken by a poet.(921) It was the last time that Poe slept beneath the mercifully sheltering roof of Duncan Lodge. Mrs. Mackenzie continued to shelter Rose. The trunk, “most of his estate,” was a small black leather one, bound with iron hoops, and containing manuscripts, and a few other belongings. Its subsequent history was curious.(922) Dr. Gibbon Carter, and Dr. Mackenzie accompanied him to town.

Wednesday, September 26, Poe spent about Richmond with his friends. He called upon Thompson of the Messenger, who advanced him $5, and, as he left, Poe turned to him and said, “By the way, you have been very kind to me, — here is a little trifle that may be worth something to you.” He then handed Thompson a small roll of paper with Annabel Lee written on it in his beautiful script. Poe passed the rest of the day with some of his friends about town. During the afternoon, Miss Susan Talley was visited by Rosalie, bearing a note from Poe in which he enclosed the lines For Annie. Towards evening he went to Church Hill for a final call upon Elmira. At this interview he appeared very sad, and Mrs. Shelton said he complained of being quite sick. She felt his pulse, and found him to be distinctly feverish, and she did not think him able to travel next morning.(923)

Walking along Broad Street on his way back from Mrs. Shelton’s, he stopped in at Dr. John Carter’s office where he read the newspaper and left, taking, by mistake, the doctor’s Malacca cane and leaving his own. He went across the street to Sadler’s Restaurant, a well-known place of entertainment in Richmond, which informed its customers by way of a slogan that “Thirteen old gentlemen were made sick by eating Turtle Soup at Sadler’s.” Here Poe met J. M. Blakey, and some other acquaintances. The party was a cheerful one, conversation went on to a late hour, and was joined in by the host, Mr. Sadler. Poe it was said appeared cheerful himself and was sober. [page 669:]

Judge Hughes of Richmond afterward said that both Sadler and Blakey told him they distinctly remembered meeting Poe at the restaurant that night, and that they did not think he was drinking. He was talking of going North, and when they saw him last, shortly before his departure, they were certain he was quite sober.(924)

Some of the party accompanied Poe to the wharf, and saw him off. The boat left for Baltimore at four o’clock on the morning of September 27, 1849. Next morning Elmira, who was uneasy about him, came down town to look him up. She was surprised to find that he had gone so suddenly, and recorded her anxiety. Thus Lenore was left in Richmond, while Israfel proceeded rapidly toward the edge of the world.



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 630:]

854.  Griswold’s Correspondence, page 249. Printed by Harrison, Biography, page 290.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 631:]

855.  The statements made in this text about the aftermath of the Whitman affair will be found verified in the various letters to Mrs. Richmond (Annie) about this time, and the letter to Mrs. Whitman mentioned. Many of these letters are reprinted in full by Prof. Woodberry and Harrison. See also The “Annie” Letters, published by Ingram, the source of most of this correspondence.

856.  This statement, together with the publication of The “Annie” Letters by Ingram, is said to have caused Mrs. Whitman great chagrin later on.

857.  Ingram’s well meant activities, as T. D. English said in a letter to Griswold, served to rake many things from the dust which had better have remained there. Prof. Woodberry also regrets the publication of much of the petty scandals of the letters.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 631, running to the bottom of page 632:]

858.  Joseph Wood Krutch in his Edgar Allan Poe, A Study in Genius, has gone so far as to claim that Poe was impotent. The reader who is interested should read Mr. Krutch’s book. There is no attempt here to prove any particular theory about Poe’s condition. Poe’s letters to various women, from 1847 to 1849, prove that his attitude towards them was a peculiar one. This author does not know whether Poe was impotent or not, but is quite sure that, in 1848 and 1849, Poe was nervously disorganized and abnormal.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 634:]

859.  Lines from Tamerlane published in John Neal’s Yankee in 1829. The last four lines refer specifically to the dying “Tamerlane.”

860.  Poe specifically complains to Annie of months of headache.

861.  Poe to Mrs. Whitman.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 636:]

862.  Last paragraphs of Poe’s Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 637:]

863.  Poe to Annie.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 638:]

864.  Poe to Thomas, February 14, 1849. This is Poe’s ideal of literary life. He, of course, took no such physical care of himself. It was what he had been advised to do. See notes by Kennedy, White, Thomas.

865.  From the text, the central “fact” of the story.

866.  Poe to Duyckinck, March 8, 1849.

867.  Poe to Eveleth, February 29, 1849.

868.  Partly an inference, but a certain one. Mrs. Locke was Mrs. Osgood’s sister-in-law. The rest is inherent in the text of letters from Poe to Annie.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 639:]

869.  The correspondence which is the source of the statements made in the text is plainly indicated. Specific references to the dates of letters is avoided here, particularly interested in this peculiar phase of Poe’s love affairs will have to read the Whitman, “Annie,” Griswold, Poe, Osgood, letters of this time, and after Poe’s death, to glean the ramifications of this miserable affair. Margaret Fuller, and Mrs. Hewitt, and Mrs. Ellet are also concerned in the spider web. See also the Woodberry and Harrison biographies of Poe.

870.  Sarah was Annie’s sister.

871.  In May, 1840, Mrs. Clemm writes Annie that the lease will be allowed to expire. A change of plan then occurred. Mrs. Susan Archer Weiss says that Mrs. Mackenzie had written, in the Summer of 1848, urging the Elmira affair upon Poe. This is doubtful. The cottage was leased in 1849 for another year by Poe, and Mrs. Clemm was living these when he died.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 641:]

872.  Poe to “Annie,” March, 1849.

873.  The friend was Sartain, see page 650.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 642:]

874.  This was evidently the last stanza as it appeared in Griswold in 1850. Poe later made still further changes in the last stanza of Lenore. See note 299.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 643:]

875.  Poe to Mrs. Shew, March 30, 1849.

876.  Prof. Woodberry so comments.

877.  Some of the Poe-Patterson correspondence has been published by Gill, Prof. Woodberry, and Prof. Harrison. The account, and the letters here drawn upon, are taken from Some Letters of Edgar Allan Poe to E. H. N. Patterson of Oquawka, Illinois, with comments by Eugene Field, Caxton Club Publication, 189 copies, Chicago, 1898.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 644:]

878.  It was from this “center” that the great American Magazine was to appear. Poe afterward balked at this, and proposed or accepted Patterson’s proposal of dating the eastern edition of the Stylus from New York, and the western from St. Louis, Missouri.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 645:]

879.  Poe to Patterson, New York (Fordham), April 8, 1849.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 646:]

880.  Poe may already have had in mind “the better opportunity” of conducting the Stylus from Richmond on Mrs. Shelton’s money (sic).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 647:]

881.  From the Diary of Elizabeth Oakes Smith. Miss Smith was about to depart for a lecture in Philadelphia in the Summer of 1849, one of her first, it appears, which places the time of the last interview with Poe.

882.  There is some indication that the cottage at Fordham was dosed about the middle of June and that, during the interval between that time and his departure, Poe lived with a friend in New York. The matter is not clear.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 648:]

883.  Mrs. Lewis has left a careful description of the scene, Ingram. She never felt capable of undertaking Poe’s biography, she says later. This was fortunate for Poe.

884.  Mrs. Clemm.

885.  From Mellonta Tauta.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 649:]

886.  With the remainder of the money sent by Patterson, $50, Poe probably bought some clothes, “outfit,” — see Poe to Patterson May 7, 1849. The fare to Philadelphia was about $4.

887.  The story of Poe’s experience in Philadelphia comes from John Sartain’s reminiscences, also letters of Poe to Mrs. Clemm between July 7 and July 18, 1849, and the article and correspondence published by C. C. Burr in the Nineteenth Century (February, 1852), pages 19 to 33. The most available reference is Woodberry, 1909, vol. 2, pages 309-312. See also Poe to Patterson, Richmond, July 19, 1849. Also Gill’s Life of Poe for an account of the Sartain incident, from whom Gill had it direct.

888.  Gill’s Life of Poe, page 235.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 650:]

889.  Prof. Wbodberry considers Poe’s imprisonment to have been an hallucination, but both Poe and Sartain refer to it as a fact, with details, while the hallucinations are specifically described in contradistinction. That Poe would have been arrested in his condition is the most probable thing that could have happened.

890.  This letter was dated from “New York,” an obvious slip of the pen made by a sick man. Poe afterwards refers to the dreadful handwriting in the letters to Mrs. Clemm from May 7 to July 14. His handwriting was an accurate index of his condition at any time.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 651:]

891.  Poe gives Burr and Lippard most of the credit for saving him.

892.  See Chapter XXIV, page 588.

893.  Poe to Mrs. Clemm, July 14,1849 (first letter of that date).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 652:]

894.  Mrs. Weiss so states.

895.  Poe to Mrs. Clemm, September 14, 1849 (second letter of that date). The fare from Baltimore was $7. Poe started from Philadelphia, ticket paid by Burr to Baltimore, with $10. Meals probably cost $1. This left him $2 in Richmond, one of which he here sends to Mrs. Clemm. A typical piece of Poesque finance.

896.  J. H. Whitty, Memoir, large edition, page lxxiii.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 654:]

897.  Susan Archer Weiss, Home Life of Poe. Many of the Richmond incidents must be drawn from this source (with care). Mrs. Weiss, then Miss Talley, lived in Richmond, and saw much of Poe in 1849.

898.  See a previous reference to a Mrs. Mayo, a protagonist of Poe of former times, Chapter XVII, page 315.

899.  Given by Harrison, Biography, page 315.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 655:]

900.  Mrs. Clarke, previously mentioned in the Summer of 1848.

901.  Inscription on Mrs. Shelton’s tombstone in Shockoe Cemetery in Richmond. Her own name, is lacking, but burial records confirm. Also Edward V. Valentine to the author in Richmond, in May, 1926.

902.  See Chapter VIII, page 119.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 656:]

903.  Particularly The Pirate in the Baltimore North American for 1827. See Poe’s Brother, Doran, 1926.

904.  Poe’s reference to this picture in a letter to Mrs. Clemm from Richmond, September, 1848, is most amusing, and illuminating as to the little domestic artifices practised by Poe and his mother-in-law. See Harrison, vol. 2, pages 369 and 370.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 657:]

905.  Edward V. Valentine to the author in Richmond, May, 1926. Robert Sully, started a painting of the scene of The Raven never finished. See Mrs. Weiss.

906.  Mrs. Weiss. She tells of a call of Mrs. Shelton upon Mrs. Mackenzie, to get the latter to prevail upon Poe to return her letters.

907.  Richmond Examiner, August 21, 1849.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 659:]

908.  Continued after Poe’s death by J. H. Thompson, the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 660:]

909.  W. J. Glenn to Prof. J. A. Harrison, Richmond, Virginia, December 4, 1900. Published by Harrison, Biography, pages 320 to 322. Also see J. H. Whitty, Memoir, Collected Poems, large edition, page lxxiii.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 661:]

910.  Bishop O. P. Fitzgerald; Harrison, Biography, pages 316 to 320, an address made at the University of Virginia; some parts of this are unreliable.

911.  J. H. Whitty, Memoir, gives the best account of Poe’s work at the Examiner at this time.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 662:]

912.  S. A. Weiss, Scribner’s Magazine, vol. XV, 5, page 712, March, 1878.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 663:]

913.  Griswold, Prof. Woodberry, 1909, publishes, vol. 2, pages 329, 330, complete available text.

914.  Mrs. Clemm’s condition is known from two of her letters to Griswold, one from Fordham, August 27, 1849, and the other New York, September 4, 1849, both in Griswold, published by Woodberry, 1909, vol. II, pages 323-325.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 664:]

915.  published Chapter V, page 61.

916.  J. H. Whitty, Memoir, Collected Poems, large edition, page lxxxii. Mr. Whitty also adds some information of Miss Potiaux, page lxxxi.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 665:]

917.  New York Herald, February 19, 1905, article by Miss Susan Ingram.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 667:]

918.  Mrs. Shelton to Mrs. Clemm, September 22, 1849. Harrison, vol. 2 (from belonging to Miss A. F. Poe) .

919.  Bishop O. P. Fitzgerald says $1500, but this is evidently wrong. Mrs. Weiss corrects .this statement. The amount was probably helpful but small. There are also rumors that Mrs. Shelton gave Poe money to go North, and to return. He “borrowed” $5 from Thompson the day before he left Richmond.

920.  Mrs. Weiss, also quoted by Gill, Chatto & Windus, 1878, page 231. Mrs. Weiss was not superstitious, and says that after the incident they “laughed.” The story is undoubtedly true, and one of the dramatic circumstances that seemed to haunt Poe.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 668:]

921.  Edward V. Valentine to the author in Richmond in May, 1926. From an item contributed by a lady who was present at the Mackenzies’ when Poe left, (in Mr. Valentine’s diary).

922.  For the history of this trunk now at the Edgar Allan Poe Shrine, Richmond, Virginia, see the Valentine Museum Poe Letters, edited by Mary Newton Stanard, page 179.

923.  Mrs. Shelton to Mrs. Clemm. Letter in the Poe-Chivers papers, quoted from Prof. Woodberry, 1909, vol. 2, page 341.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 669:]

924.  J. H. Whitty prints this information in his Memoir to the Complete Poems.




In this version, at the bottom of page 632, Allen modifies the phrase “news from Aidenn upon an anti-macassar with Edgar Allan Poe” to “news from Aidenn leaning against the same sofa back with Edgar Allan Poe.”


[S:0 - HVA34, 1934] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (H. Allen) (Chapter 26)