Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Edward Valentine — November 20, 1848 (LTR-287)


New-York — Nov. 20 — 1848.

Dear Sir,

After a long and bitter struggle with illness, poverty, and the thousand evils which attend them, I find myself at length in a position to establish myself permanently, and to triumph over all difficulties, if I could but obtain, from some friend, a very little pecuniary aid. In looking around me for such a friend, I can think of no one, with the exception of yourself, whom I see the least prospect of interesting in my behalf — and even, as regards yourself, I confess that my hope is feeble. In fact, I have been so long depressed that it will be a most difficult thing for me to rise — and rise I never can without such aid as I now entreat at your hands. I call to mind, however, that, during my childhood, you were very kind to me, and, I believe, very fond of me. For this reason and because I really do not know where else to turn for the assistance I so much need at this moment, I venture to throw myself upon your generosity and ask you to lend me $200. With this sum I should be able to take the first steps in an enterprise where there can be no doubt of my success, and which, if successful, would, in one or two years, ensure me fortune and very great influence. I refer to the establishment of a Magazine, for which I have already a good list of subscribers, and of which I send you a Prospectus. If for the sake of “auld lang syne” you will advance me the sum needed, there are no words which can express my gratitude.

Most sincerely yours,
Edgar A. Poe.

Edward Valentine Esq



In the 1948, 1966 and 2008 editions of the Letters, the text of this letter was printed from a transcript in the Ingram collection, sent by Edward Valentine. The full text was first printed by Christopher P. Semptner, “Edgar Allan Poe: Poe's Appeal to Edward Valentine,” Edgar Allan Poe Review, Autumn 2019, 20:-336. That presentation gives the letter as a representation of the manuscript, filling in some of the missing elements from the transcript, but not others. (The date, for example, is unnecessariy rendered as “Nov. 20 __ 184[?]” when the year is clearly 1848, not only based on Valentine's transcript but also the prospectus that was included, which bears the date of “April 1848.” In any case, the date could hardly be November of 1849 as Poe died in October of that year.) Semptner's transcription also omits italics and giving the em dashes in the date line as underlines. The current presenation gives the full text of the letter, supplying all of the missing text from the transcript and with the italics and em dashes properly rendered. In the manuscript, both Poe's signature and Valentine's name at the end are underlined. For the current presenatation, these have not been interpreted as indicating italics. It may be noted that Edward Virginius Valentine's transcript, apparently made for Ingram in 1875, is generally accurate, but omits one word, creates some differences in punctuation, and renders the word “and” as an ampersand, which Poe does not do. He also captializes “Entreat” and “Enterprise,” and uses a long s for “illness,” “success,” and “successes,” documenting his own idiosyncrasies of handwriting.

As noted, the letter was accompanied by a copy of the April 1848 prospectus for the Stylus, although the upper portion of this copy is missing, the paper having torn at a fold, so that what remains now begins with the second paragraph. Poe used the prospectus as the envelope leaf, and wrote Valentine's address on the back, originally as Fincastle, VA, which is crossed out. There is no postmark, presumably because the letter was enclosed in a letter to Miss Talley.

Valentine pencilled a note on the back of the prospectus that accompanied the letter: “It is not in my power to aid Mr. Poe. I have a large sum of money to raise by Spring & find it very difficult to make any collections. Will you be writing him? If so — can’t you send him this reply — with my regrets that at this time I cannot afford the desired aid?” Poe's original letter had been sent by way of Miss Susan A. Talley, Valentine”s neice. She replied promptly, in a letter dated November 29, 1848.

In an e-mail dated December 7, 2019, Ton Fafianie offers the helpful detail of a deed dated June 17, 1848, transferring a property from the estate of William Strickland (deceased) to Edward Valentine. (The original is from the Botetourt County VA Deed Book 31 Page 182-184.) The property was on High St, in Buchanan, VA, about 150 miles west of Richmond. (At the time, it was assigned as lot no. 40, and comprised one half an acre, of which Valentine purchased one quarter of an acre, and contained a brick store house and a brick lumber house.) For this purchase, Valentine paid $1,675, with a downpayment of $100 and large installments promised over a three year period. The first installment was due in April 1849, the next in April 1850 and the last in April 1851. One might fairly assume that this obligation is the “large sum to be raised by Spring” noted by Valentine, a considerable amount of money that would surely have constrained his finances.

In a series of e-mails, dated December 9, 2019, Harry Gleason, a historian in Buchanan, VA, noted that High Street was changed to Main Street about 1900. The brick store front still stands at 19746 Main Street (at the corner of Main and Bedford) where it is now known as the Moelick Building. The Valentine house was next door, on lot 39, but was demolished in the 1970s for a parking lot. The brick lumber house, or warehouse, also appears to have been torn down, probably in the 1960s.


[S:1 - MS, 1848, and transcript] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to E. Valentine (LTR287/RCL741)