Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Sarah H. Whitman — November 24, 1848 (LTR-290)


Friday the 24th.

In a little more than a fortnight, dearest Helen, I shall, once again, clasp you to my heart: — until then I forbear to agitate you by speaking of my wishes — of my hopes, and especially of my fears. You say that all depends on my own firmness. If this be so, all is safe — 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 relentlessly endeavored to ruin me. It needed only some such trials as I have just undergone, to make me what I was born to be, by making me conscious of my own strength. — But all does not depend, dear Helen, upon my firmness — all depends upon the sincerity of your love.

You allude to your having been “tortured by reports which have all since been explained to your entire satisfaction”. On this point my mind is fully made up. I will rest neither by night nor day until I bring those who have slandered me into the light of day — until I expose them, and their motives, to the public eye. I have the means and I will ruthlessly employ them. On [page 2:] one point let me caution you, dear Helen. No sooner will Mrs E. hear of my proposals to yourself, than she will set in operation every conceivable chicanery to frustrate me: — and, if you are not prepared for her arts, she will infallibly succeed — for her whole study, throughout life, has been the gratification of her malignity by such means as any other human being would die rather than adopt. You will be sure to receive anonymous letters so skillfully contrived as to deceive the most sagacious. You will be called on, possibly, by persons whom you never heard of, but whom she has instigated to call & villify me — without even their being aware of the influence she has exercised. I do not know any one with a more acute intellect about such matters than Mrs Osgood — yet even she was for a long time completely blinded by the arts of this fiend & simply because her generous heart could not conceive how any woman could stoop to machinations at which the most degraded of the fiends would shudder. I will give you here but one instance of her baseness & I feel that it will suffice. When, in the heat of passion — stung to madness by her inconceivable perfidy & by the grossness of the injury which her jealousy prompted her to inflict upon all of us — upon both families — I permitted myself to say what I should not have said — I had no sooner uttered the words, than I felt their dishonor. I felt, too, that, although she must be damningly conscious of her own baseness, she would still have a right to reproach me for having betrayed, under any circumstances, her confidence. [page 3:]

Full of these thoughts, and terrified almost to death lest I should again, in a moment of madness, be similarly tempted, I went immediately to my secretary — (when these two ladies went away — ) made a package of her letters, addressed them to her, and with my own hands left them at her door. Now, Helen, you cannot be prepared for the diabolical malignity which followed. Instead of feeling that I had done all I could to repair an unpremeditated wrong — instead of feeling that almost any other person would have retained the letters to make good (if occasion required) the assertion that I possessed them — instead of this, she urged her brothers & brother in law to demand of me the letters. The position in which she thus placed me you may imagine. Is it any wonder that I was driven mad by the intolerable sense of wrong? — If you value your happiness, Helen, beware of this woman! She did not cease her persecutions here. My poor Virginia was continually tortured (although not deceived) by her anonymous letters, and on her death-bed declared that Mrs. E. had been her murderer. Have I not a right to hate this fiend & to caution you against her? You will now comprehend what I mean in saying that the only thing for which I found it impossible to forgive Mrs O. was her reception of Mrs E.

Be careful of your health, dearest Helen, and perhaps all will yet go well. Forgive me that I let these wrongs prey upon me — I did not so bitterly feel them until they threatened to deprive me of you. I confess, too, that the [intolerable insults of your mother & sister still rankle at] my heart — but for your dear sake I will endeavor to be calm.

Your lines “To Arcturus” are truly beautiful. I would retain the Virgilian words — omitting the translation. The first note leave out: — [page 4:] 61 Cygni has been proved nearer than Arcturus & Alpha Lyrae is presumably so. — Bessel, also, has shown 6 other stars to be nearer than the brighter ones of this hemisphere. — There is an obvious tautology in “pale candescent” [.] To be candescent is to become white with heat. Why not read —”To blend with shine its incandescent fire?” Forgive me, sweet Helen, for these very stupid & captious criticisms. Take vengeance on my next poem. — When “Ulalume” appears, cut it out & enclose it: — newspapers seldom reach me. — In last Saturday's “Home Journal” is a letter from M. C. (who is it?). I enclose a passage which seems to refer to my lines:

— the very roses’ odors

Died in the arms of the adoring airs.

The accusation will enable you to see how groundless such accusations may be, even when seemingly best founded. Mrs H's book was published 3 months ago. You had my poem about the first of Tune — was it not?

Forever Your own,

Remember me to Mr Pabodie — Mrs Burgess & Mrs Newcomb.





[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to S. H. Whitman (LTR290/RCL745)