Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Maria Clemm — August 29, 1849 (LTR-330)


Wednesday Evening — Aug. 29.

My own darling, beloved Mother

May God grand that this letter, so long delayed, may find you well — I ask no more — for I have been tortured, almost to death, by horrible dreams, in which I fancied that you were ill and helpless and I so far away from you. Oh, my dear, dear, good Muddy, I never knew the depth of my affection for you until this long and terrible separation. If you could but know my bitter, bitter grief at not being able to send you any money. But you know your Eddy's heart, darling Muddy, and you feel that I would send it if I could get it in any way in the world. Here, with no resources, and forced by circumstances to remain at an expensive hotel, God only knows how I have contrived to sustain myself as I have. Nothing but a resolute determination to succeed for your dear sake, that I might see you comfortable in your old age, could have given me courage to persevere. But now, my beloved Mother, cheer up — for with God's blessing, better days are at hand for both of us. Unless some unforeseen accident shall occur, we shall be out of all our terrible poverty in bless than one month. Long before that, I do hope to send you some money — but cannot say how much. Now I have but one half dollar in the whole world & for 3 weeks, here in a strange city (for so I may call it) I had not so much as one single cent; nor could I procure one. Oh Muddy, ill as I [page 2:] was, heart-broken, without clothes, and every way in despair, how I survived God only knows. In all my profound sorrow, believe me that my anxiety on your account may the hardest to bear. And now let me tell you all about Elmira as well as I can in a letter. — We are solemnly engaged to be married within the coming month (Septr) — but I make no doubt that in a week or 10 days, all will be over. I enclose you her last note — that you may see how we stand. I got angry with her for wishing to defer it till January & wrote her a cross letter — to which the one enclosed is her reply. We made it up & she now sanctions my writing to you, announcing the marriage in a month. She went nearly frantic when I told her I would nt have her — went out to Mackenzie's after me & all about town — so that every body knows of our engagement. It was reported, indeed, that we were married last Thursday. Her relations — her married daughter especially — are opposed to it — because their pecuniary interests will be injured — but she defies them & seems resolved.

In the first place, darling, darling Muddy, she knows all about you and cordially agrees to all that I propose. You are to live with us always & to take charge of the house. She says she already loves you as a mother — & I am sure you will love her — for she is so amiable, gentle, domestic, and affectionate. She agrees to live where I choose, but would prefer the North — at least for the present — to get rid of her relations, who pester her to death for money. Her property is not so large as I was told — but is ample for all our wants. Mr Shelton left property to the amount of $60,000, and since his death it has much increased in value and is now worth at least 70,000. He left it to her sole charge and management so long as she remains his widow, but if she marries, she retains only a house, furniture, carriage &c, servants [page 3:] (slaves) and an income of from 12 to 1400$. But she has had charge of the estate now for 9 years; and as she is said to be a notable manager, no doubt she has laid by many thousand dollars in money. She says she is quite willing & eager to give up the charge of the estate for my sake. Her son (Southall, 10 years old) is to have 20,000$ on coming of age. He is to live with her, if she pleases, and she is to receive an annual allowance (an ample one) for his board & education. If I choose, I can educate him myself & save about $500 a year. He is a fine & good boy. I told her my desire to purchase a cottage & employ ourselves in ornamenting & improving it. She is delighted with the idea — & seemed to think the purchase would be easily managed. Up to yesterday, she was anxious to keep our engagement a secret — but now she does not deny it. She called on Rose yesterday, in her carriage and the McKenzies are all very cordial. They seem to think it a fortunate speculation for me. At all events, my dear, dear mother, you will no longer have to suffer as you have done. It shall be the whole study of my life to repay you for your devotion to me — for, indeed, my affection for you is the strongest feeling of my heart. I would give up the whole world, at a moment's notice, for your dear sake, and, if in this marriage, you are not made happy, we have still our love for each other to depend upon.

Rose has just brought me your 2 letters from the P. O. Oh, my mother — my own darling mother — what you must have suffered — oh, try & struggle on a very little longer. I am sure that in 10 days at farthest I shall be able to aid you — in the meantime go to dear Mrs Lewis — and say to her from me, that I beg her, if she really feels for me the friendship she professed at parting, to keep you from want until I have time to relieve you.

It is now 4 weeks since I have touched anything to drink. In bodily health I am quite well, and in mind I would be so, but for my dreadful anxiety on your account: — there is one other thing, too, dear mother, which drives me frantic — my love for Annie — I worship her beyond all human love. My passion for her grows stronger every day. I dare not, at this crisis, either speak or think of her — if I did I should go mad — but oh Muddy, if you have ever loved your son, do not — do not let my Annie have hard thoughts of me. Write to her — oh do dear mother, if you wish me to love you. Say all that you know I would say to her if I saw her. Indeed, indeed, there is no expressing or conceiving the devotion I have for her. My love for her will never, never cease, either in this world or the next. — I lectured here last Friday week & had a crowded house (250 persons) — but, like a fool, I put the tickets at 25 cts. The room cost $10, printing bills &c, $5, & doorkeeper $1. I got about $25 clear of all expense, but my bill at the Swan took it all & much more — I could not get my trunk without paying some — $25. I still owe 13 1/2. I went to the “Madison House”, close by Mary Dalton's, where I now am & probably shall remain until my marriage, which I will hurry as much as [page 4:] possible. Every body says that if I lecture again & put the tickets at so cts, I will clear $100. I never was received with so much enthusiasm. The papers have done nothing but praise me before the lecture & since. I enclose one of the notices — the only one in which the slightest word of disparagement appears. It is written by Daniel — the man whom I challenged when I was here last year. I have been invited out a great deal — but could seldom go, on account of not having a dress coat. To-night Rose & I are to spend the evening at Elmira's. Last night I was at Poitiaux's — the night before at Strobia's, where I saw my dear friend Eliza Lambert (Gen. Lambert's sister). She was ill in her bed-room, but insisted upon our coming up, & we stayed until nearly I o’clock. In a word, I have received nothing but kindness since I have been here, & could have been quite happy but for my dreadful anxiety about you. Since the report of my intended marriage, the McKenzies have overwhelmed me with attentions. Their house is so crowded that they could not ask me to stay. — And now, my own precious Muddy, the very moment I get a definite answer about everything, I will write again & 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 & come on here in the Packet. Write immediately & give me your advice about it — for you [page 5:] know 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. — Did Mrs. L. get the Western Quarterly Review? Thompson is constantly urging me to write for the Messenger, but I am so anxious that I cannot. — Mr Loud, the husband of Mrs. St Leon Loud, the poetess of Philadelphia, called on me the other day and offered me $100 to edit his wife's poems. Of course, I accepted the offer. The whole labor will not occupy me 3 days. I am to have them ready by Christmas. — I have seen Bernard often. Eliza is expected but has not come. — When I repeat my lecture here, I will then go to Petersburg & Norfolk. — A Mr. Taverner lectured here on Shakspeare, a few nights after me, and had 8 persons, including myself & the doorkeeper. — I think, upon the whole, dear Muddy, it will be better for you to say that I am ill, or something of that kind, and break up at Fordham, so that you may come on here. Let me know immediately what you think best. You know we could easily pay off what we owe at Fordham & the place is a beautiful one — but I want to live near Annie. — And now, dear Muddy, there is one thing I wish you to pay particular attention to. I told Elmira, [page 6:] when I first came here, that I had one of the pencil-sketches of her, that I took a long while ago in Richmond; and I told her that I would write to you about it. So, when you write, just copy the following words in your letter:

I have looked again for the pencil-sketch of Mrs. S. but cannot find it anywhere. I took down all the books and shook them one by one, and unless Eliza White has it, I do not know what has become of it. She was looking at it the last time I saw it. The one you spoilt with Indian Ink ought to be somewhere about the house. I will do my best to [fin]d it.

I got a sneaking letter to-day from Chivers. — Do not tell me anything about Annie — I cannot bear to hear it now — unless you can tell me that Mr. R. is dead. — I have got the wedding ring. — and shall have no difficulty, I think, in getting a dress-coat.

Wednesday Night.

[T****ll] n(m?)ight [**d *****o(w?)n *****] dear Muddy, [. . . . ] [page 7:] also the letter. Return the letter when you write.





[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to M. Clemm (LTR330/RCL821)