Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott, “To Mary Starr,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 232-233 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 232:]


This is a lost poem. While residing with Mrs. Clemm at 3 Amity Street in Baltimore, about 1834, Poe met a girl named Mary Newman. She introduced him to Mary Starr, daughter of a Philadelphia engraver. This Mary lived on Essex Street near Fayette at the home of her mother's brother, James Devereaux, whose surname she used socially. She had a fair complexion and long blonde hair. Poe and Mary Starr fell in love, but her family disapproved, and there was a quarrel — the young lady refused to receive a letter from the poet brought to her by Virginia Clemm. Long afterwards, according to her nephew, Mary said: “Mr. Poe ... published ... in a Baltimore paper a poem of six or eight verses [probably meaning stanzas], addressed ‘To Mary.’ The poem was very severe, and spoke of fickleness and inconstancy. All my friends and his knew whom he meant. This also added to my uncle's indignation.”

The quarrel may have been violent; but later, after Mary had married a merchant tailor named Jenning, who had a store in New York City and a home in New Jersey, the friendship was revived. Poe probably called on Mary in 1842. She and her husband visited the Poe family at Fordham in 1846, and in 1847 helped to pay for the funeral of Virginia Clemm Poe. Mrs. Jenning stayed with the poet during that ceremony. She later moved to Detroit, where she died, aged seventy-one, in 1887.

My information about Mary Starr comes largely from her granddaughter, as well as from incomplete printed and manuscript sources used by previous scholars. On January 15, 1935, I interviewed Minnie Aletha Jenning, who assured me that the article by Mary Starr's nephew, Augustus Van Cleef, “Poe's Mary,” in Harper's New Monthly Magazine for March 1889 (78:634-640) was basically true but probably overcolored. There are also letters referring to Mary Starr from Marie Louise Shew Houghton and her daughter, Dora, described in the Ingram List, numbers 197 and 209. Some students refer to Miss Starr as “Baltimore Mary,” or Mary Devereaux.

Since the poem was reproachful, all attempts to identify it [page 233:] with poems that are not must be wrong. These include “To Mary,” signed “P.” in the Boston New England Magazine for January 1832; “Lines to Mary” by “H. T.” in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter, November 3, 1832; Poe's own “To Mary” (later retitled “To F[rances]”) in the Southern Literary Messenger for July 1835; and “Woman's Heart” in the Baltimore Times, June 16, 1832. (See Woodberry, Life, II, 414; Campbell, Mind of Poe, p. 235; and Phillips, Edgar Allan Poe the Man, I, 435.) I feel sure Poe's poem existed, but has not been found because of the imperfection of the files of several Baltimore papers.





[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (To Mary Starr)