Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “To Frances,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 236-237 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 236, continued:]


This poem when first printed in the summer of 1835 was headed “To Mary.” She was, according to tradition, Miss Mary Winfree, of Chesterfield, Virginia, a close friend of Elmira Shelton. She called upon Poe in Baltimore, and informed him that Elmira's marriage was less than happy.(1)

Poe revised the poem slightly for use as a filler in Graham's Magazine in 1842, treating it impersonally.(2) Finally, during his romantic association with Frances Sargent Osgood in 1845, he addressed it to her by the initial of her first name.


(A) Southern Literary Messenger, July 1835 (1:636); (B) Graham's Magazine for March 1842 (20:137); (C) Philadelphia Saturday Museum, March 4, 1843; (D) Broadway Journal, April 26, 1845 (1:260); (E) The Raven and Other Poems (1845), p. 25; (F) Works (1850), II, 53.

The text used is E (verbally like D and F) .

[page 237, continued:]


Title:  To Mary (A); To One Departed (B, C)

1-7  Placed after 14 (B, C)

1  Mary, amid the cares — the woes (A); For 'mid the earnest cares and woes (B, C)

2  That crowd / Crowding (A)

3  Drear / Sad (A, B, C)

4  even / ev’n (A, C)

7  bland / sweet (A)

8  And thus / Seraph (B, C)

11  Some lake beset as lake can be (A); Some ocean vexed as it may be (B, C)

[page 237, continued:]


7  Poe uses Eden for heaven also in “The Lake” and “The Raven.”

8  Wilbur (Poe, p. 139) remarks that this line implies that the lady is dead or at a distance — not necessarily great.

8-20  Poe wrote in his “Byron and Miss Chaworth” in the Columbian Magazine for December 1844: “She to him was ... Aphrodite that sprang ... from the bright foam upon the storm-tormented ocean of his thoughts.” Compare also “To One in Paradise,” line 3: “A green isle in the sea,” and my note on it.

9-14  The variants of “lake” and “ocean” suggest that Poe had no particular locale in mind, merely a clear place in the center of a storm, often seen in nature. It has been suggested by H. E. Mierow in Classical Weekly (November 1918) that Poe had in mind Aeaea, where Ulysses sojourned with Circe, daughter of the Sun — but a comparison to that formidable enchantress seems out of place in a young lady's album. Less unlikely is a story mentioned by Pliny the Elder (Natural History, II, xcvii) that in ancient times, at Paphos in the island of Cyprus, there was a shrine of Venus where no rain ever fell.


[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 236:]

1  “Mary” was identified by Charles Marshall Graves, in Selected Poems and Tales of Poe (1906), p. 146. Graves was of an old Richmond family, and hence a reliable witness, although his statement that Miss Winfree “rejected Poe's proffered love” may be a romantic accretion. Hervey Allen heard more about Mary, who had literary interests, from some relative of hers who did not wish to have his name revealed, as is recounted in Israfel (1926), I, 367-368; new edition (1934), p. 296. Allen has some conjectures not based on his Richmond informant, which can be disregarded. There should be no confusion between Mary Winfree and Mary Starr.

2  Campbell, Poems (1917), pp. 224-225, records some fanciful identifications, which have nothing to commend them to anyone aware of the Winfree tradition.





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