Text: J. W. Ostrom, B. R. Pollin, and J. A. Savoye, “Appendix A,” The Collected Letters of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: 1846-1849 (2008), pp. 846-884 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 846, unnumbered:]

Appendix A

Special Notes on Selected Correspondents:

J. Allan              Miss A. C. Lynch
T. H. Chivers     J. Neal
Mrs. M. Clemm     Mrs. F. S. Osgood
E. A. Duyckinck     E. H. N. Patterson
Mrs. E. F. Ellet     Mrs. A. L. Richmond
G. W. Eveleth     [[J. E. Snodgrass]]
R. W. Griswold     F. W. Thomas
J. P. Kennedy     Mrs. S. H. Whitman
J. R. Lowell     N. P. Willis
[page 847:]

Poe and John Allan

Poe’s correspondence with his foster father, John Allan, is a treasure-trove, revealing Poe as a precocious and sensitive but temperamental and headstrong youth, determined to assert himself and to make his mark on the world. Covering the period between ca. February 21, 1826 (CL-5) and April 12, 1833 (CL-71), it forms the most extensively documented set of letters from Poe’s early life, including forty-four known letters (probably forty-five, if one questionable item is included), and undoubtedly others for which there is no specific evidence. Of the known items, Poe wrote thirty-one, and Allan a mere thirteen (fourteen if the one questionable item is accepted). The collection in the Valentine Museum contains twenty-seven holographs from Poe to Allan, and two from Allan to Poe. Mrs. Stanard states erroneously: “There is, after Poe left the University, evidence of one missing letter, and one only [June 10, 1829, CL-32]” (p. 5); but there is at least one more, that cited by Allan, May 18, 1829 (CL-26): “I duly recd your letter from Baltimore on Saturday ... [ca. May 14, 1829, CL-25].” Mrs. Stanard further errs in claiming that there is but one missing letter in the whole correspondence. On the contrary, Quinn (p. 71) quotes from Allan’s letter to George Dubourg, August 14, 1817: “Enclosed is a letter for Edgar ...”; thus Poe received at least one letter (CL-1) from John Allan, unless it was from Mrs. Allan, while the family was in England and Edgar was attending the Misses Dubourg’s boarding school. There are also undoubtedly two letters to be added to those written at the University: one, ca. February 21, 1826 (CL-5), shortly after Poe’s matriculation (see LTR-28); and another in October-November (?) 1826 (CL-8a), requesting money, which Allan sent (LTR-28). Although only two MS letters from Allan to Poe survive, at least eleven or twelve others must have been written, as directly cited or suggested by allusions in Poe’s letters and Allan’s letter to G. Dubourg.

Fourteen of Poe’s known letters (and seven of Allan’s) were written during 1829 while Poe, having stormed out of Allan’s house, was in Baltimore, struggling to establish his independence. A glance at [page 848:] Poe’s salutations shows that the intimacy of “Dear Pa” prevailed from March 10, 1829, through November 6, 1830, with the exception of “Dear Sir,” August 4, 1829, when Poe felt strongly that John Allan was offended. From January 3 until November 18, 1831, Poe begins with “Sir” or “Dear Sir.” The successive letters of November 18 and December 15, 1831 have “Dear Pa,” that of December 29, 1831, “Dear Sir,” and his last letter, April 12, 1833, no salutation. John Allan’s first extant letter to Poe, March 20, 1827, begins “Sir,” and that of May 18, 1829, “Dear Edgar.” On the evidence of known letters, the Poe-Allan correspondence during the second quarter of 1829 possessed an intimacy that was never again enjoyed. Moreover, it is interesting to note that this intimacy first appears in Poe’s letter of March 10, 1829 (LTR-10), following the death of Frances Keeling Allan, from whose funeral Poe had just returned to Fortress Monroe. (Poe arrived in Richmond too late to attend the services.)

Reviewing Mrs. Stanard’s book, H. L. Mencken (the Evening Sun, Baltimore, October 31, 1925) praised the overall presentation and her editorial efforts in particular, but was much less forgiving of her subjects. Of Poe and Allan, Mencken wrote, “the letters do little credit to either party in the long row. Poe alternates between whining and defiance... . As for Allan, he makes, in these tattered letters, a ridiculous and ignominious showing.” The irascible Mencken ends by describing Poe as “A genius, and if not of the first rank, then at least near the top of the second — but a foolish, disingenuous and often somewhat trashy man.” It must be accepted, however, that the extant correspondence reveals only a small portion of the business and personal relations existing between Poe and Allan, even for the long period covered by their letters. More importantly, the written words alone do not tell the whole story. Inferences to be drawn from ideas expressed or half-expressed, chirography and pointing, salutations and closes — all these form the strange compound that represents the young Edgar Poe, a compound that must be read carefully and sympathetically before one can pass fair judgment. Poe’s letters to Allan are often careless in spelling and pointing; especially difficult to read correctly are his commas, periods, and dashes. In the present [page 849:] edition, questionable readings in the facsimiles (at least one of which, LTR-14, appears to have been intentionally altered in Mrs. Stanard’s book) were collated with the MS letters; all the original letters were examined for postmarks, addresses, and endorsements by John Allan.

The following list records the known correspondence between Poe and John Allan. (Because it is questionable, CL-70d has been omitted.) The starred items are those for which MSS exist:

Poe to Allan        Allan to Poe
    1817, August 14
1826, ca. February 21    
    1826, ca. February 24-27
* 1826, May 25    
* 1826, September 21    
1826, October-November    
    1826, ca. December
* 1827, March 19    
* 1827, March 20    
    * 1827, March 20
* 1828, December 1    
* 1828, December 22    
* 1829, February 4    
* 1829, March 10    
1829, ca. May 14    
    * 1829, May 18
* 1829, May 20    
* 1829, May 29    
    1829, June 8
1829, June 10    
* 1829, June 25    
* 1829, July 15    
    1829, July 19
* 1829, July 26    
* 1829, August 4    
    1829, ca. August 7 [page 850:]
* 1829, August 10    
    1829, August 19
    1829, ca. October 27-28
* 1829, October 30    
* 1829, November 12    
    1829, ca. November 15
* 1829, November 18    
    1830, May 21
* 1830, June 28    
* 1830, November 6    
    1830, December 27-28
* 1831, January 3    
* 1831, February 21    
* 1831, October 16    
    1831, before November 18
* 1831, November 18    
* 1831, December 15    
* 1831, December 29    
* 1833, April 12    

Poe and Thomas Holley Chivers

Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers (1809-1858) was a man of notable and diverse talents, graduating in medicine and even dabbling in the cultivation of silk (see LTR-239). He abandoned the medical profession, however, and declared himself a poet, managing to gain a modicum of literary distinction. His last volume of verse, The Lost Pleiad (1845), was called “monotonous” by the Charleston (SC) Southern Patriot, which, in general, damned the book with faint praise (August 7, 1845, p. 2, col. 2). At the time of his correspondence with Poe, Chivers lived at Oaky Grove, GA, but made frequent visits to the North. At one time, Chivers encouraged Poe to settle in Georgia and establish his magazine there (CL-681). His letters to Poe are usually long and didactic, with a tendency toward Transcendentalism and Christian mysticism. He often charged that Poe borrowed ideas and [page 851:] metrical effects from his poetry, most prominently in an 1853 series of letters to the Waverley Magazine, signed “Fiat Justitia.” In spite of this competition to share in Poe’s reputation, Chivers was also a staunch defender of Poe, publishing the poem “Caelicola” in Peterson’s Magazine (February 1850, 17:102) as a kind of obituary. In 1848, Chivers had written Search After Truth; or, A New Revelation of the Psycho-Physiological Nature of Man, naming his hero Politian (after the title character from Poe’s only play) and his lost love Lenore. He planned to write a life of Poe, but the work was never completed. For the first printing of the material that Chivers did assemble, see Davis, Chivers’ Life of Poe (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1952). It would seem an odd association, and as much as Poe may have been interested in Chivers’ poetry, he was clearly more interested in Chivers’ inheritance and the potential for financing Poe’s magazine plans. Although he seems to have been genuine in his professions of friendship, Chivers may well have had ulterior motives of his own. In later years, Poe appears to have grown at least temporarily annoyed by Chivers, as demonstrated by a comment to Mrs. Clemm that he had received “a sneaking letter to-day from Chivers” (see LTR-330). For fuller accounts of Dr. Chivers, see W [1909], 2:376-390 and S. F. Damon, Thomas Holley Chivers, Friend of Poe (New York: Harper, 1930).

The Poe-Chivers correspondence numbers at least forty-one letters, eleven of which are by Poe. Only nine of Poe’s and thirteen of Chivers’ are extant. A lost letter (CL-249) is suggested by Chivers’ letter of August 27, 1840 (CL-250), which says, “I received your letter this evening ...” That lost letter would be Poe’s first known one to Chivers. It not only contained a prospectus for the Penn but was probably written on the verso (see other Poe letters in August 1840). Although no definite date for the first of these letters is possible, it was probably ca. August 20, the prospectus sent being the June revision. Not surprisingly, a considerable portion of their letters focus on Poe’s unfruitful attempts to establish his own magazine.

The Poe-Chivers correspondence covered a period of nine years. It is unknown how many letters may now be lost, but at least seventeen [page 852:] missing letters are alluded to in the extant items. In the following list, starred items are those for which MSS exist, or printings from MS:

Poe to Chivers        Chivers to Poe
1840, ca. August 20    
    * 1840, August 27
    1841, November-June 10, 1842 (2 letters)
    1842, June 11
* 1842, July 6    
    * 1842, July 12
    1842, September 15
    * 1842, September 26
* 1842, September 27    
    * 1842, December 7
    1843, early summer
    * 1844, June 15
* 1844, July 10    
    * 1844, August 6
    * 1844, September 24
    1845, June-July (?)
* 1845, June-July (?)    
    * 1845, after August 2
    1845, August 10
    1845, August 11
* 1845, August 11    
    1845, August 25
* 1845, August 29    
    * 1845, September 9
    * 1845, before October 16
    * 1845, October 30
* 1845, November 15    
    1845, November-July 1846 At least six letters)
* 1846, July 22    
1847, before February 16 [page 853:]    
    * 1847, February 21
    * 1847, April 4
    1847, before July 13
* 1848, July 13 [14]    
    1849, before August 28

Poe and Mrs. Maria Clemm

Although surely one of the most important and enduring relationships formed during Poe’s lifetime, there are relatively few letters between the woman Poe would come to call “Mother” and the man she thought of as her son. Poe seems not to have known much about his Baltimore relatives before coming to the city in 1829. Shortly thereafter, they shared the same residences, moving from one rented home to another. Letters became necessary only as he began to travel away from home, for personal and business reasons. Indeed, the most important sequence of letters is probably that written during his trips to Philadelphia and Richmond in 1848 and 1849. (An implied letter of September 22, 1849 from Poe to Mrs. Clemm may be the same as the letter of September 18, 1849.) The most revealing single letter is surely the poignant, desperate one of August 29, 1835 (LTR-48), where he essentially proposes to Virginia, a document which generations of the family considered so personal that they refused to permit it to be printed despite the pleas of various biographers. This Victorian sense of propriety may also explain the curious fact that we have at least copies of a number of letters Mrs. Clemm wrote to friends and associates of Poe (including Annie Richmond and Longfellow), but not so much as a single line from a letter that she wrote to Poe. In burning so many of Poe’s letters after his death, to protect his privacy, she probably included some of her own. Starred items are those for which MSS exist, or printings from MS:

Poe to [[Mrs.]] Clemm        [[Mrs.]] Clemm to Poe
1835, ca. August 20    
    1835, August 20-26 [page 854:]
    1835, August 27-28
* 1835, August 29    
* 1844, April 7    
* 1848, August 5    
* 1848, ca. December 19    
* 1848, December 23    
* 1849, July 7    
* 1849, July 14 (two letters)    
    1849, July 14-19
* 1849, July 19    
1849, August 2-14 (?)    
* 1849, ca. Aug. 28-29    
* 1849, September 10    
    1849, before September 18
* 1849, September 18    
1849, before September 22    

Poe and Evert A. Duyckinck

Evert Augustus Duyckinck seems to have been on consistently friendly terms with Poe, although their correspondence deals chiefly with professional matters. As an editor of growing prominence, first with Arcturus and the Morning News (New York), and later of the influential Literary World, Duyckinck was in a position to grant Poe useful favors, and Poe was never too shy to ask for them (see LTR-220, LTR-223, LTR-305, and other examples). R. W. Griswold was sufficiently concerned about Duyckinck’s influence that he created a forgery with the clear intention of attempting to turn Duyckinck against Poe (see SPR-11). Duyckinck first contacted Poe in regard to his criticisms in the Evening and Weekly Mirror about Longfellow’s Waif. Through Duyckinck, Poe was able to gain access to the budding “Young America” movement, resulting in the 1845 publication by Wiley & Putnam of Poe’s Tales and The Raven and Other Poems. Duyckinck served as editor of both volumes. Although Poe expressed [page 855:] some unhappiness with the final selection of his Tales (see LTR-240), these books gave new life to Poe’s career as a poet and literally spread his name around the world.

The Poe-Duyckinck correspondence is particularly frustrating since it surely must have contained many more items than have survived in the form of MSS or transcripts. The MSS of fourteen letters from Poe to Duyckinck are extant (or are known to have been extant), but only one MS from Duyckinck to Poe is known to exist, and that is merely a copy. (Poe’s letter of June 16, 1846, LTR-234, is to a correspondent of uncertain identity, but who is probably Duyckinck. It may be speculated that one or two other letters of a similar nature, but with insufficient evidence to assign any specific correspondent, might also have been addressed to Duyckinck.) Additionally, only one other letter from Duyckinck is definitely cited by Poe. Starred items are those for which MSS exist, or printings from MS:

Poe to Duyckinck        Duyckinck to Poe
    * 1845, January 17 or 18
* 1845, February 18    
* 1845, June 26    
* 1845, September 10    
    1845, September 10
* 1845, September 11    
* 1845, November 13    
* 1845, December 10    
* 1845, ——    
* 1846, January 8    
* 1846, January 30    
* 1846, April 28    
* 1846, June 16 (Duyckinck?)    
    1846, before June 29
* 1846, June 29    
* 1846, December 24    
* 1846, December 30    
* 1849, February 16    
* 1849, March 8    
[page 856:]

Poe and Mrs. Elizabeth F. Ellet

Poe’s correspondence with the vengeful Mrs. Ellet, a minor poet of the bluestocking set, was to cause him great trouble (see LTR-280, LTR-290, LTR-306 and notes). Only two letters are known from what must have been a more sustained correspondence; both items are from Mrs. Ellet to Poe, in 1845. One (CL-597), postmarked December 16, is addressed to the BJ: “Do not use in any way the memorandum about the So. Ca.[rolina] College. Excuse the repeated injunction — but as you would not decipher my German Manuscript — I am fearful of some other mistake.” This one-page letter is unsigned, but is identified by an earlier note, datable only as ca. December 15 (CL-595), signed “E,” which tells of the dismissal of Dr. Robert Henry from the Presidency of South Carolina College; on the verso appears, “Ich habe einen Brief für Sie — wollen Sie gefälligst heute abend nach acht Uhr den selben bei mir entnehmen oder abholen lassen?” (The particular “letter” cited is unknown). For an account of this complex issue, see Hansen and Pollin, pp. 27-29, including Hansen’s translation: “I have a letter for you — would you be so good as to receive the same, or have it collected at my house this evening after eight o’clock?”

Poe and George W. Eveleth

Eveleth never met Poe, but while a medical student, he corresponded with Poe from his home in Phillips, ME, and from the Maine Medical School in Brunswick. In a letter dated October 1, 1878 (Ingram collection, University of Virginia), Eveleth copied his letters from Poe, as well as letters, in whole or in part, from Mrs. Clemm, Mrs. Whitman, John P. Kennedy, and others, which he had received during a correspondence with them following Poe’s death. He defended Poe against charges of intoxication in an article in the Portland (Maine) Transcript (June 8 and July 6, 1850), and in the magazine the Old Guard (“Poe and His Biographer, Griswold,” June 1866, pp. 353-358). His correspondence with Ingram is nicely documented by J. C. Miller in BPB, pp. 195-234. [page 857:]

Numerous errors in Eveleth’s copies of the letters were carried into Ingram’s printing of them, and were perpetuated by other writers using them as sources. Among these was James Southall Wilson, who edited Eveleth’s transcripts for the University of Virginia Alumni Bulletin (January 1924, 27:34-59; reprinted as The Letters of EAP to George W. Eveleth). Two years earlier, TOM edited Eveleth’s surviving letters to Poe for the New York Public Library Bulletin (March 1922, 26:171-195; reprinted as a separate pamphlet called The Letters of George W. Eveleth to EAP). For a more detailed treatment of the Poe-Eveleth correspondence, see the two articles cited. Although Ingram and Wilson had only Eveleth’s transcripts to follow, we are fortunate that most of Poe’s original MSS for these letters are extant, reducing the need to rely on the questionable copies. Eveleth wrote Poe thirteen letters, one of which is lost and unprinted. Poe wrote Eveleth eight letters; all but one (CL-670a) are accounted for, the one cited by Wilson as “lost” [PE, p. 3] being part of Poe’s letter of January 4, 1848. The following list includes all of the known items in the Poe-Eveleth correspondence. Starred items are those for which MSS exist, or printings from MS:

Poe to Eveleth        Eveleth to Poe
    * 1845, December 21
    * 1846, January 5
    * 1846, April 3
* 1846, April 16    
    * 1846, June 9
    * 1846, October 13
* 1846, December 15    
    * 1847, January 19
1847, before February 16    
* 1847, February 16    
    * 1847, February 21
* 1847, March 11    
    * 1847, July 27
* 1848, January 4    
    * 1848, January 11 [page 858:]
* 1848, February 29    
    * 1848, March 9
    * 1848, July 9
    * 1849, February 17
* 1849, June 26    
    * 1849, July 3

Poe and Rufus W. Griswold

Rufus Wilmot Griswold, a native of Vermont, was a licensed Baptist clergyman who had done editorial work in New England and in New York before coming to Philadelphia. According to Griswold, he and Poe first met in the spring of 1841. Hard working, and with a talent for establishing influential connections, Griswold soon became well known as an editor of anthologies, his Poets and Poetry of America, Prose Writers of America, and Female Poets of America going into numerous editions. Upon Poe’s resignation from Graham’s in April 1842, Griswold succeeded to the editorship. Following Poe’s death in Baltimore, October 7, 1849, Griswold wrote for the October 9 issue of the New York Tribune his famous “Ludwig” obituary of Poe, which was widely copied and did so much to damage Poe’s reputation. More surprisingly, when The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe appeared early in 1850, volume I included a notice “To the Reader,” signed by Maria Clemm (see Griswold’s power of attorney from Mrs. Clemm, Quinn, p. 754): “The late Edgar Allan Poe wrote (just before he left his home in Fordham, for the last time, on the 29th of June, 1849) requests that the Rev. Rufus W. Griswold should act as his literary Executor, and superintend the publication of his works ... .” (The phrasing suggests that the notice was actually composed by Griswold.) The first two volumes contained Poe’s poems and most of his tales; a third volume published later in 1850 included Griswold’s “Memoir” and an accompanying “Preface,” both expanding on the slanders begun in the obituary. When the 1853 edition of the Works appeared, the “Preface” and the “Memoir” were moved to the first volume as pages xxi-xxiii and pages xxiii-lv, respectively. [page 859:]

Griswold’s role as editor and biographer has fostered a host of myths and puzzles for generations of Poe scholars to unravel. In signing over to Griswold the right to publish Poe’s works, for example, Mrs. Clemm mentioned it as Poe’s “express wish and injunction,” but there is no clear indication of written correspondence to that effect. Mrs. Susan Archer Talley Weiss, perhaps misled by the statement in Mrs. Clemm’s “Notice,” says that Poe wrote to Griswold inviting the editor to become his literary executor, and that Poe showed her Griswold’s reply (see H [Works], 1:323). Neither letter has ever appeared in MS or in printed form, however, and almost certainly never existed, though many biographers of Poe have taken such claims at face value. If Mrs. Weiss’ statement were to be accepted as true, the date of the letters would probably be late August or September 1849 (see Quinn, pp. 635-636). Phillips (2:1557) dates Poe’s as “June 29, 1849,” from Fordham; W [1909, 2:450] inclines to a June dating. Until evidence appears that is more reliable than that now at hand, it must be supposed that Poe did not invite Griswold to serve as his literary executor, at least not by letter, and Griswold did not accept by letter.Indeed, Pollin argues that it was Mrs. Clemm, with expectations of her own financial benefit, who conspired with Mr. and Mrs. Lewis to arrange for Griswold to assume the mantle of executor, even after identifying him as the “Ludwig” of the malicious obituary (see “Maria Clemm, Poe’s Aunt: His Boon or His Bane?” in Mississippi Quarterly, 48:218-224). Griswold himself states in his “Memoir” that he did not know of such a wish on Poe’s part until after Poe’s death. Oddly, Griswold makes this claim in part to exonerate himself from charges that as Poe’s executor he should not have written the harshly unfavorable obituary. Even if Griswold’s defense is true, however, it hardly justifies the far more deliberate and malicious view of Poe given in his 1850 “Memoir.”

In particular, Poe’s correspondence with Griswold has been greatly complicated by the fact that Griswold, having taken possession of Poe’s MSS and deliberately seeking to sully Poe’s reputation, altered and fabricated letters as he saw fit. The “Preface” contained what purported to be eleven letters from Poe to Griswold; for which, [page 860:] however, there are only seven extant MSS, with all but one of the four unauthenticated items being, in all probability, forgeries by Griswold. In printing the eleven letters, Griswold remained faithful to the texts of only three (LTR-112, LTR-190, and LTR-211, though he changed the date of the first and omitted the postscript of the last). Three others (LTR-193, LTR-196, and LTR-321) he revised at will. To one other (LTR-317) he added a postscript. One letter given only as “to a friend,” probably F. W. Thomas, appears to be authentic, but the remaining three that are not verified by extant MSS are probably spurious. They are printed in H [Works, volume XVII], from the “Preface” under the following datings: “Without date, 1843?”; June 11, 1843; January 10, 1845; and November 1, 1845. All of these letters are dealt with in Appendix C. Only the following letters are admitted to the canon. Starred items are those for which MSS exist, or printings from MS:

Poe to Griswold        Griswold to Poe
* 1841, before May 8    
    1841, before May 29
    * 1841, May 29
* 1841, before June 8    
    1841, late August
    * 1845, January 14
* 1845, January 16    
* 1845, February 24    
* 1845, April 19    
* 1845, September 28    
* 1845, October 26    
* 1849, May (?)    
* 1849, June 28    

Poe and John Pendleton Kennedy

Among the few examples of genuine good luck in Poe’s life was the fortuitous day he met John Pendleton Kennedy. As one of three [page 861:] prominent judges for the Baltimore Saturday Visiter contest of 1833, Kennedy was greatly impressed with the material Poe had submitted. Seeing Poe in person, he was moved by the young man’s evident financial difficulties. He not only took some measures to provide immediate relief, which was all too temporary, but also used his personal connections in an attempt to open doors for Poe. Indeed, it was Kennedy who recommended Poe to Thomas W. White, owner of the SLM, where Poe would begin his literary career as a magazine editor. Kennedy was accomplished not only in the literary field, but also as a lawyer and in political matters, serving as Secretary of the Navy under President Fillmore. Although in later years he grew too busy or too weary of incessant requests to provide the kind of support Poe demanded of his friends, there is no doubt that Kennedy’s early intervention saved Poe at an unusually desperate point in his life.

The Poe-Kennedy correspondence consists of twelve known letters from Poe and five known and two probable letters from Kennedy. In accordance with Kennedy’s will, his papers, including nine of Poe’s original MSS, were “packed away in a strong walnut box” and held for thirty years, after which they were sent to the Peabody Institute in Baltimore (see Griffin, “The John Pendleton Kennedy Manuscripts,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 48:327).

Poe to Kennedy        Kennedy to Poe
* 1834, ca. November 19    
* 1834, December 19    
    * 1834, December 22
* 1835, March 15    
    1835, March 15
* 1835, March 15    
    1835, May 21-25 (?)
* 1835, September 11    
    * 1835, September 19
* 1836, January 22    
    * 1836, February 9
* 1836, February 11 [page 862:]    
    * 1836, April 26
* 1836, June 7    
* 1840, December 31    
* 1841, June 21    
* 1844, February 1    
* 1845, October 26    
    * 1845, December 1

Poe and James Russell Lowell

As a fellow poet and editor, Lowell seemed to Poe a kindred spirit. Indeed, much of what Poe dreamed of for his own Penn Magazine was embodied in Lowell’s short-lived Pioneer, co-edited by Robert Carter. Lowell wrote the largely favorable biographical notice of Poe for Graham’s Magazine, with only a slight rebuke for the occasionally undue sharpness of Poe’s critical pen, stating that Poe “seems sometimes to mistake his phial of prussic-acid for his inkstand.” Poe essentially returned Lowell’s admiration. Reviewing Lowell’s Poems in 1844, Poe criticizes the “didacticism” of “Legend of Brittany,” but praises it without “the slightest hesitation”as “by far the finest poetical work, of equal length, which the country has produced” (Graham’s Magazine, March 1844, 24:142-143).

Poe’s public attacks on Longfellow as a plagiarist, and Poe’s unpleasant dealings with Lowell’s friend Charles F. Briggs over the BJ, seem to have caused a deep and irrevocable rift between these former allies. Writing to Briggs on August 21, 1845, Lowell expressed his view of Poe as “wholly lacking in that element of manhood which, for want of a better name, we call character,” adding “Poe wishes to kick down the ladder by which he rose” (H [Works], 17:388-389). By 1849, he felt free to mock Poe in A Fable for Critics as “Three-fifths of him genius and two-fifths sheer fudge.” Anonymously reviewing the long, satirical poem, Poe clearly took umbrage at this depiction of himself, dismissing the book with the words “no failure was ever more complete or more pitiable” (SLM, March 1849, 15:189-191). [page 863:]

The Poe-Lowell correspondence consists of sixteen letters from Poe (of which three appear to be lost) and twelve letters, possibly thirteen, from Lowell. (The doubtful item is a January 1844 note, wishing the unnamed correspondent a Happy New Year.) The two writers never saw each other face to face during the period of their known correspondence, but one meeting apparently took place sometime late in the spring of 1845, about the time of Lowell’s article on Poe for Graham’s Magazine. No letters appear to have been exchanged after 1844, with Lowell’s unfavorable change of attitude toward Poe in the latter half of 1845 probably accounting for the abrupt end of the correspondence. In the following list, starred items are those for which MSS exist, or printings from MS:

Poe to Lowell        Lowell to Poe
* 1842, November 16    
    * 1842, November 19
1842, before December 17    
    * 1842, December 17
* 1842, December 25    
* 1842, December 27    
* 1843, February 4    
    * 1843, March 24
* 1843, March 27    
    * 1843, April 17
    * 1843, May 8
    * 1843, May 16
* 1843, June 20    
* 1843, September 13    
    1843, October 13
* 1843, October 19    
1843, December-1844 January    
    * 1844, January (to Poe ?)
1843, before February 9    
    * 1844, March 6
* 1844, March 30    
    1844, ca. May 23 [page 864:]
* 1844, May 28    
    * 1844, June 27
* 1844, July 2    
* 1844, August 18    
    * 1844, September 27
* 1844, October 28    
    * 1844, December 12

Poe and Miss Anne Charlotte Lynch

Miss A. C. Lynch (1815-1891), later Mrs. Vincenzo Botta, was one of many writers whose modern claim to attention, if any, lies primarily on being among those enshrined in Poe’s “Literati of New York City.” More famous even in her own day, perhaps, as a hostess rather than as a poet, invitations to her soirées were eagerly sought. During the social season of 1845, and running into early 1846, Poe rubbed elbows with some of the “shining lights” of the New York literary scene. After the unpleasant incident with Mrs. Ellet, however, Poe was summarily dropped from Miss Lynch’s social list. Writing to Ingram in 1874, Mrs. Whitman described her as “very much afraid of being compromised socially,” noting that she “likes to keep the peace with everybody” (quoted in Miller, Poe’s Helen Remembers, p. 67).

There is only one known letter from Poe to Miss Lynch, although lost, and three from Miss Lynch to Poe. All of the letters are from June-July 1845, but one of Miss Lynch’s letters (CL-547) has been wrongly assigned to 1846. Because it refers to a “note” from Poe, it should be properly dated. In the letter Miss Lynch thanks Poe for “your very kind notice of my poems, no less than for your kind and friendly note.” (In the BJ, June 21, 1845, 1:390, accompanying her poems, appears: “The two noble poems subjoined ... are the composition of one of our most justly distinguished poetesses — Miss Anne Charlotte Lynch ... In modulation and force of rhythm — in dignity and loftiness of sentiment — and in terse energy and expression — they equal if they do not excel any thing of the same [page 865:] character written by an American”; see Writings 3:151.) After telling Poe that she is about to leave New York, she adds: “I shall take the Tales with me ... Many thanks for them.” Poe’s Tales (that is, the title page) was entered for copyright, June 13, 1845. A bookseller advertised it on June 26, a Thursday. Thus the actual publication date (the day on which it was offered for sale) was probably June 25-26, and Poe would have had copies a few days in advance. Miss Lynch’s letter, dated only “Friday morning — 27,” was written June 27, 1845. Thus Poe’s note to her (CL-546) must have been dated before June 27.

Poe and John Neal

Given Poe’s long battle with what he saw as the Northern literary clique, it may seem a little odd that one of his earliest prominent supporters was a native of Portland, ME. The magazine was the Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, and the editor and critic was John Neal (see notes to LTR-21). Poe seized on even the qualified praise offered in the two short notices, and was sufficiently encouraged that he dedicated “Tamerlane” in Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (1829) to Neal, in spite of Neal’s protestations. In a lost letter, Neal not only suggested corrections for some of the poems sent him by Poe but also expressed his concerns about such a dedication. In this regard, see Neal’s article in the Portland Daily Advertiser, April 26, 1850: “... E. A. P. had written me a letter, offering to dedicate a volume of these poems to me — and that I said, no for his sake ...” (See also a restatement of the foregoing in Neal’s letter to Mary Gove, November 30, 1846, in Quinn, p. 153.) If there is a missing portion to Poe’s letter to Neal, October-November 1829 (LTR-21), it may have contained an offer to thus honor Neal in the forthcoming volume of poems; if not, there must have been an earlier letter from Poe that made mention of the plan. (In the article noted above, Neal does specifically refer to it as “another letter.”) Also, it seems probable that Neal would have replied to Poe’s letter, or at least to a presentation copy of a volume of Poe’s poems. As far as can be documented, then, the Poe-Neal correspondence seems to include four known and at least two probable [page 866:] but lost letters from Poe, and at least one known and one lost letter from Neal. In the following list, starred items are those for which MSS exist, or printings from MS:

Poe to Neal        Neal to Poe
1829, before September (?)    
* 1829, October-November    
    1829, before December 29 (?)
* 1829, December 29    
* 1835, September 4    
* 1840, June 4 [3]    
    * 1840, June 8
    1846, late or 1847 (?)

Poe and Mrs. Frances Sargent Osgood

Poe’s friendship with Mrs. Frances S. Osgood has been the subject of considerable attention, ranging from scholarly interest in Poe’s connections with women writers to what seems little more than prurient gossip. She was married to Samuel Stillman Osgood (1808-1885), who painted a fine portrait of Poe (see Deas, Portraits and Daguerreotypes of EAP, pp. 24-27). About 1844, Mrs. Osgood and her husband experienced marital troubles, and were intermittently separated until an apparent reconciliation in 1847 (TOM [Poems], 1:556-557). Poe was introduced to her through William M. Gillespie (see LTR-193b) about March 1845 (see The Poe Log, 511-512). Their brief public flirtation, carried out through poems published in the BJ and other periodicals, caused a disturbing stir among the bluestocking set in New York, and was probably the origin of “the tattling of many tongues” mentioned by Virginia Poe in her 1846 valentine to Edgar (TOM [Poems], 1:524-525).

A poet with talent somewhat above that of most of her peers, Mrs. Osgood contributed frequently to Graham’s and other leading periodicals of the day. Poe praised her in his February 1845 lecture on [page 867:] the “Poets and Poetry of America” and in his “Literati” (Godey’s, September 1846, 33:126-129). In one of the last reviews printed during his lifetime, Poe admitted that Mrs. Osgood lacked the sustained imagination and “ideality” of Mrs. Maria Brooks. In “grace,” however, which he describes as “that charm so magical, because at once so shadowy and so potent,” he grants that “she has, unquestionably, no rival among her countrywomen” (SLM, August 1849, 15:515; Writings 5:384). Mrs. Osgood was to return the favor in her affectionate “Reminiscences of EAP,” written just a few weeks after Poe’s death and published in Saroni’s Musical Times for December 8, 1849. (For the full text of the article, plus Griswold’s role in usurping it as if written for his “Memoir” of Poe, see Pollin, “F. S. Osgood and Saroni’s Musical Times,” PS, 23:27-36.) In her reminiscences, she describes being taken by N. P. Willis to the Astor House in 1845 for her first meeting with Poe, noting: “From that moment until his death we were friends; although we met only during the first year of our acquaintance.” Most interesting, perhaps, at least for our purposes, is her comment that “it was in his conversations and his letters, far more than in his published poetry and prose writings, that the genius of Poe was most gloriously revealed. His letters were divinely beautiful, and for hours I have listened to him, entranced by strains of such pure and almost celestial eloquence as I have never read or heard elsewhere.” Although at least two books have suggested that Poe fathered a child with Mrs. Osgood, the salacious charge has no merit. (For comments on their mostly public flirtation, see the notes to LTR-214.)

Much like Poe’s correspondence with Mrs. Ellet, we know that more letters were exchanged than the few for which we have a reasonably certain record. Indeed, the texts of only two letters are known (LTR-210a and LTR-214), both from Poe to Mrs. Osgood, and both from about October 1845, but only one in MS. We know of three letters from Mrs. Osgood, but mostly through these two letters by Poe. Regrettably, her correspondence was apparently destroyed in the same series of events as those of Mrs. Ellet. Others may have been burned by Mrs. Clemm after Poe’s death (see “Some Lost Letters,” at the end of the Check List of Poe’s Correspondence). [page 868:]

Poe and E. H. N. Patterson

Poe seemed genuinely excited by the prospect of Patterson’s unexpected, and apparently unsolicited, introductory letter. After long years of struggle and disappointment in securing funding for his dream magazine, here was a promising offer from a young and enthusiastic supporter, one who already had some experience in the business of publishing and, more importantly, had recently come into an inheritance. Patterson seemed to believe in the literary principles laid out in Poe’s prospectus but disagreed on technical details, such as the quality of paper and ink, and the cost of the publication. Undaunted, Poe set himself about the task of convincing his would-be sponsor. Poe was successful in this effort, for Patterson relents in his final letter, accepting Poe’s key demand that the Stylus be of the $5 per year class rather than the $3 per year class of magazines: “Now, if you are sure that, as you before thought, 1,000 subscribers can be obtained who will pay upon receipt of the first number, then you may consider me pledged to be with you in the undertaking” (CL-819). We do not know the precise path this letter followed, whether it was sent to New York or to Richmond, and possibly forwarded or returned, even as Poe’s body was put to rest in the family plot in Baltimore — but Poe almost surely never saw these words he had ardently sought for so long. The text was first printed by William F. Gill in “Some New Facts About Edgar A. Poe” (Laurel Leaves, pp. 374-377), and more prominently in his Life of EAP (1876, p. 232-233). With no sign of the MS itself, all subsequent printings have relied on Gill, directly or indirectly. Unfortunately, as with so many early investigators of Poe, Gill was extremely competitive with his rivals and secretive about his sources. How he obtained the original, or a transcript, has not been recorded, but Gill busied himself for a time soliciting information among Poe’s family, friends, and associates, and sometimes managed to beat even the industrious John H. Ingram to a productive source (see Kopley and Singer, “Thomas Cotrell Clarke’s Poe Collection: New Documents,” PS, 25:1-5). Hearing of Poe’s death, Patterson sent a letter to J. R. Thompson of the SLM, inquiring about Poe’s final days. Thompson replied somewhat coldly, writing: “Poe had spoken to me of your [page 869:] design with reference to the literary enterprise of which you speak. You were fortunate, I think, in not having embarked in it, for a more unreliable person than he could hardly be found” (Thompson to Patterson, November 9, 1849; printed in H [Works], 17:405). The sincerity of Patterson’s offer is further shown in the short obituary he published in the Oquawka Spectator (October 24, 1849), mentioning these magazine plans and calling Poe “a noble and eminent man.” Once more, bad timing had “scotched” Poe’s magazine ambitions — but this time the dream had truly ended.

The Poe-Patterson correspondence consists of nine letters, of which six were known chiefly from facsimiles or printed transcripts until the recent discovery of Poe’s original MSS, deposited over a hundred years ago by Charles L. Hutchinson in the collection of the Chicago Historical Society. The first of the lost letters is cited in Poe’s reply of ca. April 30, 1849, and the other two mentioned by Poe in his letter of July 19, 1849. Starred items are those for which MSS exist, or printings from MS:

Poe to Patterson        Patterson to Poe
    1848, December 18
* 1849, ca. April 30    
    * 1849, May 7
* 1849, May 18    
    1849, before June 7
    1849, June 7
* 1849, July 19    
* 1849, August 7    
    * 1849, August 21

Poe and Mrs. Annie L. Richmond

Poe’s letters to and about Annie Richmond reveal a sincere, even passionate affection. Mrs. Richmond exerted a good influence on Poe, inspiring his genius and fortifying him against many weaknesses. His [page 870:] interest grew into an emotional dependence, prompting the admission to Mrs. Clemm: “I must be somewhere where I can see Annie” (LTR-330). As with the correspondence between Poe and Mrs. Clemm, we have at least fragments of letters by Poe, but nothing from Mrs. Richmond to Poe, with the exception of one long sentence quoted to Mrs. Whitman (LTR-302). The MSS of two of Poe’s letters exist (October 1848 and June 16, 1849), as well as fragments of three others (February 8, March 1, and June 4, 1849). The remaining letters are known only through transcripts, given by Mrs. Richmond to John H. Ingram. In several cases, even these transcripts are lost, requiring reconstruction of the letters as composites derived from Ingram’s versions in Appleton’s Journal (1878) and in his Life of Poe (1880). The Appleton’s text usually provides the more complete version, presumably because after the appearance of that article, Mrs. Richmond’s letters to Ingram revealed her surprise and displeasure at his publishing for the eyes of the world what she had transcribed only for the eyes of the biographer (see Miller, BPB, pp. 146-194). Mrs. Richmond’s feelings may have influenced Ingram’s further editing of Poe’s letters to her in preparing later texts. Ingram also makes some changes through carelessness, or for editorial reasons. For example, he omits quotation marks with her name in the Appleton’s text, but uses them in the Life text. The present printings follow Mrs. Richmond’s own preferences, based upon her known transcripts. Both “Eddy” and “Eddie” appear in the Ingram versions; Mrs. Richmond and Poe seem only to have used “Eddy.” In the following list, starred items are those for which MSS exist, or printings from MS:

Poe to Mrs. Richmond        Mrs. Richmond to Poe
* 1848, October    
1848, ca. November 5    
* 1848, November 16    
    1848, before November 28 (?)
1848, ca. November 28 (?)    
    1848, before December 28
* 1848, December 28    
* 1849, January 11 [page 871:]    
    1849, before January 21
* 1849, ca. January 21    
* 1849, February 8    
    1849, February 18 (?)
* 1849, February 19 [18]    
* 1849, March 1 (?)    
    1849, before March 23 (?)
* 1849, March 23    
    1849, before May 5 (?)
* 1849, after May 5 (?)    
1849, ca. May 30-June 11    
    1849, before June 11
* 1849, June 4    
* 1849, June 16    

Poe and Joseph Evans Snodgrass

Dr. J. E. Snodgrass was one of several editors Poe cultivated as correspondents. Time and again, we find Poe soliciting Snodgrass to print one of Poe’s articles, to report on his literary reputation in Baltimore, and to promote his effort for launching the Penn. Their correspondence appears to have ended abruptly in 1842, although Snodgrass continued to edit the Baltimore Saturday Visiter until 1847 (see The Poe Log, p. xlii) and its pages remained open to Poe. Among other examples, Poe’s prize for “The Gold-Bug” is applauded in 1843; and in the April 5, 1845 issue appears a notice of the SLM, with the comment: “We observe with approbation, that the powerful pen of Edgar A. Poe has been engaged for the critical department.” Poe’s tale “Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” was reprinted in the December 20, 1845 issue, and the “Literati” entry on Mrs. Lydia M. Child was reprinted from the September issue of Godey’s. Of particular interest is a notice from the May 9, 1846 Visiter which sounds surprisingly similar to Poe’s requested note in LTR-229 to E. A. Duyckinck, but with slightly different details, suggesting a possible letter from Poe directly to Snodgrass (CL-629b). If there were other letters in these intervening years, they are probably lost. It is also worth pointing [page 872:] out that the one friend requested to provide help during Poe’s last few days was none other than Snodgrass. In later years, Snodgrass made use of Poe’s death for temperance lectures, and was willing to alter details for what he considered a greater cause.

Following the death of Dr. Snodgrass in 1880, Mrs. Snodgrass released Poe’s letters to her husband. She lent to William H. Carpenter, editor of the Baltimore Sun, the following nine holographs: the letters for September 11, October 7, December 12, and December 19, 1839; January 20, and June 17, 1840; January 17, July 12, and September 19, 1841. Carpenter permitted William Hand Browne, a professor of English at Johns Hopkins University, to make transcripts for John H. Ingram, who received them too late for inclusion in his edition of the Life of Poe (1880), but who kept them with his MS revision of the Life, now in the Ingram collection, University of

Virginia. At Carpenter’s request, Browne made from his transcripts press-copies, which he lent to Edward Spencer, who six months later edited and published them in the New York Herald for March 27, 1881. Woodberry’s source for his printings of the letters was these same press-copies, and Harrison used Spencer’s printed article. Hervey Allen and Mary E. Phillips depended upon both Woodberry and Harrison. In Americana for July 1940 (34:409-446), John W. Ostrom, in an article entitled “A Poe Correspondence Re-edited,” presented in full for the first time, with detailed annotations, the most authentic text possible of the twelve known letters from Poe to Snodgrass, including the nine items in the Browne transcripts, an April 1, 1841 letter later found by Mrs. Snodgrass and published in the Baltimore American (April 4, 1881), a letter found in the W. K. Bixby collection and dated November 11, 1839, and a twelfth letter, dated June 4, 1842, sold with the Frank Maier library, New York, November 22, 1909. A collation of Spencer, Harrison, and Woodberry with Browne’s transcripts shows that they were not followed in detail, and a thorough comparison of Browne’s copies with available original MSS or facsimiles reveals that even Browne made a few minor errors, chiefly in punctuation. In spite of these imperfections, however, Browne’s transcripts must serve as the basic text for those letters for which the MS are currently [page 873:] unavailable. Starred items in the following list are those for which MSS exist, or printings from MS or transcripts made from MS:

Poe to Snodgrass        Snodgrass to Poe
    1839, before September 11
* 1839, September 11    
    1839, before October 7
* 1839, October 7    
    1839, November 1-2
    1839, before November 11
* 1839, November 11    
* 1839, December 12    
    1839, December 16
* 1839, December 19    
    1840, before January 20
* 1840, January 20    
    1840, June 12
* 1840, June 17    
    1841, before January 17
* 1841, January 17    
    1841, March 8
* 1841, April 1    
    1841, July 10
* 1841, July 12    
    1841, September 6
* 1841, September 19    
* 1842, June 4    
1846, late April ?    

Poe and Frederick W. Thomas

Poe’s correspondence with F. W. Thomas is uniquely personal, less emotional than Poe’s letters to Annie Richmond, but no less revealing. To Thomas, Poe shows the pride of an author who has achieved some recognition, but also the plight of one with pockets left empty in spite [page 874:] of his efforts and successes. (In particular, see LTR-197, where Poe relates that he has been “working 14 or 15 hours a day — hard at it all the time,” continuing, “And yet, Thomas, I have made no money. I am as poor now as I ever was in my life — except in hope, which is by no means bankable.”) Poe would encourage Thomas to continue his own literary efforts, and he would take full advantage of their friendship to have Thomas seek out a government position for himself (LTR-134) and others (LTR-137a). In later years, when Thomas was an editor for the Western Quarterly Review, Poe felt no reluctance at dragging his friend into his literary campaigns to promote Mrs. Lewis, and to “come down on the Frogpondians.” Unlike other literary friends, such as L. A. Wilmer or H. B. Hirst, Poe seems never to have quarrelled with Thomas, even on those occasions when Thomas failed to do as Poe wished.

The two men seem to have met in the summer of 1840, when Thomas was attending a Whig convention in Philadelphia (see also LTR-51b). For Thomas’ brief autobiographical sketch, see H [Works], 17:95-100, where the date of the letter, incorrectly given as August 3, should read September 3, 1841 (see note to LTR-124). He left an MS of “Recollections of EAP,” an apparently sizeable document from which J. H. Whitty quoted very liberally in his edition of Poe’s poems (1911), although Whitty’s source has since disappeared and a few scholars have questioned Whitty’s veracity. For a well-balanced appraisal of Thomas’ contributions to the development of the American novel of various genres — detective, contrasting-class, Western frontier, and others, plus material on his poems and links to Poe, see B. F. Fisher’s “F. W. Thomas,” Nineteenth-Century American Fiction Writers, DLB, 202:159-163. See also D. Thomas, Poe in Philadelphia, pp. 913-917 (and the topical items in the index).

The following letters comprise the known correspondence between Poe and Thomas, although it is certainly possible that other letters were exchanged. The letter of ca. November 26, 1835 (LTR-51b) is to an unknown correspondent, but this correspondent may quite possibly be Thomas. Similarly, Thomas is probably the unnamed [page 875:] “friend” of the letter for ca. March 3-17, 1849 (LTR-307b). The starred items are those for which MSS or printings from MS exist:

Poe to Thomas        Thomas to Poe
* 1835, ca. Nov. 26 (?) (Thomas ?)    
1836, ca. March (possible letter)    
    1840, November 6
* 1840, November 23    
    * 1840, December 7
    * 1841, March 7
1841, April 1    
    * 1841, May 11
    * 1841, May 20
1841, May 26    
    * 1841, May 29 [28]
1841, ca. May 29-June 7    
1841, June 11-12    
    * 1841, June 14
* 1841, June 26    
    * 1841, July 1
* 1841, July 4    
    * 1841, July 6
    * 1841, July 7
1841, July 17-18 (?)    
    * 1841, July 19
    1841, July-August
    * 1841, August 30
* 1841, September 1    
    * 1841, September 3
1841, September 20    
    * 1841, September 22
* 1841, September 24    
    1841, September 27
    * 1841, October 14
* 1841, October 27    
    * 1841, November 6 [page 876:]
1841, November 8-9    
    * 1841, November 10
    * 1841, November 23
* 1841, November 26    
    * 1842, January 13
* 1842, February 3    
    * 1842, February 26
1842, March 13    
    * 1842, May 21
* 1842, May 25    
* 1842, June 24    
1842, ca. June 27    
* 1842, August 27    
    1842, September 2
* 1842, September 12    
    1842, before September 21
* 1842, September 21    
    1842, November 14
* 1842, November 19    
1843, before January 29 (?)    
1843, ca. January 30-31    
    * 1843, February 1
1843, ca. February 15-18    
* 1843, February 25    
* 1843, March 16 (draft and letter)    
    * 1843, March 27
    * 1844, September 2
* 1844, September 8    
    * 1844, October 10
    * 1844, December 10
* 1845, January 4    
    1845, January 5-May 3 (two)
* 1845, May 4    
    * 1845, May 12
* 1845, May 14    
    * 1845, July 10 [page 877:]
    * 1845, September 29
1845, after September 29    
    * 1846, August 14
* 1846, August 24    
    * 1846, August 24
    1846, late - 1847 (probable letter)
    1848, November 27
* 1849, February 14    
* 1849, ca. March 3-17 (Thomas ?)    

On the verso of Thomas’ letter of July 19, 1841 (CL-314), Poe made some hasty and heavily abbreviated notations on cryptography, which, it would seem, he took from an article in Rees’ Cyclopedia:

“I never terminate a word — a & u seldom. Order of frequency e a o i d h n r s t v y c f g l m w b k p q x z observe a word of 4 letters the first & last the same. — that — then look for this. — then the. H beging a word is foll by vowel, so also l m n v — K by a e in. Shiottus has computed that 1000,000,000 of men in as many years cd not write down the different [illegible] of [illegible] letters, each completing 40 pp a day, every p counting 40 [illegible]. Mr. Falconer has shown this supposition to be visibly too low. Vowels are more frequently doubled at the beginning of words than consonants. The vowels exceed conso. in short words — where double cons: are preceded by a single letter that letter is a vowel. The single cons: which precedes or follows double cons: is l m n or r. When 2 dif: characters occur, the latter of wh: is often joined with other letters, but the former never found alone, nor joined with any than the latter, those characters stand for qu — always foll. by vowel. Y seldom in middle of word. so, ty ly. ing & tion common terminations. Em in con com frequent prepos. o often followed with u. [illegible] more frequent in beg & end than middle. In polysyllabic words double letters in the middle [illegible] is cons:”

(For further discussion of Poe’s interest in cryptographs, and for the first printing of these notations as given by Poe, see W. K. Wimsatt, Jr., “What Poe Knew About Cryptography,” PMLA, 58:771-772.) [page 878:]

Poe and Sarah Helen Whitman

It is to Mrs. Whitman that Poe wrote his longest surviving letters, and they are, in character, essentially unlike any of his other correspondence. To impress the educated Rhode Island widow and poet, Poe created an elaborate facade of literary elegance and ardent passion. They are, indeed, more a campaign than a correspondence. The introductory comment to the poem “To Helen [Whitman]” in TOM [Poems, 1:444] seems apt for the series of Poe-to-Helen letters: “The whole romance of ‘Poe’s Helen’ and ‘The Raven’ was partly play-acting from start to finish; there was some genuine respect on both sides, some intellectual affinity, a good deal of consciously rhetorical correspondence, and a poem of distinction.” The apparently odd matching may be partially explained by assuming that both parties fell in love with the idea of the other, particularly as embodied in their poetry. (However much Poe had loved Virginia, she was not an intellectual or literary soul-mate.) Sadly, one might also acknowledge the possibility that Mrs. Whitman’s financial security was a compelling part of her charm. We have a considerable advantage of understanding Poe through her reminiscences, mostly preserved in her voluminous dealings with John H. Ingram. Her enthusiasm to defend the memory of Poe, however, had been somewhat dimmed by the passing years and the disappointment of many eager would-be champions who actually failed to produce much of anything in print. Even in writing to Ingram, she was caught between Ingram and his competing biographer William Fearing Gill. Eventually, Gill earned Mrs. Whitman’s wrath “for having published documents which I had expressly forbidden him to publish” (Mrs. Whitman to J. H. Ingram, April 7, 1876), and although she was generally friendly with Ingram, she seems to have been on her guard.

In an undated letter, but probably in reply to Eugene L. Didier’s letter of April 1876, she offered an explanation:

“So much has been written, and so much still continues to be written, about Poe by persons who are either his avowed or secret [page 879:] enemies, that I joyfully welcome every friendly or impartial word spoken in his behalf. His enemies are uttering their venomous fabrications in every newspaper, and so few voices can obtain a hearing in his defence. My own personal knowledge of Mr. Poe was very brief, although it comprehended memorable incidents, and was doubtless, as he kindly characterized it in one of his letters of the period, ‘the most earnest epoch of his life;’ and such I devoutly and emphatically believe it to have been. You ask me to furnish you with extracts from his letters, literary or otherwise. There are imperative reasons why these letters cannot and ought not to be published at present — not that there was a word or a thought in them discreditable to Poe, though some of them were imprudent, doubtless, and liable to be construed wrongly by his enemies. They are for the most part strictly personal. The only extract from them of which I have authorized the publication is a fac-simile of a paragraph inserted between the 68th and 69th pages of Mr. Ingram’s memoir in Black’s (Edinburgh) edition of the complete works of Poe. The paragraph in the original letter (dated November 24, 1848) consists of only eight lines: ‘The 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.’ This and a protest against the charge, of indifference to moral obligations so often urged against him, which permitted Mr. Gill to extract for publication from a long letter filled with eloquent and proud remonstrance against the injustice of such a charge, are the only passages of which I have authorized the publication. Other letters have been published without my consent. I have endeavored to reconcile myself to the unauthorized use of private letters and papers, since the effect of their publication has been on the whole regarded as favorable to Poe” (quoted by Didier in “Our Monthly Gossip: Poe and Mrs. Whitman,” Lippincott’s Magazine, 22:508-510). [page 880:]

Understandably, the relationship between Poe and Mrs. Whitman has attracted much attention, but the printing of the original documents was typically handled in a very confusing fashion, partly because several of them were so long. In some cases, even good scholars were misled. TOM [Iowa], for example, proposed a composite of known materials for LTR-283. Accepting Ostrom’s estimated date of November 3, 1848, he wished to join a fragment from Whitman’s Edgar Poe and his Critics (1860 ed., pp. 74-75; 1949 reprint, ed. by Oral Coad; also reprint, 1981). In her little book, Mrs. Whitman misleadingly conflates two passages as being part of a letter “written within a year of his death.” However, the first is merely a paraphrase of the third, fourth, and fifth sentences in Poe’s November 1848 letter to her, which has an authentic and apparently complete manuscript. She adds to this, after four suspension points, a passage not found elsewhere and strikingly Poeian in style and content: “I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have perilled life and reputation and reason. It has been in the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories — memories of wrong and injustice and imputed dishonor — from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.” Unfortunately, she characterizes “these statements” as “sincerely uttered,” and it is difficult to accept “uttered” as being the same as “written.” It is possible that Mrs. Whitman recorded these sentences precisely as she heard them directly from Poe. Since this second passage is so reminiscent of many self-exculpations in various letters by Poe, however, one may also assume that it is a construct by the imaginative Mrs. Whitman, whose memory was filled with the sentiments and ideas of Poe’s epistles. In either case, TOM seems to have erred in thus composing a fragment into a “proper” letter.

For additional information on Poe and Mrs. Whitman, see J. A. Harrison and C. F. Dailey, “Poe and Mrs. Whitman: New Light on a Romantic Episode,” Century Magazine (55:439-452); J. A. Harrison, ed., The Last Letters of Edgar Allan Poe to Sarah Helen Whitman (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1909); C. Ticknor, Poe’s Helen [page 881:] (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916); and her extensive correspondence with J. H. Ingram, printed by J. C. Miller, ed., Poe’s Helen Remembers (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1979). Of additional interest is John Grier Varner’s unpublished dissertation, Sarah Helen Whitman: Seeress of Providence (University of Virginia, 1941), which reminds us that Mrs. Whitman moved beyond Transcendentalism to become an early and ardent Spiritualist. (Many of the women acquainted with Poe during his final years became part of the Spiritualist movement, which began in 1848 with the mysterious tappings reported by Kate and Margaretta Fox at their family home in Hydesville, NY.)

We have the MSS of nearly all of Poe’s letters to Mrs. Whitman, but no original letters by Mrs. Whitman to Poe are known to exist. (A few of her sentences are quoted in Poe’s letters in reply.) The following list presents every known letter in the Poe-Whitman correspondence. The starred items are extant in print from MS or reliable copies. These include originals of all of the letters by Poe, except the last, for which there is only an eight line fragment (but also a full transcript by Mrs. Richmond):

Poe to Mrs. Whitman        Mrs. Whitman to Poe
    1848, August
* 1848, September 5    
    1848, September 27-29
* 1848, October 1    
    1848, ca. October 10
* 1848, October 18    
    1848, ca. November 1-2
* 1848, ca. November 3    
* 1848, November 7    
    1848, November 7 (?)
1848, November 8    
* 1848, November 14    
    1848, November 17
    1848, ca. November 18-20 [page 882:]
* 1848, November 22    
* 1848, November 24    
* 1848, November 26    
    1848, ca. December 4
    1848, December 14-15 (?)
* 1848, December 16    
* 1849, ca. January 21    

Poe and Nathaniel P. Willis

If proof were required that the virtues of popularity are ephemeral, one need look no further than the case of Nathaniel Parker Willis. During his lifetime, he was celebrated as a poet and America’s golden boy of light journalism, but he is now chiefly remembered for his connections to Poe. By the time of his graduation from Yale in 1827, Willis had already contributed a series of religious poems to his father’s newspaper, the Recorder, under the pen-name “Roy.” Having edited two literary annuals, Willis launched his career as an editor by founding the American Monthly Magazine in 1829, which merged after two years with the New-York Mirror. At the Mirror, Willis first became associated with “General” George Pope Morris. During the period of 1832-1836, Willis served as an early form of foreign correspondent for the Mirror, travelling through England, Turkey, and Asia. The series of articles, collected as Pencillings by the Way (London: John Macrone, 1835), brought him wide attention and popular acclaim, and sales were sufficient to justify numerous reprints (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1836; New York: Morris and Willis, 1844; New York: C Scribners, 1852; London: H. G. Bohn, 1864; and others). With the exception of a brief stint editing the Corsair in 1839, Willis remained with the Mirror (in its various forms) until 1845, when he and Morris created the Home Journal, which Willis co-edited until his death in 1867. In the 1841 edition of The Poets and Poetry of America, Griswold records the public recognition of Willis: “The prose and poetry of Mr. Willis are alike distinguished for exquisite finish and melody. His language is pure, varied and rich; [page 883:] his imagination brilliant, and his wit of the finest quality” (p. 301). Even in the 1850 edition, Griswold gives Willis nine pages, while Poe gets only eight. In Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography (1889), the notice of Willis comments that “to this day ‘Pencillings by the Way’ can be read with pleasure, and his thoughtful ‘Letters from under a Bridge,’ written in the seclusion of Glenmary, continue to attract the attention of readers” (6:540).

Poe’s own views on Willis were complicated and sometimes conflicting. Reviewing Willis’ play “Tortesa, the Usurer” in what Poe himself describes as “terms of nearly unmitigated censure,” he takes pains to mention that the play has “great merits,” noting “were we to speak of fine passages, we should speak of the entire play.” (This review appeared first in the Literary Examiner and Western Monthly Review, July 1839, and later in “The American Drama” in the American Review, August 1845.) In “The Literati of New York City,” Poe characterizes Willis as a “magazinist” and although praising him as “a writer of sketches,” dismisses his productions as “too recherchés to be put hurriedly before the public eye,” further complaining that Willis’ ”exuberant fancy leads him over hedge and ditch.” In spite of Poe’s contention that “Mr. W. has by no means the readiness which the editing a newspaper demands,” Willis served as an editor far longer, and with far greater financial reward, than Poe ever managed. Indeed, his career stands almost in opposition to Poe’s own. With less genius but greater opportunities, Willis rarely tasted the bitter struggles that seemed too often Poe’s daily fare.

Poe, of course, was not alone in his mixture of admiration and criticism of Willis. In “Notes About Men of Note,” Thomas Dunn English describes Willis himself as “possessed of two devils,” and his writing as “strange capers with a pen, leaping about like an incarnate Bedlam, and vexing the ghost of Lindley Murray, with strange, and ‘til now unheard-of combinations of words” (Aristidean, April 1845, 1:153). In the satirical poem A Fable For Critics (1848), James Russell Lowell makes the cutting remark that “Willis’s shallowness makes half of his beauty.” [page 884:]

Perhaps surprisingly, Willis appears not to have taken umbrage at such criticism, instead serving as an important and useful friend to Poe, often relenting to his demands for literary favors (see LTR-246, LTR-258, LTR-262, and LTR-310) and marshalling financial support for Mrs. Clemm after Poe’s death. (See Willis’ obituary for Poe, printed in the Home Journal, October 20, 1849). Unfortunately, the prominent nature of this relationship also attracted the attention of people like Joseph Cosey, who took advantage of the name to perpetuate a series of forgeries (see SPR-15, SPR-17, and SPR-18). The following list includes Poe’s known correspondence with Willis, although additional letters are likely. Starred items are those for which MSS exist, or printings from MS:

Poe to Willis        Willis to Poe
1829, November (?)    
1841, June    
1841, November 10    
    * 1841, November 13
1841, before November 30 (?)    
    * 1841, November 30
* 1844, May 21    
1846, before May 26    
    * 1846, May 26 or later
    * 1846, December 23
* 1846, December 30    
1847, before November 12    
    * 1847, November 12
* 1847, December 8    
* 1848, January 22    
* 1849, April 20    




One page is accounted for in the pagination but not included in the text above because it is a blank back page. This is page 846.


[S:0 - CLT08, 2008] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (Ostrom, Pollin and Savoye) (Appendix A)