Text: J. W. Ostrom, B. R. Pollin, and J. A. Savoye, “Check List - Some Lost Letters,” The Collected Letters of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: 1846-1849 (2008), pp. 1153-1160 (This material is protected by copyright)


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Some Lost Letters

Mrs. Clemm stated on at least two occasions that she burned a large number of Poe’s letters. These letters were apparently personal correspondence written to Poe. “When I heard of my Eddie’s death, I was at Fordham, and I then acted as I well knew he would have wished me to do, I destroyed all the letters he had ever received from his female friends, and many others of a private nature” (Mrs. M. Clemm to T. H. Chivers, 8 Dec. 1852, RF-23). “After Eddie’s death, I burned every letter except those relating to literature. I destroyed hundreds that were written by literary ladies. I know so well that Eddie wished me to do so... . I was offered by that base, base man, Griswold, $500 for a certain literary lady’s correspondence with Eddie. This was the reason I destroyed them, for fear I might by poverty be induced to do anything so dishonorable” (Mrs. M. Clemm to N. Poe, 26 Aug. 1860, RF-24). The “certain literary lady” was presumably Mrs. Frances S. Osgood.

Mrs. Elizabeth F. Ellet wrote Poe an unknown number of letters, probably from 1845 and early 1846, which she apparently thought compromising. Having noticed, while visiting Poe, a letter from Mrs. Osgood, she feared that her own letters might be seen by others and demanded their return. Poe told Mrs. Whitman (24 Nov. 1848, CL-745): “... I went immediately to my secretary ... made a package of her letters, addressed them to her, and with my own hands left them at her door.” Mrs. Ellet subsequently denied that Poe had returned her letters, and Poe found himself in a serious situation, threatened with physical abuse from Mrs. Ellet’s brother. (See The Poe Log, pp. 622-624 and J. B. Reece, Am. Lit., May 1970, 42:157-164.) Mrs. Ellet surely destroyed the letters. (Only two brief letters from Mrs. Ellet to Poe now survive: CL-595 and CL-597, both of which Poe appears to have kept.) As part of the same proceedings, Poe returned a package of letters from Mrs. Osgood, which presumably were also destroyed.

Mrs. Locke also wrote Poe an unknown number of letters, with the first recorded letter being Feb. 21, 1847 (CL-675) and ending with before May 5, 1849 (CL-786a). In a letter to Annie Richmond, March 23, 1849 (LTR-309), Poe states that he has “returned Mrs. [Locke] her letters,” noting that they were “filled with abuse” of Mr. and Mrs. Richmond. It is highly likely that Mrs. Locke also destroyed any letters which might have proven embarrassing to her. Poe’s claim that he returned Mrs. Locke’s letters, however, is complicated by a statement, in the same letter: “my mother has some [letters from Mrs. Locke] in her possession that will prove the truth of what I say [about her abuse].” Writing to Ingram on March 13, 1877, Mrs. Richmond admitted, “he [Poe] sent me a large package of her [Mrs. Locke’s] letters, but since her death I have destroyed them” (RF-31).

Mrs. A. L. Richmond wrote to Ingram, Jan. 14, 1877, informing him that she has sent a note to Rev. Warren H. Cudworth for “letters, etc., but he has nothing left he says” (RF-30). One can only presume that these were letters Poe had written to Rev. Cudworth rather than to Mrs. Richmond.

 


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Notes:

Readers should note that this version of the Check List - Some Lost Letters has been considerably revised in the general online version. The present version is included only because it is an integral element of the 2008 edition of The Letters.


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