Text: John Ward Ostrom, “Letters: Chapter X,” The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: 1846-1849 (1966), pp. 377-422 (This material is protected by copyright)


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September 1848 - January 1849

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276 ⇒ TO SARAH HELEN WHITMAN [September 5, 1848] [CL 720]

New-York — Sep. 5. 48.

Dear Madam —

Being engaged in making a collection of autographs of the most distinguished American authors, I am, of course, anxious to procure your own, and if you would so far honor me as to reply, however briefly, to this note, I would take it as a very especial favor.

Resy Yr mo. ob. st

Edward S. T. Grey.

Mrs Sarah Helen Whitman

“Edward S. T. Grey” was a pseudonym of Poe's (used again in Letter 332 to Mrs. Clemm). On the envelope, Mrs. Whitman wrote: “Sent by E. A. P. under an assumed name in order to ascertain if [I was] in Providence.” [CL 720]

277 ⇒ TO CHARLES F. HOFFMAN [September 20, 1848] [CL 721]

Dear Sir: —

In your paper of July 29, I find some comments on “Eureka,” a late book of my own; and I know you too well to suppose, for a moment, that you will refuse me the privilege of a few words in reply. I feel, even, that I might safely claim, from Mr. Hoffman, the right, which every author has, of replying to his critic tone for tone — that is to say, of answering your correspondent, flippancy by flippancy and sneer by sneer — but, in the first place, I do not wish to disgrace the “World;” and, in the second, I feel that I never should be done sneering, in the present instance, were I once to begin. Lamartine blames Voltaire for the use which he made of (ruse) misrepresentation, in his attacks on the priesthood; but our young students of Theology do not seem to be aware that in defence, or what they fancy to be defence, of Christianity, there is anything wrong in such gentlemanly peccadillos as the deliberate perversion of an author's text — to say nothing of the minor indecora of reviewing a [page 380:] book without reading it and without having the faintest suspicion of what it is about.

You will understand that it is merely the misrepresentations of the critique in question to which I claim the privilege of reply: — the mere opinions of the writer can be of no consequence to me — and I should imagine of very little to himself — that is to say if he knows himself, personally, as well as I have the honor of knowing him. The first misrepresentation is contained in this sentence: — “This letter is a keen burlesque on the Aristotelian or Baconian methods of ascertaining Truth, both of which the writer ridicules and despises, and pours forth his rhapsodical ecstasies in a glorification of the third mode — the noble art of guessing.” What I really say is this: — That there is no absolute certainty either in the Aristotelian or Baconian process — that, for this reason, neither Philosophy is so profound as it fancies itself — and that neither has a right to sneer at that seemingly imaginative process called Intuition (by which the great Kepler attained his laws;) since “Intuition,” after all, “is but the conviction arising from those inductions or deductions of which the processes are so shadowy as to escape our consciousness, elude our reason or defy our capacity of expression.” The second misrepresentation runs thus: — “The developments of electricity and the formation of stars and suns, luminous and non-luminous, moons and planets, with their rings, &c., is deduced, very much according to the nebular theory of Laplace, from the principle propounded above.” Now the impression intended to be made here upon the reader's mind, by the “Student of Theology,” is, evidently, that my theory may all be very well in its way, but that it is nothing but Laplace over again, with some modifications that he (the Student of Theology) cannot regard as at all important. I have only to say that no gentleman can accuse me of the disingenuousness here implied; inasmuch as, having proceeded with my theory up to that point at which Laplace's theory meets it, I then give Laplace's theory in full, with the expression of my firm conviction of its absolute truth at all points. The ground covered by the great French astronomer compares with that covered by my theory, as a bubble compares with the ocean on which it floats; nor has he the slightest allusion to the “principle propounded above,” the principle of Unity being the source of all things — the principle of Gravity being merely the Reaction of the Divine Act which irradiated all things from Unity. In fact, no point of my theory has been even so much as alluded to by Laplace. [page 381:] I have not considered it necessary, here, to speak of the astronomical knowledge displayed in the “stars and suns” of the Student of Theology, nor to hint that it would be better grammar to say that “development and formation” are, than that development and formation is. The third misrepresentation lies in a foot-note, where the critic says: — “Further than this, Mr. Poe's claim that he can account for the existence of all organized beings — man included — merely from those principles on which the origin and present appearance of suns and worlds are explained, must be set down as mere bald assertion, without a particle of evidence. In other words we should term it arrant fudge.” The perversion at this point is involved in a wilful misapplication of the word “principles.” I say “wilful;” because, at page 63, I am particularly careful to distinguish between the principles proper, Attraction and Repulsion, and those merely resultant, sub-principles which control the universe in detail. To these subprinciples, swayed by the immediate spiritual influence of Deity, I leave, without examination, all that which the Student of Theology so roundly asserts I account for on the principles which account for the constitution of suns, &c.

In the third column of his “review” the critic says: — “He asserts that each soul is its own God — its own Creator.” What I do assert is, that “each soul is, in part, its own God — its own Creator.” Just below, the critic says: — “After all these contradictory propoundings concerning God we would remind him of what he lays down on page 28 — “Of this Godhead in itself he alone is not imbecile — he alone is not impious who propounds nothing. A man who thus conclusively convicts himself of imbecility and impiety needs no further refutation.” Now the sentence, as I wrote it, and as I find it printed on that very page which the critic refers to and which must have been lying before him while he quoted my words, runs thus: — “Of this Godhead, in itself, he alone is not imbecile, &c., who propounds nothing.” By the italics, as the critic well knew, I design to distinguish between the two possibilities — that of a knowledge of God through his works and that of a knowledge of Him in his essential nature. The Godhead, in itself, is distinguished from the Godhead observed in its effects. But our critic is zealous. Moreover, being a divine, he is honest — ingenuous. It is his duty to pervert my meaning by omitting my italics — just as, in the sentence previously quoted, it was his Christian duty to falsify my argument by leaving [page 382:] out the two words, “in part,” upon which turns the whole force — indeed the whole intelligibility of my proposition.

Were these “misrepresentations” (is that the name for them?) made for any less serious a purpose than that of branding my book as “impious” and myself as a “pantheist,” a “polytheist,” a Pagan, or a God knows what (and indeed I care very little so it be not a “Student of Theology,”) I would have permitted their dishonesty to pass unnoticed, through pure contempt for the boyishness — for the turn-down-shirt-collar-ness of their tone: — but, as it is, you will pardon me, Mr. Editor, that I have been compelled to expose a “critic” who, courageously preserving his own anonymosity, takes advantage of my absence from the city to misrepresent, and thus villify me, by name.

Edgar A. Poe.

Fordham, September 20, 1848

Charles Fenno Hoffman edited the Literary World, a weekly published in New York, from May 1847-September 1848 (see the note to Letter 201); Hoffman had “praised Poe's cosmographical lecture on hearing it, but was less friendly to Eureka when published” (see Mott, History of American Magazines, I, 766-767). Poe seems to have identified the “Student of Theology” with John Henry Hopkins, Jr., who was attending the General Theological Seminary in New York City at the time Eureka was published and who seems to have exerted his influence in alienating Mrs. Shew's affection for Poe (see the note to Letter 2.65 and Letter 273 and note). Ingram thought he had discovered the real identity of the “Student of Theology,” for on May 16, 1875, Mrs. Shew-Houghton wrote him: “I am glad Mr. Hopkins did not write the article on the Eureka, but I fear Mr. Poe thought he did, as the description of the ‘turn down shirt collar’ was so like the artistic habit of dress of Mr. Hopkins when he was a theological student” (MS. in the Ingram collection, University of Virginia). In all probability, however, Hopkins wrote the article. [CL 721]

278 ⇒ TO SARAH HELEN WHITMAN [October 1, 1848] [CL 726]


Sunday Night — Oct. 1 — 48.

I have pressed your letter again and again to my lips, sweetest Helen — bathing it in tears of joy, or of a “divine despair”. But I — who so lately, in your presence, vaunted the “power of words” — of what avail are mere words to me now? Could I believe in the efficiency of prayers to the God of Heaven, I would indeed kneel — [page 383:] humbly kneel — at this the most earnest epoch of my life — kneel in entreaty for words — but for words that should disclose to you — that might enable me to lay bare to you my whole heart. All thoughts — all passions seem now merged in that one consuming desire — the mere wish to make you comprehend — to make you see that for which there is no human voice — the unutterable fervor of my love for you: — for so well do I know your poet-nature, oh Helen, Helen! that I feel sure if you could but look down now into the depths of my soul with your pure spiritual eyes you could not refuse to speak to me what, alas! you still resolutely have unspoken — you would love me if only for the greatness of my love. Is it not something in this cold, dreary world, to be loved? — Oh, if I could but burn into your spirit the deep — the true meaning which I attach to those three syllables underlined! — but, alas: the effort is all in vain and “I live and die unheard”.

When I spoke to you of what I felt, saying that I loved now for the first time, I did not hope you would believe or even understand me; nor can I hope to convince you now — but if, throughout some long, dark summer night, I could but have held you close, close to my heart and whispered to you the strange secrets of its passionate history, then indeed you would have seen’ that I have been far from attempting to deceive you in this respect. I could have shown you that it was not and could never have been in the power of any other than yourself to move me as I am now moved — to oppress me with this in [-] [page 2] effable emotion — to surround and bathe me in this electric light, illumining and enkindling my whole nature — filling my soul with glory, with wonder, and with awe. During our walk in the cemetery I said to you, while the bitter, bitter tears sprang into my eyes — “Helen, I love now — now — for the first and only time.” I said this, I repeat, in no hope that you could believe me, but because I could not help feeling how unequal were the heart-riches we might offer each to each: — I, for the first time, giving my all at once, and forever, even while the words of your poem were yet ringing in my ears: -

Oh then, beloved, I think on thee

And on that life so strangely fair

Ere yet one cloud of Memory

Had gathered in Hope's golden air. [page 384:]

I think on thee and thy lone grave

On the green hill-side far away —

I see the wilding flowers that wave

Around thee as the night-winds sway;

And still, though only clouds remain

On Life's horizon, cold and drear,

The dream of Youth returns again

With the sweet promise of the year.

Ah Helen, these lines are indeed beautiful, beautiful — but their very beauty was cruelty to me. Why — why did you show them to me? There seemed, too, so very especial a purpose in what you did.

I have already told you that some few casual words spoken of you — [not very kindly] — by Miss Lynch, were the first in which I had ever heard your name mentioned. She described you, in some [m]easure, personally. She alluded [page 3] to what she called your “eccentricities” and hinted at your sorrows. Her description of the former strangely arrested — her [half sneers at] the latter enchained and riveted, my attention. She had referred to thoughts, sentiments, traits, moods which I knew to be my own, but which, until that moment, I had believed to be my own solely — unshared by any human being. A profound sympathy took immediate possession of my soul. I cannot better explain to you what I felt than by saying that your unknown heart seemed to pass into my bosom — there to dwell forever — while mine, I thought, was translated into your own. From that hour I loved you. Yes, I now feel that it was then — on that evening of sweet dreams — that the very first dawn of human love burst upon the icy Night of my spirit. Since that period I have never seen nor heard your name without a shiver half of delight, half of anxiety. The impression left, however, upon my mind, by Miss Lynch ([wh]ether through my own fault or her design I know not) was that you were a wife now and a most happy one; — and it is only within the last few months that I have been undeceived in this respect. For this reason I shunned your presence and even the city in which you lived. — You may remember that once, when I passed through Providence with Mrs Osgood, I positively refused to accompany her to your house, and even provoked her into a quarrel by the obstinacy and seeming unreasonableness of my refusal. I dared neither go nor say why I could not. I dared not speak of you — much less see [page 385:] you. For years your name never passed my lips, while my soul drank in, with a delirious thirst, all that was uttered in my presence respecting you. The merest whisper that concerned you awoke in me a shuddering sixth sense, vaguely compounded of fear, ecstatic happiness, and a wild, inexplicable [page 4] sentiment that resembled nothing so nearly as the consciousness of guilt. — Judge, then, with what wondering, unbelieving joy I received in your well-known MS., the Valentine which first gave me to see that you knew me to exist. The idea of what men call Fate lost then for the first time, in my eyes, its character of futility. I felt that nothing hereafter was to be doubted, and lost myself, for many weeks, in one continuous, delicious dream, where all was a vivid yet indistinct bliss. — Immediately after reading the Valentine, I wished to contrive some mode of acknowledging — without wounding you by seeming directly to acknowledge — my sense — oh, my keen — my profoand — my exulting — my ecstatic sense of the honor you had conferred on me. To accomplish, as I wished it, precisely what I wished, seemed impossible, however; and I was on the point of abandoning the idea, when my eyes fell upon a volume of my own poems; and then the lines I had written, in my passionate boyhood, to the first, purely ideal love of my soul — to the Helen Stannard of whom I told you — flashed upon my recollection. I turned to them. They expressed all — all that I would have said to you — so fully — so accurately and so exclusively, that a thrill of intense superstition ran at once throughout my frame. Read the verses and then take into consideration the peculiar need I had, at the moment, for just so seemingly unattainable a mode of communicating with you as they afforded. Think of the absolute appositeness with which they fulfilled that need-expressing not only all that I would have said of your person, but all that of which I most wished to assure you, in the lines commencing “On desperate seas long wont to roam.” Think, too, of the rare agreement of name — Helen and not the far more usual Ellen [ — ] [page 5] think of all these coincidences, and you will no longer wonder that, to one accustomed as I am to the Calculus of Probabilities, they wore an air of positive miracle. There was but one difficulty. — I did not wish to copy the lines in my own MS — nor did I wish you to trace them to my volume of poems. I hoped to leave at least something of doubt on your mind as to how, why, and especially whence they came. And now, when, on accidentally turning the leaf, I found even this difficulty obviated, by the [page 386:] poem happening to be the last in the book, thus having no letter — press on its reverse — I yielded at once to an overwhelming sense of Fatality. From that hour I have never been able to shake from my soul the belief that my Destiny, for good or for evil, either here or hereafter, is in some measure interwoven with your own. — Of course, I did not expect on your part any acknowledgment of the printed lines “To Helen”; and yet, without confessing it even to myself, I experienced an undefinable sorrow in your silence. At length, when I thought you had time fully to forget me (if indeed you had ever really remembered) I sent you the anonymous lines in MS. I wrote them, first, through a pining, burning desire to communicate with you in some way — even if you remained in ignorance of your correspondent. The mere thought that your dear fingers would press — your sweet eyes dwell upon characters which I had penned — characters which had welled out upon the paper from the depths of so devout a love — filled my soul with a rapture which seemed then all sufficient for my human nature. It then appeared to me that merely this one thought involved so much of bliss that here on Earth I could have no right ever to repine — [page 6] no room for discontent. — If ever, then, I dared to picture for myself a richer happiness, it was always connected with your image in Heaven. But there was yet another idea which impelled me to send you those lines: — I said to myself — The sentiment — the holy passion which glows within my spirit for her, is of Heaven, heavenly, and has no taint of the Earth. Thus there must lie, in the recesses of her own pure bosom, at least the germ of a reciprocal love; and if this be indeed so, she will need no earthly clew — she will indistinctly feel who is her correspondent. — In this case, then, I may hope for some faint token, at least, giving me to understand that the source of the poem is known and its sentiment comprehended even if disapproved. Oh God! how long — how long I waited in vain — hoping against Hope — until at length I became possessed with a spirit far sterner-far more reckless than Despair. — I explained to you — but without detailing the vital influence they wrought upon my fortune — those singular additional yet seemingly trivial fatalities by which you happened to address your lines to Fordham in place of New-York — by which my aunt happened to get notice of their being in the West-Farms Post Office — and by which it happened that, of all my set of the “Home Journal”, I failed in receiving only that individual number which contained your published verses; but I have [page 387:] not yet told you that your MS. lines reached me in Richmond on the very day in which I was about to depart on a tour and an enterprize which would have changed my very nature — fearfully altered my very [page 7] soul — steeped me in a stern, cold and debasing, although brilliant and gigantic ambition — and borne me “far, far away” and forever, from you, sweet, sweet Helen, and from this divine dream of your Love.

And now, in the most simple words at my command, let me paint to you the impression made upon me by your personal presence. — As you entered the room, pale, timid, hesitating, and evidently oppressed at heart; as your eyes rested appealingly, for one brief moment, upon mine, I felt, for the first time in my life, and tremblingly acknowledged, the existence of spiritual influences altogether out of the reach of the reason. I saw that you were Helenmy Helen — the Helen of a thousand dreams-she whose visionary lips had so often lingered upon my own in the divine trance of passion — she whom the great Giver of all Good had preördained to be mine — mine only — if not now, alas! then at least hereafter and forever, in the Heavens. — You spoke falteringly and seemed scarcely conscious of what you said. I heard no words — only the soft voice, more familiar to me than my own, and more melodious than the songs of the angels. Your hand rested within mine, and my whole soul shook with a tremulous ecstasy. And then but for very shame — but for the fear of grieving or oppressing you — I would have fallen at your feet in as pure — in as real a worship as was ever offered to Idol or to God. And when, afterwards, on those two successive evenings of all-Heavenly delight, you passed to and fro about the room — now sitting by my side, now far away, now standing with your hand resting on the back of my chair, while the praeternatural thrill of your touch vibrated even through the senseless wood into my heart — while you [page 8] moved thus restlessly about the room — as if a deep Sorrow or a more profound joy haunted your bosom — my brain reeled beneath the intoxicating spell of your presence, and it was with no merely human senses that I either saw or heard you. It was my soul only that distinguished you there. I grew faint with the luxury of your voice and blind with the voluptuous lustre of your eyes.

Let me quote to you a passage from your letter: — “You will, perhaps, attempt to convince me that my person is agreeable to you — that my countenance interests you: — but in this respect I am so [page 388:] variable that I should inevitably disappoint you if you hoped to find in me to-morrow the same aspect which won you to-day. And, again, although my reverence for your intellect and my admiration of your genius make me feel like a child in your presence, you are not, perhaps, aware that I am many years older than yourself. I fear you do not know it, and that if you had known it you would not have felt for me as you do.” — To all this what shall I — what can I say — except that the heavenly candor with which you speak oppresses my heart with so rich a burden of love that my eyes overflow with sweet tears. You are mistaken, Helen, very far mistaken about this matter of age. I am older than you; and if illness and sorrow have made you seem older than you are — is not all this the best of reason for my loving you the more? Cannot my patient cares — my watchful, earnest attention — cannot the magic which lies in such devotion as I feel for you, win [page 9] back for you much — oh, very much of the freshness of your youth? But grant that what you urge were even true. Do you not feel in your inmost heart of hearts that the “soul-love” of which the world speaks so often and so idly is, in this instance at least, but the veriest, the most absolute of realities? Do you not — I ask it of your reason, darling, not less than of your heart — do you not perceive that it is my diviner nature — my spiritual being — which burns and pants to commingle with your own? Has the soul age, Helen? Can Immortality regard Time? Can that which began never and shall never end, consider a few wretched years of its incarnate life? Ah, I could weep — I could almost be angry with you for the unwarranted wrong you offer to the purity — to the sacred reality of my affection. — And how am I to answer what you say of your personal appearance? Have I not seen you, Helen? Have I not heard the more than melody of your voice? Has not my heart ceased to throb beneath the magic of your smile? Have I not held your hand in mine and looked steadily into your soul through the crystal Heaven of your eyes? Have I not done all these things? — or do I dream? — or am I mad? Were you indeed all that your fancy, enfeebled and perverted by illness, tempts you to suppose that you are, still, life of my life! I would but love you — but worship you the more: — it would be so glorious a happiness to be able to prove to you what I feel! But as it is, what can I — what am I to say? Who ever spoke of you without emotion — without praise? Who ever saw you and did not love? [page 389:]

[page 10] But now a deadly terror oppresses me; for I too clearly see that these objections — so groundless — so futile when urged to one whose nature must be so well known to you as mine is — can scarcely be meant earnestly; and I tremble lest they but serve to mask others, more real, and which you hesitate — perhaps in pity — to confide to me. Alas! I too distinctly perceive, also, that in no instance you have ever permitted yourself to say that you love me. You are aware, sweet Helen, that on my part there are insuperable reasons forbidding me to urge upon you my love. Were I not poor — had not my late errors and reckless excesses justly lowered me in the esteem of the good — were I wealthy, or could I offer you worldly honors — ah then — then — how proud would I be to persevere — to sue — to plead — to kneel — to pray — to beseech you for your love — in the deepest humility — at your feet — at your feet, Helen, and with floods of passionate tears.

And now let me copy here one other passage from your letter: — “I find that I cannot now tell you all that I promised. I can only say to you [that had I youth and health and beauty, I would live for you and die with you. Now, were I to allow myself to love you, I could only enjoy a bright, brief hour of rapture and die — perhaps [***********].” — The last five words have been [***************] Ah, beloved, beloved Helen the darling of my heart — my first and my real love] ! — may God forever shield you from the agony which these your words occasion me! [How selfish — how despicably selfish seems [page 11] now all — all that I have written! Have I not, indeed, been demanding at your hands a love which might endanger your life?] You will never, never know — you can never picture to yourself the hopeless, rayless despair with which I now trace these words. Alas Helen! my soul! — what is it that I have been saying to you? — to what madness have I been urging you? — I who am nothing to you — you who have a dear mother and sister to be blessed by your life and love. But ah, darling! if I seem selfish, yet believe that I truly, truly love you, and that it is the most spiritual of love that I speak, even if I speak it from the depths of the most passionate of hearts. Think — oh, think for me, Helen, and for yourself! Is there no hope? — is there none? May not this terrible [disease] be conquered? Frequently it has been overcome. And more frequently are we deceived in respect to its actual existence. Long-continued nervous disorder — especially [page 390:] when exasperated by ether or [excision] — will give rise to all the symptoms of heart-dis[ease an]d so deceive the most skillful physicians — as even in [my o]wn case they were deceived. But admit that this fearful evil has indeed assailed you. Do you not all the more really need the devotionate care which only one who loves you as I do, could or would bestow? On my bosom could I not still the throbbings of your own? Do not mistake me, Helen! Look, with your searching — your seraphic eyes, into the soul of my soul, and see if you can discover there one taint of an ignoble nature! At your feet — if you so willed it — I would cast f rom me, forever, all merely human desire, and clothe myself in the glory of a pure, calm, and unexacting affection. I would [page 12] comfort you — soothe you — tranquillize you. My love — my faith — should instil into your bosom a praeternatural calm. You would rest from care — from all worldly agitation. You would get better, and finally well. And if not, Helen, — if not — if you died — then at least would I clasp your dear hand in death, and willingly — oh, joyfullyjoyfullyjoyfully — go down with you into the night of the Grave.

Write soon — soon — oh, soon! — but not much. Do not weary or agitate yourself for my sake. Say to me those coveted words which would turn Earth into Heaven. If Hope is forbidden, I will not murmur if you comfort me with Love. — The papers of which you [speak] I will procure and forward immediately. They will cost me nothing, dear Helen, an[d] I therefore re-enclose you what you so thoughtfully s[ent.] Think that, in doing so, my lips are pressed ferv[ently] and lingeringly upon your own. And now, in closing this long, long letter, let me speak last of that which lies nearest my heart — of that precious gift which I would not exchange for the surest hope of Paradise. It seems to me too sacred that I should even whisper to you, the dear giver, what it is. My soul, this night, shall come to you in dreams and speak to you those fervid thanks which my pen is all powerless to utter.


P. S. Tuesday Morning. — I beg you to believe, dear Helen, that I replied to your letter immediately upon its receipt; but a most unusual storm, up to this moment, precludes all access to the City.

Anna C. Lynch, New York poetess and Blue Stocking, held soirees which were attended by Poe and other literary figures (for correspondence [page 391:] between her and Poe, see the notes to Letter 237). She and Frances Sargent Osgood, with whom Poe visited Providence in the summer of 1845 and saw but did not meet Mrs. Whitman, were instrumental in starting the “affair” between Poe and the Seeress of Providence (see Quinn, Poe, pp. 572-573). For Poe's reference to the valentine, see Quinn, ibid. Poe had planned to tour the South to get subscriptions for his Stylus. [CL 723]

279 ⇒ TO T. L. DUNNELL [October 18, 1848] [CL 726]

New York October 18, 1848

Dear Sir,

I accept with pleasure your very flattering invitation to lecture in Providence, and will be at the Earl-House on the 13th of December.

Respectfully Yr. Ob. St.

Edgar A. Poe

Dunnell wrote again (location of original unknown) about November 23-24, apparently asking Poe to lecture on December 6 instead of on the 13th, and Poe answered (location of original unknown) about November 25-26 (see Letter 291). This correspondence suggests another exchange of letters between Dunnell and Poe, setting December 20 as the lecture date, but no evidence exists, except the actual delivery of the lecture at the Earl House, Providence on the night of December 20, that such an exchange took place. Mrs. Whitman wrote Stoddard, September 30, 1872 (see Quinn, Poe, p. 579), that the lecture date [of December 13] had to be postponed owing to the excitement created by the presidential election of 1848. [CL 726]

280 ⇒ TO SARAH HELEN WHITMAN [October 18, 1848] [CL 727]

[Fordham, Oct. 18, 48]

In pressing my last letter between your dear hands, there passed into your spirit a sense of the Love that glowed within those pages: — you say this, and I feel that indeed it must have been so: — but, in receiving the paper upon which your eyes now rest, did no shadow steal over you from the Sorrow within? — Oh God! how I now curse the impotence of the pen — the inexorable distance between us! I am pining to speak to you, Helen, — to you in person — to be near you while I speak — gently to press your hand in mine — to look into [page 392:] your soul through your eyes — and thus to be sure that my voice passes into your heart. Only thus could I hope to make you understand what I feel; and even thus I should not hope to make you do so; for it is only Love, which can comprehend Love — and alas! you do not love me. — Bear with me! have patience with me! — for indeed my heart is broken; and, let me struggle as I will, I cannot write to you the calm, cold language of a world which I loathe — of a world in which I have no interest — of a world which is not mine. I repeat to you that my heart is broken — that I have no farther object in life — that I have absolutely no wish but to die. These are hackneyed phrases; but they will not now impress you as such — for you must and do know the passionate agony with which I write them. “You do not love me”: — in this brief sentence lies all I can conceive of despair. I have no resource — no hope: — Pride itself fails me now. You do not love me; or you could not have imposed upon me the torture of eight days’ silence — of eight days’ terrible suspense. You do not love me — or, responding [page 2] to my prayers, you would have cried to me — “Edgar, I do.” Ah, Helen, the emotion which now consumes me teaches me too well the nature of the impulses of Love! Of what avail to me, in my deadly grief, are your enthusiastic words of mere admiration? Alas; — alas! — I have been loved, and a relentless Memory contrasts what you say with the unheeded, unvalued language of others. — But ah, — again, and most especially — you do not love me, or you would have felt too thorough a sympathy with the sensitiveness of my nature, to have so wounded me as you have done with this terrible passage of your letter: — “How often I have heard men and even women say of you — ‘He has great intellectual power, but no principle — no moral sense.’ “ Is it possible that such expressions as these could have been repeated to me — to me — by one whom I loved — ah, whom I love — by one at whose feet I knelt — I still kneel — in deeper worship than ever man offered to God? — And you proceed to ask me why such opinions exist. You will feel remorse for the question, Helen, when I say to you that, until the moment when those horrible words first met my eye, I would not have believed it possible that any such opinions could have existed at all: — but that they do exist breaks my heart in separating us forever. I love you too truly ever to have offered you my hand — ever to have sought your love — had I known my name to be so stained as your expressions imply. — Oh God! what shall I say to you Helen, dear Helen? — let [page 393:] me call you now by that sweet name, if I may never so call you again. — It is altogether in vain that I tax my Memory or my Conscience. There is no oath which seems [page 3] to me so sacred as that sworn by the all — divine love I bear you. — By this love, then, and by the God who reigns in Heaven, I swear to you that my soul is incapable of dishonor — that, with the exception of occasional follies and excesses which I bitterly lament, but to which I have been driven by intolerable sorrow, and which are hourly committed by others without attracting any notice whatever — I can call to mind no act of my life which would bring a blush to my cheek — or to yours. If I have erred at all, in this regard, it has been on the side of what the world would call a Quixotic sense of the honorable — of the chivalrous. The indulgence of this sense has been the true voluptuousness of my life. It was for this species of luxury that, in early youth, I deliberately threw away from me a large fortune, rather than endure a trivial wrong. It was for this that, at a later period, I did violence to my own heart, and married, for another's happiness, where I knew that no possibility of my own existed. — Ah, how profound is my love for you, since it forces me into these egotisms for which you will inevitably despise me! Nevertheless, I must now speak to you the truth or nothing. It was in mere indulgence, then, of the sense to which I refer, that, at one dark epoch of my late life, for the sake of one who, deceiving and betraying, still loved me much, I sacrificed what seemed in the eyes of men my honor, rather than abandon what was honor in hers and in my own. — But, alas! for nearly three years I have been ill, poor, living out of the world; and thus, as I now painfully see, have afforded opportunity to my enemies — and especially to one, the most malignant and pertinacious of all fiends — [a woman whose loathsome love I could do nothing but repel with scorn — ] [page 4] to slander me, in private society, without my knowledge and thus with impunity. Although much, however, may (and I now see must) have been said to my discredit, during my retirement, those few who, knowing me well, have been steadfastly my friends, permitted nothing to reach my ears — unless in one instance, where the malignity of the accuser hurried her beyond her usual caution, and thus the accusation was of such character that I could appeal to a court of justice for redress. The tools employed in this instance were Mr Hiram Fuller and Mr T. D. English. I replied to the charge fully, in a public newspaper — afterwards suing the [page 394:] “Mirror” (in which the scandal appeared) obtaining a verdict and recovering such an amount of damages as, for the time, completely to break up that journal. — And you ask me why men so misjudge me — why I have enemies. If your knowledge of my character and of my career does not afford you an answer to the query, at least it does not become me to suggest the answer. Let it suffice that I have had the audacity to remain poor that I might preserve my independence — that, nevertheless, in letters, to a certain extent and in certain regards, I have been “successful” — that I have been a critic — and unscrupulously honest and no doubt in many cases a bitter one — that I have uniformly attacked — where I attacked at all — those who stood highest in power and influence — and that, whether in literature or in society, I have seldom refrained from expressing, either directly or indirectly, the pure contempt with which the pretensions of ignorance, arrogance, or imbecility inspire me. — And you who know all this — you ask me why [page 5] I have enemies. Ah, Helen, I have a hundred friends for every individual enemy — but has it never occurred to you that you do not live among my friends? Miss Lynch, Miss Fuller, Miss Blackwell, Mrs Ellet — neither these nor any within their influence, are my friends. Had you read my criticisms generally, you would see, too, how and why it is that the Channings-the Emerson and Hudson coterie — the Longf ellow clique, one and all — the cabal of the “N. American Review” — you would see why all these, whom you know best, know me least and are my enemies. Do you not remember with how deep a sigh I said to you in Providence — “My heart is heavy, Helen, for I see that your friends are not my own.”? — But the cruel sentence in your letter would not — could not so deeply have wounded me, had my soul been first strengthened by those assurances of your love which I so wildly — so vainly — and, I now feel, so presumptuously entreated. That our souls are one, every line which you have ever written asserts — but our hearts do not beat in unison. Tell me, darling! to your heart has any angel ever whispered that the very noblest lines in all human poetry are these — hackneyed though they be?

I know not — I ask not if guilt's in thy heart: —

I but know that I love thee whatever thou art.

When I first read your letter I could do nothing but shed tears, while I repeated, again and again, those glorious, those all-comprehensive [page 395:] verses, till I could scarcely hear my own voice for the passionate throbbings of my heart.

Forgive me, best and only beloved Helen, if there be bitterness in my tone. Towards you there is no room in my soul [page 6] for any other sentiment than devotion: — it is Fate only which I accuse: — it is my own unhappy nature which wins me the true love of no woman whom by <by> any possibility I could love.

I heard something, a day or two ago, which, had your last letter never reached me, might not irreparably have disturbed the relations between us, but which, as it is, withers forever all the dear hopes upspringing in my bosom. — A few words will explain to you what I mean. Not long after the receipt of your Valentine I learned, for the first time, that you were free -unmarried. I will not pretend to express to you what is absolutely inexpressible — that wild — long-enduring thrill of joy which pervaded my whole being on hearing that it was not impossible I might one day call you by the sacred title, wife: — but there was one alloy to this happiness: — I dreaded to find you in worldly circumstances superior to my own. Let me speak freely to you now, Helen, for perhaps I may never thus be permitted to speak to you again — Let me speak openly — fearlessly — trusting to the generosity of your own spirit for a true interpretation of my own. I repeat, then, that I dreaded to find you in worldly circumstances superior to mine. So great was my fear that you were rich, or at least possessed some property which might cause you to seem rich in the eyes of one so poor as I had always permitted myself to be — that, on the day I refer to, I had not the courage to ask my informant any questions concerning you. — I feel that you will have difficulty in comprehending me; but the horror with which, during my sojourn [page 7] in the world, I have seen affection made a subject of barter, had, long since, — long before my marriage — inspired me with the resolution that, under no circumstances, would I marry where “interest,” as the world terms it, could be suspected as, on my part, the object of the marriage. As far as this point concerned yourself, however, I was relieved, the next day, by an assurance that you were wholly dependent upon your mother. May I — dare I add — can you believe me when I say that this assurance was rendered doubly grateful to me by the additional one that you were in ill health and had suffered more from domestic sorrow than falls usually to the lot of woman? — and even if your faith in my nature is not too greatly [page 396:] tasked by such an assertion, can you forbear thinking me unkind, selfish or ungenerous? You cannot: — but oh! the sweet dreams which absorbed me at once: — dear dreams of a devotional care for you that should end only with life — of a tender, cherishing, patient solicitude which should bring you back, at length, to health and to happiness — a care — a solicitude — which should find its glorious reward in winning me, after long years, that which I could feel to be your love! Without well understanding why, I had been led to fancy you ambitious: — perhaps the fancy arose from your lines:

Not a bird that roams the forest

Shall our lofty eyrie share! —

but my very soul glowed with ambition for your sake, although I have always contemned it for my own. It was then only — then when I thought of you — that I dwelt exultingly upon what I felt that I could accomplish in Letters and in Literary Influence — in the widest and noblest field of human ambition. [page 8] “I will erect”, I said, “a prouder throne than any on which mere monarch ever sat; and on this throne she — she shall be my queen”. When I saw you, however — when I touched your gentle hand — when I heard your soft voice, and perceived how greatly I had misinterpreted your womanly nature — these triumphant visions melted sweetly away in the sunshine of a love ineffable; and I suffered my imagination to stray with you, and with the few who love us both, to the banks of some quiet river, in some lovely valley of our land. Here, not too far secluded from the world, we exercised a taste controlled by no conventionalities, but the sworn slave of a Natural Art, in the building for ourselves a cottage which no human being could ever pass without an ejaculation of wonder at its strange, wierd, and incomprehensible yet most simple beauty. Oh, the sweet and gorgeous, but not often rare flowers in which we half buried it! — the grandeur of the little-distant magnolias and tulip-trees which stood guarding it — the luxurious velvet of its lawn — the lustre of the rivulet that ran by the very door — the tasteful yet quiet comfort of the interior — the music — the books — the unostentatious pictures — and, above all, the love — the love that threw an unfading glory over the whole! — Ah Helen! my heart is, indeed, breaking and I must now put an end to these divine dreams. Alas! all is now a dream; for I have lately heard that of you which, (taken in connexion with your letter and with that of which your [page 397:] letter does not assure me) puts it forever out of my power to ask you — again to ask you — to become my wife. That [page 9] many persons, in your presence, have declared me wanting in honor, appeals irresistibly to an instinct of my nature — an instinct which I feel to be honor, let the dishonorable say what they may, and forbids me, under such circumstances, to insult you with my love: — but that you are quite independent in your worldly position (as I have just heard) — in a word that you are comparatively rich while I am poor, opens between us a gulf — a gulf, alas! which the sorrow and the slander of the World have rendered forever impassable — by me.

I have not yet been able to procure all the criticisms &c. of which you spoke, but will forward them, by express, in a day or two. Meantime I enclose the lines by Miss Fuller; and “The Domain of Arnheim” which happens to be at hand, and which, moreover, expresses much of my soul. — It was about the 10th of Sep., I think, that your sweet MS. verses reached me in Richmond. I lectured in Lowell on the 10th of July. Your first letter was received by me, at Fordham, on the evening of Saturday, Sep. 30. I was in Providence, or its neighborhood, during the Monday you mention. In the morning I re-visited the cemetery: — at 6 P.M. I left the city in the Stonington train for N. Y. I cannot explain to you — since I cannot myself comprehend — the feeling which urged me not to see you again before going — not to bid you a second time farewell. I had a sad foreboding at heart. In the seclusion of the cemetery you sat by my side — on the very spot where my arm first tremblingly encircled your waist.


Mrs. Whitman omitted numerous passages in transcribing this letter for J. H. Ingram. The “fiend” referred to is the same Mrs. Elizabeth Frieze Ellet mentioned at the beginning of page 5 in connection with Anna C. Lynch, Margaret Fuller, and probably Elizabeth Blackwell, sister of Anna Blackwell to whom Poe wrote on June 14, 1848; Elizabeth Blackwell wrote Ingram, February 12, 1877 (Ingram collection, University of Virginia), that she had seen Poe but twice, once on a visit with another lady during his convalescence in 1847, and later when he returned the call, that she had never corresponded with him. William Henry Channing and William Ellery Channing, the younger, were transcendentalists, “Frogpondians” as Poe termed the whole group. Henry Norman Hudson, a New England Shakespearean, was belittled by Poe in the Broadway Journal, December 13, 1845 (see P, II, 1070). Poe's charges of plagiarism against Longfellow are well known. In the [page 398:] left margin of page 9, opposite “10th of Sep.,” Mrs. Whitman wrote: “It was earlier”; Poe is wrong in his date of September to, for he was back in Fordham by September 5, the date of his first letter to her. Poe's lecture of July 10, 1848, was on “The Poets and Poetry of America” (see Quinn, Poe, p. 565). Quinn (ibid., p. 575) says Poe visited Mrs. Whitman on September 21; if true, then Poe's reference to “Monday” is probably to September 25. [CL 727]

281 ⇒ TO JANE E. LOCKE [October 1848] [CL 728]

My dear Mrs Locke,

Permit me, by this note, to make you personally acquainted with my friend, Mrs S. Anna Lewis: — through her works I am aware that she is already well known to you. I feel that I need not ask you to show her every attention: — You will do it for her own sake, for your own and for mine.

Faithfully Yours ever,

Edgar A. Poe.

Fordham — October — 1848.

To Mrs Jane Ermina Locke

In connection with this letter, see Letter 282 and Letter 267. [CL 728]

282 ⇒ TO ANNIE L. RICHMOND [October 1848] [CL 729]

Fordham — Oct — 48.

My very dear friend —

This note will be handed you by Mrs Stella Anna Lewis, of whose poetic genius you will remember I spoke so much at length in my late lecture at Lowell. But I need scarcely have alluded to this: — she is, no doubt, well known to you through her works; and I feel assured that you have but to know her personally to be as proud of her friendship as, unquestionably, she must and will be of your own[.]

Forever the most sincere of your friends

Edgar A. Poe.

Mrs N. L. Richmond.

This is the first known letter from Poe to Annie (Nancy Locke Heywood) Richmond, wife of Charles B. Richmond, of Lowell, Massachusetts. Westford was the home of the Heywoods, and was not far from [page 399:] Lowell; Poe visited in Westford at least once (see Letter 309). Poe met Annie through Mrs. Jane (Ermina Starkweather) Locke, at the time of his Lowell lecture on “The Poets and Poetry of America,” July 10, 1848. The friendship became a lasting one. No letters from Mrs. Richmond to Poe are extant, but Poe's reveal a sincere, even passionate affection. Mrs. Richmond exerted a good influence on Poe, inspiring his genius, and fortifying him against many weaknesses; in fact, in Letter 330, he wrote: “I must be somewhere where I can see Annie.” Mrs. Richmond copied for J. H. Ingram many of Poe's letters to her, but never intended that they should be printed. When his Appleton's Journal article appeared, she expressed her displeasure and regret. Subsequently, in his Life of Poe, Ingram made further editings of the letters. Therefore, in order to arrive at the fullest known text of what Poe wrote to Mrs. Richmond, it has been necessary in several instances to formulate a composite text from the different printings made by Ingram (see Letters 298, 301, 303, 309, 311), Mrs. Sarah Anna Lewis was an unimportant New York poetess (see Letter 257). [CL 729]

283 ⇒ TO [SARAH HELEN WHITMAN] [November 3, 1848?] [CL 731]

[November 3, 1848?]

[...  . .]

Oh how powerless is the pen to express such feelings as now consume me! May the God of Heaven protect you until I clasp you to my heart —

Your own


In connection with this fragment, see Letter 284 and note. [CL 731]

284 ⇒ TO SARAH HELEN WHITMAN [November 7, 1848] [CL 733]

[Providence, November 7, 1848]

Dearest Helen —

I have no engagements, but am very ill — so much so that I must go home, if possible — but if you say “stay”, I will try & do so. If you cannot see me — write me one word to say that you do love me and that, under all circumstances, you will be mine. Remember that these coveted words you have never yet spoken — and, nevertheless, I have not reproached you. It was not in my power to be here on [page 400:] Saturday as I proposed, or I would undoubtedly have kept my promise. If you can see me, even for a few moments do so — but if not write — or send some message which will comfort me.

[Signature missing]

Poe's inability to come to Providence on Saturday is treated in Letter 286. [CL 733]

285 ⇒ TO SARAH HELEN WHITMAN [November 14, 1848] [CL 736]

[New York] Steamboat Nov 14 1848

My own dearest Helen, so kind so true, so generous — so unmoved by all that would have moved one who had been less than angel: — beloved of my heart of my imagination of my intellect — life of my life — soul of my soul — dear, dearest Helen, how shall I ever thank you as I ought.

I am calm & tranquil & but for a strange shadow of coming evil which haunts me I should be happy. That I am not supremely happy, even when I feel your dear love at my heart, terrifies me. What can this mean?

Perhaps however it is only the necessary reaction after such terrible excitements.

It is 5 o’clock & the boat is just being made fast to the wharf. I shall start in the train that leaves New York at 7 for Fordham. I write this to show you that I have not dared to break my promise to you. And now dear dearest Helen be true to me[...  . .]

[Signature missing]

Poe is returning from Providence. Probably he “promised” not to drink. [CL 736]

286 ⇒ TO ANNIE L. RICHMOND [November 16, 1848] [CL 737]

Fordham Nov. 16th 1848 —

Ah, Annie Annie! my Annie! what cruel thoughts about your Eddy must have been torturing your heart during the last terrible fortnight, in which you have heard nothing from me — not even one little word to say that I still lived & loved you. But Annie I know that you felt [page 401:] too deeply the nature of my love for you, to doubt that, even for one moment, & this thought has comforted me in my bitter sorrow — I could bear that you should imagine every other evil except that one — that my soul had been untrue to yours. Why am I not with you now darling that I might sit by your side, press your dear hand in mine, & look deep down into the clear Heaven of your eyes-so that the words which I now can only write, might sink into your heart, and make you comprehend what it is that I would say — And yet Annie, all that I wish to say — all that my soul pines to express at this instant, is included in the one word, love — To be with you now — so that I might whisper in your ear the divine emotion[s], which agitate me — I would willingly — oh joyfully abandon this world with all my hopes of another: — but you believe this, Annie — you do believe it, & will always believe it — So long as I think that you know I love you, as no man ever loved woman — so long as I think you comprehend in some measure, the fervor with which I adore you, so long, no worldly trouble can ever render me absolutely wretched. But oh, my darling, my Annie, my own sweet sister Annie, my pure beautiful angel — wife of my soul — to be mine hereafter & forever in the Heavens — how shall I explain to you the bitter, bitter anguish which has tortured me since I left you? You saw, you felt the agony of grief with which I bade you farewell — You remember my expressions of gloom — of a dreadful horrible foreboding of ill — Indeed — indeed it seemed to me that death approached me even then, & that I was involved in the shadow which went before him — As I clasped you to my heart, I said to myself — “it is for the last time, until we meet in Heaven” — I remember nothing distinctly, from that moment until I found myself in Providence — I went to bed & wept through a long, long, hideous night of despair — When the day broke, I arose & endeavored to quiet my mind by a rapid walk in the cold, keen air — but all would not do — the demon tormented me still. Finally I procured two ounces of laudnum & without returning to my Hotel, took the cars back to Boston. When I arrived, I wrote you a letter, in which I opened my whole heart to you — to you — my Annie, whom I so madly, so distractedly love — I told you how my struggles were more than I could bear — how my soul revolted from saying the words which were to be said — and that not even for your dear sake, could I bring myself to say them. I then reminded you of that holy promise, which was the last I exacted from you in parting — the promise that, [page 402:] under all circumstances, you would come to me on my bed of death — I implored you to come then — mentioning the place where I should be found in Boston — Having written this letter, I swallowed about half the laudnum & hurried to the Post-Office — intending not to take the rest until I saw you — for, I did not doubt for one moment, that my own Annie would keep her sacred promise — But I had not calculated on the strength of the laudanum, for, before I reached the Post Office my reason was entirely gone, & the letter was never put in. Let me pass over, my darling sister, the awful horrors which succeeded — A friend was at hand, who aided & (if it can be called saving) saved me — but it is only within the last three days that I have been able to remember what occurred in that dreary interval — It appears that, after the laudanum was rejected from the stomach, I became calm, & to a casual observer, sane — so that I was suffered to go back to Providence — Here I saw her, & spoke, for your sake, the words which you urged me to speak — Ah Annie Annie! my Annie! — is your heart so strong? — is there no hope! — is there none? — I feel that I must die if I persist, & yet, how can I now retract with honor? — Ah beloved, think — think for me & for yourself — do I not love you Annie? do you not love me? Is not this all? Beyond this blissful thought, what other consideration can there be in this dreary world! It is not much that I ask, sweet sister Annie — my mother & myself would take a small cottage at Westford — oh so small — so very humble — I should be far away from the tumult [s] of the world — from the ambition which I loathe — I would labor day & night, and with industry, I could accomplish so much — Annie! it would be a Paradise beyond my wildest hopes — I could see some of your beloved family every day, & you often — oh VERY often — I would hear from you continually — regularly & our dear mother would be with us & love us both — ah darling — do not these pictures touch your inmost heart? Think — oh think for me — before the words — the vows are spoken, which put yet another terrible bar between us before the time goes by, beyond which there must be no thinking — I call upon you in the name of God — in the name of the holy love I bear you, to be sincere with me — Can you, my Annie, bear to think I am another's? It would give me supremeinfinite bliss to hear you say that you could not bear it — I am at home now with my dear muddie who is endeavoring to comfort me — but the sole words which soothe me, are those in which she speaks of “my Annie” — she tells [page 403:] me that she has written you, begging you to come on to Fordham — ah beloved Annie, Is IT NOT POSSIBLE? I am so ill — so terribly, hopelessly ILL in body and mind, that I feel I CANNOT live, unless I can feel your sweet, gentle, loving hand pressed upon my forehead — oh my pure, virtuous, generous, beautiful, beautiful sister Annie! — is it not POSSIBLE for you to come — if only for one little week? — until I subdue this fearful agitation, which if continued, will either destroy my life or, drive me hopelessly mad — Farewell — here & hereafter —

forever your own

Eddy —

In connection with this letter, see Letter 284 and notes. The present letter is of the utmost importance. It reveals Poe's sincere feeling for Mrs. Richmond, a feeling that did not decrease in its passion during the rest of his life. The contrast between the intense emotion expressed in the present letter and the rather formal objectivity of the note of October 1848 (Letter x82) is difficult both to explain and to accept. Still, Poe would not reveal to Mrs. Lewis his feelings for Mrs. Richmond, and since July 1848, when he first met Mrs. Richmond, Poe's love for her may have grown through contacts and even letters, not now supported by available evidence. When Poe says, “... how my soul revolted from saying the words which were to be said,” he alludes to his proposed engagement to Mrs. Whitman. The letter Poe wrote to Mrs. Richmond in Boston has never come to light. Biographers of Poe have stated that he went to Lowell late in October to deliver a lecture, which was postponed owing to the excitement of the national election, and that at this time he visited Mrs. Richmond. Direct evidence points not to an October but to a December lecture, which was postponed (see Letters 279 and 291) ; thus Poe was in Lowell probably to see Mrs. Richmond before going to Providence. This letter also clears away, to some extent, Poe's movements at this time. Whether Poe gained Mrs. Whitman's promise to write to him, either during a visit to Providence prior to his arrival in Lowell, or by a letter (unlocated), she seems to have complied, and the letter (see Mrs. Whitman to Ingram, October 25, 1875, in the Ingram collection) reached him about November 1-2. It “perplexed and agitated him,” but he answered that he would reach Providence on November 4. Thus the present letter shows Poe setting out for Providence on November 4, buying laudanum there and returning to Boston on November 5, writing the unsent letter to Mrs. Richmond and swallowing the laudanum on November 5, recuperating and proceeding to Providence sometime before the morning of November 7, when he wrote his note of Tuesday, November 7, to [page 404:] Mrs. Whitman (Letter 284), Poe continued to dream of a home for himself and Mrs. Clemm in Westford or Lowell, in order to be near Mrs. Richmond (see Letters 303 and 330). [CL 737]


New-York, — Nov. 20th 1848:

Dear Sir,

After a long & bitter struggle with illness, poverty, and the thousand evils which attend them, I find myself at length in a position to establish myself permanently, and to triumph over all difficulties, if I could but obtain, from some friend, a very little pecuniary aid. In looking around me for such a friend, I can think of no one, with the exception of yourself, whom I see the least prospect of interesting in my behalf — and even as regards yourself, I confess that my hope is feeble. In fact I have been so long depressed that it will be a most difficult thing for me to rise — and rise I never can without such aid as I now entreat at your hands. I call to mind, however, that, during my childhood, you were very kind to me, and, I believe, very fond of me. For this reason and because I really do not know where else to turn for the assistance I so much need at this moment, I venture to throw myself upon your generosity & ask you to lend me $200. With this sum I should be able to take the first steps in an enterprise where there could be no doubt of my success, and which, if successful, would, in one or two years ensure me fortune and very great influence. I refer to the establishment of a Magazine for which I have already a good list of subscribers, and of which I need a Prospectus — If for the sake of “auld lang syne” you will advance me the sum needed, there are no words which can express my gratitude.

Most sincerely yours,

Edgar A, Poe

Edward Valentine Esq

Ingram's printing of the letter, followed by Harrison's (XVII, 315-316), reads “of which I send a Prospectus” (see the next to last sentence, above), a very different matter from Poe's real statement. The above letter to Mr. Valentine, a brother of the first Mrs. Allan (see W, II, 282), was sent by Poe with a letter to Miss Susan Talley, probably of the same date (unlocated), requesting that she forward the enclosed letter (see Miss Talley's letter to Poe, November 29, 1848, in H, XVII, 324). [CL 741] [page 405:]

288 ⇒ TO SARAH HELEN WHITMAN [November 1848] [CL 742]

[New York]

Wednesday Morning — the 22 d. [November 1848 ]

My dearest Helen —

Last Monday I received your note, dated Friday, and promising that on Tuesday I should get a long letter from you. It has not yet reached me, but I presume will be at the P.O. when I send this in. In the meantime, I write these few words to thank you, from the depths of my heart, for the dear expressions of your note — expressions of tenderness so wholly undeserved by me — and to assure you of my safety and health. The terrible excitement under which I suffered, has subsided, and I am as calm as I well could be, remembering what has past. Still the Shadow of Evil haunts me, and, although tranquil, I am unhappy. I dread the Future. — and you alone can reassure me. I have so much to say to you, but must wait until I hear from you. My mother was delighted with your wish to be remembered and begs me to express the pleasure it gave her.

Forever your own


Remember me to Mr Pabodie.

William J. Pabodie was a friend of the Whitman family, Following Poe's death, he wrote letters to the New York Tribune (June 2, 1852, reprinted in H, XVII, 408-410) and to Rufus W. Griswold, June 11, 18 (ibid., pp. 412-415), discounting certain allegations made against Poe's character. Poe seems to have thought well of him (see also Note 295). [CL 742]

289 ⇒ TO SARAH H. HEYWOOD [November 23, 1848] [CL 743]

Fordham Nov. 23d 1848 —

Dear Sarah — my own dear sister Sarah —

If there is any pity in your heart reply immediately to this letter, & let me know why it is, I do not hear from Annie — If I do not hear from her soon, I shall surely die — I fancy everything evil — sometimes [page 406:] I even think that I have offended her, & that she no longer loves or cares for me — I wrote her a long letter eight days ago, enclosing one from my mother who wrote again on the 19th[.] Not one word has reached us in reply[;] oh Sarah, if I did not love your sister, with the purest & most unexacting love, I would not dare confide in you — but you do know, how truly — how purely I love her, & you will forgive me, for you know also, how impossible it is to see & not to love her — In my wildest dreams, I have never fancied any being so totally lovely — so good — so true — so noble so pure — so virtuous — her silence fills my whole soul with terror — Can she have received my letter? If she is angry with me dear Sarah, say to her, that on my knees, I beseech her to pardon me — tell her that I am her slave in all things — that whatever she bids me do, I will do — if even she says, I must never see her again or write to her — Let me but hear from her once more, & I can bear whatever happens. oh Sarah you would pity me, if you knew the agony of my heart, as I write these words — do not fail to answer me at once[.]

God bless you my sweet sister —

Edgar —

Miss S. H. Heywood.

Westford — Mass.

Sarah Heywood, younger sister of Annie Richmond, lived in Westford, Massachusetts. Poe's letter to Mrs. Richmond of “eight days ago” was that of November 16 (Letter 286). No letter from Annie or Sarah is known between the present date and December 28, 1848, when Poe again wrote to Annie; his December letter may imply one received from Mrs. Richmond. [CL 743]

290 ⇒ TO SARAH HELEN WHITMAN [November 24, 1848] [CL 745]


Friday the 24th. [November, 1848]

In a little more than a fortnight, dearest Helen, I shall, once again, clasp you to my heart: — until then I forbear to agitate you by speaking of my wishes — of my hopes, and especially of my fears. You say that all depends on my own firmness. If this be so, all is safe — for the terrible 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: [page 407:] — 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. — But all does not depend, dear Helen, upon my firmness — all depends upon the sincerity of your love.

You allude to your having been “tortured by reports which have all since been explained to your entire satisfaction”. On this point my mind is fully made up. I will rest neither by night nor day until I bring those who have slandered me into the light of day — until I expose them, and their motives, to the public eye. I have the means and I will ruthlessly employ them. On [page 2] one point let me caution you, dear Helen. No sooner will Mrs E. hear of my proposals to yourself, than she will set in operation every conceivable chicanery to frustrate me: — and, if you are not prepared for her arts, she will infallibly succeed — for her whole study, throughout life, has been the gratification of her malignity by such means as any other human being would die rather than adopt. You will be sure to receive anonymous letters so skillfully contrived as to deceive the most sagacious. You will be called on, possibly, by persons whom you never heard of, but whom she has instigated to call & villify me — without even their being aware of the influence she has exercised. I do not know any one with a more acute intellect about such matters than Mrs Osgood — yet even she was for a long time completely blinded by the arts of this fiend & simply because her generous heart could not conceive how any woman could stoop to machinations at which the most degraded of the fiends would shudder. I will give you here but one instance of her baseness & I feel that it will suffice. When, in the heat of passion — stung to madness by her inconceivable perfidy & by the grossness of the injury which her jealousy prompted her to inflict upon all of us — upon both families — I permitted myself to say what I should not have said — I had no sooner uttered the words, than I felt their dishonor. I felt, too, that, although she must be damningly conscious of her own baseness, she would still have a right to reproach me for having betrayed, under any circumstances, her confidence.

[page 3] Full of these thoughts, and terrified almost to death lest I should again, in a moment of madness, be similarly tempted, I went immediately to my secretary — (when these two ladies went away — ) made a package of her letters, addressed them to her, and with [page 408:] my own hands left them at her door. Now, Helen, you cannot be prepared for the diabolical malignity which followed. Instead of feeling that I had done all I could to repair an unpremeditated wrong — instead of feeling that almost any other person would have retained the letters to make good (if occasion required) the assertion that I possessed them — instead of this, she urged her brothers & brother in law to demand of me the letters. The position in which she thus placed me you may imagine. Is it any wonder that I was driven mad by the intolerable sense of wrong? — If you value your happiness, Helen, beware of this woman! She did not cease her persecutions here. My poor Virginia was continually tortured (although not deceived) by her anonymous letters, and on her death-bed declared that Mrs. E. had been her murderer. Have I not a right to hate this fiend & to caution you against her? You will now comprehend what I mean in saying that the only thing for which I found it impossible to forgive Mrs O. was her reception of Mrs E.

Be careful of your health, dearest Helen, and perhaps all will yet go well. Forgive me that I let these wrongs prey upon me — I did not so bitterly feel them until they threatened to deprive me of you. I confess, too, that the [intolerable insults of your mother & sister still rankle at] my heart — but for your dear sake I will endeavor to be calm.

Your lines “To Arcturus” are truly beautiful. I would retain the Virgilian words — omitting the translation. The first note leave out: — [page 4] 61 Cygni has been proved nearer than Arcturus & Alpha Lyrae is presumably so. — Bessel, also, has shown 6 other stars to be nearer than the brighter ones of this hemisphere. — There is an obvious tautology in “pale candescent” [. ] To be candescent is to become white with heat. Why not read — “To blend with thine its incandescent fire?” Forgive me, sweet Helen, for these very stupid & captious criticisms. Take vengeance on my next poem. — When “Ulalume” appears, cut it out & enclose it: — newspapers seldom reach me. — In last Saturday's “Home Journal” is a letter from M. C. (who is it?). I enclose a passage which seems to refer to my lines:

— the very roses’ odors

Died in the arms of the adoring airs.

The accusation will enable you to see how groundless such accusations may be, even when seemingly best founded. Mrs H's book [page 409:] was published 3 months ago. You had my poem about the first of June -was it not?

##center##Forever Your own,


Remember me to Mr Pabodie — Mrs Burgess & Mrs Newcomb.

“Mrs. E” refers to Mrs. Elizabeth Frieze Ellet, mentioned in Letter 280 (see also Letter 306). Though there is no letter from Poe to Mrs. Ellet, two unpublished items from her are in the Boston Public Library. One, postmarked December 16 [1845], is addressed to the Broadway Journal: “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, undated, 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 fur Sie — wollen Sie gefalligst heute abend nach Uhr den sebben bei mir entnehmen oder abholen lassen” (the particular “letter” cited is unknown). The letters alluded to by Poe in the present letter to Mrs. Whitman are unlocated. For the Osgood-Ellet relationship to the incident that Poe describes, see W, II, 183-184, and Quinn, Poe, pp. 497-498. The “two ladies” mentioned in sentence 1, page 3, are identified in the right margin of the original MS. by Mrs. Whitman as “Miss L[ynch] & Margaret F[uller],” though Miss Lynch apparently disowned her part in the affair (see Quinn, Poe, p. 498). “Ulalume” was first published in Colton's American Review, December 1847 (see Quinn, Poe, p. 532). The identity of “M. C.” is unknown. Mrs. H[ewitt]'s The Songs of Our Land and Other Poems was reviewed by Poe in the Broadway Journal, October 25, 1845 (reprinted in H, XII, 254-259). For William J. Pabodie, see the note to Letter 288. Mrs. Burgess and Mrs. Newcomb were friends of Mrs. Whitman. [CL 745]

291 ⇒ TO SARAH HELEN WHITMAN [November 26, 1848] [CL 746]


Sunday Evening. 26 [November, 1848]

I wrote you yesterday, sweet Helen, but, through fear of being too late for the mail, omitted some things I wished to say. I fear, too, that my letter must have seemed cold — perhaps even harsh or selfish — for I spoke nearly altogether of my own griefs. Pardon! me, my Helen, if not for the love I bear you, at least for the sorrows [page 410:] I have endured — more, I believe, than have often fallen to the lot of man. How much have they been aggravated by my consciousness that, in too many instances, they have arisen from my own culpable weakness or childish folly! — My sole hope, now, is in you, Helen. As you are true to me or fail me, so do I live or die.

I forgot to rëenclose your poem & do so now. Why have you omitted the two forcible lines —

While in its depths withdrawn, far, far away,

I see the dawn of a diviner day.?

-- is that dawn no longer perceptible? “Who wrote the verses signed “Mary” I am unable to say.

Can you solve me the riddle of the poem [page 2] enclosed? It is from last Saturday's “Home Journal.” Somebody sent it to me in M.S.

Was I right, dearest Helen, in my first impression of you? — you know I have implicit faith in first impressions. Was I right in the idea I had adopted before seeing you — in the idea that you are ambitious? If so and if you will have faith in me, I can & will satisfy your wildest desires. It would be a glorious triumph, Helen, for us — for you & me. I dare not trust my schemes to a letter — nor, indeed, have I room even to hint at them here. When I see you I will explain all — as far, at least, as I dare explain all my hopes even to you.

Would it not be “glorious”, darling, to establish, in America, the sole unquestionable aristocracy — that of intellect — to secure its supremacy — to lead & to control it? All this I can do, Helen, & will — if you bid me — and aid me.

I received yesterday a letter from Mr Dunnell. He says that they have “lost” their lect- [page 3] urer for the 6th prox. & offers me that night instead of the 13th. I have written him, however, that I cannot be in Providence before the 13th.

My kindest regards to Mr Pabodie.

Devotedly Your own


Preserve the printed lines. I send the M S. — perhaps you may recognise it.

As one of the “signs of the times” I notice that Griswold has lately [page 411:] copied my “Raven” in his “Hartford Weekly Gazette” — I enclose his editorial comments — so that you have quite a budget of enclosures.

P. S — I open this letter, dearest love, to ask you to mail me, as soon as possible, three articles of mine which you will find among the critical papers I gave you, viz: “The Philosophy of Composition “Tale-Writing — Nathl Hawthorne” — and a review of “Longfellow's Poems.” I wish to refer to them in writing my Lecture & can find no other copies. Do not fail to send them dear dear Helen, as soon as you get this. Enclose them in a letter — so that I may be sure to get them in season.

Mrs O's “Ida Grey” is in “Graham” for August — 45.

Poe's “yesterday” probably refers to his letter of November 24. For more about Mr. T. L. Dunnell, see the note to Letter 293. For William J. Pabodie, see the note to Letter 288. For Rufus White Griswold (not Poe's editor and biographer), see American Literature, VI (March 1934), 69-72. “Mrs. O” was Mrs. Frances Sargent Osgood. [CL 747] **[[instead of letter 293, I think it is letter 279]]**

292 ⇒ TO WILLIAM J. PABODIE [December 4, 1848] [CL 750]

Fordham — Dec. 4 — 48.

My dear Mr. Pabodie —

On the principle of “better late than never” I seize the first opportunity afforded me, in the midst of cares and vexations of all kinds, to write you a few words of cordial thanks for your considerate and gentlemanly attentions to me while in Providence. I do hope that you will always think of me as one of the most obliged and most devoted of your friends. — Please say to Mrs. W., when you next see her, that I thank her for the “papers” and for her promptitude. Say, also, that perhaps Mrs. Wright is right, but that I believe her wrong, and desire to be kindly remembered. The commands, about Post, have been attended to. — Present my respects to Mrs. Allen and to your father.

Truly yours always.

Edgar Allan Poe

W. J. Pabodie Esqr

William J. Pabodie was a friend of both Mrs. Whitman and of Poe, but was opposed to their marriage (see Quinn, Poe, pp. 585-586). For [page 412:] his defense of Poe in the New York Tribune, June 2, 1852, see Quinn, Poe, pp. 679-681; see also the note to Letter 288. Poe returned from Providence, November 14 (see Letter 285). In that postscript of Letter 291, Poe asked that three critical articles be returned to him. “Mrs. Wright” was probably Mrs. Paulina Wright, of Providence (see Varner, “Sarah Helen Whitman, Seeress of Providence,” I, 350). [CL 750]

293 ⇒ TO SARAH HELEN WHITMAN [December 16, 1848] [CL 753]

New-York City —

Saturday, 2 P. M. [December 16, 1848]

My own dearest Helen —

Your letters — to my mother & myself — have just been received, & I hasten to reply, in season for this afternoons [mail ... ] I cannot be in Providence until Wednesday morning; and, as I must try and get some sleep after I arrive, it is more than probable that I shall not see you until about 2 P. M. Keep up heart — for all will go well. My mother sends her dearest love and says she will return good for evil & treat you much better than your mother has treated me. Remember me to Mr. P. & believe me

Ever Your own


Poe was going to Providence to deliver his lecture on “The Poetic Principle,” December 20 (see Letters 279 and 291). “Mr. P.” is William J. Pabodie. [CL 753]

294 ⇒ TO MARIA CLEMM [December 23, 1848] [CL 757]

[Providence, December 23, 1848]

My own dear Mother —

We shall be married on Monday, and will be at Fordham on Tuesday. on the first train.


The marriage between Poe and Mrs. Whitman never took place. Poe was back in Fordham by December 28 (see Letter 296). In connection with this letter, see Letter 302. [CL 757] [page 413:]

295 ⇒ TO THE REVEREND DR. CROCKER [December 23, 1848] [CL 758]

[Providence, December 23, 1848]

Will Dr. Crocker have the kindness to publish the banns of matrimony between Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman and myself, on Sunday and on Monday. When we have decided on the day of the marriage we will inform you, and will thank you to perform the ceremony.

Respy yr. Ob. St

Edgar A. Poe.

Pabodie's letter to Griswold and Mrs. Whitman's letter to Mrs. Hewitt, both cited in Note 295, indicate that Poe's letter to Dr. Crocker was never delivered. [CL 758]

296 ⇒ TO ANNIE L. RICHMOND [December 28, 1848] [CL 759]

[New York] Thursday Morning — 28.

[December, 1848]

Annie, —

My own dear Mother will explain to you how it is that I cannot write to you in full — but I must write only a few words to let you see that I am well, lest you suspect me to be ill. All is right! ...  . I hope that I distinguished myself at the Lecture — I tried to do so, for your sake. There were 1800 people present, and such applause! I did so much better than I did at Lowell. If you had only been there...  . Give my dearest love to all.


Poe lectured in Providence on the “Poetic Principle,” December 20, 1848 (see the note to Letter 279; also W, II, 284). The Lowell lecture was delivered July 10, 1848; its subject was “The Poets and Poetry of America.” This is Poe's first known letter to Annie since that of November 16; no letter from her is known for the same period, though the present letter may imply one recently received. [CL 759]

297 ⇒ TO SARAH ANNA LEWIS [late 1848] [CL 761]

[New York, Late 1848 (?) ]

Dear Mrs Lewis —

Upon the whole I think this the most spirited poem you have written. If I were you, I would retain all the prose prefix. [page 414:]

You will observe that I have taken the liberty of making some suggestions in the body of the poem — the force of which, I think, would be much increased by the introduction of an occasional short line.

For example [here Poe lists certain lines of the poem and suggests that] These short lines should be “indented” — as for instance

So, to cheer thy desolation,

Will I cling to thee.


Mrs. Lewis incorporated, without acknowledgment, all but one or two of Poe's corrections of the poem (“The Prisoner of Peroté”; see Note 297). Ingram printed a portion of the poem with Poe's corrections in the Albany Review, cited in Note 297. [C1. 761]

298 ⇒ TO ANNIE L. RICHMOND [January 11, 1849] [CL 763]

[New York, January 11, 1849]

... Annie! ...(1)

It seems to me so long since I have written you that I feel condemned, and almost tremble lest you should have evil thoughts of †... † Eddy...  . But no, you will never doubt me under any circumstances — will you †... † ? †... † It seems to me that Fate is against our meeting †again† soon — †but oh, we will not let distance diminish our affection, and by-and-by all will go right.† Oh, Annie, in spite of so many worldly sorrows — in spite of all the trouble and misrepresentation (so hard to bear) that Poverty has entailed on me for so long a time — in spite of all this I am soso happy †to think that you really love me. If you had lived as long as I, you would understand fully what I mean. Indeed, indeed, Annie, there is nothing in this world worth living for except love — love not such as I once thought I felt for Mrs. —— but such as burns in my very soul for you — so pure — so unworldly — a love which would make all sacrifices for your sake.† [I need not tell you, Annie, how great a burden is taken off my heart by my rupture with Mrs. W.; for I have fully made up my mind to break the engagement...  .] (2) [page 415:] † Could I have accomplished what I wished, no sacrifice would have seemed to me too great, I felt so burning — so intensely passionate a longing to show you that I loved you...  .† [Nothing would have deterred me from the match but-what I tell you...  .]

Write to me †... † whenever you can spare time, if it be only a line...  . I am beginning to do very well about money as my spirits improve, and soon — very soon, I hope, I shall be quite out of difficulty. You can’t think how industrious I am. I am resolved to get rich — to triumph — †for your sweet sake...  . Kiss dear Sarah for me — tell her I will write to her soon — we talk so much about her.† When you write tell me something about B[ardwell]. Has he gone to Richmond? or what is he doing? Oh, if I could only be of service to him in any way! Remember me to all — to your father and mother and dear little Caddy, and Mr. R. and Mr. C. And now good-by, my own dear sister Annie!

[Signature missing]

For an opposite attitude toward Fate, see Letter 138. “Mrs. —— “ was Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman. What Annie wished Poe to accomplish was probably a settled married life. A. Bardwell Heywood was Annie's brother and a school teacher. “Caddy” (later Mrs. Edward Coffin) was the daughter of Charles B. Richmond and Annie, and though called “Caddy” in Poe's correspondence with Annie, was always known to her family and friends as “Carrie” (this information was provided through the courtesy of James Southall Wilson). “Mr. R.” was Mr. Richmond, Annie's husband, and “Mr. C.” was the Reverend Warren H. Cudworth, of Lowell. [CL 763]

299 ⇒ TO JOHN R. THOMPSON [January 13, 1849] [CL 764]

New-York — Jan. 13. — 49.

My Dear Sir,

Accept my thanks for the two Messengers containing Miss Talley's “Genius.” -I am glad to see that Griswold, although imperfectly, has done her justice in his late “Female Poets of America.”

Enclosed, I send you the opening chapter of an article, called “Marginalia”, published, about three years ago, in “The Democratic Review”. I send it that, by glancing it over — especially the prefatory remarks — you may perceive the general design — which I think well adapted to the purposes of such a Magazine as yours: — affording [page 416:] great scope for variety of critical or other comment. I may add that “Marginalia”, continued for five or six chapters, proved as popular as any papers written by me. — My object in writing you now, is to propose that I continue the papers in “The Messenger” — running them through the year, at the rate of 5 pages each month — commencing with the March number. You might afford me, as before, I presume, $2 per page.

One great advantage will be that, at a hint from yourself, I can touch, briefly, any topic you might suggest; and there are many points affecting the interests of Southern Letters — especially in reference to Northern neglect or misrepresentation of them — which stand sorely in need of touching. — If you think well of my proposal, I will send you the two first numbers [page 2] (10 pp.) immediately on receipt of a letter from you. You can pay me at your convenience — as the papers are published — or otherwise.

Please re-enclose me the printed papers, when you have done with them.

Very truly yours,

Edgar Allan Poe

Jno: R. Thompson Esq.

P.S — I am about to bestir myself in the world of Letters rather more busily than I have done for three or four years past — and a connexion which I have established with 2 weekly papers may enable me, now & then, to serve you in respect to “The Messenger”.

Susan Archer Talley (see her letter to Poe, November 29, 1848, in H, XVII, 324) was a Richmond poetess and later the author of “The Last Days of Edgar A. Poe.” Griswold's Female Poets of America was “off the press” by December 30, 1848 (see the note to Letter 321). The “Marginalia” here cited appeared in J. L. O’Sullivan's Democratic Review, November and December 1844 (reprinted in H, XVI, 1-66). Poe wrote during his career a total of fifteen “Marginalia” papers (see H, XVI, 1-178), the last five being printed in the SLM, April, May, June, July, and September 1849. In this connection, see also Letter 313. The present letter, above, the May 10 letter, just cited, and the appearance of the “Marginalia” in the SLM suggest at least one letter to Poe from Thompson, of which there is no known MS. or printing; in all likelihood there was an answer to Poe's letter, above, and a later one to which Poe's May 10 letter is an answer. Regarding Poe's request for “$2 per page,” see Letter 301. Poe's connections with “2 weekly papers” may refer to the Metropolitan (see the note to Letter 309) and [page 417:] to the Flag of Our Union (see Letter 303 and note). John Reuben Thompson edited the SLM, November 1847-May 1860 (Mott, History of American Magazines, I, 629). [CL 764]

300 ⇒ TO JOHN PRIESTLEY [January 20, 1849] [CL 766]

Fordham, Saturday, January 20 [1849]

[My Dear Sir]

May I trouble you to hand the accompanying brief article to Mr. Whelpley and see if he can give me $10 for it? About four years ago, I think, I wrote a paper on “The American Drama” for your review. It was printed anonymously — my name was not given in the index. The criticism referred chiefly to Willis's “Tortesa” and Longfellow's “Spanish Student.” Could you procure me the number containing it?

[Truly your friend,

Edgar Allan Poe]

James D. Whelpley was editor of the American Whig Review (1848-1849), having succeeded George H. Colton, who had founded it in January 1845 (see Mott, History of American Magazines, I, 752). The article, “Critics and Criticism,” was not purchased by Whelpley; it appeared in Graham's, January 1850, after Poe's death. Poe's “American Drama” had appeared in the American Whig Review, August 1845 (reprinted in H, XIII, 33-73). [CL 766]

301 ⇒ TO ANNIE L. RICHMOND [January 21 (?), 1849] [CL 768]

†New York † (1)

[January 21 (?),1849]

†My own † faithful Annie!

How shall I ever be grateful enough to God for giving me, in all my adversity, so true, so beautiful a friend! I felt deeply wounded by the cruel statements of your letter — and yet I had anticipated nearly all...  . [From the bottom of my heart I forgive her all, and would forgive her even more.] (2) Some portions of your letter I do [page 418:] not fully understand. If the reference is to my having violated my promise to you, I simply say, Annie, that I have not, and by God's blessing never will. Oh, if you but knew how happy I am in keeping it for your sake, you could never believe that I would violate it. The reports, if any such there be — may have arisen, however, from what I did in Providence on that terrible day — you know what I mean: — Oh — I shudder even to think of it. That ... [her friends] will speak ill of me is an inevitable evil — I must bear it. In fact, Annie, I am beginning to grow wiser, and do not care so much as I did for the opinions of a world in which I see, with my own eyes, that to act generously is to be considered as designing, and that to be poor is to be a villain. I must get rich — rich. Then all will go well — but until then I must submit to be abused. I deeply regret that Mr. R —— should think ill of me. If you can, disabuse him — and at all times act for me as you think best; I put my honor, as I would my life and soul, implicitly in your hands; but I would rather not confide my purposes, in that one regard, to any one but your dear sister.

[I enclose you a letter for Mrs. Whitman. Read it — show it only to those in whom you have faith, and then seal it with wax and mail it from Boston...  . When her answer comes I will send it to you: that will convince you of the truth. If she refuse to answer I will write to Mr. Crocker. By the by, if you know his exact name and address send it to me...  . But] as long as you and yours love me, tmy true and beautiful Annie,† what need I care for this cruel, unjust, calculating world? † Oh, Annie, there are no human words that can express my devotion to you and yours. My love for you has given me renewed life.† In all my present anxieties and embarrassments, I still feel in my inmost soul a divine joy — a happiness inexpressible — that nothing seems to disturb. † For hours at a time I sit and think of you — of your lovely character — your true faith and unworldliness. I do not believe that any one in this whole world fully understands me except your own dear self...  . How glad I am to hear about Sarah's living with you, and about the school. Tell her that she is my own dear sister, whom I shall always love. Do not let her think ill of me;† I hope Mr. C ——— is well. Remember me to him, and ask him if he has seen my “Rationale of Verse” in the last October and November numbers of the Southern Literary Messenger...  . I am so busy now, and feel so full of energy. Engagements [page 419:] to write are pouring in upon me every day. I had two proposals within the last week from Boston. I sent yesterday an article to the American Review about “Critics and Criticism.” Not long ago I sent one to the Metropolitan called “Landor's Cottage:” it has something about Annie in it, and will appear, I suppose, in the March number. To the S. L. Messenger I have sent fifty pages of “Marginalia” — five pages to appear each month of the current year. I have also made permanent engagements with every magazine in America (except Peterson's National), including a Cincinnati magazine called The Gentlemen's. So you see that I have only to keep up my spirits to get out of all my pecuniary troubles. [The least price I get is $5 per “Graham page,” and I can easily average 1 1/2 per day — that is $7 1/2. As soon as “returns” come in I shall be out of difficulty. I see Godey advertises an article by me, but I am at a loss to know what it is.] You ask me, Annie, to tell you about some book to read. Have you seen “Percy Ranthorpe,” by Mrs. Gore? You can get it at any of the agencies. I have lately read it with deep interest, and derived great consolation from it also. It relates to the career of a literary man, and gives a just view of the true aims and the true dignity of the literary character. Read it for my sake...  .

But of one thing rest assured, Annie — from this day forth I shun the pestilential society of literary women. They are a heartless, unnatural, venomous, dishonorable set, with no guiding principle but inordinate self-esteem. Mrs [Osgood] is the only exception I know. †Our dear mother sends you a hundred kisses (fifty for Sarah). She will write very soon.† Kiss little Caddy for me, and remember me to Mr. R ——— and to all.

[I have had a most distressing headache for the last two weeks...  .]

[Signature missing]

Poe's reference to “that terrible day” in Providence is not clear: it may be to his purchasing laudanum, and his “promise” to Mrs. Richmond may have been never again to attempt suicide. “Mr. R ——— “ was Annie's husband, and Mrs. Richmond's letters to Ingram picture him as exceedingly deferential toward Poe. Mrs. Richmond's sister was Sarah Heywood, then living with the Richmonds, in Lowell. “Mr. C ——— “ refers to the Reverend Warren H. Cudworth, of Lowell, author of “Mr. Poe as a Cryptographer,” in the Lowell Journal, April 19, 1850 (see Mrs. Richmond to Ingram, January 14, 1877, Ingram collection, University of Virginia). There are no known letters to support Poe's [page 420:] claim of many “engagements to write”; indeed Poe seems to have urged editors to accept his MSS. (see Letters 299 and 300). For one possible “proposal ... from Boston,” see the note to Letter 303. According to letters from Sarah H. Whitman to Ingram, February 20 and April 2, 1874 (Ingram collection, University of Virginia), the Metropolitan ran for only two issues (see also Letter 309). Poe's “least price” is belied by his letter to John R. Thompson, already cited (Letter 299). No article by Poe is advertised in any issue of Godey's prior to this letter to which Poe could have had reference. Percy Ranthorpe, a novel printed in London, 1847, was by George Henry Lewes, and not Mrs. Gore. “Caddy” was Annie's daughter (see Letter 298). [CL 768]

302 ⇒ TO SARAH HELEN WHITMAN [January 21 (?), 1849] [CL 769]

Fordham Jany. 25th / 49

[January 21 (?), 1849]

Dear Madam,

In commencing this letter, need I say to you, after what has passed between us, that no amount of provocation on your part, or on the part of your friends, shall induce me to speak ill of you even in my own defence? If to shield myself from calumny however undeserved, or however unendurable, I find a need of resorting to explanations that might condemn or pain you, most solemnly do I assure you, that I will patiently endure such calumny, rather than avail myself of any such means of refuting it — You will see then, that so far I am at your mercy — but in making you such assurances, have I not a right to ask of you some forbearance in return? My object in now writing you is to place before you an extract from a letter recently addressed to myself — “I will not repeat all her vile & slanderous words — you have doubtless heard them — but one thing she says that I cannot deny though I do not believe it — viz — that you had been published to her once, & that on the Sat. preceding the Sabbath on which you were to have been published for the second time, she went herself to the Rev Mr Crocker's, & after stating her reasons for so doing, requested him to stop all further proceedings” — That you Mrs W — have uttered, promulgated or in any way countenanced this pitiable falsehood, I do not & cannot believe — some person equally your enemy & mine has been its author — but what I beg of you is, to write me at once a few lines in explanation — you know of course that by reference either to Mr Pabodie (who at my request forbore [page 421:] to speak to the minister about publishing the first banns on the day I left) or, to the Rev. Mr Crocker himself, I can disprove the facts stated in the most satisfactory manner — but there can be no need of disproving what I feel confident was never asserted by you — Your simple disavowal is all that I wish — You will of course write me immediately on receipt of this -only in the event of my not hearing from you within a few days, will I proceed to take more definite steps — Heaven knows that I would shrink from wounding or grieving you! I blame no one but your Mother — Mr Pabodie will tell you the words which passed between us, while from the effects of those terrible stimulants you lay prostrate without even the power to bid me farewell — Alas! I bitterly lament my own weaknesses, & nothing is farther from my heart than to blame you for yours — May Heaven shield you from all ill! So far I have assigned no reason for my declining to fulfil our engagement — I had none but the suspicious & grossly insulting parsimony of the arrangements into which you suffered yourself to be forced by your Mother — Let my letters & acts speak for themselves — It has been my intention to say simply, that our marriage was postponed on account of your ill health — Have you really said or done anything which can preclude our placing the rupture on such footing? If not, I shall persist in the statement & thus this unhappy matter will die quietly away —

E. A. Poe

Regarding the quotation in this letter, Mrs. Richmond wrote Ingram, January 14, 1877 (Ingram collection): “The quotation in this letter of course was written by me — not on my own account but to satisfy my friends.” Her “friends” included Mr. Richmond's family, who lived in Providence, and who, apparently, sided with Mrs. Whitman. She continued: “Of course I had no other alternative, but to ... ask some explanation — Mrs. W.'s reply exonerated him completely, yet I think they were inclined to discredit it and believe him still a very unprincipled man to say the least —.” (This note was written by Mrs. Richmond on her transcript of Poe's letter to Mrs. Whitman, above, sent with her own letter to Ingram, January 14, 1877.) Regarding the “banns,” see Letter 295. Whether Mrs. Whitman answered Poe's request for a disavowal, is uncertain. Mrs. Richmond's note, quoted above, implies that she did, though whether made in writing to Poe or orally in Providence is open to question. In his letter to Mrs. Richmond, February 8, 1849, Poe says: “I have got no answer yet from Mrs W...  .” (Letter 303 and note); Mrs. Whitman told Ingram: [page 422:] “His letter I did not dare to answer” (Ingram, II, 186). ‘For her remarks to Griswold, see notes to Letter 303. The evidence most difficult to explain away is Mrs. Richmond's; perhaps Mrs. Whitman did make some oral disavowal to certain persons in Providence, yet did not dare write to Poe. This is the last known letter from Poe to Mrs. Whitman. [CL 769]



[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 414:]

1.  Matter between daggers appears in Appleton's but not in Life.

2.  Bracketed matter, except for place and date, is inserted from Life.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 417:]

1.  Matter between daggers appears in Appleton's but not in Life.

2.  Bracketed matter, except for the date, is inserted from Life.



In the original printing, an unusal special character is used between the number of the letter and the text describing the correspondents. In the current presentation, this special character has been rendered as a double right-pointing arrow. For the sake of the reader, the line that identifies a letter is given in a larger font, and in bold. The date of the letter, the letter number and check list number have also been added.


[S:0 - OLT66, 1966] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (J. W. Ostrom) (Letters: Chapter X)