Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. E. C. Stedman and G. E. Woodberry), “On the Portraits in this Edition,” The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, New York: Stone and Kimball, vol. X, 1895, pp. 257-266a


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[page 257:]

ON THE PORTRAITS IN THIS EDITION.

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TEN portraits of Edgar Allan Poe are reproduced in these volumes. Seven of them are copied, by engraving or otherwise, from presumptively original daguerrotypes of the poet; one is engraved after the well-known oil painting by Osgood; another, from a painting made by A. C. Smith; and still another from the photograph of a pastel made long after Poe’s death, with the aid of one or more of the existing likenesses. Portraits, also, of his mother and wife appear in Vols. VIII. and IX., respectively.

No likeness of Poe in his youth or early manhood is known to exist, and there is not much evidence that he sat for his portrait to any painter except S. S. Osgood, unless it may have been to Smith for the sketch produced in “Graham’s Magazine.” This certainly is one of the earlier pictures made of him, and therefore is reproduced in the present edition. It should be stated, however, that a letter written in 1884, by Mr. S. C. Duval, renders it not unlikely that an artist’s portrait of Poe at a younger age was made, and at present may be counted among the “lost portraits” of famous authors. Mr. Duval had for years in Philadelphia a lithographic establishment, — unfortunately destroyed by fire, with all its contents, in 1856. He states that in 1839 or 1840, when Poe was contributing to the “U. S. Military Magazine” and other local periodicals, a lithographic likeness of the poet was copied “from [page 258:] a miniature painting furnished by Mr. Poe, or by the editor of the magazine, Mr. Wm. Huddy.” The letter adds that “it was done by Newsom,” and was to be inserted in some publication. No trace of either the miniature or the lithograph has thus far been found.

The daguerrotyper’s art was not in full vogue until well into the forties, — that is, close upon the time of Poe’s hit with the “Raven,” and of his most conspicuous activity. From that date he seems to have been considered a peculiarly eligible “subject” by the daguerrotypers; at all events, he sat before their cameras in various cities, — certainly in New York, Providence, Baltimore, and Richmond, and, it is supposed, in Boston and Philadelphia. There is no doubt but that all these sittings took place within the last five or six years of his life; and a belief is naturally expressed by almost every owner of a Poe daguerrotype that his is “the last one taken of the poet.” The date of the one reproduced last in this edition is, however, positively known. It seems probable, from the following catalogue of portraits, and the facts obtainable concerning them, that the operators, as was their frequent custom, took more than one picture at a sitting. Apparent duplicates of certain plates are still preserved. It is pretty evident, besides, that daguerrotyped copies of a plate have been made in one or two cases, a new plate exhibiting the “reverse” of its original.

LIST OF PORTRAITS CONTAINED IN THIS EDITION.

VOL. I. — “Portrait engraved by J. SARTAlN, from the original picture in the collection of R. W. GRISWOLD.”

The foregoing is the description given of this mezzotint in the first volume of Griswold’s edition of the “Works,” published by Redfield in 1850, to which it is a frontispiece. John Sartain’s original plate, then used, is now owned by Messrs. Stone and Kimball, and the frontispiece to Vol. I. of this edition is made therefrom. [page 259:] Mr. Sartain engraved it after the oil painting by Samuel S. Osgood, a favorite artist in his day, and the husband of Frances Sargent Osgood. The canvas is not thought to be one of the painter’s best, but for many years it served as the standard likeness of the poet. A steel engraving was also made from it by E. Halpin. This engraving, changed by removal of the poet’s whiskers and the addition of a mustache, appeared in Widdleton’s reissue of the “Works” (with Ingram’s “Memoir,” etc., substituted for Griswold’s), in 1876. The Osgood canvas is No. 147 in the collection of the New York Historical Society, to which it was bequeathed by Mr. Griswold. It bears no date, and the exact time when it was painted is still a matter for research.

VOL. II. — “Portrait from a daguerrotype in the possession of E. C. STEDMAN.”

This daguerrotype, which is clear, lifelike, and in excellent preservation, was a gift to the writer in 1880, from Mr. Benjamin H. Ticknor, formerly of Messrs. Houghton, Osgood & Co. Mr. Ticknor obtained it, at a much earlier date, from Charles H. Brainard, a lecturer upon literary topics. Nearly half a century ago, Mr. Brainard issued a series of the portraits of famous Americans, lithographed by Grozelier, a well-known Boston portrait-draftsman. It has been surmised that this picture was taken, for use in that series, during Poe’s visit to Boston as a lecturer, in 1845. A comparison, however, with the portrait next described, makes it seem not impossible that both were taken at a later date. The Brainard-Ticknor likeness has been engraved more than once in past time; very successfully by F. T. Stuart, as a frontispiece to Woodberry’s Life of Poe, “American Men of Letters” Series, 1885.

VOL. III. — “Portrait from a daguerrotype in the possession of R. L. TRAYLOR.”

Said to have been taken at Pratt’s gallery in Richmond. Presented by the poet, shortly before his death, to Mrs. Sarah Elmira (Royster) Shelton, whom he had engaged to marry. It is now in the possession of Mr. Robert Lee Traylor, of Richmond, and is thought by him to be Poe’s last portrait. With respect to the attitude, and much of the arrangement of the costume, the dose resemblance to the portrait in Vol. II. is significant, and especially [page 260:] so when allowance is made for the engraver’s work on the Traylor block, and for the fact that the other picture is an absolute photograph of its original.

The editors repeat their obligations to Mr. Traylor for liberty to reproduce this portrait. They also thank the Century Company for the use of the present engraving, and for its engravings of the Chilton-McKee and Massury-Cornwell daguerrotypes.

VOL. IV. — “Portrait from a daguerrotype in the possession of THOMAS J. MCKEE.”

We are indebted to Mr. McKee, the eminent New York student and collector of literary and dramatic Americana, for the privilege of reproducing this likeness. While very interesting, it is sharply distinguished, except in costume and bearing, from other pictures of the poet, — most of which have so much in common. The expression is one of care and serious reflection, and the general presentment that of a man older in years than the original of any other portrait save that in our sixth volume. As opposed to this, it is said in a footnote to selections from Poe’s correspondence, in the “Century Magazine,” October, 1894, that this portrait “so closely resembles that printed with Hirst’s Biography in the ‘Philadelphia Saturday Museum,’ March 4, 1843, as to suggest that the latter, though very rude in execution, was copied from it.” The suggestion renders it possible that this is the earliest, rather than one of the latest, of the likenesses given. Mr. McKee purchased this daguerrotype, together with plates of Halleck, Bryant, Webster, and others, from a Mrs. Chilton, “whose husband and his brother were daguerrotypers, on Broadway, New York, somewhere back in the forties.” The evidence of its genuineness is thought to be complete, and the original case bears the poet’s name.

VOL. V. — “Portrait from a photograph of the picture by OSCAR HALLING, in the possession of JOHN PRENTISS POE. Copyright 1893, by AMELIA POE.”

Of this picture Miss Poe writes, from Baltimore: “The portrait is a life-size pastel, under glass, painted by Oscar Halling, the Baltimore artist, in 1868, from a daguerrotype brought by some [page 261:] person, I cannot discover whom, to Stanton & Butler, photographers. This firm left Baltimore years ago.” The pastel belongs to Attorney-General John Prentiss Poe, Baltimore, Md.

VOL. VI. — “Portrait from a photograph of a daguerrotype formerly in the possession of ‘STELLA.’ ”

Of all the likenesses of Poe this is the most picturesque, intense, and even dramatic, in look and attitude. It is also noteworthy for its striking depiction of the contrast, in shape and expression, between the cheerful and the tragic sides of his face. This may be brought out even more strongly by covering the vertical sections of the picture alternately. The portrait was first made public through its appearance in Ingram’s Life of Poe, 1880, where it is said to be from a daguerrotype, then in the possession of “Stella,” — Mrs. Estelle (Sarah) Anna Lewis. The original afterwards became, and is at this date, the property of Mr. Ingram. The same daguerrotype, however, or a counterpart taken at the same time with it, is now in the possession of Mr. William Painter, of Baltimore, to whom it was given by Mrs. Clemm, the poet’s mother-in-law, whom Mr. Painter had assisted in her old age and trouble. Mrs. Clemm stated that the picture was made in Providence, and that it was the last taken of the poet.

If Poe sat for the daguerrotype in Providence at the date of his final visit to Mrs. Whitman, it is more than a fair presumption that no later portrait of him exists. It should be added, however, that Mr. A. P. Root, of Philadelphia, is the owner of a plate, the exact “reverse” of this picture, which he says was taken by his father, M. A. Root, at the latter’s gallery in that city. One of the two plates, of course, must have been copied from the other.

The present editors and publishers are indebted to Mr. J. H. Ingram for his courteous permission to reproduce his facsimile of the “Stella” plate, and for information concerning it. The frontispiece to Vol. I. of his Edinburgh edition of Poe’s “Tales and Poems” (4 vols., 1884), is a very artistic etching, in the French manner, by Ben Damman, which until now we had supposed to be a design after the same “Stella” portrait. But in a letter of recent date Mr. Ingram writes: the “portrait I value most is the unique photograph given me by Mrs. Whitman, and used by me for the 4 vol. Edinburgh edition of the ‘Works.’ The negative [page 262:] and copies were burned.” — The etching and the “Stella” photograph certainly appear to be based upon the same original, and as photography was not practised here until after the poet’s death, the “negative” received from Mrs. Whitman must have been taken from one of the daguerrotypes mentioned in the foregoing references to the Ingram-“Stella” portrait. The present writer’s conclusion is that Poe did sit for these in Providence, and that the Philadelphia picture was copied in reverse from the one or more plates then obtained.

VOL. VII. — (Frontispiece.) “Portrait of POE at the age of thirty-five.”

This appeared in “Graham’s Magazine,” February, 1845, accompanied by Lowell’s critical sketch of Poe, and was engraved on steel by Welch & Walter, from a painting by A. C. Smith. It was one of the series “Our Contributors,” in the magazine named, and is thought to have given satisfaction. It seems to be one of the earliest, and, though not at all forcible, is the most genial in appearance, of the existing likenesses. The original engraving represents the poet at three-quarters length, sitting in an office-chair of the period, with his right arm easily thrown over its back. The upper part of the engraving is shown in the present reproduction.

VOL. VII. — (Page 143.) “Portrait from a daguerrotype formerly in the possession of THOMAS H. DAVIDSON.”

Originally produced in the “Memorial Volume” (edited by Sara Sigourney Rice), Baltimore, 1877. With it appeared a certificate from Mr. Daniel Bendann, photographer, vouching for its fidelity to a daguerrotype taken at the old Whitehurst Gallery, Main Street, Richmond, with which establishment he was formerly connected, and saying that it was the most faithful likeness of Poe extant. Whatever the original daguerrotype (then in the possession of Thomas H. Davidson, Abingdon, Va., now deceased) may have been, it can be seen at once that the photograph represents a picture “touched up” — as respects the right sleeve, hand, etc. — from one similar to the portrait in our second volume. [page 263:]

VOL. VIII. — “Portrait of ELIZABETH (ARNOLD) POE, mother of the poet, from a photograph of the miniature in the possession of J. H. INGRAM.”

First issued as a frontispiece to the second volume of Ingram’s Life of Poe, 1880. In that work it is said to have been copied from a miniature which “accompanied the poet through all his wanderings.” Shortly before his death he gave it to a friend, from whom Mr. Ingram received it. A footnote continues: “A second portrait of Mrs. Poe, it may be remarked, remained in the possession of her famous son until his decease, but its subsequent fate is unknown to us.” The editors and publishers are indebted to Mr. Ingram for his courtesy with respect to this photograph also.

VOL. IX. — “Portrait of VIRGINIA CLEMM, wife of EDGAR ALLAN POE. From a photograph of the water-color drawing in the possession of AMELIA POE. Copyright, 1893, by AMELIA POE.

A pathetic interest attaches to this old-fashioned drawing, crude as it may be, from the fact that it is the only picture extant in which even an attempt has been made to preserve the likeness of the poet’s gentle cousin and wife. Its genuineness is undoubted, but Miss Poe writes of it: the “picture of Virginia is a poor water-color, under glass, without date, or name of the painter. There is a story that it was taken after her death. It came into my possession from her mother, Mrs. Maria Clemm.”

VOL. X. — (Frontispiece.) “Portrait reproduced from the engraving by T. COLE, in the possession of theCentury Company.’ ”

The masterly wood-engraving in question was made by the artist, Mr. Cole, to accompany an article on Poe, by the present writer, which appeared in the “Century Magazine” for May, 1880. Its original was a daguerrotype then in the possession of Dr. H. S. Cornwell (now deceased), of New London, Conn. A letter from Dr. Cornwell, of date February 10, 1880, states that the portrait was taken in Providence “at the time of the Mrs. Whitman [page 264:] trouble, shortly before the poet’s death. . . . The artist’s name was Massury.” There is a lithograph of this same likeness made by a Frenchman, resident in New York, and it has also been very well engraved on steel for use in the Armstrong-Putnam reprint of the Griswold-text “Works.”

The following Note, upon the next and last of the portraits reproduced, should be read in further consideration of this Massury-Cornwell picture.

VOL. X. — (Page 141.) Portrait from the photograph of a daguerrotype given by Poe to Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman, and now in the possession of William Coleman.

This picture was photographed by Messrs. Coleman and Remington, at their gallery in the “Hoppin Homestead Building,” Providence, R. I., from a daguerrotype long owned by Mrs. Whitman, and by her given to her friend Mr. William Coleman (of the firm named), in whose possession it still remains.

The record of this obviously truthful and animated likeness is of extreme value, being exact as to the occasion and date of production. In this respect it is exceptional. We learn from the present owner of the daguerrotype, through his sister, Miss Sarah D. Coleman, that it was taken in Providence by S. W. Hartshorn, then at No. 25 Westminster Street, on the 14th of November, 1848. Poe departed on the evening of that day for New York, after a week’s sojourn in Providence, in the course of which Mrs. Whitman had agreed to a conditional engagement. He gave the portrait to his betrothed, who in after years told Mr. Coleman that both she and the poet considered it his best likeness. It can readily be seen that the picture from which the Cole engraving, also in Vol. X., was copied, must have been taken at about the same date with the one under examination. Though in their present reproduction “reversed,” the forehead, mouth, and mustache are alike in both. The poet wears the same coat in each, but the addition of an overcoat gives the Hartshorn-Coleman likeness a quite modern effect.

We are indebted to Miss Nora Perry for bringing this picture to our attention and assisting us to obtain the facts relating to it.

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[page 265:]

Only two more portraits that were undoubtedly taken from life are known to the present editors. One of these is the daguerrotype obtained by Mr. M. B. Brady, for years at the head of his craft and now still living, from which plate a large photograph was obtained, long familiar to callers at Mr. Brady’s gallery on Broadway. A reduction of the photograph was embraced in the Anthony “Collection of Celebrities.” Mr. Brady states that Poe was brought to his gallery by their common friend, W. Ross Wallace, the poet, and that he did not know the name of his sitter until some time afterward. This incident occurred while Poe was editing the “Broadway Journal.” In 1847, the other original portrait, a very realistic “half-plate” daguerrotype, was taken by Mr. Gabriel Harrison (author of the “Life of John Howard Payne”), who was on intimate terms, from 1844 onward, with the poet and his household. Mr. Harrison in time gave this plate to his friend, the lawyer, S. D. Lewis, husband of “Stella.” In after years he obtained the use of it, for the purpose of taking a photographic copy. Having succeeded in this, he went to Baltimore, and finished up the picture in watercolor, under the eyes of Mrs. Clemm, in order that (to use his own words), “we might have a perfect likeness of Poe, as to complexion and the color of his eyes and hair.” Quite an interval must have passed between the death of Poe and this occurrence, for Mrs. Clemm resided with Mr. and Mrs. Lewis in Brooklyn, L. I., for years before going to Baltimore and entering the “Church Home.” The picture, when completed, was entirely satisfactory to her and to the artist. As a mark of her friendship and appreciation she gave Mr. Harrison the wedding rings of herself and her daughter, both melted into one ring, which the poet had worn and which was found on his finger when he died. In 1865 this ring, and the colored photographic portrait, were presented by Mr. Harrison to the Long Island Historical Society, and the picture now hangs in the collection of that institution. The original daguerrotype [page 266:] was returned to Mr. Lewis (now deceased), but a copy was made for T. J. McKee, Esq., who still retains it.

Mr. Harrison, who is now living in Brooklyn, L. I., in good strength and activity, and greatly attached to the poet’s memory, favors the editors with some interesting reminiscences of his friend’s characteriztics during the period of their intimacy: —

“As to his personal appearance, when I first knew him, he was slim in stature, and had a pale face, with a look of melancholy, and a handsome mouth — remarkable for its compression. His eyes were full of thoughtfulness, with the inner ends of his brows slightly upturned, presenting an expression of painful sadness. His nose was the imperfect feature of his face, since one side looked as if it had at some time been bruised, and put somewhat out of shape. In 1847, the time I made his picture, it often struck me that he looked like the elder Booth. . . . His coat was always buttoned up close to the neck, showing a black stock with his white collar turned over it. His walk was always slow and not graceful, and a little uncertain, as if his mind was on something else than walking. His hands were rather large. His articulation was so fine that you could count the syllables.”

E. C. S.

[page 266a, unnumbered and inserted between pages 266 and 267:]

ADDENDUM

SINCE THE NOTES ON THE PORTRAITS WENT TO PRESS, IT HAS BEEN DISCOVERED, — WITH THE AID OF MR. GABRIEL HARRISON, AND IN CONSEQUENCE OF HIS RECENT DUPLICATION OF THE PICTURE IN THE LONG ISLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY, — THAT THE “STELLA” PORTRAIT (GIVEN IN VOL. VI) IS POSSIBLY A COUNTERPART OF THE DAGUERREOTYPE TAKEN BY MR. HARRISON IN 1847. THE ROOT DAGUERREOTYPE, MENTIONED IN THE NOTES ON THE “STELLA” PORTRAIT, IS DOUBTLESS A COPY OF THE SAME PLATE. MR. HARRISON, NOW IN HIS SEVENTY-EIGHTH YEAR, HAS JUST PAINTED AN ENLARGED PORTRAIT OF POE, FROM A DAGUERREOTYPE TAKEN BY JOHN PLUMB, OF NEW YORK CITY, IN 1844 — A LIKENESS STRONGLY RESEMBLING THE COLE ENGRAVING REPRODUCED IN THE PRESENT VOL. X. THE CHANGE WROUGHT IN THE POET’S FEATURES DURING THE INTERVAL OF THREE YEARS IS VERY MARKED. THE FOREGOING STATEMENTS AGAIN ILLUSTRATE THE FACT THAT MORE PLATES THAN ONE WERE MADE, IN SEVERAL INSTANCES, WHEN POE SAT FOR A DAGUERREOTYPE, AND THAT DAGUERREOTYPED COPIES OF CERTAIN PLATES WERE MADE BY VARIOUS OPERATORS.

 


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Notes:

Stedman consistently spells “daguerreotype,” the generally preferred form, as “daguerrotype,” omittting the e preceding the o in the middle of the word.

 

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[S:1 - SW, 1895] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - On the Portraits in this Edition (Stedman and Woodberry, 1895)