Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"The Conqueror Worm" Published 1843

Lo! 'tis a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly-
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
Invisible Woe!

That motley drama- oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore,
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see, amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes!- it writhes!- with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.

Out- out are the lights- out all!
And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
While the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, "Man,"
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

"The Conqueror Worm" is a poem by Edgar Allan Poe about human mortality and the inevitability of death. It was first published separately in Graham's Magazine in January 1843, but quickly became associated with Poe's short story "Ligeia" after Poe added the poem to a revised publication of the story in 1845. In the revised story, the poem is composed by the eponymous Ligeia, and taught to the narrator in the fits of her death throes.


An audience of weeping angels watches a play performed by "mimes, in the form of God on high," and controlled by vast formless shapes looming behind the scenes. The mimes chase a "Phantom" which they can never capture, running around in circles. Finally, a monstrous "crawling shape" emerges, and eats the mimes. The final curtain comes down, "a funeral pall," signaling an end to the "tragedy, 'Man'" whose only hero is "The Conqueror Worm."


Poe's mother and father were both actors, and the poem uses theater metaphors throughout to deal with human life on a universal level.

The poem seems to imply that human life is mad folly ending in hideous death, the universe is controlled by dark forces man cannot understand, and the only supernatural forces that might help are powerless spectators who can only affirm the tragedy of the scene.

Though Poe was referring to an ancient connection between worms and death, he may have been inspired by "The Proud Ladye," a poem by Spencer Wallis Cone which was reviewed in an 1840 issue of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. That poem contained the lines "Let him meet the conqueror worm / With his good sword by his side."[1]

Role in "Ligeia"

The poem plays an important symbolic role as part of its inclusion in the short story "Ligeia." The poem is written by Ligeia as she is dying, though it is actually recited by the narrator, her husband.

Because it emphasizes the finality of death, it calls to question Ligeia's resurrection in the story. Also, the inclusion of the bitter poem may have been meant to be ironic or a parody of the convention at the time, both in literature and in life. In the mid-19th century it was common to emphasize the sacredness of death and the beauty of dying (consider Charles Dickens's Little Johnny character in Our Mutual Friend and the death of Helen Burns in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre). Instead, Ligeia speaks of fear personified in the "blood-red thing."[2]

"The Conqueror Worm" also uses the word "evermore," which would later evolve into "nevermore" in Poe's famous poem "The Raven" in 1845.[3]

Publication history

"The Conqueror Worm" was first published as a stand-alone poem in the January 1843 issue of Graham's Magazine.[4] Shortly after, it was included among several other poems by Poe in the February 25 issue of the Saturday Museum in a feature called "The Poets & Poetry of Philadelphia: Edgar Allan Poe."[5] It was later included in Poe's poetry collection The Raven and Other Poems in 1845.[4] That same year, it was incorporated into "Ligeia" for the first time when the story was reprinted in the February 15, 1845, issue of the New York World.[6] "Ligeia" was again republished with "The Conqueror Worm" in the September 27, 1845, issue of The Broadway Journal while Poe was its editor.[7] This was not unusual for Poe, who had also incorporated poems "The Coliseum" and "To One in Paradise" into tales.[8]


In 1935, Baltimore-born composer Franz Bornschein wrote a three-part chorus for women with orchestra or piano accompaniment based on "The Conqueror Worm."[9] The poem was also rewritten and adapted as the first track to Lou Reed's 2003 album of Poe adaptations and Poe-inspired songs, The Raven. It was also adapted as a song by the Darkwave act, Sopor Aeternus & the Ensemble of Shadows on the album Flowers in Formaldehyde in 2004. Vol. 5 of the Hellboy comic book mini-series by Mike Mignola titled Hellboy: Conqueror Worm was based on the poem.

The British horror film Witchfinder General was retitled The Conqueror Worm for U.S. release, but was not actually based on Poe's poem.


1.^ Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998: 391. ISBN 0801857309
2.^ Kennedy, J. Gerald. Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987: 1–2. ISBN 0300037732
3.^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. Cooper Square Press, 1992: 163. ISBN 0-8154-1038-7
4.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 56. ISBN 081604161X
5.^ Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson. The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–1849. Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1987: 398. ISBN 0816187347
6.^ Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson. The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–1849. Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1987: 502. ISBN 0816187347
7.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 134. ISBN 081604161X
8.^ Peeples, Scott. Edgar Allan Poe Revisited. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998: 31. ISBN 0-8057-4572-6
9.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 32. ISBN 081604161X

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Bridal Ballad" Published 1837

The ring is on my hand,
And the wreath is on my brow;
Satin and jewels grand
Are all at my command,
And I am happy now.

And my lord he loves me well;
But, when first he breathed his vow,
I felt my bosom swell-
For the words rang as a knell,
And the voice seemed his who fell
In the battle down the dell,
And who is happy now.

But he spoke to re-assure me,
And he kissed my pallid brow,
While a reverie came o'er me,
And to the church-yard bore me,
And I sighed to him before me,
Thinking him dead D'Elormie,
"Oh, I am happy now!"

And thus the words were spoken,
And this the plighted vow,
And, though my faith be broken,
And, though my heart be broken,
Here is a ring, as token
That I am happy now!

Would God I could awaken!
For I dream I know not how!
And my soul is sorely shaken
Lest an evil step be taken,-
Lest the dead who is forsaken
May not be happy now.

Bridal Ballad (1837)

First published simply as "Ballad" in the January 1837 edition of the Southern Literary Messenger, it was later retitled as "Bridal Ballad" when it was printed in the July 31, 1841 edition of the Saturday Evening Post. The poem is unusual for Poe because it is written in the voice of a woman, specifically a recently-married bride. Despite her reassurances that she is "happy," the poem has a somber tone as it recounts a previous love who has died. In marrying, she has broken her vow to this previous lover to love him eternally.

Poe biographer Daniel Hoffman says that "Bridal Ballad" is guilty of "one of the most unfortunate rhymes in American poetry this side of Thomas Holley Chivers." He is referring to the name of the bride's dead lover, "D'Elormie," which he calls "patently a forced rhyme" for "o'er me" and "before me" in the previous lines  Aldous Huxley made the same observation, calling the rhyme "ludicrous" and "horribly vulgar."

The poem is one of the few works by Poe to be written in the voice of a woman. See also the humorous tale "A Predicament."

Deathday: Poe's Wife Virgina Poe 1847

Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe (née Clemm; August 15, 1822 – January 30, 1847) was the wife of American writer Edgar Allan Poe. The couple were first cousins and married when Virginia Clemm was 13 and Poe was 24. Some biographers have suggested that the couple's relationship was more like that between brother and sister than like husband and wife in that they might have never consummated their marriage. In January 1842 she contracted tuberculosis and died of the disease in January 1847 at the age of 24 in the family's cottage outside New York City.

Along with other family members, Virginia Clemm and Edgar Allan Poe lived together off and on for several years before their marriage. The couple often moved to accommodate Poe's employment, living intermittently in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. A few years after their wedding, Poe was involved in a substantial scandal involving Frances Sargent Osgood and Elizabeth F. Ellet. Rumors about amorous improprieties on her husband's part affected Virginia Poe so much that on her deathbed she claimed that Ellet had murdered her. After her death, her body was eventually placed under the same memorial marker as her husband's in Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore, Maryland. Only one image of Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe has been authenticated: a watercolor portrait painted several hours after her death.

The disease and eventual death of his wife had a substantial effect on Edgar Allan Poe, who became despondent and turned to alcohol to cope. Her struggles with illness and death are believed to have affected his poetry and prose, where dying young women appear as a frequent motif, as in "Annabel Lee," "The Raven," and "Ligeia."


Early life

Virginia Eliza Clemm was born on August 15, 1822[1] and named after an older sister who had died as an infant[2] only ten days earlier.[3] Her father William Clemm, Jr. was a hardware merchant in Baltimore.[4] He had married Maria Poe, Virginia's mother, on July 12, 1817,[5] after the death of his first wife, Maria's first cousin Harriet.[6] Clemm had five children from his previous marriage and went on to have three more with Maria.[4] After his death in 1826, he left very little to the family[7] and relatives offered no financial support because they had opposed the marriage.[4] Maria supported the family by sewing and taking in boarders, aided with an annual $240 pension granted to her mother Elizabeth Cairnes, who was paralyzed and bedridden.[7] Elizabeth received this pension on behalf of her late husband, "General" David Poe, a former quartermaster in Maryland who had loaned money to the state.[8]

Edgar Poe first met his cousin Virginia in August 1829, four months after his discharge from the Army. She was seven at the time.[9] In 1832, the family – made up of Elizabeth, Maria, Virginia, and Virginia's brother Henry,[9] – was able to use Elizabeth's pension to rent a home at what was then 3 North Amity Street in Baltimore.[10] Poe's older brother William Henry Leonard Poe, who had been living with the family,[9] had recently died on August 1, 1831.[11] Poe joined the household in 1833[12] and was soon smitten by a neighbor named Mary Devereaux. The young Virginia served as a messenger between the two, at one point retrieving a lock of Devereaux's hair to give to Poe.[13] Elizabeth Cairnes Poe died on July 7, 1835, effectively ending the family's income and making their financial situation even more difficult.[14] Henry died around this time, sometime before 1836, leaving Virginia as Maria Clemm's only surviving child.[15]

In August 1835, Poe left the destitute family behind and moved to Richmond, Virginia to take a job at the Southern Literary Messenger.[16] While Poe was away from Baltimore, another cousin, Neilson Poe, the husband of Virginia's half-sister Josephine Clemm,[17] heard that Edgar was considering marrying Virginia. Neilson offered to take her in and have her educated in an attempt to prevent the girl's marriage to Edgar at such a young age, though suggesting that the option could be reconsidered later.[18] Edgar called Neilson, the owner of a newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, his "bitterest enemy" and interpreted his cousin's actions as an attempt at breaking his connection with Virginia.[19] On August 29, 1835,[19] Edgar wrote an emotional letter to Maria, declaring that he was "blinded with tears while writing,"[17] and pleading that she allow Virginia to make her own decision.[20] Encouraged by his employment at the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe offered to provide financially for Maria, Virginia and Henry if they moved to Richmond.[21]


Marriage plans were confirmed and Poe returned to Baltimore to file for a marriage license on September 22, 1835. The couple might have been quietly married as well, though accounts are unclear.[22] Their only public ceremony was in Richmond on May 16, 1836, when they were married by a Presbyterian minister named Rev. Amasa Converse.[23] Poe was 27 and Virginia was 13, though her age was listed as 21.[23] This marriage bond was filed in Richmond and included an affidavit from Thomas W. Cleland confirming the bride's alleged age.[24] The ceremony was held in the evening at the home of a Mrs. James Yarrington,[25] the owner of the boarding house in which Poe, Virginia, and Virginia's mother Maria Clemm were staying.[26] Yarrington helped Maria Clemm bake the wedding cake and prepared a wedding meal.[27] The couple then had a short honeymoon in Petersburg, Virginia.[25]

Debate has raged regarding how unusual this pairing was based on the couple's age and blood relationship. Noted Poe biographer Arthur Hobson Quinn argues it was not particularly unusual, nor was Poe's nicknaming his wife "Sissy" or "Sis."[28] Another Poe biographer, Kenneth Silverman, contends that though their first-cousin marriage was not unusual, her young age was.[22] It has been suggested that Clemm and Poe had a relationship more like that between brother and sister than between husband and wife.[29] Some scholars, including Marie Bonaparte, have read many of Poe's works as autobiographical and have concluded that Virginia died a virgin[30] because she and her husband never consummated their marriage.[31] This interpretation often assumes that Virginia is represented by the title character in the poem "Annabel Lee": a "maiden... by the name of Annabel Lee."[30] Poe biographer Joseph Wood Krutch suggests that Poe did not need women "in the way that normal men need them," but only as a source of inspiration and care,[32] and that Poe was never interested in women sexually.[33] Friends of Poe suggested that the couple did not share a bed for at least the first two years of their marriage but that, from the time she turned 16, they had a "normal" married life until the onset of her illness.[34]

Virginia and Poe were by all accounts a happy and devoted couple. Poe's one-time employer George Rex Graham wrote of their relationship: "His love for his wife was a sort of rapturous worship of the spirit of beauty."[35] Poe once wrote to a friend, "I see no one among the living as beautiful as my little wife."[36] She, in turn, by many contemporary accounts, nearly idolized her husband.[37] She often sat close to him while he wrote, kept his pens in order, and folded and addressed his manuscripts.[38] She showed her love for Poe in an acrostic poem she composed when she was 23, dated February 14, 1846:

Ever with thee I wish to roam —

Dearest my life is thine.

Give me a cottage for my home

And a rich old cypress vine,

Removed from the world with its sin and care

And the tattling of many tongues.

Love alone shall guide us when we are there —

Love shall heal my weakened lungs;

And Oh, the tranquil hours we'll spend,

Never wishing that others may see!

Perfect ease we'll enjoy, without thinking to lend

Ourselves to the world and its glee —

Ever peaceful and blissful we'll be.[39]

Osgood/Ellet scandal

The "tattling of many tongues" in Virginia's Valentine poem was a reference to actual incidents.[40] In 1845, Poe had begun a flirtation with Frances Sargent Osgood, a married 34-year-old poet.[41] Virginia was aware of the friendship and might even have encouraged it.[42] She often invited Osgood to visit them at home, believing that the older woman had a "restraining" effect on Poe, who had made a promise to "give up the use of stimulants" and was never drunk in Osgood's presence.[43]

At the same time, another poet, Elizabeth F. Ellet, became enamored of Poe and jealous of Osgood.[42] Though, in a letter to Sarah Helen Whitman, Poe called her love for him "loathsome" and wrote that he "could do nothing but repel [it] with scorn," he printed many of her poems to him in the Broadway Journal while he was its editor.[44] Ellet was known for being meddlesome and vindictive[45] and, while visiting the Poe household in late January 1846, she saw one of Osgood's personal letters to Poe.[46] According to Ellet, Virginia pointed out "fearful paragraphs" in Osgood's letter.[47] Ellet contacted Osgood and suggested she should beware of her indiscretions and asked Poe to return her letters,[46] motivated either by jealousy or by a desire to cause scandal.[47] Osgood then sent Margaret Fuller and Anne Lynch Botta to ask Poe on her behalf to return the letters. Angered by their interference, Poe called them "Busy-bodies" and said that Ellet had better "look after her own letters," suggesting indiscretion on her part.[48] He then gathered up these letters from Ellet and left them at her house.[46]

Though these letters had already been returned to her, Ellet asked her brother "to demand of me the letters."[48] Her brother, Colonel William Lummis, did not believe that Poe had already returned them and threatened to kill him. In order to defend himself, Poe requested a pistol from Thomas Dunn English.[46] English, Poe's friend and a minor writer who was also a trained doctor and lawyer, likewise did not believe that Poe had already returned the letters and even questioned their existence.[48] The easiest way out of the predicament, he said, "was a retraction of unfounded charges."[49] Angered at being called a liar, Poe pushed English into a fistfight. Poe later claimed he was triumphant in the fight, though English claimed otherwise, and Poe's face was badly cut by one of English's rings.[46] In Poe's version, he said, "I gave E. a flogging which he will remember to the day of his death." Either way, the fight further sparked gossip over the Osgood affair.[50]

Osgood's husband stepped in and threatened to sue Ellet unless she formally apologized for her insinuations. She retracted her statements in a letter to Osgood saying, "The letter shown me by Mrs Poe must have been a forgery" created by Poe himself.[51] She put all the blame on Poe, suggesting the incident was because Poe was "intemperate and subject to acts of lunacy."[52] Ellet spread the rumor of Poe's insanity, which was taken up by other enemies of Poe and reported in newspapers. The St. Louis Reveille reported: "A rumor is in circulation in New York, to the effect that Mr. Edgar A. Poe, the poet and author, has been deranged, and his friends are about to place him under the charge of Dr. Brigham of the Insane Retreat at Utica."[53] The scandal eventually died down only when Osgood reunited with her husband.[52] Virginia, however, had been very affected by the whole affair. She had received anonymous letters about her husband's alleged indiscretions as early as July 1845. It is presumed that Ellet was involved with these letters, and they so disturbed Virginia that she allegedly declared on her deathbed that "Mrs. E. had been her murderer."[54]


By this time, Virginia had developed tuberculosis, first seen sometime in the middle of January 1842. While singing and playing the piano, Virginia began to bleed from the mouth, though Poe said she merely "ruptured a blood-vessel."[55] Her health declined and she became an invalid, which drove Poe into a deep depression, especially as she occasionally showed signs of improvement. In a letter to friend John Ingram, Poe described his resulting mental state: "Each time I felt all the agonies of her death—and at each accession of the disorder I loved her more dearly & clung to her life with more desperate pertinacity. But I am constitutionally sensitive—nervous in a very unusual degree. I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity."[56]

Virginia's condition might have been what prompted the Poe family to move, in the hopes of finding a healthier environment for her. They moved several times within Philadelphia in the early 1840s and their last home in that city is now preserved as the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Spring Garden.[57] In this home, Virginia was well enough to tend the flower garden[58] and entertain visitors by playing the harp or the piano and singing.[59] The family then moved to New York sometime in early April 1844, traveling by train and steamboat. Virginia waited on board the ship while her husband secured space at a boarding house on Greenwich Street.[60] By early 1846, family friend Elizabeth Oakes Smith said that Virginia admitted, "I know I shall die soon; I know I can't get well; but I want to be as happy as possible, and make Edgar happy."[61] She promised her husband that after her death she would be his guardian angel.[62]

Move to Fordham

Virginia Poe endured the latter part of her illness at the Poe Cottage in the Bronx, New York. Her bedroom is preserved there. In May 1846, the family (Poe, Virginia, and her mother, Maria) moved to a small cottage in Fordham, about fourteen miles outside the city,[63] a home which is still standing today. In what is the only surviving letter from Poe to Virginia, dated June 12, 1846, he urged her to remain optimistic: "Keep up your heart in all hopelessness, and trust yet a little longer." Of his recent loss of the Broadway Journal, the only magazine Poe ever owned, he said, "I should have lost my courage but for you—my darling little wife you are my greatest and only stimulus now to battle with this uncongenial, unsatisfactory and ungrateful life."[64] But by November of that year, Virginia's condition was hopeless.[15] Her symptoms included irregular appetite, flushed cheeks, unstable pulse, night sweats, high fever, sudden chills, shortness of breath, chest pains, coughing and spitting up blood.[64]

Nathaniel Parker Willis, a friend of Poe's and an influential editor, published an announcement on December 30, 1846, requesting help for the family, though his facts were not entirely correct:[65]

Illness of Edgar A. Poe. —We regret to learn that this gentleman and his wife are both dangerously ill with the consumption, and that the hand of misfortune lies heavily on their temporal affairs. We are sorry to mention the fact that they are so far reduced as to be barely able to obtain the necessaries of life. That is, indeed, a hard lot, and we do hope that the friends and admirers of Mr. Poe will come promptly to his assistance in his bitterest hour of need.[66]

Willis, who had not corresponded with Poe for two years and had since lost his own wife, was one of his greatest supporters in this period. He sent Poe and his wife an inspirational Christmas book, The Marriage Ring; or How to Make a Home Happy.[66]

The announcement was similar to one made for Poe's mother, Eliza Poe, during her last stages of tuberculosis.[65] Other newspapers picked up on the story: "Great God!", said one, "is it possible, that the literary people of the Union, will let poor Poe perish by starvation and lean faced beggary in New York? For so we are led to believe, from frequent notices in the papers, stating that Poe and his wife are both down upon a bed of misery, death, and disease, with not a ducat in the world."[66] The Saturday Evening Post asserted that Virginia was in a hopeless condition and that Poe was bereft: "It is said that Edgar A. Poe is lying dangerously with brain fever, and that his wife is in the last stages of consumption—they are without money and without friends."[64] Even editor Hiram Fuller, whom Poe had previously sued for libel, attempted in the New York Mirror to garner support for Poe and his wife: "We, whom he has quarrelled with, will take the lead," he wrote.[66]

Virginia was described as having dark hair and violet eyes, with skin so pale it was called "pure white,"[67] causing a "bad complexion that spoiled her looks."[2] One visitor to the Poe family noted that "the rose-tint upon her cheek was too bright," possibly a symptom of her illness.[68] Another visitor in Fordham wrote, "Mrs. Poe looked very young; she had large black eyes, and a pearly whiteness of complexion, which was a perfect pallor. Her pale face, her brilliant eyes, and her raven hair gave her an unearthly look."[69] That unearthly look was mentioned by others who suggested it made her look not quite human.[70] William Gowans, who once lodged with the family, described Virginia as a woman of "matchless beauty and loveliness, her eye could match that of any houri, and her face defy the genius of a Canova to imitate."[71] She might have been a little plump.[70] Many contemporary accounts as well as modern biographers remark on her child-like appearance even in the last years of her life.[9][70][72]

While dying, Virginia asked her mother: "Darling... will you console and take care of my poor Eddy—you will never never leave him?"[73] Her mother stayed with Poe until his own death in 1849. As Virginia was dying, the family received many visitors, including an old friend named Mary Starr. At one point Virginia put Starr's hand in Poe's and asked her to "be a friend to Eddy, and don't forsake him".[74] Virginia was tended to by 25-year old Marie Louise Shew. Shew, who served as a nurse, knew medical care from her father and her husband, both doctors.[75] She provided Virginia with a comforter as her only other cover was Poe's old military cloak, as well as bottles of wine, which the invalid drank "smiling, even when difficult to get it down."[74] Virginia also showed Poe a letter from Louisa Patterson, second wife of Poe's foster-father John Allan, which she had kept for years[76] and which suggested that Patterson had purposely caused the break between Allan and Poe.[74]


On January 29, 1847, Poe wrote to Marie Louise Shew: "My poor Virginia still lives, although failing fast and now suffering much pain."[72] Virginia died the following day, January 30,[77] after five years of illness. Shew helped in organizing her funeral, even purchasing the coffin.[78] Death notices appeared in several newspapers. On February 1, The New York Daily Tribune and the Herald carried the simple obituary: "On Saturday, the 30th ult., of pulmonary consumption, in the 25th year of her age, VIRGINIA ELIZA, wife of EDGAR A. POE."[74] The funeral was February 2, 1847.[72] Attendees included Nathaniel Parker Willis, Ann S. Stephens, and publisher George Pope Morris. Poe refused to look at his dead wife's face, saying he preferred to remember her living.[79] Though now buried at Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, Virginia was originally buried in a vault owned by the Valentine family, from whom the Poes rented their Fordham cottage.[78]

Only one image of Virginia is known to exist, for which the painter had to take her corpse as model.[9] A few hours after her death, Poe realized he had no image of Virginia and so commissioned a portrait in watercolor.[72] She is shown wearing "beautiful linen" that Shew said she had dressed her in;[79] Shew might have been the portrait's artist, though this is uncertain.[78] The image depicts her with a slight double chin and with hazel eyes.[72] The image was passed down to the family of Virginia's half-sister Josephine, wife of Neilson Poe.[79]

In 1875, the same year in which her husband's body was reburied, the cemetery in which she lay was destroyed and her remains were almost forgotten. An early Poe biographer, William Gill, gathered the bones and stored them in a box he hid under his bed.[80] Gill's story was reported in the Boston Herald twenty-seven years after the event: he says that he had visited the Fordham cemetery in 1883 at exactly the moment that the sexton Dennis Valentine held Virginia's bones in his shovel, ready to throw them away as unclaimed. Poe himself had died in 1849, and so Gill took Virginia's remains and, after corresponding with Neilson Poe and John Prentiss Poe in Baltimore, arranged to bring the box down to be laid on Poe's left side in a small bronze casket.[81] Virginia's remains were finally buried with her husband's on January 19, 1885[82]—the seventy-sixth anniversary of her husband's birth and nearly ten years after his current monument was erected. The same man who served as sexton during Poe's original burial and his exhumations and reburials was also present at the rites which brought his body to rest with Virginia and Virginia's mother Maria Clemm.[81]

Effect and influence on Poe

Virginia's death had a significant effect on Poe. After her death, Poe was deeply saddened for several months. A friend said of him, "the loss of his wife was a sad blow to him. He did not seem to care, after she was gone, whether he lived an hour, a day, a week or a year; she was his all."[83] A year after her death, he wrote to a friend that he had experienced the greatest evil a man can suffer when, he said, "a wife, whom I loved as no man ever loved before," had fallen ill.[34] While Virginia was still struggling to recover, Poe turned to alcohol after abstaining for quite some time. How often and how much he drank is a controversial issue, debated in Poe's lifetime and also by modern biographers.[57] Poe referred to his emotional response to his wife's sickness as his own illness, and that he found the cure to it "in the death of my wife. This I can & do endure as becomes a man—it was the horrible never-ending oscillation between hope & despair which I could not longer have endured without the total loss of reason."[84]

Poe regularly visited Virginia's grave. As his friend Charles Chauncey Burr wrote, "Many times, after the death of his beloved wife, was he found at the dead hour of a winter night, sitting beside her tomb almost frozen in the snow."[85] Shortly after Virginia's death, Poe courted several other women, including Nancy Richmond of Lowell, Massachusetts, Sarah Helen Whitman of Providence, Rhode Island, and childhood sweetheart Sarah Elmira Royster in Richmond. Even so, Frances Sargent Osgood, whom Poe also attempted to woo, believed "that [Virginia] was the only woman whom he ever loved."[86]

References in literature

Many of Poe's works are interpreted autobiographically, with much of his work believed to reflect Virginia's long struggle with tuberculosis and her eventual death. The most discussed example is "Annabel Lee." This poem, which depicts a dead young bride and her mourning lover, is often assumed to have been inspired by Virginia, though other women in Poe's life are potential candidates including Frances Sargent Osgood[87] and Sarah Helen Whitman.[88] A similar poem, "Ulalume," is also believed to be a memorial tribute to Virginia,[89] as is "Lenore," whose title character is described as "the most lovely dead that ever died so young!"[90] After Poe's death, George Gilfillan of the London-based Critic said Poe was responsible for his wife's death, "hurrying her to a premature grave, that he might write 'Annabel Lee' and 'The Raven.'.[91]

Virginia is also seen in Poe's prose. The short story "Eleonora" (1842)—which features a narrator preparing to marry his cousin, with whom he lives alongside her mother—may also refer to Virginia's illness. When Poe wrote it, his wife had just begun to show signs of her illness.[92] It was shortly thereafter that the couple moved to New York City by boat and Poe published "The Oblong Box" (1844). This story, which shows a man mourning his young wife while transporting her corpse by boat, seems to suggest Poe's feelings about Virginia's impending death. As the ship sinks, the husband would rather die than be separated from his wife's corpse.[93] The short story "Ligeia," whose title character suffers a slow and lingering death, may also be inspired by Virginia.[94] After his wife's death, Poe edited his first published story, "Metzengerstein," to remove the narrator's line, "I would wish all I love to perish of that gentle disease," a reference to tuberculosis.[72] Poe's supposed insanity during his wife's illness may also be reflected in his first-person narratives "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Black Cat," and "The Cask of Amontillado."[34]


1.^ Thomas, Dwight & David K. Jackson. The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–1849. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1987: 52. ISBN 0-7838-1401-1
2.^ Silverman, 82
3.^ Quinn,17
4.^ Silverman 81
5.^ Quinn, 726
6.^ Meyers, 59
7.^ Meyers, 60
8.^ Quinn, 256
9.^ Sova, 52
10.^ Haas, Irvin. Historic Homes of American Authors. Washington, DC: The Preservation Press, 1991. ISBN 0891331808. p. 78
11.^ Quinn, 187–188
12.^ Silverman, 96
13.^ Sova, 67
14.^ Quinn, 218
15.^ Silverman, 323
16.^ Sova, 225
17.^ Quinn, 219
18.^ Silverman, 104
19.^ Meyers, 72
20.^ Silverman, 105
21.^ Meyers, 74
22.^ Silverman, 107
23.^ Meyers, 85
24.^ Quinn, 252
25.^ Quinn, 254
26.^ Quinn, 230
27.^ Sova, 263
28.^ Hoffman, 26
29.^ Krutch, 52
30.^ Hoffman, 27
31.^ Richard, Claude and Jean-Marie Bonnet, "Raising the Wind; or, French Editions of the Works of Edgar Allan Poe," Poe Newsletter, vol. I, No. 1, April 1968, p. 12.
32.^ Krutch, 54
33.^ Krutch, 25
34.^ Sova, 53
35.^ Oberholtzer, 299
36.^ Phillips, 1184
37.^ Hoffman, 318
38.^ Phillips, 1183
39.^ Quinn, 497
40.^ Moss, 214
41.^ Silverman, 280
42.^ Meyers, 190
43.^ Silverman, 287
44.^ Moss, 212
45.^ Silverman, 288
46.^ Meyers, 191
47.^ Moss, 213
48.^ Silverman, 290
49.^ Moss, 220
50.^ Silverman, 291
51.^ Moss, 215
52.^ Silverman, 292
53.^ Meyers, 192
54.^ Moss, 213–214
55.^ Silverman, 179
56.^ Meyers, 208
57.^ Silverman, 183
58.^ Quinn, 385
59.^ Oberholtzer, 287
60.^ Silverman, 219–220
61.^ Phillips, 1098
62.^ Silverman, 301
63.^ Meyers, 322
64.^ Meyers, 203
65.^ Meyers, 202
66.^ Silverman, 324
67.^ Krutch, 55–56
68.^ Silverman, 182
69.^ Meyers, 204
70.^ Krutch, 56
71.^ Meyers, 92–93
72.^ Meyers, 206
73.^ Silverman, 420
74.^ Silverman, 326
75.^ Sova, 218
76.^ Quinn, 527
77.^ Krutch, 169
78.^ Silverman, 327
79.^ Phillips, 1203
80.^ Meyers, 263
81.^ Miller, John C. "The Exhumations and Reburials of Edgar and Virginia Poe and Mrs. Clemm," from Poe Studies, vol. VII, no. 2, December 1974, p. 47
82.^ Phillips, 1205
83.^ Meyers, 207
84.^ Moss, 233
85.^ Phillips, 1206
86.^ Krutch, 57
87.^ Meyers, 244
88.^ Sova, 12
89.^ Meyers, 211
90.^ Silverman, 202
91.^ Campbell, Killis. "The Poe-Griswold Controversy," The Mind of Poe and Other Studies. New York: Russell &; Russell, Inc., 1962: 79.
92.^ Sova, 78
93.^ Silverman, 228–229
94.^ Hoffman, 255–256


Hoffman, Daniel. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1972. ISBN 0807123218.
Krutch, Joseph Wood. Edgar Allan Poe: A Study in Genius. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926.
Moss, Sidney P. Poe's Literary Battles: The Critic in the Context of His Literary Milieu. Southern Illinois University Press, 1969.
Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. Cooper Square Press, 1992. ISBN 0684193701.
Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. The Literary History of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1906. ISBN 1932109455.
Phillips, Mary E. Edgar Allan Poe: The Man. Chicago: The John C. Winston Company, 1926.
Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. ISBN 0801857309
Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991. ISBN 0060923318.

"To One in Paradise" Published 1834

Thou wast all that to me, love,
For which my soul did pine-
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine,
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers,
And all the flowers were mine.

Ah, dream too bright to last!
Ah, starry Hope! that didst arise
But to be overcast!
A voice from out the Future cries,
"On! on!"- but o'er the Past
(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies
Mute, motionless, aghast!

For, alas! alas! me
The light of Life is o'er!
"No more- no more- no more-"
(Such language holds the solemn sea
To the sands upon the shore)
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree
Or the stricken eagle soar!

And all my days are trances,
And all my nightly dreams
Are where thy grey eye glances,
And where thy footstep gleams-
In what ethereal dances,
By what eternal streams.

To One in Paradise (1833)

"To One in Paradise" was first published January 1834 in Godey's Lady's Book without a title as part of the short story "The Visionary" (later renamed "The Assignation"). It evolved into "To Ianthe in Heaven" and then into "To One Beloved" before being named "To One in Paradise" in the February 25, 1843 Saturday Museum.

Modernist poet William Carlos Williams considered "To One In Paradise" one of his most preferred poems.

The poem inspired a song composed by Sir Arthur Sullivan. "To One In Paradise" was published posthumously in 1904 and written for a tenor voice with piano. It is also the basis of the song To One In Paradise on the Alan Parsons Project 1976 album Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"The Raven" Published 1845

Poe first brought "The Raven" to his friend and former employer George Rex Graham of Graham's Magazine in Philadelphia. Graham declined the poem, which may not have been in its final version, though he gave Poe $15 as charity. Poe then sold the poem to The American Review, which paid him $9 for it, and printed "The Raven" in its February 1845 issue under the pseudonym "Quarles", a reference to the English poet Francis Quarles. The poem's first publication with Poe's name was in the Evening Mirror on January 29, 1845, as an "advance copy." Nathaniel Parker Willis, editor of the Mirror, introduced it as "unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent, sustaining of imaginative lift... It will stick to the memory of everybody who reads it." Following this publication the poem appeared in periodicals across the United States, including the New York Tribune (February 4, 1845), Broadway Journal (vol. 1, February 8, 1845), Southern Literary Messenger (vol. 11, March 1845), Literary Emporium (vol. 2, December 1845), Saturday Courier, 16 (July 25, 1846), and the Richmond Examiner (September 25, 1849).[31] It has also appeared in numerous anthologies, starting with Poets and Poetry of America edited by Rufus Wilmot Griswold in 1847.

The immediate success of "The Raven" prompted Wiley and Putnam to publish a collection of Poe's prose called Tales in June 1845; it was his first book in five years. They also published a collection of his poetry called The Raven and Other Poems on November 19 by Wiley and Putnam which included a dedication to Barrett as "the Noblest of her Sex." The small volume, his first book of poetry in 14 years, was 100 pages and sold for 31 cents. In addition to the title poem, it included "The Valley of Unrest," "Bridal Ballad," "The City in the Sea," "Eulalie," "The Conqueror Worm," "The Haunted Palace" and eleven others. In the preface, Poe referred to them as "trifles" which had been altered without his permission as they made "the rounds of the press."

In part due to its dual printing, "The Raven" made Edgar Allan Poe a household name almost immediately and turned Poe into a national celebrity. Readers began to identify poem with poet, earning Poe the nickname "The Raven." The poem was soon widely reprinted, imitated, and parodied. Though it made Poe popular in his day, it did not bring him significant financial success. As he later lamented, "I have made no money. I am as poor now as ever I was in my life—except in hope, which is by no means bankable."

The New World said, "Everyone reads the Poem and praises it... justly, we think, for it seems to us full of originality and power." The Pennsylvania Inquirer reprinted it with the heading "A Beautiful Poem." Elizabeth Barrett wrote to Poe, "Your 'Raven' has produced a sensation, a fit o' horror, here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by 'Nevermore'." Poe's popularity resulted in invitations to recite "The Raven" and to lecture – in public and at private social gatherings. At one literary salon, a guest noted, "to hear [Poe] repeat the Raven... is an event in one's life." It was recalled by someone who experienced it, "He would turn down the lamps till the room was almost dark, then standing in the center of the apartment he would recite... in the most melodious of voices... So marvelous was his power as a reader that the auditors would be afraid to draw breath lest the enchanted spell be broken." Parodies sprung up especially in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia and included "The Craven" by "Poh!," "The Gazelle," "The Whippoorwill," and "The Turkey." One parody, "The Pole-Cat," caught the attention of Andrew Johnston, a lawyer who sent it on to Abraham Lincoln. Though Lincoln admitted he had "several hearty laughs," he had not, at that point read "The Raven." However, Lincoln eventually read and memorized the poem.

"The Raven" was praised by fellow writers William Gilmore Simms and Margaret Fuller, though it was denounced by William Butler Yeats, who called it "insincere and vulgar... its execution a rhythmical trick." Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I see nothing in it." A critic for the Southern Quarterly Review wrote in July 1848 that the poem was ruined by "a wild and unbridled extravagance" and that minor things like a rapping at the door and a fluttering curtain would only affect "a child who had been frightened to the verge of idiocy by terrible ghost stories." An anonymous writer going by the pseudonym "Outis" suggested in the Evening Mirror that "The Raven" was plagiarized from a poem called "The Bird of the Dream" by an unnamed author. The writer showed 18 similarities between the poems and was made as a response to Poe's accusations of plagiarism against Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It has been suggested Outis was really Cornelius Conway Felton, if not Poe himself. After Poe's death, his friend Thomas Holley Chivers said "The Raven" was plagiarized from one of his poems. In particular, he claimed to have been the inspiration for the meter of the poem as well as the refrain "nevermore."

"The Raven" has influenced many modern works, including Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita in 1955, Bernard Malamud's "The Jewbird" in 1963 and Ray Bradbury's "The Parrot Who Knew Papa" in 1976. The poem is additionally referenced throughout popular culture in films, television, music and more.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


The Tell-Tale Heart is a 1960 British horror film directed by Ernest Morris. The screenplay by Brian Clemens and Eldon Howard is a loose adaptation of the 1843 short story of the same title by Edgar Allan Poe.


Edgar Marsh, a shy librarian obsessed with erotica, becomes infatuated with his neighbor Betty Clare when he sees her undressing in her bedroom. He invites her to dinner, and although she clearly is uncomfortable with the attention he pays her, he showers her with jewelry and fantasizes about their future. Complications arise when he introduces her to his friend Carl Loomis, whom Betty finds far more attractive and appealing. In order to eliminate the competition, Edgar bludgeons Carl to death with a poker and buries him beneath the floorboards in his piano room. His overwhelming guilt leads him to believe a ticking metronome and the incessant dripping of a faucet actually are the sound of his victim's heart still beating.


Laurence Payne ..... Edgar Marsh
Adrienne Corri ..... Betty Clare
Dermot Walsh ..... Carl Loomis

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"The Tell Tale Heart" Published 1843

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe first published in 1843. It follows an unnamed narrator who insists on his sanity after murdering an old man with a "vulture eye." The murder is carefully calculated, and the murderer hides the body by dismembering it and hiding it under the floorboards. Ultimately the narrator's guilt manifests itself in the hallucination that the man's heart is still beating under the floorboards.

It is unclear what relationship, if any, the old man and his murderer share. It has been suggested that the old man is a father figure, or whether the narrator works for the old man as a servant, perhaps, that his vulture eye represents some sort of veiled secret, or power. The ambiguity and lack of details about the two main characters stand in stark contrast to the specific plot details leading up to the murder.

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is widely considered a classic of the Gothic fiction genre and one of Poe's most famous short stories.

"The Tell-Tale Heart" was first published in the Boston-based magazine The Pioneer in January 1843, edited by James Russell Lowell. Poe was likely paid only $10. Its original publication included an epigraph which quoted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "A Psalm of Life." The story was slightly revised when republished in the August 23, 1845, edition of the Broadway Journal. This edition omitted Longfellow's poem because, Poe believed, it was plagiarized. "The Tell-Tale Heart" was reprinted several additional times during Poe's lifetime.


The earliest acknowledged adaptation of "The Tell-Tale Heart" was in 1928 in a film of the same name directed by Leon Shamroy and starring Otto Matieson and Darvas. It stayed faithful to the original tale, though future television and film adaptations often expanded the short story to full-length feature films.

A 1953 animated short film produced by United Productions of America and narrated by James Mason is included among the list of films preserved in the United States National Film Registry.

A 1960 film adaptation, The Tell-Tale Heart, adds a love triangle to the story.

The film Nightmares from the Mind of Poe (2006) adapts "The Tell-Tale Heart" along with "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Premature Burial" and "The Raven."

The Radio Tales series produced the drama The Tell-Tale Heart for National Public Radio. The story was performed by Winifred Phillips along with music composed by her.

The Canadian radio program Nightfall presented an adaptation on August 1, 1980.

A 2009 thriller film, Tell-Tale, produced by Ridley Scott and Tony Scott, credits Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" as the basis for the story of a man being haunted by his donor's memories, after a heart transplant.

In the 1972 film An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe, four of Poe's short stories are recited by Vincent Price in front of a live audience, including "The Tell-Tale Heart."

Another adaption was by Steven Berkoff in 1991, and was broadcast on British television. This adaptation was originally presented on British TV as part of the acclaimed series "Without Walls." This version was later broadcast in the United States on the cable channel BRAVO as part of the Texaco Performing Arts series.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nathaniel Parker Willis Introduces Poe to Frances Sargent Osgood 1845

Heres a virtual movie of Frances Sargent Osgood (née Locke) (June 18, 1811 -- May 12, 1850) who was an American poet and one of the most popular women writers during her timeNicknamed "Fanny," she was also famous for her exchange of romantic poems with Edgar Allan Poe. Here she briefly discusses her thoughts on first meeting Edgar Allan Poe. The dialogue used in this virtual movie is based upon what she actually wrote.

Poetry Animations

Relationship with Poe

In February 1845, Poe gave a lecture in New York in which he criticized American poetry, especially that of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He made special mention, however, of Osgood, saying she had "a rosy future" in literature. Though she missed the lecture, she wrote to her friend, saying Poe was "called the severest critic of the day," making his compliment that much more impressive.

It is believed Poe and Osgood first met in person when introduced by Nathaniel Parker Willis in March 1845 when Osgood had been separated from (but not divorced from) her husband. Poe's wife Virginia was still alive, but in ill health. Poe may have been attracted to Osgood because they were both born in Boston and possibly due to her childlike qualities which were similar to Virginia's. She may have already been in an early stage of tuberculosis, just like Virginia

Poe used his role as one-third owner of the Broadway Journal to print some of Osgood's poems, including some flirtatious ones. Poe responded with published poems of his own, occasionally under his pseudonym of Edgar T. S. Grey. Most notable is his poem "A Valentine." The poem is actually a riddle which conceals Osgood's name, found by taking letter 1 from line 1, letter 2 from line 2, and so on. Despite these passionate interchanges, the relationship between Poe and Osgood is often considered purely platonic.

Oddly, Poe's wife Virginia approved of the relationship and often invited Osgood to visit their home. Virginia believed their friendship had a "restraining" effect on her husband. Poe had given up alcohol to impress Osgood, for example. Virginia may also have been aware of her own impending death and was looking for someone who would take care of Poe. Osgood's husband Samuel also did not object, apparently used to his wife's impetuous behavior; he himself had a reputation as a philanderer. Others, however, were not as supportive; Osgood and Poe were widely criticized and harassed for their relationship.

Fellow poet Elizabeth F. Ellet, whose affection Poe had scorned, spread rumors about Poe and Osgood's friendship, even contacting Virginia about alleged improprieties. Ellet even suggested that Osgood's third child, Fanny Fay, was not her husband's but Poe's. Fanny Fay was born in June 1846 but died in October. Poe biographer Kenneth Silverman says the possibility of Poe as Fanny Fay's father is "possible but most unlikely." Osgood, in an attempt to protect her public character, sent Margaret Fuller and Anne Lynch to request Poe return her personal letters to him to be destroyed. In July 1846 Osgood's husband Samuel demanded Ellet apologize to his wife, lest he sue her for defamation. Ellet responded in a letter, retracted her statements, and put the blame on Poe and his wife Virginia. Osgood and Poe did not interact after 1847.

Poe was not the only man to engage in literary flirtation with Osgood. Several men wrote of their affection for her, including Rufus Wilmot Griswold, to whom Osgood dedicated a book of poetry. She also wrote a Valentine poem that mingled her own name with Griswold's. The competition between Griswold and Poe for Osgood may have led to their infamous rivalry, best exemplified in Griswold's character assassination of Poe after Poe's death.

Deathday: Nathaniel Parker Willis 1867 Poe Friend, Editor & Author

Nathaniel Parker Willis (January 20, 1806 – January 20, 1867), also known as N. P. Willis, was an American author, poet and editor who worked with several notable American writers including Edgar Allan Poe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He became the highest-paid magazine writer of his day. For a time, he was the employer of former slave and future writer Harriet Jacobs. His brother was the composer Richard Storrs Willis and his sister wrote under the name Fanny Fern.

Born in Portland, Maine, Willis came from a family of publishers. His grandfather Nathaniel Willis owned newspapers in Massachusetts and Virginia, and his father Nathaniel Willis was the founder of Youth's Companion, the first newspaper specifically for children. Willis developed an interest in literature while attending Yale College and began publishing poetry. After graduation, he worked as an overseas correspondent for the New York Mirror. He eventually moved to New York and began to build his literary reputation. Working with multiple publications, he was earning about US$100 per article and between $5,000 and $10,000 per year. In 1846, he started his own publication, the Home Journal, which was eventually renamed Town and Country. Shortly after, Willis moved to a home on the Hudson River where he lived a semi-retired life until his death in 1867.

Willis embedded his own personality into his writing and addressed his readers personally, specifically in his travel writings, so that his reputation was built in part because of his character. Critics, including his sister in her novel Ruth Hall, occasionally described him as being effeminate and Europeanized. Willis also published several poems, tales, and a play. Despite his intense popularity for a time, at his death Willis was nearly forgotten.

On June 20, 1839, Willis's play Tortesa, the Usurer premiered in Philadelphia at the Walnut Street Theatre. Edgar Allan Poe called it "by far the best play from the pen of an American author."

While Willis was editor of the Evening Mirror, its issue for January 29, 1845, included the first printing of Poe's poem "The Raven" with his name attached. In his introduction, Willis called it "unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent, sustaining of imaginative lift ... It will stick to the memory of everybody who reads it." Willis and Poe were close friends, and Willis helped Poe financially during his wife Virginia's illness and while Poe was suing Thomas Dunn English for libel. Willis often tried to persuade Poe to be less destructive in his criticism and concentrate on his poetry. Even so, Willis published many pieces of what would later be referred to as "The Longfellow War", a literary battle between Poe and the supporters of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whom Poe called overrated and guilty of plagiarism. Willis also introduced Poe to Fanny Osgood; the two would later carry out a very public literary flirtation.

In 1850 he assisted Rufus Wilmot Griswold in preparing an anthology of the works of Poe, who had died mysteriously the year before. Griswold also wrote the first biography of Poe in which he purposely set out to ruin the dead author's reputation. Willis was one of the most vocal of Poe's defenders, writing at one point: "The indictment (for it deserves no other name) is not true. It is full of cruel misrepresentations. It deepens the shadows unto unnatural darkness, and shuts out the rays of sunshines that ought to relieve them."

In July 1860, Willis took his last major trip. Along with his wife, he stopped in Chicago and Yellow Springs, Ohio, as far west as Madison, Wisconsin, and also took a steamboat down the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri, and returned through Cincinnati, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1851, Willis allowed the Home Journal to break its pledge to avoid taking sides in political discussions when the Confederate States of America was established, calling the move a purposeful act to bring on war. On May 28, 1861, Willis was part of a committee of literary figures—including William Cullen Bryant, Charles Anderson Dana, and Horace Greeley—to invite Edward Everett to speak in New York on behalf of maintaining the Union. The Home Journal lost many subscribers during the American Civil War, Morris died in 1864, and the Willis family had to take in boarders and for a time turned Idlewild into a girls' school for income.

Willis was very sick in these final years: he suffered from violent epileptic seizures and, early in November 1866, fainted in the streets, prompting Harriet Jacobs to return to help his wife. Willis died on his sixty-first birthday, January 20, 1867, and was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Four days later, the day of his funeral, all bookstores in the city were closed as a token of respect. His pallbearers included Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Samuel Gridley Howe, and James Thomas Fields.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Poet Sara Helen Whitman 1803 Poe Girlfriend

Sarah Helen Power Whitman (January 19, 1803 – June 27, 1878), was a poet, essayist, transcendentalist, Spiritualist and a romantic interest of Edgar Allan Poe.

Early life

Whitman was born in Providence, Rhode Island on January 19, 1803, exactly six years before Poe's birth.[1] In 1828, she married the poet and writer John Winslow Whitman. John had been co-editor of the Boston Spectator and Ladies' Album, which allowed Sarah to publish some of her poetry using the name "Helen." John died in 1833; he and Sarah never had children.

Sarah Helen Whitman had a heart condition that she treated with ether she breathed in through her handkerchief.[2]

Whitman was friends with Margaret Fuller and other intellectuals in New England. She became interested in transcendentalism through this social group and after hearing Ralph Waldo Emerson lecture in Boston, Massachusetts and in Providence. She also became interested in science, mesmerism, and the occult.[3] She had a penchant for wearing black and a coffin-shaped charm around her neck and may have practiced séances in her home on Sundays, attempting to communicate with the dead.[4]

Relationship with Edgar Allan Poe

Whitman and Poe first crossed paths in Providence in July 1845. Poe was attending a lecture by friend and poet Frances Sargent Osgood. As Poe and Osgood walked, they passed the home of Whitman while she was standing in the rose garden behind her house. Poe declined to be introduced to her.[5] By this time, Whitman was already an admirer of Poe's stories. She admitted to friend Mary Hewitt:

A friend, Annie Lynch, had asked Whitman to write a poem for a Valentine's Day party in 1848. She agreed, and wrote one for Poe, though he was not in attendance. Poe heard about the tribute, "To Edgar Allan Poe," and returned the favor by anonymously sending his previously-printed poem "To Helen." Whitman may not have known it was from Poe himself and she did not respond. Three months later, Poe wrote her an entirely new poem, "To Helen," referencing the moment from several years earlier where Poe first saw her in the rose garden behind her house.[7]
"I can never forget the impressions I felt in reading a story of his for the first time... I experienced a sensation of such intense horror that I dared neither look at anything he had written nor even utter his name... By degrees this terror took the character of fascination—I devoured with a half-reluctant and fearful avidity every line that fell from his pen."[6]
Poe was on his way to see Whitman at the time of his alleged suicide attempt. Before boarding a train to Boston from Lowell, Massachusetts on his way to Providence, he took two doses of laudanum. By the time he arrived in Boston he was very sick and close to death.[8] He spent four days in Providence with her immediately after. Though they shared a common interest in literature, Poe was concerned about Whitman's friends, many for whom he had little regard, including Elizabeth F. Ellet, Margaret Fuller, and several other Transcendentalists. He said to her, "My heart is heavy, Helen, for I see that your friends are not my own."[9]

The two exchanged letters and poetry for some time before discussing engagement. After Poe lectured in Providence in December 1848, reciting a poem by Edward Coote Pinkney directly to Whitman, she agreed to an "immediate marriage".[10] Poe agreed to remain sober during their engagement — a vow he violated within only a few days. Whitman's mother discovered that Poe was also pursuing Annie Richmond and childhood sweetheart Sarah Elmira Royster. Even so, the wedding had come so close to occurring that, in January 1849, a newspaper in New London, Connecticut and others announced their union and wished them well.[11] At one point, they chose the wedding date of December 25, 1848,[12] despite criticism of the relationship from friends and enemies alike. Whitman supposedly received an anonymous letter while she was at the library suggesting that Poe had broken his vow to her to stay sober, directly leading to an end of the relationship. Poe said in a letter to Whitman (addressed "Dear Madam") that he blamed her mother for their split.[8] Rufus Wilmot Griswold, Poe's infamous first biographer, claimed that Poe purposefully ended his relationship with Whitman the day before their wedding by committing unnamed drunken "outrages"[13] that, as he wrote in his biography, "made necessary a summons of the police."[14]

Later life

Whitman's collection Hours of Life, and Other Poems was published in 1853. In 1860, eleven years after his death, she published a work in defense of Poe against his critics, aimed especially at Rufus Griswold, entitled Edgar Allan Poe and His Critics. A Baltimore newspaper said the book was a noble effort "but it does not wipe out the... dishonorable records in the biography of Dr. Griswold."[15] The work likely inspired William Douglas O'Connor to write The Good Gray Poet, a similar defense of Walt Whitman, published in 1866.[16]

She died at the age of 75 in 1878 at the home of a friend at 97 Bowen St. in Providence, Rhode Island,[17] and is buried in the North Burial Ground.[12] In her will, she used the bulk of her estate to publish a volume of her own poetry and that of her sister. She also left money to the Providence Association for the Benefit of Colored Children and the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.[18]


1.^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992: 226. ISBN 0-8154-1038-7
2.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 254. ISBN 081604161X
3.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991: 347–348. ISBN 0060923318
4.^ Benton, Richard P. "Friends and Enemies: Women in the Life of Edgar Allan Poe" as collected in Myths and Reality: The Mysterious Mr. Poe. Baltimore: Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1987: 18. ISBN 0961644915
5.^ Benton, Richard P. "Friends and Enemies: Women in the Life of Edgar Allan Poe" as collected in Myths and Reality: The Mysterious Mr. Poe. Baltimore: Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1987: 17. ISBN 0961644915
6.^ Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson. The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–1849. Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1987: 614. ISBN 0816187347
7.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991: 347–351. ISBN 0060923318
8.^ Benton, Richard P. "Friends and Enemies: Women in the Life of Edgar Allan Poe" as collected in Myths and Reality: The Mysterious Mr. Poe. Baltimore: Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1987: 19. ISBN 0961644915
9.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991: 358–359. ISBN 0060923318
10.^ Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson. The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–1849. Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1987: 778–779. ISBN 0816187347
11.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991: 385–388. ISBN 0060923318
12.^ Ehrlich, Eugene and Gorton Carruth. The Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982: 70. ISBN 0195031865
13.^ Chivers, Thomas Holley. Chivers' Life of Poe, Richard Beale Davis, editor. New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., Inc., 1952: 71–72
14.^ Stashower, Daniel. The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder. New York: Dutton, 2006: 283. ISBN 0-525-94981-X
15.^ Moss, Sidney P. Poe's Literary Battles: The Critic in the Context of His Literary Milieu. Southern Illinois University Press, 1969: 128–129
16.^ Loving, Jerome. Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself. University of California Press, 1999: 327. ISBN 0520226879
17.^ Miller, John Carl. Poe's Helen Remembers. 1979. Charlottesville: Univ Press of Virginia, 1979: 502.
18.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991: 521. ISBN 0060923318

Happy Birthday Edgar Allan Poe 1809

Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American writer, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective-fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.

He was born Edgar Poe in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809, the second child of actress Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and actor David Poe, Jr. He had an elder brother, William Henry Leonard Poe, and a younger sister, Rosalie Poe. Edgar may have been named after a character in William Shakespeare's King Lear, a play the couple was performing in 1809. His father abandoned their family in 1810, and his mother died a year later from consumption. Poe was then taken into the home of John Allan, a successful Scottish merchant in Richmond, Virginia, who dealt in a variety of goods including tobacco, cloth, wheat, tombstones, and slaves. The Allans served as a foster family and gave him the name "Edgar Allan Poe," though they never formally adopted him. The Allan family had Poe baptized in the Episcopal Church in 1812. John Allan alternately spoiled and aggressively disciplined his foster son. Allan's kind wife Frances Valentine Allan became his mother, friend and defender. After she died, his life was never the same.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

THE RAVEN (1963 film)

The Raven (1963) is a horror film produced and directed by Roger Corman.[1] The film stars Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff as a trio of rival sorcerers. Part of a series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations produced by Corman through American International Pictures, the film was written by Richard Matheson based on references to Poe's poem "The Raven." Nominally in the horror genre, it is more appropriately classified as a B movie horror-comedy.

Three decades earlier, Karloff had appeared in another film with the same title, Lew Landers' 1935 horror film The Raven with Béla Lugosi. Aside from the title, the two films bear no resemblance to one another.

A novelization of the film was written by Eunice Sudak adapted from Richard Matheson's screenplay and published by Lancer Books in paperback.


The sorcerer Dr. Erasmus Craven has been mourning the death of his wife Lenore for over two years, much to the chagrin of his daughter Estelle. One night he is visited by a raven, who happens to be a transformed wizard, Dr. Bedlo. Together they brew a potion that restores Bedlo to his old self. Bedlo explains he had been transformed by the evil Dr. Scarabus in an unfair duel, and both decide to see Scarabus, Bedlo to exact revenge and Craven to look for his wife's ghost, which Bedlo reportedly saw at Scarabus' castle. After fighting off the attack of Craven's coachman, who apparently acted under the influence of Scarabus, they set out to the castle, joined by Craven's daughter Estelle and Bedlo's son Rexford.

At the castle, Scarabus greets his guests with false friendship, and Bedlo is apparently killed as he conjures a storm in a last act of defiance against his nemesis. At night, Rexford finds him alive and well, hiding in the castle. Craven, meanwhile, is visited and tormented by Lenore, who is revealed to be alive and well too, having faked her death two years before to move away with Scarabus. As Craven, Estelle, Rexford and Bedlo try to escape the castle, Scarabus stops them, and they are tied and locked up. Bedlo panics and flees away in raven form, having convinced Scarabus to turn him back into bird form rather than face torture. As Craven is confronted with the choice of Estelle's torture or of him giving away the secrets of his "hand magic," Bedlo flies back in, frees Rexford, and together aid Craven.

Craven and Scarabus then seat facing each other and engage in a magic duel. After a lengthy performance of narrow escapes and derision, Craven defeats Scarabus, and escapes with his friends after rejecting Lenore, who tries to reconcile with him after alleging she had been "under a spell". The castle then tumbles down on Scarabus and his mistress, but they are shown to survive, though Scarabus has been stripped of his magic.

Rexford and Estelle retreat alone, while Bedlo tries to convince Craven to turn him back to human form once more. Craven tells him to shut his beak and recites the famous lines from Edgar Allan Poe's poem: "Quoth the raven - nevermore."


Vincent Price as Dr. Esramus Craven
Peter Lorre as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo
Boris Karloff as Dr. Scarabus
Jack Nicholson as Rexford Bedlo
Hazel Court as Lenore Craven
Olive Sturgess as Estelle Craven


1.^ "The Raven (1963)". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057449/. Retrieved 17 June 2010.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

THE RAVEN (1935 film)

The Raven (1935) is a horror film starring Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi, and directed by Lew Landers. It revolves around Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem, featuring Lugosi as a Poe-obsessed mad surgeon with a torture chamber in his basement and Karloff as a fugitive murderer desperately on the run from the police. Lugosi had the larger role, but Karloff received top billing, using only his last name.

Almost three decades later, Karloff also appeared in another film with the same title, Roger Corman's 1963 comedy The Raven with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson. Aside from the title, the two films bear no resemblance to one another.

Plot summary

After pretty Jean Thatcher (Ware) has been injured in a car accident, her father, Judge Thatcher (Hinds) and beau Jerry (Matthews) implore retired surgeon Dr. Richard Vollin (Lugosi) to perform a delicate operation to restore her to health. Vollin agrees and is successful; he befriends the spirited and grateful Jean, in the process revealing his passion for all things related to Edgar Allan Poe, including his collection of torture devices inspired by Poe's works (such as a pit, pendulum with scythe, shrinking room, etc).

After Vollin reveals his growing love for Jean to her father, the Judge quickly discourages him from the affair. Angered, Vollin hatches a plan when Edmund Bateman (Karloff), a murderer on the run, comes to his home asking for a new face so he may live in anonymity. Vollin admits to not being a plastic surgeon, but says he can help Bateman, and asks him to help in exacting revenge on the Thatchers, which he refuses. Vollin performs the surgery, but instead turns Bateman into a disfigured monster, promising only to operate again on Bateman when Vollin's revenge is exacted. Bateman finally reluctantly agrees.

Vollin hosts a dinner party, among which Jean, Jerry, and the Judge are guests. One by one, the guests are caught in the Poe-inspired traps. Ultimately, Bateman is shot by Vollin as he rescues Jean and Jerry, but throws Vollin in to the shrinking room where he perishes, and the guests escape.


Universal's pressbook heavily focused on Karloff, calling him "the uncanny master of make-up," as well as the connection to Poe. "Was Edgar Allan Poe a mental derelict?" it asks. The pressbook suggests that Poe's characters were "but a reflection of himself." Universal also suggested that cinema owners write letters to local high schools and colleges, urging their teachers to suggest the film to students.[1]

Reception and reputation

Too strong for 1935 tastes, with its themes of torture, disfigurement and grisly revenge, the film did not do particularly well at the box office during its initial release (much like another 1935 horror movie, MGM's Mad Love, starring Peter Lorre), and indirectly led to a temporary ban on horror films in England. With the genre no longer economically viable, horror went out of vogue. This proved a devastating development at the time for Lugosi, who found himself losing work and struggling to support his family. Universal Pictures changed hands in 1936, and the new management was less interested for the moment in the box office novelty of the macabre.

Outside of being rivals in horror films of the time, with Lugosi resenting Karloff's spectacular success in the wake of playing the role of Frankenstein's monster, both men were united in getting the fledgling Screen Actors Guild off the ground in the mid-1930s. During the production of The Raven Lugosi encouraged four additional members of the supporting cast to sign with the guild.


Boris Karloff as Edmund Bateman
Béla Lugosi as Richard Vollin
Lester Matthews as Jerry Halden
Irene Ware as Jean Thatcher
Samuel S. Hinds as Judge Thatcher
Spencer Charters as Bertram Grant
Inez Courtney as Mary Burns
Ian Wolfe as Geoffrey
Maidel Turner as Mrs. Harriet Grant


1.^ Smith, Don G. The Poe Cinema: A Critical Filmography. McFarland & Company, 1999. p. 57-8 ISBN 0-7864-1703-X

Monday, January 16, 2012

THE RAVEN (1915 film)

The Raven is a stylized silent 1915 movie biography of Edgar Allan Poe starring Henry B. Walthall as Poe. The movie was written and directed by Charles Brabin from a novel and play by George Cochran Hazelton.

Plot summary

The film begins by tracing Poe's ancestral heritage before Poe himself is born. After the loss of his parents, Poe is taken in by the John and Francis Allan in Richmond, Virginia. The film then jumps ahead about 15 years to Poe's time at the University of Virginia. Due to debts from playing cards and a growing interest in wine, Poe begins to have difficulties. He hallucinates that he has killed a man in a pistol duel.

Poe meets Virginia and they spend a day together, riding a horse and sitting "beside the glassy pool of romance." He tells her a fairy tale, a raven perching on Poe's shoulder as he finishes the story, before they go on a walk together. Upon seeing a black slave (listed in the credits only as "Negro") being whipped, he buys the slave with an "I.O.U." for $600.00. The slave's former owner then goes to John Allan to collect the debt. Allan calls Poe a "scoundrel" for causing so many bills.

After having a drink with his "chum" Tony, Poe goes to visit Virginia. Tony follows shortly after and the two compete for Virginia's affection. Later, Virginia says she will choose the man who guesses which hand holds a wreath behind her back. Poe allows Tony to go first and, though he guesses correctly, Virginia secretly switches the wreath to the other hand so that Poe can win. Shortly after, in front of Tony and Virginia, Allan questions Poe's spending habits. Allan causes quite a scene, despite his wife's attempts to calm him. Poe is asked to leave the Allan family but Virginia offers to come along. Poe's recently-purchased slave comes along as well.

Poe has an alcohol-induced hallucination that recreates his poem (and the film's namesake) "The Raven". As Poe sits alone, he hears a tapping at the chamber door. The door knocker moves on its own and Poe thinks he sees the outline of a large, black bird. As Poe stumbles outside, the word "wine" appearing on a rock he braces himself against, he sees a ghost. As he reaches for another sip of wine, a human skull appears in place of the glass. Finally, a raven makes its way into the room, repeating the word "Nevermore" as Poe attempts to talk to it.

Poe, in Fordham, New York, is in "dire poverty" along with Virginia and her mother Maria. Virginia has a terrible coughing fit, a sign of her tuberculosis. Poe, desperate for money, unsuccessfully attempts to sell some of his work to George Rex Graham. Virginia, bothered by the cold winter weather, is kept warm by Poe's old coat from his time at West Point and from their pet black cat. She dies the next day, causing Poe great grief.

Sarah Helen Whitman is introduced at the end of the film, assisting an elderly couple. She and Poe, however, do not cross paths.


Henry Walthall was granted the lead role as Edgar Allan Poe after previously playing the same author in D. W. Griffith's The Avenging Conscience in 1914. Because of the repeat role, he was dubbed "the image of Poe."[1]


Henry B. Walthall ... Edgar Allan Poe
Warda Howard ... Virginia Clemm/Helen Whitman/The Lost Lenore/A Spirit
Ernest Maupain ... John Allan
Eleanor Thompson ... Mrs. Allan
Marian Skinner ... Mrs. Clemm (as Marion Skinner)
Harry Dunkinson ... Tony
Grant Foreman ... George Rex Graham
Hugh Thompson ... David Poe, Jr. (as Hugh E. Thompson)
Peggy Meredith ... Mrs. Hopkins Poe
Frank Hamilton ... David Poe, Sr.
Billy Robinson ... Joseph Reed
Bert Weston ... Negro
Charles Harris ... Mr. Pelham (as Charles K. Harris)


1.^ Smith, Don G. The Poe Cinema: A Critical Filmography. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 1999. p. 20 ISBN 078641703X

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Metzengerstein" Published 1832

"Metzengerstein," also called "Metzengerstein: A Tale In Imitation of the German", was the first short story by American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe to see print. It was first published in the pages of Philadelphia's Saturday Courier magazine, in January 1832. The story follows the young Frederick, the last of the Metzengerstein family who carries on a long-standing feud with the Berlifitzing family. Suspected of causing a fire that kills the Berlifitzing family patriarch, Frederick becomes intrigued with a previously-unnoticed and untamed horse. Metzengerstein is punished for his cruelty when his own home catches fire and the horse carries him into the flame.

"Metzengerstein" follows many conventions of Gothic fiction and, to some, exaggerates those conventions. Because of this, critics and scholars debate if Poe intended the story to be taken seriously or as a satire of Gothic stories. Regardless, many elements introduced in "Metzengerstein" would become common in Poe's future writing, including the gloomy castle and the power of evil. Because the story follows an orphan raised in an aristocratic household, some critics suggest an autobiographical connection with its author.

The story was submitted as Poe's entry to a writing contest at the Saturday Courier. Though it did not win, the newspaper published it in January 1832. It was re-published with Poe's permission only twice during his lifetime; its subtitle was dropped for its final publication. Poe intended to include it in his collection Tales of the Folio Club or another called Phantasy Pieces, though neither collection was ever produced.

Plot summary

The story takes place in Hungary, between two rival families: the Metzengersteins and the Berlifitzings. The bitter enmity between the two families is so old that no one knows how far back it dates. The narrator states that its origin appears to rely on an old prophecy: "A lofty name shall have a fearful fall when, as the rider over his horse, the mortality of Metzengerstein shall triumph over the immortality of Berlifitzing."

Young Frederick, Baron of Metzengerstein, inherits the family fortune at age 18 (though the age changes throughout its many re-publications[1]) and begins to exhibit particularly cruel behavior. "The behavior of the heir out-Heroded Herod".[2] A few days after he receives his inheritance, the stables of the rival family Berlifitzing catch fire, killing the family's patriarch, William Von Berlifitzing. It is implied that Metzengerstein himself may have been responsible for this act of arson. That day, Metzengerstein sits staring at an old tapestry depicting a Metzengerstein who kills a Berlifitzing who lies at the feet of his horse. He thinks he sees the horse move and take on "an energetic and human expression." A few minutes later, he's told that a new, remarkable "fiery-colored" horse has been found in his stables with the letters "W.V.B." branded on its forehead, "I supposed them, of course, to be the initials of William Von Berlifitzing, but all at the castle are positive in denying any knowledge of the horse."

The horse displays "ferocious and demonlike" qualities. Only the baron is brave enough to try to break the mysterious horse. Day after day, Metzengerstein rides it as if addicted, and becomes less and less interested in the affairs of his house. During a nocturnal ride, the Metzengerstein castle catches fire. The runaway horse, against the horseman's orders, jumps into the flames with its rider, killing the last of the Metzengerstein clan. The horrified onlookers see a cloud of smoke settle above the castle in the shape of "the distinct colossal figure of — a horse."


Though not explicitly stated, it is implied that the horse is really Berlifitzing. The first paragraph of the story references metempsychosis, when the soul of a person is transferred to another living being.[3] Other evidence is the tapestry, the lack of a history or recognition in the horse and, certainly, the prophecy referencing the immortality of the Berlifitzings. The story can be read as an allegory, a warning that a human soul can be overtaken by the evil it has created, though Poe himself doesn't suggest such a moral.[1] Such evil can be created by a person's hatred and pride.[4]

Poe imitates many traditional "Germanic" elements in this tale. The most obvious example is the gloomy old castle, typical of Gothic fiction. The story also includes typical Gothic themes, which scholar Dawn Sova refers to as, "hints at secret obsessions and sins, foreboding prophecies, family rivalry".[2] These Gothic conventions had been a staple of popular fiction in Europe and the United States for several decades by the time Poe utilized them.[5] Considering the subtitle, "A Tale in Imitation of the German", critics and scholars disagree[2] if Poe may have, in fact, intended the story as a satire or burlesque of the genre, purposely exaggerating the elements of the Gothic to be humorous.[6][7] Other evidence is that all of the other three stories Poe published in 1832 ("The Duc de l'Omelette", "A Tale of Jerusalem", and "Bon-Bon") are comic tales written, as Poe said, "intended for half banter, half satire".[8] The story also uses irony as a form of humor: Despite the family's prophecy that "the mortality of Metzengerstein shall triumph over the immortality of Berlifitzing", the opposite occurs.[9] The suggestion that "Metzengerstein" is purposefully written as a satire has been disputed, especially because of Poe's revisions throughout its many republications where he removed some of the more exaggerated material.[10]

The German or, more generally, European overtones give the story a medieval setting, though the time and place of the plot is left indistinct.[11] The atmosphere of the story combines both realistic and supernatural worlds while depicting pathological emotional states, likely influenced by the works of Ludwig Tieck and E. T. A. Hoffmann.[8] It has been called a precursor to "The Fall of the House of Usher"[11] and other later works. Among the elements Poe first uses in "Metzengerstein" which will become typical in his later works are the decaying and gloomy building with oddly-shaped rooms, the remote, secluded property, vivid colors, and underground vaults as well as themes of vengeance and the overwhelming power of evil.[8] Future works will also depict characters of extreme wealth; besides Metzengerstein, other examples are Roderick Usher, the narrator in "Ligeia" and Legrand's restored fortune in "The Gold-Bug".[12] Poe also uses teeth as a symbol for the first time in "Metzengerstein". The horse's teeth are described as "sepulchral and disgusting". Poe would later use teeth as a sign of mortality, as in lips writhing about the teeth of the mesmerized man in "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar", the sound of grating teeth in "Hop-Frog", and the obsession over teeth in "Berenice".[13] Death by fire would later be reused in Poe's story "Hop-Frog" as another punishment.[14] Though Poe was emulating popular horror fiction of the time, "Metzengerstein" shows what made Poe's horror tales stand out: rather than focusing on blood and gore, he explored the minds of the characters to better understand them.[15]

The story has some autobiographical overtones as well, with the castle representing Moldavia, the Richmond home of Poe's foster-father John Allan.[16] The Count, in this reading, would represent John Allan, and Poe the young Metzengerstein.[17] Both Poe and Metzengerstein are orphaned at a young age.[16] Poe may have found writing the story therapeutic; in it, he destroys "John Allan", though he is also destroyed in return.[18] In focusing on the final fire scene, Poe may have been recalling the fatal Richmond Theatre fire of December 1811 which occurred three weeks after his mother, the actress Eliza Poe, had died.[8][11]

Publication history

"Metzengerstein", as republished in the Southern Literary Messenger in January 1836Poe originally sent "Metzengerstein" to the Saturday Courier as his entry to a writing competition. Though he did not win, the judges apparently liked the story enough to print it a few months later in their January 14, 1832 edition.[19] It was published without Poe's name attached to it, but is the first acknowledged tale by Poe.[16] Poe likely was not paid for its initial publication.[20][21] The subtitle of "A Tale in Imitation of the German" was added when it was republished in the Southern Literary Messenger in January 1836, likely to capitalize on the popular interest in German horror.[20] It was removed for its publication as part of the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in 1840.[19]

"Metzengerstein" may have also been one of 11 tales Poe would have collected as Tales of the Folio Club,[22] a tale collection Poe announced but never actually printed. The "Folio Club" would have been a fictitious literary society the author called a group of "dunderheads" out to "abolish literature".[23] At each monthly meeting, a member would present a story. The Baltimore Saturday Visiter ran an advertisement calling for subscribers at $1 apiece. A week later, however, the newspaper announced that the author had withdrawn the pieces with the expectation they would be printed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[24] Poe also considered publishing it in a collection of stories to be called Phantasy Pieces as "The Horse-Shade", though the edition was never printed.[25]

In its first several publications, "Metzengestein" included a line about the mother's death by consumption. The young baron says, "It is a path I have prayed to follow. I would wish all I love to perish of that gentle disease."[1] When Poe was still a child, his own mother, Eliza Poe, died, presumably of consumption.[26] His wife Virginia also had tuberculosis and died in 1847. After her death, Poe altered his personal view of fictional heroines who were sick and idealized sick women while wishing for their death. This more romantic view of death was not uncommon in writing, as in John Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale", which may have inspired Poe.[27]

Critical response

The German nature of "Metzengerstein" and other stories in the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was mentioned in a review by Joseph C. Neal in the Pennsylvanian on December 6, 1839: "These grotesque and arabesque delineations are full of variety, now irresistibly quaint and droll, and again marked with all the deep and painful interest of the German school".[28] Rudyard Kipling was an admirer of Poe and once wrote, "My own personal debt to Poe is a heavy one." "Metzengerstein" was an inspiration to his story "The Phantom Rickshaw", where the main character is punished by the horse of someone he has murdered.[29]


"Metzengerstein" was adapted into one component of Roger Vadim's Histoires extraordinaires in 1968. The segment starred Jane Fonda and Peter Fonda and, though it bore the title "Metzengerstein", was not based on the plot of Poe's story.[2] Romanian composer Joan Balan wrote a musical score for piano in 1934 based on the story called Das Feuerpferd.[30]


1.^ Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998: 193. ISBN 0801857309
2.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York City: Checkmark Books, 2001: 155. ISBN 081604161X
3.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York City: Harper Perennial, 1991: 89. ISBN 0060923318
4.^ Poe, Harry Lee. Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories. New York: Metro Books, 2008: 53. ISBN 9781435104693
5.^ Neimeyer, Mark. "Poe and popular culture" in The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, Kevin J. Hayes, ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002: 208. ISBN 0521797276
6.^ Bittner, William. Poe: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962: 85–86.
7.^ Fisher, Benjamin Franklin. "Poe's 'Metzengerstein': Not a Hoax" in On Poe: The Best from "American Literature. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993: 142. ISBN 0822313111
8.^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992: 64. ISBN 0-8154-1038-7
9.^ Leverenz, David. "Spanking the Master: Mind-Body Crossings in Poe's Sensationalism" in The Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe, J. Gerald Kennedy, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001: 99. ISBN 0-19-512150-3
10.^ Fisher, Benjamin Franklin. "Poe's 'Metzengerstein': Not a Hoax" in On Poe: The Best from "American Literature. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993: 149. ISBN 0822313111
11.^ Hutchisson, James M. Poe. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005: 38. ISBN 1-57806-721-9
12.^ Hoffman, Daniel. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe. Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 1972: 186. ISBN 0-8071-2321-9
13.^ Kennedy, J. Gerald. Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987: 79. ISBN 0300037732
14.^ Hutchisson, James M. Poe. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005: 236. ISBN 1-57806-721-9
15.^ Poe, Harry Lee. Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories. New York: Metro Books, 2008: 54. ISBN 9781435104693
16.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York City: Harper Perennial, 1991: 88. ISBN 0060923318
17.^ Bittner, William. Poe: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962: 85.
18.^ Bittner, William. Poe: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962: 86–87.
19.^ Fisher, Benjamin Franklin. "Poe's 'Metzengerstein': Not a Hoax" in On Poe: The Best from "American Literature. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993: 145. ISBN 0822313111
20.^ Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998: 192. ISBN 0801857309
21.^ Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson. The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–1849. Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1987: 125. ISBN 0816187347
22.^ Hammond, Alexander. "A Reconstruction of Poe's 1833 Tales of the Folio Club, Preliminary Notes", from Poe Studies, vol. V, no. 2, December 1972: 29.
23.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York City: Checkmark Books, 2001: 88. ISBN 081604161X
24.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. Harper Perennial, 1991: 92-93. ISBN 0060923318
25.^ Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998: 336-337. ISBN 0801857309
26.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York City: Harper Perennial, 1991: 8. ISBN 0060923318
27.^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992: 206. ISBN 0-8154-1038-7
28.^ Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson. The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–1849. Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1987: 279. ISBN 0816187347
29.^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992: 291. ISBN 0-8154-1038-7
30.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York City: Checkmark Books, 2001: 19. ISBN 081604161X