A SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF EDGAR ALLAN POE
FROM THE TESTIMONY OF HIS FRIENDS
MRS. JOHN C. WRENSHALL
To draw attention to the character of Edgar Allan Poe through the testimony of those intimately associated with him at various periods of his tragic life, is the object of this sketch : and as his faults have been dwelt upon, misstated and magnified, so here his many warm friends, made and retained in both private and public relations, speak for him.
For the date and place of Poe's birth reference must be made to newspapers of the time. In the absence of town registers, of church books, or family records of births, deaths and marriages, press notices have of necessity come to be accepted as evidence of such events. This applies as pertinently to persons dwelling in their permanent homes as to the leaders of the Virginia Comedians, Mr. and Mrs. David Poe, who were playing at the Federal Street Theatre in Boston from 1806 to 1809.
According to notices in The Boston Gazette, Mrs. Poe appeared on November 28, 1808, as Lydia in "The Sixty-Third Letter" a musical afterpiece. No further announcement is made until February 9, 1809, when, under the head of theatrical information, appears the following paragraph: "We congratulate the frequenters of the theatre upon the recovery of Mrs Poe .... This charming little actress will make her appearance tomorrow night as Rosamunda in the popular play of Abaellino, The Great Bandit."
It is claimed that 2 Carvel Street is the house in which Poe was born, and it was, perhaps, here the young and beautiful mother painted the miniature of herself which ever remained Poe s dearest possession on the back of which she wrote: "For my little son Edgar, who should ever love Boston, the place of his birth, and where his mother found her best and most sympathetic friends."
A few months after the birth of their second son, Edgar, David and Elizabeth Poe commenced their wanderings anew, playing in New York during the following winter. In the summer of 1810 they went South, the Richmond papers recording Mrs. Poe as then playing in that city, David still piping as Elizabeth sang and danced, till the play was played out for the poor comedian in Norfolk, where David Poe died. Illness was now fast wearing Mrs. Poe's nearly exhausted strength, but her unconquerable will permitted not her giving up the struggle until December, when the Enquirer chronicled her death.
The eldest child had been sent some time previously to his grandfather, General Poe, in Baltimore, and the younger children, Edgar and Rosalie, were at once taken by Mr. Mackenzie, a well known citizen of Richmond, to his home, and his family adopted the baby girl. Mr. John Allan, a merchant of the same city, yielding reluctantly to the pleadings of Mrs. Allan, consented to take Edgar, not quite two years of age. The children were then baptized Edgar Allan and Rose Mackenzie.
In an effort to better his fortunes Mr. Allan went abroad in 1815, to establish a branch house of Ellis & Allan in England, where with his wife and Edgar he remained for five years.
That nothing was lost upon him of the historic memories and poetical associations of his surroundings at the school in the old Manor House, where the little boy was placed, is proved by the story which Poe thought "his best," " William Wilson," written nineteen years after he had passed for the last time through the "tall iron gates."
In 1820 the Allans returned to Richmond, taking their adopted son with them, where for some months they made their home with the family of Mr. Ellis, Mr. Allan's partner. In T. H. Ellis, the son of this household, Edgar found a friend, who in later years wrote of Poe: "He was very beautiful, yet brave and manly for one so young. No boy ever had a greater influence over me than he had. He was indeed, a leader among his playmates; but my admiration for him scarcely knew bounds. He taught me to swim, to shoot, to skate, to play bandy."
Another companion of Poe, also intimate with him in after years, was Creed Thomas, his deskmate at Burke's Academy, whom Dr. Harrison quotes as follows: "Poe was a quiet, peaceful youngster, and seldom got into a difficulty with his schoolmates. He was as plucky as any boy at school, however, and never permitted himself to be imposed upon."
Thomas was a member of the Thespian Society to which Poe belonged, but to which Mr. Allan objected; he also belonged to the Junior Morgan Riflemen, in which Poe was a lieutenant. When Lafayette visited Richmond, this company was selected as his body-guard, and Ellis tells how he admired Poe as he kept guard when the old General held his reception in the autumn of 1824. During this time as a boy of fourteen, Poe wrote the imperishable lines To Helen, inspired by Mrs. Jane Stith Stanard, the mother of his most intimate friend.
In 1825, Mr. Allan, who had come into a legacy from his uncle, Mr. Gault, bought a handsome place, its attendant surroundings bringing the life of luxury which has been ascribed to Poe s childhood. Poe, now about sixteen, admired greatly a young girl, Sarah Elmira Royster. Of him she wrote later, "He was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was one of the most fascinating and refined men I ever knew." Mr. Allan and Mr. Royster objected to the love affair, on the ground of the exceeding youth of both parties, and after Poe left for the University Mr. Royster intercepted his letters, and the young lady at seventeen married Mr. Shelton of Richmond.
On the fourteenth day of February, 1826, Poe matriculated at the University of Virginia, having just passed his seventeenth birthday. Under the new system of elective studies he entered the schools of Ancient and Modern Languages, and remained at the University until the close of the same year. His career was much as that of other students, he played cards, idled, and drank "peach and honey," but though in this year of 1826 students were censured, and so entered on the books of the University, Poe's name only appears when signing the minutes of the Jefferson Society, of which he was the secretary. And again, when leaving one month before his eighteenth birthday, he carried with him all the honors it was possible for him to attain, as shown by the faculty minutes. "Distinctions" were the highest marks given at that time by the University, graduation belonged to a much later period and the marks received by Poe would later have entitled him to a diploma in Latin and French.
Among his friends during that year were T. G. Tucker, William M. Burwell, Upton Beale, Philip Slaughter, Philip St. George Ambler, John Willis and William Wertenbaker, the latter librarian of the University for forty-three years was in the same classes with Poe and wrote: "I am sure I will always tenderly cherish my recollections of Edgar Allan Poe." To Tucker and other friends gathered in his little room, No. 13, West Range, Poe read the early productions of his youth, and it is said that those who were so fortunate as to hear these impromptu readings never forgot them.
Returning to Mr. Allan's home in Richmond was not an especially happy event for Poe, "the distinctions" not counterbalancing his offense in making debts at cards. These debts Poe insisted upon paying, but Mr. Allan refused to do so and Poe rashly left his home. In May, 1827, he enlisted in Boston in the United States Armyunder the name of Edward A. Perry.
A few weeks later a tiny book of forty pages, giving Poe's collected poems, appeared in Boston as: "Tamerlane and Other Poems. By a Bostonian. Boston: Calvin F. S. Thomas, Printer." Only forty copies were issued, and a very few have survived. One copy sold at auction in New York, November, 1900, for $2050, and was immediately resold for $2550.
In the army Poe won the confidence and respect of his superiors, before he was discharged receiving the appointment of sergeant-major an unusual promotion for one so young. Mrs. Allan, his adopted mother, dying in February, 1829, a furlough was applied for, and shortly afterward Poe returned to his home. The remarkable service rendered in the artillery together with his unblemished record pointed with no uncertainty to the propriety of his receiving an appointment to West Point. Mr. Allan, softened by the death of his wife, who was always tenderly attached to Poe, obtained Poe s discharge, which was received on April 15, 1829, with highly commendatory letters from his commanding officers, which are on file in the War Department, Washington.
Again with Mr. Allan, their differences were somewhat effaced by the fine record of the young soldier, and happier relations were in a degree restored. Mr. Allan furthered Poe's inclination to enter West Point by using all the influence he possessed. He wrote to the Secretary of State, but the tone of the letters betray the lack of warm interest which might have been expected.
Early in 1829 the second edition of Poe's poems was published by Hatch and Dunning of Baltimore. The title page was as follows: "Al Aaraaf. Tamerlane and Minor Poems. By Edgar A. Poe. Baltimore: Hatch & Dunning. 1829." In the middle of the reverse side of the title page is "Copyright secured. Matchett & Woods, Printers." "Tamerlane" had been entirely rewritten, and some of the minor poems together with "Al Aaraaf" had been singing themselves into words during the two years of artillery service.
Poe's acquaintance with John Neal, to whom he dedicated "Tamerlane" dates from his visit to Baltimore to arrange for this book, and the correspondence between them is published in Neal's paper, "The Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette." With it are two poems by Poe not hitherto found among his works, but which Dr. Harrison gives in the "Virginia Edition."
More than fifteen months elapsed after leaving the army before the commission for West Point was received, and in obtaining it as much influence was exerted by Poe's military record as by the letters which he secured from prominent Virginians. On July 1, 1830, Poe entered the Military Academy, and from the first stood high in his studies: third in French and seventeenth in mathematics in a class of eighty-seven, but in singular contradiction to his devotion to his duties while in the artillery, he neglected and disobeyed the regulations of West Point.
For this much dwelt upon episode in Poe's life, his dismissal from the Academy, the most that investigation elucidates is that he sought it, choosing no flagrant offense as a means of obtaining his release, but simply the omission of daily duties exacted by the severe discipline of the Academy. Circumstances had greatly changed for Poe since entering in July. Mr. Allan had married again, and Poe felt he would from henceforth be an outsider in the new family, with a penniless future except for the inadequate army pay. Literature was appealing to him with strengthening force, and apparently undisturbed by the knowledge that official action would be taken upon his conduct, he completed arrangements for the third edition of his poems, dedicating it: "To the U. S. Corps of Cadets." The young men had largely subscribed to the book, and upon receiving it found ample opportunity for the exercise of their youthful powers of criticism. The tragic tone was not to their taste and aroused their amuse ment and ridicule, the impression then made lingering long with the readers. The volume was a considerable advance over the two that had preceded it, the develop ment of Poe's critical taste being apparent in the re-writing and strengthening of the poems, eight of which may be largely ascribed to the latter half of 1829 and 1830. A Paen, written in his sorrow for the death of Mrs. Allan, belongs to the earlier part of this period.
According to the statement of his roommate, T. H. Gibson, Poe resigned and left the Academy in December anticipating the court martial to be called in January for all offenders. This was held January 28, when Poe was tried and dismissed for "disobedience to orders and absence from roll calls, guard duty, and class work," the sentence taking effect March 6, 1831.
Exactly three months later Poe wrote from Richmond to William Gwynn, Editor of the Federal Gazette and Baltimore Advertizer, asking for any employment that he could give, but this gentleman was either not able, or did not choose to furnish it. In this letter there is total absence of any word of complaint because of Mr. Allan's withdrawal of protection, further than stating the facts.
Little is known of Poe's surroundings through the next two years. Harper's for March, 1899, brought to light some reminiscences of Augustus Van Cleef which shows Poe living in Baltimore during this time with his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, and tells of a transitory love affair between Poe and his "Mary," a fair Baltimore girl, with little Virginia, a child of ten, carrying notes to and fro. That he continued to write diligently in the poverty to which Mr. Allan had consigned him is proved by the material ready when, in 1833, The Baltimore Saturday Visitor opened its columns to the famous prize contest for poems and stories, in which Poe entered "The Tales of the Folio Club." One of these tales, "The Manuscript Found in a Bottle" was awarded the one hundred dollar prize with an accompanying recommendation "to publish all the tales in book form." Of the poems offered for the contest all were rejected but two; one, "The Coliseum," was in the same unmistakably beautiful handwriting as the story to which had been awarded the hundred dollar prize; the other poem was excellent and the fifty dollar prize was given to its author, John H. Hewitt, of Baltimore.
The judges, John P. Kennedy, John H. B. Latrobe, and James H. Miller, men of eminent literary ability, were enthusiastic in their encomiums of Poe's work, and Mr. Latrobe states; "I am not prepared to say that the committee may not have been biased in awarding the fifty dollar prize to Mr. Hewitt by the fact that they had already given the hundred dollar prize to Mr. Poe. From this competition dates the friendship of Mr. Kennedy for Poe, whom he introduced to Mr. White, editor and proprietor of The Southern Literary Messenger, of Richmond.
Mrs. Clemm was now living at No. 3 Amity Street and whatever Poe made went into their common fund of living. The city limits were near, and Poe with his friend L. A. Wilmer, editor of The Saturday Visitor, often taking Virginia with them, went for long walks in the country. The two men became fast friends and Wilmer gallantly defended Poe, when, in 1859, he published a book entitled " Our Press Gang, or The Crimes of the American Newpapers."
Mr. Allan died in Richmond on March 27, 1834. Shortly before this event Poe called at his house, and being told by Mrs. Allan, who did not recognize him, that the physicians had forbidden her husband to see anyone, he thrust her aside and walked rapidly to Mr. Allan's chamber; on his entrance Mr. Allan raised his cane which he used to walk with, and, threatening to strike him if he came within his reach, ordered him out, a command that Poe at once obeyed. This was the so-called violent scene in which the two parted. Mr. Allan left three children ; his will cut off any lingering hopes of inheritance Poe may have indulged in and threw him irretrievably on his own resources.
Again in Baltimore, Poe with his friend Wilmer planned a literary journal whose utterances were to be untrammeled with opinions other than their own, the first note here sounded of Poe's wish for his own medium of expression, henceforth co-existent with his life. Nothing came of their efforts, but some of Poe's stories found a market in Philadelphia while he worked for Wilmer and Mr. Kennedy; his connection with the Messenger meantime strengthening.
Three years in Baltimore had now gone by, during which Poe had made desperate efforts to maintain himself by his literary work. Virginia, who Van Cleef wrote, "Even then loved her cousin to distraction," was growing into a more lovely young girl, and the records of Baltimore City show that a license was granted for her marriage to Poe, although search reveals no trace of the ceremony having been performed.
In March, 1835, in a letter to Mr. Kennedy, Poe seeks his influence in obtaining an appointment as teacher in a public school in Baltimore. Correspondence with Mr. White a few weeks later shows his continued active work for the Messenger, reference to these letters disproving the allegation that Poe never praised other authors.
In August, 1835, Poe in a letter, to his cousin William Poe, dated from Richmond, tells of having "lately obtained the editorship of the Messenger." The first mention of Poe's ill health is made at this time when he writes to Mr. Kennedy of "a depression of spirits which will ruin me should it long continue."
After leaving West Point, Poe had known hunger and want, and these doubtless undermined in youth the delicate constitution inherited from his parents. That yielding to the convivial habits of the day, when to decline to drink with companions was an insult, was not an established habit with Poe has been confirmed by many in close contact with his daily life, though his physical weakness and exhaustion may have sometimes led to "the dangerous conditions" against which "Mr. White warns him."
The beginning of the next year finds Poe, Mrs. Clemm, and Virginia in Richmond, where, upon his salary of $520 a year increased by extra work to about $800, he had offered them a home. On May 16, 1836, Poe was married to Virginia by the Rev. Amasa Converse, a Presbyterian minister and editor of the Southern Religious Telegraph.
Around the first first few months of their marriage some brightness hovers. Their income though small was certain, and confidence in his mental resources spurred Poe to incredible exertions. His work in the Messenger proves the man who coined this wealth from his brain guilty of no habitual excess excepting that of industry and entire disregard of his own mental and physical welfare. It was now that "Joseph Miller, Esq." made his bow in the opening chapters of "Autography," Poe's humor, never to be extinguished, bubbling to the top in these brilliant articles. Poe as editor of The Southern Literary Messenger raised the circulation from seven hundred to five thousand subscribers, an average of four articles from his pen appearing monthly tales, essays, poems and alas! the fatal critiques that brought hosts of enemies to undermine him.
In the January number, 1837, Mr. White, the proprietor of the Messenger announced that "Mr. Poe, who has filled the Editorial Department with so much ability, retired from that station on the 3d. Mr. Poe, however, will continue to furnish its columns from time to time, with the effusions of his vigorous and popular pen. It is perhaps due to Mr. Poe, to state that he is not responsible for any of the articles which appear in the present number, except the reviews of Byrant's Poems, George Balcomb, Irving's Astoria, Reynold's Address on the South Sea Expedition, Anthon's Cicero, the first number of Arthur Gordon Pym, a sea story, and two poetical effusions to which his name is prefixed." It should be stated that fifteen additional columns of "Arthur Gordon Pym" appeared in the February number.
More lucrative employment was now accepted by Poe to collaborate with Dr. F. L. Hawkes in the management of the New York Review, Professors Anthon and Henry being co-editors with Dr. Hawkes. The Poes found shelter in New York in a very poor house, 113 Carmine Street, where Mrs. Clemm took boarders. One of these, William Gowans, wrote of Poe: "For eight months or more one house contained us, as one table fed, . . .I never saw him in the least affected with liquor, nor ever descend to any known vice, he was one of the most courteous, gentlemanly, and intelligent companions I have met with. "
In the Carmine Street house Poe finished "Arthur Gordon Pym," published in book form in July, 1838, and reprinted later in England. The hope that had led Poe to New York soon vanished, and in the autumn of 1838 the little family bade goodby to Carmine Street and Mr. Gowans, moving to Philadelphia, where they lived for six years the happiest time of Poe's life. They took a small house in a remote part of the city, Spring Garden, and in its poor, but sweet simplicity seemed to have made it a model of a poet's home. Even Griswold, whose cherished resentment for Poe's criticism of his poetry was evidenced in every misrepresentation of malice of the dead and defenseless man, could not deny the beauty and the love in the home in Spring Garden.
Virginia's ineffable sweetness is again and again mentioned as winning all hearts; she delighted in the visits of young people and children and always had some little gifts for the latter. Two such souvenirs have recently been shown the writer. One a small perfume bottle, the other, a toy goblet, classic in shape as if modeled after some ancient Greek design.
T. C. Clarke, first editor of The Saturday Evening Post, gives, perhaps, the most charming picture of this home, in the reminiscences of the friendship between Virginia and his little daughter who "was fond of spending the day with her favorite friend and enlivened the hours with her childish songs. There was one of which she hinted knowledge but positively refused to sing, and it was not until after repeated solicitations from Virginia that the child ventured upon I never would be married, and be called Mistress Poe, Goody Poe. Mistress Poe received the song with peal on peal of laughter, and insisted in her exhuberance of spirits on having the homely melody repeated. Upon parting Virginia gave the child a keepsake, which the recipient no longer a child now cherishes in memory of the fair and gentle donor."
In business as in personal relations, Poe made many friends in Philadelphia. In a letter received by the writer in March, 1909, mention is made of Robert Dybale of that city, "an ardent admirer of Poe's, who even in his darkest days would never permit anyone to speak slightingly of him, or his reputed habits. At the time of Poe's residence in this city, Mr. Dybale was connected with the editorial staff of The Press, then learning to appreciate his genius and brilliant mind. Poe would come into the office and perch himself on the table, unroll his manuscript, and read his articles to the staff. These were never submitted for inspection before being sent to the printer, inasmuch that they were written in a faultless manner. Poe always wrote on strips of paper about six inches wide, which as the MS. progressed were rolled up, and another strip pasted on." The writer of the letter, Mrs. Robert B. Keesey, of Philadelphia, adds: "We can readily see how fortunate it was for the reader that his services were not needed, for I doubt if he could have unrolled and rolled as Poe did."
In 1838-1839, many new stories from Poe appeared. The American Museum of Baltimore gave "Ligeia" to the public, also "Signora Zenobia," "Scythe of Time," "A Predicament," and the weird glory of "The Haunted Palace;" and Miss Eliza Leslie s A nnual boasted "William Wilson." In July, 1839, William E. Burton, proprietor of The Gentleman s Magazine, associated Poe with him in its editing. "The Fall of the House of Usher" soon appeared in this magazine, followed by "The Conversations of Eiros and Charmion" (or "The Rainbow and the Dove") the latter characterized by powers of speculation that hold the reader enthralled.
For a full explanation of circumstances attending the publication of the Manual of Conchology the reader is referred to Harrison's "Edgar Allan Poe," Virginia Edition, p. 146. It suffices here to say that the work was exploited by Professor Wyatt, Professor MacMurtree and Poe. Wyatt wished to get out a popular and inexpensive edition to pay for loss on a costly work that would not sell; with this in view he engaged Poe to issue the former under his own name. Wyatt was far more responsible than Poe for non-acknowledgment of Captain Thomas Brown s "Conchologist's Text Book," published in Glasgow in 1837, from which the first twenty pages were drawn. Poe, too, was undoubtedly in the wrong, but Wyatt, selling the book, seems to have escaped the censure that fell upon the unfortunate young man who with superhuman efforts was eking out in any direction offering his weekly salary of ten dollars; this regular amount just in view after a time of dependence on returns from contributions to magazines.
In this same year Poe's "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque," were published in two volumes, and dedicated to Col. William Drayton, of Philadelphia, "With every Sentiment of Respect, Gratitude, and Esteem, by his obliged Friend and Servant, the author."
The relations between Burton and Poe had never been agreeable, they quarreled incessantly, one cause of disagreement, being Poe s unyielding wish and efforts for a magazine of his own, which had progressed as far as the prospectus issued in 1840, signed by Clarke and Poe. The name of the new magazine was to be the Penn Monthly, and Felix O. C. Darley was to furnish original designs for its illustrations.
Despite their bickerings, Burton was sufficiently interested in Poe to request that his young editor should be retained when the Gentleman's Magazine was bought by Mr. Graham and merged with The Casket, the two forming Graham's Magazine. Poe became the editor of the new publication and Mr. Graham ever remained his devoted friend.
Poe's cryptographic challenge sent out in Alexander's Weekly Messenger of Philadelphia had brought innumerable responses. Over these he had worked with inexhaustable patience answering almost undecipherable tests, many languages often being combined in one cryptograph. This unique exhibition of his singular powers was closed by an article from his pen which appeared in Graham's in July, 1841. His extraordinary faculty of reasoning from another s mental standpoint still further aroused universal astonishment when, in The Saturday Evening Post, of May, 1841, he announced a prospective notice of "Barnaby Rudge." The initial chapters of the story had just appeared, from them Poe deduced the entire plot, and correctly presented its culmination. The character of this work, without the vast amount other wise accomplished, silently corroborates statements of Poe's entire abstinence through these years.
Graham's Magazine achieved a wonderful success under its star leader, the subscriptions increasing from five to thirty-seven thousand. In April of 1841 "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" appeared in Graham s inaugurating a school to which many great writers have acknowledged their indebtedness. The latest of these tributes was rendered by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the Poe Centenary celebration by the Authors Club of London, March 1, 1909, when he credited the inspiration for his own detective stories to Edgar Allan Poe.
While Poe was working for Graham, he was contributing to The Saturday Evening Post, The Lady's Companion, The Saturday Museum, The United States Post, The Dollar Newspaper, and other publications. All of his work was clear cut and shaped to its pre-determined scheme; no detail spared, no superfluous word written. The relation not only between thoughts and words, but between words themselves was so perfectly adjusted that each caught lustre from the other, until prose and poetry alike shown as jewels against the onyx background of his sombre fancy.
With Poe's creative and critical powers going at telegraphic speed, Virginia s life was at lowest ebb, and though he worked and starved it was impossible to meet the demands of her illness. His business letters show his desperate struggles with consuming poverty, though not for his own needs. "He seems to have had no personal expenses," writes Mr. Graham. "What he received from me went directly into the hands of his mother-in-law for family comforts." When Poe's letters bore on his money obligations, anxiety to square his accounts was always first. Withal, that his generous nature was not warped is revealed in a letter written by him to James Russell Lowell, in which Poe forgives Lowell his debt and endeavors to encourage and cheer him in his struggle in Boston to maintain The Pioneer.
Poe's efforts for his own magazine again come to light in the Philadelphia Saturday Museum of March 4, 1843, in the prospectus of The Stylus to appear in July, edited in connection with T. C. Clarke, and illustrated by Darley. A month after the prospectus was published, Poe's editorial connection with Graham's Magazine was severed, no explanation being given of the altered relations until 1873, when in conversation with Dr. Harrison, Mr. Graham made the following statement: "Poe never quarreled with him; never was discharged from Graham's Magazine" and the "facts of Mr. Poe s secession from Graham were as follows .... Mr. Poe was from illness or other causes, absent for a short time from his post on the magazine, a temporary arrangement made with Dr. Griswold to act as Poe's substitute until his return. Poe came back unexpectedly, and, seeing Griswold in his chair, turned on his heel without a word, and left the office, nor could he be persuaded to enter it again, although he sent frequent contributions to the pages of the magazine." Dr. Harrison adds "according to Gill, Griswold himself, was shortly afterwards dismissed by Mr. Graham from the editorship of the magazine for writing a scurrilous anonymous attack on Mr. Charles J. Peterson, a gentleman prominently connected with many American magazines, who was associated with Griswold in the same office apparently on the friendliest terms."
"The Gold Bug" written for Graham's but not yet published, was returned to Poe, in accordance with his earnest request; he entered it for a competitive prize and won the one hundred dollars offered by the Philadelphia Dollar Magazine. This was followed in August of the same year, 1843, by "The Black Cat" which appeared in The Saturday Post.
The great amount of work published through 1844 evidences Poe's unrelaxed efforts after leaving Graham, but poor pay, the uncertainty of daily bread, delays and disappointments in deferred publication, the over-speeding of his sensitive brain, the alternations of hope and dis-pair in the exceeding and prolonged illness of Virginia, brought bitter suffering to the three. The shadows hung heavily, close and dark about the little home in Spring Garden. It was decided to return to New York the wider field. Virginia temporarily revived and Poe took her with him there. His letter to Mrs. Clemm written immediately after their arrival shows in every word the tender affection, trust and confidence uniting these three poor strugglers with fate.
A very few days after Poe reached New York his "Balloon Hoax" appeared in the New York Sun, and like others of his stories was taken as a fact in the United States, England and France. Stories, reviews and criticisms followed in quick succession in Graham's, Godey's, The Columbian Magazine, The Evening Mirror, The Southern Literary Messenger, and The Democratic Review. A position on the staff of The Evening Mirror being offered by its editor, N. P. Willis, was accepted by Poe and filled with the same industry and devotion to the interests of his employers as had characterized all his previous engagements.
The association between Poe and Willis was always harmonious, of it Willis wrote, "In our harassing days of daily editorship Poe for a long time was our assistant. We loved the man for the entireness of fidelity with which he served us. When he left us we were very reluctant to part with him. With the prospect of taking the lead in another periodical, he, at last, voluntarily gave up his employment with us."
It was The Evening Mirror that gave the public the great literary excitement of the day by the publication of "The Raven" on January igth, 1845. It was copied by permission from the advanced sheets of The American Whig Review and heralded by Willis as "the most effective single example of fugitive poetry ever published in this country; and unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistant sustaining of imaginative lift." "The Raven" appeared again in the February number of The Review, in The Broadway Journal, and The Southern Literary Messenger variants in each version. Numerous accounts exist as to the place and time of its composition, but for the most probable one reference must be made to Dr. Harrison's "Virginia Edition" of "Edgar Allan Poe," where General James R. O'Beirne is quoted as follows: "Edgar Allan Poe spent the summers of 1843 and 1844 at the homestead of my father-in-law. I have frequently heard the story from my wife's lips, who was about ten years old when she became acquainted with the great poet. In those days, more than half a century ago, Patrick Brennan (Mrs. O'Beirne's father) owned a farm of 216 acres extending from a point about 200 feet west of Central Park to the Hudson river. It was a picturesque spot, and the neighboring territory was considered a sort of summer resort whither a number of persons migrated in hot weather."
The house was a two story building, low to the ground, without porch, piazza or any ornamentation, and was near what is now 84th Street and Broadway. General O'Beirne gives a description of the "big room" where "above the door opening into the hallway, stood "the pallid bust of Pallas." "It was a little plaster cast, and occupied a shelf nailed to the door casing immediately behind the bust, and occupying the space between the top casing and the ceiling; a number of little panes of smoky glass took the place of the partition." Mrs. Brennan, to whom Poe read "The Raven" before its publication, denied positively all charges of dissipation against him, and Mrs. O'Beirne recalls how she used to lie on the floor at Poe's feet arranging his manuscript and always carefully reversing it from the way he preferred to have it, placing it with the written side toward the floor.
Poe's engagement with The Broadway Journal, the paper to which Mr. Willis alluded, began with the opening of 1845. Many of the tales and poems revised and published together with a large number of reviews and criticisms appeared in the Journal, and the charges of plagiarism against Longfellow and his friends, opened in The Evening Mirror January i4th, were continued. This most unfortunate, unnecessary and enduring controversy aroused bitter resentment against Poe.
Of himself at this time, Poe writes to Dr. Creed Thomas "For the last three or four months I have been working fourteen or fifteen hours a day, hard at it all the time...and yet, Thomas, 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." Wiley & Put nam were now issuing two volumes of Poe's works the first, twelve tales: the second, "The Raven and Other Poems." The latter volume was dedicated: "To the Noblest of Her Sex To the Author of The Drama of Exile To Miss Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, of England, I Dedicate this volume, with the most Enthusiastic Admiration, and with the most Sincere Esteem. E. A. P."
In July, Charles Fenno Hoffman wrote to Griswold: " The Broadway Journal stopped for a week to let Briggs step ashore with his luggage, and they are now getting up steam to drive it ahead under Captains Poe and Watson." In October Poe bought Bisco's interest for $50. At last he had a magazine of his own. There was though but a slim chance that he could maintain it; this he took and fought as he always did, gallantly, to the end. The subscriptions increased, success seemed within touch, but he could not meet the necessary expenses. He wrote to Griswold, Kennedy, Duyckink and his cousin George Poe asking for help; he offered to take a large discount for money owing him, but all of no avail. Failing to keep his poor raft afloat, he nailed his colors to the masthead, and on December 26th, 1845, announced the demise of The Broadway Journal and his farewell as editor "as cordially to foes as to friends."
In Godey's Lady s Book of May, 1846, appeared the author's introduction of "The Literati of New York City. Some Honest Opinions at random respecting their Autorial Merits, with Occasional Words of Personality." For the special opportunities enabling him to write of those so classed we must turn to his surroundings since his arrival in New York. That city was then justly celebrated for the brilliant evening reunions held in the homes of distinguished men and women who delighted in drawing about them the litterateurs of the day. Poe was the centre of these circles, his charm of manner and rare conversational powers winning general admiration. Mrs. Whitman through letters from New York friends gives charming pictures of him in these salons. One writes: "To hear him repeat The Raven which he does very quietly, is an event in one's life. His smile is captivating!"
Poe's fame was now assured. In France public attention was first directed to his stories through a controversy between rival journals as to the authorship of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." The plagiarism of the newspapers being exposed, and Poe acknowledged as the writer, "his best tales were translated by Mme. Isabelle Mennier." From all this he received only the acclamations of those who became the members of his school, among them notably Gauthier and Baudelaire. In England his mesmeric studies excited profound interest. "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" was published in pamphlet form by Short & Co., of London, 1846, under the title of " Mesmerism in Articulo Mortis," accompanied by press notices showing that it was accepted as a statement of events actually occurring.
"The Literati" naturally aroused some resentment, but no expression of this was voiced until Thomas Dunn Brown (English) was filled with so deep a sense of injury that he published a venomous and libelous reply. Poe sued him for defamation of character and received a verdict of damages of $225. In the spring of 1846, while the cherry trees were still in bloom, the Poes moved from the city to the tiny cottage close to King's Bridge road, on Fordham Hill. Here they found some happy hours. Mrs. Clemm's care was over all, Virginia made wonder ful results in artistic effects with their poor little house hold belongings, the devoted husband by his own efforts surrounded their tiny cottage with the flowers he loved and with birds, free and caged, to which with other pets he was ever gentle and kind. Alas ! it soon became evident that Virginia was dying. With the passing summer dire want hemmed in the young wife, the uncomplaining striving mother, and the hard working, frantic husband, who for many weeks was too ill to write or even to leave the house. 11 Hope had almost turned away her face, yet love survived as witnessed by the tender letter from Poe to Virginia when he was unexpectedly detained in New York.
The autumn added cold to sufferings at Fordham. A kind friend, Mrs. Gove-Nichols, together with Mrs. Shew, Mrs. Hewitt and others, somewhat alleviated their need. N. P. Willis heard of the desperate conditions met and endured with such fortitude, and appealed to the public in their favor. Poe replied thanking Willis "for his kind and manly comments in the Home Journal" acknowledges his wants and privations, but waived the assistance that his pride so bitterly resented.
The old year passed out and the new one found Virginia still living. On the 2Qth of January, 1847, Poe wrote to Mrs. Shew "My poor Virginia yet lives. May God grant her life until she sees you and thanks you once again .... Lest she may never see you more .... she bids me say that she sends you her sweetest kiss of love and will die blessing you. But come, oh come tomorrow!" Upon that morrow the gentle creature entered into Paradise.
For months Poe was as one distraught, inspiration and incentive removed he was ill unto death, sleepless except when his "more than Mother" sat beside his bed, her hand upon his weary head in the tender communion of mutual loss. It was then his heart wrote the lines "To My Mother," which hold in crystal clear his love for the undaunted spirit of Maria Poe Clemm.
Through the year following Virginia's death Poe seldom left the cottage except to wander over the surrounding country, from Virginia's grave to the great arched acqueduct, to the rocky height of Mt. Tom from where he could gaze over the blue Hudson, and through the thick woods back to the little piazza, pacing to and fro in front of the door from which Virginia had been carried forth. He drank the lees of sorrow, but from their bitterness his spirit was strengthened to conceive his most exalted work "Eureka," the forecasting for eternity. Towards the close of the year "Ulalume" was written and first published in The American Whig Review for December. Of this poem Edmund Gosse has said: "The three lyrics which must be regarded as having the most permanent effect upon subsequent literature not in England merely, but in France, are Ulalume, Annabel Lee, and For Annie." The same writer advances Poe's first claim to commemoration being that "he restored to poetry a primitive faculty of which civilization seems successfully to have deprived her . . . . as the discoverer and the founder of symbolism."
The revived hope of a publication of his own, The Stylus, was again leading Poe, and to further this he gave "Eureka," as a lecture in New York. Though aided by his ever faithful friend, N. P. Willis, the effort was a failure; those who came to hear it listened spell bound for three hours. "Poe appeared inspired, . . . . his eyes seemed to glow like those of his own Raven, " but the audience consisted of sixty persons instead of the several hundred expected. "Eureka" was published by Putnam in 1848, the small edition of five hundred copies proving more than adequate for the demand.
In the summer of this year, while on a brief visit to Mrs. Shew, the first two stanzas of "The Bells" were written "The silver bells" and "The heavy iron bells." Immediately after finishing them Poe fell into a deep sleep that lasted twelve hours, alarming his hostess, who called in a neighboring physician. He confirmed her opinion, formed from her own medical education, of the permanent injury to the brain with which Poe was suffering, and which would not permit him to use stimulants or tonics without producing insanity.
Poe' s fateful love for Mrs. Whitman came like a meteor of destruction in this autumn of 1848, further unsettling the worn and nervous man. Mrs. Whitman in a letter to William F. Gill, of London, dated August, 1873, records: "No such scene as that described by Dr. Griswold ever transpired in my presence. No one, certainly, no woman, who had the slightest acquaintance with Edgar Poe, could have credited the story for an instant. He was essentially, and instinctively a gentleman, utterly incapable, even in moments of excitement and delirium, of such an outrage as ascribed to him. No one acquainted with Edgar Poe could have given Dr. Griswold's scandalous anecdote a moment's credence."
Through 1848 Poe lectured in several of the northern cities on "The Poetic Principles." While at Lowell he made the acquaintance of the Richmonds, Mrs. Richmond, the "Annie." of these later years. In January 1849, Poe was at Fordham, writing from ten to four every day. "Marginalia," begun in The Democratic Review, of November, 1844, and continued in Graham's and Godey's, began afresh in The Messenger for April, running through the summer.
In June Poe left New York for Richmond, going with Mrs. Clemm to spend the night before the journey under the roof of their devoted friend, Mrs. S. D. Lewis. Prescience that this was to be their last farewell was borne in upon the three who in deepest sadness said goodby. Poe himself was greatly dejected this perhaps the forerunner of the desperate condition in which he reached Philadelphia, where he found his friend, John Sartain, the publisher. This gentleman kept Poe with him, guarding him with the kindest care, soothing and quieting his distress, until he recovered sufficiently to continue the journey to Richmond. The melancholy story as told by Mr. Sartain shows the encroachment of the brain lesion as diagnosed by Mrs. Shew, the consequences most pitiable in grasping the momentary relief of drugs or stimulants. But from Mr. Sartain, and all others who ever saw him under these conditions in the closing years of his life, when practically a dying man, comes the not uncertain assertion that through the frenzy Poe never uttered an unclean word nor was possessed of an impure fancy; only brilliant imagery and glowing words depicting his ideal which never forsook nor betrayed him.
Poe's Richmond friends welcomed him with open arms. Mrs. Shelton s letters to Mrs. Clemm indicate the renewal of their engagement. At last he seemed to stand in the sunshine, even The Stylus was promised an assured existence. Before leaving Fordham, Poe had corresponded with E. H. N. Patterson, of Oquawka, for its publication and in August arrangements were consummated for it to appear simultaneously in St. Louis and New York on the first of the following July. In September Poe wrote to Mrs. Clemm in happy mood, he "had lectured in Norfolk, and cleared enough to settle my bill here at the Madison House and with two dollars over. Next Monday I lecture again here and expect to have a large audience, on Tuesday I start for Philadelphia to edit Mrs. Loud's poems and possibly on Thursday I start for New York. If I do I will go straight over to Mrs. Lewis and send for you." The letter concluded with warm words of affection. Poe's purpose was to bring Mrs. Clemm back with him to Richmond and both were happy in the looked-for return. Upon the last days in Richmond Dr. Harrison throws new light in the hitherto unpublished statements of Bishop Fitzgerald and William Glenn of that city. These are given fully in the first volume of the incomparable Virginia Edition of "Edgar Allan Poe," for which work all Poe students owe Dr. Harrison profound gratitude. Quoting Bishop Fitzgerald: "With a view to giving him pecuniary assistance in a delicate way, and an expression of the good will of the Richmond public toward him, Poe was invited to deliver a lecture on some topic to be chosen by himself. The tickets were placed at five dollars each, and at that price three hundred persons were packed into the Assembly Rooms of the Old Exchange Hotel. The lecture prepared for the occasion was on The Poetic Principle, and it was read by him as it is now presented in his works. He was a charming reader, his manner the opposite of the elocutionary or sentimental quiet, without gesture, with distinctness of utterance, nice shadings of accent, easy gracefulness, and that indefinable element that draws the hearer toward the speaker with increasing good will and pleasure. I am glad that I heard Poe read that lecture; its sentences on the printed page have for me an added charm from the recollection. The net proceeds of the lecture amounted to fifteen hundred dollars."
According to a letter to Mrs. Clemm from Mrs. Shelton, Poe spent the last evening in Richmond with the latter. She writes, "he came to take leave of me. He was very sad and complained of being sick. I felt his pulse and found he had considerable fever, and did not think it probable he would be able to start the next morning (Thursday) as he anticipated. I felt so wretched about him all that night that I went up early the next morning to enquire after him, when much to my regret he had left in the boat for Baltimore."
Further accounts agree that on his walk back from Mrs. Shelton's he stopped at Dr. John Carter's office; and later "went to take a little supper across the street at Sadler's restaurant. There he met some acquaintances .... who accompanied him to the boat, where, as is said, they left him sober and cheerful." His last words to his friends were "He would soon be in Richmond again."
On October the 3d, 1849, Joseph W. Walker, a compositor on The Sun, Baltimore, wrote Dr. J. E. Snodgrass a note which Dr. Harrison copied from the original one in the possession of Mrs. Snodgrass:
BALTIMORE CITY, OCTOBER 3, 1849
Dear Sir: There is a gentleman, rather the worse for wear, at Ryan's 4th Ward polls, who goes under the cognomen of Edgar A. Poe, and who appears in great distress, and he says he is acquainted with you, and I
assure you he is in need of immediate assistance.
Yours in haste,
JOSEPH W. WALKER.
To Dr. J. E. Snodgrass.
Dr. Snodgrass on receipt of the note hastened to attend Poe and finding him in a dangerous state had him removed to the Washington College University Hospital. Poe was at first unconscious, then delirious, from which condition he sank into the quiet of exhaustion. In the gray dawn of Sunday morning, moving his head gently to and fro upon his pillow, he quietly said: "Lord help my poor soul," and died.
The Sun of October 8, 1849, announced: "We regret to learn that Edgar A. Poe, Esq., the distinguished American poet, scholar, and critic, died in this city yesterday morning, after an illness of four or five days. This announcement, coming so sudden and unexpected, will cause poignant regret among all who admire genius and have sympathies for the frailties too often attending it."
Many accounts from diverse standpoints have been written of the tragic end of Edgar Allan Poe. The evidence given by Bishop Fitzgerald strongly supports the belief that Poe was a victim of robbery and of "cooping" for political purposes this being a common practice in Baltimore at that day a view sustained not only by the impossibility of locating his whereabouts from Friday, September 28, to October 3, but the handsome clothing which he wore when leaving Richmond had been changed for poor and dirty garments. Testimony confirming this is given in the letter from William J. Glenn of Richmond. Mr. Glenn was Poe's fellow member in the "Sons of Temperance" and administered the obligations of total abstinence when admitting him early in July of 1849. He states: "During his stay in the city of the next three months or more there was not the slightest intimation that he had failed to live up to his obligation. In October he started to Baltimore .... a few days later we heard of his death at a hospital in that city, and the statement was made and too busily circulated that his death was the result of a spree commenced as soon as he reached Baltimore. We of the temperance order to which he belonged exerted ourselves to get at the facts, and concensus of opinion was that he had not been drinking, but had been drugged. A gentleman of the name of Benson, went to Baltimore, and as he knew Poe and felt much interest in the manner of his death, went to the hospital at which he died, and had a talk with the doctor (J. J. Moran) who told him that Poe had not been drinking when brought to the hospital but was under the influence of a drug; he added that he suggested the use of stimulants, but that Mr. Poe positively declined taking any. Mr. Poe lived very quietly while here."
After his tired soul was at rest, Poe's magic voice still spoke in the sweetest of love ballads. Annabel Lee, which appeared in the New York Tribune October 9, 1849 the very day when his funeral cortege of six gentlemen followed him through the chill rain to his grave in the family lot at Westminster Burying Ground. In the same issue of the paper was the vindictive article by Rufus Griswold, signed "Ludwig." A month after Poe's death, the third and final version of "The Bells" was published in the November number of The Union Magazine, its development traced by the editor, John Sartain. A year later, October, 1850, "The Poetic Principle" appeared in the same magazine. The loveliest dream of a poet's home, "Lander s Cottage," was not given to the world until much later.
The mystery surrounding Poe's last days is long in finding solution. With his faults acknowledged by his friends, the extenuating conditions of his physical organization, heredity and disease reluctantly admitted by his enemies, prejudice sprung from malice and wilful turning from truth must disappear. All who possess the divine element of pity will unite in feeling that his sufferings were his expiation, an expiation not only in life but after death in the untruthful representations of his life and character.
Great as this has been, it has not robbed the world of the legacy he bequeathed to literature, nor has it stilled the voices that, as one, acclaim his many fine qualities; lauding his devotion to his nearest ties and to his friends, his undaunted efforts to maintain his wife and mother when ill in body and enduring the most wearing of all pain hope deferred, his honest and proper pride, disdaining to reproach when reproach was justifiable, his well-nigh superhuman industry and patience, his courage that refrained from lamentation and, through all and over all, the purity of his life. As these voices speak truly, their words live, for, having caught the fine ear of justice with which the people of America ever listen, they are imperishable.
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