Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"The Oblong Box" Published 1844

"The Oblong Box" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1844, about a sea voyage and a mysterious box.

Plot summary

The story opens with the unnamed narrator recounting a summer sea voyage from Charleston, South Carolina to New York City aboard the ship Independence. The narrator learns that his old college friend Cornelius Wyatt is aboard with his wife and two sisters, though he has reserved three state-rooms. After conjecturing the extra room was for a servant or extra baggage, he learns his friend has brought on board an oblong pine box: "It was about six feet in length by two and a half in breadth." The narrator notes its peculiar shape and especially an odd odor coming from it. Even so, he presumes his friend has acquired an especially valuable copy of The Last Supper.

The box, the narrator is surprised to learn, shares the state-room with Wyatt and his wife, while the second room is shared by the two sisters. However, for several nights, the narrator witnesses his friend's surprisingly unattractive wife leaving the state-room every night around 11 o'clock and going into the third state-room before returning first thing in the morning. While she is gone, the narrator believes he hears his friend opening the box and sobbing, which he attributes to "artistic enthusiasm."

As the Independence passes Cape Hatteras it is caught in a terrible hurricane. Escape from the damaged ship was made via lifeboat, but Wyatt refuses to part with the box and issues an emotional plea but was denied by Captain Hardy. Wyatt decides he cannot part with the box and returns to the ship, ties himself to it with a rope. "In another instant both body and box were in the sea--disappearing suddenly, at once and forever."

About a month after the incident, the narrator happens to meet the captain. Hardy explains that the box had, in fact, held the corpse of Wyatt's recently deceased young wife. He had intended to return the body to her mother but bringing a corpse on board would have caused panic among the passengers. Captain Hardy had arranged, then, to register the box merely as baggage. As passage was already registered with Wyatt and his wife, so as not to arouse suspicion, a maid posed as the wife.


Poe biographer James Hutchisson equates "The Oblong Box" with Poe's series of "tales of ratiocination" or detective fiction stories, a series which includes "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."[1] Scott Peeples compares "The Oblong Box" to this genre as well but notes that it is not strictly a detective story because it did not emphasize the character of the detective and his method.[2] He also notes that the protagonist is "bumbling" because he allows his personal opinions to taint the physical evidence, leading him to incorrect conclusions.[2]

In writing "The Oblong Box," Poe recalled his experience while stationed at Fort Moultrie many years earlier by setting the ship's embarking point as Charleston, South Carolina to New York.[3] Just a few months before the story's publication, Poe had recently experienced his own sea voyage when he moved to New York via steamboat. His wife, Virginia, had begun showing signs of her illness about two years before in 1842.[4]

Publication history

Poe originally offered "The Oblong Box" to Nathaniel Parker Willis for the New Mirror, but Willis suggested it was better suited for the Opal, a gift book edited by Sarah Josepha Hale.[5] It was first published on August 28, 1844, in the Dollar Newspaper in Philadelphia.[6] It was also published in the September 1844 issue of Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book,[7] also edited by Hale.[5]


A 1969 film directed by Gordon Hessler starring Vincent Price and Christopher Lee (below) carries the name The Oblong Box. Other than the title, the two share little in common.

"NBC Short Story" aired a dramatic reading of "The Oblong Box" in the 1950s. It is available at Archive.org[8]

The CBS Radio Mystery Theater, which ran from January 1974 to December 1982, did an adaptation of "The Oblong Box" which aired on January 8, 1975.


1.^ Hutchisson, James M. Poe. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005. ISBN 1-57806-721-9
2.^ Peeples, Scott. Edgar Allan Poe Revisited. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998: 123. ISBN 0-8057-4572-6
3.^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992: 35. ISBN 0-8154-1038-7
4.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance. Harper Perennial, 1991. ISBN 0060923318
5.^ Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998: 417. ISBN 0801857309
6.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. Checkmark Books, 2001. p. 175. ISBN 081604161X
7.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. Checkmark Books, 2001: 175. ISBN 081604161X
8.^ archive.org

Monday, August 27, 2012

Deathday: Rufus Wilmot Griswold 1857 Poe Rival

Rufus Wilmot Griswold (February 13, 1815 – August 27, 1857) was an American anthologist, editor, poet, and critic. Born in Vermont, Griswold left home when he was 15 years old. He worked as a journalist, editor, and critic in Philadelphia, New York City, and elsewhere. He built up a strong literary reputation, in part due to his 1842 collection The Poets and Poetry of America. This anthology, the most comprehensive of its time, included what he deemed the best examples of American poetry. He produced revised versions and similar anthologies for the remainder of his life, although many of the poets he promoted have since faded into obscurity. Many writers hoped to have their work included in one of these editions, although they commented harshly on Griswold's abrasive character. Griswold was married three times: his first wife died young, his second marriage ended in a public and controversial divorce, and his third wife left him after the previous divorce was almost repealed.

Edgar Allan Poe, whose poetry had been included in Griswold's anthology, published a critical response that questioned which poets were included. This began a rivalry which grew when Griswold succeeded Poe as editor of Graham's Magazine at a higher salary than Poe's. Later, the two competed for the attention of poet Frances Sargent Osgood (below).They never reconciled their differences and, after Poe's mysterious death in 1849, Griswold wrote an "unsympathetic obituary." Claiming to be Poe's chosen literary executor, he began a campaign to harm Poe's reputation that lasted until his own death eight years later.

Griswold considered himself an expert in American poetry and was an early proponent of its inclusion on the school curriculum. He also supported the introduction of copyright legislation, speaking to Congress on behalf of the publishing industry, although he was not above pirating other people's work. A fellow editor remarked, "even while haranguing the loudest, [he] is purloining the fastest."[1]


Griswold died of tuberculosis in New York City on August 27, 1857.[62] Sarah Anna Lewis, a friend and writer, suggested that the interference of Elizabeth Ellet had exacerbated Griswold's condition and that she "goaded Griswold to his death".[63] At the time of his death, the sole decorations found in his room were portraits of himself, Frances Osgood, and Poe.[64] A friend, Charles Godfrey Leland, found in Griswold's desk several documents attacking a number of authors which Griswold was preparing for publication. Leland decided to burn them.[65]

Griswold's funeral was held on August 30. His pallbearers included Leland, Charles Frederick Briggs, George Henry Moore, and Richard Henry Stoddard.[62] His remains were left for eight years in the receiving tomb of Green-Wood Cemetery before being buried on July 12, 1865, without a headstone.[66] Although his library of several thousand volumes was auctioned off, raising over $3,000 to be put towards a monument, none was ever commissioned.[66]

Relationship with Poe

Griswold first met Edgar Allan Poe (Sartain's painting of Poe, above) in Philadelphia in May 1841 while working for the Daily Standard.[82] At the outset, their relationship was cordial, at least superficially.[13] In a letter dated March 29, 1841, Poe sent Griswold several poems for The Poets and Poetry of America anthology, writing that he would be proud to see "one or two of them in the book."71] Griswold included three of these poems: "Coliseum," "The Haunted Palace," and "The Sleeper."[13] In November of that year Poe, who had previously praised Griswold in his "Autography" series as "a gentleman of fine taste and sound judgment,"[71] wrote a critical review of the anthology, on Griswold's behalf. Griswold paid Poe for the review and used his influence to have it published in a Boston periodical. The review was generally favorable, although Poe questioned the inclusion of certain authors and the omission of others.[83] Poe also said that Griswold "unduly favored" New England writers.[84] Griswold had expected more praise and Poe privately told others he was not particularly impressed by the book,[85] even calling it "a most outrageous humbug" in a letter to a friend.[86] In another letter, this time to fellow writer Frederick W. Thomas, Poe suggested that Griswold's promise to help get the review published was actually a bribe for a favorable review, knowing Poe needed the money.[87]

Making the relationship even more strained, only months later, Griswold was hired by George Rex Graham to take up Poe's former position as editor of Graham's Magazine. Griswold, however, was paid more and given more editorial control of the magazine than Poe.[85] Shortly after, Poe began giving a series of lectures called "The Poets and Poetry of America," the first of which was given in Philadelphia on November 25, 1843. Poe openly attacked Griswold in front of his large audience and continued to do so in similar lectures.[88] Graham said that during these lectures, Poe "gave Mr. Griswold some raps over the knuckles of force sufficient to be remembered."[89] In a letter dated January 16, 1845, Poe tried to reconcile with Griswold, promising him that his lecture now omitted all that Griswold found objectionable.[90]

Another source of animosity between the two men was their competition for the attention of the poet Frances Sargent Osgood in the mid to late 1840s.[47] While both she and Poe were still married to their respective spouses,[91] the two carried on a public flirtation that resulted in much gossip among the literati. Griswold, who was smitten by Osgood, escorted her to literary salons and became her staunchest defender. "She is in all things the most admirable woman I ever knew," he wrote to publisher James T. Fields in 1848.[92] Osgood responded by dedicating a collection of her poetry to Griswold, "as a souvenir of admiration for his genius, of regard for his generous character, and of gratitude for his valuable literary counsels."[47]

"Ludwig" obituary

After Poe's death, Griswold prepared an obituary signed with the pseudonym "Ludwig." First printed in the October 9, 1849, issue of the New York Tribune, it was soon republished many times.[93] Here he asserted that "few will be grieved" by Poe's death as he had few friends. He claimed that Poe often wandered the streets, either in "madness or melancholy," mumbling and cursing to himself, was easily irritated, was envious of others, and that he "regarded society as composed of villains." Poe's drive to succeed, Griswold wrote, was because he sought "the right to despise a world which galled his self-conceit." Much of this characterization of Poe was copied almost verbatim from that of the fictitious Francis Vivian in The Caxtons by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.[94]

Griswold biographer Joy Bayless wrote that Griswold used a pseudonym not to conceal his relationship to the obituary but because it was his custom to never sign his newspaper and his magazine contributions.[95] Regardless, Griswold's true identity was soon revealed. In a letter to Sarah Helen Whitman dated December 17, 1849, he admitted his role in writing Poe's death notice. "I was not his friend, nor was he mine," he wrote.[96]


Griswold claimed that "among the last requests of Mr. Poe" was that he become his literary executor "for the benefit of his family."[97] Griswold claimed that Poe's aunt and mother-in-law Maria Clemm said Poe had made such a statement on June 9, 1849, and that she herself released any claim to Poe's works.[97] And indeed a document exists in which Clemm transfers power of attorney to Griswold, dated October 20, 1849, although there are no signed witnesses.[98] Clemm, however, had no right to make such a decision; Poe's younger sister Rosalie was his closest next of kin.[99] Although Griswold had acted as a literary agent for other American writers, it is unclear if Poe really appointed Griswold his executor (perhaps as part of his "Imp of the Perverse"[100]), if it were a trick on Griswold's part, or a mistake on Maria Clemm's.[99] It is also possible that Osgood persuaded Poe to name Griswold as his executor.[47]

In any case, Griswold, along with James Russell Lowell (above) and Nathaniel Parker Willis (below), edited a posthumous collection of Poe's works published in three volumes starting in January 1850.[101] He did not share the profits of his edition with Poe's surviving relatives.[102] This edition included a biographical sketch titled "Memoir of the Author" which has become notorious for its inaccuracy. The "Memoir" depicts Poe as a madman, addicted to drugs and chronically drunk. Many elements were fabricated by Griswold using forged letters as evidence and it was denounced by those who knew Poe, including Sarah Helen Whitman, Charles Frederick Briggs, and George Rex Graham.[103] In March, Graham published a notice in his magazine accusing Griswold of betraying trust and taking revenge on the dead. "Mr. Griswold," he wrote, "has allowed old prejudices and old enmities to steal ... into the coloring of his picture."[104] Thomas Holley Chivers wrote a book called New Life of Edgar Allan Poe which directly responded to Griswold's accusations.[105] He said that Griswold "is not only incompetent to Edit any of [Poe's] works, but totally unconscious of the duties which he and every man who sets himself up as a Literary Executor, owe the dead."[106]

Today Griswold's name is usually associated with Poe's as a character assassin,[107] although not all believe that Griswold deliberately intended to cause harm.[27] Some of the information that Griswold asserted or implied was that Poe was expelled from the University of Virginia and that Poe had tried to seduce his guardian John Allan's second wife.[108] Even so, Griswold's attempts only drew attention to Poe's work; readers were thrilled at the idea of reading the works of an "evil" man.[109] Griswold's characterization of Poe and the false information he originated appeared consistently in Poe biographies for the next two decades.[94]

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Web of the Spider (1971) Klaus Kinski plays Poe

Web of the Spider (Italian: Nella stretta morsa del ragno) is the title of a 1971 Italian horror film directed by Antonio Margheriti, using the pseudonym Anthony M. Dawson. This film is also known as And Comes the Dawn... But Colored Red, Dracula im Schloß des Schreckens, Dracula in the Castle of Blood, E venne l'alba... ma tinto di rosse, Edgar Poe chez les morts vivants, Les Fantômes de Hurlevent, In the Grip of the Spider, and Le Prisonnier de l'araignée.

Klaus Kinski plays Edgar Allan Poe.

It is a remake of the 1964 film Castle of Blood, also directed by Margheriti.

Release date: August 26, 1971


It begins with Edgar Allan Poe (Klaus Kinski), gone insane, trying to confirm his story about the ghosts by checking out their tombs. However, he doesn't go too far to avoid being haunted and killed. He describes his story in horror accent, trying to make the people believe him. As of later, a journalist named Alan Foster (Anthony Franciosa), has visited Poe to drive him out of madness. But, he is forced to challenge the horror writer on the authenticity of his stories, which leads to him accepting a bet from Lord Blackwood to spend the night in a haunted castle on All Soul's Eve. At first, in very effective and horrifying nature, Foster is surprised by ghosts who appear to be half-humans at that moment. Later, they drive him insane by playing his mind like patsy, ghosts of the murdered inhabitants appear to him throughout the night, re-enacting the events that lead to their deaths. As of the ghosts he meets, there was Elisabeth Blackwood (Michèle Mercier) who falls in love with Foster, the annoying and well-being hated Julia (Karin Field), the rough and criminal tipped William Perkins (Silvano Tranquilli) and the most despicable one of all, Dr. Carmus (Peter Carsten). In near the end of the film, the ghosts reveal their true nature. They weren't actually ghosts, but they were vampires with powers of ghosts, they need Foster's blood in order to maintain their existence. Because of she loved him, Elisabeth tried to save Foster by aiding his escape. He succeeded in escaping the castle, but not the garden... It was his stupidity that killed him. But, at least he wasn't transformed to a vampire, his death was sudden, he was stabbed by the razors which existed on the main gate when he didn't focus on his movements, pushed the door hardly until it reacted and smashed him between the two gates.


Anthony Franciosa - Alan Foster
Michèle Mercier - Elisabeth Blackwood
Klaus Kinski - Edgar Allan Poe
Peter Carsten - Dr. Carmus
Silvano Tranquilli - William Perkins
Karin Field - Julia
Raf Baldassarre - Herbert
Irina Maleeva - Elsie Perkins
Enrico Osterman - Lord Thomas Blackwood
Marco Bonetti - Maurice
Vittorio Fanfoni
Carla Mancini
Paolo Gozlino

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Black Cat (1966) - Trailer

Preview to an updating of Edgar Allan Poe's classic tale set in the mid-60s released by Hemisphere Pictures.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Masters of Horror: The Black Cat (2007) Stuart Gordon

The Black Cat is the eleventh episode of the second season of Masters of Horror, directed by Stuart Gordon from a screenplay by Gordon and Dennis Paoli. It was broadcast on Showtime on January 19, 2007. The DVD was released on July 17, 2007.


The story has the great horror author Edgar Allan Poe (Jeffrey Combs) suffering from writer's block and short on cash, tormented by a black cat that will either destroy his life or inspire him to write one of his most famous stories. The story of the same name by Poe is woven in with fictional happenings and details from his life.

Opening Credits Sequence

The episode's opening credits (after the series credits) feature several of Irish artist Harry Clarke's celebrated early 20th century illustrations for Poe's stories.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"The Black Cat" Published 1843

"The Black Cat" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. It was first published in the August 19, 1843, edition of The Saturday Evening Post. It is a study of the psychology of guilt, often paired in analysis with Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart."[1] In both, a murderer carefully conceals his crime and believes himself unassailable, but eventually breaks down and reveals himself, impelled by a nagging reminder of his guilt.


The story is presented as a first-person narrative using an unreliable narrator. The narrator tells us that from an early age he has loved animals. He and his wife have many pets, including a large black cat named Pluto. This cat is especially fond of the narrator and vice versa. Their mutual friendship lasts for several years, until the narrator becomes an alcoholic. One night, after coming home intoxicated, he believes the cat is avoiding him. When he tries to seize it, the panicked cat bites the narrator, and in a fit of rage, he seizes the animal, pulls a pen-knife from his pocket, and deliberately gouges out the cat's eye.

From that moment onward, the cat flees in terror at his master's approach. At first, the narrator is remorseful and regrets his cruelty. "But this feeling soon gave place to irritation. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS." He takes the cat out in the garden one morning and hangs it from a tree, where it dies. That very night, his house mysteriously catches fire, forcing the narrator, his wife and their servant to flee.

The next day, the narrator returns to the ruins of his home to find, imprinted on the single wall that survived the fire, the figure of a gigantic cat, hanging by its neck from a rope.

At first, this image terrifies the narrator, but gradually he determines a logical explanation for it, that someone outside had thrown the dead cat into the bedroom to wake him up during the fire, and begins to miss Pluto. Some time later, he finds a similar cat in a tavern. It is the same size and color as the original and is even missing an eye. The only difference is a large white patch on the animal's chest. The narrator takes it home, but soon begins to loathe, even fear the creature. After a time, the white patch of fur begins to take shape and, to the narrator, forms the shape of the gallows.

Then, one day when the narrator and his wife are visiting the cellar in their new home, the cat gets under its master's feet and nearly trips him down the stairs. In a fury, the man grabs an axe and tries to kill the cat but is stopped by his wife. Enraged, he kills her with the axe instead. To conceal her body he removes bricks from a protrusion in the wall, places her body there, and repairs the hole. When the police came to investigate, they find nothing and the narrator goes free. The cat, which he intended to kill as well, has gone missing.

On the last day of the investigation, the narrator accompanies the police into the cellar. They still find nothing. Then, completely confident in his own safety, the narrator comments on the sturdiness of the building and raps upon the wall he had built around his wife's body. A wailing sound fills the room. The alarmed police tear down the wall and find the wife's corpse, and on her head, to the horror of the narrator, is the screeching black cat. As he words it: "I had walled the monster up within the tomb!"


Like the narrator in Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart", the narrator of "The Black Cat" has questionable sanity. Near the beginning of the tale, the narrator says he would be "mad indeed" if he should expect a reader to believe the story, implying that he has already been accused of madness.[2]

One of Poe's darkest tales, "The Black Cat" includes his strongest denouncement of alcohol. The narrator's perverse actions are brought on by his alcoholism, a "disease" and "fiend" which also destroys his personality.[3] The use of the black cat evokes various superstitions, including the idea voiced by the narrator's wife that they are all witches in disguise. The titular cat is named Pluto after the Roman god of the Underworld.

Publication history

"The Black Cat" was first published in the August 19, 1843 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. At the time, the publication was using the temporary title United States Saturday Post.[4] Readers immediately responded favorably to the story, spawning parodies including Thomas Dunn English's "The Ghost of the Grey Tadpole."[5]


In film

"The Black Cat" was adapted into a film starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in 1934 and another with Lugosi and Basil Rathbone in 1941, although neither version bears much resemblance to the original story.[5] Many other adaptations exist but the most faithful to the original is the middle segment of Roger Corman's trilogy film Tales of Terror in 1962.[5] Although the overall film was cast with Vincent Price as the lead, in this segment, he was in a supporting role with Peter Lorre as the main character. The 1934 film Maniac also loosely adapts the story. This version follows a former vaudeville actor who kills a doctor and takes the doctor's place to hide his crime. "The Black Cat" was also adapted into a film of the same name by Italian horror director Lucio Fulci in 1981. Film director Dario Argento presented his own loose adaptation of the story in the 1990 anthology film Two Evil Eyes.

In television

"The Black Cat" is the eleventh episode of the second season of Masters of Horror. The plot essentially retells the short story in a semi-autobiographical manner, with Poe himself undergoing a series of events involving a black cat which he used to inspire the story of the same name.


The Black Cat, 1910–1911. A painting by Gino SeveriniIn 1997, a compilation of Poe's work was released on a double CD entitled Closed on Account of Rabies, with various celebrities lending their voices to the tales. The Black Cat was read by avant-garde performer Diamanda Galás.

Literary works

In 1970, Czech writer Ludvík Vaculík made many references to "A Descent into the Maelström" as well as "The Black Cat" in his novel The Guinea Pigs.


In 1910–11 Futurist artist Gino Severini painted "The Black Cat" in direct reference to Poe's short story.


1.^ Meyers, Jeffrey (1992). Edgar Allan Poe: his life and legacy. New York City: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 137. ISBN 0-8154-1038-7. OCLC 44413785.
2.^ Cleman, John (2002). "Irresistible Impulses: Edgar Allan Poe and the Insanity Defense". In Harold Bloom. Edgar Allan Poe. New York City: Chelsea House Publishers. p. 73. ISBN 0-7910-6173-6. OCLC 48176842.
3.^ Cecil, L. Moffitt (December 1972). "Poe's Wine List". Poe Studies V (2): 42. http://www.eapoe.org/pstudies/ps1970/p1972204.htm.
4.^ Quinn, Arthur Hobson (1998). Edgar Allan Poe: a critical biography. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 394. ISBN 0-8018-5730-9. OCLC 37300554.
5.^ Sova, Dawn B. (2001). Edgar Allan Poe, A to Z: the essential reference to his life and work. New York City: Facts on File. p. 28. ISBN 0-8160-4161-X. OCLC 44885229.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Deathday: John Pendleton Kennedy 1870 Novelist, Lawyer, Poe Friend

John Pendleton Kennedy (October 25, 1795 – August 18, 1870) was an American novelist and Whig politician who served as United States Secretary of the Navy from July 26, 1852 to March 4, 1853, during the administration of President Millard Fillmore, and as a U.S. Representative from the Maryland's 4th congressional district. He was the brother of U.S. Senator Anthony Kennedy.

Literary life

Kennedy's first literary attempt was a fortnightly periodical called the Red Book, publishing anonymously with his roommate Peter Hoffman Cruse from 1819–1820. Kennedy published Swallow Barn, or A Sojourn in the Old Dominion in 1832, which would become his best-known work. Horse-Shoe Robinson was published in 1835 to win a permanent place of respect in the history of American fiction.

A friend and literary patron of Poe, he recognized Poe's genius as well as his psychological disparities. In 1833, he served on the commitee that judged Poe's prize story for the BALTIMORE SATURDAY VISITER, "MS Found in a Bottle." In December 1834, Kennedy recommended Poe's short story collection to the publishing firm of Carey and Lea and, from his own pocket, supplied Poe with a small advance and invited him to dinner. Poe's response, dated Sunday March 15, 1835, nad often quoted, exhibits the depth to which Poe's fortunes had fallen. Humilated by his impoverished state and appearance, Poe refused Kennedy's invitation with the following note:

Dr. Sir -- Your kind invitation to dinner today has wounded me to the quick. I cannot come -- for reasons of the most humiliating nature in my personal appearance. You may conceive my deep mortification in making this disclosure to you -- but it was necessary. If you will be my friend so far as to loan me $20, I will call on you tomorrow -- otherwise it will be impossible, and I must submit to my fate.

Sincerely yours,

E.A. Poe
Sunday 15th

Touched by Poe's plight, Kennedy also took the forlorn writer under his wing, supplying him with money and clothes, an inviting him to dinner while making certain that Maria Clemm and Virginia Clemm were given generous amounts of food. He also introduced Poe to Thomas Willis White, editor of the SOUTHERN LITERARY MESSENGER, and recommended that White not only publish Poe's fiction but help him in "drudging upon whatever may make money." In a May 1835 review of Kennedy's novel HORSE-SHOE ROBINSON: A TALE OF THE TORY ASCENDENCY that appeared in the MESSENGER, Poe placed the author "at once in the very first rank of American Novelists." In "Autography," Poe noted Kennedy "(to have) the eye of a painter, more especially in regard to the picturesque -- to have refined tastes generally -- to be exquisitely alive to the proprieties of life -- to possess energy, decision, and great talent -- to have a penchant also for the bizarre."

-- Edgar Allan Poe A to Z, Dawn P. Sova

While abroad Kennedy became a friend of William Makepeace Thackeray and wrote or outlined the fourth chapter of the second volume of The Virginians, a fact which accounts for the great accuracy of its scenic descriptions. Of his works Horse-Shoe Robinson is the best and ranks high in antebellum fiction. Washington Irving read an advance copy of it and reported he was "so tickled with some parts of it" that he read it aloud to his friends. Kennedy sometimes wrote under the pen name Mark Littleton, especially in his political satires.

Retirement and death

Kennedy retired from public life in March 1853 when President Fillmore left office, but he retained an active interest in politics and his name was mentioned as one of the vice-presidential prospects on the Republican ticket in 1860 (meaning that Abraham Lincoln might have been paired with a man named "John Kennedy"). At the end of the American Civil War — during which he forcefully supported the Union — he advocated amnesty for the South. He died at Newport, Rhode Island on August 18, 1870, and is buried in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. The USS John P. Kennedy and USS Kennedy (DD-306) were named for him.

In his will, Kennedy wrote the following:

It is my wish that the manuscript volumes containing my journals, my note or common-place books, and the several volumes of my own letters in press copy, as also all my other letters, such as may possess any interest or value (which I desire to be bound in volumes) that are now in lose sheets, shall be returned to my executors, who are requested to have the same packed away in a strong walnut box, closed and locked, and then delivered to the Peabody Institute, to be preserved by them unopened until the year 1900, when the same shall become the property of the Institute, to be kept among its books and records.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Birthday! Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe 1822

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.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Deathday: James Russell Lowell 1891 Poet & Editor

James Russell Lowell (February 22, 1819 – August 12, 1891) was an American Romantic poet, critic, editor, and diplomat. He is associated with the Fireside Poets, a group of New England writers who were among the first American poets who rivaled the popularity of British poets. These poets usually used conventional forms and meters in their poetry, making them suitable for families entertaining at their fireside.

Lowell graduated from Harvard College in 1838, despite his reputation as a troublemaker, and went on to earn a law degree from Harvard Law School. He published his first collection of poetry in 1841 and married Maria White in 1844. He and his wife had several children, though only one survived past childhood. The couple soon became involved in the movement to abolish slavery, with Lowell using poetry to express his anti-slavery views and taking a job in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the editor of an abolitionist newspaper. After moving back to Cambridge, Lowell was one of the founders of a journal called The Pioneer, which lasted only three issues. He gained notoriety in 1848 with the publication of A Fable for Critics, a book-length poem satirizing contemporary critics and poets. The same year, he published The Biglow Papers, which increased his fame. He would publish several other poetry collections and essay collections throughout his literary career.

Maria White died in 1853, and Lowell accepted a professorship of languages at Harvard in 1854. He traveled to Europe before officially assuming his role in 1856; he continued to teach there for twenty years. He married his second wife, Frances Dunlap, shortly thereafter in 1857. That year Lowell also became editor of The Atlantic Monthly. It was not until 20 years later that Lowell received his first political appointment: the ambassadorship to Spain and, later, to England. He spent his last years in Cambridge, in the same estate where he was born, where he also died in 1891.

Lowell believed that the poet played an important role as a prophet and critic of society. He used poetry for reform, particularly in abolitionism. However, Lowell's commitment to the anti-slavery cause wavered over the years, as did his opinion on African-Americans. Lowell attempted to emulate the true Yankee accent in the dialogue of his characters, particularly in The Biglow Papers. This depiction of the dialect, as well as Lowell's many satires, were an inspiration to writers like Mark Twain and H. L. Mencken.

Literary career

Lowell's earliest poems were published without pay in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1840. Lowell was inspired to new efforts towards self-support and joined with his friend Robert Carter in founding a literary journal, The Pioneer. The periodical was characterized by most of its content being new rather than previously published elsewhere and by having very serious criticism which covered not only literature but also art and music. Lowell wrote that it would "furnish the intelligent and reflecting portion of the Reading Public with a rational substitute for the enormous quantity of thrice-diluted trash, in the shape of namby-pamby love tales and sketches, which is monthly poured out to them by many of our popular Magazines." William Wetmore Story noted the journal's higher taste, writing that, "it took some stand and; appealled to a higher intellectual Standard than our puerile milk o watery namby-pamby Mags with which we are overrun." The first issue of the journal included the first appearance of "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe. Lowell, shortly after the first issue, was treated for an eye disease in New York and, in his absence, Carter did a poor job managing the journal. After three monthly numbers, beginning in January 1843, the magazine ceased publication, leaving Lowell $1,800 in debt. Poe mourned the journal's demise, calling it "a most severe blow to the cause—the cause of a Pure Taste."

A Fable for Critics, one of Lowell's most popular works, was published in 1848. A satire, it was published anonymously; in it, Lowell took good-natured jabs at his contemporary poets and critics. It proved popular, and the first three thousand copies sold out quickly. Not all the subjects included were pleased, however. Edgar Allan Poe, who had been referred to as part genius and "two-fifths sheer fudge," reviewed the work in the Southern Literary Messenger and called it "'loose'—ill-conceived and feebly executed, as well in detail as in general... we confess some surprise at his putting forth so unpolished a performance." Lowell offered the profits from the book's success, which proved relatively small, to his New York friend Charles Frederick Briggs, despite his own financial needs.

Later years and death

In the last few months of his life, Lowell struggled with gout, sciatica in his left leg, and chronic nausea; by the summer of 1891, doctors believed that Lowell had cancer in his kidneys, liver, and lungs. His last few months, he was administered opium for the pain and was rarely fully conscious. He died on August 12, 1891, at Elmwood. After services in the Appleton Chapel, he was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Mesmeric Revelation" Published 1844


by Edgar A. Poe

Whatever doubt may still envelop the rationale of mesmerism, its startling facts are now almost universally admitted. Of these latter, those who doubt, are your mere doubters by profession—an unprofitable and disreputable tribe. There can be no more absolute waste of time than the attempt to prove, at the present day, that man, by mere exercise of will, can so impress his fellow, as to cast him into an abnormal condition, of which the phenomena resemble very closely those of death, or at least resemble them more nearly than they do the phenomena of any other normal condition within our cognizance; that, while in this state, the person so impressed employs only with effort, and then feebly, the external organs of sense, yet perceives, with keenly refined perception, and through channels supposed unknown, matters beyond the scope of the physical organs; that, moreover, his intellectual faculties are wonderfully exalted and invigorated; that his sympathies with the person so impressing him are profound; and, finally, that his susceptibility to the impression increases with its frequency, while, in the same proportion, the peculiar phenomena elicited are more extended and more pronounced.

I say that these—which are the laws of mesmerism in its general features—it would be supererogation to demonstrate; nor shall I inflict upon my readers so needless a demonstration; to-day. My purpose at present is a very different one indeed. I am impelled, even in the teeth of a world of prejudice, to detail without comment the very remarkable substance of a colloquy, occurring between a sleep-waker and myself.

I had been long in the habit of mesmerizing the person in question, (Mr. Vankirk,) and the usual acute susceptibility and exaltation of the mesmeric perception had supervened. For many months he had been laboring under confirmed phthisis, the more distressing effects of which had been relieved by my manipulations; and on the night of Wednesday, the fifteenth instant, I was summoned to his bedside.

The invalid was suffering with acute pain in the region of the heart, and breathed with great difficulty, having all the ordinary symptoms of asthma. In spasms such as these he had usually found relief from the application of mustard to the nervous centres, but to-night this had been attempted in vain.

As I entered his room he greeted me with a cheerful smile, and although evidently in much bodily pain, appeared to be, mentally, quite at ease.

"I sent for you to-night," he said, "not so much to administer to my bodily ailment, as to satisfy me concerning certain psychal impressions which, of late, have occasioned me much anxiety and surprise. I need not tell you how sceptical I have hitherto been on the topic of the soul's immortality. I cannot deny that there has always existed, as if in that very soul which I have been denying, a vague half-sentiment of its own existence. But this half-sentiment at no time amounted to conviction. With it my reason had nothing to do. All attempts at logical inquiry resulted, indeed, in leaving me more sceptical than before. I had been advised to study Cousin. I studied him in his own works as well as in those of his European and American echoes. The 'Charles Elwood' of Mr. Brownson, for example, was placed in my hands. I read it with profound attention. Throughout I found it logical, but the portions which were not merely logical were unhappily the initial arguments of the disbelieving hero of the book. In his summing up it seemed evident to me that the reasoner had not even succeeded in convincing himself. His end had plainly forgotten his beginning, like the government of Trinculo. In short, I was not long in perceiving that if man is to be intellectually convinced of his own immortality, he will never be so convinced by the mere abstractions which have been so long the fashion of the moralists of England, of France, and of Germany. Abstractions may amuse and exercise, but take no hold on the mind. Here upon earth, at least, philosophy, I am persuaded, will always in vain call upon us to look upon qualities as things. The will may assent—the soul—the intellect, never.

"I repeat, then, that I only half felt, and never intellectually believed. But latterly there has been a certain deepening of the feeling, until it has come so nearly to resemble the acquiescence of reason, that I find it difficult to distinguish between the two. I am enabled, too, plainly to trace this effect to the mesmeric influence. I cannot better explain my meaning than by the hypothesis that the mesmeric exaltation enables me to perceive a train of ratiocination which, in my abnormal existence, convinces, but which, in full accordance with the mesmeric phenomena, does not extend, except through its effect, into my normal condition. In sleep-waking, the reasoning and its conclusion—the cause and its effect—are present together. In my natural state, the cause vanishing, the effect only, and perhaps only partially, remains.

"These considerations have led me to think that some good results might ensue from a series of well-directed questions propounded to me while mesmerized. You have often observed the profound self-cognizance evinced by the sleep-waker—the extensive knowledge he displays upon all points relating to the mesmeric condition itself; and from this self-cognizance may be deduced hints for the proper conduct of a catechism."

I consented of course to make this experiment. A few passes threw Mr. Vankirk into the mesmeric sleep. His breathing became immediately more easy, and he seemed to suffer no physical uneasiness. The following conversation then ensued:—V. in the dialogue representing the patient, and P. myself.

P. Are you asleep?

V. Yes—no I would rather sleep more soundly.

P. [After a few more passes.] Do you sleep now?

V. Yes.

P. How do you think your present illness will result?

V. [After a long hesitation and speaking as if with effort.] I must die.

P. Does the idea of death afflict you?

V. [Very quickly.] No—no!

P. Are you pleased with the prospect? {{nop} V. If I were awake I should like to die, but now it is no matter. The mesmeric condition is so near death as to content me.

P. I wish you would explain yourself, Mr. Vankirk.

V. I am willing to do so, but it requires more effort than I feel able to make. You do not question me properly.

P. What then shall I ask?

V. You must begin at the beginning.

P. The beginning! but where is the beginning?

V. You know that the beginning is God. [This was said in a low, fluctuating tone, and with every sign of the most profound veneration.]

P. What then is God?

V. [Hesitating for many minutes.] I cannot tell.

P. Is not God spirit?

V. While I was awake I knew what you meant by "spirit," but now it seems only a word—such for instance as truth, beauty—a quality, I mean.

P. Is not God immaterial?

V. There is no immateriality—it is a mere word. That which is not matter, is not at all—unless qualities are things.

P. Is God, then, material?

V. No. [This reply startled me very much.]

P. What then is he?

V. [After a long pause, and mutteringly.] I see—but it is a thing difficult to tell. [Another long pause.] He is not spirit, for he exists. Nor is he matter, as you understand it. But there are gradations of matter of which man knows nothing; the grosser impelling the finer, the finer pervading the grosser. The atmosphere, for example, impels the electric principle, while the electric principle permeates the atmosphere. These gradations of matter increase in rarity or fineness, until we arrive at a matter unparticled—without particles—indivisible—one; and here the law of impulsion and permeation is modified. The ultimate, or unparticled matter, not only permeates all things but impels all things—and thus is all things within itself. This matter is God. What men attempt to embody in the word "thought," is this matter in motion.

P. The metaphysicians maintain that all action is reducible to motion and thinking, and that the latter is the origin of the former.

V. Yes; and I now see the confusion of idea. Motion is the action of mind—not of thinking. The unparticled matter, or God, in quiescence, is (as nearly as we can conceive it) what men call mind. And the power of self-movement (equivalent in effect to human volition) is, in the unparticled matter, the result of its unity and omniprevalence; how I know not, and now clearly see that I shall never know. But the unparticled matter, set in motion by a law, or quality, existing within itself, is thinking.

P. Can you give me no more precise idea of what you term the unparticled matter?

V. The matters of which man is cognizant, escape the senses in gradation. We have, for example, a metal, a piece of wood, a drop of water, the atmosphere, a gas, caloric, electricity, the luminiferous ether. Now we call all these things matter, and embrace all matter in one general definition; but in spite of this, there can be no two ideas more essentially distinct than that which we attach to a metal, and that which we attach to the luminiferous ether. When we reach the latter, we feel an almost irresistible inclination to class it with spirit, or with nihility. The only consideration which restrains us is our conception of its atomic constitution; and here, even, we have to seek aid from our notion of an atom, as something possessing in infinite minuteness, solidity, palpability, weight. Destroy the idea of the atomic constitution and we should no longer be able to regard the ether as an entity, or at least as matter. For want of a better word we might term it spirit. Take, now, a step beyond the luminiferous ether—conceive a matter as much more rare than the ether, as this ether is more rare than the metal, and we arrive at once (in spite of all the school dogmas) at a unique mass—an unparticled matter. For although we may admit infinite littleness in the atoms themselves, the infinitude of littleness in the spaces between them is an absurdity. There will be a point—there will be a degree of rarity, at which, if the atoms are sufficiently numerous, the interspaces must vanish, and the mass absolutely coalesce. But the consideration of the atomic constitution being now taken away, the nature of the mass inevitably glides into what we conceive of spirit. It is clear, however, that it is as fully matter as before. The truth is, it is impossible to conceive spirit, since it is impossible to imagine what is not. When we flatter ourselves that we have formed its conception, we have merely deceived our understanding by the consideration of infinitely rarified matter.

P. There seems to me an insurmountable objection to the idea of absolute coalescence;—and that is the very slight resistance experienced by the heavenly bodies in their revolutions through space—a resistance now ascertained, it is true, to exist in some degree, but which is, nevertheless, so slight as to have been quite overlooked by the sagacity even of Newton. We know that the resistance of bodies is, chiefly, in proportion to their density. Absolute coalescence is absolute density. Where there are no interspaces, there can be no yielding. An ether, absolutely dense, would put an infinitely more effectual stop to the progress of a star than would an ether of adamant or of iron.

V. Your objection is answered with an ease which is nearly in the ratio of its apparent unanswerability.—As regards the progress of the star, it can make no difference whether the star passes through the ether or the ether through it. There is no astronomical error more unaccountable than that which reconciles the known retardation of the comets with the idea of their passage through an ether: for, however rare this ether be supposed, it would put a stop to all sidereal revolution in a very far briefer period than has been admitted by those astronomers who have endeavored to slur over a point which they found it impossible to comprehend. The retardation actually experienced is, on the other hand, about that which might be expected from the friction of the ether in the instantaneous passage through the orb. In the one case, the retarding force is momentary and complete within itself—in the other it is endlessly accumulative.

P. But in all this—in this identification of mere matter with God—is there nothing of irreverence? [I was forced to repeat this question before the sleep-waker fully comprehended my meaning.]

V. Can you say why matter should be less reverenced than mind? But you forget that the matter of which I speak is, in all respects, the very "mind" or "spirit" of the schools, so far as regards its high capacities, and is, moreover, the "matter" of these schools at the same time. God, with all the powers attributed to spirit, is but the perfection of matter.

P. You assert, then, that the unparticled matter, in motion, is thought?

V. In general, this motion is the universal thought of the universal mind. This thought creates. All created things are but the thoughts of God.

P. You say, "in general."

V. Yes. The universal mind is God. For new individualities, matter is necessary.

P. But you now speak of "mind" and "matter" as do the metaphysicians.

V. Yes—to avoid confusion. When I say "mind," I mean the unparticled or ultimate matter; by "matter," I intend all else.

P. You were saying that "for new individualities matter is necessary."

V. Yes; for mind, existing unincorporate, is merely God. To create individual, thinking beings, it was necessary to incarnate portions of the divine mind. Thus man is individualized. Divested of corporate investiture, he were God. Now, the particular motion of the incarnated portions of the unparticled matter is the thought of man; as the motion of the whole is that of God.

P. You say that divested of the body man will be God?

V. [After much hesitation.] I could not have said this; it is an absurdity.

P. [Referring to my notes.] You did say that "divested of corporate investiture man were God."

V. And this is true. Man thus divested would be God—would be unindividualized. But he can never be thus divested—at least never will be—else we must imagine an action of God returning upon itself—a purposeless and futile action. Man is a creature. Creatures are thoughts of God. It is the nature of thought to be irrevocable.

P. I do not comprehend. You say that man will never put off the body?

V. I say that he will never be bodiless.

P. Explain.

V. There are two bodies—the rudimental and the complete; corresponding with the two conditions of the worm and the butterfly. What we call "death," is but the painful metamorphosis. Our present incarnation is progressive, preparatory, temporary. Our future is perfected, ultimate, immortal. The ultimate life is the full design.

P. But of the worm's metamorphosis we are palpably cognizant.

V. We , certainly—but not the worm. The matter of which our rudimental body is composed, is within the ken of the organs of that body; or, more distinctly, our rudimental organs are adapted to the matter of which is formed the rudimental body; but not to that of which the ultimate is composed. The ultimate body thus escapes our rudimental senses, and we perceive only the shell which falls, in decaying, from the inner form; not that inner form itself; but this inner form, as well as the shell, is appreciable by those who have already acquired the ultimate life.

P. You have often said that the mesmeric state very nearly resembles death. How is this?

V. When I say that it resembles death, I mean that it resembles the ultimate life; for when I am entranced the senses of my rudimental life are in abeyance, and I perceive external things directly, without organs, through a medium which I shall employ in the ultimate, unorganized life.

P. Unorganized?

V. Yes; organs are contrivances by which the individual is brought into sensible relation with particular classes and forms of matter, to the exclusion of other classes and forms. The organs of man are adapted to his rudimental condition, and to that only; his ultimate condition, being unorganized, is of unlimited comprehension in all points but one—the nature of the volition of God—that is to say, the motion of the unparticled matter. You will have a distinct idea of the ultimate body by conceiving it to be entire brain. This it is not; but a conception of this nature will bring you near a comprehension of what it is. A luminous body imparts vibration to the luminiferous ether. The vibrations generate similar ones within the retina; these again communicate similar ones to the optic nerve. The nerve conveys similar ones to the brain; the brain, also, similar ones to the unparticled matter which permeates it. The motion of this latter is thought, of which perception is the first undulation. This is the mode by which the mind of the rudimental life communicates with the external world; and this external world is, to the rudimental life, limited, through the idiosyncrasy of its organs. But in the ultimate, unorganized life, the external world reaches the whole body, (which is of a substance having affinity to brain, as I have said,) with no other intervention than that of an infinitely rarer ether than even the luminiferous; and to this ether—in unison with it—the whole body vibrates, setting in motion the unparticled matter which permeates it. It is to the absence of idiosyncratic organs, therefore, that we must attribute the nearly unlimited perception of the ultimate life. To rudimental beings, organs are the cages necessary to confine them until fledged.

P. You speak of rudimental "beings." Are there other rudimental thinking beings than man?

V. The multitudinous conglomeration of rare matter into nebulæ, planets, suns, and other bodies which are neither nebulæ, suns, nor planets, is for the sole purpose of supplying pabulum for the idiosyncrasy of the organs of an infinity of rudimental beings. But for the necessity of the rudimental, prior to the ultimate life, there would have been no bodies such as these. Each of these is tenanted by a distinct variety of organic, rudimental, thinking creatures. In all, the organs vary with the features of the place tenanted. At death, or metamorphosis, these creatures, enjoying the ultimate life—immortality—and cognizant of all secrets but the one, act all things and pass everywhere by mere volition:—indwelling, not the stars, which to us seem the sole palpabilities, and for the accommodation of which we blindly deem space created—but that SPACE itself—that infinity of which the truly substantive vastness swallows up the star-shadows—blotting them out as non-entities from the perception of the angels.

P. You say that "but for the necessity of the rudimental life" there would have been no stars. But why this necessity?

V. In the inorganic life, as well as in the inorganic matter generally, there is nothing to impede the action of one simple unique law—the Divine Volition. With the view of producing impediment, the organic life and matter, (complex, substantial, and law-encumbered,) were contrived.

P. But again—why need this impediment have been produced?

V. The result of law inviolate is perfection—right—negative happiness. The result of law violate is imperfection, wrong, positive pain. Through the impediments afforded by the number, complexity, and substantiality of the laws of organic life and matter, the violation of law is rendered, to a certain extent, practicable. Thus pain, which in the inorganic life is impossible, is possible in the organic.

P. But to what good end is pain thus rendered possible?

V. All things are either good or bad by comparison. A sufficient analysis will show that pleasure, in all cases, is but the contrast of pain. Positive pleasure is a mere idea. To be happy at any one point we must have suffered at the same. Never to suffer would have been never to have been blessed. But it has been shown that, in the inorganic life, pain cannot be thus the necessity for the organic. The pain of the primitive life of Earth, is the sole basis of the bliss of the ultimate life in Heaven.

P. Still, there is one of your expressions which I find it impossible to comprehend—"the truly substantive vastness of infinity."

V. This, probably, is because you have no sufficiently generic conception of the term "substance" itself. We must not regard it as a quality, but as a sentiment:—it is the perception, in thinking beings, of the adaptation of matter to their organization. There are many things on the Earth, which would be nihility to the inhabitants of Venus—many things visible and tangible in Venus, which we could not be brought to appreciate as existing at all. But to the inorganic beings—to the angels—the whole of the unparticled matter is substance, that is to say, the whole of what we term "space" is to them the truest substantiality;—the stars, meantime, through what we consider their materiality, escaping the angelic sense, just in proportion as the unparticled matter, through what we consider its immateriality, eludes the organic.

As the sleep-waker pronounced these latter words, in a feeble tone, I observed on his countenance a singular expression, which somewhat alarmed me, and induced me to awake him at once. No sooner had I done this, than, with a bright smile irradiating all his features, he fell back upon his pillow and expired. I noticed that in less than a minute afterward his corpse had all the stern rigidity of stone. His brow was of the coldness of ice. Thus, ordinarily, should it have appeared, only after long pressure from Azrael's hand. Had the sleep-waker, indeed, during the latter portion of his discourse, been addressing me from out the region of the shadows?

"Mesmeric Revelation" August 1844 Columbian Magazine Science fiction [92]