Knowing Poe: The Literature, Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe... In Baltimore and Beyond



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Primary Source documents related to Poe's death

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A fragment of Poe's original coffin

A fragment of Poe's original coffin
Image courtesy of the Enoch Pratt Free Library

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A letter from Maria Clemm to Annie Richmond, talking about Poe's recent problems

A letter from Maria Clemm to Annie Richmond, talking about Poe's recent problems
Image courtesy of University of Virginia Library Special Collections

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  • Click here to read a transcript of this letter.

In this letter, Maria Clemm, Poe's aunt writes to a friend that she has heard from "Eddy." He assures his Aunt Maria that he has done nothing disgraceful in a recent period of "derangement," during which he fancied that the police were chasing him.



Transcription:
New York, June 30, 49

My dearest Annie:

I have this moment received your [letter ] of the 27th . . . I this day week received a letter from my own sweet Eddy. He 3rites he is better in health and rather better in spirits. He assures one he never did anything while he was so deranged that was in the least disgraceful. He fancied he was pursued by the police but it was not so. I have gained all the particulars from several gentlemento whom I wrote when I found I could not go to him. . . . Dear Eddy wrote in his last [letter] that he was going from Richmond in a few days, to stay with a friedn in the country for a short time. I hope that is the reason I did not hear from him today.

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A letter from Poe to Maria Clemm written in September 1849

A letter from Poe to Maria Clemm written in September 1849
Image courtesy of the Enoch Pratt Free Library

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In this letter, Poe talks about his lecture tour and his plans to go to Philadelphia. He calls Mrs. Clemm Muddy — an affectionate term perhaps akin to Mommy. He tells her about his marriage plans with Elmira Royster Shelton, his childhood sweetheart.



Transcription:
        Richmond Va
        Tuesday - Sep 18 - 49.

My own darling Muddy,

On arriving here last night
from Norfolk I received both your letters, including
Mrs Lewis's. I cannot tell you the joy they gave me —
to learn at least that you are well & hopeful.
May God forever bless you, my dear dear Muddy —
Elmira has just got home from the country. I spent
last evening with her. I think she loves me more
devotedly than any one I ever knew & I cannot
help loving her in return. Nothing is as yet definitely
settled — and it will not do to hurry matters. I lectured at
Norfolk on Monday & cleared enough to settle my bill
here at the Madison House with $2 over. I had a
highly fashionable audience, but Norfolk is a small place
& there were 2 exhibitions the same night.
Next Monday I lecture again here & expect to have
a large audience. On Tuesday I start for Phila. to attend
to Mrs Loud's Poems — & possibly on Thursday I may
start for N. York. If I do I will go straight over to
Mrs Lewis's & send for you. It will be better for me not
to go to Fordham — don't you think so? Write immediately
in reply & direct to Phila. For fear I should not get the
letter sign no name & address it to E. S. T. Grey Esqre.
If possible I will get married before I start — but there
is no telling. Give my dearest love to Mrs L. My poor poor

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Muddy I am still unable to send you even one
dollar — but keep up heart — I hope that our troubles
are nearly over. I saw John Beatty in Norfolk.

God bless & protect you, my own
darling Muddy. I showed your letter to Elmira
and she says "it is such a darling precious
letter that she loves you for it already"

Your own Eddy.

Don't forget to write immediately to Phila.
so that your letter will be there when I arrive.

The papers here are praising me to death —
and I have been received everywhere with
enthusiasm. Be sure & preserve all the
printed scraps I have sent you & keep up
my file of the Lit. World.

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A letter from Maria Clemm to Neilson Poe about Poe's death

A letter from Maria Clemm to Neilson Poe about Poe's death
Image courtesy of the Enoch Pratt Free Library

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In this brief letter, Maria Clemm pleads for news of Poe's death from Poe's cousin.



Transcription:

      New York Oct 9 1849

Dear Nelson,

I have heard this moment of the death of
my dear son Edgar—I cannot believe it, and
have written to you, to try and ascertain the
fact and particulars—he has been at the South
for the last three months, and was on his way home—
the paper states he died in Baltimore yesterday—
If it is true God have mercy on me, for he was
the last I had to cling to and love, will you write
the instant you receive this and relieve this dreadful
uncertainty—My mind is prepared to hear all —
conceal nothing from me.

Your afflicted friend
Maria Clemm

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Neilson Poe's letter responding to Maria Clemm's letter

Neilson Poe's letter responding to Maria Clemm's letter
Image courtesy of the Enoch Pratt Free Library

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Neilson Poe responds to Maria's request for a confirmation of Poe's death.



Transcription:

      Baltimore Oct 11. 1849

My dear Madam:

I would to God I could console you
with the information that your dear Son Edgar A. Poe is
still among the living. The newspapers, in announcing
his death, have only told a truth, which we may weep
over & deplore, but cannot change. He died on Sunday
morning, about 5 o'clock, at the Washington Medical
College, where he had been since the Wednesday pre-
ceding. At what time he arrived in this City,
where he spent the time he was here, or under what
circumstances, I have been unable to ascertain.
It appears that, on Wednesday, he was seen & recog-
nised at one of the places of election in old town,
and that his condition was such as to render it nec-
essary to send him to the college, where he
was tenderly nursed until the time of his death.
As soon as I heard that he was at the college, I
went over, but his physicians did not think it
advisable that I should see him, as he was very
excitable — The next day I called & sent him
changes of linen &c. and was gratified to
learn that he was much better, & I was
never so much shocked, in my life, as when,
on Sunday morning, notice was sent to me
that he was dead. Mr Herring & myself immediately

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took the necessary steps for his funeral, which took
place on Monday afternoon at four o clock. He
lies alongside his ancestors in the Presbyterian
burying ground on Green Street —
I assure you, My dear Madam, that, if I
had known where a letter would reach you, I would
have communicated the melancholy tidings in
time to enable you to attend his funeral —
but I was wholly ignorant how to address you — The
body was followed to the grave by Mr Herring, Dr
Snodgrass, Mr. Z. Collins Lee, (an old classmate) and
myself. The service was performed by the Rev
Wm T. D. Clemm, a son of James L. Clemm. Mr
Herring & myself have sought, in vain, for the
trunk & clothes of Edgar. There is reason to believe
that he was robbed of them, whilst in such a condition
as to render him insensible of his loss —

I shall not attempt the useless task of
consoling you under such a bereavement — Edgar
had seen so much of sorrow — had so little reason to be
satisfied with life — that, to him, the change can
scarcely be said to be a misfortune — If it
leaves you lonely in this world of trouble, may I
be allowed the friendly privilege of expressing
the hope that, in the contemplation of the
world to which he has gone & to which we
are all hastening, — you will find consolations
enduring & all sufficient — I shall be glad, at

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all times, to hear from you, & to alleviate, in
every way in my power, the sorrows to which
this dispensation may expose you — I only wish
my ability was equal to my disposition —

My wife unites with me in expressions
of sympathy.

truly your friend & servant
  Neilson Poe

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A letter that talks about Poe's death as the possible result of "cooping"

A letter that talks about Poe's death as the possible result of A letter that talks about Poe's death as the possible result of
Images courtesy of University of Virginia Library Special Collections

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In this letter, written by William Hand Browne, we find out about an important note that was among Dr. Snodgrass' papers. Snodgrass was the person who brought Poe to the hospital after he was found on the streets of Baltimore.

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A letter from Dr. J. J. Moran to Maria Clemm, talking about Poe's last days

A letter from Dr. J. J. Moran to Maria Clemm, talking about Poe's last days
Image courtesy of the Enoch Pratt Free Library

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Dr. Moran was the doctor in charge of Poe's care after he was found unconscious on the streets of Baltimore. Moran never explains the cause of Poe's death, assuming that Mrs. Clemm already knew about the disease that led to his death. Many have speculated about this. If you'd like to try your hand at solving this real mystery, try this online adventure.



Transcription:

      Balte. City & Marine Hospital, Nov. 15/49

Mrs. Clemm,

My dear Madam,
I take the earliest oppor-
tunity of responding to yours of the 9th Inst., which came to hand by
yesterday's mail.

Your deep solicitude, Madam, in reference to
the "last moments" of him of whom you write, does not surprise me.
It falls to the lot of but few, to enjoy the extensive popularity
that was unquestionably his. Wherever talent — mental worth, nay
Genius, was prized, there "E. A. Poe" had warm friends. To his rarely
gifted mind are we indebted for many of the brightest thoughts that
adorn our literature—to him is Belles Lettres indebted for the purest
gems her Casket Contains, "Poe is gone"! How many hearts have
heaved a sigh in uttering these three words! How many thousands
will yet, and for years to come, lament the premature demise
of this truly great man! Nor can there be found, in the list
of his enemies (— what great man ever lived without them?) one
individual, who will withhold from him the meed of praise to which
you refer — when you speak of his "nobility of soul." Posterity
will not hesitate to award him a place in the Catalogue of
those whose pens have strewn flowers in the pathway of life-flowers
too, whose fragrance will last for the enjoyment of unborn mil-
lions, thereby preserving a memorial more lasting than the
Sculptor's Chisel or the Art of the Statuary could ever fabricate
or invent — But now for the required intelligence

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Presuming you are already aware of the malady of which
Mr. Poe died I need only state concisely the particulars of
his circumstances from his entrance until his decease —

When brought to the Hospital he was unconscious of
his condition — who brought him or with whom he had been
associating. He remained in this condition from 5. Ock in
the afternoon — the hour of his admission — until 3 next morning.
This was on the 3rd Oct.

To this state succeeded tremor of
of the limbs, and at first a busy, but not violent or active de=
=lirium — constant talking — and vacant converse with spectral
and imaginary objects on the walls. His face was pale and
his whole person drenched in perspiration — We were unable
to induce tranquillity before the second day after his admission.

Having left orders with the nurses to that effect, I was
summoned to his bedside so soon as conscious supervened, and
questioned him in reference to his family — place of residence —
relatives &c. But his answers were incoherent & unsatisfactory.
He told me, however, he had a wife in Richmond (which, I have
since learned was not the fact) that he did not know when
he left that city or what had become of his trunk of clothing
. Wishing to rally and sustain his now fast sinking hopes
I told him I hoped, that in a few days he would be able to
enjoy the society of his friends here, and I would be most
happy to contribute in every possible way to his ease & comfort.
At this he broke out with much energy, and said the best
thing his best friend could do would be to blow out his
brains with a pistol — that when he beheld his degradation
he was ready to sink in the earth &c" Shortly after giving

-- Page 3 --

expression to these words Mr. Poe seemed to dose & I left him for a
short time, When I returned I found him in a violent delirium,
resisting the efforts of two nurses to keep him in bed. This state
continued until Saturday evening (he was admitted on Wednesday) when
he commenced calling for one "Reynolds", which he did through the
night up to three on Sunday morning. At this time a very
decided change began to affect him. Having become enfeebled
from exertion he became quiet and seemed to rest for a short
time, then gently moving his head he said "Lord help my poor
Soul" and expired!

This, Madam, is as faithful an account
as I am able to furnish from the Record of his case.

Mrs. Chapman was not with him. but he lacked nothing
which the utmost assiduity of nurses and myself could sup
ply. Indeed we considered Mr. Poe an object of unusual regard.
Medical men & Students of the House sympathized earnestly
with him, Your imperative request urges me to be candid,
else I should not have been this plain. Rather far would I
cancel his errors than even hint a fault of his.

His remains were visited by some of the first individuals
of the city, many of them anxious to have a lock of his hair.
Those who had previously known him pronounced his corpse the
most natural they had ever seen. Z. Collins Lee Esq. and
Nelson Poe with many other respectable individuals attended
his funeral — The Revd. Mr. Clemm of this city attended officially on
the occasion.

I have, thus, complied with your request, Madam,
and therefore subscribe myself respectfully yours

        J. J. Moran, Res. Phys.

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A copy of a Poe obituary that appeared in Richmond newspaper

A copy of a Poe obituary that appeared in Richmond newspaperA copy of a Poe obituary that appeared in Richmond newspaperA copy of a Poe obituary that appeared in Richmond newspaper
A copy of a Poe obituary that appeared in Richmond newspaperA copy of a Poe obituary that appeared in Richmond newspaperA copy of a Poe obituary that appeared in Richmond newspaper
A copy of a Poe obituary that appeared in Richmond newspaperA copy of a Poe obituary that appeared in Richmond newspaperA copy of a Poe obituary that appeared in Richmond newspaper
Images courtesy of University of Virginia Library Special Collections

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This article appeared in the October 15, 1849 edition of the Richmond Republican. Notes at the top of the document indicates it was copied by hand from the paper. The original author was Susan Archer Talley (Weiss). The obituary notes that other notices of Poe's death have contained misleading information about the author.

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