Virginia Poe (Mrs. Edgar Allan Poe) was noted for her beauty but the only picture known to be her that survives is her death portrait, a watercolor. Over the years numerous paintings have been offered up for sale but none have had any evidence presented to prove that the portrait is of Virginia Poe. Several years ago, a portrait surfaced purporting to be Virginia. This portrait, however, was produced by a descendent of Virginia’s family. No proof, except for the family traditions. If this were actually a portrait of Virginia, wouldn’t the family have come forward sooner? Don’t know, but check it out.
Tomorrow, Another Pic
Poe survived his wife, Virginia, by only a couple of years. Poe’s drinking problem only grew worse. On October 3, 1849, Poe was found lying in the streets of Baltimore sick and in need of medical assistance. He was taken to the Washington College Hospital where he died on October 7th. Poe was delirious and incoherent until his death. What was known was that he was not wearing his own clothes and repeatedly called out the name “Reynolds.” He was supposed to have left Richmond the previous week to return to New York City. His suitcase, however, was discovered in Richmond. Where he was or how he died has never been explained. His death was called a “congestion of the brain,” a euphemism for alcoholism.
Poe was buried in a plain coffin the day after his death in Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore. The weather was overcast and raining and the ceremony was poorly attended. The marble slab intended for his grave was destroyed in a train wreck. Until 1875, his grave was marked with a number on a piece of stone. In 1875, the citizens of Baltimore transferred his to the front of the cemetery and erected a large monument with a large ceremony. (See pic) End of story? Oh, no. The cemetery where Virginia was buried was closed and nobody claimed her. Eventually, an individual claimed her bones, kept them at his house for a few years, until he interred them with Poe.
Tomorrow, This Author’s Pen Rita Bay
After the invention of the daguerreotype in 1837, its use quickly became widespread. Photographers travelled all America taking pics of people, rich and poor. During the Victorian era it became commonplace to photograph deceased individuals. The pics were called memento mori. They were kept as keepsakes or returned to the family. Deceased individuals were photographed as if asleep or posed with their favorite things. Children and babies were most commonly photographed.
In 1835 Poe married his first cousin, Virginia Clemm. Although the marriage certificate stated that she was 21, she was actually 13. In early 1842, Virginia first showed symptoms of tuberculosis. Her condition deteriorated over the next few years which upset Poe and may have increased his drinking. Despite her decline and eventual death in 1847 at 25, she remained very beautiful. After her death, Poe had the death portrait done in watercolor.
Tomorrow, The Peculiar Demise of Edgar Allan Poe Rita Bay
Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was a critic, poet, and author known for his tales of mystery and the macabre which were precursors to science fiction. Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts. When his mother died soon after father abandoned the family, he was fostered by the Allan family of Richmond, Virginia. He dropped out of college because of finances, then enlisted in the Army. Given an opportunity to attend West Point, he was expelled because he had decided he wanted out, then failed to perform his duties.
Poe became the first American writer to support himself with his writing. Unfortunately, his literary success did not lead to financial success. He was chronically strapped for funds throughout his life. Known as the “Tomahawk Man,” Poe was feared as a literary critic. He was especially critical of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, even accusing him of plagiarism.
In 1835 Poe married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. He was twice her age. (More on her later.) Unable to obtain a position with the government, he worked for a series of magazines and publications. When The Raven published in The Evening Mirror, it was met with immediate popular success. He only received $9 for his work. The lack of pay and the lack of copyright protection for his work left him to live in relative poverty. On October 7, 1849, at the age 40, Poe died in Baltimore. The cause of his death is unknown and the subject of another day’s post. Rita Bay