Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Poe family leaves Philadelphia

Though Poe had his work published throughout the United States, the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site specifically commemorates his time in Philadelphia — considered to be his most prolific, most lucrative, and happiest period. Here, he published "The Gold-Bug," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Black Cat," and "The Tell-Tale Heart" (to name a few). He lived in several homes throughout the city, the last of which was the one here on Spring Garden St. It is also the only of his Philadelphia homes still standing.

This post, however, is about the end of that several-year period in 1844. Poe and his wife Virginia left their Spring Garden home early on April 6, traveling via train to Perth Amboy, New Jersey and from there taking a steamer to New York. Virginia, who Poe called "Sissy," was already sick with tuberculosis and would die within three years. Nevertheless, they were optimistic and hoped that a relocation to New York would solve their problems.

The next day, April 7, Poe wrote to his mother-in-law Maria Clemm, still in Philadelphia. "We started in good spirits, but did not get here until nearly 3 o'clock... Sissy coughed none at all." The day was a rainy one and Poe left Virginia behind on the boat while he tried to find a place to board. He found a boarding-house at 130 Greenwich Street in lower Manhattan and went back for Virginia. They celebrated their arrival in style:
Last night, for supper, we had the nicest tea you ever drank, strong & hot — wheat bread & rye bread — cheese — tea-cakes (elegant) a great dish (2 dishes) of elegant ham, and 2 of cold veal, piled up like a mountain and large slices — 3 dishes of the cakes, and every thing in the greatest profusion. No fear of starving here... I feel in excellent spirits & have'nt drank a drop.
Poe concludes the letter by noting that Sissy cried later that night because she missed her mother — and the family cat, Catterina.

The letter has been analyzed by several Poe scholars, who question the veracity of their big meal, how they could have afforded it, why Poe was sure to note he wasn't drinking, why Virginia was crying, and how juvenile she must be for missing the cat (she was 21 years old at this point).

Either way, Poe's time in New York will be a struggle, financially and emotionally. Yet, here he will also meet one of his greatest successes with the publication of "The Raven." And don't think that New York has forgotten their adopted son. Walking tours of Greenwich focusing on Poe are offered, and the last home in which Poe lived — the Poe Cottage in Fordham — is open to the public.

1 comment:

Gina said...

I'd have missed the cat too!