Friday, June 12, 2009

Poe's only surviving letter to his wife

There is only one surviving letter written by Poe to his wife Virginia. The letter begins:
"My Deart Heart, My dear Virginia! our Mother [e.g. Maria Clemm, Virginia's mother and Poe's aunt/mother-in-law] will explain to you why I stay away from you this night. I trust the interview I am promised,* will result in some substantial good for me, for your dear sake, and hers—Keep up your heart in all hopefulness, and trust yet a little longer."
He then assures here, "I shall be with you tomorrow P.M. and be assured until I see you, I will keep in loving remembrance your last words and your fervent prayer!"

Virginia at this time was very ill with tuberculosis. Emphasizing his dependence on the younger woman, Poe asks her to survive just a little longer. It is because of her, he notes, that he has been able to be strong after the recent failure of the Broadway Journal. "In my last great disappointment, 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." Certainly a heavy burden for a dying woman to bear!

The brief letter is signed "Your devoted Edgar." That devotion is clear. As Biographer Kenneth Silverman wrote, "Although he treated many others abrasively, falsely, or manipulatively, with Virginia he seems always to have been soft, concerned, nearly reverential."

But he could not count on her forever. Around this same time, a visitor already noted she was "almost a disrobed spirit, and when she coughed it was made certain that she was rapidly passing away." At the time Poe wrote this only extant letter to his wife, she was only six months away from death.

*Circumstances surrounding this letter are unclear; it is not even known where Poe was when he wrote to his wife. It's possible he was working on building subscriptions for The Stylus (an "interview" is not necessarily job-related at this time; it could refer to any scheduled interaction between people).

**The image of the letter is courtesy of the web site "Knowing Poe." The original is part of the collection of the University of Virginia.

1 comment:

Gina said...

A heavy burden, perhaps -- but the letter is still rather sweet.