On the occasional weekend, I spend time in the room that may have been a young Edgar Allan Poe’s bedroom in Baltimore’s Poe House. It’s a tiny room (even though it has been expanded by maybe a third since he lived here). It has one window and room for a bed, one he may have shared with his cousin Henry, and not much more. Alone in this room as visitors tour other parts of this tiny dwelling, I wonder what the great writer and poet was like during the time he lived here. I wonder what sparked his creative energy, his drive and the fearsome images of a pit and a pendulum, a tell-tale heart and a raven. Did he write here or merely sleep here? What did he dream? Did his frightening creativity haunt his nightmares? It was here, after all, that he launched his celebrated writing career.
A new exhibit at the Peabody Library in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon, “The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe in Baltimore & Beyond,” offers a little insight. Manuscripts, photos, movie posters and other items from the Susan Jaffe Tane Collection recall his life and his writing in Baltimore, Boston where he was born, Richmond where he was raised,and the places where he was an established writer, Philadelphia and New York.
Much of the exhibit celebrates the written word. His manuscripts, letters and poems and stories, including a copy of the Baltimore Saturday Visiter which published his “MS. Found in a Bottle” and various copies of “the Raven,” are on display. Original copies that hardly show the wear of all the years that have passed.
I had only recently learned of his engagement to Elmira Royster Shelton in Richmond right before his mysterious death. And suddenly I was confronted by a gold engagement ring he gave her in 1849.
He’s remembered by his life and his death (there’s a fragment of his coffin here) and by many ways he has been remembered forevermore.
Ⓒ Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman