Text: Jeffrey A. Savoye, “Two Biographical Digressions: Poe’s Wandering Trunk and Dr. Carter’s Mysterious Sword Cane,” Edgar Allan Poe Review, Fall 2004, 5:15-42


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Two Biographical Digressions:
Poe’s Wandering Trunk and Dr. Carter’s Mysterious Sword Cane

Perhaps no aspect of Edgar Allan Poe’s life has attracted more attention, generated more discussion, or caused more confusion than the murky circumstances surrounding his death (1). The story has evolved over a period of more than 150 years, the details being refined in the telling as much by repetition and dramatic flair as by scholarly analysis. Although much is still the subject of debate, a hardened core of the tale has entered the lore of American literary biography, and among the elements now fused with this core are two humble objects, a trunk and a cane, which have taken on lives of their own. In addition to being relics of Poe, both are important mostly for what they contained — the trunk with its manuscripts and other documents, and the cane with its concealed sword. Given the scanty details and the unreliable nature of some of the sources, the following information is reasonably comprehensive but neither exhaustive nor absolutely conclusive.

“I have a trunk with my papers and some manuscripts”

On that fateful trip, starting from Richmond about September 27 and ending so abruptly in Baltimore on 7 October 1849, Poe brought with him a single trunk of belongings. For several months after his death, this trunk was the target of considerable interest from two opposing forces: Maria Clemm and Rufus Wilmot Griswold in New York, and Rosalie Poe and John R. Thompson in Richmond. Caught in the middle were Neilson Poe and Dr. John J. Moran in Baltimore. Poe had left an estate with no money or property, but there were his poems, tales, and other writings, and Griswold had agreed to edit a collection of Poe’s works, to be published for the financial benefit of Poe’s mother-in-law, Maria Clemm. Poe’s sister, Rosalie, however, sought to exercise her own rights through the legal assistance of Thompson, and a kind of tug of war ensued (2).

Having “heard this moment of the death of my dear son Edgar,” and in a state of “dreadful uncertainty,” a distraught Mrs. Clemm wrote to Baltimore on 9 October 1849, “to try and ascertain the fact and particulars . . . . My mind is prepared to hear all — conceal nothing from me” (3). Among the general details and rather cautious expressions of sympathy, Neilson Poe’s 11 October 1849 reply provides the first recorded mention of the trunk: “Mr. Herring [Poe’s uncle] & ­[page 16:] 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 . . . .” (4). On 25 October 1849, more interested in the trunk than consolation, Griswold wrote to Thompson, in Richmond: “Poe’s trunk has not been recovered. Mr. Neilson Poe of Baltimore writes that from something said by Poe it was believed that he gave it into the hands of a porter at Baltimore to carry to the Philadelphia depot. Can you give any clue to it? It contained some important letters, and his lectures and I am very anxious to obtain the last, to print” (5). Thompson wrote back to Griswold on 3 November 1849: “I have written to Mr. Neilson Poe, as Miss Poe’s attorney, directing the trunk of the deceased to be forwarded to me. If it should come, I will be careful to secure for you the MS lectures and whatever other literary contents may be found in it” (6). Thompson’s assertion of his legal position was well-timed; in the week between Griswold’s letter to Thompson and Thompson’s letter to Griswold, the trunk had been located and was in the possession of Neilson Poe.

We have already had a few hints of the treasures contained in this elusive trunk, but what can we divine of its full contents? Dr. Moran, usually acknowledged as Poe’s attending physician during his final few days, quotes Poe as saying “I have a trunk with my papers and some manuscripts.” Moran curiously adds: “Note this, there was no clothing in the trunk. A new suit of wedding clothes was to have been placed in it for the groom. His visit was a business one and was to be a short one” (7). Although he may indeed have been instrumental in reclaiming the trunk, Dr. Moran is so unreliable in his recollections that his comments about the clothing must be taken with a grain of salt. Contradicting his 1885 statement, we find Moran’s earliest comment on the trunk, from a letter to Mrs. Clemm, 15 November 1849, in which he mentions that Poe did not know “what had become of his trunk of clothing” (8). There is no clear evidence that Moran actually opened the trunk or had any personal knowledge of its contents.

Fortunately, we have a direct contemporary comment from Neilson Poe, who wrote to Griswold on 1 November 1849: “I have opened his trunk and find it to contain very few manuscripts of value. The chief of them is a lecture upon the poetic principle and some paragraphs prepared, apparently, for some literary journal. There are, however, a number of books, his own works, which are full of corrections by his own hand. These ought, undoubtedly, to be placed in your hands” (9). Woodberry goes on to specifically list two of the books. The first was the ­[page 17:] J. Lorimer Graham copy of Tales and The Raven and Other Poems (1845), with Poe’s significant revisions penciled on many pages. This was the double-bound edition, the same as the presentation copies for Sarah H. Whitman and Miss E. B. Barrett (10). The second was the Bishop Hurst copy of Eureka (1848), one of several copies with manuscript changes and additions by Poe, but this one is certainly the most important and has the most extensive notes (11). Woodberry also suggests “possibly others” without saying what these remaining books may have been, leaving us to resort to some speculations.

We may safely eliminate Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827) and Poems (1831) from the list. Writing to J. R. Lowell in 1844, Poe stated off-handedly, “I have been so negligent as not to preserve copies of any of my volumes of poems — nor was either worthy preservation” (12). He did, however, have a copy of Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems (1829), which he borrowed back from his cousin Elizabeth in 1845 and subsequently used at his disastrous reading in Boston. In this copy, Poe carefully altered the date on the title page to read 1820, apparently in an effort to bolster his claim that these poems were written when he was very young. Afterwards, he kept it and may have used it in Virginia for a similar purpose, in which case it would have accompanied the other volumes noted by Woodberry (13). Also in the trunk was a set of his two-volume Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), referred to as “an early edition of Mr. Poe’s works” in a 24 December 1875 letter from Miss Sarah H. Heywood to J. H. Ingram. With no indication that this set was specially marked, however, it was clearly not the elaborately revised copies retitled Phantasy Pieces (14). In his lectures, Poe often read the poems of others, and may also have had copies of their books for this purpose. A particular favorite was N. P. Willis’s poem “Unseen Spirits.” Griswold’s Poets and Poetry of America would have suited as a convenient source for a number of poems, and Poe would surely have wanted a copy in hand when he criticized it. (Along with his own walking stick, Poe left a copy of Moore’s Irish Melodies at the office of Dr. Carter in Richmond. Although these two items were clearly not in the trunk after Poe’s death, this fact does show that he had at least one book by someone else with him on the tour (15).) One might presume that the small Bible given by Maria Clemm to Poe in 1846 was also present in the trunk, as Poe did carry it with him according to tradition. Mrs. Clemm, however, apparently gave it to Mrs. Rebecca Cromwell in late 1849, by which time she would not have received any of the contents from Neilson Poe (16). ­[page 18:]

The lecture mentioned by Neilson Poe was obviously “The Poetic Principle,” which was originally included in volume III, and later moved to volume II. The “paragraphs” were the humorous essay “A Reviewer Reviewed,” intended for Graham’s Magazine, and probably a few bits used in his readings of “Marginalia” or his aborted “Literary America” project (17). Among other miscellaneous material in Poe’s trunk were various letters. Based on the dates Poe would have received them, these would have included his six final letters, written by Mrs. Clemm, E. H. N. Patterson, Thomas H. Chivers, Mrs. Sarah A. Lewis and Mrs. Marguerite St. Leon Loud (RCL-812, RCL-819, RCL-820, RCL-824, RCL-825, and RCL-827b). Neilson Poe told Eugene L. Didier that he found a package of love letters from Elmira Shelton. Somewhat surprisingly he also had twelve letters written to him from George W. Eveleth, ranging in date from 21 December 1845 (RCL-599) to 3 July 1849 (RCL-807a). In addition, he had one new letter from Thompson to Griswold, ca. 25 September 1849. He may also have had other letters, and drafts of his own letters written while away from home (18). Whitty claims that a clipping of J. M. Daniel’s notice from the 25 September 1849 Richmond Examiner was “found among Poe’s clippings after his death, and is now among the ‘Griswold Papers.’” It would not, of course, have been possible for an article of this late date to have been left behind in New York, although he might have mailed it to Mrs. Clemm just before leaving Richmond (19). He may also have had the miniature portrait of his mother, painted by Sully. Mrs. Lewis mentions that he had it in his valise when it was lost in Philadelphia (in July of 1849) (20).

The principal reason for Poe’s tour was to obtain potential subscribers to his proposed magazine (by this time titled The Stylus). He must, therefore, have had with him some means of recording the names of subscribers and contributors, and for this purpose he probably carried his “Memorandum” book, now at the Enoch Pratt Free Library (21). Bishop Fitzgerald claimed, many years later, that Poe had $1,500 in subscriptions with him when he left Richmond. If so, it must have been money he obtained after he left Norfolk. As he wrote to Mrs. Clemm, “I lectured at Norfolk on Monday & cleared enough to settle my bill here at the Madison House with $2 over . . . . My poor poor Muddy. I am still unable to send you even one dollar — but keep up heart — I hope that our troubles are nearly over.” With no corroborating evidence that he actually managed to accumulate such a large sum of money, or what would have become of it, I consider the story apocryphal (22). ­[page 19:]

For a trip requiring several days of travel and involving a visit with the prominent Loud family in Philadelphia, Poe would surely have had personal belongs, including a change of clothing (at least a shirt) and such usual necessities as a straight razor for shaving (and the related accessories of a strap, brush, etc.), a hair brush, and similar items. Also likely were the boot hooks now on display at the Poe Museum in Richmond (23). The fact that he left some of his baggage behind in Richmond at the Swan Tavern suggests that he may have removed other items, with the intention of saving space in the trunk for new material as part of the “move” to Richmond.

Though somewhat better documented than the contents of the trunk, its history is even more confusing. The available evidence supports the notion that it was retrieved by Dr. Moran, who, after some searching, claimed the trunk from the Bradshaw Hotel or the train depot, which was across the street. He then gave it to Neilson Poe. The idea that the trunk was forwarded to Neilson Poe from Richmond — an error apparently created by Mrs. Weiss and perpetuated by Woodberry and Allen — may be easily dismissed (24). Given the statements in Griswold’s 25 October 1849 letter to Thompson and Neilson Poe’s 1 November 1849 letter to Griswold, the trunk must have come into Neilson’s hands during the last week of October. At this point, most scholars seem satisfied to state that Neilson delayed forwarding the trunk and its contents to Mrs. Clemm, leaving the impression that he was lazy or disinterested. In a 27 November 1874 letter to Ingram, N. H. Morison reinforces this view of Neilson, describing him as a one who “belongs, so his friends say, to the class of dilatory men, who plan and never do” (25). The case for Neilson’s lack of action is further supported by a 2 March 1850 letter from Mrs. Clemm to Dr. Moran: “What I wish you to do for me dear Sir is to enquire for me of Mr. N. Poe why he retains the trunk and why he will not let me have those papers. If I learn that he has them not, the third volume of the book will have to be published without them. At all events procure from him my darling Eddie’s letters to myself and enclose them to me, for they are a thousand times more precious to me ‘than rubies’” (26).

Judging solely from this evidence, it would be reasonable to conclude that Neilson Poe had done nothing with the trunk or its contents over the preceding months. The truth, however, is somewhat more complicated. Once he obtained the trunk, Neilson Poe was in a very uncomfortable position. It was essentially the symbol of Poe’s estate, and as a lawyer he would have known that Rosalie had the stronger legal claim as Poe’s heir. On the other hand, Mrs. Clemm was his own ­[page 20:] wife’s stepmother, and she was destitute. Rosalie was then living with the Mackenies, who enjoyed a wealthy lifestyle until their terrible losses during the Civil War. Mrs. Clemm also had an unusual talent for making people feel very guilty (27). The key to correcting this impression of inactivity is to accept that about this time, the trunk and at least some of its contents began to follow separate paths. Referring to Poe’s corrected copies of Tales and The Raven and Other Poems, Mabbott is wrong when he says “The book came into Griswold’s hands too late for use in his edition of the Works.” In preparing the two volumes issued by J. S. Redfield by 10 January 1850, Griswold was highly selective in using Poe’s corrections, but his access to these changes is undeniable. Among other examples, the title of “Catholic Hymn” acknowledges Poe’s cancellation of “Catholic,” and the word “sorrow” in “The Haunted Palace” is corrected to “morrow.” Most importantly, Poe’s “Preface” and “The Raven” were newly set in type, incorporating a large number of miscellaneous changes marked by Poe’s own hand (28).

By about mid-November, therefore, Neilson Poe had indeed sent Griswold the books mentioned in his letter, but he did not include the manuscript material. Writing again to Thompson on 19 February 1850, Griswold noted “He [Poe] had two or three discourses — one of which was on the Poetic Principle, and another I believe on American Literature — with him in manuscript at Richmond. Do you know anything of them? Mr. [Neilson] Poe, of Baltimore, wrote to me that he would send them for insertion in the volumes of ‘Redfield;’ but they were never received. In his trunk I suppose, were the corrected copies of his tales &c., of which you write, and of many other materials, including the MSS. of several literary biographies.” The only lecture in the trunk was “The Poetic Principle,” and in the same letter, Griswold prompts Thompson: “I suggest that you obtain the lecture on the Poetic Principle, and print it as a leading article in the Messenger, paying Miss R. Poe as much as you can for it, sending me the proofs for the book, to come out subsequently. . . . .” (29). Thompson did not act on this suggestion, and this lecture too ended up in Griswold’s hands. In a 29 July 1850 letter, Bayard Taylor, acting for Griswold, offered the manuscript to George R. Graham for $50 for the benefit of Mrs. Clemm. Graham declined, and it was instead purchased for publication by John Sartain, who printed it in the issue of Sartain’s Magazine for October 1850, although by then it had already been printed in Willis’s Home Journal (31 August 1850). The manuscript has long since been lost (30). ­[page 21:]

Writing to Griswold on 29 April 1850, Mrs. Clemm complained that she had received information from Moran that “the trunk has been sent to you at your request, and for Miss Poe. I cannot understand this and wish you to let me know if there is any truth in it.” Several months later, however, Neilson Poe still seems to have had the trunk, though by now presumably bereft of its most significant items. Rosalie wrote to Griswold on 20 August 1850: “I think and do say that I have been unjustly treated since his death, his trunk is taken from me which he gave to me himself. Mr. Poe of Baltimore has it & will not give it to me until I administer for it. I could not get any one to go my security and then my friend advised me not to administer” (31). A note in the Stanard edition of Poe’s letters in the Valentine Museum reads: “when Poe died in Baltimore, most of his estate consisted of a small black leather trunk, bound with iron hoops and containing manuscripts and a few other belongings. The trunk and its key (which was found in the dead poet’s pocket) were turned over to his cousin, Neilson Poe, who sent them to Edgar’s sister Rosalie at ‘Duncan Lodge,’ Richmond, the home of the MacKensies, who had adopted and reared her. Rosalie gave the trunk and key to Jane MacKensie Miller, of Matthews County, Virginia, only grandchild of her foster-mother, who, in 1923, conveyed them to the ‘Edgar Allan Poe Shrine,’ Richmond, where they may now be seen” (32).

If we accept the statement that the trunk pictured in Stanard’s book was the one Poe had in Baltimore, and not merely part of the baggage left behind in Richmond, Rosalie eventually managed to claim at least that part of her inheritance. Biographers typically presume that the trunk itself was finally sent to Mrs. Clemm. On the event of her death in Baltimore in 1871 (at Church Home and Hospital), it would have passed to Neilson Poe, her only close relative then living nearby, and through him finally found its way to Rosalie. Equally plausible is the idea that Neilson, having sent the important books and MS material to Griswold, never forwarded the trunk itself to Mrs. Clemm at all. Instead, Rosalie finally made the arrangements Neilson required, or he simply gave it to her as a way of making her go away. After the Civil War, Rosalie was living in poverty, trying to support herself by selling pictures of her brother Edgar. She was not very successful at this, even after she cut the price to 50 cents. Having decided to leave Richmond, and try her luck with her Northern relatives, she would have had little use for such a bulky item as the trunk, and thus left it behind with the Mackenzies. She spent her final days living with the Sisters of the Epiphany in Washington, D.C., where she taught sewing and calligraphy to help pay for her up keep. Rosalie died on 22 July 1874 (33). ­[page 22:]

Stanard also touches on the tradition that this trunk is not only the one Poe had with him when he died in Baltimore, but was the same one he had asked John Allan to send to him in letters of 19 and 20 March 1827. With no documentation for what that trunk looked like, however, or even clear evidence that Allan complied with Poe’s request, Stanard’s speculation must remain a dubious one. Poe could certainly have acquired another trunk at any time between 1827 and 1849, even an old one, and the idea that these trunks were one and the same is too convenient and romantic to accept without further proof (34). The idea that Poe had the key in his pocket is also intriguing, but as an essentially undocumented tradition is not necessarily reliable. Neilson could just as reasonably have had a new key made by a locksmith in Baltimore. The key is at the Poe Museum in Richmond, along with what is, traditionally, Poe’s wandering trunk. The trunk is now empty, containing only the hazy dreams of speculation.

“He was still grasping the cane of Dr. Carter, which he had taken in Richmond”

The great quartet of Poe biographies from the first half of the twentieth century — by George E. Woodberry, Hervey Allen, Mary E. Phillips, and Arthur H. Quinn — all tell essentially the same story of Poe’s visit on his final day in Richmond to the office of Dr. John F. Carter. They also agree that Poe left his own walking stick and took Dr. Carter’s cane, which he still had with him in Baltimore. Woodberry tells us, “It is a trifling but interesting detail that the Malacca cane had stuck to him through all his adventures.” Allen says, “A carriage was sent for, and the dying man was carried to the conveyance, still grasping Dr. Carter’s Malacca cane that he had brought by mistake from Richmond.” Phillips has Poe “delirious but still holding fast to Dr. Carter’s cane.” Quinn echoes Allen, “He was still grasping the cane of Dr. Carter, which he had taken in Richmond.” This happy consensus should come as no great surprise since all four, as I shall show, rely on Dr. Carter’s own description of these events, although mostly through Mrs. Susan A. T. Weiss’s second-hand account (35).

The presumed presence of a sword cane with Poe in Baltimore has been used to debunk the possibility that he was physically attacked or robbed. In spite of his calling it a “trifling detail,” Woodberry uses it to make this important point: “had he been drugged and made to vote in any violent manner, as was represented, it [the cane] could hardly have failed to be separated from him.” Mabbott extends the implications of the cane: “Poe had the malacca cane; would lawless ­[page 23:] fellows have failed to purloin so salable an object?” Even Phillips offers, “In a word, perhaps no better-equipped victim was ever offered to hoodlum thievery or political escapades that obtained dominance during election times in many cities of those days” (36). If Poe did not have the cane with him, however, its role becomes a minor curiosity, with no relevance in explaining the circumstances surrounding Poe’s death. What remains of interest, however, is how this idea originated and became part of the accepted story.

The cane is first mentioned by Mrs. Weiss in her 1878 article “The Last Days of Edgar Allan Poe”: “Late in the evening he entered the office of Dr. John Carter, and spent an hour in looking over the day’s papers; then taking Dr. Carter’s cane he went out, remarking that he would step across to Saddler’s (a fashionable restaurant) and get supper. From the circumstance of his taking the cane, leaving his own in its place, it is probable that he had intended to return; but at the restaurant he met with some acquaintances who detained him until late, and then accompanied him to the Baltimore boat. According to their account he was quite sober and cheerful to the last, remarking, as he took leave of them, that he would soon be in Richmond again” (37). In 1902, Dr. Carter published his own account, adding details that the cane was Malacca and contained a sword: “On this evening he sat for some time talking, while playing with a handsome Malacca sword-cane recently presented to me by a friend, and then, abruptly rising, said, ‘I think I will step over to Saddler’s (a popular restaurant in the neighborhood) for a few moments,’ and so left without any further word, having my cane still in his hand. From this manner of departure I inferred that he expected to return shortly, but did not see him again, and was surprised to learn next day that he had left for Baltimore by the early morning boat. I then called on Saddler, who informed me that Poe had left his house at exactly twelve that night, starting for ­[page 24:] the Baltimore boat in company with several companions whom he had met at Saddler’s, and giving as a reason therefor [sic ] the lateness of the hour and the fact that the boat was to leave at four o’clock. According to Saddler he was in good spirits and sober, though it is certain that he had been drinking and that he seemed oblivious of his baggage, which had been left in his room at the Swan Tavern. These effects were after his death forwarded by one of Mrs. Mackenzie’s sons to Mrs. Clemm in New York, and through the same source I received my cane, which Poe in his absent-mindedness had taken away with him” (38).

Dr. Carter’s story is partially validated by the unbroken provenance of Poe’s walking stick, a simple, dark hardwood shaft, 36.25 inches long, straight and tapered (1 inch at the top to 3/8 of an inch at the bottom), with a silver cap engraved “Poe,” augmented by a few modest hints of ornamental scroll work. (The metal tip and eyelet are also silver.) During his final years, illness forced Dr. Carter to move into the home of William Henry Booker. Poe’s cane was among Dr. Carter’s possessions left to Booker after Carter’s death. When Booker himself died, the cane passed to his daughter, Mrs. Charles Harnish of Forest Hill, Richmond. She allowed the Poe Foundation to exhibit the cane in 1923, eventually selling it for $250 to Mrs. Archer Jones, who presented it to the Poe Foundation, where it currently resides. Unfortunately, there has been less interest in Dr. Carter’s cane, which has apparently never been displayed, photographed, or described in more detail than the few words in Dr. Carter’s article. The idea that Poe took Dr. Carter’s cane by mistake presumes that the sticks resembled each other, suggesting that Dr. Carter’s cane had a straight handle. If, on the other hand, Dr. Carter’s cane had a bent or curved handle, Poe’s taking of the cane becomes more difficult to explain (39).

The creation of the claim that Poe had the cane with him in Baltimore can be traced to Mrs. Weiss, in her Home Life of Poe (1907). Accepting the “cooping” theory of Poe’s death, she recounts: “The kidnappers had probably exchanged his garments for others as a means of disguise, intending to restore them eventually. They at least did not take from him the handsome malacca cane which was in his grasp when he reached the hospital. This cane was, at Dr. Carter’s request, returned to him by Mrs. Clemm, to whom Dr. Moran sent it” (40). Mrs. Weiss’s conclusion is the result of connecting three faulty pieces of information. First, ­[page 25:] her sequence of events moves Poe from Dr. Carter’s office, to Saddler’s restaurant across the street, then directly to the boat for Baltimore. Second, she presumes that Poe’s baggage was left at the Swan Tavern unintentionally. Third, Dr. Carter’s article notes that his cane was returned to him “through the same source,” which Mrs. Weiss interprets as Mrs. Clemm (in New York) rather than by the Mackenzies (in Richmond). Mrs. Weiss clearly does not know the identities of the companions who went with Poe to the boat, and could not have verified that they actually accompanied him the whole way or that they did not stop by the Swan Tavern (41). Given the information she had in making her assessment, chiefly that Poe left the restaurant at midnight and the boat was scheduled to leave at 4 a.m., does it seem reasonable that Poe would have needed to rush to the dock without sufficient time to stop by his room and see to his belongings? Poe’s final letters to Mrs. Clemm indicate that he would return to Richmond. Instead of being the result of absent mindedness, it is just as reasonable to conclude that he left his baggage at the Swan Tavern because he did not need all of it for his trip and expected to be back to retrieve it in a few weeks (42). Carter’s statement about the return of his cane suggests that it was left with Poe’s baggage in Richmond, and this interpretation is supported by other documentation.

We have two descriptions of Poe as he was found on the street in Baltimore, both from first-hand witnesses to the events. Regrettably, neither of these gentlemen was scrupulous in his recollection, but their testimony is all we have. Snodgrass says: “His face was haggard, not to say bloated, and unwashed, his hair unkempt, and his whole physique repulsive. His expansive forehead, with its wonderful breadth between the points where the phrenologists locate the organ of ideality — the widest I ever measured — and that full-orbed and mellow, yet soulful eye, for which he was so noticeable when himself, now lusterless and vacant, as shortly I could see, were shaded from view by a rusty, almost brimless, tattered and ribbon-less palmleaf hat. His clothing consisted of a sack-coat of thin and sleezy [sic ] black alpaca, ripped more or less at several of its seams, and faded and soiled, and pants of a steel-mixed pattern of cassinette, half-worn and badly-fitting, if they could be said to fit at all. He wore neither vest nor neck-cloth, while the bosom of his ­[page 26:] shirt was both crumpled and badly soiled. On his feet were boots of coarse material, and giving no sign of having been blacked for a long time, if at all.” Moran gives a shorter but equally detailed account: “a stained, faded, old bombazine coat, pantaloons of a similar character, a pair of worn-out shoes run down at the heels, and an old straw hat” (43). Although both of these men take care to describe the condition of Poe’s shoes, neither mentions what would certainly have been the remarkable incongruity of “a handsome malacca cane.” Also, amidst all the apparent discussion of the whereabouts and contents of Poe’s trunk and belongings, there is not a single mention of the cane, nor any inquiry about its owner or how to return it.

For me, then, the most reasonable interpretation of the evidence is that the cane was left behind in Richmond, and the rest is merely misunderstanding and myth-making. Poe was fond of supplementing the more obscure portions of his life by inventing dramatic fictions — scholars must be ever vigilant to avoid succumbing to similar temptations.


1. Exploring the cause or circumstances of Poe’s death is not the purpose of this paper. For readers interested in that topic, a brief overview of the relevant issues and a list of sources may be found on the website of the Poe Society of Baltimore: http://www.eapoe.org/geninfo/poedeath.htm. The most convenient examination in book form is J. E. Walsh, Midnight Dreary. Walsh’s book, however, is not comprehensive, and much good analysis is marred by the apparent need to advance a particular solution, one plagued by at least as many difficulties as others he dismisses.

2. In addition to being editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, Thompson was a member of the Richmond bar, having graduated with a degree in law from the University of Virginia (see B. B. Minor, 161). Mrs. Clemm was represented by Sylvanus D. Lewis, the husband of Mrs. Sarah Anna Lewis (see Quinn 657 and 754). The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe was published by J. S. Redfield. The first two volumes (“Tales” and “Poems and Miscellanies”) were available for sale about 10 January 1850, with the third volume (“The Literati”) delayed ­[page 27:] until September 1850. A fourth and final volume appeared in 1856 (“Arthur Gordon Pym, &c.”).

3. Maria Clemm to Neilson Poe, 9 October 1849, printed in Harrison (17: 397-398) and Quinn and Hart (28), with a facsimile. The relevant portion is also quoted in The Poe Log   (850). The MS is at the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

4. Neilson Poe to Maria Clemm, 11 October 1849, quoted in Woodberry, 1885 (346). The full text, without a facsimile, appears in Quinn and Hart (30-31). The letter is also printed by Harrison (17:400-401). The MS is at the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

5. R. W. Griswold to J. R. Thompson, 25 October 1849, reprinted in Quinn (658). The MS is in the Lilly Library at the University of Indiana. Griswold had already asked George Lippard to look for Poe’s valise in Philadelphia, unaware that Poe had eventually found it himself, though lacking the lectures it once contained (see Poe’s 14 July 1849 letter to Mrs. Clemm). Lippard wrote to Griswold on 22 November 1849: “I have not been able to obtain any intelligence in regard to the missing valise.” The MS in the Boston Public Library, Griswold Collection (Gris. 691). The valise itself was not mentioned afterwards. Poe may have felt that it was insufficiently safe for his manuscripts after his trouble in Philadelphia, in which he lost his lecture notes.

6. J. R. Thompson to R. W. Griswold, 3 November 1849, excerpted by Quinn (656). The MS is in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Gratz Collection. I am grateful to Richard Fusco for accessing the Gratz material for me.

7. J. J. Moran, Defense of Poe (64). In a ca. 28 August 1849 letter to Mrs. Clemm, Poe said, “I have got the wedding ring — and shall have no difficulty, I think, in getting a dress-coat” (see Ostrom 2:458).

8. J. J. Moran to Mrs. Maria Clemm, November 15, 1849, quoted in Quinn and Hart (33), with a facsimile. The MS is at the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

9. Neilson Poe to R. W. Griswold, 1 November 1849, quoted in Woodberry, 1909 (2:450-451). The MS is in the New York Public Library, Berg collection.

10. Poe’s corrected copies of Tales and The Raven and Other Poems are now in the collection of the Humanities Research Center, at the University of Texas at ­[page 28:] Austin. Thompson’s lien came to nothing. His dealings with Griswold, however, remained cordial. Thompson provided Griswold with several Poe items from the Southern Literary Messenger for inclusion in the collected edition. In exchange, Griswold may have secured the right for Rosalie to sell copies of the sets, as Maria Clemm did (see Mabbott, Poems, 1:521). Whether or not Griswold ever sent these books to Thompson is unknown, but it seems improbable in light of the fact that Griswold added his own name to the front page and subsequent owners of the book lived in New York. There is a break between Griswold’s ownership and the acquisition of the books by James Lorimer Graham, although it bears the signature of George P. Philes, whom Mabbott notes as “a New York dealer” and “a keen student of Poe” (Mabbott, ed., The Raven and Other Poems, xix). After Graham’s death in 1876, it was presented by his widow to the Century Club in New York City. The volume was purchased by its present owner some time between 1942 and 1968.

11. Poe’s heavily annotated copy of Eureka is now in the private collection of Mrs. Susan Jafee Tane. How it was acquired by Bishop John Fletcher Hurst, president of Drew Theological Seminary, is unknown, although it must be noted that Hurst owned a number of significant Poe manuscripts, all presumably from Griswold’s library. Hurst’s collection was sold at auction in 1905. It was purchased by Stephen H. Wakeman, then passed through the hands of A. S. W. Rosenbach and Mrs. George Blumenthal, remaining for many years in the collection of H. Bradley Martin. When the Martin collection was sold at auction in 1990, the book was acquired by the 19th Century Shop in Baltimore, and ultimately purchased by the present owner.

12. Poe to J. R. Lowell, 2 July 1844 (Ostrom 1:258). In this letter, Poe is referring to his Poems (1831) and Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems (1829), ignoring the earlier Tamerlane as not officially released.

13. Poe’s altered copy of Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems (1829) is in the New York Public Library, Berg collection. There is a gap between Griswold and its next documented owner, George Henry Moore. Moore’s library was sold at auction on February 8, 1894, with the book fetching $75 (item 1934). It was apparently purchased by William Nelson, whose own library included extraordinary Poe items and was sold on 5 May 5 1903, where the book had increased in value to $1,825. (In the auction catalog, item 961, it is incorrectly assumed that Poe used this volume in preparing the Poems of 1831. Instead, he originally ­[page 29:] borrowed it to use in preparing extra material to fill out The Raven and Other Poems of 1845, see Mabbott, Poems, 1:577.) Stephen H. Wakeman acquired it on 25 November 1909 for $2,900. It was sold for the same price to an unknown buyer in 1924. By 1942, the book had entered the Berg collection.

14. Miss Sarah H. Heywood to J. H. Ingram, 24 December 1874: “It was found in the trunk which was forwarded to Mrs. Clemm from Baltimore, soon after his death” (MS at the University of Virginia, Ingram Collection, quoted by Miller, Building Poe Biography, 156). Unfortunately, in spite of J. C. Miller’s claim, this letter does not settle “once and for all the long-standing and ridiculously bitter controversy of what finally became of Poe’s trunk.” Although Miss Heywood says “it,” which would suggest one volume, Ingram identifies the books as “the 2-vol. Edition of Tales of 1839” in a 18 January 1877 letter to Mrs. Whitman, printed in Miller, Poe’s Helen Remembers, 468. Although the title page bears the date of 1840, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was published in December of 1839, as established by Poe’s 6 December 1839 letter to John C. Cox (see Ostrom 1:122-123). The Phantasy Pieces may be the volumes mentioned in Mrs. Clemm’s 23 October 1849 letter to Griswold: “in looking over a trunk I have found two books of my dear Eddie’s which I think important for you to have.” The MS is in the Philadelphia Free Public Library, Gimbel Collection. In preparing volume I of his edition, Griswold appears to have used copy from at least the second of these specially marked volumes for “Metzengerstein” and “The Unparallelled Adventures of One Hans Pfaall” (see Mabbott, Tales & Sketches, 2:18 and Pollin, Imaginary Voyages, 1:385).

15. Without noting a source, Mabbott comments about Thomas Moore’s Irish Melodies in his “Annals” (Poems, 1:568). According to Silverman, the copy of Irish Melodies is in the Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin, with a note from Carter stating that Poe left it in his office (518). A careful search of the HRC collection by the Curator of Manuscripts, however, found neither the book or note, nor any other record of either. [[Update: The book was ultimately located at the HRC, and included in their digital archive of Poe material, providing the call number as: PR 5054 I8 1819 HRC KPO. The title page gives the publisher as New York: A. T. Goodrich & Co. and the date as 1819. On the half-titel, an old note in brown ink, although apparently not in Poe’s hand, states: “forget not the giver.” A small piece of lined paper, inserted in the front of the book, states: “This is to certify that this edition of Moore’s Poems is the same used by Edgar Allan Poe & left in my office in 1849. / John F. Carter, M. D. / Richmond / June 16 1884.” Inside the front cover, in blue ink, appears “Poe’s copy given to Dr. C. the last night in Richmond before his death. Bought of Dr. Carter by me. G. E. Woodberry,” with a subsequent note indicating that the book is a Christmas gift “to J. H. Whitty / from G. E. Woodberry, Dec. 25/ 1919.”]]

16. Sadly, the Bible given to the Bronx Historical Society seems to have vanished. It is shown in Phillips (2:1545), but a recent inquiry failed to locate the book at either the cottage or among the items deposited in the New York Public Library. The gift to Mrs. Cromwell is recorded by Phillips in the caption to the photograph and on pages 2:1543-1544. Mrs. Cromwell also owned a rocking chair said to have belonged to Poe (2:1544). ­[page 30:]

17. In 1853, several changes were made to the set for the sake of creating a more integrated presentation: the title page of volume three was modified to conform with the earlier two volumes, Griswold’s “Memoir” was moved to volume I, and “The Poetic Principle” was moved to volume II. For “A Reviewer Reviewed,” see Mabbott, Tales & Sketches, 3:1377. The beautiful MS was given to the Berg collection of the New York Public Library on 7 October 2000 by Burton and Alice Pollin. Fragments of “Marginalia” exist in several collections, but most of these are from the Stedman roll MS (Savoye 3:52-72). The surviving portions of “Literary America” are spread around in various collections, often misidentified as being early drafts of “The Literati of New York City,” of which they are actually revisions.

18. The RCL numbers are from J. W. Ostrom’s “Revised Check List.” The twelve letters written to Poe by G. W. Eveleth (RCL-599, RCL-606, RCL-617, RCL-634, RCL-657, RCL-668, RCL-674, RCL-695, RCL-702, RCL-717, RCL-775, and RCL-807a) are collectively item 112 in the Bangs & Co. auction catalog, 11 April 1896, where it is noted that they were found in Poe’s trunk after his death. For whatever reason, one other letter Eveleth wrote to Poe on 27 July 1847 (RCL-686) was not part of this set. In a letter of 26 June 1876, E. L. Didier wrote to Mrs. S. H. Whitman from Baltimore: “Mr. Neilson Poe, of this city, told me he found in Edgar’s trunk, after his death, a package of love letters, addressed by Mrs. S. to E. A. P. They were as foolishly sentimental as those of a love sick school girl. The letters were sent to Mrs. S.” The MS of Didier’s letter is in the Lilly Library. No further record of Mrs. Shelton’s letters is known. The letter from Thompson to Griswold is noted in another letter from Thompson, sent to Griswold on 10 October 1849: “When poor Poe left here, some three weeks since, I gave to him a letter which he promised me to deliver into your hands; but as the papers state that he had been seven days in the hospital at Baltimore before his unhappy death, I make sure that he did not reach Philadelphia and by consequence that you did not receive the letter. I therefore write you again, substantially, what I wrote before” (MS in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Gratz Collection, excerpted in The Poe Log, 854). Thompson’s letter, and presumably the one he gave to Poe, chiefly concerns some biographical material about himself to be used in a subsequent edition of Griswold’s Poets and Poetry of America.

19. Whitty, Poems (199). Writing on 18 September 1849, Poe tells Mrs. Clemm, “Be sure & preserve all the printed scraps I have sent you & keep up my file of ­[page 31:] the Lit. World” (see Ostrom 2:461).

20. Sending her copy on ivory to Ingram on 16 May 1875, Mrs. Shew-Houghton warned: “Don’t let the family (Poe family) know of your having this picture at present and try to get the one Edgar had with him when he died” (Miller, Building Poe Biography, 136). Mrs. Shew-Houghton to Ingram, ca. 15 April 1875, “I was told by Mr. Chapin, (who was an old resident of Baltimore) that Poe’s satchel was given up by the Railroad Company, as he left it in the train, being entirely mad, that this portrait was in the bag and a slip of paper pasted upon the back, ‘My adored Mother! E. A. Poe, New York’ with date of his departure from N. Y.” (Miller, Building Poe Biography, 131-132). On recovering the valise, Poe notes (in a 14 July 1849 letter to Maria Clemm) that the lectures were taken but makes no mention of the portrait. Although Michael Deas questions the authenticity of the miniature of Elizabeth Poe now in the Philadelphia Free Public Library, Gimbel Collection, he accepts that Poe owned a portrait of his mother painted by Thomas Sully (Portraits, 185, notes 114 and 117).

21. See Rose and Savoye, Such Friends As These. It is clear that in addition to keeping his list of subscribers, Poe also used this book as a supply for blank paper when the need arose. It is also possible, of course, that Poe kept a separate list on this occasion.

22. Bishop Fitzgerald’s information on Poe is given by Harrison (1:322). Poe to Mrs. Clemm, 18 September 1849 (see Ostrom 2:461).

23. The boot hooks and the trunk are shown in a photograph in Allen (facing 2:839).

24. See Moran, Defense of Poe, 1885 (64). In her 1904 “Reminiscences,” Weiss states, “on the authority of Dr. Carter, . . . . he [Poe] did not send for his baggage at the Swan, and this explains a point which has been much commented upon by his biographers, who assert that his baggage was stolen from him in Baltimore. It was, after his death, forwarded to Mrs. Clemm in New York by Mr. John Mackenzie” (445). Woodberry makes a similar error, but substitutes John Thompson for John Mackenzie — “He . . . . had left his trunk and baggage at the hotel” (2:341) — and elaborates in the notes that in writing to Griswold, Neilson Poe was “referring to Poe’s trunk, which had been forwarded from Richmond by Thompson” (2:450-451). Allen says, “The key to his trunk was found in his ­[page 32:] clothes, but he could not remember what had become of the trunk. He seems to have left it at the Old Swan Tavern in Richmond” (2:845). Thompson, obviously, would not have given up control of the trunk if he had been able to obtain possession of it. Even if the trunk had been in Richmond, there was no reason to send it to Baltimore when Mrs. Clemm was in New York. Neilson was involved purely because he happened to live in the town where Poe died and where the trunk was found. A few decades after Poe’s death, only Dr. Moran remained alive to tell of the search for the trunk, and he openly reveled in the telling of the tale. In 1875, Moran had already given a slightly different story: “I had meantime learned from him [Poe], and afterward from the porter at the hotel on Pratt Street, then Bradshaw’s, now called Maltby House, that he arrived there on the evening of the 5th . . . . . He had left his trunk at the hotel in Baltimore. . . . . . A short time before his death I received his trunk from the hotel, as per order, and put it in the care of Mr. Neilson Poe, for his mother-in-law, Mrs. Maria Clemm” (Moran, “Official Memorandum,”1875). Different yet again is Dr. Moran’s earliest comment, in a 15 November 1849 letter to Mrs. Clemm: “[Poe’s] answers where 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” (from a facsimile of the letter in Quinn and Hart, 32-34). A 21 December 1877 letter from Moran is quoted in American Book Prices Current, 1932 (764, bottom): “I can give you the points of fact as given to me by the lamented poet [Edgar Allan Poe], and as I have not seen the remarks or language of Neilson Poe in print or any where, I should be glad to have the reference so that I may possess myself of it at once. I am anxious to hear from Mr. N. Poe. He took possession of the Poe’s trunk containing his manuscripts and other effects.”

25. N. H. Morison to J. H. Ingram, 27 November 1874, reprinted in Miller, Building Poe Biography (44-46).

26. Maria Clemm to John J. Moran, 2 March 1850. The MS is in Philadelphia Free Public Library, Gimbel Collection). In printing this letter in his 1885 Defense of Poe (16-17), Moran makes a small but significant change, the original “a letter from Neilson Poe saying that he had in his possession my son’s trunk” becomes “a letter from Neilson Poe saying that you had placed in his possession my son’s trunk.” Moran’s alteration specifically credits him with something which Mrs. Clemm did not do herself.  About 1886, William Hand Browne, Ingram’s chief contact in Baltimore, concluded that “Dr. Moran’s account, of ­[page 33:] the last moments of Poe, is largely apocryphal. His memory was indistinct and he drew upon his imagination.” (Browne’s comment is written in his own hand on page 428 of his copy of Ingram’s one-volume edition of Poe’s biography, in the collection of Jeffrey A. Savoye.) For a more extended comment on Moran’s general unreliability, see Bandy. For R. W. Griswold to J. R. Thompson, 25 October 1849, see footnote 5. For N. Poe to R. W. Griswold, 1 November 1849, see footnote 9.

27. Neilson Poe married Josephine Emily Clemm (1808-1889) on 30 November 30 1831. She and Virginia shared the same father, William Clemm, Jr. (1779-1826), but had different mothers. William Clemm married Harriet Poe (1785-1815) on 1 May 1840. After Harriet’s death, he married Maria Poe (1790-1871), Harriet’s cousin, on 13 July 1817 (see The Poe Log, xx).

28. Mabbott’s comment is from Poems, 1:581. Whitty and Rindfleish make a similar observation in Thompson, The Genius and Character of EAP (54). An article detailing the role of these volumes in the evolution of Griswold’s edition is in preparation.

29. R. W. Griswold to J. R. Thompson, 19 February 1850, quoted in Thompson, The Genius and Character of EAP (55). The MS of Griswold’s letter is in the New York Public Library, Berg collection. Griswold is being somewhat duplicitous here since, as I have already documented, he must have had Poe’s copy of The Raven and Other Poems. Note that Griswold, while not admitting that he possesses the books, mentions but does not ask about them. He is no longer interested in these books — his focus is on the lectures. Griswold’s caution may be partly explained by Thompson’s 11 November 1849 letter to Griswold: “By the way, I have a lien on a copy of his ‘Tales & Poems,’ which contained full marginal notes & corrections in his own hand-writing. He was to give it to me, after a new edition had been published. If it has come into your hands, you will oblige me by sending it to me, after your labors are concluded. Pray recollect this” (excerpted in Quinn 657, from the MS in the Gratz collection of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania). For the lectures, see note 5.

30. “The Poetic Principle” appeared in Sartain’s Magazine, October 1850, 7:231-239, as “From the unpublished manuscript.” In his Reminiscences of a Very Old Man, Sartain says, “Poe received thirty dollars for his article on The ­[page 34:] Poetic Principle “ (220). The amount may be correct, but clearly Sartain in mistaken in saying that Poe received any payment directly. Printing “The Poetic Principle” in The Home Journal, 31 August 1850, p. 1 cols. 1-6, Willis introduces the text: “From advance sheets of the new volume by Mr. Poe, in the press of Mr. Redfield, we present the following admirable essay embodying the critic’s theory of poetry. It appropriately introduces his discussions of the individual merit of many of our prominent authors. This concluding volume of Poe’s works, making some six hundred pages, is entitled ‘The Literati,’ and will be published in about three weeks.” Bayard Taylor’s 29 July 1850 letter to G. R. Graham was printed by Wermuth (78). The MS is at the University of Virginia. The relevant portion reads: “Would you like to have for your October number, an unpublished article by Poe, on ‘The Poetic Principle?’ I can get it for you. It will make about 6 pages of the Magazine; $50 are asked for it, for the benefit of Mrs. Clemm. I have the proof-sheets of it (the book will appear about the middle of October) and will send them if you want the article and the terms suit you.” In printing their Census of First Editions and Source Materials by EAP, Charles Heartman and Kenneth Rede list a fragment of “The Poetic Principle” as being in the collection of Johns Hopkins University (3:11), but this item is actually from Poe’s article “Notes Upon English Verse.”

31. The MS for the 29 April 1850 letter from Mrs. Clemm to Griswold is in the Boston Public Library, Griswold Collection (Gris. 194), printed in full by Quinn (668). Rosalie Poe to R. W. Griswold, 20 August 1850 (quoted in Bangs & Co. auction catalog, 11 April 1896, item 106). The MS is in the Free Library of Philadelphia, Gimbel Collection. Mabbott states: “she [Rosalie] was unable to put up the money required to take out letters of administration in Virginia” (“Annals,” Poems, 1:571). Rosalie’s “friend” was obviously J. R. Thompson.

32. A picture of the trunk appears in Stanard, facing page 182, with the longer description on page 179. Also stated on page 179, in a footnote, is the comment: “The whereabouts of the trunk was traced and its history verified by Mr. J. H. Whitty. It was procured by Mrs. Archer Jones who, together with her husband, founded the Edgar Allan Poe Shrine.” A similar photograph appears in Phillips (2:1565).

33. Silverman (439), for example, speculates that Mrs. Clemm received the trunk through Griswold. For an earlier statement, from Mrs. Weiss, see note 24. Allen says only that “Its subsequent history is interesting,” referring in a footnote to ­[page 35:] Mrs. Stanard’s account (2:839, footnote 922). Walsh (158), while remaining somewhat dubious about the precise provenance of the trunk, summarizes: “Though the actual trunk when found had first been sent to Mrs. Clemm in Lowell in 1850, it is possible that it later come into Rosalie’s possession.” Quinn is more cautious, stating only that “the actual transit of the trunk is still a matter of dispute” (656, footnote 29). Concerning Neilson’s inheritance, Phillips notes, “By her [Mrs. Clemm’s] last request her papers and records went to her cousin, Judge Neilson Poe. . . . .” (2:1591). Most of the information about Rosalie is given by Weiss in The Home Life of Poe (212-218).

34. The implication that these trunks are the same is first made in Stanard (179).

35. Woodberry (2:343); Allen (2:845); Phillips (2:1502); Quinn (639). Gill’s biography appeared too early to make use of Mrs. Weiss’s article, although he had apparently made liberal use of material she sent him from the book she had hoped to prepare. Ingram, in his 2-volume biography of 1880, merely quotes the story from Mrs. Weiss’s article. Although Dr. Carter appears in Woodberry’s 1885 biography, there is no mention of the cane. The description of Poe’s visit to Dr. Carter’s office is given by Woodberry (2:341-342). Although usually careful with his documentation, Allen gives no source for this information, nor does he give a source a few pages earlier: “Walking along Broad Street on his way back from Mrs. Shelton’s, he stopped in at Dr. John Carter’s office where he read the newspaper and left, taking, by mistake, the doctor’s Malacca cane and leaving his own” (2:840). Just before this paragraph, Allen mentions that “during the afternoon, Miss Susan Talley was visited by Rosalie, bearing a note from Poe in which he enclosed the final lines For Annie,” which is clearly from Mrs. Weiss, who was Susan Talley before she married. A general footnote states “J. H. Whitty prints this information in his Memoir to the Complete Poems,” but this would account only for the name of Blakely, and his recollection was that Poe was “quite sober.” On page 2:832 a footnote does give a reference to Weiss’s Scribner’s article, which must be Allen’s source. Perhaps most curious is the fact that Phillips, relating the story of the cane (2:1494), directly quotes Dr. Carter without so much as a footnote. Other footnotes credit Mrs. Weiss’s article from Scribner’s, and her 1907 book, but no mention is made of Dr. Carter’s article, which must be the source of the quote since it is not given by Weiss. Quinn repeats the story on page 636, mentioning Weiss’s Scribner’s article, but two pages later states that Poe was still grasping the cane, without attributing a specific source. The various sources listed by Quinn in footnote 53 ­[page 36:] on page 639 do not refer to the articles by Mrs. Weiss or Dr. Carter. Mrs. Weiss, however, is credited in footnote 16 on page 622, but with the very unflattering comment that her information, “except where based on her own first-hand knowledge,” is “untrustworthy” and that she was “incapable of judging evidence.”

36. Woodberry (2:343); Mabbott, Poems (1:569, footnote 8); Phillips (2:1495).

37. Weiss, “The Last Days of EAP” (716, column 2).

38. Carter (565-566). I am indebted for my own awareness of Dr. Carter’s article to Dwight Thomas and David K. Jackson, who note it in the bibliography of their invaluable The Poe Log (857). Although Weiss and Carter record the name as “Saddler’s,” Whitty and most subsequent biographers give “Sadler’s.”

39. I am grateful to Chris Semtner of the Poe Foundation for information about Poe’s cane. This cane was not the only one Poe had owned. In his Life of Poe, T. H. Chivers comments: “When I first became acquainted with him [about 1845], he used to carray [sic ] a crooked-headed hickory walking-cane in his hand whenever we went out to walk. As he did not have this cane the very first time that we went out togather [sic ] — but purchased it immediately afterwards — I presumed, at the time, that he had gotten it because I had one — as it was precisely like mine. This he flourished, as he walked, with considerable grace — particularly so when compared to a man who had never been in the habit of carrying a cane” (Davis, 53-54). Dr. Carter’s cane is not currently located, but I presume that it passed down through the same chain of owners. It may still be held by descendants. Malacca was the preferred material for the shaft of canes and, being hollow, was ideal for hiding a sword. The use of bamboo, malacca, rattan, and similar materials explains the origin of the term “cane” for such walking sticks. Dr. Carter was careful to make this distinction, although the terms have long been used interchangeably. Some canes were very plain, others elaborately carved. Ornamental devices included a wide range of contrasting woods, ivory, horn, and metal, with silver being a favorite. The sword portion, usually measuring about 27 inches in length, was typically steel, either a flat blade or more commonly triangular and foil-like. A few had blades made of wood rather than steel. The usual mechanism for locking the blade in place was a ringed collar at the base of the handle, twisted into a groove in the top of the shaft, reinforced with metal in the better models. Assuming that one was able to work the locking mechanism and to pull the blade from the shaft, a sword cane could prove a ­[page 37:] formidable weapon in the right hands. Even canes without the added potential of hidden weapons were used for self-defense (see Barton-Wright). Most people, of course, hoped that merely having such a weapon would prevent the need to actually use it. For a number of examples of sword canes and the use of walking sticks for defense, as well as a wide variety of walking sticks of a more benign sort, see Snyder (216-236) and Dike (347-349).

40. Weiss, Home Life of Poe (207).

41. Mrs. Weiss’s source is Mr. Saddler, the proprietor of the restaurant. Whitty identifies the two companions as “J. M. Blakley and other friends” (lxxxiii). In Midnight Dreary (176), Walsh also concludes that Dr. Carter’s statement has been misinterpreted, unfortunately relating this widely misunderstood information only in a footnote and mistakenly attributing the error to Woodberry. Although made independently, Walsh’s statement is the earliest record of this observation to have been documented in print, and therefore must be acknowledged.

42. Poe to Mrs. Clemm, 10 September 1849: “[Elmira pro]poses for me to go, immediately after the marriage, to one of her houses — the one she is in now — and send for you to join us at once — there we will remain, only for the present, until we can make what other arrangements we please. So hold yourself in readiness as well as you can, my own darling mother — but do not sell off or anything of that kind yet, if you can avoid it — for ‘there is many a slip between the cup & the lip’ — & I confess that my heart sinks at the idea of this marriage. I think, however, that it will certainly take place & that immediately.” The MS is in Fales Library, Robins Collection, NYU. In his final letter to Mrs. Clemm, 18 September 1849, Poe repeats his plan to marry Mrs. Shelton: “If possible I will get married before I start — but there is no telling” (see Ostrom 2:461).

43. Snodgrass (284), and Moran, Defense of Poe (59). The series of recollections by Snodgrass and Moran may demonstrate a troubling secret rarely admitted by biographers. Even though both of these men are first-hand witnesses and are theoretically relating independent recollections, their accounts suggest an interesting example of sources being informed by other sources. In writing his account for Beadle’s Monthly, Snodgrass recounts the story of Moran asking Poe about friends, with Poe replying “my best friend would be he who would take a pistol and blow out these d — d wretched brains!”(285). Snodgrass was not actually ­[page 38:] present for this exchange, of course, and Griswold’s “Memoir” of Poe says little more than that he was taken to the hospital and died there. Clearly, Snodgrass is relying on some other source, presumably Dr. Moran, whom Snodgrass never mentions by name but flatteringly describes as the hospital’s “intelligent and kindly resident physician.” Although he is somewhat embellishing the quotation, and alters the context, it is essentially the same as the account given in Dr. Moran’s letter to Mrs. Clemm. It is possible that Snodgrass had direct contact with Moran, but it seems just as likely that he had access to or a copy of Moran’s letter to Mrs. Clemm, and that he elaborated in the matter of details. Use of this letter might also explain Snodgrass’s error of Poe being found on November 1 rather than October 3. Moran’s letter is dated 15 November 1849 and refers to Mrs. Clemm’s letter of “the 9th Inst.” It is unclear if Dr. Moran’s account is one of “the numerous and strangely contradictory memoirs of Mr. Poe that I have preserved” mentioned by Snodgrass, of which he further notes that in writing the article “there lies one before me” (284). If this letter is a source for Snodgrass, he failed to realize the amount of time that had passed between Poe’s death and Dr. Moran’s delayed communication with Mrs. Clemm. The evolving nature of Moran’s story is better documented, and more obvious to anyone attempting an evaluation of these sources. In his 1875 “Official Memoranda of the Death of Edgar Allan Poe,” Moran gives no description of Poe’s clothing, but his 1885 book suddenly offers an exceedingly detailed account, which agrees with Snodgrass to a degree which makes one suspect that Moran had obtained a copy of the Beadle’s Monthly article. It may have been brought to his attention as a result of his lecture tour (beginning in the late 1870s) on Poe’s final days.

Works Cited:

[Given the bibliographical complexities involved with his issues, we asked Mr. Savoye, who was kind enough to comply, to provide the list of citations belowThe Editors.]

Allen, Hervey. Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe. 2 vols. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1926; reprinted in 1927. [Beginning in 1934, one volume editions have the same contents but follow different pagination.]

Bandy, William T. “Dr. Moran and the Poe-Reynolds Myth.” Myths and Reality. Edited by Benjamin F. Fisher. Baltimore: The Edgar Allan Poe Society of ­[page 39:] Baltimore, 1987.

Bangs & Co. Auction catalog. 11 April 1896.

Barton-Wright, Edward William. “Self-defence with a Walking-stick: The Different Methods of Defending Oneself with a Walking-Stick or Umbrella when Attacked under Unequal Conditions.” Pearson’s Magazine (January and February 1901): 35-44 and 130-139.

Carter, Dr. John F. “Edgar Poe’s Last Night in Richmond.” Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine 70 (November 1902): 562-566.

Davis, Richard Beale, ed. Chivers’ Life of Poe. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1952.

Deas, Michael. Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe. Charlottesville: U P. of Virginia, 1989.

Dike, Catherine, Canes in the United States: Illustrated Mementoes of American History, 1607-1953 (Ladue, MO: Cane Curios Press, 1994; second edition, Louisville: Minerva Books, 2003).

Harrison, James A. The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. 17 vols. New York: T. Y Crowell, 1902. [Volumes I and XVII, were reprinted, respectively as volumes I and II of Life and Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, 1903, with the same pagination].

Heartman, Charles and Kenneth Rede. Census of First Editions and Source Materials by Edgar Allan Poe in American Collections. 3 vols. Metuchen, NJ: American Book Collector, 1932. [Volume 3 was printed in a smaller run than volumes 1-2 and was chiefly distributed to libraries and collectors owning at least one item listed.]

Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, ed. The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Volumes II-III: Tales and Sketches. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1978. Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, ed. The Raven and Other Poems. New York: Facsimile Text Society, 1942. ­[page 40:]

Miller, John Carl. Building Poe Biography. Baton Rouge: Lousiana State UP, 1977.

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This article is reprinted here with the permission of the author. A few minor typographical errors have been silently corrected.

In a review of Too Much Moran: Respecting the Death of Edgar Poe, a relevant note by the author of the present article appears:

”Since my article on ‘Poe’s Wandering Trunk . . .’ appeared in print, the University of Texas has located the copy of Irish Melodies Poe left in the office of John Carter. The cover of this book is reproduced in Powell’s illustrations, and what may be the name of the ship Poe intended to take, written in pen on the cover, is incorporated into Powell’s argument.” (E. A. Poe Review, Vol. XI, no. 2, Fall 2010, p. 142.)


[S:1 - EAPR, 2004] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Two Biographical Digressions (J. A. Savoye)