Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “Landor's Cottage,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. III: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 1325-1343 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 1325, continued:]

LANDOR’S COTTAGE

This charming description of a beautiful little home in the country has in it a pervading element of poetic autobiography. It is laid in a part of our country that Poe knew well, for he was living amidst the scenery that inspired the many artists of the Hudson River School. In the summer of 1848 he apparently made a tour of one or two of the Hudson River counties, about which he wanted [page 1326:] to write an account with the hope that his friend Eli Bowen, the Pennsylvania editor, might publish it.* The house itself is simply Poe’s own Fordham cottage, idealized only a little for his glowing word picture.

A brief description of the residence in 1846, as a visitor recalled it, may be welcome here, since the cottage was removed from its original site early in the present century. Mrs. Mary Gove Nichols found Poe, Virginia, and Mrs. Clemm

living in a little cottage at the top of a hill. There was an acre or two of greensward, fenced in about the house, as smooth as velvet and as clean as the best kept carpet. There were some grand old cherry-trees in the yard, that threw a massive shade around them. The house had three rooms — a kitchen, a sitting-room, and a bed-chamber over the sitting-room. There was a piazza in front of the house that was a lovely place to sit in summer . . . There was no cultivation, no flowers — nothing but the smooth greensward and the majestic trees . . . The floor of the kitchen was white as wheaten flour. A table, a chair, and a little stove that it contained seemed to furnish it completely. The sitting-room floor was laid with check matting; four chairs, a light stand, and a hanging book-shelf completed its furniture.

Poe once said to Mrs. Whitman that he intended writing a pendant to “The Domain of Arnheim” in which the most charming effects should be attained by artistic combinations of familiar and unvalued materials.‡ His idea for this sequel began to take shape when in his long letter of October 18, 1848 to his fiancée he wrote:

I suffered my imagination to stray with you, and with the few who love us both, to the banks of some quiet river, in some lovely valley of our land. Here, not too far secluded from the world, we exercised a taste controlled by no conventionalities, but the sworn slave of a Natural Art, in the building for ourselves a cottage which no human being could ever pass without an ejaculation of wonder at its strange, wierd, and incomprehensible yet most simple beauty. Oh, the sweet and gorgeous, but not often rare flowers in which we half buried it! — the grandeur [page 1327:] of the little — distant magnolias and tulip-trees which stood guarding it — the luxurious velvet of its lawn — the lustre of the rivulet that ran by the very door — the tasteful yet quiet comfort of the interior — the music — the books — the unostentatious pictures — and, above all, the love — the love that threw an unfading glory over the whole! — All Helen! my heart is, indeed, breaking and I must now put an end to these divine dreams.§

Instead of putting an end to the dreams, however, he was soon at work on an expanded version. From its setting he excluded magnolia trees, none of which grew north of Philadelphia in his day.

About January 21, 1849, Poe, who tended to report promptly on such matters to his friend Mrs. Charles Richmond, of Lowell and Westford, Massachusetts, whom he called “Annie,” wrote to her that “Landor’s Cottage” was finished “not long ago,” with “something about Annie in it,”* and had been turned in to Israel Post’s New York American Metropolitan Magazine. Publication was expected in its third number, that for March. But the magazine collapsed with its second number, and on March 23, Poe wrote Annie that the tale was “returned upon my hands unprinted.” In a letter sent to the same lady in April or May, Poe wrote that the Boston Flag of Our Union had it. That paper paid in advance, but was dilatory in printing “Landor’s Cottage,” which, although not the latest story he wrote, was the last to appear in Poe’s lifetime.

In the last paragraph of “Landor’s Cottage” as first published, Poe mentioned that he had some idea of writing a sequel. It is practically sure that he did not compose it, but there is some reason to believe he made some plans for it. During his last summer he often visited Duncan Lodge, the home of the Mackenzie family, with whom his sister Rosalie resided, in Richmond, Virginia. Discussing Poe’s project of his magazine The Stylus, Susan Archer Talley Weiss writes that “he even commenced arranging a Table of Contents for the first number of the magazine; and Mrs. [William] [page 1328:] Mackenzie told me how he one morning spent an hour in her room taking from her information, notes and data for an article which he intended to appear in one of its earliest numbers.” A discussion of the arrangement of furniture and flowers in a larger home than the two described in “Philosophy of Furniture” and “Landor’s Cottage” might well have fitted into a sequel.

TEXTS

(A) Boston Flag of Our Union for June 9, 1849; (B) Works (1850), I, 404-416.

Griswold’s version (B) is followed, although it, like the first printing, is marred by misprints. The two changes in the final paragraph may have been made by Griswold, the first to fit the piece into a book publication, the second because it referred to a “possible” sequel that the author did not write. If the literary executor made these changes, I think he was performing his proper function.

LANDOR’S COTTAGE.   [B]   [[n]]

A PENDANT TO “THE DOMAIN OF ARNHEIM.”

DURING a pedestrian tour last summer, through one or two of the river counties of New York, I found myself, as the day declined, somewhat embarrassed about the road I was pursuing.(1) The land undulated very remarkably; and my path, for the last hour, had wound about and about so confusedly, in its effort to keep in the valleys, that I no longer knew in what direction lay the sweet village of B————, where I had determined to stop for the night.(2) The sun had scarcely shone — strictly speaking — during the day, which, nevertheless, had been unpleasantly warm. A smoky mist, resembling that of the Indian summer, enveloped all things, and, of course, added to my uncertainty. Not that I cared much about the matter. If I did not hit upon the village before sunset, or even before dark, it was more than possible that a little Dutch farmhouse, or something of that kind, would soon make its appearance — although, in fact, the neighborhood (perhaps on account of being [page 1329:] more picturesque than fertile) was very sparsely inhabited.{a} At all events, with my knapsack for a pillow, and my hound as a sentry, a bivouac in the open air was just the thing which would have amused me. I sauntered on, therefore, quite at ease — Ponto(3) taking charge of my gun — until at length, just as I had begun to consider whether the numerous little glades that led hither and thither were intended to be paths at all. I was conducted by one of the most promising of them into an unquestionable carriage-track. There could be no mistaking it. The traces of light wheels were evident; and although the tall shrubberies and overgrown undergrowth met overhead, there was no obstruction whatever below, even to the passage of a Virginian mountain wagon — the most aspiring vehicle, I take it, of its kind.(4) The road, however, except in being open through the wood — if wood be not too weighty a name for such an assemblage of light trees — and except in the particulars of evident wheel-tracks — bore no resemblance to any road I had before seen. The tracks of which I speak were but faintly perceptible — having been impressed upon the firm, yet pleasantly moist surface of — what looked more like green Genoese velvet than anything else.(5) It was grass, clearly — but grass such as we seldom see out of England — so short, so thick, so even, and so vivid in color. Not a single impediment lay in the wheel-route — not even a chip or dead twig. The stones that once obstructed the way had been carefully placed — not thrown — along the sides of the lane, so as to define its boundaries at bottom with a kind of half-precise, half-negligent, and wholly picturesque definition. Clumps of wild flowers grew everywhere, luxuriantly, in the interspaces.

What to make of all this, of course I knew not. Here was art undoubtedly — that did not surprise me — all roads, in the ordinary sense, are works of art; nor can I say that there was much to wonder at in the mere excess of art manifested; all that seemed to have been done, might have been done here — with such natural “capabilities” (as they have it in the books on Landscape Gardening) — with very little labor and expense.(6) No; it was not the amount but the character of the art which caused me to take a seat on one of the blossomy [page 1330:] stones and gaze up and down this fairy-like avenue for half an hour or more in bewildered admiration. One thing became more and more evident the longer I gazed: an artist, and one with a most scrupulous eye for form, had superintended all these arrangements. The greatest care had been taken to preserve a due medium between the neat and graceful on the one hand, and the pittoresque, in the true sense of the Italian term,(7) on the other. There were few straight, and no long uninterrupted lines. The same effect of curvature or of color, appeared twice, usually, but not oftener, at any one point of view. Everywhere was variety in uniformity. It was a piece of “composition,” in which the most fastidiously critical taste could scarcely have suggested an emendation.

I had turned to the right as I entered this road, and now, arising, I continued in the same direction. The path was so serpentine, that at no moment could I trace its course for more than two or three paces in advance. Its character did not undergo any material change.

Presently the murmur of water fell gently upon my ear — and in a few moments afterwards, as I turned with the road somewhat more abruptly than hitherto, I became aware that a building of some kind lay at the foot of a gentle declivity just before me. I could see nothing distinctly on account of the mist which occupied all the little valley below. A gentle breeze, however, now arose, as the sun was about descending; and while I remained standing on the brow of the slope, the fog gradually became dissipated into wreaths, and so floated{b} over the scene.

As it came fully into view — thus gradually as I describe it — piece by piece, here a tree, there a glimpse of water, and here again the summit of a chimney, I could scarcely help fancying that the whole was one of the ingenious illusions sometimes exhibited under the name of “vanishing{c} pictures.”(8)

By the time, however, that the fog had thoroughly disappeared, the sun had made its way down behind the gentle hills, and thence, as if with a slight chassez to the south, had come again fully into sight; glaring with a purplish lustre through a chasm that entered the valley from the west. Suddenly, therefore — and as if by the [page 1331:] hand of magic — this whole valley and everything in it became brilliantly visible.

The first coup d’œil, as the sun slid into the position described, impressed me very much as I have been impressed when a boy, by the concluding scene of some well-arranged theatrical spectacle or melodrama. Not even the monstrosity of color was wanting; for the sunlight came out through the chasm, tinted all orange and purple; while the vivid green of the grass in the valley was reflected more or less upon all objects, from the curtain of vapor that still hung overhead, as if loth to take its total departure from a scene so enchantingly beautiful.

The little vale into which I thus peered down from under the fog-canopy, could not have been more than four hundred yards long; while in breadth it varied from fifty to one hundred and fifty, or perhaps two hundred. It was most narrow at its northern extremity, opening out as it tended southwardly, but with no very precise regularity. The widest portion was within eighty yards of the southern extreme. The slopes which encompassed the vale could not fairly be called hills, unless at their northern face. Here a precipitous ledge of granite arose to a height of some ninety feet; and, as I have mentioned, the valley at this point was not more than fifty feet wide; but as the visiter proceeded southwardly from this cliff, he found on his right hand and on his left, declivities at once less high, less precipitous, and less rocky. All, in a word, sloped and softened to the south; and yet the whole vale was engirdled by eminences, more or less high, except at two points. One of these I have already spoken of. It lay considerably to the north of west, and was where the setting sun made its way, as I have before described, into the amphitheatre, through a cleanly cut natural cleft in the granite embankment: this fissure might have been ten yards wide at its widest point, so far as the eye could trace it. It seemed to lead up, up, like a natural causeway, into the recesses of unexplored mountains and forests. The other opening was directly at the southern end of the vale. Here, generally, the slopes were nothing more than gentle inclinations, extending from east to west about one hundred and fifty yards. In the middle of this extent was a depression, level with the ordinary floor of the valley. As regards vegetation, as well as in [page 1332:] respect to every thing else, the scene softened and sloped to the south. To the north — on the craggy precipice — a few paces from the verge — upsprang the magnificent trunks of numerous hickories, black walnuts, and chestnuts, interspersed with occasional oak; and the strong lateral branches thrown out by the walnuts especially, spread far over the edge of the cliff. Proceeding southwardly, the explorer saw, at first, the same class of trees, but less and less lofty and Salvatorish in character;(9) then he saw the gentler elm, succeeded by the sassafras and locust — these again by the softer linden, redbud, catalpa, and maple — these yet again by still more graceful and more modest varieties. The whole face of the southern declivity was covered with wild shrubbery alone — an occasional silver willow or white poplar excepted. In the bottom of the valley itself — (for it must be borne in mind that the vegetation hitherto mentioned grew only on the cliffs or hill-sides) — were to be seen three insulated trees. One was an elm of fine size and exquisite form: it stood guard over the southern gate of the vale. Another was a hickory, much larger than the elm, and altogether a much finer tree, although both were exceedingly beautiful: it seemed to have taken charge of the north-western entrance, springing from a group of rocks in the very jaws of the ravine, and throwing its graceful body, at an angle of nearly forty-five degrees, far out into the sunshine of the amphitheatre. About thirty yards east of this tree stood, however, the pride of the valley, and beyond all question the most magnificent tree I have ever seen, unless, perhaps, among the cypresses of the Itchiatuckanee.(10) It was a triple-stemmed tulip tree — the Liriodendron Tulipiferum — one of the natural order of magnolias.(11) Its three trunks separated from the parent at about three feet from the soil, and diverging very slightly and gradually, were not more than four feet apart at the point where the largest stem shot out into foliage: this was at an elevation of about eighty feet. The whole height of the principal division was one hundred and twenty feet. Nothing can surpass in beauty the form, or the glossy, vivid green of the leaves of the tulip tree. In the present instance they were fully eight inches wide; but their glory was altogether eclipsed by the gorgeous splendor of the profuse blossoms. Conceive, closely congregated, a million of the largest and most resplendent tulips! Only thus can [page 1333:] the reader get any idea of the picture I would convey. And then the stately grace of the clean, delicately-granulated columnar stems, the largest four feet in diameter, at twenty from the ground. The innumerable blossoms, mingling with those of other trees scarcely less beautiful, although infinitely less majestic, filled the valley with more than Arabian perfumes.(12)

The general floor of the amphitheatre was grass of the same character as that I had found in the road: if anything, more deliciously soft, thick, velvety, and miraculously green. It was hard to conceive how all this beauty had been attained.

I have spoken of the two openings into the vale. From the one to the north-west issued a rivulet, which came, gently murmuring and slightly foaming, down the ravine, until it dashed against the group of rocks out of which sprang the insulated hickory. Here, after encircling the tree, it passed on a little to the north of east, leaving the tulip tree some twenty feet to the south, and making no decided alteration in its course until it came near the midway between the eastern and western boundaries of the valley. At this point, after a series of sweeps, it turned off at right angles and pursued a generally southern direction — meandering as it went — until it became lost in a small lake of irregular figure (although roughly oval), that lay gleaming near the lower extremity of the vale. This lakelet was, perhaps, a hundred yards in diameter at its widest part. No crystal could be clearer than its waters. Its bottom, which could be distinctly seen, consisted altogether of pebbles brilliantly white. Its banks, of the emerald grass already described, rounded, rather than sloped, off into the clear heaven below; and so clear was this heaven, so perfectly, at times, did it reflect all objects above it, that where the true bank ended and where the mimic one commenced, it was a point of no little difficulty to determine.(13) The trout, and some other varieties of fish, with which this pond seemed to be almost inconveniently crowded, had all the appearance of veritable flying-fish. It was almost impossible to believe that they were not absolutely suspended in the air. A light birch canoe that lay placidly on the water, was reflected in its minutest fibres with a fidelity unsurpassed by the most exquisitely polished mirror, A small island, fairly laughing with flowers in full bloom, and affording little more space than [page 1334:] just enough for a picturesque little building, seemingly a fowl-house — arose from the lake not far from its northern shore — to which it was connected by means of an inconceivably light-looking and yet very primitive bridge. It was formed of a single, broad and thick plank of the tulip wood. This was forty feet long, and spanned the interval between shore and shore with a slight but very perceptible arch, preventing all oscillation. From the southern extreme of the lake issued a continuation of the rivulet, which, after meandering for, perhaps, thirty yards, finally passed through the “depression” (already described) in the middle of the southern declivity, and tumbling down a sheer precipice of a hundred feet, made its devious and unnoticed way to the Hudson.

The lake was deep — at some points thirty feet — but the rivulet seldom exceeded three, while its greatest width was about eight. Its bottom and banks were as those of the pond — if a defect could have been attributed to them, in point of picturesqueness, it was that of excessive neatness.

The expanse of the green turf was relieved, here and there, by an occasional showy shrub, such as the hydrangea, or the common snow-ball, or the aromatic seringa; or, more frequently, by a clump of geraniums blossoming gorgeously in great varieties. These latter grew in pots which were carefully buried in the soil, so as to give the plants the appearance of being indigenous. Besides all this, the lawn’s velvet was exquisitely spotted with sheep — a considerable flock of which roamed about the vale, in company with three tamed deer, and a vast number of brilliantly-plumed ducks. A very large mastiff seemed to be in vigilant attendance upon these animals, each and all.

Along the eastern and western cliffs — where, towards the upper portion of the amphitheatre, the boundaries were more or less precipitous — grew ivy in great profusion — so that only here and there could even a glimpse of the naked rock be obtained. The northern precipice, in like manner, was almost entirely clothed by grapevines of rare luxuriance; some springing from the soil at the base of the cliff, and others from ledges on its face.

The slight elevation which formed the lower boundary of this little domain, was crowned by a neat stone wall, of sufficient height [page 1335:] to prevent the escape of the deer. Nothing of the fence kind was observable elsewhere; for nowhere else was an artificial enclosure needed: — any stray sheep, for example, which should attempt to make its way out of the vale by means of the ravine, would find its progress arrested, after a few yards’ advance, by the precipitous ledge of rock over which tumbled the cascade that had arrested my attention as I first drew near the domain. In short, the only ingress or egress was through a gate{d} occupying a rocky pass in the road, a few paces below the point at which I stopped to reconnoitre the scene.

I have described the brook as meandering very irregularly through the whole of its course. Its two general directions, as I have said, were first from west to east, and then from north to south. At the turn, the stream, sweeping backwards, made an almost circular loop, so as to form a peninsula which was very nearly an island, and which included about the sixteenth of an acre. On this peninsula stood a dwelling-house — and when I say that this house, like the infernal terrace seen by Vathek, “était{e} d’une architecture inconnue daps les annales de la terre,”(14) I mean, merely, that its tout ensemble struck me with the keenest sense of combined novelty and propriety — in a word, of poetry — (for, than in the words just employed, I could scarcely give, of poetry in the abstract, a more rigorous definition) — and I do not mean that the merely outré{f} was perceptible in any respect.

In fact, nothing could well be more simple — more utterly unpretending than this cottage. Its marvellous effect lay altogether in its artistic arrangement as a picture.(15) I could have fancied, while I looked at it, that some eminent landscape-painter had built it with his brush.

The point of view from which I first saw the valley, was not altogether, although it was nearly, the best point from which to survey{g} the house. I will therefore describe it as I afterwards saw it — from a position on the stone wall at the southern extreme of the amphitheatre.

The main building was about twenty-four feet long and sixteen [page 1336:] broad — certainly not more. Its total height, from the ground to the apex of the roof, could not have exceeded eighteen feet.(16) To the west end of this structure was attached one about a third smaller in all its proportions: — the line of its front standing back about two yards from that of the larger house; and the line of its roof, of course, being considerably depressed below that of the roof adjoining. At right angles to these buildings, and from the rear of the main one — not exactly in the middle — extended a third compartment, very small — being, in general, one third less than the western wing. The roofs of the two larger were very steep — sweeping down from the ridge-beam with a long concave curve, and extending at least four feet beyond the walls in front, so as to form the roofs of two piazzas. These latter roofs, of course, needed no support; but as they had the air of needing it, slight and perfectly plain pillars were inserted at the corners alone. The roof of the northern wing was merely an extension of a portion of the main roof. Between the chief building and western wing arose a very tall and rather slender square chimney of hard Dutch bricks, alternately black and red: — a slight cornice of projecting bricks at the top. Over the gables, the roofs also projected very much: — in the main building about four feet to the east and two to the west. The principal door was not exactly in the main division, being a little to the east — while the two windows were to the west. These latter did not extend to the floor, but were much longer and narrower than usual — they had single shutters like doors — the panes were of lozenge form, but quite large. The door itself had its upper half of glass, also in lozenge pans — a moveable shutter secured it at night. The door to the west wing was in its gable, and quite simple — a single window looked out to the south. There was no external door to the north wing, and it, also, had only one window to the east.

The blank wall of the eastern gable was relieved by stairs (with a balustrade) running diagonally across it — the ascent being from the south. Under cover of the widely projecting eave these steps gave access to a door leading into the garret, or rather loft — for it was lighted only by a single window to the north, and seemed to have been intended as a store-room.

The piazzas of the main building and western wing had no [page 1337:] floors, as is usual; but at the doors and at each window, large, flat, irregular slabs of granite lay imbedded{h} in the delicious turf, affording comfortable footing in all weather. Excellent paths of the same material — not nicely adapted, but with the velvety sod filling frequent intervals between the stones, led hither and thither from the house, to a crystal spring about five paces off, to the road, or to one or two out-houses that lay to the north, beyond the brook, and were thoroughly concealed by a few locusts and catalpas.

Not more than six steps from the main door of the cottage stood the dead trunk of a fantastic pear-tree, so clothed from head to foot in the gorgeous bignonia blossoms that one required no little scrutiny to determine what manner of sweet thing it could be. From various arms of this tree hung cages of different kinds.(17) In one, a large wicker cylinder with a ring at top, revelled a mocking bird; in another, an oriole; in a third, the impudent bobolink{i} — while three or four more delicate prisons were loudly vocal with canaries.

The pillars of the piazza were enwreathed in jasmine and sweet honeysuckle; while from the angle formed by the main structure and its west wing, in front, sprang a grape-vine of unexampled luxuriance. Scorning all restraint, it had clambered first to the lower roof — then to the higher; and along the ridge of this latter it continued to writhe on, throwing out tendrils to the right and left, until at length it fairly attained the east gable, and fell trailing over the stairs.

The whole house, with its wings, was constructed of the old-fashioned Dutch shingles — broad, and with unrounded corners. It is a peculiarity of this material to give houses built of it the appearance of being wider at bottom than at top — after the manner of Egyptian architecture; and in the present instance, this exceedingly picturesque effect was aided by numerous pots of gorgeous flowers that almost encompassed the base of the buildings.

The shingles were painted a dull gray; and the happiness with which this neutral tint melted into the vivid green of the tulip-tree leaves that partially overshadowed the cottage, can readily be conceived by an artist. [page 1338:]

From the position near the stone wall, as described, the buildings were seen at great advantage — for the south-eastern angle was thrown forward — so that the eye took in at once the whole of the two fronts, with the picturesque eastern gable, and at the same time obtained just a sufficient glimpse of the northern wing, with parts of a pretty roof to the spring-house, and nearly half of a light bridge that spanned the brook in the near vicinity of the main buildings.

I did not remain very long on the brow of the hill, although long enough to make a thorough survey of the scene at my feet. It was clear that I had wandered from the road to the village, and I had thus good traveller’s{j} excuse to open the gate before me, and inquire my way, at all events; so, without more ado, I proceeded.

The road, after passing the gate, seemed to lie upon a natural ledge, sloping gradually down along the face of the north-eastern cliffs. It led me on to the foot of the northern precipice, and thence over the bridge, round by the eastern gable to the front door. In this progress, I took notice that no sight of the out-houses could be obtained.

As I turned the corner of the gable, the mastiff bounded towards me in stern silence, but with the eye and the whole air of a tiger. I held him out my hand, however, in token of amity — and I never yet knew the dog who was proof against such an appeal to his courtesy. He not only shut his mouth and wagged his tail, but absolutely offered me his paw — afterwards extending his civilities to Ponto.

As no bell was discernible, I rapped with my stick against the door, which stood half open. Instantly a figure advanced to the threshold — that of a young woman about twenty-eight years of age — slender, or rather slight, and somewhat above the medium height. As she approached, with a certain{k} modest decision of step altogether indescribable, I said to myself, “Surely here I have found the perfection of natural, in contradistinction from artificial grace.” The second impression which she made on me, but by far the more vivid of the two, was that of enthusiasm. So intense an expression of romance, perhaps I should call it, or of unworldliness, as that which gleamed from her deep-set eyes, had never so sunk into my heart of [page 1339:] hearts before.(18) I know not how it is, but this peculiar expression of the eye, wreathing itself occasionally into the lips, is the most powerful, if not absolutely the sole spell, which rivets my interest in woman. “Romance,” provided my readers fully comprehend what I would here imply by the word — “romance” and “womanliness” seem to me convertible terms: and, after all, what man truly loves in woman, is, simply, her womanhood. The eyes of Annie (I heard some one from the interior call her “Annie, darling!”) were “spiritual gray;” her hair, a light chestnut: this is all I had time to observe of her.(19)

At her most courteous of invitations, I entered — passing first into a tolerably wide vestibule. Having come mainly to observe, I took notice that to my right as I stepped in, was a window, such as those in front of the house; to the left, a door leading into the principal room; while, opposite me, an open door enabled me to see a small apartment, just the size of the vestibule, arranged as a study, and having a large bow window looking out to the north.(20)

Passing into the parlor, I found myself with Mr. Landor — for this, I afterwards found, was his name. He was civil, even cordial in his manner; but just then, I was more intent on observing the arrangements of the dwelling which had so much interested me, than the personal appearance of the tenant.

The north wing, I now saw, was a bed-chamber: its door opened into the parlor. West of this door was a single window, looking towards the brook. At the west end of the parlor, were a fire-place, and a door leading into the west wing — probably a kitchen.

Nothing could be more rigorously simple than the furniture of the parlor.(21) On the floor was an ingrain carpet, of excellent texture — a white ground, spotted with small circular green figures. At the windows were curtains of snowy white jaconet muslin: they were tolerably full, and hung decisively, perhaps rather formally, in sharp, parallel plaits to the floor — just to the floor. The walls were papered with a French paper of great delicacy — a silver ground, with a faint green cord running zig-zag throughout.(22) Its expanse was relieved merely by three of Julien’s exquisite lithographs à{l} [page 1340:] trois crayons,(23) fastened to the wall without frames. One of these drawings was a scene of Oriental luxury, or rather voluptuousness; another was a “carnival piece,” spirited beyond compare; the third was a Greek female head — a face so divinely beautiful, and yet of an expression so provokingly indeterminate, never before arrested my attention.

The more substantial furniture consisted of a round table, a few chairs (including a large rocking-chair,)(24) and a sofa, or rather “settee:” its material was plain maple painted a creamy white, slightly interstriped with green — the seat of cane. The chairs and table were “to match;” but the forms of all had evidently been designed by the same brain which planned “the grounds:” it is impossible to conceive anything more graceful.

On the table were a few books; a large, square, crystal bottle of some novel perfume; a plain, ground-glass astral (not solar) lamp, with an Italian shade; and a large vase of resplendently-blooming flowers. Flowers indeed of gorgeous colors and delicate odor, formed the sole mere decoration of the apartment. The fire-place was nearly filled with a vase of brilliant geranium. On a triangular shelf in each angle of the room stood also a similar vase, varied only as to its lovely contents. One or two smaller bouquets{m} adorned the mantel; and late violets clustered about the open windows.

It is not the purpose of this work{n} to do more than give, in detail, a picture of Mr. Landor’s residence — as I found it.{o}

 


VARIANTS

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1329:]

a  inhahited. (A) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1330:]

b  floated from (A)

c  varnishing (A, B) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1335:]

d  grate (A, B) misprint

e  etait (B)

f  outre (B)

g  servey (B) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1337:]

h  embedded (A)

i  bobalink (A, B) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1338:]

j  travellers’ (B) misprint, corrected from A

k  cartain (A) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1339:]

l  a (B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1340:]

m  boquets (A, B) misprint

n  paper (A)

o  After this How he made it what it was — and why, with some particulars of Mr. Landon [sic] himself — may, possibly form the subject of another article. (A)

 


[page 1340, continued:]

NOTES

Title:  Poe is less likely to have had Walter Savage Landor in mind than “William Landor,” the pseudonym by which he knew Horace Binney Wallace (1817-1852), whose novel Stanley (1838) he often used. (There is a convenient summary in “Poe’s Borrowings from H. B. Wallace,” G. E. Hatvary, American Literature, November 1966.)

1.  He presumably walked from Fordham — in Westchester County in his day — through Putnam County on its north and into Dutchess County, where Poughkeepsie is situated. He seems to have met the spiritualist Andrew Jackson Davis, who lived in that city. See the notes on “Mellonta Tanta.” [page 1341:]

2.  The village has not been identified.

3.  Ponto was at one time a common canine name. It was also the name of the narrator’s dog in R. M. Bird’s Sheppard Lee, reviewed by Poe in 1836.

4.  Mountain wagons were large, had oversized brakes, wheels forty-four and fifty-two inches high, and a body over ten feet by three and a half. Some could haul up to three and a half tons. See M. M. Mathews, A Dictionary of Americanisms (1951). I cannot find that the wagons used in Virginia had any distinctive features, but Poe may have ridden in such a wagon in his childhood.

5.  For other references to grass like green velvet see “Julius Rodman,” chapter III, and “The Domain of Arnheim,” at n. 25; for references to the fine velvet of Genoa, see Politian, VIII, 52, and “Bon-Bon,” at n. 8.

6.  See the notes on “The Landscape Garden” and “The Domain of Arnheim” for Poe’s interest in the work of the American landscape gardener A. J. Downing. See note 11 on the former tale for the celebrated English practitioner of the art, nicknamed “Capability” Brown.

7.  Literally, in the style of a painter. Although he refers to “the Italian term,” Poe uses the French form; most of the English and American “books on Landscape Gardening” referred to the “picturesque” as contrasted with the “natural” style. Compare “The Landscape Garden,” near n. 8, for the tenet that “no such combinations of scenery exist in Nature as the painter of genius has the power to produce.” For further development of the significance of art in the enhancement of natural beauty, see “The Domain of Arnheim.” For an illuminating article on the implications of this doctrine see Robert D. Jacobs, “Poe’s Earthly Paradise,” in the American Quarterly, Fall 1960. [On Poe’s change from description of dream landscapes to description of observed phenomena, see Alvin Rosenfeld’s paper in Studies in Short Fiction, Spring 1967.]

8.  “Vanishing pictures” were often shown by stage magicians.

9.  The allusion is to Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) of the Neapolitan School, famed for pictures of wild scenes in the Apennines. He is named in “Morning on the Wissahiccon.”

10.  The creek Poe had in mind may be the Ichawaynochaway; it flows into the Flint River in Baker County, Georgia.

11.  Poe mentioned the huge flowering tulip trees also in “Morning on the Wissahiccon” and “The Gold-Bug,” where one is incorrectly, for the sake of plot, placed near Sullivan’s Island. A. J. Downing’s detailed description of the tulip tree is quoted in the Arcturus review (June 1841) of his book, immediately before the long passage quoted by Poe in “The Landscape Garden.” Unlike the related magnolia, tulip trees flourish in and near Manhattan Island. Poe gives the name in correct Latin; botanists use the form tulipifera.

12.  The Arabian perfumes are of course famous, especially remembered for the guilty queen’s mention in Macbeth, V, i: “All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” Compare “Marginalia,” number 48 (Democratic Review, December 1844, p. 581): “I believe that odors have an altogether idiosyncratic force, in affecting us through association; a force differing essentially from that of objects addressing the touch, the taste, the sight, or the hearing.” [page 1342:]

13.  Compare Poe’s lines, “So blended bank and shadow there / That each seemed pendulous in air,” as he adapted them in “The Island of the Fay” from his early poem “The Doomed City” (1831); see Mabbott, I, 199-200.

14.  The French phrase means “was of an architecture unknown in the annals of the world.” It is correctly quoted from William Beckford’s original French version of Vathek, but Poe probably took it from Wallace’s Stanley (1838), I, 154. The same quotation was also used by Poe in a review of Ancient America by George Jones, in the Aristidean for March 1845.

15.  See text at n. 7, and n. 7 above.

16.  Haldeen Braddy, Glorious Incense (1953), p. 29, observes that the dimensions of the cottage are similar to those of Poe’s cottage at Fordham. Miss Phillips observed this in Poe the Man (1926), II, 1290. Resemblance of the cottage to some in Currier and Ives prints has been noticed, but they are later than Poe’s tale, and of course likewise inspired by real cottages near the Hudson River. See Henry S. Canby, Classic Americans (1931), pp. 272-273.

17.  Poe was interested in tame birds; his close friend in Philadelphia, Henry Beck Hirst, ran a shop selling them, and wrote The Book of Cage Birds (1842) about them. A visitor to Fordham reported:

Poe had somehow caught a full grown bob-o’-link. He had put him in a cage, which he had hung on a nail driven into the trunk of a cherry-tree . . . [The bird] was as restless as his jailer, and sprang continually in a fierce, frightened way, from one side of the cage to the other . . . Poe was bent on training him . . . [said he,] “You are wrong in wishing me to free the bird. He is a splendid songster, and as soon as he is tamed will delight our home with his musical gifts.”

This comes from Mrs. Mary Gove Nichols, quoted in Woodberry’s Life (1909), II, 433.

18.  The phrase “heart of hearts” is a favorite with Poe; used also in Politian, VI, 57; “To My Mother,” line 7; and a letter of October 1, 1848 to Helen Whitman. Compare “heart of heart” in Hamlet, III, ii, 78.

19.  The description of Mrs Richmond seems to be factual. Her gray eyes are thought to be responsible for a change in line 23 of “To One in Paradise”; see also the poem “For Annie” (Mabbott, I, 214-216 and 452-461). Unhappily no picture of Mrs. Richmond when she knew Poe seems to be available. That shown by Miss Phillips, II, 1294, is much later.

20.  There is no bow window in the Fordham cottage.

21.  With the description of this parlor, contrast the “small and not ostentatious chamber” described in “Philosophy of Furniture.”

22.  The wallpaper was that of a room in Mrs. Whitman’s home in Providence. She refers to this, mentioning the zigzag pattern, in a letter of December 15, 1864, to G. W. Eveleth, and another of April 24, 1874, to Ingram. See the Ingram List, numbers 96 and 147.

23.  The artist mentioned is the French painter and lithographer, Bernard-Romain Julien (1802-1871). The prints now cannot be exactly identified. In her [page 1343:] delightful reminiscences of her visit to Fordham in 1847, in the Home Journal, July 21, 1860, Mary Elizabeth Bronson LeDuc told how Poe assured her cheerfully that a print of a pretty girl on the wall was “not the lost Lenore.” See Carroll D. Laverty in American Literature, May 1948.

24.  Poe’s rocking chair is preserved at the Fordham cottage. Mrs. Clemm gave it to Mrs. Rebecca Cromwell, whose daughter Susan married Josiah Valentine, a nephew of Poe’s landlord, John Valentine. Their son William Henry Valentine presented the relic for exhibition at the cottage. See Phillips, Poe the Man (1926), II, 1544, where there is a photograph of the chair.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 1326:]

*  See his letter to Bowen, October 18, 1848 (American Notes & Queries, January 1965, and in Ostrom’s “Fourth Supplement to the Letters of Poe” (AL, January 1974). Poe says, “I am willing to accept your offer about the correspondence . . . provided you decline the tour etc, as I suggested.” The manuscript is now in the Richard Gimbel Collection, The Free Library of Philadelphia.

  “Reminiscences” in the London Sixpenny Magazine, February 1863, reprinted as a separate pamphlet in 1931, and important sections more conveniently in Woodberry’s Life (1909), II, 214 and 433.

  See her letter of December 15, 1864, to George W. Eveleth, whose transcript, made October 1, 1878, is in the Ingram Collection, number 96.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 1327:]

§  Woodberry in his Life (1909), II, 275, called this passage an extract from “Landor’s Cottage,” but the reference to magnolias, eliminated from the longer story, establishes the priority of the letter. The text follows the original manuscript in the Josiah K. Lilly, Jr. Collection at Indiana University. The part of the letter containing the account of the poet’s daydream was first printed by William Fearing Gill in The Life of Edgar Allan Poe (1877), pp. 217-218.

*  “Something about Annie” is the description of the lady in the text below at note 19.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 1328:]

  Home Life of Poe (1907), p. 198. Poe set great store by “The Domain of Arnheim” and “Landor’s Cottage,” and it may well be that it was in similar quiet stories that he hoped that “in prose he might yet surpass what he had already accomplished,” as Mrs. Weiss records in Scribner’s for March 1878.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:1 - TOM3T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Landor's Cottage)