Text: Michael J. Deas, “Alfred Fredericks,” The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (1989), pp. 94-95 (This material is protected by copyright)


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Poe and His Works by Alfred Fredericks

Although it cannot be strictly classified as a portrait, this engraved illustration (fig. 43) is significant as the earliest published derivative of Annie L. Richmond's daguerreotype of Poe (fig. 20). Engraved by Albert (?) Bobbett after a drawing by Alfred Fredericks, the illustration depicts Poe surrounded by a series of vignettes representing eight of his most celebrated poems. Clockwise from the upper left, the poems represented are “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee,” “The Bells,” “The Coliseum,” “Sonnet — Silence,” “Eldorado,” “Israfel,” and “Ulalume.”

Engraving of Edgar Allan Poe [thumbnail]

(fig. 43)
Poe and His Works
[Illustration on page 95]

The engraving, entitled Poe and His Works, originally appeared in Laurel Leaves (Boston: W. F. Gill & Company, 1876), a miscellany of essays and poems edited by William Fearing Gill. The scion of a Boston publishing family, Gill was one of Poe's earliest and most eccentric biographers. In 1877 he published a valuable but poorly written Life of Edgar Allan Poe, and six years later claimed to have personally retrieved the remains of Poe's wife Virginia, just before the razing of the Fordham cemetery where she had been interred four decades earlier. During the 1870s, while compiling material for his proposed biography of Poe, Gill became acquainted with Annie L. Richmond of Lowell, Massachusetts. Although Mrs. Richmond would later express regret over having associated with Gill, she did for a time allow him access to her Poe memorabilia and apparently permitted him to reproduce the so-called “Annie” daguerreotype.

When the engraving appeared in Laurel Leaves in December 1875, it accompanied Gill's essay “Some New Facts about Edgar A. Poe.” Gill appended the essay with a note stating: “Mr. Fredericks has, in limning from this daguerreotype, succeeded admirably in reproducing the better points while modifying defects apparent in the original.” Exactly what these “defects” were is uncertain; what is certain is that Gill — who had never met Poe — was not a particularly competent judge of the likeness's veracity. When Poe's former fiancée Sarah Helen Whitman saw the engraving in December 1875, she was appalled. In a letter to Poe biographer John Henry Ingram, she lamented: “The portrait filled me with dismay. I have no words to express my sense of the wrong it does [to Poe]. ... it is — hideous. There is no other word that can describe it. The expression is weak, nerveless, inane — altogether unlike him & unworthy of him. Frederick is, judging from what I have seen of his work, a fine artist. What malign spirit inspired him in making this memento mori, it is difficult to conceive.”(69)

The artist, Alfred Fredericks, was a member of the National Academy who was active as a landscape and figure painter in New York City. He is remembered primarily for his book and magazine illustrations, published between 1864 and 1881. The engraver, Albert (possibly Alfred) Bobbett, was born in England about 1824, and was working in New York City and Brooklyn between 1848 and 1888.(70)






[S:1 - PDEAP, 1989] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (M. J. Deas) (Alfred Fredericks)