Text: John Carl Miller, “Chapter 5,” Building Poe Biography (1977), pp. 88-145 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 88, unnumbered:]


Marie Louise Shew Houghton Leads and Misleads Poe's Biographer

RUFUS GRISWOLD printed Poe's poem “To Mrs. M.L.S.” under the title “To M. L. S.” and placed it in the group of poems thought to have been written in Poe's youth. Inasmuch as Griswold knew who “M.L.S.” was — and didn’t like her — there was possibly some malice in his placing this poem with the sadly inferior early poems of Poe, who himself had said that “no poet wants to be remembered by his juvenile work.” When Ingram began editing Poe's works in the early 1870s he had no idea to whom the poem had been written. He could get no help from any of his American correspondents, until he learned from a letter to him, dated November 24, 1874, from Mary Sargeant Gove Nichols, then living in London or nearby, that the poem had been written to Marie Louise Shew, and she gave Mrs. Shew's address to Ingram.(1)

Marie Louise Barney Shew was the daughter of a physician and was herself skilled in medicine and nursing. She had been married to Dr. Joel T. Shew, but had divorced him. In the winter of 1846, when Mrs. Nichols in New York had learned of the Poes’ distressed condition in Fordham, she took Mrs. Shew along to see what help they might offer. They found Virginia dying in the Fordham cottage, and Mrs. Shew returned immediately to the City and started a collection of money, food, and clothing for the Poes. She returned with these and medicines and literally took charge of the distressed household, nursing Virginia until she died on January 30, 1847. Mrs. Shew then stayed to nurse Poe through a full month's sickness that followed Virginia's burial, returning to New York periodically to get supplies and to see about her own [page 89:] family. When Poe began to recover, he expressed his gratitude to Mrs. Shew in the lines “To Mrs. M.L.S.” and in a poem beginning, “Not long ago the writer of these lines.” Sometime later, he wrote still another poem to her which he called “The Beloved Physician,” but which was never published, at least in its entirety.(2) Mrs. Shew was planning to marry the Reverend Roland S. Houghton, and it seems she was afraid the strong sentiments expressed in the poem would be recognized as directed to her; whatever her reason, she paid Poe $25 for the poem, which was subsequently lost and only the few lines she could remember of it were printed by Ingram many years later. Mrs. Shew did marry Houghton in 1850.

Ingram opened his correspondence with Mrs. Houghton early in 1875, and she responded quickly and generously, proving to be one of his most rewarding and the same time most confusing and difficult correspondents. At this time she was estranged from Houghton, had the care of a family, and was forced to make a living here and there as a practical nurse. She wrote to Ingram at odd moments as she watched over her patients, using whatever scraps of paper that were at hand; then for days afterwards she would add postscripts on pages of different sizes, and finally she would make a package of these undated, unnumbered pages and mail the package to Ingram.

Her accounts, memories, and reminiscences of Poe, Virginia, and Mrs. Clemm are at times so rambling, contradictory, and confused that the reader can only wish for revelation to make them completely intelligible. But her letters are always so warm and lively, intensely human in their emotions of love, dislike, asperity, and general sincerity, that the reader cannot but revel in them with joy and laughter.

It is impossible to assign limits and numbers to the letters Mrs. Houghton wrote to Ingram, for obviously some of her letters were removed from his files before they were shipped to the University of Virginia Library. All one can be sure of is that their correspondence began early in 1875 and ended sometime before her death on September 3, 1877.

Letter 30. E. Dora Houghton, Flushing, Long Island, to John Ingram, London. First printing. [Item 194] [page 90:]

The Chestnuts Jan. 9th, 1875

Mr. Ingram Dear Sir

Your letter to my dear Mama was received this evening, it having been sent to Papa at Hartford, Conn. Mama desires me to say that she will do the best she can for you, and as soon as she can look over her papers will write to you herself. She has some of Mr. Poe's letters — and is familiar with the circumstances of the last years of his sad life. Mama also desires me to say that she will look over the Preface or biography written by Mr. Griswold and write you the points which are not only cruel and malicious but false. But as she has not seen any of the articles you mention, it may have been done already by some one more competent and with more leisure — of this you will please inform her — but be assured her heart is with you in this good work. To explain to you why Mama has not seen any of these articles I may add that at the breaking out of the war (twelve years ago) she retired to a remote country village taking with her her library of old books and baby Dora and for ten years seeing no new publications excepting an occasional newspaper. I may venture to enclose one of Mr. Poe's letters relating to his wife's last hours which I have in my possession and will keep a copy for you in case this letter should be lost in the mail.

Mrs. Clemm was very desolate after Mr. Poe's death and made her home with Mamma — whenever she pleased — until the publication of Mr. Poe's works by Mr. Griswold gave her a support. When the books were published her indignation and grief was heart-rending to witness, and after ineffectual efforts, to get justice — expressed herself as heartbroken and was said never to have smiled again. Mamma left New York about this time and lost sight or knowledge of her.

Will you be so kind as to forward the enclosed note to Mrs. Nichols whose address was mislaid in packing our books and papers.

Mamma is quite unnerved today by bad news from my brother which is my apology for being her amanuensis.

Yours very truly

E. Dora Houghton [page 91:]

Ingram had sent the first letter he addressed to Mrs. Houghton to James Wood Davidson in New York City, asking him to forward it if he could. Davidson apparently had located Dr. Roland S. Houghton* in Hartford, Connecticut, and he sent it to him to forward again to his former wife.

Nothing illustrates better Ingram's remarkable ability to touch the sympathies of Poe's friends and elicit from them their priceless keepsakes, by means of his forceful and impassioned letters, than this letter from E. Dora

Houghton which included as a gift to Ingram from Mrs. Houghton the autograph letter Poe had addressed to Mrs. Shew on January 29, 1847, which began, “Kindest — Dearest Friend — My poor Virginia still lives.” (See Ostrom, II, 340, for complete text.)

Dora Houghton's statement in this letter is the strongest evidence there is that Mrs. Clemm actually did receive considerable sums of money from the sales of Griswold's edition of Poe's works. But her statement that her mother left New York about the time the books came out in 1850 and lost sight of Mrs. Clemm thereafter is inaccurate; Mrs. Clemm certainly spent many months, on several occasions, as a guest in Mrs. Houghton's home during the 1850s.

Mary Gove Nichols and Mrs. Houghton had been personal friends and professional associates in New York City during the 1840s, and when Ingram gave Mrs. Houghton Mrs. Nichols’ address in England, Mrs. Houghton promptly wrote to her, as she did to a number of the “Poe Circle,” after getting their addresses from Ingram. (Notable among them was Sarah Helen Whitman.)

It is not known what the “bad news” was concerning Mrs. Houghton's only son, but during this period of her correspondence with Ingram Mrs. Houghton limped determinedly and vociferously from one crisis to another.

Letter 31. Marie Louise Shew Houghton, Whitestone, Long Island, to John Ingram, London. First printing. [Item 197]

Jan. 23, 1875

My dear Sir

My daughter Dora answered your letter enclosing one of Mr. Poe's notes to me at the time of his wifes [sic] death. I trust the beautiful little gift to you was not lost in the mail — I have not found many of Mr. Poe's letters but I enclose you one received by my uncle (who lived with me) about the time he wrote his “Eureka” — This was after he had risen from “Dispair's unhalowed bed” as he said in the verses addressed to me, who had been his nurse and Physician alternating my [page 92:] nights at his bedside with his “Muddie” as he called Mrs. Clemm. I am sorry I cannot serve you, as to dates but I never was a business person, and never had any discipline. I came up a country Doctor's only daughter, with a taste for painting and a heart for loving all the world — I saved Mr. Poe's life at this time, having been educated medicaly. I made my Diagnosis and went to the great Dr. Mott with it. I told him that at best when he was well Mr. Poe's pulse beat only ten regular beats after which it suspended or intermitted (as Doctors say). I decided that in his best health, he had leasion on one side of the brain, and as he could not bear stimulants or tonics, without producing insanity, I did not feel much hope, that he could be raised up from a brain fever, brought on by extreme suffering of mind and body, (actual want and hunger and cold, being borne by this heroic husband to supply food medicine and comforts to his dying wife) until exaustion and lifelessness was so near, and at every reaction of the fever — that sedatives even had to be administered with caution. I tell you all this to explain to you what followed — From the time his fever came on until I could reduce his pulse to 80 beats he talked to me incessently of the past, which was all new to me, and often he begged me to write for him his fancies for he said he had promised so many greedy publishers his next efforts that they would not only say he did not keep his word but they would revenge themselves by writing “all sort of evil of him” if he should die — I have a great many pages of these penciled sayings somewhere part of them have been published I think one poem of touching pathos “the beloved Physician” he revised and prepared for publication, for I gave him the missing leaves, after he recovered. I asked him to wait a little, and gave him a check for his necessities as he said he had been offered twenty dollars for it. I gave him twenty five, & asked him to wait as every body would know, who it was, and it was so very personal and complimentary I dreaded the ordeal as I was about to be maried to a man, who had old fashioned notions of woman and her sphere — (a foolish idea of mine born of my great love, for this man — but which proved my great loss for I never amounted to anything — afterwards, having lost all my individuality from that [page 94:] hour) — but this is diverging from my purpose which you will I trust forgive. If this poem, The beloved Physician could be found complete now, it would greatly delight you, and it would do me great good as I now support my two youngest children by practicing the healing art which in these days is so honourable and not at all novel, or new.

The poem was written in a singular strain, a verse discribing the Doctor, watching the pulse, etc. etc. and ending with a refrain of two lines — discribing the nurse — It was very curious as it was a picture of a highly wrought brain, in an over excited state. There was in every verse a line “The pulse beats ten and intermits” and in the refrain of the last verse (where he discribes me holding my watch and counting “so tired, so weary” and after I find that I have brought the pulse to the desired eighty beats — as low as I dared give sedatives) — I rested and he did also trying his best to sleep for my sake) in the refrain as I said before he adds, “The soft head bows, the sweet eyes close The large heart (a faithful heart) yields to sweet repose” You can imagine it was a perfect thing as he revised it afterwards, discribing his visit to the great sergeon Dr. Mott (where I took him as soon as he was convelescent in a close[d] carriage to have the Doctor see my patient and confirm, or not, my Diagnosis as to Mr. Poe's brain being diseased! and also, to have him suggest such tonics as would not excite him to madness) — My impression is, that this poem of the beloved physician was given to Griswold, but as I went to see Griswold, and tried all my eloquence — and even offered to pay the expense of a change in the autobiography, which should be compiled by Mr. Willis* (or some one of three) Graham I think was one), and after promising me, and my leaving my watch and a diamond bracelet with him until something could be agreed upon, he went right on, and avoided writing me or seeing me, and afterwards I met him in Broadway one day in a crowd. I asked him what he was doing — that Mr. Willis would help us. He said very insultingly that the book “would sell best as it was”, and he had determined to let it be, and indeed it was all settled and I remember he said [“]Mr. Longfellow had given his approval and that Mrs. Clemm was recognized”. Which was not true as [page 95:] you will see by some letters of Mrs. Clemm which I send you. Mr. Poe told me often that he had never prospered by honest writing. That when he wrote a really honest criticism of any author or work, he made himself enemies either from the publishers or the authors. He told me, that Mr. Longfellow would never forgive him for a truthful notice, he had once written of him, “that he would coldly stab his reputation when he was so far dead as not to rouse to defend himself” I remember what he said of Longfellow, from having made his acquaintance a few years before, and admiring the man and not being a judge of his poetry — or reader of it, I was interested —

Mr. Poe said “Longfellow was a Plagiarist, that he never wrote a poem without a model, that ideas and rhyme and rhythm were all borrowed that Americans were so superficial that they never recognized such stealing” — and he proved his words by taking down a book of old English Poets and illustrated his assertions &c. &c. I have always felt that Longfellow cruelly injured the dead Poe out of revenge, and that Griswold was a misrable tool to this end. Mr. Poe told me clearly that Griswold was his enemy that he (Poe) had offended him in his weakest egotistic point, that altho’ he was obliged to treat him courteously from a promice given his Mother Mrs. C. (who feared and asked favors of the man, in the same breath) still he “always felt he was in the presence of a viper, who would sting him the first chance he got”. It was the only point I remember his expressing anger towards this long suffering and loving Mother. But she would call on Griswold and receive favors of a pecuniary or literary nature from him — Mr. Poe wrote a criticism or lecture on Griswold's way of compiling and making books, for sale, which Griswold never forgot. He told me this himself — but I was so young and careless that I don’t cannot recollect all the conversation.

I know nothing of Mrs. St. Leon Loud* altho’ I might have done so if I had listened, for I heard a story or something was said of her to me both by Mr. Poe and Mrs. Clemm — but it is all a muddle now, perhaps I may recall it. There is an article in Harpers magazine September, 1872, which is as near truth as I ever have seen published, but I never in those days got a [page 96:] literary man to agree with me that Mr. Poe had brain disease, and that it was physicaly impossible for him to maintain an equality of action and feeling — and only the Physicians gave me credit for common sense in the matter. I have had a dear friend & companion, near me for years, with heart disease and at last the paroxyms of irregular action, were followed by temporary insanity, there being Leasion of the brain, serious and fatal. I often thought of Mr. Poe, when trying to soothe my sweet Lidie's fancies and noticed that no stimulant could be used without complete loss of reason — while she remained near me her attacks were controled, by sedatives now used, to control the action of the heart, but she lost her good sense, somewhat and did not realize that what served her truly and well under my personal supervision, would, or might, fail in the hands of a strange Doctor. This lovely young Lady was engaged to my eldest son, and I was as much in love with her as he was, she was such a true daughter to me in my exile of ten years, or more — I tried to save her to bless the world by her presence, but she gave up her engagement to Henry, for as her heart enlarged — she knew that it must be so, but she comforted herself that she would be a doctor. She went thru her three years reading with safety, but as I said before she left me, and came to N.Y. to graduate among strangers she died, before I could reach her, altho she said, “if she (Mrs. H.) had come, I could be saved” yet the northern roads were blocked with snow, and I was three hundred miles away! I loved her so dearly that my grief will never leave me, while I live, I mourn her daily as I do my own, my other daughter altho they both were angels here and are safe in Paradise, such fair and beautiful creatures so beautify this earth, they so relieve its cares and brighten its toils, their companionship is so sweet and cheering — that it is hard to part with them, even for the few years that remain before we go to our own rest; I mention my sweet friend and daughter Lidie Paulene to illustrate a medical fact however & to make my ideas understood as to Mr. Poe — even Mr. Hopkins, one of the most learned and noble ministers of the Church of England, will persist in saying Poe was intoxicated as you will see by my enclosed letter from him, which I asked as I know he will [page 97:] serve me and mine to his utmost, and that he will not mention all this to any other person — His letter will enlighten you, as to poor Edgars religion. When nearly gone with his brain half gone (a noble half remaining). He Mr. Poe told me a story of that matter of theft. I have it somewhere as he told it, when in a calm and accountable mood. You must forgive my scribling I write at intervals of waiting for a specific action of remedies used among my sick, (or for the hour to come round.) and as I have very little leisure at home I must beg you to excuse my want of continued ideas — I will answer your questions as soon as I can. — I believe Mr. Griswolds work a net of malicious misrepresentation and falsehoods and I will carefully tell you where I know he is false. Mrs. Clemm repeatedly calls him “a villian” in her letters to me, some of which I send you, You ask of Mrs. Poe, I bought her coffin, her grave clothes, and Edgars mourning, except the little help Mary Star gave me She lies still in the vault at Fordham I think. (I will go and see some day in March). Mrs. Clemm died about two years ago, (I hear) and was buried near her much loved “Eddie” in Baltimore. There is a monument in progress or finished, by a few American friends. I will write and get the particulars (unless you have them) I learned from an old friend that Mrs. Clemm looked for me in N.Y. to return me my watch which she wore after redeeming it. The bracelet she sold for three hundred dollars, but used it I presume, as it was intended to pay Griswold to keep his infamous life or destroy it and make none but such as his Mr. Poe's best friends approved. Not seeing Mrs. Clemm for many years, I dont know of her circumstances but no doubt she had a good income from those books for a while. I will look Redfield up and others if they are alive, when I go to N.Y. I am obliged to stay here until after April, as I said before. I have a little volume of Poems entitled “The Raven and Other Poems by Edgar A. Poe” & published in 1845 and dedicated to Miss Elizabeth Barrett Barrett which I will send to you if you desire it. I have also found a volume of Tales published at the same time & by the same publishers (Wiley & Putnam) Landor's Cottage is not in this collection. I know nothing of his tales I never read them, and altho’ I have read his poems, [page 98:] they gave me (many of them) painful impressions — Their classical beauty and rhythm must delight scholars, I am under the impression Mr. Poe left West Point by resignation, and that if any action was taken by the Professors it was recorded, without being made public, indeed I know Mrs. Clemm said he resigned — Gen. Scott was very friendly to Mr. Poe, all his life, and it was thru his influence that Mr. Poe was admited to W. P. Gen. Scott was present once at the Union Club in N.Y. when a collection was taken up among the gentlemen, for his support & comfort after Mrs. Poe died and the old hero gave his share $5.00 and said, “Gentlemen I wish I could make it five hundred” and he was so ill I wrote to a gentleman, to mention the subject, and about one hundred dollars was collected, old debts were paid and necessaries provided with it. The Union Club in those days was only composed of college bred gentlemen. He [General Scott] also said “He believe Poe to be very much belied, that he had noble and generous traits which belonged to a gentleman of the old and better school, that true hearted Americans ought to take care of her poets as well as he[r] soldiers.” Quite a speech for Gen. Scott. Mr. Chapin heard Gen. Scott, say it. Gen. Scott was a Mexican Hero about that time and rode thru New York sun burnt and bronzed, with war worn troops. If General Scott had got a bad impression from Poe's leaving West Point in disgrace, he would hardly have excused him so fully as to have spoken so often in his praise. It was his manner and bearing and grateful heart that Scott admired; and the pride and strength of intellect came in to make up the rest — combativeness is always a manly trait to a soldier of the stamp of Gen. Scott I know Mr. Poe could have won laurels as a soldier

Mr. Poe wrote the Bells at my house. He came in and said, “Marie Louise, I have to write a poem. I have no feeling, no sentiment, no inspiration — “ I answered we will have supper and I will help you. So after tea had been served in a conservatory with the windows open, near a church — I playfully said, here is paper. A Bell (very jolly and sharp) rang at the corner of the street. He said I so dislike the noise of bells tonight. I cannot write. I have no subject. I am exhausted. So I took his pen and wrote “The Bells. By E. A. Poe, and I [page 99:] mimiced his style, and wrote the Bells, the little silver Bells &c. &c. he finishing each line

Then I said, The Heavy Iron Bells, “how solemn” and so on he helping me thru-Then he copied it, and he said he was satisfied. He called it my poem, because I said so much for him, “There floats from their throats,” I feeling I could touch his ear, which was so peculiar — He afterwards added another verse, by my suggestion, after which he said, What a pity you had not been educated. You are a genius, You can wake the dead. My brother came in. I sent him to tell Mrs. C. “that her boy would stay in town and was well” and my brother took Mr. Poe to his own room and he slept twelve hours, and could hardly recall the evening's work. This showed his mind was injured nearly gone out, from want of food and disappointments (for he had not been drinking, and only a few hours from home — evidently his vitality was low and he was nearly insane while he slept we studied his pulse, which I so often had noticed. The same symptoms I called in old Dr. Francis who was one of our neighbors he said “he had heart disease and would die early in life according to the storms or sunshine of his environment”, his own words. The old man was odd but very skillful, and a noted man We did not wake him, until he slept it off, and after he had eaten his breakfast, I went down town with him, and drove him to Fordham in my coupa. He did not seem to realize that he had been ill — and wondered why “Madam Louise” had been so very good as to bring him home — His eyes were heavy, and his step unsteady, but he had not touched the cup [[.]]

I could give many reminiscenses of Poe, from 47 to his death, but I am not certain as to dates & names. I prefer to find the notes I wrote for him — if I can — Some one relieved me of his portrait given me by his wife, but as I have no idea who took it It being done during an abscence in the country I had to submit to its loss — I have a little jewel cace she (Mrs. Poe) gave me, which was Mr. Poe's mothers He had a miniature of his mother, a (lovely intellectual face). I think it was saved at the Hospital where he died. I know his seal ring (which I had made for him) was restored to his family. Some Baltimore methodist preacher (a cousin of his) has it. I had it engraved with the motto of his family (Poes) upon it. [page 100:]

Poe's letter to Mrs. Houghton's uncle, Hiram Barney, was written probably in May, 1847; Barney was the senior member of the New York law firm Barney, Butler, and Parsons.

Poe's reference to rising from “Dispair's unhalowed bed” is in the eighth line of his poem “To Mrs. M. L. S.”

Mrs. Houghton's remark in this letter about her coming up “with a taste for painting’ is worth much consideration, for she almost certainly made the one water color painting of Virginia Poe that is in existence. Mrs. Houghton had been present at Virginia's death, after which she did the painting of Virginia propped up in the bed. The Baltimore Poes kept the painting from being reproduced as long as they could, for it takes only a glance for almost anyone to realize that the subject is indeed dead.

Dr. Valentine Mott was one of the leading members of the New York University School of Medicine.

Ingram wrote all there was to write about the lost poem, “The Beloved Physician,” in a long article which he named “The Beautiful Physician” (apparently his post-Victorian notions of propriety led him to change the title), published nearly thirty-five years later in the Poe centenary number of the New York Bookman, January, 1909.

Mrs. Houghton's remarks in this letter about having attempted to pay Griswold to alter his biography of Poe and his reply that Mrs. Clemm was reconciled is all the evidence we have that both Mrs. Clemm and the then Mrs. Shew anticipated Griswold's slanders about Poe. This lead has never been followed, as far as I know; nothing has been done or written by any biographer about its possible truth. Griswold's “weakest egotistic point” could have been his method of compiling anthologies or it could have been his strong attraction to Mrs. Frances S. Osgood; Poe interfered in both. Mrs..Clemm's dealings with Griswold during Poe's lifetime were unwise enough; and after Poe's death they were disastrous to Poe's reputation.

Poe's unbalanced criticisms and judgments about Longfellow can be attributed, I think, to his knowing that he himself was writing some of the very best poetry being produced in America and was getting paid little or nothing for it, while Longfellow was successfully marketing much inferior verses.

Mrs. St. Leon Loud was a minor poetess of Philadelphia whose verse Poe had agreed to edit and was presumably on his way to do when he stopped over in Baltimore and died on October 7, 1849.

The Reverend J. H. Hopkins was a very close friend of Mrs. Houghton. In this letter to Ingram she enclosed the following letter from Hopkins to herself. This is a first complete printing of the letter:

Plattsburg [N.Y.]

Feb. 9: 1875

Dear Madam:

You ask for my recollections of a visit made by me to the late Edgar A. Poe, at his request in (I think) the year 1848. It was in regard to his [page 101:] brilliant lecture “Eureka,” which I had heard on the occasion of its first delivery, and in which I was much interested, having made a report of it for one of the daily papers. He was thinking of printing it in book form. I did all I could to persuade him to omit the bold declaration of Pantheism at the close, which was not necessary to the completeness or beauty of the lecture. But I soon found that that was the dearest part of the whole to him; and we got into quite a discussion on the subject of Pantheism. For some time his tone and manner were very quiet, though slowly changing as we went on; until at last, a look of scornful pride worthy of Milton's Satan flashed over his pale, delicate face & broad brow, and a strange thrill nerved and dilated for an instant his slight figure, as he exclaimed, “My whole nature utterly revolts at the idea that there is any Being in the Universe superior to myself!” I knew then that there was no use in further argument. The subject was dropped, and there was nothing further in the interview that I can now recall. But that sentence, and the mode of its utterance, made an indelible impression.

I suppose that Mr. Ingram would not wish the details of the occasion when Dr. Houghton and I found him crazy-drunk in the hands of the police, and took him home to Fordham (eleven miles), where we found poor Mrs. Clemm waiting for him. He had been gone three days, — went to draw pay for an article, got into a spree, spent all, and we had to leave $5, with Mrs. Clemm for immediate necessities, as there was not a penny in the house. This, I think, was the same year with the above, only a little later in the season.

Yr. obt. servt. J. H. Hopkins

P. S. There is one other incident that I recall concerning that visit to Mr. Poe. He was speaking of his near neighbors, the Jesuit Fathers at Fordham College, and praised them warmly, “They were highly cultivated gentlemen and scholars,” he said, “smoked, drank, and played cards like gentlemen, and never said a word about religion.”(3)

At this writing, Virginia Poe's body was still in the Valentine vault at Fordham; it was not until 1885 that her bones were brought to Baltimore and buried beside Edgar's.

“Mary Star” or “Starr” is still unidentified, though it is possible she was “Poe's Mary,” as described in Augustus Van Cleef's article in Harper's Magazine, March, 1889.

Mrs. Clemm had been dead four years instead of two, when Mrs. Houghton wrote this letter. Mrs. Houghton's supposition that Mrs. Clemm had a “good [page 102:] income” or an income of any kind from the sale of Griswold's edition of Poe's works is unsupported except in Dora Houghton's letter to Ingram above. “Redfield” was J. S. Redfield, the New York publisher who brought out Griswold's edition. Sometime in the 1860s he sold the copyright to W. J. Widdleton, who printed many more editions.

“Gen. Scott” was General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), who had something to do with Poe's appointment to West Point. Poe mentioned having seen him during his cadetship.

As proof of her story of the genesis of Poe's “The Bells,” Mrs. Houghton later sent to Ingram the seventeen-line manuscript of the poem which Poe had indeed written in her home and had later given to her. Later she sent also her copies of Poe's Tales and The Raven and Other Poems, both published by Wiley and Putnam, New York, 1845. The letter from Mrs. Clemm enclosed in this package was written sometime in February, 1847, and is reproduced as Letter 1 in this volume. If Mrs. Houghton sent other letters or copies of letters to Ingram from Mrs. Clemm, he either destroyed them or returned them to her family who clamored for years to reclaim the “gifts” Mrs. Houghton had made to Ingram.

Letter 32. Marie Louise Shew Houghton, Whitestone, to John Ingram, London. Mailed with another letter, dated January 23. First complete printings. [Item 197]


Dear Mr. Ingram

Your reply to our brief letter was very welcome and I will try and help in your noble work. I am sorry I was so heedless in noticing and remembering what I might have treasured up for you during the time I was so much with Edgar Poe. He talked over all the topics you mention, or nearly all of them, both when he was so ill and when he was so very certain of success, while writing his Eureka, and when he seemed calm and sane. But you will readily understand that I did not expect him to live long, and that I knew he was injured, that organic disease had been gaining upon his physical frame from the many trials and privations of his eventful life — I had told him in all candor that nothing would, or could, save him from a sudden death, but a prudent life, of calm with a [page 103:] woman fond enough — and strong enough to manage his work and its remunerations for his best good — I was often subjected to his irony, for my lectures — coming from a woman so little skilled in worldly troubles or cares as I was then for I was not even intellectual — He said I had never troubled myself to read his works or poems which was true, for my heart found so much sorrow to sympathize with in the griefs of those I came in contact with (a country girl coming to a city is too often starteled out of all systematic reading, to minister to such sorrow as is ever near in cities), but I was a “rest for his spirit” for this very reason — He wrote a little poem about this which I hope I may find for you. My son has been robbed in the mines of Colorado. I trust however he left his trunks containing his papers with his friends in Denver. He has some of Mr. Poe's poems, two or three, written to me, which he particularly fancied There is a lady living in N.Y. whose maiden name was Mary Star* or perhaps Helen, but I think it is Mary, her husband is a Merchant Tailor, (just think of it), This Lady was the first love of Mr. Poe, and she belonged to a good Baltimore family, but for some reason unfortunate — She introduced herself to me at the time Mrs. Poe was dying and went with me to see them and kindly helped me to furnish clothes to Mr. Poe for suitable mourning. If I can only recall her husbands name, she had known Edgar at school, at home, & at different dates and times. She always looked up all his whereabouts, because she loved him in her bright youth. I know she spoke to me of his having so many enemies, and being so gentle and harmless in his disposition. I know she knows all about the scandles and wrongs you wish to clear up — You must ask Mrs. Nichols if she remembers the beautiful Mary Star. Her beauty was of the spanish sort, a gorgeous style; Her husband had a common name, so common, it might be Jones or Smith. I must look her up, for you, & to help brighten my careless memory. You must not think me stupid. I wept three years, of tears, for a man, and tried to forget all I ever knew but it was the proudest day of my life, when I presented myself before him, emancipated! and able to say, and do, all sorts of proper things without a tear — and now I have the courage of a Hero, if my children are safe[page 104:]

Private, otherwise as you please The only time I ever knew of his being intoxicated during the years I knew him, was after dining with Mr. Griswold, in an Eating house. whatever was given him, he became insane and unmanageble and he told the servant who tried to turn him out, (after the departure of this man, or fiend, Griswold) that his friends lived at 47 Bond St. — In this way I was notified, and sent Dr. Houghton & the Rev. Mr. Hopkins* to look for him, and they took him home — I afterwards learned the circumstances of his condition, during an illness which followed, and altho Mrs. Clemm knew it was true, she over looked this in Griswold, thinking it was unintentional, but I always believed (and so said Mr. Poe) that he would have been home with his hard earned money but for Griswold

In relating this circumstance you need not say who I sent to look for him, but that I sent a friend, or friends as Dr. Houghton is not as devoted a cavalier to me — as he was then, and would think twice before doing any service to any friend of mine now, because they all think he has failed in his duty to his family. The Rev. Dr. Hopkins, knows he has, for they were closely connected in the Church Journal for 17 years — Nothing has ever been made public of all this — in regard to my affairs and as my family is well known for high toned probity and loyalty to our own literary men, and as I belong to a family of gentlemen, representing the learned Professions, as my Father and all my Grandfathers, being noted Physicians, and my Uncles, Lawyers and divines — I have no need to look to the Houghtons for respectability or reliability

My Uncle the Hon. Hiram Barney is my lawyer and defender — and N.Y. city has known this truly good and noble man for forty years, as he built up the firm of “Barney Butler & Parsons” by his forty years honest service to his laborious profession — His friends are among our greatest men, of every creed or party. Chief Justice Chace was his bosom friend. Governor Seymore another. indeed patriots and scholars of every stamp know him and love him — I do not wish to say that Dr. Houghton would wrong Mr. Poe. But I do not wish to mention him, myself, nor have you — unless from other sources. Mr. Hopkins was a great admirer of Mr. Poe, and [page 105:] often met him at my house, but when the question of pantheism came up, you see he thought him either insane or a hopeless infadel, and whenever I labored to prove my theory he would tell the story of that dreadful night when they took him home to Fordham, Mr. Poe reciting, “some unheard of jargon with glorious pathos — or deadly hate,” as it suited the ideas at the time. Of course I felt he was lost, either way, and I could do nothing of any great service to him from my peculiar position after I married Dr. Houghton — I think Mrs. Clemm was left at Fordham when he went on his last journey and he was hastening home to bring her to his wedding. I never asked her questions about it, she was so full of grief and trials, but I do not believe Mr. Poe ever asked Griswold for money. I think Mrs. Clemm did. I never liked the heartless way she chose Griswold as Mr. Poe's biographer and I told her she was to blame I do not consider her intentionly so but she forgot the power could be used to injure her beloved son.

She had no haste. My house was open to her, and my domicil wherever I was, was hers but she saw her mistake too late — as you will perceive and probably know — You will see in the magazine (Harper) for September 1872(4) — that many things are uncertain, but I think he [Poe] told me his beautiful mother was born at sea, and I think he was born at Boston, indeed I will try to find his own account of it — (I have sent for my papers.) which are stored waiting the result of the chancery suit — I suppose I shall go to N.Y. in May to live in order to educate Dora with proper facilities for her great talents She is a very marvelous musical genius but loves painting so much she neglects her music, indeed we are away from the world here, (being three women alone) just now. The ice is fearful in the Harbour now, and the ferries obstructed and in a dangerous condition — I trust I may help you in time however — Of course I will be very concise, when I get my papers together. Dora gave you the letter sent She took a copy. Tell Mrs. Nichols I will answer [her] letter soon please I have the origonal of the poem to M.L.S. and also the origonal of the valentine to Marie Louise The poem to Mrs. M.L.S. [page 106:] was published in the Home Journal (Willis’ and Morris's paper) at the time it was written. Mr. Willis was a friend of mine; but he is gone — too —

I enclose to you what was written first of the Bells, which he insisted was mine, because I mimiced his style to bring him into his subject — I will tell you soon about another subject, you enquire but now must say good night. Hoping I may not frighten you by my long and I fear useless letter I am yours sincerely

Marie L. Houghton

P.S. My dear Mr. Ingram

I trust you will not think me negligent, or, very — very — nearly wild! I am in an unusual state of work and trial — As to what I have told you of my visit to Griswold. I do not wish you to infer that he kept my valuables. I left them because he looked so small and mean (if I may be allowed the expression), and referred to the expense which had already been put in type — that carefully compiled string of testimony, to injure the dead!

I remember telling him, that he must be a lawyer — instead of a preacher, and many other childish ill natured things! but this was when I met him in the street after my first interview. I left Mrs. Clemm with him, and I suppose he gave her my valuables at what time he did so, I cannot remember, but I know she borrowed five hundred dollars on them, and offered it to Griswold to leave out any thing unkind or unpleasant or calculated to give any pain to her or any thing derogatory to his Mr. Poe's character as a gentleman. Mr. Griswold sneered at my idea of Brain disease, and I refered him to Dr. Mott*, who said there was a leasion of one side of the brain and a change going on slowly but surely, but this man Griswold had no heart or soul, and I was only a weak little woman, of no account, whatever; and everybody I met or spoke to about it, said I was “unwise to meddle” so I left it to Mrs. Clemm, to do as she saw fit — she left me and went to Mrs. Richmond at Lowel, as you see by her letter I married Dr. Houghton, she returned and spent the winter with us, but [page 107:] before she left me she mentioned that “if she could get a proper Memoir published she would like to use the money she had raised on the diamonds, if needed” I answered yes — you can use it and have it for this purposeas no one will know of the obligation, — I learned afterwards, as I have told you, that Mrs. Clemm looked for me before she died, to return me my watch, and that she mentioned having sold my bracelet for three hundred dollars!!! She said this to Miss MacQuaile (a former governess of ours) but I think Miss MacQuaile made a mistake, for the bracelet cost $500 and would bring its value, like gold — I speak of this not because I care, for the money, but to prove to you, that altho’ Mr. Poe was said to have no friends and no one to love him, or his memory — that I did what little I could to spare him, that I nearly quarreled with Mrs. Clemm for giving her son's life into his Griswold's hands. That I offered to do even more, and only asked a month — to prepare, and even begged a statement of the whole expense and went home full of my intentions, but all the gentlemen of my household threw a wet blanket over it, and sent me to the country for a simpleton — This I think you can understand I knew Mr. Poe's true nature — was misunderstood. I grieved, ever for the great, for the bright — and brilliant intellect and glorious manhood so clouded and obscured at times — and flashing out again! and again! only to be rudely quenched and maligned, but I was not strong enough to do any thing really to help him. I had no one to stand with me. I was young with no self esteem — no firmness, no courage to battle for the right — (as I have now). I was not even fit for any great struggle, I had not been educated properly, my medical knowledge being the only sensible idea I had (which was really a fixed fact — not to be put down — or disputed) — I only wonder that Mrs. Clemm did not tell Mrs. Whitman, of some of these things, perhaps she did, and they did not think it of sufficient importance to mention to you I should think much more of Mrs. Clemm if she had returned me my watch (or Mr. Poe's ring) or something which would have showed she valued the generous love, that more than once made sacrifices for her children, or sympathy strength, and personal service — which money cannot repay — and only [page 108:] the memory, and gratitude of the recipient can in a degree recompense — That she wore the watch after redeeming it for many years I know, and it would have been a pleasure to me to have left it to the owner (as it was never appropriated to the purpose for which it was given) This, and the fact that she asked no service of me afterwards — goes to make an excuse for her long silence to me as my husband unkindly remarked, “She had got out of me all I could do for her, — and then it was a custom of poor human nature, to dislike those to whom they owe obligation”, but this is not my nature, as Mrs. Nichols* will tell you, and I never could understand it in others. At first I did not intend to mention this to you, this feeling of mine, that Mrs. Clemm forgot her sworn, and oft repeated friendship to me — (it is only a feeling I know nothing certain) but I should never be able to get along with you, if I did not speak frankly, and I think my son, has Mrs. Clemm's letter written before her gratitude had died out which will make the matter perfectly clear to you, and beyond a doubt — you will see in Mr. Willis’ Memoir (or some one else's) an allusion to this trait of worldly wisdom, and concealment — in Mrs. Clemm. I know the writer in Harper's Magazine Sep. /72 mentions it, and this article commands my respect for it (whoever he was) for he well knew in his heart that Mr. Poe dispised him — This same man was present at Mrs. Poe's funeral. I remember such a person who was very kind, and helped me to adjust the flowers and sprinkle the room with colonge, to brush Mr. Poe's old military cloak and cap which he would wear after all my trouble to leave them out of sight. The cloak had covered “Virginia's bed”, often until I was sent — with a down comforter, from my own room, for her. (I think Mrs. Nichols told me of their destitution). I taught Mr. Poe to sit away from a heated iron stove, with a soap stone at his feet, and I taught him to eat fish and clams and oysters to supply brain power, by the phosphates lost in his much thinking, and I taught him to use wheat, prepared with all the phosphates saved, and Mrs. Clemm made bread of Hosfords yeast, which preserved supplied all the elements of nutriment necessary to brain work and supply and he recovered energy and strength to write after his sickness and if Mrs. Clemm had [page 109:] gone with him, in his last tour, he would have succeeded in some ways — with even her knowledge of his necessities — But from her ignorance of Physiology and want of faith in her young and womanly Doctor, (for such women never respect the intellect or judgement of their own sex) She trusted him alone, forgetting, that where there is change of structure, in heart, or brain, and organic disease a fixed fact, recovery is only temporary — and is dependent entirely upon a fixed routine of duties, and habits, never to be overlooked or infringed upon, at home, or abroad.

The medical profession know that a man who has a tendency to Peralysis may live years of usefulness, if he keeps up his usual care of himself, but if he over works, and is at the same time thoroughly chilled, congestion follows fatal in a few minutes as in the cace of our excellent Mayor of N.Y. last fall, who walked four miles facing a chilling wind, (cars broke down four miles from station) but if Mayor Havemeyer had been properly informed by his physician, he would have quietly remained in a shelter (however rude) untill a carriage could have been obtained.(5) It is all very well, to be manly, and brave, but when a human being has organic disease he is no longer, a perfect being, and he is a slave to his infirmity whatever it is — Those who suffer from irregular action of the heart cannot hurry, neither can they hurry the circulation, if they do, the blood cannot flow thru the obstructed vessels fast enough and the Brain (even a healthy brain) suffers congestion, or pressure, painful, and too often fatal to reason and responsibility — Such was the cace of Mr. Poe, I have never met the person who could say that Edgar Poe sought or even liked whiskey, or strong drink, or any one who ever saw him order or ask for it. Since his marriage he never was known to do it, until madness, or insanity had begun from other causes, or from some one else insinuating a glass of beer or wine had then begun the process —

He was not a sensualist in his mature manhood, but he was a wreck as to physical capacity with only half his brain in working order, and should have been watched and cared for [page 110:] accordingly, for common sense is the first sense lost, when disease attacks the brain, — and self esteem and self reliance run riot — to the exclusion of all prudence or caution. My husband often tells me I am a woman of strong mind, (because I have not lost my reason under the trial he has subjected me to, no doubt, this is the reason he comes to this conclusion) but happily my brain is small, and my heart large — and healthy, and when such a temperament as mine, suffers & tears, and a conciousness of wishing no harm to others, makes a quiet concience, and a sweet sleep which is natures sweet restorer. Mr. Poe never slept after taking stimulants, and days, and nights of ravings, was his doom! unless some redeeming influence or medicine, interupted the struggle and equilibrium was again established — It takes twice the nourishment to sustain a large brain, and I was happy in having a small one or I should have exaggerated all my woes, and lost my balance, as my sister in law did (who married Dr. Houghton's brother Fred,) and when troubles came from his family to poor Kate, she was paralized and sits now a hopeless cripple “in the shadow alone” can neither read — nor work, so much from having a large brain, for her troubles were not half as serious or agrevating as mine. Still she had not the equally balanced circulation of mind, and body that I had, and her large brain succumbed — You see I speak frankly to you life is too short for mysteries now — and I know you can get a little sense out of my overflow, with Mary's help Mrs. Mary Gove Nichols, in London.

Heaven bless you M. L. Houghton

I told you (in my first letter, enclosed) I met Mr. Griswold afterward, and he said Mrs. Clemm was reconciled, &c. &c.

Mr. Ingram

This outside letter is a postscript to all I have written inside. I am sorry for you to have to wade thro’ it all and I am deeply grieved and sorry that Mrs. Nichols has not her own [page 111:] eyes in their wonted power and beauty to help you, for she could read my mind without my speaking in old days.


The children Dora and Mary send their kindest regards and best wishes to you.


I will tell you, sometimes what he said of Rosalie I have somewhere a letter, in which his sister is mentioned. I remember the sad regrets it contained well enough to describe it, but I prefer to find the letter — perhaps Henry has it. I know there is a reference to Byron, fancies and longings in it, also to an American poet, also, to Willis and his eldest child Imogen, the lovely womanly daughter of his (Willis’) first wife, who was an English lady — The letter from Mr. Poe to his wife, was not very nice to copy, as it was written from his Mem. Book, but it was a good specimen of his notes to her as you will see by the copy — Perhaps the letter was not mailed [[—]] I will look and enquire — I had a severe trial about the time I sent it — I may have mislaid it — if so it is in some of my boxes and will come to light again, We all remember preparing the letter, and copying the two letters —

More when I have had a look at the post Office's register.


The copies I enclose keep them, they are genuine and I hope the origonals will reach you, as I would like you fortified with Mrs. Clemm's to show to any Lewis woman that disputes the circumstances.

Even though Mrs. Houghton's seeming embarrassment over having sent such a mass of material for Ingram to “wade through” was probably matched by his frustration in trying to do so, he recognized and we now know she made important contributions to Poe biography in this particular package of pages, for the copy of Poe's letter to Virginia enclosed, dated June 12, 1846, is the only letter Poe wrote to his wife that has survived. (See Ostrom, II, 318, for complete text.) In addition, the letter Dora Houghton gave to Ingram, Poe's letter of January 29, 1847, addressed to Mrs. Shew, was so beautifully written that Ingram decided to reproduce the whole of it in facsimile in his Life, II, 107. [page 112:]

Mrs. Houghton later sent as gifts to Ingram the manuscripts of Poe's valentine to her and of the poem “To Mrs. M.L.S.” The valentine, “To Marie Louise,” had been printed in the Colombian Magazine, March, 1848; the poem, “To Mrs. M.L.S.,” in N. P. Willis’ Home Journal, March 13, 1847. Poe's first draft of “The Bells” was also an important and valuable gift to Ingram from Mrs. Houghton, for he used it again and again in his various publications about Poe.

Although Mrs. Houghton's account of her dealings with Rufus Griswold over the nature of his proposed biography of Poe and of her attempts to have his biography suppressed are disjointed and almost incoherent, they do have some ring of truth in them; and if they are true, even in part, Mrs. Clemm's roles in the affair are less than admirable. It certainly is true that her frequent and lengthy visits caused unhappiness and actual strife in the Houghton household. A number of other friends who sheltered Mrs. Clemm after Poe's death had causes to be unhappy with her, and several of them were vocal about what they saw as her duplicities, as has been seen in some of the letters above and will be seen again in the letters that follow.

In spite of Poe's ironical reactions to Mrs. Shew's advice that he seek a wife “fond enough and strong enough” to manage him and his affairs, very soon after Virginia's death he seems deliberately to have set about trying to remarry.

When Poe left New York on his last journey to Richmond and Norfolk, Mrs. Clemm was scheduled to live with Mr. and Mrs. S. D. Lewis, but she rather quickly returned to the Fordham cottage. It has not been established that Poe was actually returning to Fordham to escort Mrs. Clemm to Richmond to be present at his wedding to Mrs. Shelton, when he died in Baltimore, but much evidence does indicate that such was very likely the case.

Mrs. Houghton's diagnoses and her explications of medical cases are interesting, to say the least, as are her simple and direct criticisms of Poe's fictions; and her firsthand accounts of Poe's physical symptoms of disease, his actions and reactions, are completely unique.

Mary Gove Nichols was afflicted with cataracts and was almost if not completely blind, at this writing.

Mrs. Houghton was always extremely anxious that nothing she said or wrote to Ingram be repeated in print that could possibly offend Dr. J. H. Hopkins, and nowhere is there any satisfactory reason given. She detested Stella Lewis when they both were intimately concerned with the distressed Poe household, and it appears that dislike had not faded; Mrs. Lewis returned Mrs. Houghton's dislike with interest.

Letter 33. E. Dora Houghton, Flushing, to John Ingram, London. First printing. [Item 209] [page 113:]

The Chestnuts

Good Friday, March 26, 1875

Dear Sir

Mamma received yours of the 11th and was glad you received safely such an incongruous mass of scribbling. We shall be delighted to have your photo & we shall be most happy to see you in person when you find the leisure to visit America.

Monday, March 29, 1875

Mamma desires me to say that although Mary Starr* was an early friend of Poe's & may be able (if alive) to give you new points about his early life & particularly about the hostility of his family. Mary Starr was an admirer of Mr. Poe for himself — his traits & personal character she defended & she is useful to you only in this respect just as Mamma would be if she had known him as long & like Mamma she never read Mr. Poe's Tales appreciatively, if at all. As Mamma knew her she was a lady-like, conventional, cold, & careful. Mamma admired her for her loyalty & fidelity to Mr. Poe & Mrs. Clemm. Mr. Poe spoke of her with just a little scorn as married to a merchant Tailor & evidently content with her lot. You must remember that Mamma has never seen any criticism of E.A.P. except those published in Mr. Griswold's books. (Mamma's books have not all arrived yet & she has not read Griswold's for many years) except the one you say is Stoddards (Mamma thinks Stoddard was at the funeral of Mrs. Poe “with green goggles over his eyes”) Will you please tell Mamma who gave you the account of Mrs. Poe's funeral. Mamma did not intend to complain of Mrs. Clemm's treatment of her, you are the first person to whom she has ever mentioned it; & did what she did willingly and with all her heart and never regretted it. Owing to an accident the books were not mailed until the 5th of March, & could hardly have reached you at the date of your last letter. Mamma is very glad if they will be of any service to you, & she has no doubt they will reach you safely; & is sorry she mislead you as to the date they were mailed. Mamma begs pardon for troubling you [page 114:] with Mrs. Nichol's mail but she had an idea she was near London or that you would see her soon Mamma says you have misunderstood her about some things but she will write you herself about it. She is sorry she cannot be of more service to you at present but we have to remain at home until after April. I shall be overjoyed to receive the book on Flowers.(6)

Yours sincerely, E. Dora Houghton

The books Mrs. Houghton had mailed to Ingram were original editions of Poe's Tales and The Raven and Other Poems, both published by Wiley and Putnam, New York, 1845.

The tone of R. H. Stoddard's* article, “Edgar Allan Poe,” in Harper's Magazine was distinctly hostile to Poe, and Ingram could not understand Mrs. Houghton's approval of it.

Letter 34. Marie Louise Shew Houghton, Flushing, to John Ingram, London. First printing. [Item 210]

Easter Day March 28, 1875

Dear Mr. Ingram

I think Dora has written you, but as she and her sister are at church I cannot ask her and will say a few words to you. As soon as I can leave home for any length of time, I will try to find the lady who was Mary Star. I cannot recall her husband's name, but I will look in the directory for persons of his business. The name is a common one, which is the difficulty. I should have forgotten hers, if it had not been so odd. I believe I told you that the lines “to Mrs. M.L.S.” were written to me, just after his sickness which I described to you. They were published by Willis in the Home Journal, with the Mrs. attached but I suppose Griswold or some other publisher has dropped the Mrs. All the friends of Poe and most of the literary [page 115:] persons in N.Y. knew who was so extravagantly praised — in those lines which was one reason I did not want the “Beloved Physician” printed. I hope I may find it for you. It is possible I have given it to Mr. Knowlton to copy for me. Poor Knowlton is dead! But his wife lives at “Sing-Sing.” I will go and see her. I know Mr. Knowlton took some of my songs to copy, for Mr. Hopkins to set to music. I will look until I find it. I think Griswold wanted it at one time, but it is all a dream to me now — and I know Mr. Poe had a copy of it. If Griswold had it he suppressed [it], in enmity to me, but possibly he never saw it — I know I have the leaves from which Poe revised it, somewhere. We shall be happy to have your photograph and to see you, if you ever cross the Atlantic, — I am sorry for your sake my household goods and chattles are so scattered but I lost all interest in life for years, and tried to forget as much as possible the past I have promised Dora the Queens book, in April Life of Prince Albert I suppose it is expensive — This is her present desire, but I think it much cheaper here, than in England Did you receve the books I sent you by mail? Congress has just passed a new law — doubling postage on books and heavy mail. It goes in our mail now, for one cent per ounce When I spoke to you about Mr. Poe's poem doing me good, I ment only, as to my Diagnosis, of his disease, and skill in the same.

The Valentine enclosed was sent to me, a year after the Lines to M.L.S. they were both Valentines but this last to Marie Louise was so like a lover, that it was never shown to but a few — I dont believe it was ever published, untill Griswold found it, among Mr. Poe's papers. These two Valentines please return to me, sometime, none of the others need be returned

Yours reced acknowledging package

Yours sincerely M.L.H.

Yours of 16th just received

I shall expect my son in May[[.]] If he has any letters of any service to you I will get them[[.]] Most of Mr. Poe's notes to me [page 116:] are very like the one I sent you first, (or rather Dora sent it) The style and sentiments are the same. They show a gentle, grateful tender nature to those who are kind to him

The day before Mrs. Poe died I left to make some arrangements for her comfort. She called me to her bedside, took a picture of her husband from under her pillow kissed it and gave it to me. She opened her work box and gave me the little jewel cace I mentioned to you. She took from her portfolio a worn letter and showed it to her husband, he read it and weeping heavy tears gave it to me to read. It was a letter from Mr. Allan's wife after his death. It expressed a desire to see him, acknowledged that she alone had been the cause of his adopted Father's neglect, out of Jealousy that Mr. Poe really was a relative by blood to her husband. That if he would return to her at the end of her year of mourning, she would provide for him, &c. This letter he answered in scorn to her — and she replied “You was always a gentleman to me, always, until now — can you not forgive a fault so humbly acknowledged? This last was pinned to the first letter, & had been preserved by Mrs. Poe that the world might know her husband had treated this woman properly — She gave Mr. Poe the portfolio, and he put it in his desk, — She made him promise to preserve the letter and the few lines from another which she had saved from the flames, when received —

This is all that I know of the Allan matter, and as I remember it, it is not fit for publication. It is a delicate subject, as some of the Allan family still live. Possibly this horrid woman lives still in Richmond. Griswold must have got that letter, and could have used it — I suppose he was afraid of the Allans, as it was a cringing crawling confession of meanness, in the woman, but something might have been said in his defence, with this letter as proof — I cannot help you in time I fear. I cannot leave home until after the April term of court, as possession here is more than nine points of the law to me & mine. I am over worked and have a crushing load of care just now. You must expect little from a sad mother and struggling one

Yours ever truly Marie L. Houghton [page 117:]

Mr. Poe told me a story of his experience once, which I’ll try to remember & which founded the theft story!

Dearest John —

I enclose a letter which is from Mrs. Richmond of Lowel after my visit with her in N.Y. You see she speaks bitterly of Mrs. Clemm, who was like a cat, often, treacherous and cruel. She had a hard side to her nature like many Southern persons, who are, or have been brought up with slaves as servants and associates in childhood Not that I wish to depreciate Southern Ladies for I have learned from them some of my greatest lessons of Humanity and Christian charity — but there are natures that grow hard from sorrow and cruelty creeps out and selfishness and in old age, a grasping sordid spirit which may the Lord preserve from me and mine — Yours


Mrs. Clemm called me “Loui” — an abbreviation of Louise.


I burned my Journal very injudiciously last summer. I had kept it hid for years thinking some child of mine would write my life, but I burned it nearly all

I found some leaves of it in a vase yesterday which described this letter of Mrs. Allan's — You make me curious to know, who you took to be M.L.S. I do not think it at all important to tell who Mr. Poe wrote his Poems for. He laughed over people's perplexities and amused Mrs. Osgood who said to me “(Mrs. S) Edgar will tell you anything you ask him. He says he could refuse you nothing. Do ask him questions” but I disliked people who asked questions I am sorry now, but I had no curiosity which trait endeared me to many hearts


The letter Mrs. Houghton enclosed to Ingram in this letter, from “Mrs. Richmond of Lowel,” follows. First printing. [Item 79] [page 118:]


Feby 9 [18]53

My dear Loui,

So much has my time been occupied, since my return, in writing friends I neglected while in New York that I could not find an hour for you, although I have tried often so to do, and have twice commenced even writing to you. —

We arrived home in safety Sat. P.M. found all well, and glad to see us. The first thing I saw on entering the house was a letter from Mrs. Clemm in which she told me much concerning yourself and family — that you were soon to go to New York to reside. I immediately sat down and gave her a minute description of my delightful visit, expressing very freely my opinion of my acquaintances there, & particularly of her friend Dr. Houghton, but I did not tell her that I heard her name mentioned, during my sojourn among you — in her next I suppose she will enquire — Her letter was one of the most beautiful and affectionate I ever rec’d from her in my life. Oh, how hard it is to reconcile all we see & hear in this strange and selfish world of ours. Sometimes I fancy myself blessed with more kind and faithful friends than any earthly creature is deserving of — anon, I am striving in vain to find one I may venture to rely upon — such is life and such are some of the trials of my Everyday's Experience — Do you wonder I often doubt everyone & firmly resolve never again will I put it in the power of any human being to trifle with my heart's most sacred feelings. Not a secret (of my own) but I have confided in Mrs. Clemm — & what have I not suffered in consequence! God forgive her & enable me also to forgive the cruel wrong she has done the dead as well as the living — but I must drop this subject, lest my feelings get the better of my judgment, and I be left to say words of bitterness concerning one I have loved — Heaven only knows how devotedly — Caddie* sends much love & many thanks for the beautiful book from Marie — Please remember me very kindly to your husband & the children all — Have you seen Mr. [Wise?] since I left & is his friend living yet? Do let me hear from you soon & believe me truly yours

Annie L. Richmond

Mrs. Louisa G. Allan was indeed still living in Richmond when Mrs. Houghton wrote this letter to Ingram. Ingram's attempts to communicate with her had failed utterly; his Richmond correspondents refused to try to deliver the letters Ingram addressed to her which he enclosed to them, on the grounds that she was adamant in her refusal to discuss anything concerning Edgar Poe. Mrs. Allan died on Sunday, April 24, 1881, in Richmond. [page 119:]

Mrs. Houghton is the sole authority for this story about Mrs. Allan's attempt to effect a reconcilation with Poe; but if there is any truth in Mrs. Houghton's account, it absolutely nullifies Griswold's statement in his Memoir that Poe had behaved badly if not indecently in the Allan household. Ingram published in his Life this whole story relayed by Mrs. Houghton, thereby adding to the speculation and confusion that has ever since surrounded Poe's relations with the second Mrs. Allan. It is probable that Mrs. Clemm destroyed these letters from Mrs. Allan, along with the “hundreds” she admittedly burned, after Poe's death.

Among the other confusions this letter from Mrs. Houghton caused in Poe biography are the accounts Mrs. Houghton sent Ingram from the “forty leaves” of the journal she had kept from the days and nights when Poe dictated to her concerning his supposed travels in France, his being wounded in a duel, his writing two poems and a novel while in France, and so on — none of which has ever been substantiated. Poe's love of hoaxing is probably as close to the truth of the matter as we shall ever come, just as his quixotic enjoyment in mystifying curious persons explains his attitude about naming the persons to whom he addressed his poems.

Mrs. Houghton was the only one of Ingram's correspondents who ever had the temerity to address him by his first name. Mrs. Whitman did on occasion banteringly call him “MacRaven,” and “Don Felix” — because he once tartly informed her that “Ingram” meant “son of the Raven,” and he had used the pseudonym “Don Felix de Salamanca” in signing articles he had written, in imitation of Poe, on the philosophy of handwriting — but Ingram was not amused. His personality did not encourage familiarity.

Virginia Poe's jewel case and the letters from Mrs. Allan, if they ever existed, are still unlocated.

Letter 35. Marie Louise Shew Houghton, Flushing, to John Ingram, London, including a letter from Poe to Mrs. Shew. First printing. [Item 213]

April 3 [1875]

Dear Mr. Ingram

My books came yesterday and yours also. You may think it strange I could not get a copy of Poe's works here. Dora looked for it in the Public Library and several private ones, including the Rectory's at Flushing & Whitestone where my daughter is as much at home as any where, but your friend [page 120:] and my friend's Memoir was not there, in the full bookcases. I now have 2 copies of Griswold's edition (Mr. Chapin's* & mine). Shall I make a present of one of these to the Flushing Library? I could not tell which box the Poe's Memoir was packed in, but it came at last, two copies. I read your Memoir hurriedly last night while watching a sick neighbor. I recognized Mrs. Lewis whom you call an accomplished writer. Mr. Poe was indebted to her, that is, she paid Mrs. Clemm in advance, when they were needy, and poor Poe had to notice her writings, and praise them. He expressed to me the great mortification it was to him, and I child like I hated the fat gaudily dressed woman whom I often found sitting in Mrs. Clemm's little kitchen, waiting to see the man of genius, who had rushed out to escape her, to the fields and forest — or to the grounds of the Catholic school in the vicinity. I remember Mrs. C[lemm] sending me after him in great secrecy one day & I found him sitting on a favorite rock muttering his desire to die, and get rid of Literary bores. I tried to cheer him. He liked me for my ignorance and indifference, no doubt, to worldly honors, and lamented, in sincere sorrow when I grew like the rest of the world by my duties and position. I have two letters of his, “cowardly letters” he called them, as he said he saw me floating away from his sight, hence his bitterness to the student of divinity, whom he gave credit for instructing his friend in the duties of a mother, and as a child of the Church, in her example's avoiding “even the appearance of evil”! I never saw the reply to Mr. Hopkins article before (it must have been him as the shirt collar described him so accurately, but Mr. Poe wronged Mr. H.* I am sure, (in his jealousy) for Mr. Hopkins has an acute and fine perception of Mr. Poe's genius, and only attacked his so called Pantheism — as you know — He wrote a brilliant notice of Poe's lecture at the Society Library at my house, the same night. This other article I never heard of, before, evidently Mr. Poe thought it was him, if it was not.

The letters I mention are Private — extravagant in my praise and I did not send them. I will copy or get Dora to do any thing we find, but I am so nearly, washed out, by sorrows that the outlines are faint and unreliable, as to dates and [page 121:] persons — new things come to me daily, however. I hope you will forgive me if I say that your picture [of Poe, in Vol. I of Ingram's 1874/75 edition of Poe's works] is not as good as the one in Griswold's. I never saw this before that I remember. It may look as he did the last year (for he was very thin and worn when he went away) but Mr. Poe had curling hair, he wet it often to straiten it, and probably did so before this sitting (of your photo) but his hair would curl as soon as dry, around his ears. He had fine dark curling hair, blue eyes with dark lashes, or bluish grey — his mouth was small, which was his only defect, showing weakness. He was like his Mother, who wore her curls low on her forehead to conceal her broad intellectual forehead, or brain which was poor Edgars inheritence. He had a bundle of his Mothers letters, written in a round hand, very like Mr. Poe's, and two sketches of hers, one in pencil or indellible ink, the other in water colors, and represented Boston Harbour (I think from the Cambridge side) or view. On the back of this picture was a neatly written description, which ended in these words, which I copy from my journal. “For my little son Edgar, who should ever love Boston, the place of his birth, and where his mother found her best, and most sympathetic friends” Mrs. Clemm did not value “these antiquated specimens of art”, as she called them in derision, and altho I had them neatly framed according to Virginias request of me, and hung in Mrs. Clemms room while at my house, after Edgars death, I think she must have given them away, I had her promice to give them to me, if they left the family. I cannot recall their fate, but only remember that she called them in jest “Loui Antiques” as I dont know where she died, I cannot say. they may have been given to the sister Rosalie. I wish I could find them. Mr. Hopkins said the water color sketch was lovely, Boston Harbour, morning, 1808. Mrs. Clemm was fond of new things, and I of old. She dressed very plainly herself, but if I was to take her out in my little coupa, she would give me a lecture on going out in white musline or on my childish simplicity, in not following fashions which neither suited my ideas or person, and I always had a lecture about it. This I mean when she was staying with me. The world was too much her idol. [page 122:] She covered over things which would have saved many sorrows, to have been known, for there were many noble souls in New York, among plain uneducated but wealthy people who would have willingly given of their wealth to have saved the immortal Poe — to finish his career in honor and comfort. I was too young then to know it, too inexperienced and undeveloped, but now I know it well — I have a picture which is very like the side view I copied of Mrs. Poe. Alma thinks it is one of Mr. Poe's mother, while ill in Richmond. I gave it to Alma, when she left home, with a book of autographs in which Mr. Poe wrote these lines “Like all true souls of noble birth” etc. I think the lines were sent me by Mrs. Nichols as a Valentine but they are carefully and beautifully copied, in Poe's handwriting in the book. I think he did it for a past time, and Mrs. Nichols is the author. It lies between them. I enclose them in the picture — which I think is very like the picture of Poe, in Griswold's edition, but not as intellectual as the side view I copied, and which I will send you when I find it. You can hardly imagine how broken my home is, with a few boxes here and a few there, but still we are a happy loving trio still — I think the registered post will be best for it and may not get it off, immediately so dont let me have you looking London over for it, please, as I found Mr. Poe's (or Griswold Memoir) & books in a box of my son Henry's. I may find a copy of the Beloved in his Boxes. Henry could repeat some verses of it, and called me “the Ancient Louisa” much to Lida's annoyance, the young lady who died, who also admired Mr. Poe's works, and the beloved Physician in particular. I have no letters here or papers of Poe, except the 2 letters of which I have or will send you copies. They are not useful to you except as explanatory. The following was his last, and was written in June 49 after my visit with Mr. Hopkins, the last time, Mr. H. went twice to see Poe. “The last time by appointment.” “Can it be true Louise thay [[that]] you have the idea fixed in your mind to desert your unhappy and unfortunate friend and patient. You did not say so, I know, but for months I have known you was deserting me, not willingly but none the less surely — my destiny — Disaster! following fast & following faster, & I have had premonitions of this for months I expect, my good [page 123:] spirit, my loyal heart! Must this follow as a sequel to all the benefits and blessings you have so generously bestowed? Are you to vanish like all I love, or desire, from my darkened and ‘lost soul’ — I have read over your letter again, and again, and cannot make it possible with any degree of certainty, that you wrote it in your right mind I know you did not without tears o f anguish and regret, is it possible your influence is lost to me? Such tender and true natures are ever loyal until death, but you are not dead, you are full of life and beauty! Louise you came in with the Parson, in your floating white robe “Good Morning Edgar”’ There was a touch of conventional coldness in your hurried manner and your attitude as you opened the kitchen door to find Muddie is my last remembrance of you. There was love, hope, and sorrow in your smile, instead of love, hope & courage, as ever before. Oh Louise how many sorrows are before you, Your ingenuous and sympathetic nature will be constantly wounded in contact with the hollow heartless world, and for me alas! unless some tender and pure womanly love saves me, I shall hardly last a year longer, alone! A few short months will tell, how far my strength, (physical, and moral), will carry me in Life here. How can I believe in Providence, when you look coldly upon me. Was it not you who renewed my hopes and faith in God? ... & in humanity? Louise, I heard your voice as you passed out of my sight leaving me with the Parson, ‘The man of God, The servant of the Most High!’ He stood smiling and bowing at the madman Poe! But that I had invited him to my house, I would have rushed out into God's light and freedom! But I still listened to your voice! I heard you say with a sob, ‘dear Muddie!’ I heard you greet my Caterina, but it was only as a memory of — nothing escaped my ear. and I was convinced it was not your generous self that was repeating words so foreign to your nature, to your tender heart! — I heard you sob out your sense of duty to my mother, and I heard her reply — ‘Yes, Loui,’ ‘Yes,’ it was the mother of Alma, that child with the Madonna eyes! She is good and pure, and passably loving, but she is of her father type. She has not your nature. Why sacrifice your angelic perogative for a commonplace nature? Why turn your soul from its true work for the desolate, to the [page 124:] thankless and miserly world! Why I was not a priest, W is a mystery, for I feel I am now a prophet and I did then and towered in mind and body, over my invited guest in spite of the duties of hospitality and regard for your feelings, Louise, when he said grace and you said a low ‘amen,’ I felt my heart stop, and I was sure I was then to die before your eyes. Louise, it is well, it is fortunate you looked up, with a tear in your dear eyes, and raised the window and talked of the guava — you ‘had brought for my sore throat’ — Your instincts are better than a strong man's reason I trust they may be for yourself! Louise I feel I shall not prevail a shadow has already fallen upon your soul and is reflected in your eyes. It is too late you are floating away with the cruel tide. I am a coward to write this to you, but it is not a common trial, it is a fearful one to me. Such rare souls as yours, so beautify this earth! So relieve it of all that is repulsive and sordid, so brighten its toils and cares, it is hard to lose sight of them even for a short time, again I say I am a coward, to wound your loyal unselfish and womanly heart, but you must know and be assured, of my regret and my sorrow if aught I have ever written has hurt you! My heart never wronged you. I place you in my esteem in all solemnity, beside the friend of my boyhood, the mother of my school fellow, of whom I told you, and as I have repeated in the Poem the “Beloved Physician”, as the truest, tenderest, of this worlds most womanly souls, and an angel to my forlorn and darkened nature, I will not say ‘Lost Soul’ again, for your sake. I will try to over come my grief for the sake of your unselfish care of me in the past, and in life or death, I am ever yours gratefully & devotedly

June 1849 [1848] Edgar A. Poe

Mr. Ingram

Mr. Poe always treated me with respect and I was to him a friend in need, and a friend indeed, but he was so excentric, and so unlike others, and I was also, that I had to define a position, I was bound to take, and it hurt his feelings, and after he was dead I deeply regreted my letter to him, as we all do, often to [sic] late.

Poor Edgar cannot but show how womanly and true I was [page 125:] or was to him. Still I was only a “country maiden” and he could not reverence my intellect, poor fellow. He used to listen to my songs, written by myself and lament I had not learned greek and latin, still he would not change the songs, he said —

Mr. Ingram I believe I am the only correspondent of Mr. Poe to whom he called himself “cowardly” and a “Lost Soul” I never repeated this, or showed it to others, but generally burned such letters (as I was in duty bound). He did not believe that his soul was lost, it was only a sarcasm, he liked to repeat to express his sufferings, and dispair! I never saw a quotation from the Raven in any letter of his, but this. The whole stanza is written out after Disaster, following fast & following faster &c. (following is used instead of followed)

I kept this letter and carried it in my memorandum book so long, (to grieve over) that it is nearly worn out. My son Henry is the only person I ever showed it to (except Dr. Houghton, at one time when I was looking for a letter for a date for him, after I was married to him, & he did not read it all. I read the passage about the valentine (for that is what Mr. Poe alluded to) in what he said as to what he had written, as it is the only thing he ever did or said that could be construed as wrong to me but I never thought it wrong. I think it a beautiful glorious valentine, and hope you will publish it, as I sent it, but it is best to take thought of its date as it is not dated, by him. also I would not connect it in the Memoir as written to me. Let it stand as it is, to Marie Louise. How stupid of Griswold to leave out part of it. Do you not think so? I hope you will receive it safely. Dora did not register the letter as the postmaster could not be found to attend to it, in time for the mail. I only tell you my impression that it was written February 1848 — and to save any possible accusation for or to his memory, in Mrs. Whitmans mind. I think the date better be omitted. We must be wise, we that love him, for his enemies are still alive. Some friends of Griswolds keeps these slanders circulating, so I am told — and now I hope you will not be startled. A man by the name of Jones, a bushy headed white livered creature had the audacity to stop at my gate or door yesterday, to enquire if I had any manuscript or poems [page 126:] of Poe that had not been published, “That an American publisher would like to know.” I answered that I had yet to learn that any American publisher would do Mr. Poe the justice to brand Griswold's edition as an outrage, and a deliberate & premeditated slander, upon the dead poet, and as this man did not bring me any introduction I felt justified in shutting the door without giving him any reply, but that I feared Griswold was not dead yet, as I had hoped he was, intellectually — morally — and physically. I have never mentioned my correspondence with you to anyone, but your first letter, Mr. Davidson sent to Hartford and it went thro’ Dr. Houghton's hands who knows I had some of Poe's poems years ago, he may have mentioned it to somebody, but I shall not give any information, and hope you will get your book out without meddlers or any other such specimens of greedy publishers, coming here to see me, for I am in no humour to meet with such creatures — now — I do not think Dr. Houghton, otherwise than friendly to Mr. Poe, but he is a friend of many publishers, and may have said something.

The man who called, remained in his carriage at the gate, and said he was lame, sent his driver to ask me to go out to him. I declined to go out to see a strange man, so he got out and hobbled to the door, & said hurriedly, “My name is Jones madame, and you are Mrs. Dr. Houghton.” I said, yes. Then he repeated his business in the words I have written on the preceding page. Dora said that the man muttered “I thought so” as he got into his carriage, and she scowled at him, and told the man to “shut the gate, please.”


Note, When I spoke of the man Jones who called in the following sheet, I only intended to say that I hope no other book will get the credit, and profit you deserve


Poe's mother's letters and the sketch and water color painting of Boston Harbor have not survived.

Mary Gove Nichols wrote the lines “Like all true souls of noble birth”; Poe simply copied them in Mrs. Shew's book of autographs. Several lines of Poe's [page 127:] valentine, “To Marie Louise,” were omitted when it was first printed in the Columbian Magazine, and Griswold had followed that printing. Rufus Griswold had died on August 27, 1857.

When any one of Ingram's correspondents showed real signs of being a help to him, he flattered them by sending a set of his edition of Poe's works. The daguerreotype of Poe that Ingram had used as a frontispiece was actually an engraving made from a copy of a daguerreotype made in late 1848 in Providence, Rhode Island. Poe had given the original to Mrs. Whitman and she had furnished the copy to Ingram.

Apparently Poe was indeed jealous of the influence the divinity student J. H. Hopkins exerted over Mrs. Shew, feeling that Hopkins, seriously offended by Poe's pantheistic ideas, had warned Mrs. Shew that her association with Poe would endanger her both socially and spiritually. In many quarters, Poe's reputation was indeed not very good.

Mrs. Houghton's dislike for and jealousy of Stella Lewis are perfectly obvious, and they were shared by every other member of the “Poe Circle.”

Of course, “Caterina” was the name of Poe's cat.

Letter 36. Marie Louise Shew Houghton, Flushing, to John Ingram, London. First complete printing. [Item 215]

April 9, 1875

Dear Mr. Ingram

I am sorry my letters are so long in getting off. I suppose when we miss a Saturday's mail the letters wait until the next Wednesday. I have made no enquiries as to the English mail and only judge from old times, when I had correspondence abroad, so you see how retisent I am, and how far behind the times. Mr. Hopkins has sent me the 40 pages. I received them last night. I see that Mr. Poe said in one conversation that he wrote a story that year which is a blank to you in his life, which was credited to Eugene Sue, and published afterwards as doubtful, still many believed it was Sue's. Mr. Poe said it was to much of the sensation character and he would not mix it up with his more studied writings. I don’t give his own words here however in my Journal, only his ideas. This information was given in reply to my question why he didn’t write stories like others, Bulwer, Dickens, and some others, as [page 128:] I thought his tales so unsatisfactory and unpleasant. He said he was ill in a foreign port, once was insane, [illegible] in a fever, brought on from a sword wound, given him by an antagonist more skillful than himself, with whom he quarreled about a fair Lady-That he lay ill in a Lodging-that a noble Scotch woman of birth and culture, came to him, at the suggestion of a poor charwoman who had carried him food and heard his prayers and cries for water and ice that this Scotch Lady had followed her brother to this port, her brother having fallen into evil ways, gaming &c. That she cared for him, Mr. Poe, 13 weeks, providing him with everything he needed. (including a kind nurse) That she came daily with her brother to see him, and took the nurse's place while she slept. That he promised this angelic woman never to mention her name or service, except to those who had a right to know his whereabout. And then her name was not to be revealed, unless by her own request. He described her as a plain looking large featured maiden Lady, with no beauty but her eyes, which were heavenly blue with long dark lashes. That the [illegible] and intense trust & deep honest Heart of sympathy, and trusting faith in God's ever present help, to those who believed in, and asked for mercy, was so expressed in this Lady[‘s] eyes, That he wrote a poem for her in parting called “Holy Eyes” — That he told her he intended to go home and follow or adopt journalism as a profession, And she said when he became great and noted, she would visit Iiim in America, if she lived as long, and that she would have the poem published, after her affairs at home were settled. He Li I so says he wrote a poem called Humanity which was sent to Paris and sold, and credited afterwards to “George Sands” — That his promise to this Scotch Florence Nightengale was the reason he never published these two poems, in America — The story he said was not to his taste and had too much of yellow covered novel style for him to be proud of, and besides “there were scenes and pictures, so personal, that it would have made him many enemies among his kindred who hated him for his vanity and pride already, and in some respects very justly, the fault of his early education.” these were his own words.

M.L.H. [page 129:]

As near as I can make out Mr. Poe reffered to the time he left “West Point,” — The town was in France near the sea, and the Scotch Lady, and her brother, helped translate his novel, and sold it for him for so many francs equivalent to $100 dollars, which paid his passage home. The poem “Humanity” was not dedicated to George Sand but was attributed to her pen and was, (I think he said) published as hers in a collection — and the novel was attributed to Sue. He had the manuscript, but said he would destroy it. I begged him not to do so, but to rewrite it and make money as others did with everyday ordinary stories. He said he should detest himself as a yellow cover novelist — That the truth was more terrible than the fiction in it — &c. &c.

Note —

I fancy you will be able to make out now at what time the absence occured, when Mr. Poe was ill in a strange country, as very likely you can put your evidence together, as to his evident whereabouts from his relatives. They ought to know what became of his brother, whom Edgar said was a Secretary to some foreigner and afterwards “read law,” as we say in America. He was a dashing gay cavalier, of tastes unsuited to the times he was bred in, or born to, and, with far more of the Poe nature than Edgar had — coarser rougher, and I fancy — very gay. Edgar mentioned him once to me the conversation I will recall and tell you, if I do not find the statement I wrote for him about it. What did Mrs. Clemm say about Mrs. Lewis. What does Mrs. L. do in London? Does she know you are writing me? I suppose I have done her injustice for it appears Mrs. Clemm did stay at her house before going to Baltimore. I have always fully believed some one intercepted a letter I wrote Mrs. Clemm to the care of her publishers, sometime /57 (in the summer of /57 I think) as it was taken from them by a lady with whom Mrs. C. was staying I know so much, and it was just before she went to Baltimore.


I see the story was written in the third person, and he called it “commonplace” and the name of it was at first called “Life of an Unfortunate Artist” — afterwards changed however, [page 130:] Life of an Artist at Home and Abroad and he supposed it would be compiled in Sue's works. He laughed at me for reading a book of George Sands. I think it was [illegible] and told me of his poem Humanity, as a nice little joke, because I did not admire his style. There is something else in this part of my Journal, if you like the style I will copy it but it is unsatisfactory, I not being a [practicle?] person, only wrote from memory what made my journal interesting, and I tell you in confidence that Mr. Hopkins one of the most learned men I ever knew, said it was a charming, womanly, record which he would never willingly see destroyed, but that it would take the place of, or was [equal?] in pathos, and power, to some correspondence, published by some German author of note. All of which is no matter now — I do not remember fully the title the story had at last, but it was similar to what I have written. I do not find any reference to the beloved Physician. Indeed these pages were written the winter after the sickness of Poe, Jan. Feb. and March, Apr. May & June of 1848. The Beloved Physician was written two months or more after Mrs. Poe's death, 1847. I will see what I can cull out for you in a few days. The reference to Bishop Hopkins family is not of a nature to send you and I shall return the Journal to Dr. Hopkins after I copy out for you what it reveals of Poe, and if you refer to what I say in the Journal you can say, This is from the Journal of his intimate friend, or Physician, and revealed during illness and gloom; and anything you please of Mrs. Houghtons Journal so you keep the “Parson” out


[...]I heard your voice as you said Dear Muddie so tender and mournful, and then an allusion to greeting his cat, whom he calls Caterina. I copy this from a copy of the letter in my portfolio, for I sent my letters away to a safe, with some valuables belonging to the children yesterday, — you are right about the was and were! You must make what I write good English for I never was educated. I came up an only daughter, of a busy Doctor, who thought me too frail in health to overtax me with dicipline or learning and my old age is full of work and care You have the sense and meaning and must supply the grammar [page 131:]

There is still a hiatus in our knowledge of Poe's whereabouts after he left West Point in February or March, 1831, but it is highly unlikely that this story of his being wounded in a duel in France has any basis in fact. Poe could have been delirious when he dictated these adventures to Mrs. Shew, or, more probably, he was simply enjoying spinning a romantic tale for her mystification. It is true that Poe's brother did go to sea, and it is possible that he reached Russia; but it is equally possible that Edgar assumed some of his brother's experiences as his own, just to amuse himself at Mrs. Shew's expense. Certainly no traces of any poems named “Holy Eyes” or “Humanity” have been found in the writings of George Sand, or anyone else for that matter; and no story resembling that told to Mrs. Shew has been located in the works of Eugene Sue.

After divorcing her husband, S. D. Lewis, in 1858, Stella Lewis moved to London. When Mrs. Houghton learned from Ingram that Mrs. Clemm had indeed been living with Mrs. Lewis in 1857, she surmised that Mrs. Lewis had intercepted her letter.

During the Civil War, Mrs. Houghton and her three children retired into the country, near the Canadian border, presumably without Dr. Houghton. Mrs. Houghton's grammatical inaccuracies, as well as her ambiguities, her habits of leaving letters undated, pages unnumbered, and of adding endless postscripts that seem irrelevant are indeed frustrating at times — but John Ingram confessed himself charmed with her naivete. He was himself not without grammatical sin.

Letter 37. Marie Louise Shew Houghton, Flushing, to John Ingram, London. First complete printing. [Item 218]

[ca. April 15, 1875]

Dear Mr. Ingram

I am sorry the books did not reach you in good condition. Books go by mail here to all parts of the United States safely. The Post Master advised me to send them in this way. They were carefully put up, and decently clean when they left us. You need not return them. The small one Mr. Poe gave me the first time I saw him and it was his last copy he said. If you ever come to see us, you can bring it [....] I told you in my long letter that Mr. Poe had a miniature of his mother, and 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 [page 132:] 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.

I copied it once on ivory myself, and some of my children have it, as I divided up many of my valuables but I did not mention this to you for fear I could not find it for you. You must have been mistaken or I may have forgotten. Dora says it may be in her boxes [....] We will try to find something nice for you in the mean time. You must see we cannot serve you as well as we could wish, on account of our distracted surroundings at present. [The letter breaks off]

Dear Mr. Ingram

[...] I must say in my own defense that I have slept only three nights out of six, for two months, having a sick neighbor with whom I have stayed on alternate nights, and if I write nonsense, or leave out half my words it is because I cannot see well, or as readily as I used to do, and also, I am weary and sleepy as most Doctors are [....] While copying Mr. Poe's letter I was constantly interrupted and I did not read it over. Dora also copied one, which she hurried over, and she says it was all there, except the stars and punctuation, which she did not mind. What a pity! You probably can judge from these that his letters were of a confidential nature, and let it all go only, so you understand them — I see no more of the reminiscense of Poe in that 40 pages, except a reference to his coming to town to go to a midnight service with a Lady friend and myself. He went with us, followed the service like a “churchman”, looking directly towards the chancel, and holding one side of my prayer book, sang the psalms with us, and to my astonishment struck up a tenor to our sopranos and, got along nicely during the first part of the sermon, which was on the subject of the sympathies of our Lord, to our wants. The passage being often repeated, “He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He begged me to stay quiet that he would wait for me outside, and he rushed out, too excited to stay. I knew he would not leave us to return home alone, (altho’ my friend thought it doubtful), and so after the sermon as I began to feel anxious (as we were in a strange church) I looked back and saw his pale face, and as the congregation [page 133:] rose to sing the Hymn, “Jesus Saviour of my soul,” he appeared at my side, and sang the Hymn, without looking at the book, in a fine clear tenor. He looked inspired! And no wonder. He imagined he would have made a successful orator, and priest — I did not dare to ask him why he left, but he mentioned after we got home, that the subject “was marvelously handled, and ought to have melted many hard hearts” and ever after this he never passed Doctor Muhlenbergs 20th St. Free Church without going in, if the doors were open. He considered Dr. M. a wonderful man, “with a large heart for his kind, superlatively so! “ as he proved to be, as we owe St. Luke's Hospital, to his influence and many other charities!!! — for fallen, as well as suffering humanity. Dora posted the letter containing the two original valentines, three weeks ago. It is time I heard of their safe arrival. I feel very sorry they were sent as they were beautiful specimens of art and poetry, and may be lost! The picture I sent, because I did not think it a good likeness, and too much like the portrait of Poe in Griswolds Memoir to please you, and besides a copy of a miniature [letter breaks off]

I copy or clip rather from a secular paper (The N.Y. Sun) the following notice or enclosed notice, of Dr. Muhlenberg* —

This Hymn was sung when my mother was dying, as it is in the prayer book, and I never could sing it from a nervous feeling of dread. He [Poe] said it was originally one of the most beautiful Hymns in the Language. That it had been simplified. That it was an Essay as well as a poem, and a thousand sermons could be written from it — for every thought contained numberless texts, to preach sermons from — or for sermons, and he repeated the original Hymn, which he learned when a little boy, from a newspaper copy and never forgot. I remember this as I thought seriously of asking a friend to introduce Mr. Poe to Dr. Muhlenberg, but was prevented at that time, and it never occurred. His wife told me that Edgar was not fond of forms of worship, but often went to hear Dr. M. from a sort of attraction “that he could not overcome and often remarked that he was a true and inspired teacher of the Gospel.”

M.L.H. [page 134:]

Dear Mr. Ingram,

I have neglected to tell you that the Photograph or engraving in your Memoir improves as I have had it to look at, and I do not wish to discourage you as to its truthfulness.

What is Mrs. Whitman's address except Providence, R.I.? I will give her the jewel cace or something belonging to Mr. or Mrs. Poe, as she will value them. My life is almost over, and my children belong to another age. I enclose a slip from a Virginia Educational magazine about a monument to Edgar A. Poe.

Heaven bless you


Don’t speak of what I say about the jewel cace to Mrs. W. If you think it will please her I know it will. I will send it to her.

Yours very truly M.L.H.

Ingram used the miniature of Poe's mother sent to him by Mrs. Houghton as a frontispiece for Volume II of his 1880 Life of Poe. He reproduced this account of Poe's going to church in an article called “Unpublished Correspondence of Edgar A. Poe,” Appleton's Journal, May, 1878.

The two “original valentines” posted to Ingram by Dora Houghton were manuscripts of two poems Poe had written to her mother.

Ingram accepted as a gift the two volumes of Poe's tales and poems, on the basis of Mrs. Houghton's written “You need not return them.” Later, her family resorted to every means known to them to get him to return these “gifts,” but he resisted; and even after Ingram's death in 1916, they were trying to regain the items from the collection of Poe papers sold to the University of Virginia. Finally, Professor James Southall Wilson wrote the family a gentle and conciliatory letter explaining that almost all of the autograph letters and valuable items in the collection had been sold at various auctions by Ingram, after the persons who had given them to him had died. Ingram had insisted he had a right to sell the items, for he claimed he had devoted his life and fortune to redeeming Poe's name and he deserved the right to recoup what he could. At one sale, the British Museum bought several autograph Poe letters at a pound or two each; within a few years, autograph Poe letters were bringing as much as two hundred dollars each at auctions. Ingram was outraged, but helpless.

Mrs. Houghton did open a correspondence with Mrs. Whitman, but it is not known whether she sent to her the jewel case that had belonged to Poe's mother. [page 135:]

Letter 38. Marie Louise Shew Houghton, Whitestone, to John Ingram, London. First printing. [Item 221]

May 2 [1875]

Dear Mr. Ingram,

I suppose you understand why I have said so much of Mr. Hopkins to you. I did so because he was a frequent visitor at my house the year that Mrs. Poe died (and his father and brothers and sisters) and as you had only heard of my existence thro’ Mrs. Nichols (who had not seen me for twelve years or more) I considered it best to mention some reliable person who had known me all this time also — I have said many things (in explanation) that it is not usual to mention, for instance about my journal. I do not think Mr. H. would like me to speak about his interest in it, for fear of misconception, but I have told you why — in all candor — and you must not mention or know anything thro’ me, but my desire to do you some real service, and my memory will not give you proper dates unless I find the pencilled notes taken down from Mr. Poe's own lips, as dictation. You have not acknowledged the little note I sent you, given me by Mrs. Poe, in his picture or Deguerotype. It was not much but I sent it in March with a few lines telling you I had found it in my box of colors with a little bunch of flowers, very unexpectedly. It was a good specimen of his notes to his wife, as he always called her my dear Heart, &c. Dora kept a copy of it. I sent the original thinking you would like to have it as he wrote it, for your book — perhaps you think it too simple to notice — if so, I mistake your ideas and nature & I venture to mention it to you.

Marie L. Houghton

Monday [May] 3d [1875]

Please send my letters hereafter until further notice to Box 72, Whitestone Queens Country, Long Island, as we give up the Flushing Box — after May 1st

The note to Mrs. Poe was written on a leaf from his account book and sent by her mothers hand. [page 136:]

The original of the “little note” given to Mrs. Shew by Virginia Poe was Poe's note to Virginia dated June 12, 1846, telling her that he must stay in the city for the night. Ingram never received the original; only a copy made by Dora Houghton reached him. (See Ostrom,11, 318, for complete text.)

Reverend J. H. Hopkins (later Bishop Hopkins) was apparently very close indeed to Mrs. Houghton and her family. His interest in her journal was ostensibly appreciation for the charming wholesomeness of her personality therein expressed.

Letter 39. Marie Louise Shew Houghton, Whitestone, to John Ingram, London. First complete printing. [Item 226]

May 16 [18]75

Dear Mr. Ingram

Yours received today, ackowledging the little picture. You can keep the picture as long as you please. I told you that I did not feel satisfied about this picture. That I had a side face much more intellectual — and this I should not have remembered about but from my eldest daughter saying it was Mr. Poe's mother's picture, and she only valued it, from its resemblence to her great grandmother's portrait at her grandfather's house

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. You know portrait painters and miniature painters took great liberties (having no photographs in those days to help them in likenesses) Find out first, if you can do better. I think you understood me as to Mrs. Allan. I know nothing only about those two letters mentioned and this I should have forgotten, if I had not mentioned it in my diary. Griswold must have returned those letters, or else Mrs. Clemm burned them. She burned a package of my letters to Mr. Poe which he had preserved carefully. She “burned them without opening them” she told me. This was very unwise for they would now be of use, in making dates out, and an angel might have seen them. They [illegible] from a true and loving friend and deserved a better fate. I wonder indeed! That what [page 137:] he cared for so carefully should have been so carelessly distroyed. I said to her “you might have returned them, and given me the privilege of disposing of what he chose to preserve” and as she said “tied up with white ribbon and a golden cord running through it” — The photograph is very good. It quite startled me, and at first I did not like it, but it is very like him indeed. I should like a large one if it would be as like, large enough to hang up in my “office”, sometime. You owe me nothing, but patience and charity for my scriblings. Mr. Poe was the person who spent a year abroad and never betrayed his whereabouts to mortal. No one knew of the origin of the scar on his shoulder but Virginia, so Mrs. Clemm told me. She did not seem to know it then. I never talked with her about it, as she burned my letters so roughly and seemed to leave me out of all her plans except to make use of my loyalty and devotion, when she needed personal protection and pecuniary help. (This is between ourselves of course) Her letters are nearly all burned. Those I sent you would have been had they mentioned anything of obligations, as it was a sore subject with Dr. Houghton who did not like my helping Mrs. C. altho’ nothing was ever said to me but in kindly warning of her ingratitude in those days, when I was his “Dearest Louise” his beloved wife his “Heart's Ever” his all”. God help my elastic soul. It did not break or die, and I am thankful that I am emancipated from the love of this man, altho’ he is the father of my children. His portrait hangs upon the wall before me beside mine of tender briliant beauty — His is cold and handsome. Nothing could induce the little girls to put a green sprig over it at Christmas. The only picture in the room without a touch of the time of rejoicing. Dora put up the motto “God with us” over the door near it, but it (the portrait) was passed by. I ventured to say “You have forgotten your father” — “We remember him in our cold hands, our weary feet, our daily sufferings and deprivations,” Dora answered me thus, and I said no more — I am certain about the story of his illness abroad (Mr. Poe's) to change the subject and know that it is true, and it is probably the year he is said to have been in London which you refer to in your Memoir altho’ I supposed it was after he left West Point, but [page 138:] as he published his poems and Hans Pfauall about that time in Baltimore. I am not certain when this occurred but know it is true. You speak of a writer who was intimate at Fordham page lxiv and lxv — Who was this person? I have told you the truth about the subscription and I think it was Mrs. Nichols that sent me to Mrs. Poe — who is this person “this writer” you speak of it as a man not a woman, and you certainly describe my work in part in this connection. I only wish to understand it, and do not wish notoriety. Still I think you see my meaning you ought to. Remember that you say in this Memoir that Mr. Poe's engagement to Mrs. Whitman began and ended in /48 and don’t forget this again! And don’t spoil the beautiful Valentine by dating it. I know Mrs. Clemm purposely kept me back to Mrs. Whitman for fear that Edgar's friendship (so foolishly fond) in always calling a married woman “Louise” as you know, and “Dear Louise” and some times “Dearest Louise” might seem to Mrs. Whitman to be a sort of ungovernable fickleness, unreliable and capable of being misunderstood, — my name being Shew, and myself being a childish undeveloped loving woman. No one that knew me well liked to call me Mrs. Shew. It seemed so inappropriate. And it was not noticed as it would be now. Still it was his way and everybody said what pretty letters he writes, and often ladies said “Is he not insane? Are you not afraid of him? I always answered he is as gentle as a child, and as tender as the most tender mother. I must have left out some of the words in the letter, Mr. Poe's cat always left her cushion to rub my hands and I had always to speak to the cat before it would retire to its place of rest again — He called her “Caterina”. She seemed possessed and I was nervous and almost afraid of her, this wonderful cat. Mr. Poe would get up in the night to let her in, or out of the house or room, and the cat would not eat when he was away. The cat died while Mrs. Clemm was in an unsettled state, breaking up housekeeping. She found it dead when she returned for her last load of boxes. I was glad when I heard this cat was dead! As all she seemed to love was dead also. I did not copy the letters expecting you to use them. Dora thinks the furniture letter very patronizing and disagreeably so, but I did not, knowing the man who wrote it as I did. I [page 139:] think Graham's* letter in your Memoir so true and good and very much as I should write, if I was in his place. I am still in suspense about my affairs. You will not forget to acknowledge my letter, sent in March enclosing Mrs. Clemm's and Virginia's.

[...] I can not be certain as to dates, but after looking over the papers from my journal I see that he [Poe] returned to Richmond with two dollars in his portmanteau “a trunk of Books and manuscripts” — and “valise of clothes,” having carried his mother's miniature thro’ all in his “vest bosom”I hardly think him mature enough at that time in 1827, to have done what he described to me so solemnly. I have seen the scar of the wound in the left shoulder, when helping Mrs. Clemm change his dress or clothes while ill. She said only Virginia knew about it. She did not. I asked him if he had been hurt — , in the region of the heart and he told me yes, and the rest as I wrote you. His head was also hurt but it is dark and I am asleep.


I do not believe Mr. Poe's father deserted his wife, except for employment while she was ill, and that not for long. — Mr. Poe's (Edgar's) animosity towards some of his relatives was from their disrespect, (in one or two cases) of his mother, and her profession — Our next door neighbor, an old gentleman who lived 60 years in Washington, and is now 92 years of age, says that George Poe, Edgar's uncle, was very proud of his poet nephew, and often spoke of him, and his beauty & genius

George Poe lived in Georgetown and had some lovely daughters. He does not remember any sons. Mr. Drake was Director in a Bank, with Mr. Poe, says he was a gentleman of wealth and culture, and a very good man, very much beloved by the old residents of Washington. Mr. Drake was a mechanic in his youth, but married a lovely southern lady, just after the War of 1812 and built the new capitol or Presidents house, and from his great courage as a soldier, and goodness and skill in times of peace, took a high place as a citizen of Washington — [page 140:]

He lives now in retirement with his two maiden daughters, they having bought a place here during the Civil War, which disturbed many homes as you know at the South — Mr. Drake is too old to remember particulars, except something that happened long ago. — He says the Baltimore family seldom came to Washington, but he has seen Edgar's Father, and Aunt Maria and remembers their stately appearance at Church, with George, who was also tall and stately in personal appearance, — I think Edgar was very like his Mother in his face, and only had the tall stately statue of his father's people and he told me himself privately that he owed to his Mother “every good gift of his intellect, & his heart” — This alone ought to convince you, of the reason his kindred did not love him, another circumstance I remember, “that he burned the sweetest poem he ever wrote, or conceived” to please Mrs. Clemm and conciliate his father's family — That it was the regret of his life, that he had not vindicated his mother to the world, as pure, as angelic and altogether lovely, as any woman could be on earth.” If you do not find these Poes, ready to give you better testimony than mine that this is not so, you must believe it as I say, for I promised his dying wife, I would listen to his lamentation patiently — and advise and sympathize with him to the best of my power — Mrs. Clemm reproved me for indulging him in his fancies, about his mother, and his disappointments and I had often to tell her of my promise to Virginia and my desire to do for him, while I could, an honest and true service —

So you have seen Mrs. Lewis — where is she living? Perhaps she thought me dead also! Alas! I was nearly swallowed up by the worlds falsehood — but God is good, and I live still

I have stated in this letter somewhere that I did not copy my last letters from Edgar expecting you to copy them, and was not as particular as I should have been, still you can use them as you see fit, they are genuine, only I may have left out some expression which was so very complimentary to myself I gave them as specimens, only for you to judge, of their availability to your purposes. Mrs. Nichols has written me twice since I asked you about her. She has had the operation [page 141:] for catract as I feared What a pity she should not know enough to use vegetable alteratives as well as vegetable food!

Your friend M.L.H.

I am glad Mr. Hopkins did not write the article on the Eureka but I fear Mr. Poe thought he did, as the description of “the turn down shirt collar” was so like the artistic habit of dress of Mr. Hopkins when he was a theological student. Dont — I beg of you, ever mention in print that I, or any one, attributed this to Dr. Hopkins for it would only injure Mr. Poe among literary men, and hurt Dr. Hopkins feelings. If Mr. Poe wrote this intending it as Dr. Hopkins, he did a spiteful unmanly act, and I grieve to see it in the Memoir for Mr. Hopkins when a student worked for Mr. Poe, and when he was ill and in trouble succored him — I hope Dr. H. will never read the article referred to — and I am sorry I mentioned it to you even.

P.S. I have copies of these letters, still I should prefer you to have had Mrs. Clemm's letter as it would so fix in your mind the situation, and so certainly silence any Lewis woman, who might annoy you, if any thing happened to me. Where is this Mrs. Lewis, whose name was Sarah Anna Lewis when I knew her, in the far away time? Poor creature so she is old and ugly, we all fade, but if the heart is true, and the conscience clear we need not become hideous. My children exult in my whitening hair, and I know I am but a wreck, but my spirit will not give up to be crushed! And my courage rises as my difficulties increase.

Yours truly

M. L. Houghton

By “the little picture” Mrs. Houghton almost certainly means the miniature of Poe's mother which she had sent to Ingram. Ingram had sent her, as a gift, a reproduction from one of the many daguerreotypes of Poe that he was accumulating. Mrs. Houghton's positive reply in this letter that he owed her no money for the many Poe letters, manuscripts, and the miniature that she had sent to him was to be of great help to Ingram after Mrs. Houghton died in 1877, [page 142:] and her family refused to believe that she had given such valuable Poe items to a “stranger in a foreign land.”

Poe's third volume of poems was published in Baltimore in 1831, but his “Hans Pfaall” was not published until June, 1835, in the Southern Literary Messenger.

The writer who was “intimate” at Fordham, mentioned on pages 64-65 of Ingram's Memoir of Poe, was Mary Sargeant Gove Nichols. Mrs. Houghton's indignation was pronounced when Ingram credited other persons with the services she had herself rendered the Poes. At this point, Mrs. Houghton opened a correspondence with Sarah Helen Whitman in Providence, whom she never met, and protested to her. Mrs. Whitman was corresponding regularly with Ingram and she warned him of the danger of becoming entangled in a “coil” with the various ladies who had helped the Poes and who were now intensely jealous of their prerogatives.

The furniture letter was Poe's letter of May, 1847, to Mrs. Shew, complimenting her on the appearance and furnishings of her music room and library; in it he says he wonders how “a little country maiden like you had developed so classic a taste & atmosphere.” (See Ostrom, II, 350-51, for complete text.) “Graham's letter” was the letter from George R. Graham to N. P. Willis, published in Graham's Magazine, March, 1850; it was a laudatory and understanding treatise on Poe's genius and personal character.

Two of the letters Mrs. Houghton received from J. H. Hopkins and forwarded to Ingram are reproduced in part below. They are Items 206 and 207 in the Ingram Poe Collection, and this is a first printing for both.

Plattsburgh [N.Y.] March 10: 1875

My dear Mrs. Houghton,

I remember that Dunn English was a scoundrel, but could not help you to answer any other of the points raised by Mr. Ingram. I have written to the Rev. Dr. Henry, one of the Editors of the New York Review & the sole survivor of them, to ask about Poe's connection therewith: which, I suspect, is groundless. I have not recd. his answer. I return Mr. Ingram's letter. ...

Yr. obdt. ser. J. H. Hopkins

Stamford [Conn.] 13 Mar. 1875

Rev. & dear Sir:

Edgar A. Poe was never “engaged as a writer on the New York Review.”

He contributed of his own accord one article. It was a review of [page 143:] Stephen's Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petrea & the Holy Land. It was published in the 2d. number of the N.Y. Review Oct. 1837.

Resptfly Yours, C. S. Henry

The Rev. Dr. Hopkins

Mrs. Houghton's account is the only known record of Poe's having been injured “in the region of the heart” and having a scar on his left shoulder. It is indeed strange that Mrs. Clemm did not know how he came by the scar. George Poe, Jr., was a banker in Pittsburgh and Mobile; at one time he lent $100 to Edgar and Mrs. Clemm to start a boarding house in Richmond, but nothing came of their plan. Mrs. Lewis disliked her baptismal name of “Sarah Anna,” so she dropped it in favor of “Estelle Anna” for a while, and abandoning that, settled finally on “Stella,” which she used as a pen name and a given name and insisted that her friends do the same.

Mrs. Houghton's jealousy and distaste for Mrs. Lewis are amusing, at this distance. One can sense her satisfaction on learning from Ingram that Mrs. Lewis is now “old and ugly.” Ingram disliked Mrs. Lewis too, but he saw to it that he stayed in her good graces, which was not an easy task.

Letter 40. Marie Louise Shew Houghton, Whitestone, to John Ingram, London. First printing. [Item 232]

Monday, June 7 [1875]

I wrote you a few days ago in which I mentioned Henry's admiration of Mr. Poe's poem “the Beloved” and copied his boyish verses, or one of them, giving only one line of Poe's “God shield the soul,” or “God guide the soul” being in every verse of the nine Henry says is the number as cut down and prepared for publication, by Mr. Poe. Henry cannot write poetry, never could but Frank, my second son, is quite a rhymer. But Henry appreciated poetry far more and Poets always, and kept his old nurse Fanny busy, before he could read, clipping every verse he found and reading and saving it, for him. There is a closet in this house full of little rolls of poetry of “Master Henry clippings” which we light the fires with now. I have heard from my son. He will not come home yet. But has given me an idea where to find the Poem!!! among [page 144:] some boxes at Pierrepont Manor, (where Lida was buried and where little Mary was born) He says you shall have the Poem for your Memoir and a letter of Mr. Poes refering to it — which I had forgotten. He thinks it is safe in a desk Lida gave him — My three years of weeping and almost despair, after I went to live at the Manor, is all a dream to me and I have no recollection of his taking charge of some of my papers Sometime during the coming summer or this summer rather I will go to the Manor (where I have my china — some pictures — and furniture stored) and look up this paper for you. I am glad you like my son. The dear boy has had a sad experience. He longs to visit his old home here, he says, before it passes out of my hands — His old room (his sleeping room) upon the third story, had a raven nailed up over the door, which he put up, fifteen years ago. No intruder has ever offered to pull it down, as yet but it is a sad sight to me, now. It looks ominous of his fate. Misfortune and depressing care had ever followed my beautiful boy — and now he seems struggling in what he calls “hard luck” harder than ever it seems to me. He tries to cheer me “that it wont always be so,” but I have a presentament that his fate will never change altho I dont tell him so — and I know he is more like me than any of the rest and my faults as well as other qualities he inherits “carries his heart upon his sleeve.” &c. I have a great pity for him on this account The Manor is three hundred miles away but it will be all in good time as you are not to publish it, except in the Memoir.

Given her usual inaccuracy as to dates, one can interpret Mrs. Houghton's “a few days ago” to mean her letter of May 16, in which she mentioned the poem, “The Beloved Physician” which Poe wrote for her and for which she paid him $25 for the manuscript. Unquestionably, many of the letters Mrs. Houghton wrote to Ingram have not survived. All of the letters herein reproduced can be dated accurately as having been written in 1875; Mrs. Houghton lived until September 3, 1877, and none of these letters reflects unhappiness or a “falling out” with Ingram, as was so often the case with his American correspondents. It is possible that her letters were removed from Ingram's files when he was defending his rights of ownership of the Poe items Mrs. Houghton had sent to him. The manuscript poem “The Beloved Physician” and Poe's letter referring to it have never been found. By “the Memoir” [page 145:] Mrs. Houghton refers to Ingram's two-volume biography of Poe on which he was working in 1875 and which was brought out in 1880, by John Hogg, in London.

Here was a puzzle for Ingram. These letters from Mrs. Houghton were exciting, sincere, vivacious, and shot through with inaccuracies, myths, half-remembered facts mixed with hearsay and caution. What to do with them?

Ingram picked and chose throughout the lot, printing such incidents as made Poe appear fine and tender, and in so doing Ingram muddied the waters of Poe biography perhaps forever. There is just enough truth in some of these stories to make them acceptable, but not enough to allow proof to back them up.

The letters and editorial notes above show that Ingram was indebted to Mrs. Houghton for a number of Poe's autograph letters, letters from Mrs. Clemm, books written by Poe, the one remaining miniature of Poe's mother, and several manuscript copies of Poe's poems — as well as the only account that exists of Poe's lost poem, “The Beloved Physician.”

Mrs. Houghton added a great deal that was true to Poe biography in her correspondence with Ingram, and, unfortunately, much that is imaginary or, at best, highly doubtful.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 88:]

1.  [Item 183]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 89:]

2.  [Item 977]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 101:]

3.  [Item 201]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 105:]

4.  R. H. Stoddard had printed an article, “Edgar Allan Poe,” in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, September, 1872.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 109:]

5.  Mayor William Frederick Havemeyer died suddenly of apoplexy in his New York office on November 30, 1874.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 114:]

6.  The “book on flowers,” Ingram's Flora Symbolica: Or, the Language and Sentiment of Flowers[[,]] 1868).






[S:0 - JCMBPB, 1977] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Building Poe Biography (J. C. Miller) (Chapter 5)