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Poe Museum Acquires New Letter

Poe Writes on Illness and Poverty in Poe Museum’s Newest Acquisition

RICHMOND–For the first time in 15 years, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia has added an original Edgar Allan Poe letter to its collection. There will be a special viewing of the letter on April 25 from 6-9 p.m. during the first Unhappy Hour of the 2019 season, after which time it will be on display in the museum’s exhibit galleries until July 31.

This rarely seen letter Poe wrote to his foster uncle, Edward Valentine, has remained in the family of its original recipient until Valentine’s great-great-great granddaughter placed it with the Poe Museum this month. The letter, composed less than a year before Poe’s early death, begins, “After a long & bitter struggle with illness, poverty, and the thousand evils which attend them, I find myself at length in a position to establish myself permanently, and to triumph over all difficulties…”

According to the Poe Museum’s curator Chris Semtner, “This letter was Poe’s desperate attempt to fulfill his dream of establishing his own literary magazine, and it was written at a pivotal time in his life—the day before he began a disastrous month-long engagement to Rhode Island poet Sarah Helen Whitman.”

Because of Poe’s popularity—as well as his early death in 1849—his letters are both scarce and highly sought-after by collectors. Semtner continues, “This is only the second Poe letter to enter the museum’s collection in the past half-century. While the Poe Museum is nearly 100 years old, we received most of our Poe letters and manuscripts by the late 1940s.”

The letter is an especially welcome addition to our collection because Poe wrote it to someone with whom he was very close during his childhood in Virginia. This makes it an important reminder of Poe’s lifelong connection to the state.

The letter will go on display on April 26, the Poe Museum’s 97th anniversary, and will be on view until July 31, 2019.

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