In his brief lifetime, Edgar Allan Poe did the following:
- • Established the form of the Detective/Mystery Story
- • Introduced Gothic, Horror and Science fiction to American
- • Established Literary Criticism in America
- • Composed some of the best American poetry
Whether it was “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” or “The Tell-Tale Heart” or “The Gold Bug” or “The Raven,” Poe’s work made–and still makes–an ineradicable impression on the reader’s mind, and haunts the reader long after the book has been put aside.
Poorly paid and never properly recognized while he lived, nevertheless in the mid-nineteenth century Poe was one of America’s most famous writers. When he was invited to Lowell, Massachusetts, to lecture on American poetry and prose, therefore, it was an exciting prospect for the city’s citizens. It proved to be an exciting time for Poe, also, because in Lowell, he met an attractive young woman, Mrs. Charles Richmond. He fell in love with her; he wrote one of his most famous poems, “For Annie,” for her. He wrote a number of letters to her. A year later, in 1849, he died.
Mrs. Richmond lived until 1898. People often asked her for permission to see Poe’s letters, but she never allowed anyone to look at them. Occasionally she would copy portions of them for scholars. She destroyed them before she died.
From these facts–and from this intriguing real-life drama–comes the fictional drama of The Poe Papers. An elderly woman in possession of a cache of priceless papers, living with her lovelorn daughter in a crumbling mansion… an ardent young man, wealthy and a passionate conoisseur… obsessed by Poe, determined to obtain those papers and willing to do almost anything to get them….
January 20, 1895
Several times during the interminable journey from Boston I reminded myself that the great thing was to make her understand me. Do that, I thought, and inevitably I must succeed. I would get from her what I so desperately wanted. Armed as I was with only her address and a few tantalizing facts–the meager extent of my informant’s knowledge–I needed all my courage to sustain me. I was nothing–no one–to her; and she, until two weeks previous, had been nothing to me for I had assumed that she had died years ago. To learn that she lived still had been a terrible shock from which I had not recovered for several days. Then, of course, it had become clear at once what I must do. I must see her, speak to her, convince her of my worth —I must, in fact, incarcerate myself in the crowded, smelly railway carriage where I now sat; I must endure the journey to the city where she made her home. Somehow I must persuade her to grant me an audience. Perched on my uncomfortable seat, I watched the snow-covered countryside through which we made our noisy, dirty way. Its sharp black-on-white was occasionally blurred by trails of smoke from the engine–a charcoal drawing carelessly smudged. The very ordinary character of the winter landscape seemed at odds with the subject of my journey. I would hardly have been surprised to see an Oriental scene: towers, minarets, gilded domes glittering in a sun far more bright than that of our New England skies.