Edgar Allan Poe’s love triangle with fellow poets Fanny Osgood and Elizabeth Ellet, which played out in print while he was editor of a magazine and published their verse, is one of the fascinating facts highlighted in an exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. (If you want to know more about Poe’s amorous pursuits, check out Writers Between the Covers.)
On view in an atmospheric space with blood-red walls, “Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul” delves into the writer’s life and illuminates his literary career and legacy. Among the nearly one hundred items displayed are an 1845 clipping from a New York newspaper featuring “The Raven” and three copies of Tamerlane and Other Poems, Poe’s first published work and one of the rarest books in American literature. Of the fifty copies printed, only twelve remain.
The exhibit also illuminates Poe’s influence on writers ranging from Charles Dickens to Stephen King. Beat icon Jack Kerouac’s favorite poem by the scribe was Annabel Lee, a work that also influenced Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (as did 26-year-old Poe’s marriage to his 13-year-old cousin).
In turn, Poe borrowed the meter and rhyme scheme for his poem “The Raven” from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship.” He dedicated the collection The Raven and Other Poems to the British poet, who penned a letter to the author that’s part of the Morgan’s exhibit. Along with thanking him for recognizing her, she reported on the reception “The Raven” was receiving abroad.
“Your ‘Raven’ has produced a sensation, a ‘fit horror,’ here in England,” she wrote. “ Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music. I hear of persons haunted by the ‘Nevermore’…. I thank you as another reader would thank you for this vivid writing, this power which is felt!”
“Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul” is on view through January 26, 2014.