Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography

By Arthur Hobson Quinn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
Tamerlane and the Army

Edgar Poe arrived at the city of his birth in April, 1827.1 It was his first independent venture, taken on impulse, and probably prompted by Boston's reputation as a literary and publishing center. How he lived during the next two months is uncertain. T. H. Ellis, in his manuscript,2 says, "The story of his going to St. Petersburg, etc., was all an invention. The occasional letters which he wrote home are dated ' St. Petersburg,' but were written while he was on the stage in Boston, or an enlisted soldier in the army." It would be a delightful task to speculate on Edgar Poe's theatrical career, but, of course, Ellis's testimony, unchecked, cannot be taken as sufficient evidence. However, since he was right in his statement concerning the Army, he may have been correct concerning Poe's attempt to go upon the stage. With the record of his parents' career, and his own amateur efforts in Richmond, it would have been a likely thing for Poe to attempt. Unfortunately, a careful scrutiny of the newspapers of Boston for the period reveals only one possible bit of evidence. On April 24, 1827, appeared the advertisement of the Foundling of the Forest, "the part of Bertrand by a young gentleman of Boston, his first appearance on any stage, who

____________________
1
Mrs. Stanard in the Valentine Letters, p. 52, quotes a correspondent to the effect that "the only vessel directly from Richmond which reached Boston during this period was the Carrier, Captain Gill. The Carrier cast anchor April 7." My search of files of the Boston Commercial Gazette and the Boston Centinel reveals no such boat arriving in Boston, and as Dr. Mabbott has shown, the Carrier cleared for Richmond on April 7th, from Boston. The Richmond Enquirer and the Constitutional Whig, of Richmond, make no mention of this or any other boat leaving Richmond for Boston at this time. The Boston papers record the arrival, however, of the Only Son, Captain Hicks, on April 3rd, and the President, Captain Ames, both from Richmond. Poe may have come on either, but in the absence of passenger lists, the whole matter is one of conjecture. Poe may have stopped in Baltimore, en route. See T. O. Mabbott, Introduction to his edition of Tamerlane ( New York, 1941).
2
Valentine Collection.

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