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Break with the Messenger and the Blank Period

(Spring 1836 - Spring 1839)

William Evans Burton

Second Marriage to Virginia

Poe spent sixteen months or so in Richmond with Muddy and Virginia. That was his longest stay in the city since he left for the University at the age of 17. Everything in the city was pretty much the same as it was back then, except that the population had grown to about 20,000 citizens.
On Monday, May 16, 1836, Poe got officially married (possibly for a second time) to Virginia, witnessed by Muddy, T.W. White, and White's daughter. The fact that Sissy was as young as 14 was denied by Poe many times, he stated her age as 15 and said that she seemed like 21. It's been said that they did not sleep in the same room the first two years, whether they had any sexual contact is not known but Poe claimed that his attachments to women were ideal and spiritual.
Poe was supporting Muddy and Sissy, which still was not an easy task even though he earned more money working for White than he had ever earned before. Poe's debts grew larger and White offered him to rent a house that he had just purchased. Poe accepted without seeing the place and bought furniture on credit. The place later turned out to be too small to fit a whole family, let alone two, considering that White's family was supposed to live there too. So the purchase of furniture just put Poe larger into debt and he tried in several unrealistic ways to raise that money without success.
Poe felt uncomfortable in Richmond since it reminded him of John Allan. Louisa Allan still lived at Moldavia with her, and John's children and the Messenger's offices were located close to what once was the House of Ellis and Allan. Many things implies that Allan's death gnawed at Poe; his illness in Baltimore, his many tales of corpses, his "addiction" to Muddy and Virginia, his threats of suicide, and his return to Richmond. Despite Allan's injustice towards Edgar he described Allan as a friendly, good man, as if he wished to spare Allan's reputation and maybe because of denial of the truth and that he wished that Allan was truly his father. Around this time, Edgar for the first time signed two of his letters "Edgar Allan Poe" instead of his normal "Edgar A. Poe" or "E. A. Poe". Those were two of three letters Edgar signed with the name Allan during his lifetime.

Break with the Messenger

Poe kept working with the Messenger under T.W. White. He bragged about what he had done for the paper, but White did not agree with him. In late summer 1836 Poe was, however, given credit for being the editor of the magazine.
During the fall Edgar was neglecting his editorial duties and some issues were delayed and many did not show of the same quality as they normally did. It is not certain why this was, but it was probably due to abuse of alcohol. That, combined with White's desire to regain management of the magazine, forced Poe to leave his work as editor. Whether Poe was fired or if he quit is uncertain but there seemed to have been no hard feelings between the two of them, and White agreed to publish "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym", Poe's only novel. By the end of January, White wanted to get rid of Poe and gave him some cash and his manuscripts and insulted and ridiculed Poe publicly.

The Blank Period

The period after Poe's break with the Messenger was very quiet. From the following two and a half years only one note and two letters remain. Poe, Virginia and Muddy moved to New York City and stayed there for about 15 months. They settled in the Greenwich Village section, 6th Avenue and Waverly Place and later moved to 113 1/2 Carmine Street.
How Poe managed to support Muddy and Virginia is unknown. His literary work did not help his financial situation much, and an economic depression started in New York on May 10th 1837. Poe published only two tales during his stay in New York, "Von Jung, the Mystific" and "Siope. A Fable. (In the manner of the Psychological Autobiographists)."
In the Spring of 1838, Poe, Muddy and Sissy left New York for Philadelphia and settled at 202 Mulberry Street but they later moved to a small house on 16th Street. There he begged James Kirke Paulding for a government job and stated in his letter that he did not have a problem with drinking, and if he had he could easily quit. Words that have the complete opposite effect than intended.

Arthur Gordon Pym & Ligeia

Two weeks after begging for a non literary work, Harper and Brothers in New York published Poe's first book of fiction. A 200 page volume entitled "The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, of Nantucket". The publishing had been delayed for about a year, to July 1838, because of the economic depression, and a pirated version appeared in London a few months later.
Pym was a classic adventure story, bringing the hero into trouble frequently and leading the reader into a world of illusions where nothing is what it seems. Friends turn out to be enemies, enemies to be friends, people in motion seen from afar turn out to be rotting corpses when seen from a shorter distance. Apart from the illusions an important ingredient is disorder, concerning everything from material disorder to social disorder.
The fictional figure, Arthur Gordon Pym, seems to have a lot in common with Edgar Allan Poe. They have similar names, both are born in New England, Pym arrives in Tsalal in January 19, Poe's own birthday. Pym is a son of a "respectable trader in sea- stores" and gets an academic upbringing expecting to inherit his grandfather. Many characters in Pym resembles people in Poe's surroundings, and the names are anagrams of real names, or at least resemble them.
Pym attracted about two dozen reviews in New York, Philadelphia and London. Many was positive and praised Poe for creating entertaining adventures. Unfortunately Poe did not get much credit for writing Pym since his name was not present at the title page but was only mentioned in the preface. How much money Poe made on Pym is uncertain but it cannot have been much since he continued to beg and take loans. The English pirated version did, of course, not pay at all.
In early 1839 two short works by Poe appeared in a Baltimore magazine, The American museum of science, Literature and the Arts. "The Haunted Palace" which was a return to verse, handled the theme of rebellion, also discussed in Pym. In "Ligeia" Poe perfected the tale of the revenant, the person returned from the Other World. The narrator's one and only love dies and leaves him helpless as a child, which immediately makes him search for a new caretaker, Rowena. But he cannot love Rowena as he had loved Ligeia, and his efforts to forget Ligeia conceals a stronger need to remember. Ligeia's rebirth tells of how the beloved lives within yourself, never die and are always ready to return. This shows of Poe's tendency to dwell over the past, and the failure of letting it go.


Poe educated Virginia in their house in Philadelphia. He taught languages and algebra, such subjects that he had been good at in school. He also provided a piano and a harp for Sissy, to satisfy her taste for music.
After two and a half years of free-lancing Poe found a steady income in William Evans Burton (see image on top of page). Billy Burton had a magazine, started in 1837, named Burton's Gentleman's magazine. Neither Burton nor the magazine suited Poe very well but since he was in need of a job he accepted Burton's offer.
Poe and Burton did not get along very well but reached some kind of agreement and Edgar became the assistant editor for the magazine.

Last modified: February 17 2015 15:18:18.