Wednesday, August 26, 2009
"Eddie finished Virginia's education himself, and, I assure you, she was highly cultivated. She was an excellent linguist, and a perfect musician, and she was so very beautiful. How often has Eddie said: I see no one so dignified and so beautiful as my sweet little wife. And oh! how pure and beautiful she was even to the last."
- Maria Clemm, Poe's aunt/mother-in-law, in a letter to her relative Neilson Poe, August 19, 1860
For some strange reason, the few Poe biographies I've seen that have included this quote all leave off the word "dignified" to describe Virginia. I regret that, because--whether or not Mrs. Clemm quoted Edgar accurately--I find that word revealing. It not only gives us a view of Virginia decidedly different from the vapid "child-wife" image found in most of the writings about Poe, but it gives a hint of what Poe really sought in a woman. Fanny Osgood, "Annie" Richmond, Marie Louise Shew, Sarah Helen Whitman, and all these other peculiar women Poe supposedly admired--well, "dignified," they were not.