Boston, Massachusetts saw the birth of Edgar Poe. Richmond, Virginia raised Edgar Allan Poe into a southern gentleman and gave him his middle name. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was home to Poe during his most productive years as a writer. The Bronx (then Fordham), New York served as Poe’s final residence. Baltimore, Maryland saw the death of Poe, and there he remains forevermore. These are the cities heavily associated with Edgar Allan Poe, each holding their own significant claim to the great American writer. Providence, Rhode Island is usually never more than a footnote in Poe biography.
With the success of “The Raven” published in New York’s Evening Mirror in 1845, Edgar Allan Poe had finally made a name for himself. This proved tumultuous for Poe, as rubbing elbows with other prominent writers of his time ended in gossip, drama, and ultimate exclusion from literary circles altogether. However, this fame allowed him to begin a lecture tour, as interest in the author of “The Raven” spread nationwide. Providence’s Franklin Lyceum hosted Poe for a lecture in December of 1848, but it was actually the lecture of a popular female poet, Frances Sargent Osgood, that initially brought Poe to Providence in 1845.
It was during that first visit that Poe laid eyes on the ethereal Sarah Helen Whitman (a leading poetess in her own right) tending her rose garden in the backyard of her home on Benefit Street. This inspired Poe’s second titled poem “To Helen” and brought him back to Providence a few years later to pursue a relationship with the beautiful widow. The courtship between these two poets rapidly progressed into an engagement, initiating a wild and distracted story here in Rhode Island.
It was here that Poe procured two ounces of laudanum as his poison of choice for a poorly attempted suicide. It was here that Poe sat on two separate occasions to have his daguerreotype taken, one of which became his favorite likeness of himself, the other became his most infamously celebrated portrait to this day. While Poe never did live here, his time here had a major effect on his shortening life. His relationship with Sarah Helen Whitman proved vital, as she became a staunch defender of his reputation after his death in 1849, leading up until her own in 1878.
This is Rhode Island’s story of The Raven in our Renaissance city.
As for me (the creator, owner, and administrator of this website), I’m a native Rhode Islander and have a tenacious passion for Edgar Allan Poe. My goal is to not only educate and bring light to Poe, Helen, and their story, but to have a neatly compiled resource for everything relating to the poets here in Providence, Rhode Island.
I created and guide walking tours of Poe and Helen’s history in Providence. You can schedule one here: Contact / Book A Tour (or, follow this site to stay up-to-date on my regular tour schedule during the season).
I also have an annual wreath laying ceremony for Sarah Helen Whitman at her grave in the North Burial Ground on (or near) the anniversary of her death in June. If you’d like to attend, again, simply follow this page for details.
Thanks for taking an interest in Edgar Allan Poe: Rhode Island! Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, comments, or just to share your story! I’d love to hear from you.