The Franklin Lyceum

The Franklin Lyceum of Providence is described as a society dedicated to self education. They were established in 1831, and hosted many prominent figures for lectures throughout their time as an organization. Some of those figures included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Frances Osgood, and of course, Edgar Allan Poe. These lectures were held at various venues throughout Providence since the Lyceum itself had no address (having held their meetings at their private homes until 1858, when they secured a building at 62 Westminster Street). Poe would lecture before the Lyceum at Howard’s Hall on December 20, 1848. Doors were opened at 6:30pm and the lecture started at 7:30pm. Tickets were sold at a nearby Bookstore as well as “Leland’s Music Store” in the week leading up to the event. On the night of lecture, Poe spoke on “The Poetic Principle” before a sold-out crowd of 1800 people! Sarah Helen Whitman sat in the very front row. Spectators who were friends of Helen and knew of the relationship between her and Poe recounted that while Poe recited works such as “The Raven” and “The Bells” he exchanged numerous flirtatious expressions with Helen. The lecture must have impressed Sarah Helen Whitman so profoundly that the next day she finally agreed to an immediate marriage.