*William Jewett Pabodie

Poe wrote in December of 1848:

“My dear Mr. Pabodie —

On the principle of ‘better late than never’ I seize the first opportunity afforded me, in the midst of cares and vexations of all kinds, to write you a few words of cordial thanks for your considerate and gentlemanly attentions to me while in Providence. I do hope that you will always think of me as one of the most obliged and most devoted of your friends. — Please say to Mrs. W., when you next see her, that I thank her for the ‘papers’ and for her promptitude. Say, also, that perhaps Mrs. Wright is right, but that I believe her wrong, and desire to be kindly remembered. The commands, about Post, have been attended to. — Present my respects to Mrs. Allen and to your father.

Truly yours always.
Edgar Allan Poe”

William Jewett Pabodie was born and lived in Providence, Rhode Island. He was both a writer and a practicing lawyer (with an office located at 4 College Street), although writing was his priority in life. Much like Poe, he was rejected by the New York literati and had aspirations of starting his own magazine. He was a good friend of Sarah Helen Whitman, through whom he became acquainted with Edgar Allan Poe. Pabodie nurtured Poe through his tempestuous visits in Providence, going so far as to take him into his own home (then located at 93 High Street) when he was consumed by the drink. Pabodie was one of very few people who publicly came to Poe’s defense after his death, when the Rev. Rufus W. Griswold wrote a fictitious biography of Poe, portraying him as an immoral, drug addled mad-man. His considerably brave actions defending Poe’s reputation could have very likely been compelled out of guilt. Unknowingly to Poe, Pabodie’s treatment to him during his stay here in Providence likely had more cynical intentions underlying. It’s known that Pabodie was a good friend and fervent admirer of Mrs. Whitman, and it seems Pabodie only became that of Poe’s when he learned of the romance brewing between the two.

Poe’s attempted suicide by taking an overdose of laudanum raises the first question regarding the motives of Pabodie. While it’s likely the attempt was more of a plea for the attention of “Annie” Richmond of Lowell and/or Mrs. Whitman herself, it still leaves the question as to where Poe could have acquired such a drug with no money to his name? It’s fact that Pabodie dabbled with narcotics (committing suicide himself in 1870 by taking cyanide) and is more than likely the source for which Poe acquired the morphine infused liquor. A friend of Poe’s surely would sway him from touching liquor, especially considering Helen’s disdain for alcohol. Of all Poe’s binges here in Providence we seem to have Pabodie looming in the background. Could Pabodie just have been concerned for Poe’s welfare, or could he have been the clever antagonist? Why would Pabodie accompany an intoxicated Poe to Whitman’s house knowing the implications that would ultimately end the engagement once and for all? Who arranged for the note attesting to the fact that Poe had broken his vow of sobriety to be delivered to Whitman at the Athenaeum shortly before that fateful night? After Poe and Helen’s relationship was well over, Mrs. Whitman did claim that the friendship between Poe and Pabodie was but one-sided. Was Pabodie really looking out for Poe, or Mrs. Whitman? Which begs the question, what was Pabodie’s true intentions in the the Poe-Helen affair? In a letter from Pabodie to Griswold in 1852, Pabodie admits to sabotaging the delivery of the marriage banns Poe entrusted him with to give to the minister, Dr. Crocker. Pabodie’s reason for not delivering the note as Poe requested of him was because he still hoped for the union to be prevented. Here are some photos of Pabodie’s copy of that letter (from the collection of Brown University at the John Hay Library)

On November 17, 1870, William Jewett Pabodie took his own life by taking prussic acid. He never married or had children. He’s interred at the Swan Point cemetery, in his family’s plot, number 248.