Lynn Cullen, known for her novels based on controversial historical figures, researches for her books by walking in the footsteps of her characters. To understand Edgar Allan Poe for her new novel, MRS. POE, she took to the streets of New York City, where the poet wrote ‘The Raven.’ To purchase a special deal on Mrs. Poe, click here.
New York has clear bragging rights to Poe as a favorite son. He wrote some of his most famous pieces while a resident here from 1844 until his death in 1849. In 1845, he reached the literary stardom he craved upon the publication of ‘The Raven.’ To construct a novel around the work Poe created while a Gotham resident, I aimed to experience New York as he saw it, even climbing to the top of Trinity Church at Broadway and Wall Street, then the tallest structure in town. I found that other traces of Poe’s city still remain.
City Hall Park
Broadway at Park Row
New York, NY 10007
Dip your hand into the fountain near the southern tip of the park; in March 1845, Poe might have done the same in the fountain that was on this very spot. He was on his way from his office, just to the east on Nassau Street, to the city’s premier hotel, the Astor House, directly across Broadway from the park. There he was documented to have met Francis Osgood, with whom he would begin to publicly exchange love poems. Before he crossed the raging thoroughfare, he would have heard the tootling of the band in the balcony of Barnum’s American Museum, which stood immediately to the south. Across from Barnum’s was Mathew Brady’s Daguerreotype Gallery, the best of the newfangled photography studios springing up around town.
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Anne Charlotte Lynch’s House
116 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10011
In 1845, Anne Charlotte Lynch introduced the forerunner of the modern book club to New Yorkers in this Greenwich Village townhouse. She invited people who had interesting ideas, although not necessarily wealth or fame, to her “conversazione,” a discussion on books and art. The dress code was casual and the refreshments served were modest–tea and dishes of Italian ice. The conversazione was a hit. Soon writers such as Margaret Fuller, Walt Whitman, and Herman Melville filled her house every Saturday evening. When Poe recited “The Raven’ here, guests noticed that poet Frances Osgood sat at his feet, looking a little too enthralled, thus fueling gossip about their affair.
Merchant’s House Museum
29 East Fourth Street
New York, NY 10003
Little-changed since the birth of its last resident in 1840, this lovingly preserved gem allows visitors to examine how a prosperous New Yorker lived during Poe’s time, down to the servants’ call bells in the kitchen and the children’s tin bathtub in the bedroom. The homes Poe visited would have looked much like this, although he could barely pay the rent on his own more humble abodes.
The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage
2640 Grand Concourse
New York, NY 10458
Poe retreated to this five-room country cottage in 1846. Just one year after reaching the peak of his fame with ‘The Raven,’ he had become an outcast, in large part due to suspicions of his affair with Frances Osgood. Here, furious with his fellow New Yorkers, he helplessly watched his young wife waste away from tuberculosis. Today many of Poe’s furnishings remain, including the narrow bed upon which Virginia Poe spent her last days, huddled for warmth under Poe’s army greatcoat and his tortoiseshell cat.
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Lynn Cullen’s latest novel, Mrs. Poe, was published this month by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, a CBS Company. Interested in learning more about Mrs. Poe and Edgar Allan Poe? You can read an excerpt of Mrs. Poe on XOXOAfterDark.com and get the recipe for a special cocktail, inspired by the novel. You can also purchase Mrs. Poe with a special discount here.