Virginia Poe's Sad Acrostic Valentine for Edgar Allan

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Feb. 13 2014 11:00 PM

Virginia Poe's Sad Acrostic Valentine for Edgar Allan

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

Virginia Clemm Poe wrote this carefully-penned acrostic valentine for her husband, Edgar Allan, in 1846. The first letter of each line spells out his name.  

The tradition of writing romantic acrostics was a venerable one by the time Virginia put pen to paper. (Here is an entertaining story about a trend in anonymous valentine acrostics among the settlers near Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1768.) While commercially produced valentine cards were increasingly available in 1846, it wouldn’t have been unusual to send a hand-written note on plain paper instead of a printed card.

Advertisement

Virginia married the 27-year-old Edgar when she was 13 years old, and contracted tuberculosis when she was 19, eventually dying at 24—a year after writing this poem. While their marriage is generally regarded as having been a happy one, Edgar, who also lost his mother, brother, and foster mother to the disease, was devastated by her illness and death. The poem mentions her TB, while assuring her husband, wistfully, that time alone with him would surely fix it: “Love shall heal my weakened lungs.”

This is the only surviving poem we have from Virginia’s hand. The Edgar Allan Poe Society notes: “Virginia was not well-read and cared little for poetry, even that of her husband.”

This poem is held in Special Collections at Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library. You can browse their Edgar Allan Poe digital collection here.

VirginiaToEdgar
Valentine poem: Virginia Poe to Edgar Allan Poe, February 14, 1846.

Enoch Pratt Free Library Digital Collections.

Update, Feb. 18: This post has been updated to clarify which letters spell out Poe's name. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

There Are New Abuse Allegations Against Adrian Peterson

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

John Oliver Pleads for Scotland to Stay With the U.K.

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police

The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 1:51 PM Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.