Title – Mrs. Poe
Author – Lynn Cullen
Genre – Historical
Story Summary –
It is New York City, 1845, and poet Frances Osgood is struggling to feed her family and keep a roof over her head. Saved from life on the streets for herself and her children by a well to do friend, she is fighting to provide for her young family after her philandering husband has disappeared. But no one is looking for poetry. New York and the literary world is taken by a very different kind of poet. A very different kind of writer.
Edgar Allan Poe.
Unlike so many others, Poe is vastly different from the rest of the literary poets Frances knows and slowly they develop a friendship. Soon she is the only one who seems to know him and his young ill wife at all. A friendship that turns into something even more.
“…I peered ahead. My heart leaped as I caught sight of Mr. Poe, hatless among the river of black stovepipes. And then I saw his wife. They were promenading in our direction, along with Mrs. Clemm.
“Why does he not stay at home?” said Reverend Griswold. “Does he not think of the health of his wife? She is obviously consumptive-I think he wishes to hasten her to her grave!”
I felt a stab of guilt. Did her condition seem that severe? I recalled Mr. Bartlett’s accusation that Mr. Poe’s characters often murdered their wives…”
As Frances and Poe carry on their affair, the ailing Mrs. Poe is far from weak as there seems to be far more to Mrs. Poe as meets the eye. Strange happenings carry on and there are fires and near accidents that happen only when she is there or has only just left. Strange portents of things that are yet to come.
“…Mr. Brady turned the plate to our group. On it was a perfect reproduction of my body standing before the curtain on the stage, with my dress flawless and my clenched hand lying upon the table. But where my head should have been was a blank. It was a portrait of a headless woman…”
Frances begins to suspect that Mrs. Poe is behind the dangerous accidents or should she listen to others and believe that it may be Edgar Allan Poe himself.
Sometime back I had read and loved Lynn Cullen’s book: Reign of Madness. So I came into the reading of Mrs. Poe with some pre-conceived standards for the writing. Cullen did not disappoint, the prose and skill with which she handles the tale of Poe and Osgood is detailed and forlorn as a love that cannot be.
As a married woman of the time, Osgood could not divorce her husband and for all intents and purposes, was still his property. There could be no future for her and Poe. Then there was always the ever present spectre of Mrs. Poe. Dying and weak yet as terrifying in her sweet innocence and anyone could be.
Soon, Osgood must come to a decision for herself and her children.
Mrs. Poe is very well written and detailed. The New York and Boston of the 1800s is as much a character in this novel as the protagonists themselves.
A very good read.