• The William E. Self Library, I auction at Christies

    Sale 2153

    The William E. Self Library, Important English and American Literature

    4 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 171

    POE, Edgar Allan. Autograph manuscript verses, the first 8 stanzas (of 16) of "For Annie ("Thank Heaven: the crisis --- the danger is past....") n.p. [New York?], n.d. [1849].

    Price Realised  


    POE, Edgar Allan. Autograph manuscript verses, the first 8 stanzas (of 16) of "For Annie ("Thank Heaven: the crisis --- the danger is past....") n.p. [New York?], n.d. [1849].

    2 pages (220 x 170 mm). With N.P. Willis's instructions to printer on first page (see below). (Slight crinkling of lower margin of the sheet, small puncture in blank margin). Full orange morocco, silk-lined protective case, matching quarter morocco clamshell case.

    One of Poe's most important late compositions, written for Nancy L. Richmond ("Annie"). In the wake of the wrenching death of Virginia in 1847, Poe courted -- in his awkward but obsessive fashion -- at least four different women, more or less at the same time. Poe and Mrs. Richmond met when he lectured in her home-town of Lowell, Massachusetts. As one biographer notes, "a photograph from the period conveys an image of steady reliability, of plain sensibleness, without glamour." Poe, smitten, "promptly put his literary talents to work in wooing Annie. She figured first in the story 'Landor's Cottage,'" and was also the subject of "the taut, tragic poem 'For Annie'" (James M. Hutchinson, Poe, p. 220-222). The fact that Annie was married and therefore practically unattainable seems not to have deterred Poe in the least. (Only his powerful involvement, later on, with Sarah Helen Whitman served to eclipse Mrs. Richmond.)

    Poe wrote to Annie L. Richmond in late March, enclosing a copy of new verses "For Annie," which, he proudly informs her, he has already sold to the Boston literary journal Flag of Our Union. He believes the verses "much the best I have ever written," but observes that "an author can seldom depend on his own estimate of his own works -- so I wish to know what my Annie truly thinks of them...." (Letters, 2:434-435). On 20 April, Poe submitted "For Annie" to Nathaniel P. Willis (1806-1867), co-editor of the New York Home Journal." Poe explained rather apologetically that it had just appeared in the 28 April issue of the Boston Weekly. He suggested that Willis might simply note prior publication in "a late Boston paper," without specifying the paper. He reminded Willis of other poems he had published in the Home Journal, and notes "I have not forgotten how a 'good word in season' from you made the 'Raven' and 'Ulalume'..." (Letters, 2:436-37). Willis, evidently unconcerned at the poem's previous publication, accepted "For Annie" and in the blank margins of the first page of Poe's fair copy, penned ink instructions to the printer regarding its presentation: "Will Mr. Babcock please put this on the second page this week, & leave me twenty lines room for an introduction N.P.W." He also inserted the poet's name at the top right: "by Edgar A. Poe."

    In "For Annie," the speaker seems suspended in a strange nether-world, seemingly dead, from "the fever called living"; he has taken a draught of poison ("the napthaline river Of Passion accurst"). But now that the pains of dying are past, he remains conscious, "composedly" resting, so still "That any beholder Might fancy me dead"). In this limbo of near death he reflects on his passing and describes Annie's tender ministrations to him ("She tenderly kissed me She fondly caressed me"). Thinking him dead, Annie weeps over his deathbed, allowing her hair to cascade over him ("drowned in a bath Of the tresses of Annie"). The poet reminds us that death awaits us, too "For man never slept in a different bed - And to sleep, you must slumber In just such a bed."

    "Thank Heaven! the crisis ---
    The danger is past --,
    And the lingering illness
    Is over at last --
    And the fever called 'Living'
    Is conquered at last..."

    "For Annie" is preserved in at least 11 mostly printed sources, with numerous variant readings; for details see T.O. Mabbott, ed. Collected Works, 1:452-461. Provenance: John F. Fleming

    Sadly, I know
    I am shorn of my strength,
    And no muscle I move
    As I lie at full length ---
    But no matter! -- I feel
    I am better at length.

    And I rest so composedly,
    Now, in my bed
    That any beholder
    Might fancy me dead --
    Might start at beholding me,
    Thinking me dead.

    The moaning and groaning,
    The sighing and sobbing,
    Are quieted now,
    With that horrible throbbing
    At heart: -- ah, that horrible,
    Horrible throbbing!

    The sickness --- the nausea-
    The pitiless pain --
    Have ceased, with the fever
    That maddened my brain --
    With the fever called 'Living'
    That burned in my brain.

    And oh! of all tortures
    That torture the worst
    Has abated -- the terrible
    Torture of thirst
    For the naphthaline river
    Of Passion accurst: ---
    I have drunk of a water
    That quenches all thirst: ----

    Of a water that flows,
    With a lullaby sound,
    From a spring but a very few
    Feet under ground ---
    From a cavern not very far
    Down under ground.

    And ah! let it never
    Be foolishly said
    That my room it is gloomy
    And narrow my bed;
    For man never slept
    In a different bed-
    And, to sleep, you must slumber
    In just such a bed.

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