Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Whitman mss., 1846-1878, consist of correspondence of Mrs. Sarah Helen (Power) Whitman, 1803-1878. Whitman was born in Providence, Rhode Island and became a poet, transcendentalist, and Spiritualist. She was an admirer of Ralph Waldo Emerson and frequenter of the intellectual social circles of her era, like that of her friend Margaret Fuller.

It was in this environment that Whitman met the poet and author Edgar Allan Poe, with whom she had a controversial love affair. Whitman and Poe were engaged to be married in 1848, but the relationship dissolved. Poe died not long after, in 1849. Whitman went on to publish a collection of poems, Hours of Life, in 1853, as well as a defense of Poe, Edgar Allan Poe and His Critics, in 1860. Nearly all of the correspondence in the collection concerns Whitman's relationship with Poe.

Correspondents include: Mrs. Anne Charlotte (Lynch) Botta, William Hand Browne, Joseph Rhodes Buchanan, Franklin Burdge, Mrs. Maria (Poe) Clemm, George William Curtis, James Wood Davidson, Eugene Lemoine Didier, George Washington Eveleth, James Thomas Fields, William Fearing Gill, Rufus Wilmot Griswold, Mrs. Mary Elizabeth (Moore) Hewitt, Marie L. Houghten, John Henry Ingram, Thomas Carstairs Latto, Edgar M. Levan, W. J. McClellan, John Neal, John Owen, Sara Sigourney Rice, Sarah Elizabeth Robins, Mrs. Elizabeth Oakes (Prince) Smith, Richard Henry Stoddard, John William Weidemeyer.

Two letters of the collection, Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman to John Neal, November 11, 1874, and Neal's reply, November 13, 1874, about L'Affaire "Musiad" have been published by David Randall in The J. K. Lilly Collection of Edgar A. Poe, Bloomington, Indiana, 1964, pages 49 and 50 (Lilly PS2628 .R187).

An article about the material in this collection entitled "Edgar Poe and His Friends: A Sampler of Letters Written to Sarah Helen Whitman" was published by J. Albert Robbins in The Indiana University Bookman, number 4 (March, 1960), pp. 5-45. (Lilly Z1007 .I392 no. 4). The letters of Maria Clemm to Sarah Helen Whitman of November 7, 1852, and April 14, 1859, are published in John Carl Miller, Building Poe Biography, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London, 1977, pages 40-42.

An inventory is available.

Acquired: from the library of Josiah Kirby Lilly, Jr., Indianapolis, Indiana

Related Manuscripts: Poe mss.

Collection size: 255 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.