Mrs. Poe

Written by Lynn Cullen
Review by Arleigh Johnson

In this tremendously detailed account of Edgar Allan Poe’s supposed affair with poet Frances Osgood, the years 1845 to 1847 are narrated by the lady who was his reputed muse, confidante and lover. With the phenomenal success of “The Raven,” Mr. Poe is on the lips of everyone in New York City, from the literary elite to poor children in the slums. His macabre style is bursting into fashion, and writers such as Mrs. Osgood find themselves obliged to emulate society’s new favorite.

Having been abandoned by her husband, Frances relies on her writing career to support her daughters, but the magazine publishers want dark tales, not the children’s stories she usually turns out. Meeting with Mr. Poe, Frances discovers that instead of the gloomy, depressive character she’d expected, he is in fact a gentle and intriguing man, and she soon looks forward to seeing him at their shared literary functions. Meeting Mrs. Virginia Poe, however, complicates matters, and as a relationship begins to form between the famed poets, Edgar Allan Poe’s “child bride” becomes more and more unstable.
Set upon the backdrop of a fascinating era and with many famous personas depicted, this is not only a captivating story of forbidden lovers, but an elaborately spun tale of NYC society, complete with descriptions of the city, its people and their backgrounds. Photography was in its infancy, and many fantastic inventions were being introduced, making this an immensely engaging historical novel.

The author’s use of Edgar Allan Poe’s and Frances Osgood’s actual poetry, especially the pieces that are known to be a link between the writers, is the backbone of the story and a solid argument that this novelized version of their relationship may not be very far from the truth. Highly recommended!