On this day in 1835, history’s most macabre literary lovebirds ghouled their way to Baltimore City Hall to file for a marriage license.
At the time, Poe was a gloomy 27-year-old West Point graduate and struggling poet, recently dismissed from his assistant editor position at the Southern Literary Messenger for being drunk on the job (we’ve all been there). Clemm, Poe’s 13-year-old cousin, was, well, 13, so she was probably just chilling out at home, hoping not to be courted by a grown man.
Debates have raged down through the decades over various aspects of the Poe-Clemm union: whether it was considered cool or decidedly not cool to marry your cousin in mid-nineteenth century Baltimore, whether Clemm’s young age was or was not deemed prohibitive by the pair’s respective families; whether Eddie and Virginia ever actually consummated their marriage, whether Poe was even interested in women sexually, etc. etc. etc.
Poe and Clemm did seem pretty devoted to one another, though, and the marriage was, by most accounts, a happy one. Check out this dope acrostic love poem Virginia penned for her husband in 1846:
Ever with thee I wish to roam —
Dearest my life is thine.
Give me a cottage for my home
And a rich old cypress vine,
Removed from the world with its sin and care
And the tattling of many tongues.
Love alone shall guide us when we are there —
Love shall heal my weakened lungs;
And Oh, the tranquil hours we’ll spend,
Never wishing that others may see!
Perfect ease we’ll enjoy, without thinking to lend
Ourselves to the world and its glee —
Ever peaceful and blissful we’ll be.
When Virginia died of consumption in 1847 at the (marriage-appropriate) age of 24, Poe was inconsolable, spiraling into a deep depression from which he never really recovered. Though we can’t know for certain, it is generally assumed that the eponymous character in his posthumously-published 1849 poem “Annabel Lee“—probably the most famous emo love poem in the English language—is based on Virginia.
Now, if you’re embarking upon a literary pilgrimage to Baltimore’s Westminster Burial Ground and wondering what the appropriate gift is for a 185th wedding anniversary, here’s the answer you’ve been searching for:
A moonlight-bleached collar bone sitting on a bed of raven feathers.
Try to shop local.