Edgar Allan Poe letter sells for more than $164,000 at auction


A rare letter written by Edgar Allan Poe, sold last night for $164,520 according to Amherst, NH-based auction house RR Auction.

The one page letter, dated October 20, 1837, to a noted writer Sarah Josepha Hale, Boston, Mass. In part: “I was somewhat astonished to day at receiving a letter addressed to ‘W. G. Simms Esqr, Editor of the S. L. Messenger,’ and hesitated about my right to open it, until I reflected that, in forwarding it to Mr S., I should place him in a similar dilemma. I therefore broke the seal — but the address, even within, was ‘W. G. Simms.’ I could arrive, therefore, at no other conclusion than that, by some miss apprehension, you have imagined Mr S. to be actually Editor of the Messenger, altho’ I wrote you, but lately, in that capacity myself.

In the remarkable, lengthy letter, Poe refuses to compromise the integrity of his work for ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ writer Sarah Josepha Hale: “to send you a crude or hastily written article would be injurious to me, and an insult to yourself.”

Poe was hired as the assistant editor at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, Virginia, in 1835, but was fired after only a few weeks after his boss caught him drunk on the job. He was reinstated after promising good behavior and was soon made editor of the journal. Poe remained with the Messenger until January 1837, over which time he published a number of poems, book reviews, and stories in the paper. These included his short stories ‘Berenice’ and ‘Morella,’ as well as installments of his only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879) had recently been hired to edit Godey’s Lady’s Book at the time of her correspondence. Poe had attended West Point with her son, David Hale, Jr., in the early 1830s. Her request for a “prose article” for publication in Godey’s was not untoward, given that other literary lights such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Washington Irving were all contributors, and Poe later wrote a number of pieces for the magazine. Hale remained the editor of the publication for forty years, retiring at almost 90 years old.

“A literary gem, this choice letter to another leading literary figure of the period, is exceptional both in its unusual length and content, “ said Bobby Livingston, VP at RR Auction.

Further highlights include, but are not limited to:

·      An extremely scarce James Bowie handwritten document, sold for $65,048.

·      A letter written by folk hero Davy Crockett, sold for $47,652.

·      An extremely scarce signed portrait of Sitting Bull, sold for $29,005.

·      A collection of three related documents, signed by William Barret Travis, sold for $26,895.

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