The Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko

The Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko

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Poe, Edgar Allan | "The fever called living is conquered at last."

Live auction begins on:

June 26, 02:00 PM GMT

Estimate

400,000 - 600,000 USD

Bid

240,000 USD

Lot Details

Description

Poe, Edgar Allan

Autograph manuscript poem, being the first eight stanzas of "For Annie," Fordham, New York, 1849

 

2 pages, 4to (220 x 170 mm). With editor N.P. Willis's instructions to printer on first page; small spot of creasing, tiny marginal hole. Orange morocco gilt case.

 

"The fever called living is conquered at last."

 

Poe's talent attracts another admirer.

 

Rarely absolutely steady, by 1849 growing misfortunes (foremost of which being the hard death of Virginia two years before) had boxed Poe into a stumbling decline. Just as he'd done in the past, Poe sought to right himself with the aid of a woman, in this case Mrs. Nancy ("Annie") L. Richmond, one of four that he was involved with to varying degrees in the wake of Virginia's passing. Mrs. Richmond attended one of his readings in her hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts; and while the poet's talent and aura must have provided the allure for her, for Poe it might well have been her "steady reliability, of plain sensibleness, without glamour" (as one biographer commented upon seeing her photograph). Her almost certain unattainability, given her marriage, may have added to her appeal for a man determined to complicate his life's every circumstance.

 

He put his pen to work in order to further impress her, first by placing her in the story "Landor's Cottage," and then with the present poem, sending it to her in March of 1849. The poem was accompanied by a letter describing its impending publication in a Boston literary journal, and his opinion that the verses are "much the best I have ever written," while also observing 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). Never one to let a good work go under-promoted, he also sent the present draft to his supporter and often editor, Nathaniel P. Wills, at the New York Home Journal, acknowledging and apologizing for its previous appearance in "a late Boston paper." Willis was not put off by the earlier publication and accepted it, adding Poe's name and instructing the printer: "Will Mr. Babcock please put this on the second page this week, & leave me twenty lines room for an introduction N.P.W."

 

“For Annie” is a major late period Poe composition, with the speaker at last released after suffering from a long but undefined illness (“the fever called living”), yet still existing suspended in some strange paralysis of the nearly dead but not yet so, only to be comforted and wept over by Annie—her grief and caring seemingly making the inevitable far better than the preceding pain.

 

Nancy was long captivated by the poet and the poem—she asked to be known as “Annie” following the death of her husband in 1873, until her own death in 1877.

 

"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.

 

"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."

 

"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 sold to William E. Self — Dr. Rodney P. Swantko, purchased at the auction of William E. Self, Christie’s, New York, 4 December 2009, lot 171 (realized $830,500)