A Guide to John Henry Ingram's Poe Collection Ingram, John Henry, Poe Collection 38-135

A Guide to John Henry Ingram's Poe Collection

A Collection in
Special Collections
The University of Virginia Library
Accession number 38-135


Special Collections, University of Virginia Library

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Processed by: Special Collections Staff

Special Collections, University of Virginia Library
Accession Number
John Henry Ingram's Poe Collection ca. 1829-ca. 1915.
This collection consists of ca. 1000 items.
Laura Ingram

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

See the University of Virginia Library’s use policy.

Preferred Citation

John Henry Ingram's Poe Collection, Accession #38-135, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.

Acquisition Information

This collection was purchased by the Library in 1922.



by John Carl Miller

When John Ingram died in Brighton, England, on February l2, l9l6, he had, as he expressed it, "a room-full of Poe." At that time scholars on both sides of the Atlantic were well aware of Ingram's collection of Poe materials. Both its size and value had been suggested by Ingram's four-volume edition of Poe's works, prefaced by an original and controversial Memoir, and its worth had further been proved by the two-volume biography of Poe in which Ingram had published a great deal of new and important information. So impressed was the New England editor and critic Thomas Wentworth Higginson that he addressed an anxious communication to Ingram on February l, l880, about his collection: "I hope that if you should ever have occasion to sell it or should bequeath it (absit omen! in either case) it may come to some Public Library in this country."

Ingram's Poe collection was to grow enormously through many more years, and in the end Higginson's wish was to be fulfilled: it was sold and it did come to America, to the Alderman Library at the University of Virginia.

This is the curious story of how it happened.

Interest in the life and work of Edgar Poe was part of Ingram's childhood; in his adulthood it became his obsession. By his statement, he spent sixty-two years writing about Poe and collecting Poe materials. We can be sure he spent as many as fifty-three, for he published a poem called "Hope: An Allegory," written in imitation of Poe's "Ulalume," in 1863, and in the month before he died he published a tart note, setting the record straight about Dr. Bransby's school at Stoke Newington. He filled the intervening years with almost ceaseless attention to Poe: he wrote two biographies, several Memoirs, more than fifty magazine articles, as well as Prefaces and Introductions to writings on Poe by others, and he published and republished Poe's tales, poems, and essays in eight separate editions. During these years he carried on bitter warfare in print with almost every person who wrote about Poe anywhere, especially if the writer was an American, for John Ingram secretly regarded himself as the sole redeemer of Poe's besmirched personal reputation and as the person most responsible for Poe's renewed, world-wide literary reputation.


John Henry Ingram was born on November 16, 1842, at 29 City Road, Finnsbury, Middlesex, and spent his childhood in Stoke Newington, the London suburb where young Poe had himself lived. The Stoke Newington Manor House School, which Poe describes in "William Wilson," was standing in Ingram's youth, and he was quite conscious of it as a tangible link between his own life and Poe's. On March 6, l874, Ingram wrote an autobiographical account to Sarah Helen Whitman, clearly acknowledging Poe's influence on his early life:

"As a child, before I could read, I determined as I looked at my father's great books and saw how they interested him, to become an author and by the time I could spell words of one syllable I began to write, but in prose. One night when I was still a boy I went into my own room, and for the five-hundreth time, began to read out of Routledge's little volume of Edgar Poe's poems. Suddenly, something stirred me till I shuddered with intense excitement. "I felt as if a star had burst within my brain." I fell on my knees and prayed as I only could pray then, and thanked my Creator for having made me a poet!"

But John Ingram was not destined to become a poet, and he soon realized it. After publishing and suppressing his first volume of poetry in 1863, he wrote a pathetic "Farewell to Poesy" in 1864, bidding adieu to what was then the dearest hope of his life.

Private tutors and private schools furnished John Ingram's formal education during his childhood, until he entered Lyonsdown. Later, after he had registered at the City of London College, his father died, and Ingram was forced to withdraw and take up the job of supporting himself, his mother, and his two sisters. On January l3, l868, he received a Civil Service Commission, with an appointment to the Savings Bank Department of the London General Post Office.

Ingram then molded his life into a pattern which he followed doggedly for the rest of his days. He spent his days working at his clerkship and he spent his evenings studying, writing, and lecturing, complaining irascibly when social invitations or professional functions forced him to break this routine.

On Saturday afternoons his friends could always find John Ingram in the Reading Room of the British Museum Library. He had learned to speak and write French, German, Spanish, and Italian (later in life he added a working knowledge of Portuguese and Hungarian). He contributed literary articles to leading reviews in England, France, and America, and he lectured frequently, for pay, on contemporary literature. He broke his persevering, even stubborn, devotion to work and study only occasionally by business trips through Ireland and Scotland or to the Continent, or by trips to the Isle of Wight and other watering places in search of relief from recurring attacks of rheumatic fever, which plagued him all of his life. He was determined to be an author of important books and in 1868, in spite of his difficulties, he made a beginning.

Ingram called his first book Flora Symbolica; or, the Language and Sentiment of Flowers. The book was a history of the floriography, with an examination of the meaning and symbolism, of more than one hundred different flowers, garlands, and bouquets. He wrote long essays on each flower and included with each one colored illustrations, legends, anecdotes, and poetical allusions. His volume was beautifully bound and printed, infinitely detailed, and it revealed clearly his method as an author: he had thoroughly sifted, condensed, and used, with augmentations, the writings of his predecessors (a method of editing and writing he was to use always, while condemning it in others) in this science of sweet things." In his Preface, he told his readers with characteristic bluntness: "Although I dare not boast that I have exhausted the subject, I may certainly affirm that followers will find little left to glean in the paths I have traversed." "It will be found to be the most complete work on the subject ever published," he wrote. He was probably right, too. The important thing is that here, very early, he had epitomized his guiding philosophy as a writer and an editor. His job, as he saw it, was to learn all that had been done on whatever subject he was engaged and to strive passionately to produce a work of his own that would be significant for its completeness.

This book on floriography was the product of a rapidly maturing scholar, not that of a youth of nineteen, as his later juggling of his birth date would have it appear. He was actually twenty-six years old when he first demonstrated his abilities as a compiler, editor, and author. Everything about this volume shows that Ingram's methods in bookmaking were rather firmly decided upon before he commenced his important work on Poe, and he altered those methods scarcely at all, no matter what his subject, in the next forty-eight years.

Having served his literary apprenticeship, John Ingram was ready, by 1870, to begin writing books that would, he hoped, be financially profitable and at the same time bring to him lasting literary fame. He had already, for a long while, studied Poe's writings, reading and collecting everything he saw about the poet, and he became possessed by a deep, almost instinctive belief that Poe had been cruelly wronged by the Memoir that Rufus W. Griswold had written and published in l850. And so, John Ingram found his work: he determined to destroy Griswold's Memoir of Poe by proving its author a liar and a forger, and, in time, to write a new biography that would present to the world Edgar Poe as he really was. In order to do these things it would be necessary, of course, for him to examine everything, both favorable and unfavorable, that had been written about Poe, to search for new material, and to learn so much about Poe that he could reconstruct, as it were, the true character of the man and writer, as he felt it to be.

At this point, Ingram's life appeared to have a certain stability. He had a respectable and obviously not too demanding job that assured financial independence, and he was the author of a book popular enough to call for three editions, which brought to him a certain amount of literary recognition. But there was another side to his nature, a darker side that tormented and divided his life. As he began assembling materials for a defense of Edgar Poe he worked spasmodically, beset by worry, self-doubt, trouble, and fear. His temper was quick to explode and his sensitive nature found injury and fault where little or none of either was intended or existed. Some explanation of this duality in his nature is found in a shamed confession he made to Mrs. Whitman about the hereditary curse that hung over his household: two aunts, his father, and a sister, one after the other, had succumbed to insanity and had either died or had to be removed from home. His own mind was as clear and acute as possible, he insisted, and the family curse appeared unlikely to fall upon him if his worldly affairs jogged along composedly, but the knowledge of the taint in his blood was a terrible thing to him. Perhaps there is enough here to explain why Ingram's disposition early became choleric, why he never married, and why he suffered all of his life from recurring sicknesses, real or imaginary.

By 1870 there was a growing international interest in Poe's genius. A new generation had grown up to be fascinated by his tales and poems, and the older generations had in a measure forgotten the unpleasant stories connected with Poe's life. A minority group of Poe's friends in America knew that Griswold's Memoir had been motivated by jealousy and hatred, but no one of them had the information, the literary ability, and the strength necessary to publish an effectively documented denial of Grisold's Memoir and to replace it with an honest biography. These friends of Poe's were widely separated, largely unknown to each other; all had been seriously affected by a decade of war and its aftermath, and all of them were growing old. If Poe's memory was to be vindicated, it was fairly certain that it would have to be done by someone younger, someone who would not personally have known Poe. Not a single one of Poe's close friends who still lived in the l870's had any idea or plan for doing the job himself, but a number of them were eager to help someone else do it.

Such, in brief, was the situation when John Henry Ingram of Stoke Newington determined to prove to the world his theory that Rufus Griswold had been a liar and that Edgar Poe had been shamefully maligned.

The first articles Ingram published in l873 and early l874 had little new information in them which would vindicate Poe's reputation; Ingram was of necessity feeling his way, and he used these magazine publications to announce clearly his purpose, before diving into the melee. He intended to refute, step by step, the aspersions cast on Poe's character by Griswold and to publish an edition of Poe's works which would not only be more complete than any hitherto published, but which, through a Memoir as its Preface, would clear Poe's name and present him to the world as the great artist and fine gentleman he really was.

After his first flight into the thin air of creative and imaginative writing, Ingram's muse brought him closer to earth and he really found himself at home in the murky atmosphere of the British Museum. Ingram was a natural researcher. Armed with righteous indignation and the tools of scholarship, he became a crusader enlisted in a holy cause; the peculiar combination within him of a sensitive, poetic soul and a zealot's concentrated energy uniquely fitted him for the challenging job of righting the wrongs he believed had been done to Poe.

Having exhausted his resources at hand, Ingram turned to America in the hope of finding there friends of Poe who still resented the injustice done to him enough to help clear his name. The adroit timing and the felicity of this plan quickly became apparent. It was not difficult for Ingram to communicate his sincere feeling that his work was a crusade against evil, and Poe's friends were delighted with the boyish fervor of this young and already distinguished English scholar who was so unselfishly championing the poet's blighted reputation. Poe had been dead for nearly twenty-five years and many of his friends were hastening to their own graves, but they responded immediately to Ingram's letters and joined in a tireless search for recollections of Poe's literary and personal activities, sending letters Poe had written to them, manuscripts, books, and even personal keepsakes Poe had given to them. Sarah Helen Whitman, excited over the prospect of Ingram's writing an authoritative biography of Poe, wrote out for him everything she could remember of her personal meetings with Poe, sent him manuscripts, hundreds of newsclippings, magazine articles, copied letters and excerpts from articles, and gave unreservedly from her remarkable store of information about what others had written and said about Poe. Annie Richmond entrusted to Ingram the only copies she had ever made of her precious letters from Poe, and sent him copies of Poe's books that had been found in Poe's trunk after he died. Marie Louise Shew Houghton sent letters and copies of letters from Poe, a miniature of Poe's mother, and at least three manuscript poems Poe had given her. Stella Lewis gave him Poe's manuscript of "Politian," and willed to him the daguerreotype which Poe had given to her in l848. Edward V. Valentine of Richmond, William Hand Browne of Johns Hopkins University, John Neal, Poe's sister Rosalie, the Poe family in Baltimore, including Neilson Poe and his daughter Amelia, and many, many others contributed to Ingram's surprisingly large store of information about Poe. And when William Fearing Gill and Eugene L. Didier came to many of these same persons asking for help on their biographies of Poe, these correspondents showed a surprising disposition to withhold everything for Ingram and to betray to him the activities of his American rivals. Later when violent personal and literary quarrels broke out between Ingram and these American biographers of Poe, Ingram's epistolary friends encouraged him in private correspondence and defended him vigorously in the public press. Poe's friends had become Ingram's partisans. A steadily rising stream of books, letters, manuscripts, pictures, and newsclippings passed from America to England, with a few of them, but very few, finding their way back again. The aggregate of Ingram's correspondence on Poe matters is staggering when one realizes that he carried it on single-handedly, and published during these years sixteen books on other subjects while holding an everyday job at the General Post Office.

From the two bound volumes of the Broadway Journal that Mrs. Whitman sent, Ingram was able to make a number of important additions to the cannon of Poe's writings when he published his edition of Poe's works. Poe had given these volumes, covering his editorship of the Journal, to Mrs. Whitman in l848, and had gone through them and initialed with "P" almost everything he had written. Mrs. Whitman had first offered to lend these volumes to Ingram, but then, feeling the time of her death drawing near, she decided to give them to him. Accordingly, on April 2, 1874, she mailed them with the injunction that they be returned to her "at the opening of the seventh seal."

In the Preface of his l880 two-volume biography of Poe, John Ingram bade farewell "to what has engrossed so much of my life and labour." He was convinced that he had garnered almost all of the genuine Poe documents there were and that his accurate and complete biography had dealt conclusively with everything of importance concerning Poe. His work was finished, he sincerely thought.

But Ingram was not through with Poe. He should have understood himself and the reputation he had acquired as a Poe scholar well enough to know that he could not be through. The popularity of his edition had created a large market for Poe's writings and his biography had stirred up so much controversy, particularly in America, that he had rather to increase sharply his activities, for he was quickly challenged about statements in his published works. Quick to resent encroachment on what he considered his private preserves, he rapidly found himself at odds with a number of persons who had begun writing on Poe, for he could detect in their publications borrowings from his own, borrowings made more often than not without acknowledgment.

Ingram could not copyright facts, and he grew steadily more embittered as he saw the fruits of his research become public property. A new era of investigation into Poe's writings and life was beginning in America, an era brought about principally by Ingram's controversial personality and by the tone of his published writings about Poe. Competent scholars were entering the field to contest Ingram's claims of being the leading Poe authority, and these new American writers were rapidly making the early efforts of W. F. Gill and Eugene Didier appear puerile indeed. George W. Woodberry, Edmund C. Stedman, and R. H. Stoddard were formidable new biographers and suitors of Poe, and Ingram had not as yet, in the 1880's, taken their measure. Far from being finished with his work, he was really only beginning. During the next thirty-five years he struck back angrily through the columns of important newspapers and journals --to which his reputation as a Poe scholar gave him easy access --at other writers who, as he saw it, had stolen his Poe materials or who had altered the Poe image he had tried so hard to create. When reviewing new editions and biographies of Poe, Ingram tried to demolish them with a wit as rapier-like as was Poe's; unfortunately for him, his witty thrusts resembled broad-ax blows. Where Poe had been original and cruel, Ingram was simply sarcastic and repetitious. But through their reviews Ingram and Poe did achieve the same result: they both made enduring, deadly, vociferous enemies.

In 1884 Ingram edited a de luxe four-volume edition of Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe for English publication, and for the Tauchnitz Press in Leipzig he edited separate volumes of Poe's Tales and Poems; in 1885 he published a volume on Poe's "The Raven"; in 1886 he prepared a one-volume reprint of the two-volume biography of Poe he had issued in 1880; and in 1888 he brought out the first variorum edition of Poe's poems. With these publications Ingram was represented on the literary market by one edition or another which covered every phase of Poe's activities. Thus, finally, was completed the body of his important work on Poe.

In still another sense John Ingram's work on Poe was finished. His whole method of investigation had been based on personal correspondence with Poe's friends, and year by year the circle had grown smaller until, in 1888, only Annie Richmond was left. His early, happy inspiration of searching out Poe's friends had yielded rich results. Now those persons were silent, but their memories, their letters, and their precious papers had been given into Ingram's keeping; and he had used most of these things in publishing in every area of Poe scholarship, until, at the close of 1888, there was literally nothing left for him to do. But his collection remained and was the envy of Poe scholars everywhere.

John Ingram was retired with a pension from the Civil Service in 1903, after thirty-five years in the General Post Office. He continued living in London with his only remaining sister, Laura, writing articles, caustically reviewing new books about Poe and new editions of Poe's works, and in 1909 Ingram led the English celebration of Poe's centenary, bringing out still another edition of Poe's poems and furnishing to the London Bookman practically all of the materials used in its Edgar Allan Poe Centenary Number. In these years of retirement Ingram began putting into final form his definitive biography of Poe. He felt he could use everything in his files, now that all of the people who had sent materials to him were dead, to achieve the distinction he wanted more than anything else --to be remembered by the world as the one authentic and complete biographer of Edgar Poe. In 1912 Ingram moved his household from London to Brighton. There for a few years he enjoyed the sea-bathing he loved so well, and there he died on February 12, 1916. His passing went unnoticed. His last sickness had evidently not been considered terminal and his death must have come unexpectedly, for he left no clear-cut arrangements for disposing of his affairs or for the huge collection of Poe materials, the pride of his life. It is strange that he had not long before made definite provision for his Poe collection, for it constituted his greatest claim to personal and literary fame, and John Ingram was a man mindful of history's judgment. Through the years, it is true, he had sold almost all of his original Poe letters and some of the more important items given him by Poe's friends, but he had kept accurate copies of everything he had sold. Ingram had justified his actions by insisting he had sacrificed his own fortune and health in trying to clear Poe's name and if his work was to continue the sales were necessary to provide money for it. Even though these original letters and manuscripts were no longer part of his collection, the things that remained were very important, and John Ingram knew it. Nothing else he had published had brought his name before the world as had his publications on Poe and the reputation he had gained as a collector of Poe materials.


Shortly after John Ingram's death, Miss Laura Ingram caused something of a stir in the scholarly worlds of England and America by advertising for sale her brother's entire library. Although John Ingram had become an anachronism, his out-dated biographical methods having long been superseded by the careful, painstaking, scholarly practices of Professors James A. Harrison and Killis Campbell, the number of important "first" Poe publications Ingram had scored was still green in the memories of all concerned. Poe scholars knew that in his declining years Ingram had lost his knack of ferreting out new and important facts about Poe, but they also knew that shortly before his death Ingram had completed a new biography of Poe. While they did not expect that manuscript to be among the papers offered for sale, there was every reason to believe the materials from which he had written it would be. More important than this, scholars everywhere wanted to see those original manuscripts and letters by means of which Ingram had forty years before made so many important contributions to Poe biography.

Word of the proposed sale reached the University of Virginia early in the summer of 1916. Librarian John S. Patton promptly sent an inquiry to Ingram's heirs, through the American Consul in London, asking what books and papers about Poe were to be sold. Miss Laura Ingram as promptly answered his inquiry and enclosed a partial list of the Poe books, letters, and papers she wished to sell, asking l50 pounds sterling for the lot. Patton felt this too inclusive a basis on which to buy, so he countered with a proposition that Miss Ingram send the entire collection to Virginia for examination and evaluation; for an option to buy any or all of the collection the University would pay shipping expenses and insurance from England to America, and back again, if need be. Patton's interest was principally in the letters and portraits in the collection; the University, he wrote, not altogether accurately, already had most of the books on Poe that Miss Ingram had listed.

Miss Ingram agreed to Patton's proposal but delayed the shipment because there was a great risk of losing the collection. England was at war with Germany and enemy submarines had begun taking a heavy toll of English merchant shipping. After a few months, when the immediacies of war occupied both Miss Ingram and the University officials, correspondence about the Poe papers was dropped.

In 1919, James Southall Wilson, a young Professor of English from William and Mary came to join the University of Virginia faculty. A seminar course on Poe's works was being organized for the first time at the University and Dr. Wilson was scheduled to teach it. Although he was not at the time either a Poe specialist or a specialist in American literature Dr. Wilson had, however, long been keenly interested in Poe's writings. Shortly after his arrival, John Patton mentioned to him in casual conversation that he had a partial list of John Ingram's Poe Collection which had been for sale some years before. When Dr. Wilson saw the list his imagination quickly became fired with the possibilities of what the whole collection might be; so he maneuvered hastily, to enlist President Edwin A. Alderman's support, gathered accumulated Library funds, and reopened the correspondence with Miss Ingram about her brother's papers.

Miss Ingram's health had been seriously affected by her brother's death and by the privations of the war; once the fighting was over she had begun making hurried efforts to dispose of the Poe papers to any acceptable university or library authorities. She had wanted them to go to the University of Virginia for safekeeping, since her brother had paid marked attention to Poe's alma mater, but a number of years had passed without further word from Charlottesville. Fearfully believing her own death to be at hand, she had seized an opportunity to sell the papers to the University of Texas.

Professor Killis Campbell, an editor of Poe's poems and himself a Virginian, wrote Miss Ingram, as Chairman of the Department of English at the University of Texas, that he would consider buying her Poe papers only after the University of Virginia had definitely refused their purchase.

Still another possible solution to Miss Ingram's problem then presented itself: a Harvard Professor, vacationing in England, came to Brighton to examine the Poe collection, with the idea of buying it for his university.

At this point Miss Ingram received Dr. Wilson's renewed request to ship the papers on approval to Virginia. She did not want this indefiniteness. Getting the papers packed and shipped, furthermore, would be a difficult and confusing job, for the Poe collection had somehow become mixed with the remnants of John Ingram's once enviable collections of materials about Christopher Marlowe, Chatterton, Oliver Madox-Brown, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Sudden interest in the Poe papers on the part of an English purchaser offered her a way out. She stopped short and awaited an offer from any one of the prospective buyers who would relieve her of the trouble of packing and shipping the papers. A quick acceptance of her terms by the English agent, the Harvard professor, or by the University of Texas would have changed the fate of the Poe papers.

The University of Virginia's correspondence about the papers had not involved an agent, since it was begun and ended by personal letters between John Patton, Dr. Wilson, and Miss Ingram. Yet, some knowledge of the prospective return of John Ingram's Poe papers to America reached numerous scholars, authors, teachers, and booksellers, for they began sending requests to the University of Virginia for permission to examine and use or to purchase portions of the collection. The first word the University itself had that they were to receive the Poe Collection came from J. H. Whitty, Richmond book collector and editor of Poe's poems, who wrote John Patton on September 23, 1921, saying the papers were even then enroute from England to the University. This information, Whitty wrote in sly confidence, he had picked up through the bookseller's "grapevine."

In mid-October, 192l, the collection arrived in the United States aboard the SS Northwestern Miller, which docked at Philadelphia. The shipment, consigned by John Patton as "settler's effects," was passed through Customs free of duty. But Patton, who had not been in England for a decade, resolutely refused to sign an affidavit declaring the boxes contained his household goods; consequently, two weeks passed before official confusion was cleared up and the shipment released.

The two great packing cases actually reached the University in the first week of November and were isolated in a small room in the basement of the Rotunda to await examination by Dr. Wilson in whatever time he could spare from his teaching duties.

Dr. Wilson found his job long and tiring, but always interesting, and at times very exciting. John Ingram's Poe collection was bulky, varied and rich.


Perhaps the prize single article in the Poe Collection was the original "Stella" daguerreotype of Poe --the one Poe had given to Mrs. Lewis in l848, which she in turn willed to John Ingram in l880. And among the hundreds of letters from Ingram's correspondents, perhaps none were more interesting to Dr. Wilson, nor to Poe students later, than those from Sarah Helen Whitman. This strange and charming woman had cherished for twenty-five years the image of herself as his one great love, after her brief engagement of three months to Poe in l848, and she had written to John Ingram the fullest account there is of their personal relationships. Her ninety-eight letters to Ingram narrowly escaped being destroyed by Laura Ingram, who felt, for reasons best known to herself, Mrs. Whitman's letters were unfit to be in her brother's collection. Fortunately, Miss Ingram decided to include the letters in the shipment and let the Virginia authorities decide whether or not they should be destroyed.

Ingram's letters to Annie Richmond had also evoked full and generous replies. She placed her whole trust in Ingram and wanted him to understand, as she felt sure no mortal except herself had understood, the purity and nobility of Poe's mind and spirit. The copies she made of Poe's letters to herself for John Ingram, found in this collection, are the only ones in existence; the originals have disappeared.

Dr. Wilson also found in this collection many letters from Marie Louise Shew Houghton, who had nursed Virginia Poe during her last sickness at Fordham and had watched over Poe as he suffered a long and violent attack after Virginia's death. Mrs. Houghton had sent to Ingram either the originals or copies of all the manuscripts and letters she had received from Poe, in addition to a sometimes confusing but invaluable account of Poe's family life.

Letters from these three ladies made up the largest group that Ingram had received, but Dr. Wilson found many additional letters and items of importance. There was the original drawing of Poe that Edouard Manet had made and presented to Stephane Mallarme, who had in turn given it to John Ingram ; a pen drawing of Marie Louise Shew, made by an unknown hand; letters from Rosalie Poe, begging, shortly before she died, for Ingram's financial help; a penciled letter from Poe himself to Stella Lewis written on the back of her manuscript poem "The Prisoner of Perote"; letters and documents from Edward V. Valentine, the Richmond sculptor who first persuaded Elmira Royster Shelton to relate for Ingram her early and late memories of Poe; letters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John Neal, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and many other letters Dr. Wilson knew to be without parallel in any collection of Poe papers.

Miss Ingram had not included in the shipment "a good many" letters from Miss Amelia FitzGerald Poe, since they "threw too little fresh light on her nephew's life to be of an interest," nor had she included old copies of the Southern Literary Messenger and Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, feeling certain the University would already have them. Amelia Poe was the daughter of Neilson Poe, who had buried Edgar in Baltimore in l849, and the custodian of many letters from Poe, Mrs. Clemm, Mrs. Whitman, and Annie Richmond ; she had corresponded with Ingram over a period of twenty years and was important enough to him to receive the dedication of his last biography of Poe. These letters and magazines were requested from Miss Ingram and in time they were received and restored to the collection.

After a thorough examination of the collection, Dr. Wilson decided it was worth the price asked. In l916 the price had been 150 pounds; in 1922 it was 200 pounds. For the entire collection, John Patton offered 181 pounds, 14 shillings ($800), on March 24, 1922.

Miss Ingram gladly accepted the money and she wrote to the officials of the University how pleased she was that what she believed to be her dead brother's wish had been carried out: his Poe collection was at home in America, and in Virginia, where she was sure he would have wanted it to be. And she continued her interest in the University, quite often sending cordial letters accompanied by packages of books, pictures, and letters which she had come across and thought belonged with her brother's Poe collection. In 1933, when once again Miss Ingram thought her death was near, she sent to the University, as a gift, John Ingram's manuscript, "The True Story of Edgar Allan Poe. " This manuscript had been in a publisher's hands when Ingram died, but printing was delayed until the war should be over. Before that time came, however, the publisher had himself died, and Laura Ingram had tried without success to place it with other publishers. Its presence in the house made her uncomfortable. Would the University accept it and deal with it as they saw fit?

The whole tone of this manuscript convinces the reader that John Ingram considered this last biography, his farewell to Poe scholarship, to be a volume that would triumphantly answer his critics, and would be the foundation-stone upon which he would be able to stand forever as the uncontestable arbiter of all things concerning Poe. In this work he resurveyed his whole knowledge and experience and fearlessly handed down his dicta on all controversial Poe questions. But unfortunately his spleen overrode his scholarly judgment. His virulence against other Poe biographers, especially the Americans whom he accused of fraudulently using his materials, succeeded in clouding Ingram's own vision and writing, and succeeds in destroying for his present day reader the confidence necessary in an author's balanced judgment, if he is to accept, even partially, the arbitrary rulings. This manuscript is not, as Ingram thought it would be, the last word on Poe. It is unrelentingly bitter against Poe's detractors and Ingram's personal rivals, and it seeks, even more than did Ingram's other writings on Poe, to whitewash its subject completely. Ingram's perspective seems to have deserted him as he wrote this manuscript, and he had little left except futile anger.


The addition of the manuscript life of Poe rounded out the collection of Poe papers that once had belonged to John Ingram, now in the possession of the University of Virginia.

One can safely say that had it not been for John Ingram's skill and energy, together with the peculiarities of his temperament, we should not now have many of these unusual and dependable accounts of Poe's activities and personality. By studying Ingram's papers it is possible to trace him through a maze of editing and publishing and to watch him, step by step, slowly amass his great fund of information about Poe. One can see him make mistakes and achieve triumphs as he accepts, rejects, and fuses information to be included in his numerous publications on Poe. Then, too, it is still possible to catch fresh glimpses of Poe himself in this collection, for Ingram did not publish all of the memories of Poe set down in the letters he received. Some of these recollections Ingram deliberately shielded from public view, but they are no more apocryphal than many of the recollections he chose to believe and to publish; some of the records Ingram received he suppressed from delicacy alone.

A number of scholarly papers, theses, and doctoral dissertations have been based on this collection of Poe papers, making almost all the more important items and clusters of items more readily available to other scholars. The complete collection has made possible another kind of study, by an examination of Ingram's biographies and editions of Poe, in conjunction with the rough materials from which he shaped them, it has been possible to make a just evaluation of Ingram's place among Poe biographers and editors and to demonstrate exactly what and how many important contributions he made to the peculiarly difficult field of Poe scholarship. Finally, and by no means least important, is the fact that, since Ingram's work on Poe covered nearly his whole life span, it has been possible for the first time to trace in the great mass of his papers a thread of the biography of this nineteenth-century professional editor and biographer to whom the writer of every signifcant work about Poe since 1874 has been directly and heavily indebted.

Scope and Content Information

A calendar and index of letters and other manuscripts, photographs, printed matter, and biographical source materials concerning Edgar Allan Poe assembled by John Henry Ingram, with prefatory essay by John Carl Miller on Ingram as a Poe editor and biographer and as a collector of Poe materials.

Second Edition by John E. Reilly

To the Memory of John Carl Miller


In 1922 the University of Virginia paid the heirs of John Henry Ingram the munificent sum of $800 for the materials Ingram had assembled for his work as biographer, editor, and stalwart (i.e., feisty) champion of Edgar Allan Poe. What the University acquired is an unparalleled collection of letters and other manuscripts, of photographs and daguerreotypes, and of newspaper clippings and various other printed materials totaling altogether more than a thousand items. Although the University made the Collection available to serious students of Poe, the contents remained uncatalogued at the Alderman Library until, in the late 1940's, John Carl Miller, then a graduate student, undertook the chore of sorting and classifying the mass of material. As it happened, the chore proved to be even more than a labor of love: it marked for Miller the beginning of a life-long interest both in Ingram and in the materials Ingram had compiled. The first fruit of Miller's interest was his 1954 doctoral dissertation, "Poe's English Biographer, John Henry Ingram : A Biographical Account and a Study of His Contributions to Poe Scholarship." Six years later the University published the first edition of Professor Miller's John Henry Ingram's Poe Collection at the University of Virginia. This little book was a "calendar" or chronological checklist of the Collection providing a brief description of the content of each item. Professor Miller prefaced the calendar with his essay on Ingram as "Editor, Biographer, and Collector of Poe Materials" and furnished access to the calendar through an index. In the mid-1960's Professor Miller served as an advisor to the University's project of making the entire Collection available on nine reels of microfilm. At the same time, however, Professor Miller was laying his own plans to make "the more important primary source materials" used by Ingram even more available in a multi-volume annotated edition. The first of these volumes, Building Poe Biography, was published by Louisiana State University Press in 1977, and the second volume, Poe's Helen Remembers, appeared two years later from the University Press of Virginia. In declining health for a number of years, Professor Miller died in October 1979, before any other volumes could be prepared.

At the time of his death, Professor Miller was at work not only on his annotated edition of materials in the Collection but also on the second edition of the calendar published by the University of Virginia almost two decades earlier. It is his work on the second edition of the calendar that the present volume carries to its conclusion.

The format of the entries in the calendar is similarly unchanged: two paragraphs are devoted to each item, the first a bibliographical (if that word can be extended to included manuscripts) description of the item and the second paragraph a brief account of its content.

Item Listing

Part One: Letters, Manuscripts, Other Documents
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Part Two: Photographs, 1809-1911
Box: 9
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Part Three: Undated Photographs, Sketches, and a Drawing
Box: 9
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Part Four: Printed Matter from Magazines, Newspapers, and Books
Box: 9