“…HE REFUSED TO RETURN HER LETTERS, NOR DID SHE RECEIVE THEM UNTIL DR. GRISWOLD GAVE THEM BACK AFTER POE’S DEATH.”
Poet, playwright, journalist, lecturer Elizabeth Oakes Smith, 1845, testifying on the murder of Edgar Allan Poe
Smith did not name the offended woman, but Poe scholars know who she is. Scarriet will investigate all of this further. A recent work by John Walsh made great strides in solving the mystery of Poe’s death:
“Now the least curious aspect of the Smith charge is the way it was, and has been ignored. Only when Mrs. Smith had put forward her beating charge  did the cooping idea make its appearance. At first, Thompson accepted Poe’s death  as did everyone then, as the result of a drunken debauch. Not until the late 1860s did [Thompson] come out with his cooping theory. By then, Mrs. Smith had twice stated her own belief in Poe’s having been beaten to death by ruffians who were related to, or agents of, some offended woman.
“John Thompson, it can be seen, in addition to being the originator of the idea, was also the one who, through Stoddard and the influences of Harper’s, then The Southern Magazine, deliberately put it into print. …if there is no real support, no actual evidence…for the “cooping” theory, then how and why was it ever conceived?”
—John Evangelist Walsh, Midnight Dreary: The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe St. Martin’s, 2000.
Poe’s death is still a mystery, but we at Scarriet have faith that one day the mystery will be solved. First, the cover-ups and lies need to be cleared away, and that is gradually happening: the drunken debauch, and now the ‘cooping theory’ have been debunked. There are many odd facts surrounding Poe’s murder. The oddness of those facts should actually make the solving of the case that much easier, (to steal a little of Dupin’s logic.)
A significant author, a mother, an early champion of women’s rights, a friend of Poe’s, here is a poem by Elizabeth Oakes Smith, which could be a tribute to Shelley. It sheds no light on Poe’s death, but it does make the whole matter more interesting to know that the source of a theory on Poe’s death is by a very fine poet, and this should also give us pause: why have so many fine writers with connections to Poe been ignored all these years? Are you getting tired of the Harvard University/F.O. Matthiessen/N.Y. Review of Books view of 19th century American literary history? Emerson, Emerson, Emerson, Whitman, Whitman, Whitman? Well, we are, too.
The Drowned Mariner
by Elizabeth Oakes-Smith
A mariner sat on the shrouds one night;
The wind was piping free;
Now bright, now dimmed was the moon-light pale,
And the phosphor gleamed in the wake of the whale,
As he floundered in the sea;
The scud was flying athwart the sky,
The gathering winds went whistling by,
And the wave as it towered, then fell in spray,
Looked an emerald wall in the moonlight ray.
The mariner swayed and rocked on the mast,
But the tumult pleased him well;
Down the yawning wave his eye he cast,
And the monsters watched as they hurried past
Or lightly rose and fell;
For their broad, damp fins were under the tide,
And they lashed as they passed the vessel’s side,
And their filmy eyes, all huge and grim,
Glared fiercely up, and they glared at him.
Now freshens the gale, and the brave ship goes
Like an uncurbed steed along;
A sheet of flame is the spray she throws,
As her gallant prow the water ploughs,
But the ship is fleet and strong:
The topsails are reefed and the sails are furled,
And onward she sweeps o’er the watery world,
And dippeth her spars in the surging flood;
But there came no chill to the mariner’s blood.
Wildly she rocks, but he swingeth at ease,
And holds him by the shroud;
And as she careens to the crowding breeze,
The gaping deep the mariner sees,
And the surging heareth loud.
Was that a face, looking up at him,
With its pallid cheek and its cold eyes dim?
Did it beckon him down? did it call his name?
Now rolleth the ship the way whence it came.
The mariner looked, and he saw with dread
A face he knew too well;
And the cold eyes glared, the eyes of the dead,
And its long hair out on the wave was spread.
Was there a tale to tell?
The stout ship rocked with a reeling speed,
And the mariner groaned, as well he need;
For, ever, down as she plunged on her side,
The dead face gleamed from the briny tide.
Bethink thee, mariner, well, of the past,—
A voice calls loud for thee:—
There’s a stifled prayer, the first, the last;—
The plunging ship on her beam is cast,—
Oh, where shall thy burial be?
Bethink thee of oaths that were lightly spoken,
Bethink thee of vows that were lightly broken,
Bethink thee of all that is dear to thee,
For thou art alone on the raging sea:
Alone in the dark, alone on the wave,
To buffet the storm alone,
To struggle aghast at thy watery grave,
To struggle and feel there is none to save,—
God shield thee, helpless one!
The stout limbs yield, for their strength is past,
The trembling hands on the deep are cast,
The white brow gleams a moment more,
Then slowly sinks—the struggle is o’er.
Down, down where the storm is hushed to sleep,
Where the sea its dirge shall swell,
Where the amber drops for thee shall weep,
And the rose-lipped shell her music keep,
There thou shalt slumber well.
The gem and the pearl lie heaped at thy side,
They fell from the neck of the beautiful bride,
From the strong man’s hand, from the maiden’s brow,
As they slowly sunk to the wave below.
A peopled home is the ocean bed;
The mother and child are there;
The fervent youth and the hoary head,
The maid, with her floating locks outspread,
The babe with its silken hair;
As the water moveth they lightly sway,
And the tranquil lights on their features play;
And there is each cherished and beautiful form,
Away from decay, and away from the storm.