After Edgar Allan Poe's final break with his foster father, he sought refuge in the Baltimore home of his aunt, Maria Poe Clemm. She would be a guiding and stabilizing influence on Edgar for the rest of his life. After his marriage to her daughter Virginia, Edgar referred to his Aunt Maria as mother or "Muddy."
Described by acquaintances as a "rather ordinary, uncultivated woman" with an "almost masculine aspect" Muddy served as the "ever vigilant guardian of the house." Devoted to Virginia and Edgar, she kept the house clean and neat, cooked the meals, and "served as messenger, doing the errands, making pilgrimages between the poet and his publishers..."
My Dear MuddyEdgar Allan Poe to Maria Poe Clemm, April 7, 1844
We have just this minute done breakfast, and I now sit down to write you about everything. I
can't pay for the letter, because the P.O. won't be open today. In the first place, we arrived at
Walnut St. wharf. The driver wanted to make me pay a dollar, but I wouldn’t. Then I had to
pay a boy a levy to put the trunks in the baggage car. In the meantime I took Sis in the Depot Hotel. It was only a quarter past 6, and we had to wait till 7. We saw the Ledger & Times—nothing in either—a few words of no account in the Chronicle.—We started in good spirits, but did not get here until nearly 3 o’clock. We went in the cars to Amboy about 40 miles from N. York, and then took the steamboat the rest of the way.—Sissy coughed none at all. When we got to the wharf it was raining hard. I left her on board the boat, after putting the trunks in the Ladies’ Cabin, and set off to buy an umbrella and look for a boarding-house. I met a man selling umbrellas and bought one for 62 cents. Then I went up Greenwich St. and soon found a boarding-house. It is just before you get to Cedar St. on the west side going up—the left hand side. It has brown stone steps, with a porch with brown pillars. “Morrison” is the name on the door. I made a bargain in a few minutes and got a hack and went for Sis. I was not gone more than ½ an hour, and she was quite astonished to see me back so soon. She didn’t expect me for an hour. There were 2 other ladies waiting on board—so she was’nt very lonely.—When we got to the house we had to wait about ½ an hour before the room was ready. The house is old & buggy, but the landlady is a nice chatty ol [section missing] gave us the back room on the [section missing] night & day & attendance, for 7 $--the cheapest board I ever knew, taking into consideration the central situation and the living. I wish Kate [the family cat] could see it—she would faint. Last night, for supper, we had the nicest tea you ever drank, strong & hot—wheat bread & rye bread—cheese—tea-cakes (elegant) a great dish (2 dishes) of elegant ham, and 2 of cold veal, piled up like a mountain and large slices—3 dishes of the cakes, and every thing in the greatest profusion. No fear of starving here. The landlady seemed as if she couldn’t press us enough, and we were at home directly. Her husband is living with her—a fat good-natured old soul. There are 8 or 10 boarders—2 or 3 of them ladies—2 servants.—For
breakfast we had excellent-flavored coffe, hot & strong—not very clear & no great deal of
cream—veal cutlets, elegant ham & eggs & nice bread and butter. I never sat down to a more plentiful or a nice breakfast. I wish you could have seen the eggs—and the great dishes of meat. I ate the first hearty breakfast I have eaten since I left our little home. Sis is delighted, and we are both in excellent spirits. She has coughed hardly any and had no night sweat. She is now busy mending my pants which I tore against a nail. I went out last night and bought a skein of silk, a skein of thread, & 2 buttons a pair of slippers & a tin pan for the stove. The fire kept in all night.—We have now got 4 $ and a half left. Tomorrow I am going to borrow 3 $--so that I may have a fortnight to go upon. I feel in excellent spirits & have’nt drank a drop—so that I hope soon to get out of trouble. The very instant I scrape together enough money I will send it on. You ca’nt imagine how much we both do miss you. Sissy had a hearty cry last night, because you and Catterina [family cat] weren’t here. We are resolved to get 2 rooms the first moment we can. In the meantime it is impossible we could be more comfortable or more at home than we are.—It looks as if it was going to clear up now.—Be sure and go to the P.O. & have my letters forwarded. As soon as I write Lowell’s article, I will send it to you, & get you to get the money from Graham. Give our best loves to Catterina.
Be sure & take home the Messenger, to Hirst. We hope to send for you very soon.
A TributeIn 1849, Poe wrote this poem as a tribute to both Muddy and his deceased wife.
To My Mother
Because I feel that, in the Heavens above.
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of “Mother,”
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you.
In setting my Virginia’s spirit free.
My mother—my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul—life.
Conceal Nothing From MeExcerpt from Muddy's letter to Neilson Poe (Poe’s cousin). Fordham, New York. October 9, 1849
I have heard this moment of the death of my dear son Edgar—I cannot believe it, and have
written to you, to try and ascertain the fact and particulars—he has been at the South for the last three months, and was on his way home—the paper states he died in Baltimore yesterday—If it is true God have mercy on me, for he was the last I had to cling to and love, will you write the instant you receive this and relieve this dreadful uncertainty—My mind is prepared to hear all—conceal nothing from me.