Poe as Flautist

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In Robert Bloch's wonderful short story "The Man Who Collected Poe," one of the characters is described as playing Poe's flute. Did Edgar really play the flute, or was Bloch just being fanciful?

-- Anonymous, October 26, 2003


I think it was Virginia Poe who played it mostly, suffering her first attack of tuberculosis embolism while playing for her husband. Poe's ownchildhood music instruction? Not sure.

-- Anonymous, October 27, 2003

Curiously, E. Wagenknecht, in his 1963 well-documentd "E. A. Poe: the Man behind the Legend" relates that Poe effectively sang and played the flute, but without any reference. But Bloch's short story was published in 1951; perhaps the source for Wagenknecht's own assertion? More probable should be a common source used by them both. Mary Phillips' 1926 huge study? Or Hervey Allen's 1926 one (entitled "Israfel")? They are both full of uncommon information, but sometimes from totally unreliable sources. Try to find them... If I get myself some leisure to check it for you, I shall let you know it as soon as possible. Yours sincerely, Raven's Shade (Belgium).

-- Anonymous, October 29, 2003

A little step further with your stimulating question. N. B. Fagin, in his sound 1949 study on "The Histrionic Mr Poe", quoting himself from Mrs M.G. Evans' 1939 relevant book "Music and E.A. Poe", stated the same fact about Poe singing and playing the flute. But I have not yet traced the first-hand source of this information, and thus am unable to tell you about its reliability. I do not at all despair... In any case, you may accept, I think, that Bloch really had some good and worthwhile reasons and autorities to introduce such an adventitious detail into his weird story. And, by the way, Virginia, Poe's wife, is known to have played herself piano and harp when singing various romances of the time. Yours, Raven's Shade (Belgium).

-- Anonymous, October 30, 2003

At last found! We may almost certainly assume, I think, that Bloch took his information about Poe playing the flute from H. Allen 1926 very popular and successful romanticized (and well enough referenced) biography of Poe entitled "Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe" (NY - Doran), vol. I, pp. 144-45 (or p. 119, in the 1934 one- volume reprint), amid the Chapter VIII ("Elmira and the Enchanted Garden"), where the fact is explicitly described from recollections & documents left in 1875-78 by S. E. Royster (widow Shelton -- and Poe's first love, in 1825) to E.V. Valentine (Richmond) and to Poe's British biographer and editor J.H. Ingram, and still partially unpublished. What Mrs Royster Shelton reported some fifty years after the events must often be taken cum grano salis; but, in this case, it seems more than simply plausible.

All this should incidentally be demonstrating how much it may be difficult (and dangerous, when about less light matters!) to assert such benigne biographical details as the one you so cleverly and relevantly submitted. Thanks for it.

Yours, Raven's Shade (Belgium).

-- Anonymous, October 31, 2003

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