Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe (August 15, 1822 – January 30, 1847) married Edgar Allen Poe at the young age of 13. The nature of the couple’s relationship has been the subject of speculation by many biographers. Some suggest their relationship resembled that of brother and sister more than husband and wife. It has even been suggested that the couple never consummated their marriage. Others differ, citing the passionate affection shown in Poe’s love letters to Virginia. Accounts also seem to confirm that Virginia idolized her husband, always keeping close to him and working to benefit both is personal and professional lives. Her valentine, written to Edgar on February 14, 1846, their last Valentine’s Day before Virginia died of tuberculosis, shows her deep admiration and affection for her husband. She writes of her desires to live blissfully and peacefully with Edgar, “removed from the world” and allow their love to strengthen their relationship and her “weakened lungs.” Her admiration and desire for Edgar is not only seen in theme but also in structure. She presents her poem, her desire and admiration for Edgar, in the form of an acrostic. For Virginia, her husband, his name, represented the beginning, middle and end of her short life. Her life centered around her partner and this is what she expressed in her declaration to Edgar on February 14, 1846.
In my Faithfully Yours, Virginia, Virginia’s acrostic structure is represented in three movements, each movement using the lines of text that spell each of Poe’s names. Since Poe’s name is such an important part of Virginia’s poem, it is this aspect that provides the structure for my own work. The first movement, “Ever with thee I wish to roam –,” begins with a functional prelude that presents the three thematic ideas that become the primary motives for each movement. The text for the first movement comes from the lines beginning EDGAR, which yield the melodic motive “E D G A Re(D).” The second movement, “And the tattling of many tongues” uses the lines beginning ALLAN, yielding a melodic motive “A La(A) La(A) A N(B-flat).” The third movement, “Perfect ease we’ll enjoy,” employs the same method on the text POE. Here “P” is represented by the pitch F-natural, “O” by the pitch D-natural and “E” by E-natural. The beginning and ending lines of Virginia’s text, as well as the spelling of Poe’s last name, provides the overall tonal structure of the work, centered on E-Phrygian. The final movement mirrors the first with its inclusion of a functioning postlude, declaring Virginia’s admiration for Edgar through the melodic presentation of “E A F,”—Edgar Allan Poe.
Valentine to Edgar Allan Poe
Ever with thee I wish to roam —
Dearest my life is thine.
Give me a cottage for my home
And a rich old cypress vine,
Removed from the world with its sin and care
And the tattling of many tongues.
Love alone shall guide us when we are there —
Love shall heal my weakened lungs;
And Oh, the tranquil hours we'll spend,
Never wishing that others may see!
Perfect ease we'll enjoy, without thinking to lend
Ourselves to the world and its glee —
Ever peaceful and blissful we'll be.