Since reading Coffee with Poe (Andrew Barger) I have become enamored with the relationship between Poe and Whitman. I’m not sure why I have such a fascination with the love lives of my favorite authors: Edgar A. Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Robert E. Howard. Maybe it is due to the unrequited nature of these doomed relationships, making them somewhat tragic and therefore more romantic. If any of these authors were capable of settling down and raising a family like a normal chum, it is doubtful that their writings would be as prolific or as haunting. None of these authors wrote as a hobby to pass the time on the weekends. It seems these authors were compelled to write out of some frantic exorcism of inner demons or channeling of horrors lurking in the anima mundi.
Perhaps my fascination is an interest in the women themselves: Sarah Helen Whitman, Sonia Greene, and Novalyne Price. All three were strong, well educated, and opinionated. Sarah Helen Whitman was a poet in her own right and also had an interest in the occult. Sonia was a writer and a self-employed business woman. Novalyne Price was a school teacher who had a love of knowledge and writing.
These three authors had intense and perhaps unhealthy relationships with other women that increased their inaccessibility. Lovecraft’s overbearing mother dominated his early years and haunted him even after her death. His aunts later took her place albeit less intensely. Robert E Howard’s devotion to his mother was so intense that he could not live without her. Poe tended to a sickly young wife who spent years wasting away with tuberculosis.
While there is a captivating book written by Robert E Howard’s love interest, Novalyne Price; Sonia Greene’s memory of her relationship with HP Lovecraft is just a few pages long. Poe and Whitman had a very public relationship, with each writing poem to each other as well as a multitude of letters.
Their devotion to their art, the other women in their lives, and perhaps just their eccentric personalities made them inaccessible. Perhaps it is this inaccessibility, in addition to the fascinating minds behind their stories, which made them so desirable.
Poe was the ladies’ man out of the three. Many of his poems were to the various loves of his lives. We don’t hear what Lovecraft has to say of his relationship with Sonia. However he did write her an eldritch Christmas poem:
Once more the ancient feast returns,
And the bright hearth domestic burns
With Yuletide’s added blaze;
So, too, may all your joys increase
Midst floods of mem’ry, love, and peace,
And dreams of Halcyon days.
In letters to each other, Bob mentions to Lovecraft that he is “going with” a girl. Lovecraft visited Sonia Greene in Conneticut and didn’t find it significant enough to relay to Howard, instead spending a paragraph describing the geography of the area. (A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E Howard, 2011, Hippocampus Press)
I find these relationships so romantic because none of them are the typical boring love story. Thinking of Sonia Greene and Lovecraft retyping a horror tale on their honeymoon, Poe and Whitman spending their nights in St John Cathedral burial ground, and Robert and Price driving around the Texas plains talking about his yarns just makes me smile!