by Kevin Alfred Strom
THIS YEAR marks the 200th birthday of the great poet and thinker Edgar Allan Poe. Today, October 7th, is the day of his mysterious death 160 years ago in Baltimore. And last month marked the 174th anniversary of his marriage to his beloved Virginia.
Not too long after Poe’s birthday in January of this year, someone very dear to me gave me a surprise present: two gift boxes from the Poe Museum in Richmond, one decorated with a reproduction of the famous Learned portrait of Virginia Poe (pictured, left) and the other (on the right) having on its lid an image of a very young-looking and clean-shaven Edgar Allan Poe — an image I had never seen before. The portrait is oval and in a thin oval gilt frame. Inside the lid of the second box is written “Edgar Allan Poe – Robert Lee Traylor.”
I have been a reader and student of Poe since the age of 11, but this portrait was one I had never seen. The only references I could find to “Robert Lee Traylor” and a Poe portrait were as the owner of a very different Poe picture, a daguerreotype.
And exhaustive searches of the ‘Net, comprising thousands of articles and representations of Poe, didn’t come up with this portrait or any reference to it. It seemed quite a mystery to me.