Did Edgar Allan Poe Ever Sit in the Pews of the First Unitarian Church of Providence?


Edgar Allan Poe was born on this day in Boston in 1809.

Among the East Coast cities where he spent time was Providence. On occasion as I walk around the church standing in the most historic area of the city, I see among the walking tours with small bands of tourists gawking at the lovely this and thats we have in the neighborhood, is the Poe tour. Our city’s little claim to Poe fame is that his work brought him here on occasion, and somewhere along the line he met the Transcendentalist and Unitarian Sarah Helen Whitman, and for a time courted her.

And, because of Ms Whitman, and that they were in this very neighborhood, while I haven’t found confirmation yet, I find it at least plausible that Mr Poe sat in the pews of our old Meeting House.

That’s it. Just a tidbit of a question on a frosty mid January morning…

And now in conclusion, and just to set the mood properly, how about William S Burroughs reading Annabelle Lee?

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  • http://worldofpoe.blogspot.com Undine

    Sorry to put a damper on things, but Poe never actually lived in Providence, a city he only visited on a few brief occasions. He was technically a Presbyterian, not Unitarian, and he was never much of a churchgoer anyway, so it seems highly unlikely he visited the church.

  • http://www.boundlesswayzen.org jamesford

    Dear Undine while probably a wicked person who takes candy from children for your pleasure, you’re likely right. Although, it does appear as he was in Providence enough to court Ms Whitman, and they clearly wandered around the neighborhood and should he be in town on a Sunday and her neighborhood was also where her church was, nominal Presbyterian or not, an hour in our Meeting House, even thinking of stolen kisses or some such all along, is all I’m speculating could possibly maybe have happened…

  • http://www.boundlesswayzen.org jamesford

    Okay, my spouse, who knows about these things says knitters are never wicked people. Although I continue to have my suspicions. Still, I have heard the baleful word, and have modified my text deleting “lived” and substituting “spent time.”

  • Levi

    I live in Rhode Island, and not far from Providence. I have been on that ludicrous ghost tour that does more harm to Poe’s biography than good. I have visited Mrs.Whitman’s grave numerous times. I have been to Poe’s grave as well. I have been a dedicated fan for close to six years, from the time I was 12 until now (I’m turning 18 in a few months). What I’m trying to get at, is that I too, Jamesford, would love to grasp the idea that Poe did sit in the pews of our local Unitarian Church, but like Undine stated, it’s unlikely. I agree that Poe was a Presbyterian. People will argue about Poe’s “religion” all day. He wrote “Eureka” which completely relinquished any idea of God, but at the same time he signed letters to his family with “God Bless and Protect you” in the closing. Hell, his last words were a prayer to God! So the topic of Poe’s religion is plausible to say the least. I don’t think that would have stopped him from curiously wandering into a Church while passing through town. I believe he had an opened mind. I don’t think he would have wandered in with Helen though…from what we know of her and her Sunday seances, I don’t think church going was in her agenda. But we do have the cemetery that Poe walked through, and we have Helen’s house where Poe spotted her upon the upturned faces of a thousand roses. So I’m happy with those connections to Poe and our home state.

  • Cushing

    No wicked knitters? Dickens would demur – what about Madame Defarge?


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