Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe Biography

(Edgar Allan Poe's Wife)

Born: 1822

Born In: Baltimore, Maryland

Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe was the wife of the famous American writer Edgar Allan Poe, who is best known for his poetry and tales of mystery and macabre. Their marriage became the topic of discussion because of the fact that they were first cousins and when they got married, she was just 13 years old and Edgar 26. She came from a poor and humble background and lived as a devoted wife to her husband who flirted with older women. Unfortunately, she fell ill with tuberculosis and had to suffer for the last five years of her life, till her death at the age of 24. Her relationship with her husband became a subject of debate as they had no children and behaved more like a brother and sister. What is apparent from Poe’s work is that he was inspired by the young age and sufferings of his wife that became the theme for most of his poetry and writing. He was so shocked by the death of Virginia that he took to heavy drinking after her death, till he too died of tuberculosis. Virginia will always remain an example of the impact that a devoted wife can have on her husband. Even though he flirted while she was still alive, and courted other women after she was dead, he could never strike up another meaningful relationship because he was deeply enamored by the beauty and simplicity of his wife.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Clemm

Died At Age: 25


Spouse/Ex-: Edgar Allan Poe (m. 1835)

father: William Clemm Jr.

mother: Maria Poe

siblings: Henry

American Women

Died on: January 30, 1847

place of death: Fordham, Bronx, New York City

City: Baltimore, Maryland

U.S. State: Maryland

  • 1

    What was Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe's occupation?

    Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe was a wife and cousin of the famous American writer Edgar Allan Poe.
  • 2

    What is the significance of Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe's relationship with Edgar Allan Poe?

    Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe's relationship with Edgar Allan Poe was significant as she married him at a young age and was a source of inspiration for some of his works.
  • 3

    Where did Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe live during her marriage to Edgar Allan Poe?

    Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe lived in various places, including Baltimore and Philadelphia, during her marriage to Edgar Allan Poe.
  • 4

    How did Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe's health impact her marriage to Edgar Allan Poe?

    Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe suffered from poor health, including tuberculosis, which affected her marriage to Edgar Allan Poe and ultimately led to her early death.
  • 5

    What was Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe's role in Edgar Allan Poe's life and work?

    Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe played a supportive and influential role in Edgar Allan Poe's life and work, providing emotional support and inspiration.
Childhood & Life
Virginia Eliza Clemm was born on August 15, 1822 in Baltimore, Maryland to William Clemm, Jr and Maria Poe. Her father was a hardware merchant who died when Virginia was four years old. She had two brothers from her parent’s marriage and five half-siblings from her father’s previous marriage to her mother’s cousin who had died due to illness.
Her mother made a living by stitching clothes and taking boarders to make ends meet. Her two brothers died by 1836 leaving Virginia as her mother’s only surviving child. When she was seven years old her cousin, Edgar Poe came to live with them for a while after his discharge from the Army. During this period, he courted their neighbor Mary Devereaux and young Virginia played the role of a messenger between them.
The financial condition of the family deteriorated with the death of her grandmother, who brought in an annual pension. Later, Edgar proposed to marry Virginia, which was opposed by the family as they were first cousins. Virginia's other cousin Neilson even volunteered to take her in and educate her in order to prevent the relationship.
However, due to their destitute state, her mother agreed to the marriage when Virginia was just 13 years old and Edgar was 27. The wedding was conducted in a quiet ceremony due to the debate generated on the couple’s blood relationship and age. On official records she was shown as 21 when they got married.
Virginia and her mother moved to Richmond after the wedding and were financially supported by Edgar, who himself made meager earnings out of his writing career. He took upon himself to educate his young wife in English and Mathematics, in which she excelled.
Virginia was a simple housewife who supported her husband and stood solidly by his side. Her tender age and suffering due to prolonged illness became an inspiration for her husband’s writing.
The life of Virginia is reflected in the poetry of her husband, which include his works titled ‘Annabel Lee’, ‘Ulalume’ and ‘Lenore’.
She is also portrayed in his pros titled ‘Eleonora’, which is the story of a man marrying his first cousin and ‘The Oblong Box’, which is about a man transporting the body of his wife by boat.
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Personal Life & Legacy
Virginia’s marriage to her first cousin, Edgar Allan Poe, has always been a subject of debate. Some say that the relationship was more of a brother and sister and it was never consummated. Others say that Edgar was passionate about his cousin. There is also another school of thought that says that she was an inspiration for his work and he never looked upon her sexually.
They slept separately till she reached the age of sixteen, after which they lived like a normal couple. They loved each other in a very special way and supported each other. However, they had no children.
Marriage between first cousins was not uncommon during her time. However, marriage at the age of 13 was. While Edgar was enamoured by her beauty, she idolized him. He was also devoted to his wife because he was orphaned when he was just a child and knew what it was to live without parental support.
Edgar was known to flirt with Frances Sargent Osgood, who was a married woman and poet. Virginia is believed to have encouraged the relationship as it had a sobering effect on her husband, who otherwise was often under the influence of alcohol.
Another woman in the life of her husband was a poet, Elizabeth F Ellet, who was jealous of Osgood and Virginia. She went on to create friction between Virginia and her husband by sending her anonymous letters about her husband. However, she remained devoted to her husband and did not doubt his love for her.
In mid-1842, she developed symptoms of tuberculosis and started throwing up blood from her mouth. Her condition kept fluctuating which brought deep depression in her husband’s behavior. For the next couple of years the family changed home more than once in the hope that change of surroundings would help her condition.
She knew that she would die soon but she wanted to remain by her husband’s side. She took up gardening and playing the piano and harp to keep herself occupied. Her husband encouraged her not to lose hope and said that she was his biggest inspiration for his work. However, he too fell ill with tuberculosis and his health began deteriorating.
Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe died in January 1847 after suffering for five years. Her death had a devastating effect on her husband who took to alcohol in a big way and ruined his health. He was looked after by Virginia's mother till his death in 1849. Virginia's remains were finally reburied by the side of her husband in 1885, on the 76th anniversary of his birth.
Facts About Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe

Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe was the first cousin and childhood sweetheart of renowned author Edgar Allan Poe.

Despite their age difference, they shared a close and loving relationship.
Virginia was known for her talent in needlework and often created intricate designs and patterns, showcasing her creativity and skill.

Virginia was a devoted animal lover and had a special fondness for cats.

She would often care for and nurture stray cats that she came across.

Virginia had a deep appreciation for music and was known to have a beautiful singing voice.

She enjoyed singing for her family and friends, bringing joy to those around her.

Virginia was admired for her resilience and strength in the face of illness.

Despite her fragile health, she maintained a positive attitude and continued to support her husband, Edgar Allan Poe, in his writing endeavors.

See the events in life of Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe in Chronological Order

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