During Court End Christmas in Richmond every December, the historic neighborhood around the Capitol opens its doors for free tours and holiday festivities. I was sorry to miss the event this year (the weather was awful, wasn’t it?). As in past years at Monumental Church, the day featured a performance by Debbie Phillips of Richmond Discoveries, who reenacts Elizabeth Poe with charm, songs, monologues, and a deep historical knowledge of Poe and her time.
Elizabeth Poe, the mother of Edgar Allan Poe, was a member of the Placide and Green Company, whose performance was underway on December 26th, 1811 when the Richmond Theater caught on fire.
However, she was no longer a part of the troupe at that time, as she had died at age 24 on December 8th. (Edgar Allan Poe would sometimes claim she died in the fire.) This year Court End Christmas was on December 8th, exactly 202 years after her death in a lodging room at the nearby Washington Tavern.
Edgar, around three years old at her death scarcely remembered her but wrote later in life, “The writer of this article is himself the son of an actress–has invariably made it his boast–and no earl was ever prouder of his earldom than he of his descent from a woman who, although well born, hesitated not to consecrate to the drama her brief career of genius and of beauty.”
Interested in learning more about Eliza Arnold Hopkins Poe?
- Find fascinating original documents about the life of actors and actresses in the Early Republic here.
- Chris Semtner, author and curator of Richmond’s Poe Museum, blogs about a trip to Boston and Providence, where he visited sites where Eliza Poe once performed.
- A description of the 200th year commemoration of Eliza Poe’s death by the Poe Museum of Richmond. Includes a photo of her headstone at the St. John’s Church cemetery and some video footage of the event.
- More Poe Museum holdings about Edgar Allan Poe’s parents are described (and are viewable) here.