Poe and Petersburg
A little history of the Hiram Haines House.
12 West Bank Street started as an Inn and Restaurant in 1814, and by 1829 was operated by Hiram Haines as a coffee house. Its real claim to fame lies in the fact that in 1836 Edgar Allan Poe, a friend of Haines, spent his honeymoon in the suite above the coffee house with his new bride, Virginia Clemm. It is said that his happiest days may well have been spent in Petersburg, then the center of trade and commerce for Central Virginia.
From Abugel’s book page 65:
Hiram Haines published a book of poetry in 1825. He signed and numbered each copy and paid for the printing by selling subscriptions. Haines was proud of his Culpeper County beginnings and mentions them in the book. There were many subscribers of Haines’ book of poetry, though the names of some of the city’s richest merchants, those who could most easily afford a copy whether they wanted it or not, are curiously absent. One can only speculate about who didn’t subscribe. Suffice it so say that by and large, the people who did purchase Haines’ volume would most likely have visited his Coffee House regularly or more easily conversed with the young editor Edgar Allen Poe. If some of the tobacco or flour merchants were anything like Poe’s foster father, John Allan, they would hardly have had the time for such idle pursuits as publishing unprofitable volumes of poetry. From the critical standpoint, Haines’ little volume was well received and stood the test of time. One early twentieth-century critic saw hints of Robert Burns in some of the poet’s “quaint mannerisms” and added that the primary importance of Mountain Buds and Blossoms lay in the fact that it was the first attempt to celebrate adequately in verse the glories of Virginia.”
The only public notice about the book was an advertisement by Haines himself as “The Stranger” in the Petersburg Morning Advertiser of August 2, 1825, announcing the book’s availability “after a long and painful delay,” attributed to increased costs occurring during production.
The predominant piece in the volume is a thirty-seven-page opus called “The Virginiad,” in which an Indian maiden serenades the full moon and her lover. Haines, like others of the time, was clearly influenced by the popularity of the story of John Smith and Pocahontas:
I love thee, sweet orb, in thy beauty now beaming. Mild emblem of peace and queen of the night: Upon my warm bosom thy calm looks are gleaming.
But ah! Thy view not my bosom’s delight: Oh! Not like that course is its love ever ranging. As Vestal’s fire pure, so burns its first flame. Nor yet as thy face, will it ever be changing. A hundred new moons shall find it the same……
To learn more about Edgar Allan Poe, visit the Poe Museum in Richmond Virginia with contact info:
To learn more about Petersburg , visit us at https://www.petersburgpreservationtaskforce.com/tourism
And remember, Virginia is for Lovers! Visit us at www.virginia.org or @virginia.org
Written by Clay Hamner for The Petersburg Preservation Task Force.
Featured image provided by Petersburg Preservation