Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Writers' bedrooms: my little corner of the world

Authors have often been photographed in their studies, but their empty bedrooms (where many writers actually worked) are evocative as well. In order: Thoreau's and Poe's are spartan; Dickinson's simple and elegant; Proust's and Hugo's opulent. For Flannery O'Connor, I must admit I expected at least a peacock feather or two!
A cosy little getaway, Henry!
The furniture is "of the period," but the room was definitely E.A.P.'s
Dibs on the sleigh bed!
Cork lining; I could get into that. A bit jumbly though.
One senses a larger-than-life persona....
Is it just me or is this room a bit jaundiced?
Poor Edgar Allen did not get to avail himself of his cozy abode for as long as he would have liked because stingy John Allan stopped paying for his education. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported in an article from January 13, 1935:
The second session of the University of Virginia was well under way when Poe was entered as a student on St. Valentine's Day, February 14, 1826. Thomas Jefferson, its illustrious founder, was yet alive. Poe mentions in one of his letters to John Allan from the university that the Rotunda was yet unfinished, and that books had just been removed to the library. Poe's room was Number Thirteen, West Range—(not perhaps without its unlucky significance), and is now used as a memorial to him.
Here Poe spent many long hours, pouring over the poets, and here too, he began "Tamerlane." This first appeared in print in the form of a tiny volume entitled "Tamerlane and Other Poems. By a Bostonian." It was printed during the summer of 1827, after he had been driven from the Allan home in Richmond, and was in Boston facing starvation. The printer was one Calvin F. S. Thomas, a young and obscure printer in Boston. This was Poe's first publishing venture, and remained virtually unheard of until after his death. Today, only five copies are known to exist, and these, valued at thousands of dollars are in the possession of private collectors, with the exception of one, which is in the British Museum.
Today 12 copies are known to exist of Tamerlane, one of the rarest books in American literature. This one in Rutgers University's Tane collection was found for $15 by a book collector in1988, nestled among vintage agricultural pamphlets in a New Hampshire antiques shop. Another copy was sold by Christie's in 2009 for $662,500.

These photos of Poe's UVA digs come from the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building / Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs at the New York Public Library.
Which room would you covet?


  1. I've always preferred the spartan and uber-minimal. These really give you a "fly on the wall" feel. My favorite has to be Flannery's room. That picture is as sorrowful as her work (the crutches in view)!!

  2. And Poe's "ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir" was, I read somewhere, inspired by his ramblings around New Rochelle, New York, where my great-aunt kept a home that was decidedly haunted. I have adored his writings since I was twelve.

    1. I want to read more ... poor guy, just think of all he inspired: the detective story, the horror story, all those Vincent Price movies—I hope he's getting posthumous benefit somehow!

    2. I recommend "The Pit and the Pendulum", if you haven't already read it. And "The Fall of the House of Usher"--by the way, the books mentioned in the story are real, and would be on a scholar's reading list in the 18th Century.

  3. I love Thoreau's with the fireplace and light filtering in through those windows....very rustic, simple and natural. I could definitely be creative in that room! Not to sound old-fashioned, but we have far too many technological devices surrounding us every day. Sometimes we lose touch with the basics, which I find much more comforting!