During a pedestrian tour last summer, through one or two of the river counties of New York , I found myself, as the day declined, somewhat embarrassed about the road I was pursuing. The land undulated very remarkably; and my path, for the last hour, had wound about and about so confusedly, in its effort to keep in the valleys, that I no longer knew in what direction lay the sweet village of B— , where I had determined to stop for the night. The sun had scarcely shone — strictly speaking — during the day, which, nevertheless, had been unpleasantly warm. A smoky mist, resembling that of the Indian summer , enveloped all things, and of course, added to my uncertainty. Not that I cared much about the matter. If I did not hit upon the village before sunset, or even before dark, it was more than possible that a little Dutch farmhouse , or something of that kind, would soon make its appearance — although, in fact, the neighborhood (perhaps on account of being more picturesque than fertile ) was very sparsely inhabited. At all events, with my knapsack for a pillow, and my hound as a sentry, a bivouac in the open air was just the thing which would have amused me . I sauntered on, therefore, quite at ease — Ponto taking charge of my gun  — until at length, just as I had begun to consider whether the numerous little glades that led hither and thither were intended to be paths at all,  I was conducted by one of the most promising of them into an unquestionable carriage track. There could be no mistaking it. The traces of light wheels were evident; and although the tall shrubberies and overgrown undergrowth met overhead , there was no obstruction whatever below, even to the passage of a Virginian mountain wagon — the most aspiring vehicle, I take it, of its kind. The road, however, except in being open through the wood — if wood be not too weighty a name for such an assemblage of light trees — and except in the particulars of evident wheel-tracks — bore no resemblance to any road I had before seen. The tracks of which I speak were but faintly perceptible — having been impressed upon the firm, yet pleasantly moist surface of — what looked more like green Genoese velvet than anything else . It was grass, clearly — but grass such as we seldom see out of England  — so short, so thick, so even, and so vivid in color . Not a single impediment lay in the wheel-route — not even a chip or dead twig. The stones that once obstructed the way had been carefully placed  — not thrown — along the sides of the lane, so as to define its boundaries at bottom with a kind of half-precise, half-negligent, and wholly picturesque definition . Clumps of wild flowers grew everywhere, luxuriantly, in the interspaces.
What to make of all this, of course I knew not. Here was art undoubtedly  — that did not surprise me — all roads, in the ordinary sense, are works of art; nor can I say that there was much to wonder at in the mere excess of art manifested; all that seemed to have been done, might have been done here — with such natural “capabilities” (as they have it in the books on Landscape Gardening)  — with very little labor and expense. No; it was not the amount but the character of the art which caused me to take a seat on one of the blossomy stones and gaze up and down this fairy-like avenue for half an hour or more in bewildered admiration . One thing became more and more evident the longer I gazed: an artist, and one with a most scrupulous eye for form, had superintended all these arrangements. The greatest care had been taken to preserve a due medium between the neat and graceful on the one hand, and the pittoresque, in the true sense of the Italian term, on the other . There were few straight, and no long uninterrupted lines. The same effect of curvature or of color, appeared twice, usually, but not oftener, at any one point of view. Everywhere was variety in uniformity. It was a piece of “composition,” in which the most fastidiously critical taste could scarcely have suggested an emendation.
I had turned to the right as I entered this road, and now, arising, I continued in the same direction. The path was so serpentine, that at no moment could I trace its course for more than two or three paces in advance . Its character did not undergo any material change.
Presently the murmur of water fell gently upon my ear  — and in a few moments afterwards, as I turned with the road somewhat more abruptly than hitherto, I became aware that a building of some kind  lay at the foot of a gentle declivity just before me. I could see nothing distinctly on account of the mist which occupied all the little valley below. A gentle breeze, however, now arose, as the sun was about descending; and while I remained standing on the brow of the slope, the fog gradually became dissipated into wreaths, and so floated over the scene. 
As it came fully into view  — thus gradually as I describe it — piece by piece, here a tree, there a glimpse of water, and here again the summit of a chimney , I could scarcely help fancying that the whole was one of the ingenious illusions sometimes exhibited under the name of “vanishing pictures.” 
By the time, however, that the fog had thoroughly disappeared, the sun had made its way down behind the gentle hills, and thence, as if with a slight chassez  to the south , had come again fully into sight; glaring with a purplish lustre through a chasm that entered the valley from the west. Suddenly, therefore — and as if by the hand of magic — this whole valley and every thing in it became brilliantly visible.
The first coup d’œil, as the sun slid into the position described, impressed me very much as I have been impressed when a boy, by the concluding scene of some well-arranged theatrical spectacle or melodrama . Not even the monstrosity of color was wanting; for the sunlight came out through the chasm, tinted all orange and purple; while the vivid green of the grass in the valley was reflected more or less upon all objects from the curtain of vapor that still hung overhead, as if loth to take its total departure from a scene so enchantingly beautiful .
The little vale into which I thus peered down from under the fog-canopy, could not have been more than four hundred yards long ; while in breadth it varied from fifty to one hundred and fifty, or perhaps two hundred. It was most narrow at its northern extremity, opening out as it tended southwardly, but with no very precise regularity. The widest portion was within eighty yards of the southern extreme. The slopes which encompassed the vale could not fairly be called hills, unless at their northern face. Here a precipitous ledge of granite  arose to a height of some ninety feet; and, as I have mentioned, the valley at this point was not more than fifty feet wide; but as the visitor proceeded southwardly from the cliff, he found on his right hand and on his left, declivities at once less high, less precipitous, and less rocky. All, in a word, sloped and softened to the south; and yet the whole vale was engirdled by eminences, more or less high, except at two points. One of these I have already spoken of. It lay considerably to the north of west, and was where the setting sun made its way, as I have before described, into the amphitheatre, through a cleanly cut natural cleft in the granite embankment: this fissure might have been ten yards wide at its widest point, so far as the eye could trace it. It seemed to lead up, up, like a natural causeway, into the recesses of unexplored mountains and forests . The other opening was directly at the southern end of the vale. Here, generally, the slopes were nothing more than gentle inclinations, extending from east to west about one hundred and fifty yards. In the middle of this extent was a depression , level with the ordinary floor of the valley. As regards vegetation, as well as in respect to every thing else, the scene softened and sloped to the south. To the north — on the craggy precipice — a few paces from the verge — upsprang the magnificent trunks of numerous hickories , black walnuts , and chestnuts , interspersed with occasional oak ; and the strong lateral branches thrown out by the walnuts especially, spread far over the edge of the cliff . Proceeding southwardly, the explorer saw, at first, the same class of trees, but less and less lofty and Salvatorish in character ; then he saw the gentler elm , succeeded by the sassafras  and locust  — these again by the softer linden , red-bud , catalpa , maple  — these yet again by still more graceful and more modest varieties . The whole face of the southern declivity was covered with wild shrubbery alone — an occasional silver willow  or white poplar  excepted. In the bottom of the valley itself — (for it must be borne in mind that the vegetation hitherto mentioned grew only on the cliffs or hill-sides) — were to be seen three insulated trees. One was an elm of fine size and exquisite form: it stood guard over the southern gate of the vale. Another was a hickory , much larger than the elm, and altogether a much finer tree, although both were exceedingly beautiful: it seemed to have taken charge of the north-western entrance, springing from a group of rocks in the very jaws of the ravine, and throwing its graceful body, at an angle of nearly fourty-five degrees , far out into the sunshine of the amphitheatre. About thirty yards east of this tree stood, however, the pride of the valley, and beyond all question the most magnificent tree I have ever seen, unless, perhaps, among the cypresses of the Itchiatuckanee . It was a triple-stemmed tulip tree  — the Liriodendron Tulipiferum — one of the natural order of magnolias. Its three trunks separated from the parent at about three feet from the soil, and diverging very slightly and gradually, were not more than four feet apart at the point where the largest stem shot out into foliage: this was at an elevation of about eighty feet. The whole height of the principal division was one hundred and twenty feet. Nothing can surpass in beauty the form, or the glossy, vivid green of the leaves of the tulip tree. In the present instance they were fully eight inches wide; but their glory was altogether eclipsed by the gorgeous splendor of the profuse blossoms. Conceive, closely congregated, a million of the largest and most resplendent tulips!  Only thus can the reader get any idea of the picture I would convey. And then the stately grace of the clean, delicately-granulated columnar stems, the largest four feet in diameter, at twenty from the ground. The innumerable blossoms, mingling with those of other trees scarcely less beautiful, although infinitely less majestic, filled the valley with more than Arabian perfumes .
The general floor of the amphitheatre was grass of the same character as that I had found in the road: if anything, more deliciously soft, thick, velvety, and miraculously green. It was hard to conceive how all this beauty had been attained .
I have spoken of two openings into the vale. From the one to the north-west issued a rivulet, which came, gently murmuring and slightly foaming, down the ravine, until it dashed against the group of rocks out of which sprang the insulated hickory. Here, after encircling the tree, it passed on a little to the north of east, leaving the tulip tree some twenty feet to the south, and making no decided alteration in its course until it came near the midway between the eastern and western boundaries of the valley. At this point, after a series of sweeps, it turned off at right angles and pursued a generally southern direction — meandering as it went — until it became lost in a small lake of irregular figure (although roughly oval ), that lay gleaming near the lower extremity of the vale. This lakelet was, perhaps, a hundred yards in diameter at its widest part. No crystal could be clearer than its waters. Its bottom, which could be distinctly seen, consisted altogether of pebbles brilliantly white. Its banks, of the emerald grass already described, rounded, rather than sloped, off into the clear heaven below; and so clear was this heaven, so perfectly, at times, did it reflect all objects above it , that where the true bank ended and where the mimic one commenced, it was a point of no little difficulty to determine. The trout, and some other varieties of fish, with which this pond seemed to be almost inconveniently crowded, had all the appearance of veritable flying-fish. It was almost impossible to believe that they were not absolutely suspended in the air. A light birch canoe that lay placidly on the water , was reflected in its minutest fibres with a fidelity unsurpassed by the most exquisitely polished mirror. A small island, fairly laughing with flowers in full bloom , and affording little more space than just enough for a picturesque little building, seemingly a fowl-house  — arose from the lake not far from its northern shore — to which it was connected by means of an inconceivably light-looking and yet very primitive bridge. It was formed of a single, broad and thick plank of the tulip wood. This was fourty feet long, and spanned the interval between shore and shore with a slight but very perceptible arch, preventing all oscillation. From the southern extreme of the lake issued a continuation of the rivulet, which, after meandering for, perhaps, thirty yards, finally passed through the “depression”  (already described) in the middle of the southern declivity, and tumbling down a sheer precipice of a hundred feet, made its devious and unnoticed way to the Hudson .
The lake was deep  — at some points thirty feet — but the rivulet seldom exceeded three, while its greatest width was about eight. Its bottom and banks were as those of the pond — if a defect could have been attributed to them, in point of picturesqueness, it was that of excessive neatness .
The expanse of the green turf was relieved, here and there, by an occasional showy shrub, such as the hydrangea, or the common snow-ball, or the aromatic seringa; or, more frequently, by a clump of geraniums blossoming gorgeously in great varieties. These latter grew in pots which were carefully buried in the soil, so as to give the plants the appearance of being indigenous . Besides all this, the lawn’s velvet was exquisitely spotted with sheep — a considerable flock of which roamed about the vale, in company with three tamed deer , and a vast number of brilliantly-plumed ducks. A very large mastiff seemed to be in vigilant attendance upon these animals, each and all.
Along the eastern and western cliffs — where, towards the upper portion of the amphitheatre, the boundaries were more or less precipitous — grew ivy in great profusion — so that only here and there could even a glimpse of the naked rock be obtained. The northern precipice, in like manner, was almost entirely clothed by grape-vines of rare luxuriance ; some springing from the soil at the base of the cliff, and others from ledges on its face.
This slight elevation which formed the lower boundary of this little domain, was crowned by a neat stone wall, of sufficient height to prevent the escape of the deer. Nothing of the fence kind was observable elsewhere; for nowhere else was an artificial enclosure needed: — any stray sheep, for example, which should attempt to make its way out of the vale by means of the ravine, would find its progress arrested, after a few yards’ advance, by the precipitous ledge of rock over which tumbled the cascade that had arrested my attention as I first drew near the domain. In short, the only ingress or egress was through a gate occupying a rocky pass in the road , a few paces below the point at which I stopped to reconnoitre the scene .
I have described the brook as meandering very irregularly through the whole of its course. Its two general directions, as I have said, were first from west to east, and then from north to south. At the turn, the stream, sweeping backwards, made an almost circular loop , so as to form a peninsula which was very nearly an island, and which included about the sixteenth of an acre. On this peninsula stood a dwelling-house — and when I say that this house, like the infernal terrace seen by Vathek, “était d’une architecture inconnue dans les annales de la terre,”  I mean, merely, that its tout ensemble struck me with the keenest sense of combined novelty and propriety — in a word, of poetry — (for, than in the words just employed, I could scarcely give, of poetry in the abstract, a more rigorous definition) — and I do not mean that the merely outré was perceptible in any respect.
In fact, nothing could well be more simple — more utterly unpretending than this cottage . Its marvellous effect lay altogether in its artistic arrangement as a picture. I could have fancied, while I looked at it, that some eminent landscape-painter had built it with his brush .
The point of view from which I first saw the valley, was not altogether, although it was nearly, the best point from which to survey the house. I will therefore describe it as I afterwards saw it — from a position on the stone wall at the southern extreme of the amphitheatre .
The main building was about twenty-four feet long and sixteen broad — certainly not more. Its total height, from the ground to the apex of the roof, could not have exceeded eighteen feet. To the west end of this structure was attached one about a third smaller in all its proportions: — the line of its front standing back about two yards from that of the larger house; and the line of its roof, of course, being considerably depressed below that of the roof adjoining. At right angles to these buildings, and from the rear of the main one — not exactly in the middle — extended a third compartment, very small — being, in general, one third less than the western wing. The roofs of the two larger were very steep — sweeping down from the ridge-beam with a long concave curve, and extending at least four feet beyond the walls in front, so as to form the roofs of two piazzas. These latter roofs, of course, needed no support; but as they had the air of needing it, slight and perfectly plain pillars were inserted at the corners alone. The roof of the northern wing was merely an extension of a portion of the main roof. Between the chief building and western wing arose a very tall and rather slender square chimney of hard Dutch bricks, alternately black and red: — a slight cornice of projecting bricks at the top. Over the gables, the roofs also projected very much: — in the main building about four feet to the east and two to the west. The principal door was not exactly in the main division, being a little to the east — while the two windows were to the west. These latter did not extend to the floor, but were much longer and narrower than usual — they had single shutters like doors — the panes were of lozenge form, but quite large. The door itself had its upper half of glass, also in lozenge panes — a movable shutter secured it at night. The door to the west wing was in its gable, and quite simple — a single window looked out to the south. There was no external door to the north wing, and it, also, had only one window to the east.
The blank wall of the eastern gable was relieved by stairs (with a balustrade) running diagonally across it — the ascent being from the south. Under cover of the widely projecting eave these steps gave access to a door leading to the garret, or rather loft — for it was lighted only by a single window to the north, and seemed to have been intended as a store-room .
The piazzas of the main building and western wing had no floors, as is usual; but at the doors and at each window, large, flat, irregular slabs of granite lay imbedded in the delicious turf, affording comfortable footing in all weather . Excellent paths of the same material — not nicely adapted, but with the velvety sod filling frequent intervals between the stones, led hither and thither from the house, to a crystal spring about five paces off, to the road, or to one or two out-houses that lay to the north, beyond the brook, and were thoroughly concealed by a few locusts and catalpas .
Not more than six steps from the main door of the cottage stood the dead trunk of a fantastic pear-tree , so clothed from head to foot in the gorgeous bignonia blossoms that one required no little scrutiny to determine what manner of sweet thing it could be. From various arms of this tree hung cages of different kinds. In one, a large wicker cylinder with a ring at top, revelled a mocking bird; in another, an oriole; in a third, the impudent bobolink  — while three or four more delicate prisons were loudly vocal with canaries.
The pillars of the piazza were enwreathed in jasmine and sweet honeysuckle; while from the angle formed by the main structure and its west wing, in front, sprang a grape-vine of unexampled luxuriance. Scorning all restraint, it had clambered first to the lower roof — then to the higher; and along the ridge of this latter it continued to writhe on, throwing out tendrils to the right and left, until at length it fairly attained the east gable, and fell trailing over the stairs .
The whole house, with its wings, was constructed of the old-fashioned Dutch shingles — broad, and with unrounded corners. It is a peculiarity of this material to give houses built of it the appearance of being wider at bottom than at top — after the manner of Egyptian architecture; and in the present instance, this exceedingly picturesque effect was aided by numerous pots of gorgeous flowers that almost encompassed the base of the buildings.
The shingles were painted a dull gray; and the happiness with which this neutral tint melted into the vivid green of the tulip tree leaves  that partially overshadowed the cottage, can readily be conceived by an artist .
From the position near the stone wall, as described, the buildings were seen at great advantage — for the south-eastern angle was thrown forward — so that the eye took in at once the whole of the two fronts, with the picturesque eastern gable, and at the same time obtained just a sufficient glimpse of the northern wing, with parts of a pretty roof to the spring-house, and nearly half of a light bridge that spanned the brook in the near vicinity of the main buildings.
I did not remain very long on the brow of the hill, although long enough to make a thorough survey  of the scene at my feet. It was clear that I had wandered from the road to the village, and I had thus good travellers’ excuse to open the gate before me, and inquire my way, at all events; so, without more ado, I proceeded .
The road, after passing the gate, seemed to lie upon a natural ledge, sloping gradually down along the face of the north-eastern cliffs. It led me on to the foot of the northern precipice, and thence over the bridge, round by the eastern gable to the front door. In this progress, I took notice that no sight of the out-houses could be obtained .
As I turned the corner of the gable, the mastiff bounded towards me in stern silence, but with the eye and the whole air of a tiger. I held him out my hand, however, in token of amity — and I never yet knew the dog who was proof against such an appeal to his courtesy. He not only shut his mouth and wagged his tail, but absolutely offered me his paw — afterwards extending his civilities to Ponto .
As no bell  was discernible, I rapped with my stick against the door, which stood half open . Instantly a figure advanced to the threshold — that of a young woman about twenty-eight years of age — slender, or rather slight, and somewhat above the medium height. As she approached, with a certain modest decision of step altogether indescribable, I said to myself, “Surely here I have found the perfection of natural, in contradistinction from artificial grace.”  The second impression which she made on me, but by far the more vivid of the two, was that of enthusiasm. So intense an expression of romance, perhaps I should call it, or of unworldliness, as that which gleamed from her deep-set eyes, had never so sunk into my heart of hearts before. I know not how it is, but this peculiar expression of the eye, wreathing itself occasionally into the lips, is the most powerful, if not absolutely the sole spell, which rivets my interest in woman. “Romance,” provided my readers fully comprehended what I would here imply by the word — “romance” and “womanliness” seem to me convertible terms: and, after all, what man truly loves in woman, is, simply, her womanhood . The eyes of Annie (I heard some one from the interior call her “Annie, darling!”  ) were “spiritual gray;” her hair, a light chestnut: this is all I had time to observe of her.
At her most courteous of invitations, I entered — passing first into a tolerably wide vestibule. Having come mainly to observe,  I took notice that to my right as I stepped in, was a window, such as those in front of the house; to the left, a door leading into the principal room; while, opposite me, an open door enabled me to see a small apartment, just the size of the vestibule, arranged as a study, and having a large bow window looking out to the north.
Passing into the parlor, I found myself with Mr. Landor  — for this, I afterwards found, was his name. He was civil, even cordial in his manner; but just then, I was more intent on observing the arrangements of the dwelling which had so much interested me, than the personal appearance of the tenant .
The north wing, I now saw, was a bed-chamber: its door opened into the parlor. West of this door was a single window, looking towards the brook. At the west end of the parlor, were a fire-place, and a door leading into the west wing — probably a kitchen.
Nothing could be more rigorously simple than the furniture of the parlor. On the floor was an ingrain carpet, of excellent texture — a white ground, spotted with small circular green figures. At the windows were curtains of snowy white jaconet muslin: they were tolerably full, and hung decisively, perhaps rather formally, in sharp, parallel plaits to the floor — just to the floor. The walls were papered with a French paper of great delicacy — a silver ground, with a faint green cord running zig-zag throughout . Its expanse was relieved merely by three of Julien’s exquisite lithographs à trois crayons, fastened to the wall without frames. One of these drawings was a scene of Oriental luxury, or rather voluptuousness; another was a “carnival piece,” spirited beyond compare; the third was a Greek female head  — a face so divinely beautiful, and yet of an expression so provokingly indeterminate, never before arrested my attention.
The more substantial furniture consisted of a round table, a few chairs (including a large rocking-chair,) and a sofa, or rather “settee;” its material was plain maple painted a creamy white, slightly interstriped with green — the seat of cane. The chairs and table were “to match;” but the forms of all had evidently been designed by the same brain which planned “the grounds:”  it is impossible to conceive anything more graceful.
On the table were a few books, a large, square, crystal bottle of some novel perfume ; a plain ground-glass astral (not solar) lamp , with an Italian shade; and a large vase of resplendently-blooming flowers. Flowers indeed of gorgeous colors and delicate odor, formed the sole mere decoration of the apartment. The fire-place was nearly filled with a vase of brilliant geranium. On a triangular shelf in each angle of the room stood also a similar vase, varied only as to its lovely contents. One or two smaller bouquets adorned the mantel; and late violets clustered about the open windows .
It is not the purpose of this work to do more than give, in detail, a picture of Mr. Landor’s residence — as I found it . How he made it what it was — and why, with some particulars of Mr. Landor himself — may, possibly form the subject of another article .
1. Before the sporty, sweaty hike, walking had a more artistic motive: on a pedestrian tour, walkers set out to witness scenes of great natural beauty. This loose geographic reference situates Poe’s adventure near the Hudson. The “one or two river counties” could be the Hudson River Valley or Westchester counties, where Poe himself lived between 1845 and 1848.
2. Bronxville perhaps? Some scholars suggest that Landor’s cottage is none other than Poe’s own house, located in the village of Fordham, New York. Bronxville village was roughly eight miles northeast of Fordham, and both are now neighborhoods of the Bronx. I have made the trip to Fordham to visit Poe’s cottage (cf. Appendix II, a photograph) but can’t help preferring the idea of this house existing only in fiction, and anyway, judging from the maps of the time, Fordham was already developed beyond the kind of landscape around Landor’s abode. Another town beginning with B__ , Bronxdale, was two miles east of Fordham.
3. In Herman Melville’s story The Piazza, set in the Berkshire mountains, the protagonist also attributes mist in the landscape to Indian summer. Curiously, he suggests this smokiness might not be wholly natural, but could be “blown from far-off forests, for weeks on fire, in Vermont.” By this time, clear-cutting practices, driven by the logging industry, had dramatically reduced the amount of hardwood forests which were rapidly being replaced by easily ignited grasses. Gazing into the mist from the comfort of his piazza, Melville’s romantically-natured gentleman hallucinates a “fairy-land” on the flank of a mountain in the great distance and sets out from his Berkshire home in hopes of finding it.
By the way, in A Tale of the Ragged Mountains, one of Poe’s earlier tales (1843), the main character also gets lost in the Virginian hills on a warm, hazy, Indian summer day. That solitary hiker, however, happens to have been on morphine for neuralgia, and relates upon returning home how he happened upon an Oriental city and got caught up in a riot.
4. In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving wrote that “though many years have elapsed since I trod the drowsy shades of Sleepy Hollow, yet I question whether I should not still find the same trees and the same families [overwhelmingly of Dutch origin] vegetating in its sheltered bosom.” When I visited Tarrytown, New York for research purposes, it was January 2007 and bitterly cold. Finding refuge in a coffee shop, I sat listening to a local woman who was complaining to her friend about her condo’s irresponsible owners. Her toilet had been backing up for weeks; there were mice. “You know the Sleepy Hollow story about the headless horseman?” her disillusioned friend explained, “well the Van Tassels who own your building are the same Van Tassels from the book, and they still own most of this town.”
5. Here Poe opposes the cultivated landscape to its wilder variety. The word "Picturesque" is a very deliberate reference to a style of landscape-gardening. Though this tale was written in 1847, and the taste for the Picturesque had long since waned in England, where the style had originated, the greatest proponent of the Picturesque in the United States, Andrew Jackson Downing, published the first edition of his Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America; with a View to the Improvement of Country Residences in 1841.
6. “In America generally, the traveller who would behold the finest landscapes, must seek them not by the railroad, nor by the steamboat, nor in his private carriage, nor even on horseback – but on foot. He must walk, he must leap ravines, he must risk his neck among precipices, or he must leave unseen the truest, the richest, and the most unspeakable glories of the land.” E.A. Poe, Morning on the Wissahiccon. Theoretically, the exertion oxygenated the blood and increased its flow inducing a rush of epinephrine which heightened one’s enjoyment of the landscape. It is also worth noting that Poe’s use of the word "bivouac" is consistent with his own military experience. In 1827, he enlisted in the U.S. Army under the name Perry, and was based for a time at Fort Independence on Castle Island in the port of Boston.
7. Poe’s writing is often thick with apparently superfluous details, like the name of this dog, seemingly to lend greater realism of the story. The specificity of this name was enough to make me investigate his choice further: Ponto, it turns out, was a dog name well-loved in the Victorian era. Spanish for the Pointer breed, we now can presume that Poe’s walker was accompanied by a hunting hound (which might offer a logical explanation for the gun.) I have since become more careful of dismissing such word choices as trivial. For instance, this small revelation about the dog and the gun begs further consideration of usually harmless words such as “saunter.”
8. By alluding to the fear of losing one’s bearings, Poe creates a tension that only heightens the enjoyment of the aesthetic experience he is about to introduce. For example, that the glades might have been created with intention?
9. Tall shrubs on either side: is he describing a repoussoir effect? Look at paintings by Claude Gelée le Lorrain (1600-1682) in which trees and shrubs systematically frame the landscape, establishing a formal distance between the painted scene and the viewer.
10. The comparison to velvet sets up the theme of artifice, very present in a number of Poe’s landscape sketches (The Domain of Arnheim, to which this story is a “pendant”, or The Island of the Fay.) His ideal artist character - in this story, our hiker - has the educated ability to classify the natural world into a series of aesthetic typologies.
11. By mentioning England, the narrator draws a direct link between the beauties of the American landscape and those of Britain, where the Picturesque Tour had originated in the contrived form of William Gilpin’s Guide Books. The allusion also conveniently suggests that he may have travelled from England, and is therefore a visitor to the Hudson River Valley, and to the village B__ (that he has overshot.)
12. This is the first of several obvious mentions of color in the text. The vividness of the tints reminded me of an 18th century optical device known as a Claude Glass. The Glass was really a pocket mirror that had been smoked or colored. It was used originally by painters as a composition tool, to reflect and frame vistas, obviating the need to master perspective since the mirror flattened the scene to a single plane. Before the invention of the camera, framing the view with a Claude Glass became a popular hobby among English tourists walking in the Scottish Highlands or Lake Country. Arriving at their destination, they would turn their backs on the vista they had hiked to and gaze at it in their Claude Glass instead. They could thus “capture” a painting for themselves. The Glass was named after Claude Lorrain. (cf. Note 9)
13. The landscape, our narrator suggests, has been composed, since not even a twig is out of place. The skill of Picturesque garden design was to make the landscape seem natural through careful control and consideration of all its aspects. The maintenance of such a park would require extensive staff and a punctilious proprietor.
14. This mixture of precision and negligence is precisely the result of a deliberate opposition of the Beautiful and the Sublime, concepts defined by Edmund Burke (A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, 1756) and, later, expanded upon by Immanuel Kant. The juxtaposition was characteristic of Picturesque garden design where areas of shadowy wilderness were contrived to contrast with more spacious and graceful aspects. The Picturesque style was fundamentally English: it was born in reaction to the geometrically formal gardens of Continental Europe, specifically France, that had been popular in Britain until the late 18th century. Following the French Revolution, the English Tories felt a need to define Britishness as a way to distance the country from the radical Jacobinism of its neighbor.
15. Undoubtedly so. Our educated narrator can easily recognize the skill and mind behind the landscaping. Unlike the Boston-based Transcendentalists (whom he disparagingly nicknamed the Frogpondians), Poe was no lover of the natural, claiming that art and artifice would always surpass Nature’s own creations.
16. “capabilities” - though the word signifies an ease or ability, Poe’s use of quotation marks, and his love of wordplay, led me to believe he making a reference to Lancelot “Capability” Brown, the English landscape gardener who evolved the first truly English style of gardening, a “natural” park. This, along with the mention of works on Landscape Gardening, was one of the first confirmations I found of Poe’s interest in artificial landscape. When I eventually read A. J. Downing’s Treatise, I discovered that Poe had lifted whole sentences out of it for his story.
17. By sitting there for over half and hour, our hiker is, like one of Gilpin’s tourists, taking his time with a view, observing its lines and balance, creating a mental image of it. But perhaps he is faltering, or has he grown timorous? The heaviness of the Indian summer day may have added to the weight of his carefully packed knapsack, which conveniently unfolded into a stool allowing him to periodically rest without creasing his trousers. (Present yourself well to the lady!) He tried to picture the path in reverse, noting which trees would then appear on the opposite side of the path, and how they might look in darkness.
18. This is a mistake: pittoresque is a French word. Yet, Italy was indeed the ultimate destination of Grand Tourists. There, students of the Classics could stand before the vestiges of Antiquity and complete their education. Poe’s was quite thorough (his adoptive father, John Allan saw to that.)
19. Poe linguistically recreates the effect of suspense landscape gardeners tried to build into their parks. One was never meant to come upon a view directly, but happen upon it as though by utter chance. But you don’t know about the view yet...
20. The rushing noise of the water precedes the visual impact of the fall. As Downing advocated: “the murmur of the babbling brook that 'in linked sweetness long drawn out', falls upon the ear in some quiet secluded spot, is inexpressibly soothing and delightful to the mind”.
21. The building, of which our walker only has a hazy view, plays the role of the classical ruin in a Lorrain painting. Ruins were almost systematically included in a painted composition to lend an air of classicism to the scene. They validated the landscape, giving it a reason to be depicted. Capability Brown’s gardens were populated with classical follies to mimic these painted views. Yet, as the aristocracy began to desire a more quintessentially British look, the cottage replaced the Roman ruin. Downing’s Treatise happens to also cover the ideal properties of rural architecture, right down to the furnishings!
22. Here, an atmospheric change: the fog lifts, like a curtain before a stage, unveiling the spectacle of the view. It hovers spectrally above it, diffusing the light. Could Landor’s Cottage be inspired by the hypnagogic state as almost was A Tale of the Ragged Mountains?
23. Our hiker has reached a panoramic station, and pauses there, taking in the entire landscape below. I should mention the popularity of painted panoramas, known as cycloramas, throughout the 19th century. Sometimes, dioramas were constructed in the foreground, enhancing the spatial depth and breadth of these 360 degree canvases.
24. Poe likens the visual experience to reading: word by word, the scene materializes. This story could be considered an example of ekphrasis, a painstakingly precise and vivid description of an object, often a work of art. One Poe scholar I spoke to dismissed this tale on the grounds that it was nothing better than a companion text to a magazine illustration. Was Poe merely describing a pre-existing painting or view? To assuage my doubts, I examined the microfilm of The Flag of Our Union, dated June 9,1849, in which Poe first published Landor’s Cottage. There was no illustration beside it, nor was there any image in the entire broadsheet that could have been associated with it. The story was printed on page two. It barely filled the sheet and began two-thirds of the way down the second column.
25. Initially, I thought these "vanishing pictures" might be describing a device Jonathan Crary wrote about in Techniques of the Observer, that generated seemingly phantasmagoric images through a system of mirrors. I later learned that they could be another form of popular entertainment invented by George Harvey, a British watercolorist. Magic lantern displays known as Harvey’s Dissolving Views worked by projecting a painted image onto a screen. The focus of the projection was then adjusted to make the views appear and fade away. For two years, Harvey was a neighbor to Washington Irving in Tarrytown, New York. He was supposedly inspired by the majestic Hudson River and its shifting light and weather to create an album of Atmospherical Landscapes that illustrated the climate throughout different parts of the United States.
26. It is as though Nature performs herself for the viewer: the sun takes a dance step to the side to set exactly in the center of the rocky chasm at the north-western end of the vale.
27. So begins my color-coding of the text. You will notice as you keep reading that the landscape ahead is measured to the foot and that walker situates each element in relation to others by referencing the cardinal points. The more you read, the more you may feel compelled to map the space. Conveniently, I have done this for you and am putting the map at your disposal for the purpose of clarity. (cf. Appendix I, a map)
28. Poe’s infancy in a nomadic acting company and the loss of both his parents before his second birthday are dramatic experiences likely to stand out in memory. (It was John and Frances Allen’s love of the theater that convinced them to adopt Edgar when Eliza Poe died.) These early encounters with stagecraft may what Poe had in mind, but perhaps the narrator sees potential in this setting for a different drama?
29. Cf. Appendix IV: Pantone® swatches for precise colors.
30. The first aspect of the text to strike me were these measurements. Why do the dimensions of the valley matter? Why should we care about the height of the cliff-face, the depth of the pond, the length of the river, the angle of the hickory’s trunk? Is this a treasure map? Cryptography, after all, was one of Poe’s hobbies. The choice is that of a mathematical mind. It might very well be Downing’s influence again: lovers of the Picturesque did approach landscape in an excessively rational way. As John Dixon Hunt tells us in Gardens and the Picturesque, the all-mechanical pedometer was a popular accessory among 18th and 19th century walkers. Perhaps our artistically-minded narrator had one of these in hand to accurately estimate the distances travelled and measure the garden’s proportions? To what other end would he count the yards? Is he drawing a map?
31. Likely an outcropping of granitic schist belonging to the Manhattan Formation. ”The Taconic Mountains contrast with the plateaus to the east by being more deeply cut into peaks, sharper ridges and canyons with a linear, north to south topographic trend.” (Poe’s landscape is remarkably consistent with these facts.) “Scattered glacial features include kames and eskers; the mountains have been smoothed and rounded by glacial scour. Elevation ranges from six hundred to four thousand feet (one hundred and eighty to twelve hundred meters) with isolated peaks greater than four thousand three hundred feet (thirteen hundred meters). Local relief ranges from one thousand to three thousand feet (four hundred to nine hundred meters). Gentle slopes cover less than twenty to fifty percent of the Section; seventy five percent occurs in lowlands.” (Source: U.S. Forest Service, 2010)
32. Our man has been following a trail until now, albeit it a winding one. But, beyond the fissure, the land is unmapped: the unknown territories are not far. (Those places where you just disappear.) A fissure like this one is almost certainly the result of glacial activity. Many of Poe’s peers (contemporary writers, not precisely friends) were keen walkers - I would have ventured to say far keener than he was, until I learned he could swim up to eight miles against current in his youth and was a champion high-jumper at school. Of course, if the accounts of these exploits are his own, we shouldn’t entirely trust them. Poe was also a bit of a liar.
Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville met in a fissure, so to speak. It was a heavy August afternoon outside Stockbridge, MA., and the party hiked to a shady, mossy spot known as the Ice-Glen. Hawthorne and Melville’s friendship began that day, in what the former playfully termed “the most curious fissure in all of Berkshire.” In Moby Dick, published the following year, and dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s genius, Melville compares the hue of a bower in the Arsacides to the green mosses of the Icy Glen.
33. "Depression." The financial panic of 1837 brought on a seven-year depression, known as the Hungry Forties, that drastically impacted the publishing industry along with every other sector of the economy. It was in this disastrous fiscal climate that Poe was making a career for himself as an author and editor. His poverty was extreme but not uncommon. On several occasions, his gambling debts and general necessity led him to plead John Allan for money. Allan systematically refused to help so long as Poe persisted in pursuing a writing career. The few letters exchanged between them are heart-breaking.
34. The Hickory (Carya) is a native hard-wood in these parts. Downing dedicates several chapters of his Treatise to trees. He names the Shellbark (also known as Shagbark), Pignut and Pecan-nut Hickories as the most ornamental species.
35. The Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), Downing thinks one of the grandest trees available to the Landscape Gardener. Its wood is highly valuable and the trees are prized by timber-thieves, who might venture so far as using a helicopter to make away with them.
36. Castanea dentata, the American Chestnut, Downing ranks alongside the oak. (cf. Note 37) Today, it is a gravely endangered species of which only a few specimens survive in the wild. It is highly susceptible to an Asian bark fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, accidentally introduced to North American via lumber from Chinese Chestnut trees.
37. The Oak (Quercus) opens the Treatise’s chapter on deciduous trees. I should mention at this point that Downing makes countless references to literary works, drawing parallels between the trees he suggests you plant and their own histories in text. He cites Dryden, Milton, Herodotus, Spenser, Tennyson, Virgil, Keats, Cowper, Pope. He read both Italian and French and lists the Abbé Delille among his favorite authors. Downing planned but never planted a park or garden. He inherited a nursery in Newburgh, New York from his father and ran it with his brother Charles. His own creations never left the page. He mapped and wrote. He was commissioned to design and oversee the planting of a vast park between the White House and the Capitol but perished tragically in a dramatic ferry accident before the plan could be carried out. He was thirty-six years old.
38. Poe, following Downing’s recommendations (and how can we doubt his respect for the gardener’s opinion, in light of an educated citation of masters Poe himself was in awe of) sets these tougher trees in the more dramatic northern end of the valley, where the rocky outcropping and rapidly rising cliffs create a Picturesque view.
39. A nod to Salvator Rosa, the Italian artist whose paintings, representing the epitome of the Sublime, were done in direct reaction and opposition to Claude Lorrain’s gentle, but unexciting, pastoralism.
40. Ulmus americana, the American Elm, is prone to a wilt fungus, Ceratocystis ulmi, better known as Dutch Elm Disease (DED), also introduced to this country on infected Asian lumber. Millions of contaminated trees were cut down between 1950 and 1970, changing the American landscape dramatically. Every town has its Elm Street, though nowadays elms rarely grace it. New strands of DED resistant Elms are being cultivated with mixed results. “Let us now claim for the elm the epithets graceful and elegant”, wrote Downing. “We consider it peculiarly adapted for planting, in scenes where the expression of elegant or classical beauty is desired.”
41. Sassafras. “After ten years of age, this tree always looks older than it really is”, says Downing. Poe’s most commonly published portrait is a daguerreotype, made by W.S. Hartshorn in 1848. The photograph was taken a year before Poe’s death, close to the time he wrote this tale. His face looks swollen, his eyes tired. His gaze won’t meet yours. His mind was some place else.
42. Robinia. It seems ironic that a tree and an insect with a natural tendency to decimate vegetation should share the same name. There is a row of Locust trees leading up to the Old Manse, Hawthorne’s Concord house.
43. The American Basswood, Tilia americana, is our native Linden tree. Its leaves are heart-shaped. Its light-weight and light-colored wood, when polished, can turn white as bone. The cartographer who supplied our map works at an angled desk made of Basswood.
44. Speaking with a horticulturist friend, I learned that Redbud could either be a nickname for the Red Maple (Acer rubrum) or a tree in its own right, Cercis, which is much smaller and blossoms in cascading clusters of white or bright pink flowers. In the Treatise, the Redbud is colloquially known as the Judas Tree. Downing explains that its name was “whimsically bestowed by Gerard, an old English gardener, who described it in 1596 [as] ‘the tree whereon Judas did hange himselfe’.” (Downing is citing J. C. Loudon’s Encyclopedia of Plants.)
45. Catalpa. A native of Virginia. Mingles nicely with the Basswood. It seems Poe was a careful reader.
For a comparative chart of the crowns of these trees, see Appendix III.
46. Acer. These could be sugar-maples, saccharum, or red maples, rubrum. Both give the New England landscape its distinctive, fiery fall colors.
47. As the eye travels southward, the landscape softens: at the northern end, drama, at the southern, poetry. “The development of the Beautiful is the end and aim of Landscape Gardening,” Downing summarizes. (See Figures 1, 2 and 3 for contrasting illustrations of how to group trees.)
49. Populus, the people’s tree, was given its Latin name because its shaking leaves resemble a crowd in motion. For this setting, Poe chooses the White Poplar from Downing’s long list of varieties. It happens to be a European strand and, in the Treatise, is described as the most ornamental. Downing was a proponent of the Gardenesque style, fathered by the previously mentioned John Claudius Loudon, which encouraged the introduction of foreign seeds into the United States. Many of the invasive exotics strangling New England forests today were planted by gardeners eager to apply English principles using European or Oriental species. Among these are countless types of vines such as Asian Bittersweet and Honeysuckle, and trees like the Silver (or White) Poplar and the Black and Honey Locusts.
50. Had he lived longer, Downing would have been able to cite The Piazza as another literary incidence of an isolated elm tree.
“ [...] In digging for the foundation, the workmen used both spade and ax, fighting the troglodytes of those subterranean parts - sturdy roots of a sturdy wood, encamped upon what is now a long landslide of sleeping meadow, sloping away off from my poppybed. Of that knit wood but one survivor stands -- an elm, lonely through steadfastness.”
And he may have appreciated lines 49 through 53 of Pale Fire,
“I had a favorite young shagbark tree there
With ample dark jade leaves and a black, spare,
Vermiculated trunk. The setting sun
Bronzed the black bark, around which, like undone
Garlands, the shadows of the foliage fell.”
After all, he warns against using hickory wood for building “as it is peculiarly liable to the attacks of worms.”
51. The abruptness of the angle accentuates the rockiness of the ledge and introduces a dramatic, diagonal element into Poe’s otherwise even composition. This trunk jutting out of the cliff might suggest the graceful body of a maiden, leaping to her death.
52. By making reference to the semi-tropical Ichetucknee Springs in Florida, noted for its Cypress trees, our narrator insinuates he is well-travelled, or hopes to seem as much (after all, he does get the name wrong.) How Poe himself knew of the Springs remains mysterious. I haven’t found any evidence of him travelling to Florida, but we must remember that the ‘I’ here isn’t necessarily Poe himself (even though T. O. Mabbott, an authority, suggests Landor’s Cottage is based on personal experience.) Under the section on the American Cypress Tree, Taxodium, A. J. Downing writes: “In the swamps of the southern states and the Floridas, on whose deep, miry soil a new layer of vegetable mould is deposited every year by the floods, the Cypress attains its utmost development. The largest stocks are one hundred and twenty feet in height, and from twenty-five to forty feet in circumference above the conical base, which at the surface of the earth is always three or four times as large as the continued diameter of the trunk.” The more I read Downing, the more I recognize a direct transposition of his principles into the landscape around Landor’s cottage.
53. “The Tulip tree belongs to the same natural order as the Magnolias,” Downing tells us. “Whoever has once seen the Tulip tree in a situation where the soil is favorable to its free growth, can never forget it. [...] it is, in our estimation, decidedly the most stately tree in North America.” Downing then quotes the poet Pickering:
“___Through the verdant maze
The Tulip tree
Its golden chalice oft triumphantly displays.”
54. Liriodendron tulipifera makes an appearance in a few of Poe’s tales, and seems to have been as much a favorite of his as it was of Downing’s. It plays a central role in the treasure-hunt of The Gold-Bug, and sits in the landscape described in A Morning on the Wissahiccon.
55. This Tulip Tree, were it the place from which we dropped a golden scarab, might become the start of a quest, the beginning of another tale. From the top of the tree, we would have a open view of the valley ahead, of the lake now shrouded in shadow, of the fowl retreating to their huts, of the deer grazing on grasses, of the sandy avenues bordered by linden and the shaking, quaking, dancing leaves of the poplar trees. We would hear the rushing waters behind us as they tumble off the granite cliffs and grow light-headed from the perfume of the thousand golden tulips surrounding us. We feel the air ripple with electricity. Their scent seems to grows thicker and sweeter, the air dense with impending moisture; we hear a faint rumble in the distance and are surrounded by the hum of lowering swallows rushing to nest under the eaves of the house.
56. “A strange odor loaded the breeze.” E. A. Poe, A Tale of the Rugged Mountains.
57. Hard indeed! Maintaining a property such as this one was costly and would have required many labourers. Poe’s extreme indigence constantly seems emphasized by the wealth of his relations. John Allan’s fortune in tobacco - though it suffered catastrophic losses in the 1819 financial panic - was later augmented by a sizeable inheritance from a rich uncle. Poe meanwhile never received a penny. When John Allan died in 1834, he owned three plantations and two-hundred and thirty slaves. All of these were inherited by his second wife and their three children.
58. Oval, like a portrait, “richly gilded and filigreed in Moresque.” E. A. Poe, The Oval Portrait.
59. Oval, like a mirror. If landscape holds up a mirror to us, and the landscape is balanced, trimmed and perfectly planted, is not our reflection full of goodness, justness and morality?
60. This canoe may have travelled here from the Domain of Arnheim.
61. “It glowed and blushed beneath the eye of the slant sunlight, and fairly laughed with flowers.” This sentence belongs to the description of a Picturesque islet in Poe’s tale The Island of the Fay. Perhaps because Poe’s tales were never intended to be read as a compendium but were published individually in journals and magazines, he never felt the need to be completely original each time. Or are we meant to experience déjà-vu? It is as though all his stories are connected in some intricate web of intrigue. Thus, the strange inhabitants of the Island of the Fay might also populate the small island at the northern end of Landor’s lake, and Landor’s lake may be connected, via the stream that feeds it, to the Domain of Arnheim.
62. The waterfowl (cf. Note 55) nest here in the evening. Downing recommended that bodies of water be populated with birds and that they be offered a resting place in the form of a small island of irregular shape. “On one or two of these small islands, little rustic habitations, if it coincide with the taste of the proprietor, may be made for different aquatic birds or waterfowl which will much enliven the scene by their fine plumage. Among these the swan is pre-eminent, for its beauty and gracefulness.” Clearly, this advice coincided completely with the taste of Mr. Landor, who observed Downing’s indications to the letter. At dawn, the swans appeared white as ghosts, gliding in and out of an ectoplasmic fog. At midday, they dotted the shady banks with bursts of white plumage, like so many hydrangeas. And in the evening, they swam in varying constellations, harbingers of a starry night.
63. "Depression." On November 16, 1848, Poe sat at his desk in his Fordham cottage and composed a long letter to Mrs. Nancy Locke Richmond née Heywood, of Lowell, Massachusetts. “Ah, Annie Annie! my Annie! what cruel thoughts about your Eddy must have been torturing your heart during the last terrible fortnight, in which you have heard nothing from me — not even one little word to say that I still lived & loved you. But Annie I know that you felt too deeply the nature of my love for you, to doubt that, even for one moment, & this thought has comforted me in my bitter sorrow — I could bear that you should imagine every other evil except that one — that my soul had been untrue to yours. Why am I not with you now darling that I might sit by your side, press your dear hand in mine, & look deep down into the clear Heaven of your eyes — so that the words which I now can only write, might sink into your heart, and make you comprehend what it is that I would say — And yet Annie, all that I wish to say — all that my soul pines to express at this instant, is included in the one word, love — To be with you now — so that I might whisper in your ear the divine emotion[s], which agitate me — I would willingly — oh joyfully abandon this world with all my hopes of another: — but you believe this, Annie — you do believe it, & will always believe it — So long as I think that you know I love you, as no man ever loved woman — so long as I think you comprehend in some measure, the fervor with which I adore you, so long, no worldly trouble can ever render me absolutely wretched. But oh, my larling [sic], my Annie, my own sweet sister Annie, my pure beautiful angel — wife of my soul — to be mine hereafter & forever in the Heavens — how shall I explain to you the bitter, bitter anguish which has tortured me since I left you? You saw, you felt the agony of grief with which I bade you farewell — You remember my expressions of gloom — of a dreadful horrible foreboding of ill — Indeed — indeed it seemed to me that death approached me even then, & that I was involved in the shadow which went before him — As I clasped you to my heart, I said to myself — 'it is for the last time, until we meet in Heaven' — I remember nothing distinctly, from that moment until I found myself in Providence — I went to bed & wept through a long, long, hideous night of despair — When the day broke, I arose & endeavored to quiet my mind by a rapid walk in the cold, keen air — but all would not do — the demon tormented me still. Finally I procured two ounces of laudnum [sic] & without returning to my Hotel, took the cars back to Boston. When I arrived, I wrote you a letter, in which I opened my whole heart to you — to you — my Annie, whom I so madly, so distractedly love — I told you how my struggles were more than I could bear — how my soul revolted from saying the words which were to be said — and that not even for your dear sake, could I bring myself to say them. I then reminded you of that holy promise, which was the last I exacted from you in parting — the promise that, under all circumstances, you would come to me on my bed of death — I implored you to come then — mentioning the place where I should be found in Boston — Having written this letter, I swallowed about half the laudnum [sic] & hurried to the Post-Office — intending not to take the rest until I saw you — for, I did not doubt for one moment, that my own Annie would keep her sacred promise — But I had not calculated on the strength of the laudanum, for, before I reached the Post Office my reason was entirely gone, & the letter was never put in. Let me pass over, my darling Sister, the awful horrors which succeeded — A friend was at hand, who aided & (if it can be called saving) saved me — but it is only within the last three days that I have been able to remember what occurred in that dreary interval — It appears that, after the laudanum was rejected from the stomach, I became calm, & to a casual observer, sane — so that I was suffered to go back to Providence — Here I saw her, & spoke, for your sake, the words which you urged me to speak — Ah Annie Annie! my Annie! — is your heart so strong? — is there no hope! — is there none? — I feel that I must die if I persist, & yet, how can I now retract with honor? — Ah beloved, think — think for me & for yourself — do I not love you Annie? do you not love me? Is not this all? Beyond this blissful thought, what other consideration can there be in this dreary world! It is not much that I ask, sweet sister Annie — my mother & myself would take a small cottage at Westford — oh so small — so very humble — I should be far away from the tumult of the world — from the ambition which I loathe — I would labor day & night, and with industry, I could accomplish so much — Annie! it would be a Paradise beyond my wildest hopes — I could see some of your beloved family every day, & you often — oh VERY often — I would hear from you continually — regularly & our dear mother would be with us & love us both — ah darling — do not these pictures touch your inmost heart? Think — oh think for me — before the words — the vows are spoken, which put yet another terrible bar between us — before the time goes by, beyond which there must be no thinking — I call upon you in the name of God — in the name of the holy love I bear you, to be sincere with me — Can you, my Annie, bear to think I am another’s? It would give me supreme — infinite bliss to hear you say that you could not bear it — I am at home now with my dear muddle who is endeavoring to comfort me — but the sole words which soothe me, are those in which she speaks of “my Annie” — she tells me that she has written you, begging you to come on to Fordham — ah beloved Annie, IS IT NOT POSSIBLE? I am so ill — so terribly, hopelessly ILL in body and mind, that I feel I CANNOT live, unless I can feel your sweet, gentle, loving hand pressed upon my forehead — oh my pure, virtuous, generous, beautiful, beautiful sister Annie! — is it not POSSIBLE for you to come — if only for one little week? — until I subdue this fearful agitation, which if continued, will either destroy my life or, drive me hopelessly mad — Farewell — here & hereafter —
forever your own
This letter is of the utmost importance to us readers. In it “Eddy” describes his dramatic suicide attempt by laudanum (an alcoholic tincture of opium), and how it failed on all counts - how he failed to reach the post-office in time to mail his suicide note to Mrs. Richmond and how the laudanum made him sick and failed to achieve the drastic result he meant it to. I would like to pick out a few words for more careful consideration within the context of our story.
“Until we meet in Heaven.” To me, this information is key for one possible interpretation of Landor’s Cottage. Our pedestrian narrator happens upon a most unusually perfect valley, an Eden if you will. It is as though he were crossing the gate into the Kingdom of Heaven. All around stand precipices and thick forests, but there, complete harmony reigns and perfection is embodied in each blade of grass, in each viny tendril, in the curvature of the pond and the clarity of the water. Is Landor the Land of Gold (d’or)?
Next: “Finally I procured two ounces of laudnum.” The depiction of Poe as an opium-addict was largely a fabrication of his nemesis, Rufus Wilmot Griswold, who, unfortunately for the deceased Poe, became his literary executor and later biographer, sealing his life in scandal. The fact that Poe’s stomach rejected the one ounce of laudanum he took might testify to his unfamiliarity with the substance. Two ounces would suffice to kill you if you were relatively unaccustomed to taking the drug. One ounce would cause extreme drowsiness and knowing this makes me wonder whether his unfamiliar experience with the opiate inspired the hypnagogic aspect of Landor’s Cottage. In his drugged, suicidal haze, Poe may have deliriously dreamt of a cosy-looking cottage, set in a verdant landscape, with a door that stood open (no formalities here) welcoming him and promising him shelter and forgiveness.
64. “devious and unnoticed”: Poe was too fond of double entendre not to intend this one.
65. Why he specifies the depth of the lake is unclear; he doesn’t indicate the height of the mountains. Its limpidity does not suffer from the thirty foot drop, even though such clarity in a country lake of those proportions is highly unrealistic. Downing does not make any recommendations for the depth of artificial ponds, but he does advise not to let water stagnate. Landor would have had to purchase land with some body of water already in it in order to engineer such a clear, fresh lake. Fortunately, the Taconic Range isn’t short of springs.
66. Throughout all of Poe’s writing you’ll encounter italics. I suppose it lends a touch of the uncanny to a word - a slanted word is more slippery, more elusive visually. By italicizing, he slows down our ravenous eyes and mind, he indicates, he insinuates, that here, perhaps, is a clue, a key to the text.
How does it affect the narrative voice? Well, to be perfectly candid, I have come to believe (and by now you may agree with me) that this monologue sounds very much like a testimony: this text is what our man believes to be the true and complete account of his experience at Landor’s cottage. As a description it is highly rational, precise to the point of pedantry. As a plot, it is seemingly devoid of intent, other than an exact relation of events. To whom is he speaking? For whose sake as he amassed these details? Who would require such meticulous factualness if not a inquisitive investigator, like the dogged Dupin or that persistent policeman Porfiry Petrovich?
67. Had the shrubs been able to take to the earth and the climate, Landor might not have planted them in pots. His concern for their insulation from the native soil is motivated by aesthetic and practical reasons, nothing more. Potted flowers could be moved to a conservatory in the winter - located perhaps in one of the two outhouses? The hydrangea, snowball, seringa and geranium are all temperate plants unlikely to survive New England frosts. And the hydrangea, for instance, will shed its leaves in the fall - an ugly sight for half the year. Do you think Landor is Loudon, the father of the Gardenesque? (cf. Note 49)
68. “Fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth”. That hardly sounds ecological by today’s standards but is pretty fitting to Landor’s approach. How he tamed the deer is beyond me - let’s just admit that Landor owned them and that they enjoyed feeding on his vines and shrubs.
69. Unlike the potted flowering plants, these vines are hearty enough to withstand New England blizzards and, if you are a keen walker, you will have seen how this kind of irresponsible gardening has damaged the indigenous landscape. Downing recommended Virginia Creeper and Honeysuckle, and it looks as though, once more, Landor obeyed his advice to the letter.
70. If the valley is Heaven, then here is the gate.
71. “reconnoitre.” The word, again, is employed as an reminder of Poe’s military training. It demonstrates the excellent observational powers of his walker and narrator.
72. Thomas Cole’s View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm depicts a peculiar bend in the Connecticut River, known as The Oxbow, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the watery loop circling Landor’s cottage. The narrator comes stumbling through a rocky pass and, just around a bend in the mountain, the entire world opens up to him. He is before a tableau - “here was art undoubtedly”, “it was a piece of composition.” First Downing’s trees, now this loop in the river: to what extent was Poe fabricating this landscape? There is some indication that the story represents his idealization of a real view in Westford, Massachusetts. The panoramic station he enjoyed on Prospect Hill is obscured today by new growth and housing; but, at the foot of the hill, lost among trees of lesser quality and character, stands the most magnificent and ancient shagbark hickory bound to a rock it seems to rival in age. (cf. Appendix V: a photograph)
73. Vathek, ninth caliph of the Abassids, is the principal character in William Beckford’s Gothic novel entitled Vathek: An Arabian Tale (1782). What is suddenly so hellish about the house? I believe this is where our hiker first betrays his true feelings about the cottage. The landscape may be majestic and transporting, but the sight of that infernal house gives him new-found determination. The choice of words is far from innocuous: it reveals memory, history, knowing. This place is not unfamiliar. Our man is not lost. He knows Landor well - though Landor may not yet know him. He fears that the proprietor’s punctiliousness, so apparent in the landscape, might signify that little goes unnoticed in this household. Has Annie shown too much enthusiasm lately?
My suspicion of the hiker was only augmented by the fact that he then tries to back out of his statement about the house. And why not edit what he just inadvertently divulged out of his narration? Because it is too late. I paraphrase: “What I mean to say,” (he is defending himself) “is that it reminded me of the infernal house in Vathek, in the poetic sense... in the sense that it was otherworldly, surprising, unexpected... who would have thought that I would encounter such a magnificent example of Gardenesque design so far from England, in the remote hills of the Hudson Valley!”
74. On the day I drove up Jerome Avenue and onto the Grand Concourse that bisects the Bronx, the sun was high and warm. I found Poe Park on the right side of the avenue and parked. I didn’t know the neighborhood well and was careful not to show off my camera in obvious ways, but it soon became apparent that I had nothing to fear. It was a Sunday afternoon in November, just after Thanksgiving. Couples walked their dogs. Disappointment set in when I saw the park was closed and the cottage, Landor’s Cottage (?), shut for renovation (the bicentennial of Poe’s birth being the occasion and the opportunity.) The place is sad. Food-wrappers litter the flower-beds. The modest but quaint home, once surrounded by similar workers’ dwellings, sits in a soggy patch of worn grass overshadowed by high-rises and cornered by traffic. I circled the park, photographing the house through the wrought-iron gates. As I strained over the spikes to compose a view, a strange man in a stained and foul-smelling parka shuffled up to me and began drunkenly offering information about the house. He gave me indications to the Bronx Historical Society, where I might be able to obtain a key and a tour, and seemed to take me in confidence as a willing and empathetic listener - almost a kindred spirit - when he spoke of how Virginia (Poe’s cousin and wife) had died there, of tuberculosis, leaving him heart-broken, but inspired. (Who surmised that Virginia was “a victim to the neglect and unkindness of her husband who deliberately sought her death that he might embalm her memory in immortal dirges"?) Though his glassy, unfocused stare and his slurring made me uneasy, I found his attachment to the place compelling. His knowledge of it was unexpected. When he eagerly asked me if I was a student (writing a dissertation perhaps?) I may have lied to him. I wish now I had asked him who he thought Landor was.
The maps of Fordham most contemporaneous to the time Poe inhabited the cottage (he rented it for $100 a year from one Mr. Valentine) are dated 1868. By then, the village had expanded enough to foreshadow its amalgamation into the larger city to the south. All I have found, in lieu of a map, are descriptions of the cottage, as it existed in the landscape, by visitors who traveled there either to meet Poe, or shortly after he died, of mysterious causes, in Baltimore. These accounts were faithfully transcribed by one of his supporters and romantic interests, Sarah Helen Whitman, whose candid account of the author’s character went far in discrediting Griswold’s libellous biography. Here are some excerpted sentences you may find convincing:
“An English writer [...] passed several weeks at the little cottage in Fordham, in the early autumn of 1847, and described to us [...] its unrivalled neatness [excessive neatness?] and the quaint simplicity of its interior and surroundings. It was [...] bordered by a flower garden, whose clumps of rare dahlias and brilliant beds of fall flowers showed, in the careful culture bestowed upon them, the fine floral taste of the inmates.”
An interesting choice of word, “inmate.”
“An American writer, who visited the cottage during the summer of the same year, described it as half buried in fruit trees [...] Round an old cherry tree, near the door, was a broad bank of the greenest turf. The neighbouring beds of mignonette and heliotrope, and the pleasant shade above, made this a favorite seat. Rising at four o’clock in the morning [...] our informant found the poet, with his mother [Maria Clemm, his mother-in-law], standing on the turf beneath the cherry tree, eagerly watching the movements of two beautiful birds that seemed contemplating a settlement in its branches. He had some rare tropical birds in cages, which he cherished and petted with assiduous care. Our English friend [the previous “informant”?] described him as giving to his birds and his flowers a delighted attention that seemed quite inconsistent with the gloomy and grotesque character of his writings.”
“a walk to High Bridge was one of his favourite and habitual recreations. The water of the Aqueduct is conveyed across a river on a range of lofty granite arches, which rise to the height of a hundred and forty-five feet [...] On the top a turfed and grassy road, used only by foot passengers, and flanked on wither side by a low parapet of granite, makes one of the finest promenades imaginable.
The winding river and the high rocky shores at the western extremity of the bridge are to be seen to great advantage from this lofty avenue. [...] Poe was accustomed to walk there at all times of the day and night; often pacing the then solitary pathway for hours without meeting a human being. A little to the east of the cottage rises a ledge of rocky ground, partly covered with pines and cedars, commanding a fine view of the surrounding country and of the picturesque college of St. John’s, which had at that time in its neighbourhood an avenue of venerable old trees [all the trees in Shakespeare perhaps?] This rocky ledge was also one of the poet’s favourite resorts. Here through long summer days and through solitary, star-lit nights he loved to sit, dreaming his gorgeous waking dreams, or pondering the deep problems of 'The Universe' - that grand “prose-poem” to which he devoted the last and maturest energies of his wonderful intellect.”
75. So the landscape could have been based on Cole’s Oxbow, or for that matter on any number of other paintings from that era. But, why the repetition? It seems increasingly as though our man and narrator is trying to distance himself from the house, to relegate it to a painted view - and thence to fiction - thereby denying its very existence. Egomaniacs suffering psychotic episodes might fabricate accomplishments (or creatively boast about a horrific deed) out of a desperate need for recognition.
76. Let’s call these Panoramic Stations 1 and 2. By the time he reached Station 2, and turned to look back at the house, all he could see of it was a faint wisp of smoke in the moonlight. The word “survey” means to map but it originated with the French word that gave us “surveillance”. Surveiller, literally to watch from above (very God-like, don’t you think), means to spy.
77. These calculations were vital to the creation of a scale model. It was probably crucial he know the layout of the house blind. They would certainly insist he stay overnight and, according to his careful observations, he had no reason to believe there was a guest chamber anywhere: the parlor would be his abode for that one night when their shared destiny would finally begin. It was there that he would put the finishing touches, so to speak, to his careful project.
78. Unlike this piazza, the one outside Melville’s Berkshire home is located on the northern side of the house. He chose this unusual orientation in order to sit facing Mount Greylock, the mountain to which he later dedicated a novel, and which he claimed reminded him of a whale’s back.
79. Since the outhouses could be seen neither from the road nor from the cottage itself, they presented the ideal hideout from which he could venture out, pedometer in one hand and pocket watch in the other, during repeated nocturnal visits, to estimate the time each distance would take to walk. He wanted to know how long he would have to delay his visit with Landor before taking his leave in the late morning light. And then, how long would it take for him to make his way back to the cottage, unearth the chest and traverse the valley to the southern wall, where the stream cascaded and widened to the river below? If he required a change of clothes and food for a longer haul, his pack must provide that.
80. When did the cherry tree outside the Fordham cottage die? When was it taken down? Poe Park (cf. Appendix VI: a news item) protects the cottage from demolition at present, and frames the house in a patch of Picturesqueness that seems as parenthetical in that part of the Bronx as a short story like Landor’s Cottage is in the volume of Poe’s darker works. In the Park there is now a bandstand, turned over to summer concerts and birthday parties. The house was lifted from its original foundation on the King’s Bridge Road, one block to the north, where it was surrounded by identical, one and a half story workers’ houses.
81. The Gentian weaves her fringes. Emily Dickinson wrote this funerary ditty to acknowledge summer’s passing?
"It was a short procession,
The Bobolink was there—
An aged Bee addressed us—
And then we knelt in prayer—"
Perhaps more importantly, these words [it’s Pale Fire again] rang true:
“But all at once it dawned on me that this
Was the real point, the contrapuntal theme;
Just this: not text, but texture; not the dream
But topsy-turvical coincidence,
Not flimsy nonsense, but a web of sense.
Yes! It sufficed that I in life could find
Some kind of link-and-bobolink, some kind
Of correlated pattern in the game,
Plexed artistry, and something of the same
Pleasure in it as they who played it found.”
82. “scorning all restraint.” In such a perfectly planned landscape, the vines seem unfittingly unpredictable and the wanderer appears to take some delight in their vigor and revolutionary spirit - the kind of enthusiasm and natural charm he really has a preference for.
Once (though this likely happened more than once), seeing he was in great necessity, a friend spared Poe fifteen dollars to secure some food for himself and his household. Later that day, he caught sight of the poet downtown, three sheets to the wind delirious.
83. Climb the Tulip tree to the seventh branch on its eastern side; work your way out to its end. There you will find a sun-bleached skull nailed to the branch. Drop a plumb through the skull’s left eye keeping it tied to a string. Where the weight lands beneath the tree, plant a peg. Stretch a line between the tree’s trunk and the peg and prolong that line another fifty feet. Here plant another peg and dig in a circle, four feet in diameter, around it until you come upon a three and a half by three by two and a half foot chest. That is what the enigma had revealed.
84. If this landscape were painted today, I have a feeling it might closely resemble a view by Thomas Kincade. As you can easily imagine, the illustrations to the story are grotesque - this outrageous accumulation of plants and animals, and the faux Dutch architecture of the cottage, all shrouded in mist and garish sunset, create a truly kitsch tableau.
85. The act of composition bears no small resemblance to that of mapping; Poe must have sensed that.
86. All the while he has been walking he has rehearsed his excuse, but now, begins to ruminate and dither: will it do? Has Landor caught on to his coming? Will he take him up on his request to visit the grounds and lead him into the hills beyond?
87. The shed now stocked all the tools he needed to unearth the chest. Did Annie only know such wealth lay just fifty feet from where she sat daily on the piazza? The darling lark, on this earth to love him and only him. Oh, she would feel relief at the sight of such riches - that he felt sure of.
88. The first few times he visited the grounds, he had added a few carefully wrapped strips of raw steak to his pack. Before descending the hillside, he would transfer the parcel to his pocket in order to face the mastiff, meat in hand. Over the course of three visits, the dog came to expect the treat and would come bounding towards him in silence only to extend his paw in friendly recognition.
89. The bell could be concealed by the masses of honeysuckle and jasmine that cloak the house. That was easy enough to believe. The wrap of the walking stick being the signal, Annie would come to the door and facilitate the introduction. “Sir, there is a traveller here who has lost the road to B___ and has followed the tracks of our wagon here. He needs some refreshment. It really is too dark now for him to continue, and he must spend the night and eat with us. Tomorrow early, darling, you can set him (Mr. Perry, did you say?) on the path to town.”
And so, the Landors welcome the stranger into their quiet abode, and answer his many eager questions about the garden and the landscape, promising to take him on a thorough visit - and to explain how it came to be - the very next day. Then, fitfully, he rests on the settee in the parlor, Ponto by his side, and the gun between them like a sword. The moonlight reverberates on the sheen of the silver wallpaper revealing the matted twists of the rope pattern, green nooses repeating at every turn of his head, echoing the knots in his stomach. He squeezes his eyes tight (taunt me no more!) and thinks of Annie in the nearby bedchamber, softly breathing and dreaming of him. Just before daybreak, having slept not a wink, he dresses and prepares his pack.
Obligingly, after breakfast, Landor gathers his cloak, hat and walking stick and takes our ingenious traveller on the promised stroll around the grounds, all the while patiently listening to the pedantic naturalist extoll the poetics of each tree and shrub, and the picturesqueness of their arrangement. “Mr. Landor, do you know of Andrew Jackson Downing?” he asks. “Yes, yes, he is a close friend and I admit,” answers the host, “that I myself feel no particular love for gardens, I commissioned this one as a favor to my friend who is still at the early stages of his career.” As the morning wears on, Landor politely suggests that the visitor be on his way, if he really is to make it to B___ before dark. The dogs run ahead up the steep westward trail leading into the rocky chasm. They began behind the house, waved to Annie who stood under the viny eaves (what was that blackness on his hand?) and began to wind their way through the thick groves of gnarled walnuts, hickories, oaks and chestnut trees, into the recesses of the landscape.
90. This natural grace Annie possesses seems to have been a characteristic Poe valued highly in women in general. His very young cousin and wife, Virginia Clemm, was all sweetness and innocence. The late poem, Annabel Lee, praises devoted but self-gratifying love:
“And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.”
Though commonly critics believe Annabel to be Virginia (cf. Note 74), Elmira Royster (cf. Note 91) claimed the poem had been written for her. Notice, however, the close sonorities of Annie Landor and Annabel Lee.
That July night, he had seen how brilliantly those spiritual eyes (yes, that was the very word - it had come to him in a flash) had shone as he did his usual song and dance about the poetasters of America. How rapturously she had followed his every word. Spellbound by the energy of her attention and regard, he had sought out her name from his hosts and learned she was married to one Allan Landor who had made his fortune and kept her in some well-kept cottage. (He had often noted that the more transfixed the woman, the greater her marital distress.)
91. Another of Poe’s final poems, published posthumously, was entitled The Bells. Poe gave Annie a manuscript, now conserved at The Morgan Library in New York City.
He made a habit of calling on belles with some frequency and much urgency. At the end of his life, he was simultaneously courting “Annie” Richmond and Frances Osgood, who, though married, returned his affections. Within the same year, he was also engaged to Helen Whitman and Elmira Shelton (his childhood sweetheart née Royster), both wealthy widows.
92. Charles Richmond of Lowell, Massachusetts, ran a highly profitable paper manufacture, and married Miss Nancy Locke Heywood, known to us as Annie. She had heard Poe lecture in town one July evening, on Poets and Poetry in America, and her enthusiasm for his work and mind initiated an intense romantic attachment, at least on Poe’s part. The relationship remained largely platonic, to Poe’s dissatisfaction, and he went to the extreme length of attempting suicide in the hope of dramatically calling her to his death-bed. Annie was twenty-eight years old at the time they met.
93. Poe may have been compulsive in his tendency to fabricate truths, or more committed to storytelling than is socially fitting. Helen Whitman wrote to him during their brief engagement “How often I have heard men and even women say of you - ‘He has great intellectual power, but no principle - no moral sense’.” He was full, in equal parts, of self-pity and self-reverence, his life-story varying with the audience. Floods of tears could be summoned to accompany these dramatic accounts, that often attributed his lack of fortune to the greed of John Allan’s second wife, rather than his own gambling and drinking habits. He exaggerated his own accomplishments and was frequently manipulative in his relationships with others. In death, he found some faithful, honest friends who defended his genius while realistically depicting his faults.
94. So, who is Landor?
He might be Poe’s foster father John Allan who had both the financial means and slave-labor to maintain a property as large as this one. Furthermore, Allan showed a taste for extravagant gardens as evidenced by Moldavia, his lavish home in Richmond, Virginia. The story could be one of homecoming and revenge.
Charles Richmond was also wealthy enough to own such an estate. He could have afforded to hire Andrew Jackson Downing to design a Picturesque garden following these specifications (rivalling the many similar properties in the vicinity of B__.)
Of course, Mr. Landor might very well be Andrew Jackson Downing himself, in which case this story would not be a mystery at all but more a praise of Downing’s unmatched skill and aesthetics, and Picturesque philosophy.
95. After all, all of this might very soon be his! He had written her long letters full of blissful accounts of moonlit walks under the linden trees and fireside evenings in verse. He calls her his larling Annie Landor, because, above all, he loves alliteration! Afternoons are spent on the lake, in the birch canoe, and he is naming the trees and their properties. He tells her how they imperceptibly twist their branches to meet the sun, and what they whisper when no one is there to hear them. Sitting on the piazza, listening to the bird song, he confides that the garden reminds him of an exquisite one in Richmond, Virginia, to which, as a boy, he liked to escape. She lies with her head in his lap, chestnut hair loose and fanning. He strokes it and shares stories he claims the birds have taught him. Her laugh is sparkling and irreplaceable. “What do you mean they speak to you?” “Oh, darling lark, and at times with such immemorial wisdom! Take the oriole, so steadfast and dependable, so unfaltering he will only take one mate in his life. Now the bobolink, you see, is a wilier bird, and a very sociable chatterbox. He likes to gossip about the bees in the honeysuckle getting lazy on the job, or how the tulip tree was a week late to bloom this spring. But the mocking bird is the one to be wary of. The mocking bird is a vengeful sort of bird, my love. All spite and determination. For a mocking bird will never forget an intruder and will seek deliberately to inflict pain on the one who has disturbed its nest.”
96. The rope zig-zags, the paths fork. Pop the question, pop the cork.
The explosion kicked his shoulder back like a sudden slap across the face. A startled lark cried in the distance. Dazed, shaking, but somewhere triumphant. Yes, there was ringing in the air around him and a cheering throng rushing, some ninety feet thick. He feared he might be trampled for their enthusiasm! But then a voice was shouting his name “Fool! You fool!”; he was being lifted, no dragged, beyond the stampede to the crowd’s edge, to the rushing edge. A woman in a scarlet scarf lay against a hickory tree, her gaze transfixed, gray and gauzy.
97. In-keeping with his cryptographic mind, Poe demonstrates an attentiveness to numbers. The number three bore special significance in Picturesque arrangements: it provided a certain visual balance through the triangulation of elements. Remember the three insulated trees, and then, the three tamed deer, and further, the three bird cages with three different varieties of birds, and the three cages filled with vocal canaries. In the parlor hang three works of art, one drawn with three different pencils (à trois crayons). Beyond the measurements of the landscape and house, the number three repeatedly foreshadows the triangular relationship between the three characters: our walker-narrator (lover-liar), Landor and Annie.
98. Landor’s brain, filled precisely with grit and soil and leaves.
99. (His wide brow and awkward demeanor had reminded her of their acquaintance - some time ago - though she was sure, because he had made no mention of it, that he had not recognized her.) Entering the parlor, a dry, acrid smell made her nostrils sting and instinctively she pinched her nose to relieve the twinge. There was a soot-like stain on the white carpet, half-hidden by the dark green pattern, three feet from the fireplace and yet no certain trail led to the pale, smoldering logs. (What a careless guest! And his hand, as he waved, had looked so filthy! He had said nothing of hunting yesterday.)
Through the north window, Annie scrutinized the hillside and found him following her husband on the path toward the upper falls, at a slow pace, barrel resting on his shoulder now. They were nearing a slippery crossing where the trail met the stream and boulders supplied a passage above the cascade. Her husband seemed to be indicating known footholds to their visitor, who was still clutching his gun, and looking shaky in his step.
She had lost sight of her husband now - the chasm had engulfed his silhouette - but the poet lingered a few moments, unconcerned with the path, and suddenly, to her surprise, raised his gun towards the house as though taking aim at it. Dumbstruck, she watched him stand on the edge of the precipice, tense and focused, when just as abruptly, he lowered his weapon and turned onto the path and out of view.
All at once alarmed, she ran, crying out warnings, then pleas of mercy. She raced upward towards them, dodging the snags, her skirts lifted above her knees, scrapes and cuts marking each stride. She had reached the falls when she heard the shot. The landscape collapsed onto her with a roar.
100. Again, a very precise distinction. The astral lamp was French and predated the solar design, patented in the United States, by about thirty years. These lights differed primarily in their wicks: the solar lamp used an argand, or circular wick, making the lamp burn brighter using less oil. Should we suppose Landor to be a well-travelled sort of man? Or perhaps the allusion to the astral lamp indicates that he is about thirty years behind the fashions, oblivious to the world beyond his quiet domain and unaware of the impression his young bride might make on a lonely lecturer one midsummer night?
101. The excessive amount of flowers seems to bring the garden inside; something like a funeral parlor. How he had not seen it sooner?! Her body would be somewhere downstream by now, ravaged by the falls.
102. ...but not as he later left it, empty of her laughter and smiles. Meanwhile the Tulip Tree and its intoxicating golden buds stood tauntingly palpable in its perfume. Some fifty feet to the northeast, their entire future lay buried. The Land of Gold had suddenly grown cold and tiresome. And the incessant chatter of the canaries; would those excessively inquisitive interrogators ever leave him at peace?
103. When Rufus Griswold republished Landor’s Cottage in the months following Poe’s death, (through a miserable deal with Maria Clemm, he now owned the entire literary estate) he was at liberty to remove this last sentence, as if to say: Poe will write no further. Yet, it could be that Griswold saw this sentence for what it was - a false clue - removing it for the sake of readers. It seems to say that the story lies with Landor’s intentions for the landscape, when in fact its raison d’être is right before your eyes: it is nothing more than an alibi.