Cheers to Mrs. Poe!

You may remember reading about Mrs. Poe from our post back in May where author Lynn Cullen talked about the sexy Mr. Poe. Well, the book is now on sale! And what better way to celebrate than with a toast? Lynn has graciously contributed to our site again, but this time with a few period drink recipes that you should surely have in your hand when reading Mrs. Poe. Choose one below, mix and enjoy when you download your copy today!

Mrs. Poe’s Punch

- 2 cups apple juice, chilled

- Juice of 8 lemons (1 1/2 cups)

- 1 cup sugar

- Fresh mint

- 1 or 2 bottles of champagne, chilled

- 1 bag frozen raspberries

1. Lightly muddle mint leaves with apple juice and sugar.

2. Add lemon juice and stir until sugar is dissolved.

3. Refrigerate until it’s time to talk about Mrs. Poe, then pour all into punch bowl.

4. Add champagne to taste.

5. Add Frozen raspberries.

6. Garnish with mint sprigs.

Ladle and enjoy.

 

Mr. Poe’s Punch

- 2 oz. Demerara sugar

- The peel of one lemon – easiest to use a vegetable peeler.  Try to get the longest strips possible with as little of the pith as you can manage.

- 1.5 quarts boiling water – what the Irish call screeching hot.

- 1 bottle Bushmills 10-year-old Single Malt Whiskey – or a little less dear, Powers Irish Whiskey will do.

- 3 oz lemon juice

- Large block of ice

1.  Muddle lemon peel and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Let stand for one hour.  Muddle again.

2. Add about 8 oz of the boiling water to the bowl and stir well.

3. Add all the whiskey and then the remaining water.  Allow the punch to cool.

4. Strain, removing the lemon peel, and refrigerate in a sealed container.

5. When it’s time to talk about Mrs. Poe, add the Cold Whiskey Punch to a punch bowl.  Stir in lemon juice.  Add block of ice.

For the ice, a pretty ice ring can be made using a gelatin mold.

Lemon peel or flowers may be added to the water to tart up the ring.

 

The “Mrs. Poe” Cocktail

1.5 oz. Hendrick’s Gin

.25. oz. St. Germain

1 barspoon Benedictine

1 dash Peychaud’s bitters

Stir all with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

 

*These drinks were created by bookseller and mixologist Nick Petrulakis, of Books Inc, Alemeda, California. Join him on his blogs http://drinkswithnick.blogspot.com/ and http://bookswithnick.blogspot.com/ for more yummy concoctions.

And while one hand is now holding your smooth refreshment, the other can scroll on down for an excerpt from the book. Enjoy this taste of Mrs. Poe while you sip on your delicious cocktail!

 

__________________________

One

When given  bad  news,  most  women  of  my  station  can  afford  to slump onto  their  divans, their  china cups slipping from their  fingers to the carpet, their hair falling prettily from its pins, their fourteen starched  petticoats compacting with  a plush  crunch.  I am not  one of them.  As a lady whose  husband  is so busy painting  portraits of wealthy patrons—most of whom happen  to be women—that he for- gets that he has a family, I have more in common with the girls who troll  the  muddy  streets  of Corlear’s  Hook,  looking  to  part  sailors from their dollars, than I do with the ladies of my class, in spite of my appearance.

This  thought bolted  into  my mind  like a horse  stung  by a wasp that afternoon at the office of The Evening Mirror. I was in the midst of listening  to a joke about two backward Hoosiers being told by the editor Mr. George Pope Morris. I knew that the news Mr. Morris  was obviously  putting off giving me must  not  be good.  Still, I laughed delightedly at his infantile  joke, even while choking  on the  miasma created by his excess of perfumed hair pomade, the open glue pot sit- ting upon his desk, and the parrot  cage to my left, which was in dire need of changing. I hoped  to soften him, just as a “Hooker” softens potential customers  by lifting a corner  of her skirt.

I struck  when Mr. Morris  was still chuckling  from  his own joke. Showing  teeth  brushed  with  particular care before  I had  set off to confront him  after  a silence  of twenty-two days, I said, “About  the poem I sent you in January. . . .” I trailed  off, widening  my eyes with hopefulness, my equivalent  of petticoat lifting.  If I was to  become independent, I needed  the income.

No sailor considering a pair of ankles looked more wary than Mr. George Pope Morris  did at that moment, although few sailors man- aged to achieve the success he had at toilet, particularly with his hair. Never  before had such a lofty loaf of curls arisen from a human  head without  the aid of padding.  It was as if he had used his top hat for a mold. Whether by design or accident, one large curl had escaped the mass and now dangled upon his forehead  like a gelatinous  fishhook.

“Might  you have misplaced  it?” I asked lightly. Maybe he would appreciate  putting the blame on his partner. “Or  perhaps  Mr. Willis has it.”

His gaze slid down to my bosom,  registered the disappointment of seeing only cloak, then  snapped  back to my face. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Osgood. To be quite frank, it was not what we were looking for.”

“I’m certain that your female readership would enjoy my allusions to love in my descriptions of flowers. Mr. Rufus Griswold has been so kind to include  some of my poems  in his recent  collection.  Perhaps you’ve heard of it?”

“I  know  Griswold’s  collection.  Everyone  does—he’s  made  sure of it. How  that little bully got to be such an authority on poetry,  I’ll never know.”

“Threats of death?” Mr. Morris laughed, then waggled his finger at me. “Mrs. Osgood!” Quickly  before  I  lost  him:  “My  own  book,  published   by  Mr. Harper, The Poetry of Flowers and the Flowers of Poetry, sold quite well.”

“When was that?” he asked distractedly. “Two years ago.” Actually it was four.

“As I thought. Flowers are not what is selling of late. What every- one is interested in these days are shivery tales. Stories of the maca- bre.”

“Like Mr. Poe’s bird poem?”

He nodded, causing the great greased curl to bounce. “As a matter of fact, yes. Our  sales soared  when we brought out the ‘The  Raven’ at the  end  of January.  Same  thing  happened when  we reprinted it last week. I suspect  we could reprint it ten times and it wouldn’t  be enough.  Readers have gone Raven-mad.”

“I see.” I didn’t  see. Yes, I had read the poem. Everyone  in New

York had since it had first been published  the previous  month. Even the German man who sold newspapers  in the Village knew of it. Just this  morning, when  I asked him  if he had  the  current issue of the  Mirror, he had said with an accent and a grin, “Nefermore.”

My dearest  friend,  Mrs. John  Russell Bartlett,  part  of the  inner circle of the  New  York literati,  thanks  to her  husband,  a bookseller and publisher  of a small press, would not be quiet about him. She had been angling  to meet  him ever since “The  Raven” had come out. In truth, I had thought I might  get a glimpse of the wondrous Mr. Poe in the office that morning. He  was an editor  at the Mirror as well as a contributor.

Mr. Morris seemed to read my mind. “Evidently, our dear Mr. Poe is feeling his success. He is threatening to leave the magazine. Wher- ever he goes, I wish them luck in dealing with his moods.”

“Is he so very moody?” I still hoped to cajole Mr. Morris into friendship and, therefore, into indebtedness.

Mr. Morris  gestured as if tipping  a glass to his mouth. “Oh.” I made a conspiratorial grimace.

“He’s really quite unbalanced, you know. I suspect he’s more than half mad, and it’s not just the drink.”

“A shame.” He  smiled. “Look,  Mrs. Osgood, you are an intelligent woman. You’ve had some  luck with  your  story  collections  for children. My own little ones loved ‘Puss in Boots.’ Why don’t you go back to that?” I could  not  tell  him  the  real  reason:  money.  Writing children’s stories did not pay.

“I feel that it’s important for me to expand my writing,”  I said. “I have things  I would  like to say.” Which was also true. Why  must  a woman be confined  to writing children’s tales?

He chuckled. “Like which color brings out the roses in one’s com- plexion, or how to decorate at Christmas?”

I laughed, good Hooker that I am. Still smiling, I said, “I think you might be surprised  at what I am capable of.”

His  parrot  squawked.  He  fed it a cracker  from  his pocket,  then wiped  his hands  on  his pantaloons, his sights  making  their  habitual rounds  from  my eyes to my bust  and back again. I forced  myself to keep a cheerful gaze, although I wished to slap the curl off his forehead.

He frowned. “A beautiful  woman like you shouldn’t  have to trouble your head with this sort  of thing,  but what if you came up with something as fresh  and  exciting  as ‘The  Raven,’  only from  a lady’s point of view?”

“Do you mean something dark?”

“Yes,” he said, warming  to the idea. “Yes. Exactly so—dark. Very dark. I think there might be a market for that. Shivery tales for ladies.”

“You’d like me to be a sort of Mrs. Poe?” “Ha! Yes. That’s the ticket.”

“Will I be paid the same as Mr. Poe?” I asked brazenly. Desperate times call for uncouth measures.

He  marked  the  inappropriateness of my question with  a pause before answering. “I paid Poe nothing, since he was on staff. I should think you’d want to do better  than that.”

Although  already envious of Mr. Poe for his recent  success, I felt a twinge of sympathy for the man. Perhaps  he was independently wealthy, as was Mr. Longfellow  or Mr. Bryant, and did not need the money or my compassion. In any case, he was not wed to a philander- ing portrait painter.

Mr. Morris  led me to the  door. “The  Mirror is a popular  maga- zine, Mrs.  Osgood. We’re  not  interested in literature for  scholars. Bring  me  something fresh  and  entertaining. Something dark  that will make the lady readers  afraid to snuff their  candles at night. You do that, and I’ll see what I can do for you. Just don’t turn  your back on us when you’ve reached  the top, as did our Mr. Poe.”

“I wouldn’t. I promise.”

“Poe’s his own worst enemy—he  no sooner  makes a friend  than he turns him into a foe.”

“I wonder  what has made him such a difficult character.”

He shrugged. “Why  do wolves bite? They  just do.” He held open the door, letting  in a cool draft. “Give my regards to Mr. Osgood.”

“Thank you,” I said. “I will.” If he ever tired of his current heiress and came home.

 

 

 

I soon  found  myself on the  sidewalk of Nassau  Street  and, it being a mild day for February, ankle-deep in slush. Gentlemen passed, en- cased in buttoned overcoats  and plugged  with top hats. They  flicked curious gazes in my direction, not sure whether I was a lady to whom they should  tip their  hat or a hooker  who had wandered  into  their inner  sanctum.  Few females of any sort  ventured into  the  hallowed business  precincts  of New  York—the  engine  room  of what was be- coming  the greatest  money factory in the world.

I bent  into  the  biting  wind, ever present  in winter  in this island city, and  rounded the  corner  onto  Ann  Street.  A landau  clattered by, its wheels flinging  melted  snow. Across the way, a hog rooted in refuse, one of the thousands of pigs who plied the streets,  be it rich district  or poor. The  wet had brought out the smell of the smoke ris- ing from the forest of rooftop  chimneys  as well as the stink of horse manure,  rotting garbage,  and urine.  It is said that  sailors can smell New York City six miles out at sea. I had no doubt  of it.

Two short blocks later, across Ann Street from Barnum’s American Museum,  with its banners  advertising  such humbuggery in residence as President Washington’s childhood nurse and the Feejee Mermaid, I arrived upon the shoveled promenade of Broadway. Vehicles poured down  the  thoroughfare before  me as if a vein in the  city had been opened  and  it was bleeding  conveyances  down  the  bumpy  cobble- stones.  The  din  they  made  was deafening.  The  massive hooves  of shaggy draft horses clashed against the street as they pulled rumbling wagons bulging with barrels. Stately carriages creaked by behind clopping  horses. Hackneys  for hire rattled  alongside  omnibuses  with windows  filled with  staring  faces. Whips  cracked;  drivers  shouted; dogs  barked.  In  the  midst  of it all, on  a balcony  on  the  Barnum’s building, a brass band tootled. It was enough  to test one’s sanity.

Clutching my skirts, I hurried through a gap in the  thundering traffic. I landed  breathless  on the other  side of the street,  where the Astor House  hotel,  six stories of solid granite  gentility,  sat frowning down  its noble  pillars  at me. It  seemed  aware that  I had  only  two pennies  in the expensive reticule  on my arm.

Just a month previously I had been one of its pampered residents. I had been  among  the  privileged  to bathe  in its hot-running-water baths.  I, too,  had enjoyed  reading  by the  gaslights  and dining  with the  rich  and beautiful  at the  table  d’hôte.  Samuel  had insisted  that we take rooms at the Astor House  when we had moved to New York from London, to make a good impression.

Had  I known  of the  ruinous  state  of our  ledgers,  I would  have never  agreed  to  it. But  Samuel  thought that  as the  daughter of a wealthy Boston merchant, I expected no less of him. He could never get over the  inequality  of our  backgrounds, no matter  how much  I assured  him  that  it didn’t  matter  to  me. I, on  the  other  hand,  had gotten  over it the moment he first kissed me. I had no care if we took up housekeeping in a soddy, as long as I spent  the  night  in Samuel Osgood’s arms. Samuel, though, could never quite believe this. There is no more prideful creature than a man born poor.

Now,  hunched against  the  icy wind and feeling the  pinch  of my thin pointed  boots and the stabbing  of my corset stays, I marched up the  assault on the  senses that  is called Broadway. The  loud swirl of striving people  and their  beasts dazzled the eyes, as did the brightly painted  establishments bristling  with  signs  that  bragged  LIFE-LIKE DAGUERREOTYPES! WORLD’S FRESHEST  OYSTERS! MOUTH-WATERING  ICE CREAM! FINEST QUALITY LADIES’  FANS!  The  stench  of rotting sea crea- tures commingled with the sweet scent of perfumes,  as did the spicy odor of unwashed  human  flesh and the aroma of baking pies.

Soon  the  flapping  awnings  of  tobacconists, haberdashers, and dry-goods emporiums gave way to mansions  with ornate  iron fences that fringed  their  foundations like chin whiskers. Although  the rich- est man of them  all, Mr. Astor, refused to budge  from his stone  pile at  Broadway  and  Prince,  the  fashion  was to  show  off one’s  newly minted  money  by constructing a castle in the neighborhoods north of Houston Street.  It was in this vaunted  district  that I turned west- ward on Bleecker. In boots made to stroll across a manicured square, not march  up a mile and a half of flagstones, I minced  painfully past ranks of stately brick  houses  at LeRoy  Place, in many of which  I’d had  tea.  Near  the  writer  James  Fenimore Cooper’s  ostentatiously large  former  home  on Carroll Place, about  which  his wife liked to complain  often  and loudly that  it was “too magnificent for our sim- ple French tastes,” I veered right onto Laurens  Street.

With an end in sight, I picked up my pace as much as my cursed corset and destroyed feet would allow. I hobbled  elegantly by a tumbledown row of stables, smithies, and small wooden dwellings meant  for  those  who  served  the  denizens  of  the  palaces  around them,  until  at last, a block short  of Washington Square,  I came to Amity Place, yet another enclave of new four-story Greek  Revival town houses caged in by black ironwork  fences. From  a third-story window,  through an oval that  had been  cleared  in the  frost  by the sun, peered  two young girls.

My heart  warmed.  I opened  the  wrought  iron  gate, climbed  the steep flight of six stone steps, and pushed open the door.

Five-and-half-year-old Vinnie was running down the narrow staircase as I entered the hall. “Mamma,  did he buy your poem?”

“Hold on to the railing!” I exclaimed. Behind her, my elder daugh- ter, Ellen, a year older than her sister and worlds more cautious, took the stairs at a more judicious rate.

Vinnie threw herself against me. A loud crash descended  from an upstairs  room,  followed  by a wail and  the  exasperated  voice of my friend Eliza.

Ellen made a safe landing and held out her arms to take my mantle and hat. “Henry is being bad.”

I glanced above her. “Yes, I can hear him.”

“Mama,” Vinnie demanded, “did the man buy your poem?”

“He  didn’t  buy that  one. But he did ask to see more.”  I opened my gloved palm, upon  which lay two peppermint drops. I had taken them from a dish on Mr. Morris’s desk when I had waited for him to arrive.

Vinnie’s grin revealed a newly naked arch in her upper gums. She popped  in the candy.

Ellen shifted my things  in her arms, then  took her piece. Not  yet seven  and  she was as somber  as a Temperance lady on  Christmas. “You should  write more stories for children,” she said as I peeled off my gloves. “They  always buy your children’s stories.”

“I’m trying  to spread  my wings. What do I say about  birds  who don’t spread their wings?”

The  candy rattled  against Vinnie’s remaining teeth  as she moved it to her cheek to speak. “They  never learn to fly.”

“You don’t  need  to fly, Mother,” Ellen  said. “You need  to make money.”

How  did she know these things? At her age, I was dressing paper dolls. Blast you, Samuel  Osgood, for  stunting her  with  worry  and spoiling her childhood. I could spin all manner  of tales about his care and concern  for us and she always saw right through them.

“Right now I need to help Mrs. Bartlett,” I said cheerfully. “Vinnie, how is your ear?”

She  gingerly  touched the  ear  with  the  tuft  of cotton  sprouting from it. “Hurts.”

Just  then,  a young  boy  in a rumpled  tunic  trampled down  the stairs, followed closely by a plain but kindly looking gentlewoman of my age, who was in turn  followed by a pretty  red-cheeked Irish maid carrying a toddler.

“Fanny!” cried Eliza. “Thank goodness you’re back. I have news!” Although  I had lived with Eliza Bartlett  and her family for several months, my heart  still swelled with gratitude at the sight of her. She and her husband  had taken me in when the Astor House  had turned me out. It seemed that prior to decamping for lusher pastures in No- vember, Samuel had not paid the bill for the previous  three  months. After I showed  up on Eliza’s doorstep with  my shameful  story,  she made  no  verbal  judgment, just  said, “You’re  staying  with  us.” Nor did she speak up when our other friends inquired  about  Samuel, but silently sat back and let me lie about  his imminent return. She thus saved me from  the  pity that  our  circle would  have rained  upon  me for being the abandoned wife of a ne’er-do-well. I would have gained their sympathy but lost my place and my pride.

She took little Johnny from her maid. “Mary, please take Mrs. Os- good’s things downstairs  to dry and Henry along with you. Henry: be good.” To me she exclaimed, “Goodness, you look frozen. Why  didn’t you take a hackney home?”

“What is this news?”

She removed little Johnny’s hand from inside her blouse. “Mr. Poe is coming!”

“Here?”

She laughed. “No. Not  unless he wishes to change  a diaper. He’s going to appear at the home of a young woman named Anne Lynch— this Saturday! And we, my dear, are invited.”

I found my excitement to meet the renowned writer was tempered by the knowledge  that I had just been encouraged to be his competi- tor. “Wonderful! Do we know this Miss Lynch?”

Eliza gave little Johnny to Vinnie, who’d been silently begging for him with open  arms. “She’s new to this city from Providence—she’s a friend of Russell’s family. She stopped  in his shop and told him she was attempting to start  a salon—not just for the  usual bon  ton  but for artists of all kinds, rich or poor. I daresay she might have a chance at success after having snagged Poe.”

“I wonder  how she lured him in.”

“She might  come  to regret  it. He’s sure  to be horribly  ruthless. Poe doesn’t like anything.”

It was true. I had seen his reviews in The Evening Mirror. Prior  to “The  Raven,” he was best known  in literary  circles for his poisoned pen. For good reason he was called the Tomahawker, happy as he was to chop up his fellow writers. He  regularly  tore  in to gentle,  gentle- manly Mr. Longfellow  with a savagery that made no sense. In truth, I had wondered about his sanity even before Mr. Morris’s accusation, or at least his motives for such abuse.

“The  gathering is to be at seven. Say that you’ll come with me. I told her about you—” She saw my wince. “That you are a poet.”

Bless you, Eliza. “I’ll go, if the girls are well by then.” Vinnie jogged little Johnny on her hip. “I will be!”

“There you have it,” I said with a nonchalance that I did not feel. If I became his competition, I, too, might  soon be on the wrong side of the dangerous Mr. Poe.

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Mrs. Poe

Mrs. Poe

Lynn Cullen

Frances Osgood finds herself embroiled in a passionate affair with the rakish--and married!--writer...but dallying with this master of horror may be more dangerous than she could ever imagine.

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2 comments so far


  1. Adam Wilson

    Gin + Poe = awesome. Those drinks sound so refreshing!

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