The Literary Salon Where Poe First Read ‘The Raven’

116 Waverly Place in Greenwich Village

While he was living on West Third Street in 1845 Edgar Allan Poe met the society hostess Anne Charlotte Lynch, a poet and sculptor in her own right. Lynch had moved to New York City the same year, taking up residence with her mother at 116 Waverly Place, across the park from Poe’s house. Washington Square at the time was a military parade ground. Within a few years the present day park would be built. Already the neighborhood was becoming fashionable.

Lynch hosted a literary salon at her home on Saturday evenings, which attracted the leading writers, editors, and patrons of the day. Washington Irving, Herman Melville, William Cullen Bryant, Fitz-Greene Halleck, and Margaret Fuller attended on various occasions. Poe wrote a flattering description of Lynch in his essay, “The Literati of New York City,” for Godey’s Lady’s Book, in 1846: “she is rather above the usual height, somewhat slender, with dark hair and eyes—the whole countenance at times full of intelligent expression…She is chivalric, self-sacrificing, equal to any fate, capable even of martyrdom, in whatever should seem to her a holy cause. She has a hobby, and this is the idea of duty.” Tom Miller writes that she “helped set the future tone of Greenwich Village as a literary center with her weekly salons.  Following the European trend, hers were reportedly the first in America.”

It was at Miss Lynch’s salon that Poe gave his first public reading of “The Raven” on July 19, 1845. He read from the poem again at subsequent gatherings. Nathaniel Parker Willis, who had published “The Raven,” as editor of the New York Mirror, was also a regular guest.

In 1855 Lynch married Vincenzo Botta, a professor of Italian literature at New York University. The Bottas continued to host a literary salon at their home on West 37th Street, where Louisa May Alcott, Horace Greeley, and Andrew Carnegie were among the guests.

The house on Waverly Place no longer exists. It was torn down in 1891. A modest apartment building was put up in its place. The Cecilia, as it is known, was one of the first apartment buildings in the neighborhood. The street still boasts a number of original houses from the period of Poe’s lifetime.

See also: A Lost House of Edgar Allan Poe and Poe at the Northern Dispensary.

Sources:

Burrows, Edwin G.; Wallace, Mike. (1999) Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press.

Harris, Luther S. (2003) Around Washington Square: An Illustrated History of Greenwich Village. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Miller, Tom. (February 11, 2016) “The 1891 Cecelia Flats—No. 116 Waverly Place,” Daytonian in Manhattan. http://daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-1891-cecelia-flats-no-116-waverly.html

Schoenberg, Philip. (2009) Ghosts of Manhattan: Legendary Spirits and Notorious Haunts. Charleston [SC]: The History Press.


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