Digging Up Poe!
Edgar Allan Poe Resurrected

Graham's Fashion Plates

Fashion Plate - Poe with 2 Virginias
A Poe Parable? - Poe in the center with the demure Virginia on the right
and Elizabeth Ellet looking at the happy pair with disdain, at left?

There have been persistent rumors that Virginia Poe did model, and Edgar Poe too, for the Fashion Plates contained in Graham's Magazine during the early to mid 1840s. Even T.O. Mabbott, upon examining some of these Fashion Plates, stated that indeed, he did believe the plates were meant to depict both Poe and Virginia. Still, Virginia's precarious health (she suffered from tuberculosis) has kept the majority of Poe biographers from taking the Graham's Fashion Plates seriously as depictions of Virginia or of her husband.

Indeed, the Fashion Plates are the tip of the iceberg. Of course they represent Virginia Poe, and Poe's own face appears in a great many of them. The resemblance of Poe's face to the images in the engravings of him by A.W. Graham and John Sartain are virtually identical to the engravings of Poe in Graham's Fashion Plates. For more of the story, see our section on Poe's Philadelphia.

Out in the Country Ladies
Out in the Country Ladies - Fashion Plate

The Fashion Plates must be taken as parables for Poe's life. They are meant to be gossipy, humorous and full of sub-text. When understood this way the Fashion Plates become humorous and informative 'cartoons' that provide fascinating in-jokes about Poe and his inner circle. I believe that Poe claiming he "hated fashion plates" was a joke, because he was the Editor of Graham's Magazine when the plates were being run and most certainly knew, and perhaps even came up with the idea himself, of 'telling his life story' through the medium of the Fashion Plates. It is absurd to think that as Editor of the magazine running the Fashion Plates, that Poe would be unaware that images depicting he and Virginia were appearing monthly in his own magazine! An analysis of all of the Graham's Fashion Plates would make a fascinating book in its own right! Poe, indeed, protested too much in saying that he "despised Fashion Plates!" That he was in on the joke is simply too obvious to be open to question.

Elizabeth Ellet
Elizabeth Ellet
Elizabeth Ellet, Poe's most bitter female enemy. Depicted as the Villain of Graham's Fashion Plates? Why not?

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