My beloved husband, who often surprises me with these wonderfully thoughtful plans, had done all the research himself and had told me of them before we left on Tuesday so I would have something fun to look forward to before my panel. We awoke early, took a cab and were at the door of the Poe house minutes before it opened at 9 a.m.
The site, run by the National Park Service, is sparse, with no furniture or re-creations of scenes, but the rangers proved to be downright scholarly in their knowledge of Poe's life and works, and listening to their stories and walking through the largely empty house was a wonderful treat, especially the large painting of "The Raven" and the very chilly and spooky cellar, which likely helped inspire Poe's own descriptions of cellars in many of his stories.
I also got to meet Sophia Hawthorne's main biographer, who was one of the panelists and who happens to have lived in Puerto Rico during her childhood. Her work has paved the way for others like me to produce new scholarship on this most intriguing nineteenth-century American woman.
All in all, and except for the heartbreak of having lost one of the brand-new, gold hoop earrings that my husband gave me for Christmas, the visit to Philadelphia was well worth it and a good way to spend one of the last days of 2009.