Annabel Lee: How I Imagine Poe's Prettiest Gothic Angel Looked

The overall look is a little ‘80s Helena Bonham Carter meets Gothic flapper.

“You look scary,” my father told me. Granted, it was
Halloween, but I wasn’t wearing a costume.

I was simply wearing my new, stepping-out-of-my-comfort-zone, dark plum lipstick; Maybelline Limited Edition
Fall 2013 Color Sensational Lipstick in Midnight Plum, to be exact.

continued to tell me that I looked “dead” and like “one of those Goth kids.” I
didn’t let his comments deter me, though; I wore the lipstick off and on through
the winter. The shade is a cool, almost-black-blue purple that its name
captures quite nicely. It’s very pretty,
but it does have a certain mysterious depth and darkness.

wanted to create a look that built off of that darkness. Through a series of
conversations and an extended stream of consciousness, I came to the conclusion
that the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe would round out my inspiration. There might have been some wine in that process,

I’ve been geographically connected to Poe since my
childhood. He was stationed at Fort
Moultrie in Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina (just outside of my hometown) when he was in
the army, and later set “The Gold-Bug” there. He also spent a semester at the
University of Virginia, where I majored in English literature and ogled his
Lawn dorm room. There might have been some
wine involved in that venture as well.

I’ve always been kind of drawn to his dark, macabre, Gothic
poems and stories. I was not a “Goth” in
high school, but I wore big, black boots, wrote poetry, and enjoyed bands like The Cure, Cocteau Twins, and Joy Division. I was probably what other people
called a poser, as I also did things like play organized sports and shop at
J.Crew from time to time. Just the same, I would gladly spend weekend afternoons
reading Poe, Baudelaire and Wilde, imagining myself as a waifish cemetery
hanger-outer in a Smiths song.

Poe loved to write about beautiful dead girls, and perhaps
his most famous is “Annabel Lee.” Poe writes of a youthful love in a seaside
town, cut short by jealous angels who steal Annabel Lee away. The speaker then
lays himself down on her grave, again, much like a Smiths fan.

It was many and many a year ago,

In a kingdom by the sea,

That a maiden there lived whom you may know

By the name of Annabel Lee;

And this maiden she lived with no other thought

Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,

In this kingdom by the

But we loved with a love that was more than love—

I and my Annabel Lee—

With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven

Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,

In this kingdom by the sea,

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

My beautiful Annabel Lee;

So that her highborn kinsmen came

And bore her away from me,

To shut her up in a sepulchre

In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,

Went envying her and me—

Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,

In this kingdom by the sea)

That the wind came out of the cloud by night,

Chilling and killing my Annabel

But our love it was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older
than we—

Of many far wiser than we—

And neither the angels in Heaven above

Nor the demons down under the sea

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

Fore the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side

Of my darling—my darling—my life
and my bride,

In her sepulchre there by
the sea—

In her tomb by the
sounding sea.

Most people believe that the poem is about Poe’s wife,
Virginia, who died just two years before he wrote it. In Charleston, where I spent my early years,
there is a local legend about an Annabel Lee (or Anna Ravenel, depending on who's telling it) who fell in love with a sailor of whom her father did not
approve. She eventually died of yellow
fever before the sailor could return to rescue her, and her ghost wanders the
cemetery of the Unitarian Church looking for her lost love. Charlestonians
claim that Poe must have heard the story while stationed at Fort Moultrie, and
some even insist that he was the “sailor” who fell in love with Annabel

No matter the inspiration, we are left with a vision of a
bright-eyed, darkly romantic maiden turned friend-o’-the-angels, and a love’s
memories in moonbeams and stars shining down on a seaside sepulcher.

I used NP Set Calming Pre-Foundation Primer and Tarte Amazonian
Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation to create the most even canvas that I
could. Usually I save my Urban Decay De-Slick Mattifying Powder for the greasy
summer months, but I decided that a matte finish would add to the air of tragic
Gothic maiden.

I tight-lined my upper lids with black kohl liner and smudged
a bit onto the lid at the lash line as well. Using my finger, I pressed L’Oreal
Infallible Eye Shadow in Midnight Blue onto my entire lid and into the outer
corner of my crease.

Then I used a brush to blend Stila Eye Shadow in Native into the crease, stopping below the
brow bone.

Using an angled brush, I applied the Midnight Blue to the
outer half of my lower lash line. Then I
smudged Stila's Double Dare into the inner corners and
down into the blue.

I received Stila Magnificent Metals Foil Finish Eye Shadow in
Metallic Peach for Christmas, and I have had a lot of fun playing with it. It
comes with a little bottle of liquid primer, and the objective is to mix a bit
of the shadow with the primer until you have a creamy bit of product to glide
onto your eyelid. I find that without the
primer, the shadow has a flaky texture, but ultimately it is easier to blend.
With primer, the shadow is easier to apply and to create a more uniform
color. It’s a bit messy, but the result
is pretty mesmerizing.

For this look, I used the primer. (You can use any
shimmering loose pigment or cream shadow for this step.) After mixing the product,
which feels like a little ritual in itself, perhaps not unlike mixing an
absinthe, I used my finger to press it into the inner two thirds of my

I finished the eyes by adding a bit of the foil to the lower
lash line and using Black Radiance Clear Mascara/Brow Tamer to my brows and

I applied my Midnight Plum lipstick with a lip brush. I
focused the color on the top lip, adding a second coat for added definition. On
my lower lip, I stopped the color just before my lip line.

Then I blended Cover
Girl Clean Glow Blush in Peaches to the peak of my cheekbones. I also used
Benefit High Beam on my cheekbones, blended up under my eyes, to add to the
overall angelic shimmer.

To complete the look, I coaxed my hair into a mess of curls.
After spraying individual sections with rose water (not necessary, but a very
Romantic kind of thing to do) I rolled them with cheap, pink foam rollers.
Another nod to my South Carolina childhood.

I wrapped a piece of white tulle
around my head as a nod to the maiden theme, aiming for Victorian but ending up
with something a bit New Romantic.

The overall look is a little ‘80s Helena Bonham Carter meets
Gothic flapper. It’s not so much an accurate historical representation than a
conglomeration of a handful of my influences. I think it could easily be
tightened up into a wearable look or scavenged for bits and pieces for another

Do you have a favorite poem? Any requests for more
interpretive literary beauty?