Text: Susan Archer Weiss, “Chapter 09,” Home Life of Poe (1907), pp. 57-60


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[page 57:]

CHAPTER IX.

POE AND MRS. ALLAN.

In the meantime Mr. Allan had contracted a second marriage, the lady being a Miss Louisa Patterson, of New Jersey. She was thirty years of age; not handsome, but of dignified and courteous manners, with large, strongly-marked features, indicative of decision of character and, as was said, of a will of her own. Nevertheless, she was amiably inclined, and as a society leader very tactful and diplomatic. One marked characteristic of hers was that she never forgave the least slight or disrespect to herself, though the offender were but a child; and of this I remember some curious instances in my own acquaintance with her, many years after the time of which I speak.

It does not appear how Poe received the news of this marriage; but one thing seems certain — that, strangely enough, the idea never occurred to him that it in any way affected his [page 57:] own position in Mr. Allan’s house. He had never received from the latter any word to that effect; Miss Valentine (his “Aunt Nancy”), with the old servants, who had known, and served, and loved him from his babyhood, were still there, and doubtless his room was still being kept, as ever before, ready for his occupation.

It was therefore with perfect confidence that, upon being dismissed from West Point, he proceeded to Richmond, having barely enough money to pay his way, and, sounding the brazen knocker of Mr. Allan’s door, greeted the old servant pleasantly, handing him his traveling bag to be carried to his room, at the same time asking for Miss Valentine.

The answer of the servant astonished him. His old room had been taken by Mrs. Allan as a guest-chamber and his personal effects removed to “the end-room.” This was the last of several small apartments opening upon a narrow corridor extending on one side of the house above the kitchen and the servants’ apartments. It had at one time been occupied by Mrs. Allan’s maid.

On receiving this information, Poe was extremely indignant, and, refusing to have his [page 59:] carpet-bag carried to that room, requested to see Mrs. Allan.

The lady came down to the parlor in all her dignity, and answered to his inquiry that she had arranged her house to suit herself; that she had not been informed that Mr. Poe had any present claim to that room or that he was expected again to occupy it. Warm words ensued, and she reminded him that he was a pensioner on her husband’s charity, which provoked him to more than hint that she had married Mr. Allan from mercenary motives. This was enough for the lady. She sent for her husband, who was at his place of business, and who, upon hearing her account of the interview, coupled with the assertion that “Edgar Poe and herself could not remain a day under the same roof,” without seeing Poe, sent to him an imperative order to leave the house at once, which he immediately did. It was told by himself that as he crossed the hall Mr. Allan hastily entered it from a side-door and called harshly to him, at the same time drawing out his purse, but that he, without pause or notice, continued on his way.

This account of the rupture between Poe and the Allans I heard from the Mackenzies and Mrs. Julia Mayo Cabell, wife of Poe’s [page 60:] schoolboy friend, Dr. Robert G. Cabell, to whom Poe himself related it. The friends of the Allens gave a much more sensational account of the affair, which was much discussed, and went the rounds of the city, with such additions and exaggerations as gossip could invent, until it culminated at length in the dark picture with which Griswold horrified the world.

It was to this incident that Poe alluded when he told Mrs. Whitman that “his pride had led him to deliberately throw away a large fortune rather than submit to a trivial wrong.”

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - HLFP, 1907] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Home Life of Poe (S. A. Weiss) (Chapter 09)