Text: Susan Archer Weiss, “Chapter 12,” Home Life of Poe (1907), pp. 70-73


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[page 70:]

CHAPTER XII.

“A PRETTY GIRL WITH AUBURN HAIR WHOM POE LOVED.”

“The old lady commenced by saying that she had known Poe quite intimately when she and her mother were residents of Baltimore, about 1832. She was then seventeen years of age and attending a finishing school in that city. She confided to me, laughingly, that she was considered a very pretty girl, with dark eyes and curling auburn hair.

“The first time she noticed Poe, she said, was once when she was studying her lesson at the window of her room, which was in the rear of the house. Looking up, she saw a very handsome young man standing at an opposite back window on the next street looking directly at her. She pretended to take no notice, but on the following evening the same thing occurred. He appeared to be writing at his window, and each time that he laid aside a sheet he would look over at her, and at [page 71:] length bowed. This time a school friend was with her, who, in a spirit of fun, returned the bow. That evening, as the two were seated on the veranda together, this young man sauntered past and, deliberately ascending the steps of the adjoining house, spoke to them, addressing them by name. He sat for some time on the dividing rail of the two verandas, making himself very agreeable, and the acquaintance thus commenced in a mere spirit of school-girl fun, was kept up for several weeks, some story being invented to satisfy the mother.

“‘Of course, it was all wrong,’ said the old lady, ‘but it was fun, nevertheless; and we girls could see no harm in it. But one evening, when Mr. Poe and myself had been strolling up and down in the moonlight until quite late, my mother desired him not to come again, as I was only a school girl and the neighbors would talk. So our acquaintance ended abruptly.’ She added that, although they never again met, she always felt the deepest interest in hearing of him, and had never forgotten her fascinating boy-lover.

“Asked if she had ever seen Virginia, she replied: ‘Yes, several times, when she was with her cousin;’ that ‘she was a pretty child, [page 72:] but her chalky-white complexion spoiled her.’”

Mr. Allan died in March, 1834, leaving three fine little boys to inherit his fortune.

Some time before his death an absurd story was circulated, which we find related in the Richmond Standard, of April, 1881, thirty-one years after Poe’s death, on the authority of Mr. T. H. Ellis, of Richmond. It appears that a friend of Poe wrote to the latter that Mr. Allan had spoken kindly of him, seeming to regret his harshness, and advising him to come on to Richmond and call on him in his illness. Acting upon this advice, he, one evening in February, presented himself at Mr. Allan’s door. The rest, as told by Ellis, is as follows:

“He was met at the door by Mrs. Allan, who, not recognizing him, said that her husband had been forbidden by his physician to see visitors. Thrusting her rudely aside, he rapidly made his way upstairs and into the chamber where Mr. Allan sat in an arm-chair, who, on seeing him, raised his cane, threatening to strike him if he approached nearer, and ordered him to leave the house, which he did.”

Woodbury [[Woodberry]] asserts the truth of this story, because, as he says, “Mr. Ellis had the very best means of knowing the truth.” But Ellis [page 73:] was at this time only a youth of 18 or 20, and had no more opportunity of knowing the truth than the numerous acquaintances of the Allans’ to whom they related their version of the incident, with never a mention of the cane. Poe, they said, accused the servant of having delivered his message to Mrs. Allan and, creating some disturbance, the latter called to the servant to “drive that drunken man away.” Mr. Ellis should have remembered that Mrs. Allan, to the day of her death, asserted that she had never but once seen Poe; consequently, this story of the second meeting between them and of Poe’s “rudely thrusting her aside,” and being threatened with the cane, is simply a specimen of the gossip which was continually being circulated concerning Poe by his enemies.

 


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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 12)