Text: Arthur Hobson Quinn, “Chapter 03,” Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (1941), pp. 65-80


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[page 65:]

CHAPTER III
 
The School Days in England

Poe is unique among the great American writers of his generation in having spent a portion of his childhood in England. This period of his life is important because for the first time we are able to trace a definite influence in his later fiction from the scenes in which he moved and thought and felt. The first essential, of course, before any analysis of the influences of his early schooling can be made, is to dispel at least one of the myths which tradition and the industry of his previous biographers have created. Fortunately, I have been able, through certain letters of John Allan to his Scottish relatives, and their replies, which had remained unpublished in the Valentine Museum, to trace more clearly the movements of Poe during the first year of his stay in Britain. As before, it is best to let these letters, combined with those in the Library of Congress, tell their own story.

On July 29, 1815, John Allan wrote to his partner in Richmond, “I am now on English ground after an absence of more than 20 years. After a passage of 34 days all well — Frances and Nancey were very sick but are now perfectly Hearty. Edgar was a little sick but soon recovered. . . . We got here yesterday at 5 P. M. I took our abode at Mr. Lillymans Hotel today.”(1)

Edgar Poe’s first experience of travel was evidently made very unpleasant by the penurious attitude of the Captain, and John Allan wrote to the owners in Norfolk, protesting that he had to sleep on the floor and “the Females of my Family were denied the privileges of Fire to broil a slice of Bacon.” They evidently provided their own stores, and wood was short.(2) Allan was still at Liverpool on August 6th when he writes to R. F. Gwathmey, who was shipping guns to America, and Gwathmey writes to Allan at Kilmarnock in Scotland in care of his brother-in-law, Allan Fowlds, on August 11th.(3)

The family of four seem to have gone first, however, to Irvine, [page 66:] where Allan’s sisters, Mary and Jane, were living, but their stay must have been brief. For on August 22nd Allan writes to Ellis from Kilmarnock.(4) If Poe went to school at Irvine, as has been asserted, it could have been at this time little more than a few days. Allan writes Ellis from Glasgow on August 24th,(5) and again on September 11th,(6) from Kilmarnock. He probably went on business visits and the family remained at Kilmarnock as headquarters. It is naturally hard to say what influence this visit to Scotland had upon Poe. The poem To the Lake may have been inspired by memories of Scottish scenery, and there were, of course, romantic stories to hear. For example, there is said to have been a “Lady’s walk” on which the wraith of Lord Kilmarnock, executed for participation in the Stuart uprising of 1745, took occasional strolls. But this form of influence is, of course, very tenuous.

From Greenock, on September 21st, Allan writes to Ellis that he will be in Glasgow the same day, then gives messages which indicate that Mrs. Allan was much impressed by the Scottish visit and reveal a very human and paternal relationship between John Allan and Poe. “Thomas” is, of course, Thomas H. Ellis, Charles Ellis’s little son: “Frances says she would like the Land o’ cakes better if it was warmer and less rain. She bid me say she will write Margaret as soon as she is settled but at present she is so bewildered with wonder that she cannot write. Her best Love to Margaret and a thousand kisses to Thomas. Nancy says give my love to them all — Edgar says Pa say something for me say I was not afraid coming across the Sea. Kiss Thos. for him. We all write in best Love to my uncle & our old friends. . . . Edgars Love to Rosa and Mrs. Mackenzie.”(7)

Poe had an opportunity to see some of the historic spots in Scotland, for Allan’s letter to Ellis from London on October 10th tells him, “I arrived here on the evening of the 7th from Kilmarnock by way of Greenock, Glasgow, Edinburg, New Castle, Sheffield.” Then after expressing his dissatisfaction with the commercial situation, he continues, “Frances has been confined to her room with a bad cold — sore throat — the rest of us are well but cursedly dissatisfied.”(8) Though Allan does not mention Edgar here, a letter from Allan Fowlds to [page 67:] John Allan from Kilmarnock on October 24th(9) shows that Poe was with his foster-parents in London. On October 30th Allan gives Ellis a lively picture of the household at Southampton Row: “by a snug fire in a nice little sitting parlour in No. 47 Southampton Row, Russel [sic] Square where I have procured Lodgings for the present with Frances and Nancy Sewing and Edgar reading a little Story Book. I feel quite in a comfortable mood for writing. I have no acquaintances that call upon me and none whom as yet I call on. 6 Guineas a week furnished lodgings is what I have agreed to for 6 months until I can find a more convenient and cheaper situation. I have no compting Room yet of course, I cannot copy the Letters which I am obliged to write — every thing is high it alarms Frances she has become a complete economist and has a most lively appetite. I begin to think London will agree with her.”(10)

Allan’s letters continue to tell of Mrs. Allan’s illness, and it was probably not a happy time for anyone. There is a tradition(11) that Edgar was sent back to Irvine to the Grammar School late in 1815, but it rests on very slim evidence. On November 11th John Allan’s niece, Mary Fowlds, writes from Kilmarnock, and sends her love to “little Edgar” in London.(12) John Allan in a letter to Charles Ellis on November 15th, says, “Glad to hear my little Thomas is getting better and none more delighted than Edgar.”(13) Again on November 21st, John Allan, writing to William Holden, speaks of Mrs. Allan as almost recovered, adding “and all the rest of us are well.”(14) If Edgar had not been there with them, Allan would have simply said, “Miss Valentine.” From Kilmarnock, on January 7, 1816, Allan Fowlds in writing to Allan in London, and rebuking him for his “long silence,” sends regards to Edgar.(15) Not only do these letters leave insufficient time for a term at school in Irvine, but if all the details which some recent biographers have accepted or imagined concerning Poe’s insubordination [page 68:] at being sent back to Scotland had any basis, Allan Fowlds would certainly have spoken of Edgar’s trip if it had occurred. That none of the letters mention it is final negative proof which may dissolve another myth concerning Poe’s British stay. In fact, the whole Scottish episode has been overemphasized. If Mr. Whitty or his adaptors had seen all the unpublished letters in the Valentine Museum, they would have realized that the one month of December, 1815, was hardly sufficient for the establishment of so much speculation.

Allan evidently had made definite plans for his London branch of “Allan and Ellis,” with its inversion of the firm’s name. On November 20, 1815, he wrote to Ellis, “I told you I should stay here three years — this I gave you to understand was to remove Mrs. Allan’s reluctance. You may count upon five years without an accident — the expense of making an establishment is too heavy for a shorter period. . . . I would not stay longer on any account.”(16)

From the home correspondence of the women comes continued complaint. In a letter from Margaret Ellis in Richmond to James Nimmo, January 19, 1816, occurs the sentence, “We had a letter from Nancy Valentine a few days ago; she says they are all miserably dissatisfied with London.”(17)  March in London did not help matters apparently, for Frances Allan did not “enjoy good health,” but when Edgar is mentioned, as in the letter of March 27th, he is always well.(18) Allan writes Ellis in May, 1816, “If get through the year I hope I shall not see such another.”(19)  He had evidently, however, his private charities, for there is a note from a widow named Anne Bracken thanking him for his benevolence.(20)

Edgar’s playmates in Richmond had not forgotten him. A little girl, C. W. Poitiaux, sends love to Edgar, on May 18, 1816. “Tell him I want to see him very much. . . . Tell him Josephine and all the children want to see him very much.”(21) Sometimes the usual remembrances from John Allan to his friends are a bit more definite. On August 31, 1816, we learn that “Nancy weighs 146, Frances 104, myself 157 of good hard flesh — Edgar thin as a razor.”(22) He is mentioned as being with them in September and October, also. [page 69:]

The discouraging commercial conditions evidently did not keep Allan from attending to Edgar’s education. In London he was sent first to a boarding school, kept by the Misses Dubourg, at 146 Sloane Street in Chelsea. The first bill for tuition, dated July 6, 1816, shows not only that he was granted the privilege of a “separate bed,” but also proves that he was studying Geography, Spelling, and History. It is noteworthy, also, that he is known as “Master Allan,” which surely indicates that John Allan looked upon him at that time as a son.

Masr. Allan’s School Acct. to Midsr. 1816.

Board & Tuition ¼ year   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·      7   17   6
Separate Bed   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   1      1   0
Washing   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·      0   10   16
Seat in Church   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·      0   3   0
Teachers & Servants   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·      0   5   0
Writing   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·      0   15   0
Do. Entrance   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·      0   10   6
Copy Book, Pens, &c.   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·      0   3   0
Medicine, School Expenses   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·      0   5   0
Repairing Linen, shoe-strings, &c.   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·      0   3   0
Mavor’s Spelling   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·      0   2   0
Fresnoy’s Geography   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   0   2   0
Prayer Book   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   0   3   0
Church Catechism explained   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   0   0   9
Catechism of Hist. of England   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   0   0   9
  —–    —–    —–   
  £12   2   0 (23)

The Cash Books of the firm show that the bill was paid promptly, the receipt being signed by George Dubourg, a brother of the Misses Dubourg and a clerk in the employ of Allan and Ellis, at 18 Basinghall Street. Allan is charged with “£23 16 sh. for Miss Dubourg’s a/c for Edgar” on December 28, 1816. On August 28, 1817, he is charged with £24 16 s. “for Edgar’s School,” and while the name Dubourg is not given, the similar amount indicates that he was still there.(24)

That the school made some impression we may be sure, for Poe used the name of “Pauline Dubourg” years afterward as a laundress and one of the witnesses in the story of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

That Edgar was not completely separated from the family is shown [page 70:] by his inclusion in messages by Allan to John Galt on January 30, 1817(25) and to James Fisher on February 3rd.(26) In “a sketch of a letter intended for Mrs. Galt,” dated May 6, 1817, however, Allan states that “Edgar is at school.”(27) This may indicate intermittent attendance, return at weekends, or simply holidays.(28) This letter apparently was not sent, but it is illuminating in its revelation of the relations of John Allan and his family in Scotland. He addresses his sister as “Dear Madam,” denies that he is mean, and resents her letter which had evidently stated that he begrudged “the trifle they would have consumed during their stay.”(29) Had a proposed visit of his sister, Elizabeth, to London been avoided by John Allan? His resentment was probably justified, for a letter from Allan Fowlds on May 27, 1817, thanks him and Mrs. Allan for a box of clothes sent to the young ladies of his family. Fowlds writes also on July 28, 1817,(30) about the passage of young William Galt, who is departing for Richmond. The other branches of the family did not intend to leave the rich uncle entirely to John Allan’s influence.

There is a constant temptation to quote from John Allan’s correspondence concerning the state of England at that time, and indeed it had its definite bearing upon his own circumstance. The following passage from a letter to General John H. Cocke paints a vivid picture of a “depression” of 1817 — “you can have no idea of the distresses of this country since the termination of that long Contest which in its continuance had drenched Europe with Blood, every nation is endeavouring by salutary restrictions & in many cases interdictions to encourage their own manufactories which operates severely on this great Manufacturing Kingdom . . . thousands that depended upon this work for support are thrown out of employ or are working for wages barely sufficient to keep soul & body together. Taxes heavy, debt large, People discontented & desperate, Revenue falling off & scarcely [page 71:] a hope left of relieving the one or providing for the other. The Prince’s Carriage was attacked with stones. . . . ”(31)

There is an indication in Allan’s letters to Ellis that they should take account of stock. On January 15, 1817, he speaks of their property being worth $140,000, including Elkwood. There was some trouble at Richmond which is not made clear.(32)

Mrs. Allan continued unwell, and her husband took her to Cheltenham for the waters. Edgar was left at the school, for in a letter to George Dubourg, dated August 6, 1817, John Allan adds in a postscript, “Mrs. Allan desires her love to Edgar, she has derived great benefit from the use of the waters.”(33) A few days later Allan writes, “Enclosed is a letter for Edgar who if he writes at all, must direct his Mama as I do not think she will return with me.”(34) Mrs. Allan desired to give the waters a longer trial. The implication is clear that Edgar had been in the habit of addressing his letters to his foster-father, otherwise there would have been no occasion for John Allan to mention the matter.

It must be laid to Allan’s credit that in this gloomy time he sent Edgar to a better and more expensive school. This Manor House School was conducted by the Reverend John Bransby at Stoke Newington, then in the country, but near London. The earliest information comes from a student of the Manor House School at a later time.(35) According to Mr. Hunter, Poe profited by a friendly atmosphere, then he added: “when he left it he was able to speak the French language, construe any easy Latin author, and was far better acquainted with history and literature than many boys of a more advanced age who had had greater advantages than he had had. I spoke to Dr. Bransby about him two or three times during my school days, having then, as now, a deep admiration for his poems, a copy of which I had received as a prize for an effort in English verse. Dr. Bransby seemed rather to shun the topic, I suppose from some feelings with regard to his name being used distastefully in the story of ‘William Wilson.’ In answer to my questions on one occasion, he said, ‘Edgar Allan’ (the name Poe was known by at school) ‘was a quick and clever boy and would have been a very good boy if he had not been spoilt by his [page 72:] parents,’ meaning the Allans; ‘but they spoilt him, and allowed him an extravagant amount of pocket-money, which enabled him to get into all manner of mischief — still I liked the boy — poor fellow, his parents spoilt him!’ At another time he said, ‘Allan was intelligent, wayward, and wilful.’ This was about all that I could ever learn from him with regard to his former pupil.”

The Reverend John Bransby was born in 1784, and was educated at St. Johns College in Cambridge, where he received an M. A. in July, 1808. He was married in 1805. He seems to have begun his career in Stoke Newington in 1806, and was Lecturer of the Parish from October 27, 1814, until July 13, 1825. He was an active student of botany and a member of the Horticultural Society of Stoke Newington. He was fond of field sports, and, as the most definite account of his life indicates,(36) he had the reputation of being a good classical scholar, possessing also a fund of miscellaneous information. It is quite within the bounds of possibility that Edgar Poe, noticing how effective “miscellaneous information” may be when given offhand, took Mr. Bransby as his model later in the acquiring of all kinds of valuable odds and ends of literary and scientific knowledge.

By combining the charges recorded in the office-books of the firm, now in the Library of Congress, with actual bills in the Valentine Museum, we find a list of payments for tuition at the Manor House School as follows:

July 24, 1818 · · · · · · · · · £16 14s 3d
Xmas, 1818 · · · · · · · · ·
  (paid Jan 26, 1819)
33 2 11
Jan. 15, 1819 · · · · · · · · · 69 16 11
Feb. 1, 1820 · · · · · · · · · 70 9 6
May 26, 1820 · · · · · · · · · 35 4 10

The irregular amounts and the two bills in January, 1819, indicate that some of these payments were made on account. There are, also, smaller bills, for medical care due to an injury to Edgar’s hand, and for frequent mending of his shoes. Altogether, John Allan seems to have spent over £230 for the boy’s education from July, 1818, to May, 1820. Considering the comparative purchasing power of money then and now, it would represent today an expenditure of about $1000 a year.(37) The only detailed bill is that sent at Christmas, 1818: [page 73:]

Manor House School  
Stoke Newington, Xmas, 1818.

J. Allan Esqr
  for Masr Allan
  To the Revd John Bransby

  L S D
Board & Education · · · · · · · 23. 12. 6.
Washing £1:11:6 Single Bed £2:2:0 · · · · 3 13 6
Allowance £ 0:5:0 Pew & Chary Sermon £0:3:6 · · · 8 6
Books, Stationary, &c. · · · · · · 14 11
French · · · · · · · · ·
Dancing £2:2:0 Drawing £ — Music £ — · · · 2 2
Shoemaker £1:15:6 Taylor £ — Hairdresser £0:2:0 · · 1 17 6
Sundries · · · · · · · · · 1
Apothecary · · · · · · · · 0 13 0
 
Please to Pay Messrs. Sikes Snaith & Co, Mansion House St £33 2. 11

The vacation will terminate Jany. 25th 1819.

The significant items are those which prove that Poe was taught dancing, but not music and drawing, at least during that term; that he had a rather small allowance, which does not agree with Mr. Bransby’s remarks about his being spoiled by his parents, and that there is no charge for French, which implies that he did not take it, at least at that time. Unfortunately, the bill gives no indication of his actual studies.

The Manor House School was not the manorial building usually given in the biographies, but a more modest structure, here reproduced for the first time, from an old print.(38) The building which is [page 74:] usually reproduced stood opposite and was known as “The Laurels.”

The Manor House School is of singular interest. In his story of “William Wilson” Poe described in terms of fiction not only the place, but also its master, to whom he gave his right name of Bransby, with the addition of a “Doctor” to which the reverend gentleman seems not to be entitled. Since our interest in the school lies entirely in Poe’s connection with it, William Wilson’s own words are better than any paraphrase:

My earliest recollections of a school-life are connected with a large, rambling, cottage-built, and somewhat decayed building in a misty-looking village of England, where were a vast number of gigantic and gnarled trees, and where all the houses were excessively ancient and inordinately tall. In truth, it was a dream-like and spirit-soothing place, that venerable old town. At this moment, in fancy, I feel the refreshing chilliness of its deeply-shadowed avenues, inhale the fragrance of its thousand shrubberies, and thrill anew with undefinable delight, at the deep, hollow note of the church-bell, breaking each hour, with sullen and sudden roar, upon the stillness of the dusky atmosphere in which the old, fretted, Gothic steeple lay imbedded and asleep.

It gives me, perhaps, as much of pleasure as I can now in any manner experience, to dwell upon minute recollections of the school and its concerns. Steeped in misery as I am — misery, alas! only too real — I shall be pardoned for seeking relief, however slight and temporary, in the weakness of a few rambling details. These, moreover, utterly trivial, and even ridiculous in themselves, assume, to my fancy, adventitious importance as connected with a period and a locality, when and where I recognise the first ambiguous monitions of the destiny which afterwards so fully overshadowed me. Let me then remember.

­

John Bransby [thumbnail] Poe's School at Stoke-Newington [thumbnail]

[Illustrations facing page 74]
 
John Bransby and Poe’s school at Stoke-Newington

The house, I have said, was old, irregular, and cottage-built. The grounds were extensive, and an enormously high and solid brick wall, topped with a bed of mortar and broken glass, encompassed the whole. This prison-like rampart formed the limit of our domain; beyond it we saw but thrice a week — once every Saturday afternoon, when, attended by two ushers, we were permitted to take brief walks in a body through some of the neighbouring fields — and twice during Sunday, when we were paraded in the same formal manner to the morning and evening service [page 75:] in the one church of the village. Of this church the principal of our school was pastor. With how deep a spirit of wonder and perplexity was I wont to regard him from our remote pew in the gallery, as, with step solemn and slow, he ascended the pulpit! This reverend man, with countenance so demurely benign, with robes so glossy and so clerically flowing, with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and so vast — could this be he who of late, with sour visage, and in snuffy habiliments, administered, ferule in hand, the Draconian laws of the academy? Oh, gigantic paradox, too utterly monstrous for solution!

At an angle of the ponderous wall frowned a more ponderous gate. It was riveted and studded with iron bolts, and surmounted with jagged iron spikes. What impressions of deep awe it inspired! It was never opened save for the three periodical egressions and ingressions already mentioned; then, in every creak of its mighty hinges we found a plenitude of mystery, a world of matter for solemn remark, or for more solemn meditation.

The extensive enclosure was irregular in form, having many capacious recesses. Of these, three or four of the largest constituted the play-ground. It was level, and covered with fine, hard gravel. I well remember it had no trees, nor benches, nor anything similar within it. Of course it was in the rear of the house. In front lay a small parterre, planted with box and other shrubs; but through this sacred division we passed only upon rare occasions indeed, such as a first advent to school or final departure thence, or perhaps, when a parent or friend having called for us, we joyfully took our way home for the Christmas or Midsummer holy-days.

But the house — how quaint an old building was this! — to me how veritably a palace of enchantment! There was really no end to its windings, to its incomprehensible subdivisions. It was impossible, at any given time, to say with certainty upon which of its two stories one happened to be. From each room to every other there were sure to be found three or four steps either in ascent or descent. Then the lateral branches were innumerable — inconceivable — and so returning in upon themselves, that our most exact ideas in regard to the whole mansion were not very far different from those with which we pondered upon infinity. During the five years of my residence here I was never able to ascertain with precision, in what remote locality lay the little sleeping apartment assigned to myself and some eighteen or twenty other scholars.

The school-room was the largest in the house — I could not help thinking in the world. It was very long, narrow, and dismally low, with pointed Gothic windows and a ceiling of oak. In a remote [page 76:] and terror-inspiring angle was a square enclosure of eight or ten feet, comprising the sanctum, “during hours,” of our principal, the Reverend Dr. Bransby. It was a solid structure, with massy door, sooner than open which in the absence of the “Dominie,” we would all have willingly perished by the peine forte et dure. In other angles were two other similar boxes, far less reverenced, indeed, but still greatly matters of awe. One of these was the pulpit of “the classical” usher, one of the “English and mathematical.” Interspersed about the room, crossing and recrossing in endless irregularity, were innumerable benches and desks, black, ancient, and time-worn, piled desperately with much-bethumbed books, and so beseamed with initial letters, names at full length, meaningless gashes, grotesque figures, and other multiplied efforts of the knife, as to have entirely lost what little of original form might have been their portion in days long departed. A huge bucket with water stood at one extremity of the room, and a clock of stupendous dimensions at the other.(39)

This passage is, of course, fiction, and adds elements not to be traced to the Manor House School. Certainly Bransby seems to be unfairly represented, and the portrait of the clergyman is probably an imaginary one, or at least a composite of the rectors under whom Poe sat during his boyhood. The gloom and mystery are also, of course, exaggerated, but it is important to note that his method of creating mystery by the denial of the ordinary and the normal, has its roots in these school days in the atmosphere of a town long established and fairly rich with tradition. “William Wilson” was not published, it is true, until 1839, but there is a reality in the picture Poe paints of his early sensations which convinces us that these spiritual and intellectual echoes arise from impressions made so deeply in his childhood that they lay ever ready for his call. “There was really no end to its windings. . . . It was impossible . . . to say with certainty upon which of its two stories one happened to be — I was never able to ascertain with precision, in what remote locality lay the little sleeping apartment assigned to myself . . . . ” The italics are mine, but the method is clear, even without them. It does not need an earlier sentence in the story to tell us that it was “in this period and locality” that Poe first recognized the destiny which was to be his.

It is not hard to visualize the boy, eager, receptive to the overtones [page 77:] that pass others by, letting his mind wander from the Latin or mathematics, to dramatize the rooms and corridors of the old building until their outlines faded and he entered them not as they were, but as his fancy endowed them with the colors of romance. William Wilson remarks himself how little there really was to remember, but how these trivial incidents “by a mental sorcery long forgotten, were made to involve a wilderness of sensation, a world of rich incident, an universe of varied emotion, of excitement the most passionate and spirit-stirring. ‘Oh, le bon temps, que ce siècle de fer!”

The years from six to eleven of a boy’s life are also those in which the conscience begins its activity. The finer the nature, the keener will be the self-accusations, the more exaggerated the sense of guilt for the peccadilloes of childhood. It is just at that age that a boy needs the sympathetic understanding of a father, and even more, that of a mother. It is not unreasonable to believe that Poe, looking back upon these days, should remember how little help was given him in this regard. In any event, he chose for the theme of one of his greatest stories the career of a boy whose conscience was so active that it became a living human figure, sent to combat the progress of evil in a human soul.

On September 20, 1817, John Allan returned from Cheltenham to London and engaged lodgings until he could obtain possession of 39 Southampton Row,(40) a number used by Poe in his story “How the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling.” The family is not frequently mentioned in his letters to Ellis, but on June 23, 1818, Allan tells his partner that “Frances has had an attack of catarrh. Nancy is so attentive a nurse, she hasn’t time to visit her friends.”(41) Yet on June 25th he sends another letter describing “a grand dinner party on board the ‘Philip Tabb.’ Mrs. Allan was in great spirits and received the ladies up and down the decks.”(42) Edgar, who was at Bransby’s School, is not often mentioned. On September 28, 1818, however, Allan, in writing to his uncle, says: “Edgar is growing wonderfully and enjoys a good reputation as both able and willing to receive instruction.”(43)

Mrs. Allan’s health continued apparently to be the prime concern of all. One of the two letters from her that are extant and one that has only recently become available, is sent from her to her husband, from [page 78:] Dawlish, in Devonshire, on October 15, 1818, addressed curiously enough, to 16[sic] Basinghall Street, instead of to Southampton Row. I have not attempted to modify her spelling:

Dawlish, Octr 15 [1818]

My dear hubby

Your kind letter of the 13 was received this morning and you will perceive I have lost no time in replying to it, however pleasant a duty it may be I fear it will be long ere I shall write with any facility or ease to myself, as I fiend you are determined to think my health better contrary to all I say it will be needless for me to say more on that subject but be assured I embrace every opportunity that offers for takeing air and exercies but at this advanced seasons of the year we cant expect the weather to be very good I am this moment interupted with a message from Mrs. Dunlop requesting I would accompany her in a ride which I shall accept the Carriage is now at the door

Friday morning Octr 16

we had a very long and pleasant ride we started at two o’clock and did not return until six the day was remarkably fine we had a beautyfull view of the surrounding Cuntry we had a smart Beau with us who arrived here from London a few days ago I was very much pressed to go to the ball last night and nothing prevented me from going but the want of a little finery so you and the Doctr may lay aside some of your consequence for I really think you have a great deal of Vanity to immagien you are the cause of all my misery, I only wish my health would admit of my entering into all the gaieties of this place I would soon let you see I could be as happy and contented without you as you appear to be in my absence as I hear of nothing but partyes at home and abroad but long may the Almighty grant my dear husband health and spirits to enjoy them

now I must request my dear hubby to get me a nice piece of sheeting and a piece of shirting Cotton as they will be much wanted when I return tell Nancy she must get Abbatt to put up the tester and drapery to my bed and the parlour window Curtains to have the bedroom floors well cleaned before the Carpets are put down Miss G is very well and joins me in kind love to you the girls the Doctr Mrs Rennolds & all friends and believe me my

dear old man yours truely

FRANCES K. ALLAN

(Endorsed on back: “F. K. Allan
  Octr 15, 1818.”)(44) [page 79:]

Edgar is not mentioned in her remembrances. It seems, not to be unjust to Mrs. Allan, to be the letter of a woman whose main concern is with her own feelings. Another letter from Dawlish on October 24th, from Jane Galt to Mary Allan, who was visiting her brother in London, tells about the same story: “Mrs. Allan seems to dread very much the returning to London as she will enter it about the first of Nov. I think she regrets leaving this part of the country. Mr. Dunlop has been persuading her to remain here for some time, he will leave her in charge of two beaus who winter here, Major Court and Captain Donnell who he is sure will take good care of her and he would take a nice little cottage for her. What do you think of that arrangement dont you think we plan very well?”(45)

They were in Tydemouth, Devonshire, on October 27th, according to Jane,(46)  and Mrs. Allan was apparently back in London on November 28, 1818,(47) but there is no mention of Edgar. A Mr. Birch, who may have been their landlord, writes to urge payment for the rent, and usually the letters are purely business ones throughout the first part of 1819. Mrs. Allan was evidently planning another flight, for a letter to Allan on November 21, 1819, from Brighton tells of an agent searching for a house “for Mrs. Allan and another lady to stay.” At last, after a long silence concerning his son, John Allan writes to his uncle, “Edgar is in the Country at School, he is a verry fine Boy and a good scholar.”(48)

Business grew worse and on November 29, 1819, Allan writes to “Messrs. Ellis and Allan”: “Please to bear in mind that I have only about £100 here in the world, and I depend upon you.”(49) Allan was thinking about his return as early as December, for he tells Ellis, “Frances has the greatest aversion to the sea and nothing but dire necessity and the prospect of a reunion with her old and dear Friends could induce her to attempt it.” He also tells Ellis that he cannot return until he receives some cash.(50) On December 4, 1819, Ellis and Allan write to Ewart Myers and Company from Richmond, speaking of their suspension and of their efforts to pay their creditors. Apparently the firm did their best to meet their obligations honorably.(51) [page 80:]

On writing to his uncle on January 28, 1820, Allan tells him that “you are among the few that Edgar recollects perfectly.”(52)

The family arrived in Liverpool on their return journey, June 8, 1820. From Liverpool Allan writes to Ellis:

I arrived here last Evening and I am told that the Courier with about 40 Sail of other vessels are detained at the Black Rock & supposing she may get off tomorrow I will try to get this on board. . . . The arrival of the Queen(53) produced an unexpected sensation few thought she would return, but the bold & courageous manner by which she effected it has induced a vast number to think her not guilty. She was received with immense acclamations & the Populace displaced her horses drew her past Canton House & thence to Alderman Wood’s House. South Audley. The Same day the King made a Communication to the House of Lords charging her with High Treason (adul[ter]y) some said she had been arrested on Wednesday & sent to the Tower but I think this report then premature though equally certain in a few days;

The Martha Capt. Sketchly will not sail before Wednesday next the 14th int. I have made arrangements for all the Goods you ordered. In consequence of the Tariff Bill being rejected many purchasers have ass’d had it passed it would have ruined the trade. Mrs. Allan is in better Health than usual Ann is quite well so is Edgar. I for myself never was better.”

It was probably on this boat, the Martha, that John Allan brought his family home.(54)

On the whole, it was fortunate for Poe that he had the experience of the English visit. It tended later to remove the provinciality which is the inevitable handicap of those whose vision has been limited to their native land. If the English education was limited in scope, it was probably thorough, and it may have contributed to that quality of Poe’s mind which is best described as disciplined. Less tangible, of course, is the effect produced by the architecture, the public monuments, the survivals of past ages, which cannot have passed unnoticed by a boy like Edgar Poe.


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 65:]

(1)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 144.

(2)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 144.

(3)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 144.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 66:]

(4)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 145.

(5)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 145.

(6)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 146.

(7)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Poe Volume.

(8)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 147.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 67:]

(9)  E. V. Valentine Collection, Richmond.

(10)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 147.

(11)  The foundation of this account is J. H. Whitty’s interpretation of Major John Allan Galt’s reminiscences of his father, James Galt, who came from Scotland to Richmond later. The article by Lewis Chase on “Poe’s Playmates in Kilmarnock,” Athenaeum, 4611 [[sic]] (November, 1916), 554, containing the statement of John Haggo concerning the memories of the late James Anderson, who knew Poe, refers clearly to the first visit.

(12)  E. V. Valentine Collection.

(13)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 148.

(14)  E. V. Valentine Collection.

(15)  E. V. Valentine Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 68:]

(16)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 148.

(17)  T. H. Ellis Ms., Valentine Collection.

(18)  E. V. Valentine Collection.

(19)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 158.

(20)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 158.

(21)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 158.

(22)  Ellis-Allan Letter Books, 1815-1817, L. of C.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 69:]

(23)  Cash Books, 1815-1817, L. of C.

(24)  The late Kills Campbell first discovered these accounts, which I have checked with the Cash Books for 1815-1817 in the Library of Congress. See The Dial, 60 (February 17, 1916), 143, for Campbell’s account.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 70:]

(25)  E. V. Valentine Collection.

(26)  E. V. Valentine Collection.

(27)  E. V. Valentine Collection.

(28)  Ingram, I, 12, states on authority of Mrs. Clemm via Neilson Poe that Edgar came home on Fridays, returning to the school on Mondays. Ingram believed this statement to refer to Bransby’s School, but it is more likely to refer to the Dubourg School, which was nearer to 47 Southampton Row.

(29)  E. V. Valentine Collection. The letter, in John Allan’s hand, is not signed. It is evidently a draft of a letter which was not sent, or, possibly, a copy of one really forwarded.

(30)  E. V. Valentine Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 71:]

(31)  E. V. Valentine Collection, February 3, 1817.

(32)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 171.

(33)  Autograph Ms., W. H. Koester Collection.

(34)  E. V. Valentine Collection, August 14, 1817.

(35)  William Elijah Hunter, “Poe and his English Schoolmaster,” Athenaeum, 2,260 (October 19, 1878), 496-497.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 72:]

(36)  For the facts concerning John Bransby, see Lewis Chase, “John Bransby, Poe’s School Master,” Athenaeum, 4,605 (May, 1916), 221-222.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 72, continuing to the bottom of page 73:]

(37)  There is a gap between the last payment for Dubourg’s School in August, 1817, and the first for Bransby’s in July, 1818, so that the estimate [page 73:] is not excessive. Probably at least one bill has been lost. I have had to depend on Killis Campbell for the charges derived from the “office books” in the Library of Congress as given by him in The Sewanee Review article, p. 206. A diligent search among the office books fails to find these items. However, since Dr. Campbell is one of the Poe scholars on whose accuracy one may depend, the figures may be taken as correct. The bills from the Valentine Collection are contained in an envelope in the possession of Mr. Granville G. Valentine, and have been checked. They have been published in the Valentine Letters, pp. 319-329.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 73, continuing to the bottom of page 74:]

(38)  Dr. Gegenheimer secured in 1938 from Mr. Charles Blackmore, antiquarian in Stoke Newington, a photograph made while the old building was [page 74:] still standing. It was originally surrounded by extensive grounds, but had been encroached upon by more recent structures. The error arose in part through Poe’s inclusion in “William Wilson” of some features of the house across the way.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 76:]

(39)  Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, I, 29-33. This text is, in my judgment, to be preferred to later ones for the purposes of this quotation, as Poe changed the description slightly in later versions.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 77:]

(40)  Autograph Ms. Letter, John Allan to George Dubourg, September 12, 1817. W. H. Koester Collection.

(41)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 196.

(42)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 196.

(43)  Letter Books, 1817-1820, L. of C.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 78:]

(44)  E. V. Valentine Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 79:]

(45)  E. V. Valentine Collection.

(46)  E. V. Valentine Collection.

(47)  EIlis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 203.

(48)  Letter-Books, 1819-1820, L. of C.

(49)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 219.

(50)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 219.

(51)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 219.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 80:]

(52)  E. V. Valentine Collection.

(53)  Queen Charlotte, the wife of George IV.

(54)  Ellis-Allan Papers, L. of C., Vol. 224.


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Notes:

None.


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[S:1 - EAP:ACB, 1941] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: A Critical Biography (A. H. Quinn) (Chapter 03)