Text: Arthur Hobson Quinn, “Appendix 04,” Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (1941), pp. 730-731


[page 730:]

IV. The Poe Family In Norfolk In 1811

Much as I would like to establish the presence of David Poe, Jr., in Norfolk in 1811, as given by Mrs. Weiss, Home Life of Poe, pp. 1-4, her account, based upon the recollections of her mother, must be disregarded. Mrs. Weiss begins:

“ ‘At this time,’ continued my mother, ‘we were living on Main Street, and my uncle, Dr. Robert Butt, of the House of Burgesses, lived close by, on Burmuda [sic] Street.’ ” She then proceeds to draw the picture of Mr. and Mrs. Poe, the two children, and an “old Welsh nurse,” whom she declares was Mrs. Poe’s mother, as living next door to Dr. Butt.

Seldom has one sentence contained so many errors. The statement of Mr. Marshall W. Butt, Genealogist, of Portsmouth, Virginia, to the present writer, is conclusive:

(a) Virginia had no legislative body in the year 1811 known as the “House of Burgesses,” this body having been succeeded, after the Revolution, by the “General Assembly.” (See the journals of both bodies.)

(b) No person named Robert Butt sat as a member of the House of Burgesses of Virginia at any time. (See the “Journals of the House of Burgesses,” published by the Virginia State Library, of which I have a complete set.)

(c) There is no family tradition and, to my knowledge, no official nor private record to the effect that a Robert Butt ever resided in Norfolk — Borough, Town or City. (My investigations of this name have been exhaustive.)

Robert Butt, my great, great, grandfather, died in 1803 (Nfk, County Will Bk. 4, pg. 18). He was not a doctor but a farmer living in Norfolk County (Nfk. County deeds and family records). He represented Norfolk County in the General Assembly of Virginia for the sessions of 1792, 1794, and 1799/1800. (See official records of this body.) He married first, Miss Tucker (from whom I descend) and secondly, Miss Sylvester, who was related to a family named Archer (family records). Mrs. Weiss’ mother was, I believe, a Miss Archer. By his first wife, Robert Butt became father of one child, a son, Robert Bruce Butt, who was a physician [page 731:] but who, in 1811, was only twenty-two years old and unmarried. He was never a member of the General Assembly nor did he ever live in Norfolk. His home, in Portsmouth, is still standing. I am quite positive there were no other Robert Butts living in this vicinity at the time and must conclude that Mrs. Weiss or her mother or both were mistaken.

Very sincerely,




In the original, the section title is given in all capitals. For the sake of conformity, it has been rendered here in upper and lower case.


[S:1 - EAP:ACB, 1941] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - E. A. P.: A Critical Biography (A. H. Quinn) (Appendix 04)