Text: Thomas H. Ellis, “Edgar Allan Poe,” Richmond Standard, May 7, 1881, p. 2, cols. 3-5


­[page 2, column 3, continued:]

Edgar Allan Poe.

To the Editor of The Standard:

413 W. Randolph St., Chicago. }
April 22nd, 1881. }

Dear Sir, — A letter, which I have received from my brother Charles this evening, informs me of the illness of Mrs. Louisa G. Allan, the widow of my father’s former partner in business, and the friend of my father’s family for more than fifty years past. It is not improbable that before this communication reaches you or before the next ensuing issue of your paper, she will have attained the end of her appointed time; in which case, I request you to publish what I have now to say, in THE RICHMOND STANDARD. This request is made in order that I may perform an act of justice to one of the most admirable ladies I have ever known.

My father, the late Charles Ellis, of Richmond, and Mr. John Allan were raised as clerks together in the store of Mr. Wm. Galt, who was the most successful merchant of his day in Virginia, and at his death, perhaps the wealthiest man in the State. In the year 1800, Charles Ellis and John Allan, encouraged thereto by Mr. Galt, who was an uncle of Mr. Allan, formed a mercantile partnership, under the firm name of Ellis & Allan, which continued until it was dissolved, by mutual consent, in 1824; their warm personal friendship was dissolved only by the death of Mr. Allan, in 1834.

Mr. Allan’s first wife, Frances Keeling Valentine, of Princess Anne Co., Va., was a cousin of my mother, who was a native of Norfolk and who, when a young lady, spent two or three winters in Richmond, as the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Allan. They were exceedingly partial to her and it was during her visits to them that my father made her acquaintance. From the period of my father’s marriage and as long as he lived, there was as much intimacy between his family and Mr. Allan’s, as probably between any two other families in Richmond.

On the 8th of Dec., 1811, Mrs. Poe, “one of the actresses of the company (then) playing on the Richmond boards,” died in Richmond, leaving three children. Wm. Henry, the eldest son, was adopted by his grandfather, Mr. Poe, of Baltimore, but died young. He was said to have been a youth of much promise. The second son, (born Jan. 19, 1809,) was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Allan. The name of Edgar Allan was given him in baptism, by the Rev. Dr. John Buchanan. The third child, a daughter, was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Mackenzie and the name Rose Mackenzie given her. The death of Mrs. Poe occurred eighteen days before the burning of the Richmond Theatre; and it is not improbable that Mr. and Mrs. Allan would have been present on that occasion but for the circumstance that they were spending the Christmas holidays at Mr. Bowles Cocke’s, at Turkey Island, with Edgar.

The business of Ellis & Allan so prospered that at the close of the war of 1812, with Great Britain, they determined to establish a branch house in London, under the firm name of Allan & Ellis, to be in charge of Mr. Allan. For that purpose he went to England in the summer of 1815, and resided there about five years, having with him his wife, his sister-in-law, Miss Anne M. Valentine, and his adopted son. On his return, his own house having been leased so that he could not get possession of it, he and his family resided with my father’s family, at the corner of Franklin and Second streets, for nearly a year. It was then and there that my recollections of Edgar A. Poe began.

No boy ever had a greater influence over me than he had. He was, indeed, a leader among boys; but my admiration for him scarcely knew bounds; the consequence was, he led me to do many things for which I was punished. The only [column 4:] whipping I ever knew Mr. Allan to give him was for carrying me out into the fields and woods beyond Belvidere, one Saturday, and keeping me there all day and until after dark, without anybody at home knowing where we were, and for shooting a lot of domestic fowls belonging to the proprietor of Belvidere, (who was, I think, at that time, Judge Bushrod Washington). He taught me to shoot, to swim and to skate, to play bandy, &c.; and I ought to mention that he once saved me from drowning — for having thrown me into the Falls headlong, that I might “strike out” for myself, he presently found it necessary to come to my help, or it would have been too late.

Mr. and Mrs. Allan, having no child of their own, lavished upon him their whole affection; he was sent to the best schools, he was taught every accomplishment that a boy could acquire, he was trained to all the habits of the most polished Society. There was not a brighter, more beautiful and graceful, or more attractive boy in the city than Edgar Allan Poe. Talent for declamation was one of his gifts. I well remember a public exhibition at the close of a course of instruction in elocution which he had attended, (in the old frame building that stood high above the present grade of Governor Street, at the southwest corner of Governor and Franklin Streets,) and my delight when he bore off the prize from Channing Moore, Cary Wickham, Andrew Johnston, Nat Howard and others, who were regarded as among the most promising of the Richmond boys.

In February, 1826, he was entered as a student at the University of Va. There he fell into gambling and dissipation, squandered a large amount of money, and became so reckless that Mr. Allan went up to Charlottesville, enquired into his ways, paid every debt that he thought ought to be paid, and refusing to pay some gambling debts, (which Mr. James Galt told me, in his life time, amounted to about $2,500,) brought Edgar away, in the month of December following, and for a time kept him in Ellis & Allan’s counting room (where they were engaged in winding up their old business,) thus attempting to give him some knowledge of bookkeeping, accounts and commercial correspondence.

It is no part of the object of this communication to speak harshly of Edgar A. Poe. There was a time doubtless, when if he had been told that he would do so and so, he would have exclaimed with the indignation of the prophet of old: “What! Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great evil?” But, whatever may have been the particulars of his conduct towards Mr. and Mrs. Allan, her friends believe that his ingratitude, falsehood and deceptions contributed to her death, on the 28th of February, 1828.

Mr. Allan’s second wife was Miss Louisa Gabriella Patterson, of New York, to whom he was married Oct. 5, 1830. She never saw Edgar Poe but twice in her life. The account I have heard of her first meeting him was this:

A short time previous to Mr. Allan’s death, on the 27th of March, 1834, he was greatly distressed by dropsy, was unable to lie down and sat in an arm-chair night and day; several times a day, by the advice of his physician, he walked across the room for exercise, leaning on his cane and assisted by his wife and a man-servant. During this illness of her husband, Mrs. Allan was, on an occasion, passing through the halls of this house, when hearing the front doorbell ring, she opened the door herself. A man of remarkable appearance stood there and without giving his name asked if he could see Mr. Allan. She replied that Mr. Allan’s condition was such that his physicians had prohibited any person from seeing him except his nurses. The man was Edgar A. Poe, who was, of course, perfectly familiar with the house. Thrusting her aside and without noticing her reply, he passed rapidly upstairs to Mr. Allan’s chamber, followed by Mrs. Allan. As soon as he entered the Chamber Mr. Allan raised his cane, and threatening to strike him if he came within his reach, ordered him out; upon which Poe withdrew and that was the last time they ever met.

I have forgotten the particulars of the other occasion on which she saw him, but my impression is that it was after Mr. Allan’s death; that she was sitting at one of the front windows of her chamber and seeing him enter the gate and walk towards the door, sent her chamber-maid down to say that she begged to be excused from receiving him.

But in reference to the main point at which I am aiming, I will use her own words.

About ten years ago, a gentleman who was preparing a biography of Poe wrote to me requesting my reminiscences of Poe and a recital of any incidents I might be able to recall connected with him. Thinking it a suitable opportunity to correct misstatements relating to both Poe and Mrs. Allan, in all the biographies of Poe I had seen, I wrote to her asking several questions, to which she replied but briefly, and moreover requested that nothing should be said of her in such a connection. For this reason I did not prepare the communication I had thought of, but will now make an extract from her letter.

“As regards Edgar Poe, of my own knowledge I know nothing. I only saw him twice; but all I heard of him from those who had lived with him was a tissue of ingratitude, fraud and deceit. Mr. Poe had not lived under my husband’s roof for two years before my marriage and no one knew his whereabouts. His letters, which were very scarce, were dated from St. Petersburg, Russia, although he had enlisted in the army at Boston. After he became tired of army life, he wrote to his benefactor, expressing a desire to have a substitute if the money could be sent to him; Mr. Allan sent it; Poe spent it; and after the substitute was tired out waiting and getting letters and excuses, he (the substitute) enclosed one of Poe’s letters to Mr. Allan, which was too black to be credited, if it had not contained the author’s signature. Mr. Allan sent the money to the man and banished Poe from his affections and he never lived here again. I must say, in justice, I never influenced Mr. Allan against him in the slightest degree; indeed I would not have presumed to have interfered or advised concerning him. Poe was never spoken of between us.”

From the foregoing statement I think all must admit that Mrs. Louisa G. Allan is in no degree responsible for the estrangement that existed between Mr. Allan and his adopted son, or for Mr. Allan’s refusal to be reconciled, after the son had been several times before taken back and renewed efforts made for his improvement and advantage.

Having reached this point, let me say something further about her and her family. Mrs. Allan’s father was John W. Patterson, a lawyer of New York City, of fine attainments and good practice, an accomplished Latin, Greek and French scholar, speaking the French language with fluency and purity. He was educated at Londonderry, Ireland. Her grandfather was John Patterson, who anterior to the Revolution, was a Captain in the British Army; but quit that service, espoused the American cause, and I believe was the first United States Collector of the Port of Phila. His wife was Catharine Livingston, of Livingston Manor, which embraced Columbia and several adjacent counties in New York. As late as 1825 many of the lineal descendants of the original Livingstons continued to live in the villages of Claverick and Johnstown, a few miles back of the City of Hudson. General Harry Livingston, brother to Catharine, is mentioned in Revolutionary History. There was another brother commonly called “Oak Hill” John, after whom Johnstown was named. These Livingstons were English; the originals were granted manorial rights and possessions under the laws of Elizabeth, because of their colonizing the American possessions of Great Britain.

Mrs. Allan’s mother was Louisa De Hart, youngest daughter of John De Hart and Sarah Dagworthy, of the ancient borough of Elizabeth, New Jersey. John De Hart was a lawyer and a member of the First Colonial Congress from New Jersey. The father of Sarah Dagworthy was an English Army officer.

Mrs. Allan’s only sister, Lucy, married Captain Thomas Mann Randolph, of Tuckahoe, Va. One of Mrs. Randolph’s daughters, Louisa, married, you know, Mr. George W. Mayo, of Richmond, a son of Mr. Edward C. Mayo, who was the son of Colonel John Mayo, of Bellville, whose wife, Abigail De Hart, was an aunt of Mrs. Allan and the mother of the distinguished beauty and belle, Mrs. General Winfield Scott. It was while Mrs. Allan was on a visit to her aunt at Bellville, that she first met Mr. Allan.

All the ladies of this family whom I have known, notably Mrs. Mayo, of Bellville, Mrs. Patterson and Mrs. Allan, were remarkable for the strength and firmness of their character, their self-reliance and excellent sense, as well as for fine physical development.

Out of eight brothers who grew to manhood, one is living — Mr. Henry Livingston Patterson, of St. Louis. When I knew him in New York, many years ago, he was one of the handsomest men I ever saw, with a splendid voice specially suited to the business in which he was then engaged, that of a drygoods auctioneer, in connection with the large house of Austin, Wilmerding & Co. He married Miss Hunt, of St. Louis, and has long resided there, a wealthy and prominent citizen.

Mrs. Allan had three children, John, Wm. Galt and Patterson. To the careful training and education of these children she devoted herself with rare assiduity. The two eldest, when sufficiently advanced to leave home, were placed under the Rev. Dr. Muhlenberg, at his school near Flushing, New York; from there, they were sent to the Rev. Mr. Van Bokkelin, in Maryland; afterwards were advantageously placed at school among their Allan relations in Scotland and then entered at the University of Virginia. In order to be near them during their collegiate course, she removed to Charlottesville temporarily, placing Patterson at a preparatory school near by. When all three had passed through the University, she took them to Europe, spending eighteen months, or two years in travel. It was whilst in Rome that Patterson, the youngest, married a lady of Cincinnati; but this marriage was never congenial to her. John, subsequent to his return from Europe, married Miss Henrietta Hoffman, a charming lady and highly accomplished, the only child of Mr. Wm. Henry Hoffman, of Baltimore, by whom he had two children, now surviving, — Hoffman and Louisa Gabrielle: these young representatives of the house have been a special solace and comfort to their grandmother of late years. Their father, who as the Adjutant of a Cavalry Regiment in the Confederate service had evinced decided military talent, was killed on the retreat from the battle at Gettysburg, July 5, 1863. Never shall I forget the grief of Mrs. Allan when she sent for me [column 5:] to come to see her, on receiving the news of John’s death! William, after the war in which he continuously served, married his brother John’s widow, but died without issue. Patterson is also dead, leaving among other children, a daughter, Genevieve, who is said to possess, like her mother, special talent for Music and Art.

It is impossible that any lady could have performed more scrupulously and becomingly all the proprieties of widowhood than Mrs. Allan has done since the death of her husband, full seven and forty years ago. Her home has been, unvaryingly, one of elegance [and] hospitality. And I am persuaded the whole community of Richmond would, if necessary, rise up in her praise as a lady of whom any community might be proud. For many years she has been a communicant of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond.

One fact deserves prominent mention — the protection, kindness and support, which Mrs. Allan gave, without stint or abatement until dispensed with by death, to Miss Valentine, the maiden sister of Mr. Allan’s first wife — a lady widely known for her cheerfulness, humor, buoyancy and wit. Mr. Allan had made provision for her in his will, but the home of her heart she found under Mrs. Allan’s sheltering roof. She died on the 23d of January, 1850, in the sixty-third year of her age. Mrs. Allan was in her eighty-second year at the time of her death.

Praying you to accept this imperfect tribute to her worth from a long absent friend, I am truly yours,




A clipping of this article survives in the Ingram Collection at the University of Virginia (item 817), from which the text was reproduced by J. A. Harrison in 1907.


[S:0 - RS, 1881 (I)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Edgar Allan Poe (Thomas H. Ellis, 1881)