Text: George E. Woodberry, “Appendix A-01,” The Life of Edgar Allan Poe: Personal and Literary (1909), vol. II, pp. 359-365


[page 359, unnumbered:]




No. ii Cathedral Street, BALTIMORE, MD.

May 28, 1884.

Dear Sir, — So much delay has taken place in my answering your letter of the 5th instant that I think I ought to make an explanation of it.

At the time of the receipt of your letter I happened to be specially engaged with matters of some urgency; but as soon as I could conveniently do so I looked into the old mercantile books of Ellis & Allan with the view to furnish you the information you desired. Before I was able to give you the result of my examination, however, I was called to Baltimore, where I expect hereafter to reside, and since my arrival in this city my engagements have been such as to prevent my writing such a letter as I had contemplated.

I will now give you, as nearly as I could ascertain, the dates of Mr. Allan’s departure for England and his return to Richmond.

On the 17th of June, 1815, John Allan is charged in the Cash Account of Ellis & Allan with £335.10.6 paid him, and on the same day with 2s. 3d. paid for drayage of his baggage, and on the 2ist of June with 125. paid for boatage of his baggage; and on the 1st of July he is credited with £2.11.9 sent back by him in a letter from the Capes. My conclusion from these entries is that he [page 360:] went on board of a ship in James River (with his wife, Mrs. Frances Keeling Allan, his sister-in-law, Miss Anne Moore Valentine, and his adopted son, Edgar Allan Poe) on or about the 17th of June, 1815; and I believe the name of the ship was the Lothair.

From various entries it appears that he furnished his own stores for the voyage, which were in part purchased in Richmond, and in part sent to him from Norfolk, as he passed through Hampton Roads, by the firm of Moses Myers & Sons.

There was a sale of some of his household furniture and effects made before he left Richmond, by the auction and commission house of Moncure, Robinson & Pleasants. Among other small bills and accounts paid for him, and charged to his account after his departure, was one of Fitzwhylsonn & Potter, booksellers, in which I noticed these items: One “Olive Branch,” one “Murray’s Reader,” two “Murray’s Spelling Books”; cost for the four books 16s. 6d.; which I doubt not were intended for Edgar Poe’s instruction on the voyage.

The letter book of Ellis & Allan shows letters written for the firm by John Allan, dated in Richmond, August 5, 1820, to John Noble, of London, Ewart, Myers & Co., Liverpool, Charles Denny, Glasgow, and to William Taylor, Thomas S. Coles, and A. Saltmarsh (who were the “Inspectors” of Allan & Ellis), London. The last-mentioned letter contains this passage: “Our Mr. Allan arrived here a few days ago, and we hasten to enclose you Messrs. John & William Gilliat’s first of exchange of set No. i, on Messrs. John Gilliat & Co., London, of this date, at sixty days after sight, for one thousand pounds sterling; which we have no doubt will be duly honoured; being for the General Fund; and we shall remit you at [page 361:] least £4000 more in the course of this month.” [Which promise was complied with by further remittances on the 10th, 18th, and 28th days of the same month, and an additional £5000 Stg. sent in October following.]

On the 19th of August, 1820, is a letter, copied in the letter book, from John Allan to Maitland & Coles, London, in which he says, “I arrived at this place” [Richmond] “on the 2d instant”; and on the 22d of August another letter from him, to William Taylor, of London, in which he says, “I arrived at New York on the 2ist of July after a passage of thirty-six days.” [The ocean, he adds, was very rough during the greater part of their voyage, and Mrs. Allan and Miss Valentine suffered exceedingly from sea-sickness. They all complained of the extreme heat which they found on their arrival in New York.]

After Mr. Allan’s return to Richmond, he, his wife, Miss Valentine, and Edgar Poe spent the greater part of the first year with my father at his residence on the south west corner of Franklin and 2d streets. After that, he occupied a long low frame house with dormer windows, fronting west, on 5th Street, with Bishop Moore, Mr. James Brown, Jr., Dr. James Greenhow, and other well-known gentlemen, as his neighbors. At a later day he occupied a house which in the mean time had been left to him by his uncle, Mr. William Gait [who died March 26, 1823], situated at the northwest corner of 14th Street and Tobacco Alley, fronting what is now the west side of the Exchange Hotel; but the building has been greatly changed of late years, and at present it is remarkable for its unusual height and slender proportions. While living there he bought the house at the intersection of Main and 5th streets, — the southeast corner, — which was built [page 362:] by Mr. David Meade Randolph, bought by Mr. Joseph Gallego, and occupied by the last-named gentleman until his death, in 1818. In 1822 Mr. John Richard became the purchaser of it, at $19,100, but Mr. Richard dying, in 1824, before he had completed his payments for it and before a title had been made to him, it was sold by his executrix, at public auction, and bought by John Allan for the price of $14,950, the conveyance to him being made by Peter Joseph Chevallie, as surviving executor of the last will and testament of Joseph Gallego de ceased, and Mary Richard, as executrix of the last will and testament of John Richard deceased, and dated June the 28th, 1825. From the time of Mr. Gallego’s death until it was taken possession of by Mr. Allan, it was occupied by Mr. Peter J. Chevallie, whose beautiful, grace ful, and most accomplished daughter, Miss Sallie Magee Chevallie, married afterwards Mr. Abraham Warwick, an intimate friend of Mr. Allan.

At the time of Mr. Allan’s purchase the house had not much more than one half of its present front; a large addition having been made to it, by the late Mrs. Louisa G. Allan, after the death of her husband, and when her three sons were growing up, with tastes for gay and fashionable society, in which their mother (but always with admirable taste and good judgment) participated with them.

In the old house, the small room on the right as you enter the spacious hall from the front door was the morning-reception and tea room; the large octagon room on that floor, with its entrance fronting the front door, was the dining-room; the octagon room, of the same size, upstairs, was the parlor; Mr. Allan’s chamber was on the parlor floor, in the front of the house, over the hall and [page 363:] over the front door, with windows looking into the front yard; on the north side of the house, upstairs, upon the parlor floor, were three chambers — one occupied by Miss Valentine, one by Edgar Poe, and one for guests; Edgar’s, if I mistake not, was the one with a window fronting east and another window fronting north: and this was before the Second Baptist Church was built, or any other house on Mr. Allan’s square, or any house on the square next below, except Dr. Nelson’s and the one adjoining it at the southwest corner of Main and;th streets, and before Messrs. Fleming and Joseph S. James had built their fine residences on the north side of Main Street between 6th and yth; so that he had an unobstructed view of the city (including the capitol) lying east of 6th Street, and an extensive view of James River, of Manchester on the south side of the river, and of the country stretching on either side of the river, into both Henrico and Chesterfield counties. On the south side of the house there was an unusually large portico extending the full depth of the house, and into which you easily passed, when downstairs, from both the reception room and the dining-room, and, when upstairs, from both Mr. Allan’s chamber and the parlor. This portico was in deed, and is, the grand feature of the house; and was as much used, in all favorable weather, for both family and company purposes, as any portion of the house. It was the delight of all boys and girls, who were either intimate enough to run in at all times, or who were invited to entertainments there; for there was a splendid swing securely fastened to the top of the upper portico, and Mr. Allan, who was fond of astronomy, had brought with him from England a fine telescope, through which his young friends (and no man was fonder of children [page 364:] than he) many a time looked with wondering eyes. The garden below was a double one, being for vegetables on the east side of the house, and for fruits, flowers, and shrubbery on the south side. Mr. Gallego was a native of Andalusia, and being, perhaps, naturally fond of grapes, and the slope of the hill being a favorable exposure for them, and the soil and location also suitable for figs and raspberries, these three fruits I recollect grew there in abundance and to perfection.

At that time there were but few houses in the immediate neighborhood; my father-in-law, Mr. Thomas Taylor (whose oldest daughter, Mary, married Mr. William Gait, Jr., a cousin of Mr. Allan s), lived at the corner immediately in front (the southwest corner of Main and 5th streets), and he owned that entire square; Mr. Joseph Tate, who for thirteen years was mayor of the city of Richmond, lived at the northwest corner; at the northeast corner was the residence of Major James Gibbon, commonly known as “the hero of Stony Point,” and who for thirty-six years was collector of the port of Richmond; just below, on 5th Street, at the southeast corner of Gary, was Mr. Joseph Marx’s residence, and immediately in front of that, Mr. Thomas Gilliat’s. Mr. Marx had built for his son-in-law, Mr. Myer Myers, a house on a part of his garden, fronting on 5th Street, and at the corner below Mr. Myers , on the opposite side of the street, was Mr. William Munford’s old residence. Mr. Edmund W. Rootes, at or about the time to which I refer, built the house, fronting east, on 5th Street, between Main and Franklin, in which Mr. John Enders lives; and Mr. (Scotch) James Brown owned and had long lived in the fine old frame house, which has recently been taken down, at the southwest corner of Franklin and 5th streets. [page 365:]

These gentlemen were of the highest social position in Richmond; they were the friends and associates of Chief Justice Marshall, Mr. Wickham, Colonel Ambler, Dr. Brockenbrough, Judge Nicholas, Judge Cabell, Judge Stanard, Mr. Leigh, Mr. Chapman Johnson, Mr. Ritchie, Mr. Lyons, and others who were well known in that community; Mr. Allan’s relations to all whom I have named were of the most friendly character; and the habits of hospitality among them — the habit especially of giving dinner and whist parties — was different from anything that I know of at this day.

All of Edgar Poe’s early associations were consequently among the most highly educated and agreeable people in that community.

I am very respectfully yours,



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 365:]

1 Cf. “The Tabernacle Site,” “The Home of Poe’s Boyhood,” Richmond Despatch, March 18, 1894; “Historic Homes of Richmond. — The Allan House,” by Louisa Allan Mayo, Richmond News Illustrated Saturday Magazine, July 28, 1900.





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