Text: Hervey Allen, “Chapter 03,” Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (1934), pp. 22-41


[page 22:]


THE household in which the orphan child Edgar found himself ensconced, if not entirely welcome, was as we have seen, that of John Allan, the merchant, and Frances Keeling(44) his wife, a charming young woman then twenty-five years old. With them at this time and for many years thereafter lived Mrs. Allan’s elder sister Anne Moore Valentine, soon to become known to Edgar as “Aunt Nancy,” a lady whose affection, like that of her married sister, never failed to follow Edgar Poe till death stilled her loyal heart.

The house at the corner of Fourteenth Street and Tobacco Alley was neither “one of a row of dingy three story dwellings” nor a “princely Southern Mansion,” as it has been variously described, but a well built, rather spacious brick structure of the Georgian type with three floors containing three or four rooms each, and a garret which at that time had a small hall and two rooms. In the rear there was probably provision for the housing of the servants, of which at this time Mr. Allan is known to have kept three and possibly more,(45) not at all unusual in slave times, nor indicative of wealth. Either upon the first or second floor, there was a large dining room with folding doors that opened into a drawing room or library, which in all probability did not contain many books, as the owner was of a practical cast of mind. Most of the rooms contained open fireplaces which at one time must have possessed handsome Georgian mantelpieces to match the style of the finely turned mahogany banisters with delicate uprights that still remain.(46) It was [page 23:] in short an excellently comfortable though not pretentious nor impressive dwelling. The house was then owned by William Galt.

As the long residence, cherishing, breeding, and education received in the home of John Allan is perhaps the central fact in Poe’s story, since the vital formative years of his life were largely spent there, and since the relations between Poe and his foster-father were in a sense decisive as to the poet’s future, it is the purpose here to discuss the character and affairs of John Allan and his family relations at some length and with a considerable degree of candor.(47)

Almost a century and a quarter have elapsed since the events and the persons involved in them troubled the world of men, and it is now high time to set forth the facts. That the reputations of those involved have all been carefully shielded, except the great name which has caused their several obscurities to be remembered, is already a smoking sacrifice to family pride.

John Allan was a native of Irvine, Scotland, where he had been born in 1780 and received at least an ordinary but sufficient education, of which he states, that at the age of fifteen his foster-son Edgar had already received a better one.(48) Whatever formal education he had was considerably augmented by a gift of keen natural parts and a mercantile familiarity with the forms of business correspondence, legal papers and accounts. His letters are couched in a style which stamp their writer as a man of decided and astute personality, not without a pleasant and softer gleam here and there, but only too often with the glitter of steel and an affected piety. In early youth he had been left an orphan(49) and emigrated from Scotland to settle in Richmond, having been brought up in the store, counting house, and ships of his uncle, William Galt, a rich Scotchman doing a prosperous mercantile and tobacco trade at home and overseas, — said to have accumulated before [page 24:] his death one of the largest fortunes in Virginia. Mr. Galt’s generosity and native clannishness were the mainstay, the hope, and the means of final gratification of a host of squabbling, poor Scotch relatives.(50)

On a stool in the same counting house, where he had been brought up with John Allan, was another young Scotchman, Mr. Charles Ellis, also provided with previously settled relatives who were already trading to some advantage. After having served for some time about Mr. Galt’s establishment, the two young clerks set up for themselves as partners in a general mercantile and trading business by sea and land, in which tobacco buying and selling was the most profitable transaction. They were in all probability backed by William Galt and Josiah Ellis, their two uncles respectively, either by a capital stock or an advance of credit sufficient to set up the new firm which traded under the name of Ellis & Allan. In the meantime both the young partners had married.

The nature of the trade carried on by the firm of Ellis & Allan, the aroma and atmosphere of it, which literally and figuratively permeated and dominated the household and the environment in which Poe spent his boyhood, is not well described by the term “Tobacco Merchants.” The firm dealt in everything under the sun, and would do or perform anything which was probably profitable and ostensibly lawful. Peace could not satiate nor did war abate the infinite variety of their correspondence and their ways of gathering pence.(51)

Shortly before the outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and the United States we find Mr. Charles Ellis dashing off in great trepidation to New London, Connecticut, and later on beseeching Mir. James Pleasants(52) in the Hall of Congress to aid in liberating the good ship “Georgiana,” which had sailed a little too close-hauled into the weather eye of the embargo law, nor did the commencement and duration of hostilities apparently cause any cessation in the correspondence with the British and foreign merchants, or with Mr. Allan’s family in Scotland. [page 27:] Some means were found, by cartel or privateer, and the letters slipped through.(53)

In addition to the great item of tobacco (in which most of the imported merchandise purchased from the firm by Virginians was paid for in kind) the partners dealt in wheat, hay, maize, corn meal, grains, fine teas and coffees, cloth, clothing of all kinds, flowered vest stuffs, seeds, wines and liquors (especially Philadelphia claret); outfitted slaves; supplied plantations with agricultural implements, nails and hardware; chartered ships and coastwise schooners; imported tombstones,(54) — and, as a side issue, were not above trading in horses, Kentucky swine from the settlements, and old slaves which they hired out at the coal pits till they died.(55) The concern also advanced money; dabbled occasionally in city real estate; and both of the partners or their families had plantations in the country, John Allan’s at “Lower Byrd’s” and the Ellises’ at “Red Hill” and “Pedlar’s Mills.” These also were expected to pay. It was on the whole a thrifty, a Scotch, and sometimes a sordid atmosphere in which Charles Ellis and his partner moved.(56) But for all that it was not a narrow, and never a stingy one, until years later when it might have been more generous still.

For over it all was the variety and the romance of the sea that floated up the James to the thriving port at the Falls, the long splendor of Virginia sunshine, the syrupy perfume of tobacco, and the almost magic life of old Richmond. About the warehouse and docks of Poe’s foster-father crowded the foreign and coastwise shipping of square-rigged days.(57) Martingales sprang away from the proud double curve of mirrored bows, brass glittered, sails flapped, and the bo’suns’ whistles sang like frantic canaries. Drays laden with great tuns of fragrant Virginia leaf rattled over the cobbles. Dark stevedores answered the hails and songs of passing barges and canal boats; and the yellow river [page 28:] stuttered and clucked, as the siphon of the tides rolled it backward and forward under the piles and slivered planks.

At the store, planters rode up and tethered their horses; wagons loaded for the western settlements with blankets, ginghams, and the little puncheons of rum and powder, while the clerks weighed out the rolls of ponderous lead. Students on their way to William and Mary presented letters of credit from their up-country sires. Ladies came to make choice of taffetas and brocade stuffs, young gentlemen pursers, in semi-nautical garb, strolled in and out with accounts and monies, while Ellises, Allans, Mackenzies, McMurdocks and MacDougals punctuated the snuff-dusty air with the bur of broadest Scotch, and John Allan strolled off down Tobacco Alley with some British or Yankee captains to dinner at the cozily furnished house around the corner. Here their weathered seamen’s countenances looked masterfully across the table at the engaging Miss Valentine and the wide-eyed young Edgar Poe, as Frances Allan brewed a strong dish of the best of Imperial Gunpowder Tea, and her husband spoke feelingly of the fine nappy ale of Kilmarnock.(58)

The conversation was of the decline in the flax prices at Lisbon, of the latest alarms and excursions of Bonaparte, the Orders in Council, and the prices last fetched at Liverpool for the best Virginia leaf. To this board and household the young housewife of twenty-five summers and her sister Miss Valentine brought a fresh blonde beauty and the traditions of grace and ease of Virginia planters, together with an unfailing feminine tenderness in which a sensitive little orphan boy basked. It was the atmosphere of the old, vanished Eastern Sea-board, the South of slavery and the days of sailing ships, something to be recalled over a glass of old port and a churchwarden’s clay pipe. Out of this, it had pleased the wayward ways of fate to conjure a prince and a master of dreams.

Despite the considerable volume of business carried on by the partners, the condition of John Allan’s affairs in December, 1811, were not such as to permit the addition of another soul to his permanent household without his pausing to take thought.(59) When Frances Allen brought young Edgar Poe home the day after the death of his mother, her husband no doubt regarded it as the kindly and impulsive act of a woman, but as the days and weeks passed and the problem of what to do with the two orphans grew pressing with both the Allans and Mackenzies, it became evident that the hands of the pretty young boy [page 31:] had twined very deeply in the heartstrings of the childless merchant’s wife — that she could not bear to part with him. Doubtless he clung to her; his beauty and already romantic story were appealing — to the child-hungry woman it was enough.

With her husband, however, it was different.(60) He was willing and kindly enough to indulge his lovely wife in a temporary charitable impulse, against which no one but a boor would protest, but to make the object of it his legal son and heir, with all that would be involved, was a horse of a different color. That he was altogether justified in this hesitancy, few, who can imagine themselves confronted by a like problem, will deny. Left an orphan himself, he could not but have been moved by the fate of the child who rode cock-horse so engagingly, or sat upon his knee, but it was by no means sure that he and his wife might not yet have children themselves — she was twenty-five and he was thirty-one — and the prospects of his own issue sharing alike with strangers, even in future time, might well daunt him. Besides, to put it coldly, and he was capable of doing that, the brat of strolling play actors, as his Scottish tongue would frame it, was perhaps not the best of blood to claim as his own. That he had his doubts about Mrs. Poe, we have already seen. David Poe he must have seen upon the stage, and he was capable of drawing his own conclusions. Besides John Allan had social ambitions as the future showed. What of the whispers about his “son”? In addition there were other more practical, and at that time secret, but cogent reasons, which might well make him pause.

In the first place, the posture of his affairs was not at that time such as to warrant the additional burden of the keep and education of a child. In March, 1811, he had sailed to Portugal(61) with a considerable cargo on the ship “Sylph” in company with one or two other vessels employed by the Ellises, himself, and Mr. Galt, in expectation of selling provisions to the British Army under Lord Wellesley, just then about to open the Peninsular Campaign. Prices were high and some profit resulted, but owing to the precarious situation of affairs in America just prior to the then imminent war, the gain had been [page 32:] swallowed up, and he had returned to Richmond in the Summer to meet a decidedly serious and widespread financial situation owing to the Embargo and Non-Intercourse Acts.

In addition, his whole family relationship was liberally provided with orphans. He, and four partially dependent sisters at Irvine and Kilmarnock, Scotland, were orphans. The children of at least one of his married sisters were the object of the bounty of himself and his wife, a niece being Mrs. Allan’s namesake. There was an old Aunt Jane, “the only surviving member of our father’s family,” and four young orphan boys, cousins by the name of Galt. These boys had to be, and were, well taken care of by remittances from Mr. William Galt, the wealthy Richmond uncle. That orphans and their doings were much in Mr. Allan’s mind about this time, and that he might well shrink from adding another and gratuitous one to the family role of charity, a few extracts from the family correspondence will make startlingly clear.(62)

Kilmarnock, 4th Jan. 1812.

MY DEAR BROTHER: (read brother-in-law)

I wrote you some time back with the Melancholy News of the Death of my Little Boy William which I hope you have received. I had your favor of the 6th of August . . . which gave us all great pleasure to hear that you and Mrs. A was in good health, and received from Mr. Kerr the coral Necklace and Braceletts as a present from Mrs. Allan to her Little Namesake. I am glad to inform you she is getting quite about and is I trust beginning to walk, the rest of the children is all at school. . . . I had another from your uncle Mr. Galt, and I cannot help thinking he is one of the best-hearted Men, his great anxiety for the Education and support of those Little Orphan Boys the Galts show it in a clear point of view he has appointed me to look after them and see everything done for their interest . . . they seem smart fine children. . . . Your Uncle was so very kind as to send Mrs. Fowlds a present for the education of my children one hundred pounds sterling. . . . Dear Brother we are fully expecting to see you and Mrs. .Allan this summer. . . . Your sisters Mary, Jean, and Elizabeth are well. . . . Elizabeth is at Mrs. Galts at Flowerbanks. Mrs. Fowlds desires me to say to you that she received the five guineas for which please accept her warmest thanks . . . etc.

I am My Dear Brother  
Yours sincerely,  

Some time later we get further news of the orphans from Mrs. Fowlds, John Allan’s sister:


Your Letters of Feby. 3rd and July 6th I duly record. . . . I was extremely sorry to observe by it the account my Aunt has given of poor Thomas Galt. I [page 35:] flatter myself he is not so bad as has been represented he is an Orphan, John, and I am convinced, none of his faults will be hid; my Aunt and him had not sorted well some how or other; but sister Jane blamed the Maid for it: however, she was so displeased she would not allow him to sleep in the House last time he was at home and Robt. Gemmel took him and I heard the vessel was to be laid up for the Winter and I wished him to stay with me as . . . was informed the Owners were going to put him on board another vessel so his education will be kept back this Winter he is a clever Boy I am told and an excellent scholar and I have no doubt not withstanding all his boyish faults he will be a clever Man he is the best Looking of the whole. I myself know what it is to be an Orphan they require to walk very circumspectly indeed to escape the censours of a criticising World. . . .

But the tale of family troubles is not quite complete, John Allan’s sister it appears may have had her own reasons for suspecting the frailty of womankind, — the same letter continues —

. . . I was extremely happy to observe that Jane and you were come to an understanding, nothing gives me greater uneasiness than friends quarrelling. Were you not extremely sorry when you heard Cousin William had acted so very foolishly, she was young and thoughtless no doubt but no such apology can be offered for a Man at least 28 or 30 years older than her the betraying the trust Mrs. Galt(63) had reposed in him was not honorable and is what aggravated the trial to think she had encouraged a man to go about her house who was doing everything in his power to destroy the peace of it. However, Mrs. G. is reconciled. . . . I hope Uncle William will forgive her and not let her impropriety have any influence on him as she was a good hearted Girl and had an innocent gaiety about her. I would have not have thought her capable of so imprudent a step. . . . Jean Guthrie calls often and asks for her Johnny she was here yesterday inquiring for you . . . etc.

As Mr. John Allan, merchant, then in some financial perplexity, turned these and other family matters over in his mind, he cannot be entirely blamed for a certain lack of enthusiasm and pessimism about orphans. But there were several other reasons why he could not acquiesce in the immediate adoption of the boy Edgar Poe, reasons of which there is every right to suppose he did not and could not present to his wife. He was already a father, by two other women in Richmond, of several children, a daughter by one and a son by the second.(64) One of these, a son, by a Mrs. Collier, he was then, or a few months later, educating if not supporting, as is shown by the following receipt from William Richardson, a Richmond schoolmaster.(65) [page 36:]



1812   Mr. JOHN ALLAN, Dr.



5th   To three Months Tuition of Edwin Collier — $5 —

Received payment  



That the good Scotch merchant was not cast down entirely by these responsibilities, that he had the solace which is said to soothe the breast, and was willing to pay for it, as for his other pleasures, is brought out nicely by another item of about the same date — (65)



Mr. J. ALLAN   14 Oct. 1812(66)

Bought @ Auction

1 Flute . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   $21 —

Received payt. for Foster and Satchell




It is, in all probability, the same flute upon which Edgar Allan Poe afterwards learned to play in those early, easy days in Richmond which were to permeate his dreams, for circumstances and Frances Allan prevailed, and Edgar Poe became the foster-child of John Allan.

The circumstances which added the force of public opinion to the already patent desire of his wife to retain Edgar, and which was the immediate decisive factor in persuading John Allan to acquiesce in her desire, was one of those fearful tragedies whose only mitigation lies in the fact that they arouse universal charity On December 26, 1811, only about two weeks after Mrs. Poe had been buried at St. Johns, the Richmond Theater, where she had so often played, took fire from the stage chandelier during a presentation of the Bleeding Nun by Mr. Placide and his Company to a packed house. It was the night after Christmas. The results were for a generation, memory-searing. Among the seventy-three persons who are known to have perished was the Governor of Virginia.

On that night an Herculean negro blacksmith strode through the flames along with other persons engaged in the work of rescue: heroism, pathetic sacrifice, and children in the fire moved to one outcry the then not too United States. The Federal Senate purchased crepe sleeve bands, [page 37:] and even the Legislature of Massachusetts was melted to official tears. This letter will give some idea of how John Allan felt about it at the time, and why he and all his family escaped. It is from a friendly commercial correspondent.

New York, Jany. 8th, 1812



I received your favor of the 3rd inst. . . . Of the Horrible Catastrophe which befel your city I have indeed had too correct information —, it was first announced here by a gentleman from Washington who reported, that as he was leaving, the mail arrived from Richmond announcing it. My Fears were it would prove too true and knowing the confined manner in which the Stairs were built I felt confident (I) would hear of the loss of some Friends, which the next day’s mail brought, and with it, a detail of all the Horror of that Fatal night — How fortunate, that yourself and Family went out of Town and what a consolation that Mr. Richard and family escaped as they did with the exception of poor little George Dixon whose fate I must lament with you. . . . My God what must be the feelings of Mr. Gallego and Mayor Gibson and Family, but I must stop I am going too far. . . .

W. WHITLOK, Jun.(67)

Miss Valentine escaped too, having been on a holiday visit with the Ellises in the country to see “Uncle Joshua” married.(68) John Allan had good reason to congratulate himself, doubtless he felt grateful that so far he had escaped the flames, and reflected that a little insurance with Providence as to the future might pay. All of Richmond was at that time busy in works of charity. Orphans were being cared for by wholesale, and the upshot of the matter was that the Poe children remained where they had been taken; Edgar in John Allan’s house, and little Rosalie at Mr. William Mackenzie’s.

In Edgar’s case, that his fostering in the house where he had been sheltered was mainly due to the intercession and insistence of Frances Allan, there can no longer be any doubt There is the direct statement of one of the family servants to that effect and even the possibility that Frances Allan was so anxious to keep the beautiful young boy in lieu of the child which nature denied her, that she failed to answer the inquiries of his anxious grandparents in Baltimore, “General” David [page 38:] Poe and his wife,(69) and Edgar’s Aunt, Eliza Poe. Even after more than a hundred years there is something touching in the beseeching tone of this long dead voice speaking out of the dry mould of government archives with the deep anxiety of tears.

Baltimore, Feb. 8th, 1813

’Tis the Aunt of Edgar that addresses Mrs. Allen for the second time, impressed with the idea that a letter if received could not remain unacknowledged so long as from the months of July, she is induced to write again in order to inquire in her family’s as well as in her own name after the health of the child of her Brother, as well as that of his adopted Parents. I cannot suppose my dear Mrs. Allen that a heart possessed of such original humanity as yours must without doubt be, could so long keep in suspense, the anxious inquiries made through the medium of my letter by the Grand Parents of the Orphan of an unfortunate son, surely ere this allowing that you did not wish to commence a correspondence with one who is utterly unknown to you had you received it Mr. Allen would have written to my Father or Brother if it had been only to let them know how he was, but I am confident that you never received it, for two reasons, the first is that not having the pleasure of knowing your Christian name I merely addressed it to Mrs. Allen of Richmond, the second is as near as I can recollect you were about the time I wrote to you at the springs where Mr. Douglas saw you, permit me my dear madam to thank you for your kindness to the little Edgar — he is truly the child of fortune to be placed under the fostering care of the amiable Mr. and Mrs. Allen, Oh how few meet with such a lot — the Almighty Father of the Universe grant that he may never abuse the kindness he has received and that from those who were not bound by any ties except those the feeling and humane heart dictates — I fear that I have too long intruded on your patience, will you if so have the goodness to forgive me — and dare I venture to flatter myself with the hope that this will be received with any degree of pleasure or that you will gratify me so much as to answer it — give my love to the dear little Edgar and tell him tis his Aunt Eliza who writes this to you, my Mother and family desire to be affectionately remembered to Mr. Allen and yourself — Henry frequently speaks of his little brother and expresses a great desire to see him, tell him he sends his very best love to him and is greatly pleased to hear that he is so good as also so pretty a Boy as Mr. Douglass represented him to be — I feel as if I were writing to a sister and can scarcely even at the risk of your displeasure prevail on myself to lay aside my pen — With the hope of your indulgence in pardoning my temerity I remain my Dear Mrs. Allen yours

with the greatest respect  

Mrs. Allen the kind Benefactress of the infant Orphan Edgar, Allen, Poe.(70)

Now there are some remarkable things about this letter. In the first place Rosalie is not mentioned at all for which there are several possible [page 39:] explanations that suggest themselves,(71) secondly this letter definitely disposes of the story repeated by so many Poe biographers that either the Allans or the Mackenzie entered into correspondence with the Poes in Baltimore who refused on account of poverty to take in the two orphans. Evidently nothing of the kind had occurred, and as a matter of fact the shoe was on the other foot. In a letter which Poe wrote to his guardian from West Point in 1830, he specifically mentions the fact that John Allan had followed his own desire, or the desire of his wife to adopt Edgar Poe, despite the express wishes of the grandfather, “General” David Poe, to have the care of his favorite grandchild. Poe represents that his grandfather was in good circumstances at the time, and that in order to induce the Poes to allow Edgar to remain with the Allans, John Allan had held out strong inducements for them to do so by promises of adoption and liberal education. This letter Poe says was at that time (January 3rd, 1830) in possession of the members of the Poe family in Baltimore.(72) The implication is clear, once having determined to gratify the fond wishes of his wife for the “adoption” of Edgar, John Allan carried the matter off with his usual vigor and determination.

Hence Eliza Poe seems more than doubtful as to whether her letter to Lady Bountiful is going to be answered. It is also interesting to observe that two commas in the last line quite subtly, and thus early assert the boy’s right to his own name. There is a tradition but no record to show that both Edgar and Rosalie were baptized respectively as Edgar Allan(73) and Rosalie Mackenzie, but as neither was ever legally adopted they remained “Poe,” as they had been born.(74) Thus the boy came by the name of Edgar Allan Poe, which he has successfully projected into time. Aside from this, the baptismal water left very little trace.

Like other mortals the young Poe was subject to those internal frailties and afflictions which cause parents endless anxiety, and Mrs. Allan must often have found herself, with this rather delicate and pretty [page 40:] little boy, filling the rôle of mother in grim earnest. Let it be solemnly recorded then for the first time, that in May, 1812, “Israfel” was afflicted with the croup for which his foster-father paid the bill. As the earliest documentary evidence of Poe’s being in John Allan’s household it is not without a genuine element of interest:






   May  21st.    To Visit and medicine to child   $1.50
22nd.   To Visit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    $1.00
23rd.    To Visit and Vial Pectoral Mint     $1.50

Rect. payment  



In July, as we have seen, the family visited the Springs where Edgar was evidently noticed by a Mr. Douglas of Baltimore who remarked upon his great beauty to his aunt Eliza Poe. That the young boy was a really lovely child, whose winsome appearance and romantic story appealed to all tender hearts, there is a mass of testimony and tradition to attest. Frances Allan was evidently in love with her little pet, now nearly three yeans old, an affection which he is known to have passionately returned. Sometime in the Fall the family returned to Richmond, probably after having visited Mrs. Allan’s relatives, the Valentines, near Staunton, as it was their custom to do. During the Winter of 1812 we find them in Richmond as usual living at the corner of Fourteenth Street and Tobacco Alley. “Uncle” William Galt seems to have been living with them then. Edgar was by this time for better or for worse a fixture in the household, where he was often seen by an Abner Lincoln of Boston who was at this time a frequent guest together with Dr. Thornton and the Ellises at John Allan’s table.

Mr. Allan was in considerable difficulties, one of his ships having been seized by the customs authorities at Norfolk, and as he sat in front of the coal fire, pondering the style of his “prayer for release” to the Federal Court, his thoughts must have wandered over the water to the orphans at Kilmarnock or have paused between the wailing notes of his new flute to consider the future of the little orphan whose bare feet could be heard padding about upstairs while he was being put to bed by “Ma” or “Aunt Nancy.” John Allan, too, had his softer moods, and in the years ahead, he conceived a pride and a tenderness for the [page 41:] little lad whom he came to regard as his son. It was this which his proud heart never forgave; that the youth to whom he had once unbent and unbosomed, would not obey his behest, was unpardonable. For as with everything else that the merchant dealt in, there was a price to be paid for his affections, a price which the poet in Poe found too great to pay. It was the control of his heart and soul. But now, for a while at least, Lady Bountiful and her husband were in control of the clay, if not the spirit of the boy, and that momentous modeling had begun which was to make and mar the man.



[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 22:]

44.  Frances Keeling (Valentine) Allan born 1786, her sister Anne Moore Valentine was born the previous year.

45.  I find record of this transaction in the Ellis & Allan Papers: “Jan. 1st, 1811, a negro woman named Judith hired from Master Cheatham for the sum of £25 to be retained clothed as usual under a bond of £50.” Judith was retained for some years. See also J. H. Whitty MemoirThe Complete Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, large edition, note page XXII for the names of the servants some years later. Also will of William Galt, Appendix III.

46.  The author visited this house in July, 1925, and found the lower story still occupied as an office. The house has passed through many vicissitudes having at one time been the most notorious in Richmond. The partitions have been torn out to make storage space, but their location can still be seen as well as one old mantelpiece, the rest of which have been replaced by Victorian marble insults. Viewed from the front, a very deceptive idea of the size of the place is given, as it is in reality quite large. A great many of the absurdities in some of Poe’s biographies could have been avoided by a visit to the houses where he and his friends lived, many of which are still standing in Richmond and elsewhere.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 23:]

47.  The relative importance of the time spent in Mr. Allan’s house by Poe can probably be brought home most vividly in a graphic form. Representing the whole of Poe’s life by a straight line, the time spent with Mr. Allan and his family is shown by the heavier portion. The influences, of course, extended much further. The scale is one inch to each decade of Poe’s life.


48.  Letter to William Henry Leonard Poe from John Allan, dated Richmond, November 1, 1824.

49.  The Allans and Galts were petty traders and smugglers about the ports of Greenock and Irvine toward the end of the 18th century. John Allan’s mother, whom one of the Galt cousins, once hoped to marry, kept a tea shop in Greenock. For the life of the place and time, including characters from the Allan and Galt families, see the works of the Scotch novelist, John Galt, the friend of Byron, also see Chapter V, note 126.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 24:]

50.  For the statements made in this and the next paragraphs I am indebted to the correspondence between John Allan, and his sisters and brother-in-law in Scotland anent family affairs in general, Mr. William Galt of Richmond, and the troubles arising about his will. All in the Ellis & Allan Files at the Library of Congress.

51.  One of the ten thousand various items in the Ellis & Allan Papers:

Powhattan, Jan. 6th, 1811


This will be handed you by my son John E. Meade who wants a few articles of clothing. Will you be so good as to furnish him on my acct, and oblige yours respectfully,


52.  Afterwards governor of Virginia.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 27:]

53.  The correspondence of the firm is interesting from the standpoint of showing that the merchants on both sides of the water regarded the War of 1812 purely as a quarrel between two governments and as an unmitigated nuisance. In particular the Regent (George XV) comes of rather roughly in the candid opinions exchanged.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 35:]

54.  These for Charlottesville seemed to have always had the names and dates wrong:, doubtless to the present confusion of antiquaries. The New England stone-cutters evidently had little reverence for Virginia families.

55.  Memorandum marked “Old Papers 1811-1812.”

“In re. McCaul-Stevens and Eudocia. Stephens hired to McGrouder at the Coal Pits, Eudocia hired to Dan’l Woode’s son not far from Col. Saunders.”

(This girl was bought from John McCaul January 2, 1811.) Also “tell Mrs. F. McCaul at Hennrico her old man died last night.”

56.  Letter from R. S. Ellis to Mr. Charles Ellis, his brother, from Red Hill, Virginia, December 11, 1811. Ellis & Allan Papers. “Mr. Were has returned the horse we sold him saying he was lame and too small, Brother Joshua was married on 3rd instant., all your hogs are disposed of except 3,” etc.

57.  This warehouse was rented from Joseph Galligo for $137.50 a quarter. Ellis & Allan Papers.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 28:]

58.  Letter from Allan Fowlds, Kilmarnock, Scotland, 4th of January, “Mrs. F. is keeping for you some fine nappy ale,” etc. Ellis & Allan Papers.

59.  The somewhat detailed account of the firm’s affairs given above should not lead the reader to suppose that at this time, 1812, Mr. Allan was a wealthy man, The business was as yet a young one, the firm was new and struggling, and entering upon a period of general commercial stagnation.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 31:]

60.  As a great deal of criticism has been levelled against John Allan for not legally adopting Poe and making him his heir, the question will be presented toe with the facts which have not heretofore been aired.

61.  Letter from John Allan to Charles Ellis in the Ellis & Allan Papers, postmarked New York, June 16, 1811, and dated Lisbon, April 28, 1811, Ship “Sylph” off Bellumcastle — “Dear Charles: I am happy to inform you that we arrived in safety here on the 26th about 12 A.M. after a most boisterous passage of 23 days from the roads.”

Also John Allan from Lisbon, May 31st, 1811 —

“McLurin Scott has taken passage on board of the Ship ‘Telegra’ for New York to sail the and or 3rd of June. I shall not be long after him.” Josiah Ellis accompanied Mr. Allan on the voyage. It was the intention of both of them to visit Scotland on their way back, but this had to be deferred.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 32:]

62.  From the Ellis & Allan Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 35:]

63.  This is a Mrs. Galt at “Flowerbanks” on Cree Water. See Chapter V, page 69.

64.  John Allan’s illegitimate children at the time that Poe was taken into his household were certainly two, i.e., a daughter by a “Mrs. Wills” and a son by a “Mrs. Collier.” There are traces of still others a little later not mentioned here or in the will. Young Poe was sent to school with Edwin Collier, For further complications as late as 1834, see John Allan’s will, Appendix III.

65.  Ellis & Allan Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. The evidence does not rest on this one item by any means.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 36:]

66.  Ellis & Allan Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 37:]

67.  Ellis & Allan Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.

68.  From Eliza M. Hunter, niece of Charles Ellis, at Red Hill, Virginia, January, 1812, to Charles Ellis of Kills & Allan at Richmond. “Nancy went home about four weeks ago with Cousin Betsy to Cynthia Hunter. They came up to the wedding and spent a few weeks with us.”

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 38:]

69.  The reader will doubtless recall the fact that Edgar’s elder brother, William Henry Poe, was already residing with this couple, having been left with them by his parents in 1807. See page 4 for this. For a further account of “General” David Poe see Chapter VII, note 172.

70.  The letter is printed, of course, with the original spelling and punctuation carefully reproduced from a photostat of the original in the Ellis & Allan Papers. “Allan” is spelt “Allen” by Eliza Poe.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 39:]

71.  There are several explanations of this possible:

1. Eliza Poe simply failed to mention Rosalie or chose not to.

2. She did not care to confuse issues with Mr. Allan by mentioning Rosalie.

3. The Poes did not know there was such a child,

4. The Poes were already in communication with the Mackensies.

72.  Poe to John Allan from West Point, New York, January 3, 1831. See the Valentine Museum Letters, letter No. 24, page 253.

73.  J. H. Whitty says, probably as early as December 11, 1811, in the case of Edgar. See his Memoir to The Complete Poems, page XXII, large edition. There is also a tradition that both the children were baptized by the Reverend Mr. Richardson of St. John’s.

74.  Legal adoption outside of the ties of blood was almost unknown in the South at this time. Prof. James Southall Wilson to the author, July, 1925.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 40:]

75.  Philip Thornton was a doctor, the personal friend of John Allan. He is frequently mentioned in correspondence. The receipt is from the Ellis & Allan Papers.






[S:0 - HAV34, 1934] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (H. Allen) (Chapter 03)