Text: Hervey Allen, “Chapter 12,” Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (1934), pp. 184-217


[page 184:]


POE’S regiment would have been completely disembarked and in quarters at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, before the middle of December, 1828. By the transfer from Fort Moultrie, only the scene of his monotony had been shifted. Old Point Comfort at that time was scarcely a village. What little gaiety it offered centered largely about a hotel where the officers occasionally held dances, sometimes attended by ladies from Washington, Baltimore, or Richmond. For the enlisted men, the fort, cut off by water as it was, could have offered almost nothing, beyond the squabbles of the married quarters, to relieve the tedium of artillery practice and guard duty. Poe seems to have made friends with the non-commissioned officers of his old company; he specifically mentions Sergeants Benton, Griffith, and Hooper in a letter written later to Sergeant Graves, more familiarly known as “Bully,” whose wife, and one “Duke” are also included in his salutations.(310) Occasional leave to Norfolk, nearby, was probably the most abandoned form of entertainment known to the post.

It is no wonder, then, that the young soldier with Al Aaraaf in his pocket, and Tamerlane completely revised and ready for print, under the urge of literary ambition, became impatient and felt that the prime of his life was being wasted. Three more years of military office routine would be fatal. He had already written Mr. Allan from Fort Moultrie that it was now high time that he should leave the army. To find no letter awaiting him at Fortress Monroe, filled him with a growing despair as day after day slipped by and the silence in Richmond continued. A week or so after arriving at Fortress Monroe, Poe again wrote his guardian expressing his sorrow at not hearing from him, and his fixed determination to leave the service.(311)

This letter is remarkable. It shows how thoroughly Poe’s personality had become integrated by his army experience, and throws a vivid emphasis upon his literary aspirations. Despite the fact, says Poe, that his ambition has not taken the direction which his guardian desired, he is determined to follow his own bent. Richmond and the United [page 185:] States are all too narrow a sphere for him, and the world will be his theater. As for the army, he wishes to be gone. The undoubted conviction of genius rests heavily upon him. The letter is one of the most prophetic. In it he emphatically, but with great dignity, denies the imputation that he is degraded. I have in my heart what has no connection with degradation and can walk amidst injection and be uncontaminated, is a close paraphase of his words. How heavily the sights and sounds of barrack life, the crassness, the coarseness, the association with those who were personally repulsive, together with the utter lack of all touch with the subleties of another world in which he lived — how heavily these weighed upon him, leaps forth at us from the fevered writing on the yellowed page. If John Allan is determined to abandon him, Poe warns him, although neglected, he will be doubly ambitious, and the world will undoubtedly hear of the son whom the older man thought beneath his notice. With this letter the relations of “father” and “son” begin to enter upon their final phase.

Lieutenant Howard, Poe tells us, had already introduced him to Colonel James House who had known “General” David Poe, the poef s grandfather. The Colonel and the other officers all felt that Poe might be gotten into West Point, despite his age, if John Allan will only aid him . . . etc., etc., but to this there was no reply. John Allan was probably too much absorbed in the important affairs of the world of reality to be moved by the prayers of a “son” whose avowed ambition was to be a poet. Whether he conveyed Poe’s oft-repeated messages of affection to his “dear Ma” is not known. At least he payed no attention to her constant appeals to be allowed to see her “dear boy” now only a few miles away from Richmond. And this plea was refused with a more than Spartan fortitude on the part of her husband, for Frances Allan was dying. In the big house at Richmond, the long physical and spiritual agony of the childless woman was about to receive its final anodyne. Worry over her mortal illness might be accepted as a sufficient reason for John Allan’s disregard of his troublesome “son,” if it was not definitely known that it was the constant prayer of his fast sinking wife that she might be allowed to see “Eddie”(312) before she died.

Shortly after Poe’s arrival at Fortress Monroe, his own assertions as to the good opinion in which he was held by his officers were confirmed by his promotion to the highest rank which an enlisted man can attain, short of a commission. We have already seen that Lieutenant [page 186:] Howard had introduced the young soldier to the Colonel of the Regiment. This, and the fact that he had long been employed upon military clerical work by his other officers, apparently to their complete satisfaction, probably procured his final promotion. A few days after disembarking at Old Point Comfort, probably about December 20, 1828, Poe was detailed to Regimental Headquarters.

“Private Perry’s” performance of duty at regimental headquarters was evidently eminently satisfactory, for ten days later, on January 1, 1829, he was appointed regimental sergeant major and is so carried on the morning report of the day following.

Poe’s appointment to be regimental sergeant major is undoubtedly a compliment to his trustworthiness and executive ability. The entire correspondence of a command passes through the hands of that non-commissioned officer. He is often in a position to cause serious trouble even for commissioned officers, and must perforce, possess the confidence and trust of the regimental staff. The regiment, of which Poe was the senior enlisted member at Fortress Monroe in January, 1829, was a composite one, being composed of companies detailed from various commands to make up an “artillery practice school;” a use to which the old fort has frequently been put. Among the officers present at that time, was one Lieutenant Joseph Locke with whom Poe came in touch, not altogether affably, later on at West Point. The fact that he had reached the top of the ladder as a private soldier, with peculiar opportunities to learn the mystery of artillery, undoubtedly helped him greatly in obtaining letters to the War Department.

Sometime during January, 1829, Poe was ill in the military hospital at Fortress Monroe where he was attended by the Post Surgeon, a Dr. Robert Archer, with close relatives in Richmond.(313) The young soldier seems to have been prostrated by some sort of fever. No doubt his uneasiness and anxiety was a contributing cause. Dr. Archer was greatly attracted by the brilliant young soldier whose manners were so evidently that of a gentleman. After some little time, Poe confessed to the surgeon, who seemed to be his friend, that he was the “son” of John Allan of Richmond and serving in the army under an alias. Dr. Archer, who must have known Poe’s story through his Richmond connections, interested himself in the young man’s behalf. It may have [page 187:] been in this way that Frances Allan first heard that her foster-son was at Fortress Monroe.

By this time Poe was thoroughly aware of the fact that his guardian would not help him to a discharge, with a literary career in view. The West Point idea seems to have been the only form of compromise, so letters were again written to John Allan suggesting aid in procuring a substitute, and his influence for a cadet’s appointment. Dr. Archer enlisted the aid and aroused the interest of the officers. What, if anything, was Mr. Allan’s reply is not known. The first direct message from Richmond which Poe received from his guardian was a summons to the death bed of “mother.”

Frances Allan’s frantic requests had at last prevailed. Realizing that she was indeed in her last agony, even the cold marble seems to have been touched. But it was too late. On Saturday February 28, 1829, Sergeant-Major “Edgar A. Perry” is carried as present on the muster roll of his regiment, and on the same day, a few miles away in Richmond, Mrs. Allan died. 314 Knowing full well the mettle of the man with whom she was having her last dealings, with her dying breath she extorted from him a solemn promise that he would not abandon Poe. 815 It was her last wish that she might not be buried until he saw her. It is impossible to contemplate this gentle woman, waiting in vain for the beloved and eagerly expected footstep of her “dear boy,” while the darkness closed in upon her; or the stern heart that sat beside her, only melting at the last, without a solemn wonder at the different capabilities of human nature. With her had departed the sweetest and truest friend that a certain poet ever knew. “If only she hadn’t died,” said Poe afterward.

On the afternoon of Sunday, March 1, 1829, by far the most conspicious passenger on the Norfolk stage bound for Richmond must have been a young sergeant major in the uniform of the First Artillery, with a hospital pallor under his sunburn, and obviously nervous and excited by every delay. Frances Allan had died on the morning of the twenty-eighth of February, she must had been sinking for two days before, yet it was only at the last that she had prevailed on her husband to send for Poe. Some hours would have been consumed in getting a leave granted, if the message was received the next day, and Poe could [page 188:] hardly have started till the afternoon of March 1.(316) While he was engaged in making the journey between Fortress Monroe and Richmond, Mrs. Allan was being buried. Perhaps there were good reasons for this; in any event, her last request was not carried out.

The return of a young soldier to his home town after an absence of two years, cannot fail to awaken in him a flood of memories. One can imagine Poe’s impatience at the stages where the negro horse boys slowly unhitched and hitched the relays of horses, and the thousand recollections that thronged upon him as, towards the close of a gloomy March evening,(317) the conveyance rattled, all too slowly, into the dimly lit streets of Richmond. Once arrived, he must have dashed up Main Street to the corner of Fifth, through the gate leading into the circular drive before the familiar house, and run with all his might up the steps. The crêpe was not there, perhaps he was not too late after all? A hundred things that he had been saving up to say to his “mother” for the past two years crowded to his lips. The door swung open, and in a few instants he knew that, it was all over.

The scene of Poe’s tragic home-coming was said to have been so harrowing as to be unbearable to those who witnessed it. Frances Allan had been greatly loved by her whole household, the demonstrative negro servants were in tears. Miss Valentine, inconsolable and worn out by her long vigil by the bedside, could not have met Poe with much fortitude. Even John Allan was profoundly moved; he stayed away from the office next day, and he was so agitated as to misdate a document. Be it set down to his credit that it was an order for some mourning clothes for Poe.(318)

The dying whispers of his wife not to forget “her dear boy Edgar” were too near a thing for him to utterly disregard, and a flood of old tender memories of the dead woman in front of the fire, with the boy upon her knee, many and many an evening, must have revived in him some of the old affection.

Soon after his return, probably the next day, Poe visited Shockoe [page 189:] Cemetery where Mrs. Allan had been buried. The empty room had been bad enough; close to the actual presence of death in the graveyard, now for the second time, Poe must have sounded the last fathom of despair. The future author of the Conqueror Worm and the philosophy of Eureka could not have been, even at that time, under any comforting illusions about the hereafter of death. On the way to the new grave they passed the tomb of Mrs. Stanard, just to the left of the road, a combination of sorrow that in Poe’s state must have been well-nigh unbearable. It seems to have been so, for he is said to have cast himself down exhausted by the last resting place of Frances Allan. The servants remembered helping him into the carriage which bore him away.

Perhaps it may have occurred to his “strong-minded guardian,” while his wife was being buried and his “son’s” heart had almost stopped beating at her grave, that there were a good many things in heaven and earth that had hitherto not been thought of in his philosophy. The wife, who had, at least, been allowed to share his bosom, later received a “fitting marble monument.” Even in that, however, she was not alone. For the time being, though, John Allan was shaken. It was some weeks before another piece of marble that had originally been quarried in Scotland resumed its normal mean temperature.

Of the details of this Richmond visit in the Winter of 1829, not very much is known. Poe probably saw most of his old friends who were not away at the University. The Galts seem also to have been most kind, and the young sergeant major undoubtedly visited his sister Rosalie at the Mackenzies’. Probably the most important of his visits was at the Roysters’. Poe is said to have called upon the parents of his sweetheart and to have created a scene when he learned that during his absence Elmira had been married to Mr. Shelton. This was contrary to the assurances he had received from them upon his return from the University in 1827.(319) The young poet undoubtedly felt that both he and Elmira had been tricked, and every advantage taken of his absence to influence her. He is said to have reproached Mr. and Mrs. Royster bitterly, and to have demanded an interview with Elmira. This, of course, was refused, and Mr. Shelton was warned. It appears that one of Poe’s letters to Elmira from the University had fallen into her hands after her marriage, and that as a consequence she had made things unpleasant for her husband and parents. The marriage was a fact, however; Poe had lost his “Lenore,” and this grief was added to his already overwhelming sorrow over the death of Mrs. Allan. From later developments, [page 190:] it is known that he was by no means satisfied as to the state of Elmira’s feelings, and there can be no doubt that he cherished her memory, was haunted by dreams of her as long as he lived, and felt determined to have an interview at the first opportunity. This, however, did not occur while he was in Richmond in 1829. No doubt there were precautions taken to prevent it.

Poe’s leave of absence was the usual ten day furlough granted for such emergencies in the army. During the few days that he was in Richmond, the West Point scheme was talked over with John Allan, who was probably willing to listen to it because it seemed to offer a final solution as to his ward’s future and definitely removed him from the household.(320) A complete reconciliation was impossible under the circumstances, but a more amicable feeling undoubtedly existed between them when Poe left for Fortress Monroe, than had been the case for a long time.

The young soldier left Richmond early on the morning of the ninth of March, 1829. He went to his “father’s” room to bid him good-bye, but finding him asleep, he did not awaken him to the consciousness of grief. Immediately on arriving at Old Point Comfort, on the morning of the tenth, he wrote back home.(321) He says he is well, and there is a note of joy in the letter at the reconciliation with his guardian, for he tells us, that if it were not for Mrs. Allan’s death, he would now be happier than he has been for a long time. The rest of the letter is given up to saying how anxious he is to retrieve his good name and reestablish himself in the good opinion of his guardian, and to suggestions as to those who might aid in obtaining an appointment to West Point, now taken for granted. Evidently, during the visit home, the matter had been talked over, and John Allan’s consent obtained.

From many indications, it is certain that, from the first, the whole West Point plan was on Poe’s part, merely a concession to his guardian’s idea of what his future career should be. The young soldier himself would have liked to free himself entirely from the army to give himself up to writing. On this point, however, as upon his “son’s” returning to Charlottesville, John Allan was adamant. Poe was himself a little wiser now. He had learned how futile it was to woo the muse with no bread in his stomach, and no oil in the lamp; and he was prepared to compromise, rather than to walk out of the house again to starve. Frances Allan’s promise, that she had extorted from her husband, had [page 191:] paved the way for a reconciliation. With temporary acquiescence to his guardian’s wishes, and a repetition at West Point of his success in the ranks, Poe felt that there was a real hope of being reenstated in Mr. Allan’s good opinion if not in his affection. In the meantime, the Military Academy offered board, bed and education; a specious combination that has appealed to a great many poor but ambitious youths. To share, even partially, in John Allan’s large fortune was also highly desirable. Even a modest legacy would bring Poe the possibility of the leisure for his writing which he so much desired — desired, indeed, above all things and relief from the haunting fear of poverty. This choice therefore, which circumstances had so largely thrust upon him, was the lesser horn of a dilemma rather than a thirst for the glory of arms. The result of it was to be the almost utter waste of two years out of a short life.

From the standpoint of literature, it is unfortunate that John Allan could not change his mind. A little concession, on his part, to the darling wish of his “son’s” heart would have allowed the world to have heard from Poe oftener and sooner. It might have saved him, even then, from the nerve-shattering effects of the poverty and deprivations to follow. But to the potentialities of his ward, John Allan was blind. West Point, to the good merchant, seemed an ideal solution. Edgar would there be under that discipline of which the Scotchman felt he was in such need; it relieved Mr. Allan of personal expense by casting him on the public charge; and it removed Poe from the household and assured him a future. By such an arrangement the older man could at once assoil himself of his promise to his dead wife, and be honorably rid of the young genius who had become a spiritual, an intellectual, and a physical nuisance. There comes a time in every man’s life when he feels that he is entitled to what he calls “peace.” Death had removed John Allan’s wife. He was now looking forward to a new era of existence, and in the scheme of that life there was no place for a reminder, a painful reminder, of the old order of things.

No one can blame Mr. Allan for this. A lack of psychic insight and artistic prevision, however desirable, must be forgiven — a man cannot be reproached for the lack of qualities with which he has not been endowed — but there was something more than this. When John Allan “adopted” the helpless child whom he took into his house, whether willingly or not, he assumed certain responsibilities. It is the ruthlessness of his shaking these off, from the time of Poe’s sojourn at Charlottesville until after the West Point interlude, of which posterity has a right to complain. The dying prayers of his wife seemed to temporarily arouse in him a sense of the fact that fatherhood does not consist simply in cramming a child’s stomach, and then throwing it out of the nest. [page 192:] As the days slipped by, however, the repugnance to having Poe in the house returned, and the memory of the promise waned. It is this process that the correspondence between the years 1829 and 1833 shadows forth. The beginning, as might be expected, was more favorable than the end.

Most of Poe’s time when he got back to the Fort was taken up in making arrangements for his discharge, getting letters from his officers to the War Department, and finding a substitute willing to serve out the remainder of his enlistment, about three years. A few weeks after his arrival, arrangements were complete, and the Colonel of the Regiment wrote the following letter to the General commanding the Department of the East. As usual in Poe’s case, most of the biographical data is inexact. The story which Poe told his commanding officer can be read between the lines.

Fortress Monroe,   
March 30, ’29.

GENERAL, — I request your permission to discharge from the service Edgar A. Perry,(322) at present the Sergeant-Major of the 1st Reg’t of Artillery, on his procuring a substitute.

The said Perry is one of a family of orphans whose unfortunate parents were the victims of the conflagration of the Richmond Theatre in 1809.(323) The subject of this letter was taken under the protection of a Mr. Allan, a gentleman of wealth and respectability, of that city, who, as I understand, adopted his protegé as his son and heir; with the intention of giving him a liberal education, he had placed him at the University of Virginia from which, after considerable progress in his studies, in a moment of youthful indiscretion he absconded,(324) and was not heard from by his Patron for several years; in the meantime he became reduced to the necessity of enlisting into the service,(325) and accordingly entered as a soldier in my Regiment, at Fort Independence, in 1827. Since the arrival of his company at this place he has made his situation known to his Patron, at whose request the young man has been permitted to visit him; the result, is an entire reconciliation on the part of Mr. Allan, who reinstates him into his family and favor, and who in a letter I have received from him requests that his son may be discharged on procuring a substitute, an experienced soldier and approved sergeant is ready to take the place of Perry as soon as his discharge [page 193:] can be obtained.(326) The good of the service, therefore, cannot be materially injured by the discharge.

I have the honor to be,

With great respect, your obedient servant,  
Col. 1st Art’y.

To the General Commanding the

E. Dept. U. S. A., New York.

Permission was granted by General E. P. Gaines commanding the Eastern Department, from New York headquarters in an order dated April 4, and in compliance with this, “Edgar A. Perry” was discharged from the service of the United States on April 15, 1829, a sergeant — as the Colonel notes — then being ready to take his place as substitute. As this transaction was later used as the basis of a serious charge against Poe by the second Mrs. Allan, it is important to note that Poe was discharged from the army in a little over a month from the time that he returned from furlough to Richmond. Apparently, the whole matter was easily arranged. Allowing for the time which the mail then required between New York and Fortress Monroe,(327) and for the usual delays of official correspondence, it is hard to see how it could have been done more speedily.

Poe’s own description of the transactions involved in his discharge is now available.(328) On the date of his discharge it appears that both Colonel House and Lieutenant Howard, his regimental, and company commanders were absent. Had they been present, either one, it would have been possible to have mustered in the first recruit who offered as a substitute, which would have cost Poe only the usual bounty of $12. Poe had told John Allan that it would only cost that much, when he was in Richmond, it appears. With the officers absent who were competent to enlist a new recruit in his place, Poe was forced to pay $75 to the sergeant who took his place. This he did by giving the substitute $25 cash and a note for $50, which he afterwards took up out of $100 sent him from home. As Poe’s explanation agrees with the army regulations in force at the time, both John Allan’s suspicions, and the charge of embezzlement made against Poe by the second Mrs. Allan in her only [page 194:] known printed statement about him, published long after his death, are both shown to be wrong.

Years after the events just described, when every move of Poe had become a matter of public interest, the second Mrs. Allan, then a widow, wrote to Colonel Thomas H. Ellis at that time living in Baltimore, an “explanation” of the estrangement between Edgar Poe and John Allan. The letter is quoted in part:

Mr. Poe had not lived under Mr. Allan’s roof for two years before my marriage, and no one knew his whereabouts; his letters were very scarce and 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.(329)

An examination of the statements in this letter, together with the known facts and movements of Poe and John Allan, and other letters dealing with the young poet’s period of army service and discharge, prove that Mrs. Allan’s letter is incorrect, not only in its charge of the misuse of funds, but in nearly every other item. Poe did, it is now known, still owe money to some of the noncommissioned officers in his regiment when he left Fortress Monroe. A letter of Poe’s written to one of these men later on fell into the second Mrs. Allan’s hands. This, together with her husband’s suspicions, and the nature of Poe’s statements about his guardian in the epistle itself, perhaps led Mrs. Allan to make the statement that she did make.

The absence of Lieutenant Howard, on the date of Poe’s discharge, April 15, probably accounts for the fact that Poe did not, although anxious to secure his cadet appointment, leave Fortress Monroe until almost a week after his release. He was waiting to obtain letters from Lieutenant Howard and the other officers to aid him in his application. These letters were given gladly, and show clearly the high estimation in which Poe was held by his superiors. The blamelessness of his conduct during his two years in the army is clear. His company and battalion commanders write:

Fortress Monroe, Va. 20th April, 1829.

Edgar Poe, late Sergt-Major in the ist Arty, served under my command in “H,” company 1st Reg’t of Artillery, from June 1827, to January 1829, during which time his conduct was unexceptionable. He at once performed the duties [page 195:] of clerk and assistant in the Subsistent Department, both of which duties were promptly and faithfully done. His habits are good and entirely free from drinking.

Lieut, 1st Artillery

In addition to the above, I have to say that Edgar Poe (erased Perry) was appointed Sergeant-Major of the 1st art’y; on the ist of January, 1829, and up to this date, has been exemplary in his department, prompt and faithful in the discharge of his duties — and is highly worthy of confidence.

Bt. Capt. and Adjut. 1st. Art’y

To this is third endorsement by the Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment, W. J. Worth,(330) who joins most heartily adding some further praise of his own. The letter, in short, covers the entire period of Poe’s service in the army under all three officers.

With these letters in his pocket, young Poe left Old Point Comfort and set out for Richmond where he seems to have been occupied during the latter part of April, 1829, and the first week of May in obtaining political influence for his appointment. John Allan bestirred himself in the matter and obtained a letter from Andrew Stevenson, the Speaker of the House, and a Major John Campbell, who remembered having seen Edgar Poe as a boy at “The Springs” in 1812.(331) While Poe was still in Richmond, Colonel Worth, the Representative in Congress from the district, was also prevailed upon to write the Secretary of War in the young man’s behalf, and to these letters and the eulogies of Poe’s former officers, John Allan added his own. Pen in hand, the nature of the older man’s feelings toward his ward, could not be forced beyond the following arctic “recommendation”:

Richmond, May 6, 1829.

DR. SIR, — The youth who presents this, is the same alluded to by Lt. Howard, Capt. Griswold, Colo. Worth, our representative, and the speaker, Hon’ble Andrew Stevenson, and my friend Major Jno. Campbell.

He left me in consequence of some gambling at the University at Charlottesville, because (I presume) I refused to sanction a rule that the shop-keepers and others had adopted there, making Debts of Honour of all indiscretions. I have much pleasure in asserting that he stood his examination at the close of the year with great credit to himself. His history is short. He is the grandson of Quartermaster-General Poe, of Maryland, whose widow as I understand still receives a pension for the services or disabilities of her husband. Frankly, sir, do I declare that he is no relation to me whatever; that I have many whom I have taken an active interest to promote theirs,(332) with no other feeling than that, [page 196:] every man is my care, if he be in distress. For myself I ask nothing, but I do request your kindness to aid this youth in the promotion of his future prospects. And it will afford me great pleasure to reciprocate any kindness you can show him. Pardon my frankness; but I address a soldier.(333)

Your Ob’d’t se’v’t,  

The Hon’ble John H. Eaton, Sec’y of War, Washington City.

With this gloomy document from the frank altruist who felt that “every man is my care, if he be in distress — “to fire the enthusiasm of the Secretary of War in his behalf, Poe left Richmond on or about May 7, 1829, and went to Washington to present the letters to the Secretary of War in person.

John Allan’s letter must have been meant for the eyes of Poe himself as much as for the Secretary of War.(334) It was plain notice to the young poet that his guardian considered him as merely an object of charity, and that beyond his efforts to get him off his hands and into West Point, he had no further interest. “Frankly, sir, do I declare that he is no relation to me whatever,” did not mean that he was about to make Poe his heir, or at home any more in his house. In formally carrying out his promise to his dead wife, only John Allan’s honor, and not his affection, was involved. The result of Poe’s application was the usual one. The letters were put on file in the War Department and nothing happened for months.

Mr. Allan had given Poe $50 when he left Richmond. Poe apparently merely stopped off in Washington to present his letters at the War Department and then went on to Baltimore, where we find him before the middle of May, 1829. Poe, immediately proceeded to look up his own relatives, and, on May 20, he writes John Allan that he has succeeded in finding his aged grandmother, Mrs. (General) David Poe and his other relations. In the meantime he had drawn on Richmond for an additional $50, a draft which his guardian honored. On May 18, John Allan writes from Richmond telling Poe that Colonel Preston had written a warm letter of recommendation in his behalf, and at the same time enclosing a check for $100 with the admonition to be prudent and be careful. Colonel Preston’s letter which John Allan is evidently somewhat astonished to find so “warm,” was as follows:

Richmond, Va., May 13, 1829.

SIR, — Some of the friends of young Mr. Edgar Poe have solicited me to address a letter to you in his favor, believing that it may be useful to him in his application [page 197:] to the Government for military service. I know Mr. Poe and am acquainted with the fact of his having been born under circumstances of great adversity. I also know from his own productions and other undoubted proofs that he is a young gentleman of genius and taleants. I believe he is destined to be distinguished, since he has already gained reputation for taleants and attainements at the University of Virginia. I think him possessed of feeling and character peculiarly intitling him to public patronage.

Very respectfully your obt. serv’t,  

Major John Eaton, Sec’y of War, Washington.

This letter is more than a formal recommendation obtained by political influence; it is the warm recognition of Poe’s “taleants” by a friend and neighbor who had known him from childhood.(335) Despite his unusual spelling, James Preston had sufficient literary foresight to be distinguished as the first person who linked the word genius with the name of Poe.

Poe had several good reasons for going to Baltimore from Washington. In the first place, he must have been thoroughly advertised of the fact that by this time he was no longer welcome “at home.” With the waning of John Allan’s “affection,” he also felt the desirability of establishing more firmly the family ties with his blood relations in Baltimore, and the importance of obtaining from them whatever influence the name of his grandfather, who had been Quartermaster in the Revolutionary War, might have with the War Department.(336) Poe’s ignorance about his own family up until this time seems to have been almost complete. Grandfather Poe’s exploits in the Revolution had taken on an importance by family recital and the lapse of time which had already breveted him “General.” Edgar was delighted. He was, in short, only now beginning to find out who he really was. “Edgar Allan” was about to become completely metamorphosed into “Edgar Poe.” There was also another reason why Poe desired to be in Baltimore, one which he had not so far dared to reveal to his guardian. His real interest in life was now centered upon getting out another volume of poems. With May, 1829, the long and indomitable struggle for literary recognition really begins.

Once in Baltimore, Poe lost no time in pushing the publication of Al Aaraaf and the new and revised poems which he now had on hand. His experience with Tamerlane and Other Poems had taught him the [page 198:] futility of merely printing his own work with no means of publication or public notice, and he now set about preparing the way for his next book in the manner which he followed for the rest of his life. This was to send his work to some well-known writer or influential person, and, under the guise of soliciting their criticism, to obtain a hold on their interest and influence.

A day or so after his arrival in Baltimore, May 11, 1829, he called upon William Wirt,(337) the author of the then well-known Letters of a British Spy. Poe had met Mr. Wirt previously in Richmond, and he now left with him the manuscripts of Al Aaraaf, telling him that he was submitting it immediately to a Philadelphia publisher. He also asked for Mr. Wirt’s comment, doubtless hoping for a letter that would have influence with publishers. Wirt, who was a semi-literary person, was completely mystified by the imagery of Al Aaraaf, a poem that still continues to trouble the “well ordered” and academic mind. He, however, replied the same evening having — evidently put in the day somewhat badly with “Nesace” in the limbo of Al Aaraaf — yet with kindly feelings withal for the young author to whom he writes:

Baltimore, May 11, 1829.

. . . I am sensible of the compliment you pay me in submitting it to my judgment and only regret that you have not a better counsellor. But the truth is that having never written poetry myself, nor read much poetry for many years, I consider myself as by no means a competent judge. . . . This is no doubt an old-fashioned idea resulting from the causes I have mentioned, my ignorance of modern poetry and modern taste. You perceive therefore that I am not qualified to judge of the merits of your poem. It will, I know, please modern readers the notes contain a good deal of curious and useful information, but to deal candidly with you (as I am bound to do) I should doubt whether the poem will take with old-fashioned readers like myself. . . . I would advise you, therefore, as a friend to get an introduction to Mr. Walsh or Mr. Hopkinson or some other critic in Philadelphia, versed in modern. . . .(338)

Armed or disarmed with this letter from a legal critic who thought that, “the notes contain a good deal of curious and useful information,” Poe set out at six o’clock the next morning on the steam boat for Philadelphia with his manuscript in his pocket.

In Philadelphia, Poe submitted his poems to Messrs. Carey, Lea & [page 199:] Carey, and had a short interview with Mr. Lea at the firm’s office on Chestnut Street, in which Mr. Lea suggested that the “author” might contribute some poems to the Atlantic Souvenir. Meanwhile, he took the manuscript of Al Aaraaf under advisement while Poe returned to Baltimore.

Before the end of the month, Poe probably received from the Philadelphia firm the usual reply of publishers to a young poet, saying that if they could be guaranteed from all loss, they would undertake publication. Hence on May 29, 1829, we find Poe writing to John Allan inclosing him William Wirt’s letter, enlarging on the importance of a young poet’s being brought before the eye of the world early, and asking his guardian to write the publishers, guaranteeing the book to the extent of $100. In making this request, Poe assures Mr. Allan that he has long ago given up Byron as a model.(339) The merchant’s reply, which was unusually prompt, was to sternly refuse all aid, and “strongly censure” Poe for his “conduct.”

More correspondence about Al Aaraaf followed between “father and son,”(340) but although Poe grew humbler, Mr. Allan remained as always — firm. The incident seems to have affected their relations seriously. John Allan was both disgusted and alarmed at this token that Poe’s literary ambitions were unchanged, and he seems to have felt that his ward was not very much in earnest about West Point. Although it was obviously not Poe’s fault that the appointment was not forthcoming, and equally patent that he would have to exist in the meantime, John Allan, while he retired to his plantation during the summer days, seems to have left his “son” to shift largely for himself. Poe would have liked to come home he tells his guardian, but the latter replied that he was not especially anxious to see him, and let it go at that. By the end of July, 1829, the young poet was in precarious circumstances. Finally, on July 26, John Allan sent him a little money with the suggestion that a man of genius ought not to have to apply for aid; to which taunt Poe replied, that a little more timely assistance would prevent the application.

As John Allan’s suspicions of Poe’s honesty and ability in money matters have to a certain extent been handed down as part of the Poe [page 200:] tradition, a brief examination of Poe’s financial transactions at this time may be of value in making plain his typical difficulties.

By John Allan’s own accounting on the back of one of Poe’s letters, it appears that from about the middle of May to the nineteenth of July, 1829, the merchant provided Poe in all with $200. On this amount the youth was expected to board and clothe himself for a period of ten weeks, pay his traveling expenses from Richmond to Washington, and from Washington to Baltimore — then a matter of about a day each way — and take care of all contingent expenses, in short, as John Allan recommended, “be prudent and be careful.” The young man was just out of the army, and except for the suit of mourning which was given to him in Richmond, he was without civilian clothes. Allowing for the value of money at that time, $200 might have covered this, had there been no extra expenses. But Poe tells his guardian that he had to take up the note of $50 which he had given to his substitute, and we know also that he had gone to Philadelphia and returned to Baltimore in May. Allowing for the money he sent the substitute, we now learn that Poe had spent $104 between early May and June 22, 1829, when he tells his guardian that he was robbed of $46, “all I had,” while sharing a room with Mosher Poe in the Beltzhoover Hotel in Baltimore. By searching the pockets of his cousin, who thus immortalized himself, Poe was able the next night to recover $10. The man begged not to be exposed on account of his wife, although Poe gives his name in the letter to John Allan.(341) The next remittance which Poe received from Mr. Allan, was on July 26.

It would therefore appear that during the Summer of 1829, for a period of one month at least, Edgar Allan Poe managed to exist on $10, probably with the connivance of his landlady and his relations. The exact form of dissipation in which the young poet indulged at 33 cents a day does not appear at this writing to be clear. Nor was this all, John Allan’s censure of his extravagance was bitter and his expression of his suspicions extreme. For even suggesting the publication of the poems, Poe is now full of apologies. Nevertheless the manuscript was still left with Carey, Lea & Carey, and Poe, meanwhile, had succeeded in getting an introduction to Mr. Walsh, the editor of the American Quarterly Review, and obtained the promise of his help. In the interim there was no word from the War Department about the appointment.

During the entire period of young Poe’s stay in Baltimore from May, 1829, until the end of that year, the letters he received from John [page 201:] Allan were filled with sarcasms, suspicions, and reproaches. An occasional remittance generally came in time to save him from being thrown into the street, but the anxiety with which he accounts to his guardian for every penny gives indubitable evidence of the spirit in which the help was conferred. Aside from “blowing the boy up” for thinking of wasting money on poems, the chief bones of contention were the older man’s suspicion about the amount of money given to the substitute — which no end of obvious facts and explanation served to allay — and the constant doubts expressed to Poe about his zeal in the matter of obtaining the appointment. A letter from Poe in which he told his guardian that he had just found out that he was a grandson of General Benedict Arnold,(342) must have caused Mr. Allan to exclaim “I might have known it,” for such were his sentiments. It seems probable that at the time Poe himself may have thought this to be true. The story, of course, came from the fact that his maternal grandmother’s name had been Arnold. Aside from this, there was nothing in it. Perhaps, after all, it was only a sly little hoax on the part of Poe who enjoyed a well fabricated fib, and knew the exact expression that it would summon upon John Allan’s countenance — the grim mouth relaxing for a moment into a sardonic but withal annoyed smile. Whatever may have been his motive, however, in conveying to Richmond this devastating piece of information, which certainly would not have aided him with the War Department,(343) he lost no opportunity of proving to his guardian his earnestness about West Point. Poverty spurred him to it, an effect that may have been calculated by his guardian, and on July 23 he set out on foot for Washington, the payment of a board bill of $40 having exhausted the larger part of a long expected remittance from Richmond ‘received the day before.

After walking to Washington, Poe had a personal interview with the Secretary of War who told him there was a surplus of ten cadets then on the roll at West Point. But he advised him not to withdraw his letters of recommendation “for use elsewhere,” as Poe says, because of the numerous resignations at West Point which usually took place during the summer encampment. If these resignations should exceed ten, Poe would be sure of his appointment in September; if not, Mr. Eaton assured him he would be among the first appointed for the following year. Poe was afraid that his age might interfere, but he was assured by the Secretary of War that he might call himself twenty-one until he was twenty-two. The interview ended with a remark from Mr. Eaton that the trip to Washington had been unnecessary. After which the young man had the pleasure of walking back to Baltimore. [page 202:] From Baltimore he writes John Allan on July 26, that he has explained everything to him that needed explanation and left no stone unturned in the pursuit of his object. In great perplexity he adds that he wishes Mr. Allan would give him directions as to what course he is to pursue. He says that he would have returned home to Richmond but for the fact that his guardian had said he was not especially anxious to see him.

Poe’s position was in fact at this time most trying. His guardian had told him that he was “forgiven,” yet the tone of his letters, and his continuing to keep him at arms’ length, and on starvation allowance, were proofs of how he really felt. If this were not enough, there was the letter to the Secretary of War which Poe must have seen, as it was given to him as a personal introduction to Major Eaton. All this was puzzling and painful to the young man, again and again he begs his “father” to come out in the open, assuring him pathetically that since Charlottesville he has done nothing to offend him.

. . . I thought that had been forgiven, at least you told me so — I know that I have done nothing since to deserve your displeasure —. As regards the poem, I have offended only in asking your approbation — I can publish it upon the terms you mentioned but will have no more to do with it without your entire approbation — I will wait with great anxiety for your answer. You must be aware how important it is that I should hear from you soon — as I do not know how to act.

But his anxiety was not relieved for a fortnight. In the meantime under date of August 4, Poe writes again saying how anxious he is to return home. With almost nothing to live on in Baltimore, and no assurance of more, the “anxiety” is not hard to understand. No reply having come from Richmond, on July 28, Poe had written Carey, Lea & Carey, asking for the return of his manuscript, for which he bravely says he has made a better disposition than he could have hoped for. Whether he had really done so is doubtful. The expression was probably meant to cover his own disappointment while leaving the best of impressions upon the Philadelphia publishers.

July 28th 1829


Rec’d July 30  
Ans” Aug. 3”  


Having made a better disposition of my poems than I had any right to expect, (inducing me to decline publication on my own account) I would thank you to return me the MSS: by the gentleman who hands you this — mail.

I should have been proud of having your firm for my publishers & would have preferred publishing, with your name, even at a disadvantage had my circumstances admitted of so doing.

Perhaps, at some future day, I may have the honor of your press, which I most sincerely desire — [page 203:]

Mr. Lea, during our short interview, at your store, mentioned The Atlantic Souvenir and spoke of my attempting something for that work. I know nothing which could give me greater pleasure than to see any of my productions, in so becoming a dress & in such good society as “The Souvenir” would ensure them — notwithstanding the assertions of Mr. Jn Neal to the contrary, who now & then hitting, thro’ sheer impudence, upon a correct judgment in matters of authorship, is most unenviably rediculous whenever he touches the fine arts —

As I am unacquainted with the method of proceeding in offering any piece for acceptance (having been sometime absent from this country)(344) would you, Gentlemen, have the kindness to set me in the right way —

Nothing could give me greater pleasure than any communication from Messrs Carey Lea & Carey —

With the greatest respect  
& best wishes  
I am Gentlemen  
Your most obd Servt.  

On August 10, Mr. Allan again sent his ward a remittance, apparently accompanied by bitter complaints about the money spent on the substitute, despite the fact that the necessity for the expenditure had been amply explained several times before. Poe says that he can live on $8 or $10 a month, “anything with which you think it is possible to exist,” and ends with a request to have his trunk sent to Baltimore in care of H. W. Boal, Jr. This trunk contained some books and papers. On August 19, Mr. Allan sent Poe $50 on which he existed for three months. During that time Mr. Allan went to the Hot Springs, a visit that marks the second attack of a complaint that finally proved fatal some five years later. In the meantime Carey, Lea & Carey had returned Al Aaraaf and Poe was trying to place it in Baltimore.

August, 1829, marks the beginning of an association that was a vital one in Poe’s life. He had gone to live with the Clemms. At that time Mrs. Maria Clemm, Poe’s aunt, was living in a two story house with an attic in Mechanic’s Row, Milk Street. She seems to have occupied the upper part of the house together with her little daughter Virginia, her son Henry, old Mrs. David Poe (the poet’ s grandmother), and William Henry Leonard Poe. The addition of Edgar was undoubtedly a heavy burden on her already overcrowded household. Poe tells his guardian that old Mrs. Poe was a paralytic, that Mrs. Clemm was, if possible, in a still worse case, and that his brother Henry was so far gone in drink as to be unable to help himself.

The poverty-stricken Clemm-Poe household seems to have existed, and they could have done little more than that, on a small pension received by Mrs. “General” Poe, the pittance of Henry Clemm, a mason’s [page 204:] apprentice, the driblets of money received by Edgar from Richmond, and the sewing which Mrs. Clemm worked on, when she was able. Henry Poe was for a time after his return from sea employed as a clerk in the law offices of one Mr. Henry Didier, but he was dying of tuberculosis and given up, as Poe says, to drink.

Edgar apparently shared a back attic room with his elder brother, and probably helped to nurse him even at this time. In this house the poet first met his cousin, Virginia Maria Clemm, then a little girl seven years old who later became his wife.

Virginia seems at that time to have been a merry little school girl, rather plump, with brown hair, violet eyes, and a disposition that was her chief charm. Doubtless she romped about the house with big Cousin Eddie, who called her “Siss” or “Sissie,” and the childlike and helpless affection, one of complete trust on her part, and of protection and solicitude on Poe’s, now began. Despite the fond assertions of innumerable romantic biographers, it is extremely unlikely that it ever amounted to much more. Mrs. Clemm was a woman whose maternal instinct was tremendously accentuated. She appears to have taken her young nephew to her heart from the first. A paralytic mother, a troublesome son, a dying nephew, and an utterly dependent daughter were not sufficient to satisfy her all inclusive motherliness. To these she now added the sore pressed Edgar Allan Poe. For him it was the beginning of one of the most benign and, at the same time, devastating influences of his career.

Warned by the complete demise of his first book — owing to the lack of any adequate public notice — from the rear garret of Mrs. Clemm’s house in Baltimore, Poe now began to send out through the Autumn and early Winter of 1829 letters and poems to editors and critics in order to prepare the way for the volume containing Al Aaraaf, which he was determined to publish in spite of John Allan, West Point, poverty, and the interruptions of a closely packed household.

To this career of literary ambition he was driven by the double necessity of expressing the intense desires of his nature, even by this time thwarted in many ways, and that vivid sense of the reality and all importance of the ego known as pride, a pride that Poe identified with the archangel Israfel, but which, in some of its aspects, belonged equally to Lucifer. It was no accident that the young poet had already years before taken Byron for his master, not only in attitude and verse, but in spirit. From Baltimore, Poe, as we have seen, had written Mr. Allan that he had given up Byron as a model, and in a certain sense he had, for he was now mature enough to realize that no mere follower can ever achieve. The necessity for originality, even in adaptation from others, was firmly fixed in his mind. But the pride was not gone. Above all obstacles it rose supreme, the inward sense of power, the [page 205:] necessity for justification, the sense of the importance of his utterance, was now more than ever fixed upon him. Hence his unequivocal prophecies of ensuing greatness which so disgusted John Allan, the force which insulated him to a great extent from all outward circumstances — always in the end unimportant to those who live within themselves — and such lines as these in Tamerlane:

There is a power in the high spirit

To know the fate it will inherit:

The soul which knows such power, will still

Find Pride the ruler of its will. . . .(345)

Thus, despite all untoward and often degrading circumstances, the great work went on in the back garret of Mrs. Clemm where Henry lay coughing himself to death, in the same room with Edgar, or stumbled in late at night in his cups to boast drunkenly of his exploits in South America and other romantic lands beyond the seas he had traversed some years before, exploits to which Edgar listened eagerly, and made his own.

In the room downstairs Mrs. Clemm sewed while Virginia ran back and forth carrying things to the helpless grandmother. She, poor lady, doubtless reminisced, as old people will, of the time when in her youth, as the wife of a Quartermaster of the Continental Armies, her husband had provided money and forage for La Fayette and his soldiers, while she and the girls of Baltimore with their own hands cut out five hundred pairs of trousers for the breechless troops of Washington — “and now, how small her pension was!” Towards evening, Henry Clemm would come home covered with stone dust; Edgar from wandering about the docks or haunting the office of the Federal Gazette and Baltimore Daily Advertiser on the corner of St. Paul and Bank Streets, perhaps with the manuscript of Al Aaraaf in his pocket which he had shown to William Gwynn, the editor, and gotten small encouragement. David Poe had once worked for Gwynn when he kept a law office, and knowing the family traits, Mr. Gwynn had remarked, when he saw the poetry of the runaway actor’s son, that it “was indicative of a tendency to anything but the business of matter-of-fact life.” A remark which time has shown to be true, but, as so often happens, irrelevant.

After nightfall, with the sewing laid aside, the family would gather about the table by the feeble light of a few tallow dips to sup on the single dish which Mrs. Clemm had cooked, and sometimes by her importunity with friends or relatives, provided. Grandma Poe would be drawn up close to the small coal fire, and they would discuss the last depressing letter from “Pa” in Richmond, while Virginia chattered, or did her sums with “Cousin Eddie” to help. Then bed-time, for bed-time [page 206:] came early in those days to folk with a scant stock of candles, only one for Henry and Edgar as they climbed to their attic, Henry complaining, and coughing himself into a restless slumber, while Edgar, as long as the candle lasted, bent over his papers, driving the pen on and on toward that far-off shining goal. He was arrested at last by the midnight ghosts of “Helen” and Elmira, or his dear “Ma” with the agate lamp in her hand in the old house on Tobacco Alley. There the air from the docks used to blow in, waving the curtain fitfully — as it did here — reminding him exquisitely, but exquisitely painfully, of the vanished home in Richmond. The clothes that he took off were a little more ragged every night, despite the obstinate needle of Mrs. Clemm. Undressing under the eaves of the low-ceilinged room, Poe brushed them and folded them carefully, before he lay down by the side of the brother whose face was flushed, but whose hands and feet had already begun to take on an eternal cold.

September, 1829, passed and there was no cadet’s appointment from the War Department. The few letters from Richmond became more urgent and severe. Mr. Allan was greatly alarmed. Suppose, after all, that his convenient plan for providing for Edgar at the public cost had failed! He accused Poe of having deceived him in regard to Mr. Eaton’s promise for September appointments. In reply Poe refers him to his former letters giving the Secretary of War’s exact words, pointing out that his guardian is “mistaken.” He will, he says, go to Washington, however, and get the Secretary to give him his appointment in advance together with an order to repair to West Point for examination the following June. These letters he will ask the Secretary of War to forward to Mr. Allan “so that all doubts will be removed” — and he adds with a touch of irony, “I will tell him (the Secretary of War) why I want it at present and I think he will give it.”

But Poe did not do this. He was without sufficient funds when he wrote this letter (October 30) even to walk to Washington again. The offer, however, seems to have quieted John Allan, who probably did not care to be put into the position of doubting the good faith of the Secretary of War. Nevertheless, he did not reply, and two weeks later Poe is forced to write him again telling his guardian that (November 12) he is almost without clothes and about to be ejected by his landlady,(346) as he has received nothing from home since the middle of August. John Allan at last replied and sent him $80. Nearly all of [page 207:] this was already due for board and in the next letter Poe was forced to beg his “father” to get half a strip of linen from Mr. Galt, which Aunt Maria Clemm would make up into sheets “without charge.”

It must be remembered that in making these appeals, Poe was carrying out Mr. Allan’s own desire of waiting for the cadet’s appointment, and that while so waiting he could not obtain employment when it was known that, at any moment, he might have to leave his job and be ordered off to West Point. Furthermore, the youth who was without clothes in Baltimore in November, 1829, was the ward of a rich man whose prosperous warehouse was piled high with goods. Yet, says Poe, “if you could me a piece of linen, or a half piece at Mr. Galt’s . . . I could get it made up gratis by Aunt Maria. . . . One wonders if “dear Pa” actually loosened up and did send the linen on by the boat, or whether Aunt Maria provided that gratis, too. The letter containing this modest request is the last on record that Poe wrote to his “father” from Baltimore in 1829. Something had happened which mollified even John Allan, and the world now first began to take a faint notice of Edgar Allan Poe.

Not very far from Mrs. Clemm, on Exeter near State Street, lived Mr. Henry Herring who had married Poe’s Aunt Eliza, the same who had written the touching letter to Frances Allan many years before.(347) There were five children in the Herring house, cousins with whom young Poe was soon on intimate terms, writing poetry in his Cousin Mary’s album, and being much about the place. Aunt Eliza had died some years before, but Mr. Herring, who seems to have been acquainted with a number of literary men and editors about Baltimore, succeeded in interesting them and some other of the Poe cousins in Edgar’s work. Both Mr. Herring and George Poe had known a Mr. John Neal when he had been in Baltimore as an editor a short while before. They had all belonged to the Delphian Club on Bank Lane, better known as “The Tusculum.” Mr. Gwynn, to whom Poe had lately shown Al Aaraaf, was also a member.

John Neal who wrote under .the pen name of “Jehu O’Cataract,” had gone North to start a paper in Portland, Maine. This, he afterwards continued as the Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, in whose columns his literary criticisms were received as oracles. George Poe, the father of Neilson Poe, seems to have used his influence with his old friend John Neal, and to have suggested to his literary cousin Edgar that he send Neal some poetry for editorial comment. This Poe did and was rewarded soon after by the following notice in the columns of the Yankee for September, 1829:

If E. A. P. of Baltimore — whose lines about “Heaven” though he professes to regard them as altogether superior to anything in the whole range of American [page 208:] poetry, save two or three trifles referred to, are, though nonsense, — rather exquisite nonsense would but do himself justice might (sic) make a beautiful and perhaps a magnificent poem. There is a good deal here to justify such a hope.

These words, said Poe, were, “The very first words of Encouragement I ever remember to have heard.”(348) But Neal ends the little critique with, “He should have signed it Bah! We have no room for others.”

Nevertheless, Poe took the criticism in good part and in the December issue of the Yankee he was allowed to print a letter covering four pages containing copious selections from the forthcoming volume. Among other things Poe says of himself:

I would give the world to embody one half the ideas afloat in my imagination. . . . I appeal to you as a man who loves the same beauty which I adore — the beauty of the natural blue sky and the sunshiny earth. . . . I am and have been from childhood, an idler. It cannot therefore be said that

‘I left a calling for this idle trade,

A duty broke — a father disobeyed.’

for I have no father — nor mother.

John Allan’s reproaches were evidently in his mind, and as he was often without resources in Baltimore, the censure of his relatives for writing poetry instead of “going to work” may possibly be reflected here.

The whole letter is typical of Poe’s method of puffing his own work. It amounted, in short, to a long announcement of his forthcoming volume. John Neal prefaced it with these editorial remarks:

The following passages are from the manuscript works of a young author, about to be published in Baltimore. He is entirely a stranger to us, but with all their faults, if the remainder of Al Aaraaf and Tamerlane are as good as the body of the extracts here given, to say nothing of the more extraordinary parts, he will deserve to stand high — very high, in the estimation of the shining brotherhood, etc.

This editorial prelude concludes with some highly moral and patronizing advice to the poet’s extreme youth, quite typical of the time.

The notice in the September Yankee by the famous John Neal was probably of direct service to Poe in two ways. It must have been drawn to John Allan’s attention by the admiring Nancy Valentine, or Poe’s good friends the Galts, and caused Mr. Allan to reflect a little. At any rate, about the middle of December, Poe received $80 from his guardian, and then or later, permission to return home. With Neal’s puff in hand Poe was also enabled to approach the publishers in Baltimore, the favorable notice of a Northern critic of note being then, as now, impressive in the South, which pays no serious attention to its own writers until they are praised elsewhere. The result, in Poe’s case, seems [page 209:] to have been that his book was accepted. On November 18, in the “linen” letter, he writes John Allan that his poems have been accepted upon advantageous terms by Hatch & Dunning of Baltimore, “they to print, and give the author 250 copies of the book.” Mr. Dunning, Poe adds, well knowing that his guardian might suspect that some expense was involved, would confirm the terms himself upon an immediate visit to Richmond.

Heralded thus somewhat dubiously, but on the whole in a not unkindly way, Poe’s second volume, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, appeared in Baltimore in December, 1829, published by Hatch & Dunning, and printed by Matchett & Woods, the same firm which then printed the Baltimore Directory. It was a thin octavo volume bound in blue boards, containing seventyone pages padded out with a considerable number of extra fly-leaves upon which appeared mottoes quoted from English and Spanish poets. The margins were more than ample. The dedication, a line from Cleveland, reads,

Who drinks the deepest? — here’s to him.

In this book, Al Aaraaf, and Tamerlane were the principal offerings. The latter was dedicated to John Neal, “respectfully,” with the advertisement,

This poem was printed for publication in Boston, in the year 1827, but suppressed through circumstances of a private nature.(349)

As a matter of fact, it was completely rewritten in conformity with the outcome of the adventure with Elmira, and, from a literary standpoint, greatly improved. The two main long poems were followed by a brief preface, and nine miscellaneous short poems of which three are revised reprints from the Boston volume. The second of the nine, beginning “I saw thee on thy bridal day,” obviously refers to Elmira Royster, by this time Mrs. Shelton. Al Aaraaf is an attempt on the part of the youthful poet to put in the form of an allegory his philosophy of beauty.(350) The allegory is obscure, but the poem contains many exquisite lines. [page 210:]

In general it may be said that Poe’s second book with all of its juvenile faults was his first real approach to a contribution to American poetry. It marked a distinct advance over his first volume of two years before, and embodied in its lines some of his characteristic landscapes tinged with his mystical melancholy and the autobiographical records of his love affairs. The gain in his handling of rhythms is marked. Certainly the landscapes bear indubitable marks of his South Carolina sojourn.(351)

Poe remained in Baltimore until the end of 1829 seeing his book off the press and dispatching copies to editors for review and notice. On December 29, 1829, he sent a copy to his friend John Neal, the editor of the Yankee in Boston, with this characteristic letter:

I thank you, sir, for the kind interest you express for my worldly as well as poetical welfare — a sermon of prosing would have met with much less attention.

You will see that I have made the alterations you suggest . . . and and some other corrections of the same kind — there is much, however, (in metre) to be corrected for I did not observe it till too late.

I wait consciously for your notice of the book — I think the best lines for sound are those in Al Aaraaf

There Nature speaks and even ideal things,

Flap shadowy sounds from visionary wings.

I am certain that these lines have never been surpassed. —

Of late eternal condor years

So shake the very air on high,

With tumult as they thunder by

I hardly have had time for cares

Through gazing on the unquiet sky.

‘It is well to think well of one’s self’ — so says somebody. You will do me justice, however.

Most truly yours,  

After which Poe said good-bye to the Clemms, and the Herring and Poe cousins, packed up what little belongings he had, and taking advantage of John Allan’s permission to return home in the luster of his new laurels, went to Richmond before the holidays were over, taking along a generous supply of the copies of the new book for distribution among his friends.

Upon his return to Richmond, Poe found his old room ready for him at the Allan house. It was then and long afterwards known as “Edgar’s Room” to all the servants and the friends of the family. During [page 211:] the second Mrs. Allan’s regime the name was probably suppressed. After Mrs. Clemm’s crowded and humble quarters, the spaciousness, the luxury, and the gardens of the big house must have been delightful. The kindly black faces of Jim and Dabney were there to welcome him, and their hands to serve him, while “Aunt Nancy’s” affection was as loyal as ever. But with what memories must he have wandered about the house! Frances Allan was gone, her room was empty, and there was no Elmira to come and sit in the swing or look through the telescope. That Poe was in Richmond by the first week in January, 1830, is certain, as he was supplied with clothes at that time by orders upon Ellis & Allan, among other things, a fine “London hat.” Probably, despite the darning needle of Mrs. Clemm, his wardrobe was in a sad condition after the period of poverty in Baltimore.

The second night after his return, Poe met Thomas Bolling, his old University of Virginia acquaintance (altogether, as his letters show, a charming fellow), at Sanxey’s Book Store then at 120 Main Street, Richmond. Tom Bolling was home for the holidays from Charlottesville, and the two boys had many reminiscences to exchange, not having seen each other for two years. Poe gave Bolling a copy of Al Aaraaf and regaled him with an apocryphal account of his “trip abroad,” since the real facts of his rather uneventful life in the army as an enlisted man did not supply the adventurous background which the author of two volumes of poetry required. Bolling was much impressed, and we may be sure carried back to the University the news of the brilliant and interesting career of “Gaffy,” news which no doubt helped to clear the atmosphere there of the cloud which rested upon the erstwhife young gambler on account of unpaid debts.

Thus the “Poe legend” was already beginning to take shape with Poe himself as the prime source.(344) All of this was at that time due to his desire to appear a man set apart, an adventurous fellow, who had left the University to see the world, and had succeeded.(352) In these stories he seems always to have embodied some of the actual experiences of his brother Henry.(353)

For the rest, Poe was much about town, seeing his old friends and distributing to them in person, or by orders on the Richmond book store, copies of Al Aaraaf. As few were capable of understanding the poems, [page 212:] an attitude of amusement, always a convenient mask for ignorance, was the general result. In this the wiseacres of the town were confirmed by a review J. H. Hewitt is supposed to have written for the Baltimore Minerva and Emerald, poking fun unmercifully at the new poet. The paper’s editor was Rufus Dawes, and Poe may have been mindful of this when he skinned the man alive in Graham’s Magazine.

Not a great deal is known of this, Poe’s last sojourn, in the Allan house at Richmond, in the Spring of 1830. He was still waiting for his appointment to West Point and for that reason was tolerated as a temporary inmate of the establishment, rather than the “son” of the house. John Allan had not long before returned from “The Springs.” He was not in very good health, was still troubled over his wife’s death and revolving in his mind the fact that he had no heir nor wife to preside over his household, although Miss Valentine remained and took her sister’s place most acceptably as later events show. Poe probably came and went as he pleased, being left to his own desires and his room with the beloved books, where the further revision of his poems with new ones was already under way. He probably saw a good deal of the Mackenzies at the Hermitage where Rosalie still lived in the atmosphere of affection which her brother so lacked. Mr. Allan may have tried at times to drown his memories after a not unusual method, although he was by no means given to drink. There is good reason to believe, however, that with the first signs of advancing age and ill health and the loss of his life part1 tier of many years standing, at this particular time he sometimes indulged too freely. If so the results were not such as to make things happier for the members of his household. Shortly after the beginning of the year he began to find solace for his sorrows in the companionship of one who had already borne him a daughter. The natural result proved doubly disturbing to his peace of mind.

On May 3, 1830, he had a violent quarrel with Poe.(355) Probably a recurrence of the old charges of idleness and living upon his bounty, in which he heaped reproaches upon his ward, and ended by roundly insulting the young poet about his family, at a time, says Poe, “When you knew my heart was almost breaking.” The uncertainty of living in Richmond waiting for the appointment, while the carping and fault-finding tongue of his guardian let no old fault rest, when, too, Frances Allan and Elmira were haunting him like ghosts, all this made such [page 213:] scenes doubly hard to bear, sometimes almost insufferable. The alternative was starving, nakedness, and the loss of opportunity.

A few minutes after this scene Poe wrote to an old army acquaintance at Fortress Monroe, apparently a sergeant in his old company to whom he owed money. Poe addressed him as “Bully,” and says that the reason he had not paid the debt was because he could not get the money out of his guardian, although he had tried dozens of times. Poe, it seems, owed sums to several other non-commissioned officers in the old regiment, amounts which he had probably borrowed in the Spring of 1829 on the prospects of the “reconciliation” with Mr. Allan after Frances Allan’s death. The small sums he had received from home had not permitted a settlement. From other statements in this letter, it appears that he could not be frank with his guardian about the matter. The trouble John Allan had raised over the extra amount necessary to procure a substitute was probably a sufficient warning that any further revelations about expenditures would be met with a burst of wrath. One Downey from Fortress Monroe had already called upon John Allan and received an answer not satisfactory to Poe’s “creditors,” and this reply Poe is at haste to explain away by saying that Mr. Allan was not very often sober and his words could be discounted.

This statement about John Allan is one of the most discreditable and unfortunate that Poe ever made. Whatever the provocation, it was unwise, defamatory to his “father,” and eventually the final cause and plausible excuse for his being “disinherited.” On this letter the second Mrs. Allan also based her charge that Poe had spent the money provided for the substitute. Sergeant Graves, or “Bully,” to whom Poe wrote was not the substitute, however, but simply one of several soldiers about Fort Moultrie to whom the ex-sergeant major owed various small sums. Poe promises payment, and in a most familiar tone, ends by informing “Bully” that the writer is now a cadet. This looks very much as if the Secretary of War had already given Poe the letters to report to West Point for examination, as the latter had suggested that he would in an earlier letter to Mr. Allan while in Baltimore. Only the official confirming letters were now needed; perhaps the exact weight of political influence was still lacking, and events now shaped themselves in such a way as to cause Mr. Allan to secure this and get Poe finally off his hands.

John Allan was now a widower, and a very eligible one in point of fortune, at least. His former wife’s sister, Miss Valentine, was running his establishment, and it seems to have occurred to the thrifty merchant that the arrangement already in force might as well be made permanent. About a year before Frances Allan’s death he remarked in a letter that Miss Valentine was “as fat and hearty as ever.” Doubtless her figure had lost nothing in attractiveness during the interim; [page 214:] she was acquainted with how much sugar he liked in his coffee, she was near at hand, and they were intimately “at home.” The result was that he began to pay her marked attentions. What the lady’s sentiments were, we do not know. To remain in the same household where she had already lived for twenty-five years, and to become the presiding mistress of one of the finest establishments in Richmond, may not have been without its attractions. Poe, however, seems to have been outraged. Frances Allan was scarcely dead a year, and he was under no hallucinations as to the delicacy of his guardian’s tender emotions. He seems to have protested and to have reminded his “Aunt Nancy” of her dead sister’s wrongs. Perhaps he even intruded upon some sentimental scenes. At any rate Miss Valentine refused John Allan’s offer, probably influenced by Poe’s advice, and the effect was devastating upon what remained of Frances Allan’s household. John Allan’s indignation must have been implacable. Was he never to be quit of this young upstart, or the household rid of his interference in his perfectly logical and natural plans? He seems to have forthwith determined to put an end to it once and for all. Poe has been accused of trying to prevent his foster-father from having a legitimate heir, but the “other reasons” seem to be sufficient and much more probable. Whatever the reasons may have been, the results are not in doubt. Poe was packed off forthwith to West Point. General Scott’s influence seems to have been obtained,(356) and through John Allan’s partner, Mr. Charles Ellis, a letter was secured from the latter’s younger brother, Powhatan Ellis, then United States Senator from Mississippi, recommending Poe to the Secretary of War. As usual, a senator’s letter turned the trick with the War Department, and on March 31, 1830, we find Poe’s guardian signing this document at Richmond, probably not without extreme satisfaction:

SIR — as the guardian of Edgar Allan Poe I hereby signify my assent to his signing articles by which he shall bind himself to serve the United States for Five years, unless sooner discharged, as stipulated in your official letter appointing him cadet.

Your obt. — servant.  

The Hon. Sec’y of War
Washington [page 215:]

The state of affairs at home may be inferred from the fact, that once in the possession of his appointment the new cadet did not linger any longer than he had to. From Mr. Allan’s letter it seems clear that Poe received his cadet’s warrant at the end of March, 1830. Examinations at West Point were in June, yet by May 12 he was preparing to depart, for on that date John Allan is charged on the books of his firm with a pair of blankets for Poe’s outfit, and it seems likely that, about the same time, the young man left Richmond for the United States Military Academy. Mr. Allan accompanied him to the steamboat leaving for Baltimore, and shook hands with him. Poe says that he knew it was meant for a final farewell.(357)

Poe must have arrived in Baltimore about the middle of May, 1830, where he seems to have gone to live temporarily with his Aunt Maria Clemm, as letters from Richmond were afterward addressed to him in care of his brother Henry, who also resided with her. The affection of Mrs. Clemm, and the doubtless spontaneous welcome of little Virginia, no doubt formed a warm contrast to the atmosphere he had just left. The fact that he was about to enter the military profession, presumably for life, did not interfere with his literary aspirations. Poe doubtless had his reservations about the permanence of his career in the army, even then. He must already have been at work on some of the poems which appeared the year following, and he doubtless hoped that by pleasing his guardian and becoming an officer he would solve the problem of existing, and later on be in a position to rely on Mr. Allan’s patronage in the work which lay nearest to his heart.

Indeed it is safe to say that from the first, “Cadet Poe” had no enthusiasm for West Point. His two years of army service could leave him no illusions as to what was to come afterward. Arid the outward glitter, — the uniforms, and the parades — did not have the attraction for him by this time that they do for the average youngster who first encounters them. A long experience on the inside of a military tunic had already proved to him how tight and narrow was the fit. He was now twenty-one years old and capable of estimating his chances for the future.(358) With his temperament, his literary propensities, and the circumstances under which he entered the Military Academy, [page 216:] it was almost a foregone conclusion that he would not stay long in a place where even determination and military ambition are often not sufficient to produce a diploma. Two years in barracks had already informed him as to the amount of freedom that he could expect, and the discipline at West Point was even stricter. Nevertheless, there was no alternative. John Allan’s help was contingent upon his making the most of the opportunity, and there was nothing else to do but to starve. Up until the last, however, Poe continued to further his literary plans, for while in Baltimore on his way to West Point he took the occasion to call on Mr. Nathan C. Brooks of semi-literary character, to whom he read some of his manuscripts and promised to send a poem for an annual that Brooks then had underway. This Poe never did. It seems also that he borrowed some money from a former schoolmate to whom he imparted another version of his legendary adventures abroad.(359)

Poe probably went by way of Philadelphia to New York, and thence to West Point,(360) where he arrived in time to take the examinations for admission during the last week of June, 1829. On June 28, he writes John Allan that the examinations for admission are just over, and adds with a true Virginian naiveté that a great many cadets of “good family” have been rejected. Even the son of a governor was found deficient! Mr. Allan’s remarks upon the Poe family were probably remembered. Doubtless, to the aspirant for social honors in Richmond, the shot went home. Evidently young Poe was somewhat taken aback by the businesslike air of the Military Academy for he is careful to impress his guardian, as if in preparation for possible snags ahead, that less than a quarter of those who enter ever graduate. “I will be much pleased,” he adds, “if you will answer this letter.” He was not quite sure how the wind blew in Richmond, — then, too, during the first few days in uniform, it is strangely comforting to hear from home. On July 1, 1830, Poe took the oath at West Point “to preserve the Constitution of the United States and serve them against all their enemies whomsoever.” The next morning, with a veteran’s disgust, he found himself being awakened in a tent by the familiar sound of reveille, and donning a cadet’s uniform.

About the same time that Cadet Edgar Allan Poe was going through the manual of arms, with astonishing facility for a plebe, on the summer parade ground at the United States Military Academy, Mr. Allan [page 217:] was enjoying the hospitality of his friend John Mayo at Belleville Plantation near Richmond, despite a very annoying complication in his private affairs at home. Among the house guests was Miss Louisa Gabriella Patterson (the niece of Mrs. Mayo), a strong-minded lady from New York, about thirty years of age. Mr. Allan was attracted by her; the attentions of the rich widower were well received, and they shortly afterwards became engaged. It was the stroke which severed Poe forever from the home of his youth. He was now finally and irretrievably an exile in a world hostile to dreamers. For a while he tarried as a stranger in the tents of the Military.



[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 184:]

310.  Poe to Sergeant Samuel Graves from Richmond, May 3, 1830, Valentine Museum Letters, No. 21.

311.  Poe to John Allan from Fortress Monroe, December 22, 1828, Valentine Museum Letters, No. 27. Poe indicates in this letter that unless he receives help, he contemplates going abroad, probably to London (sic).

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 185:]

312.  Testimony of James Galt which Mr. J. H. Whitty prints in his Memoir: This is to the effect that Mrs. Allan’s dying desire was to hold Poe in her arms before she died. In case she passed away before Edgar arrived home, she asked not to be buried until her foster-son should see her. The Galts, it will be remembered, were cousins of John Allan.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 186:]

313.  Dr. Archer was an uncle of Mrs. Susan Archer Weiss, one of Poe’s minor biographers. Under the circumstances of this close relationship I have followed her account of Poe’s contact with this army surgeon which is somewhat more complete and convincing, in this particular, than Prof. Woodberry’s. It is now certain, from letters unknown to either Prof. Woodberry or Mrs. Weiss, that Dr. Archer did not suggest to Poe the West Point scheme which he (Poe) had already conceived at Fort Moultrie some months before. Dr. Archer was appointed to the United States Medical Corps, August 5, 1826, and stationed at Fortress Monroe, National Calendar, vol. IV, page 158.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 187:]

314.  Richmond Whig, Monday, March 2, 1829. “Died on Saturday morning last, after a lingering and painful illness, Mrs. Frances K. Allan, consort of Mr. John Allan, aged 47 years. The friends and acquaintances of the family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral from the late residence on this day at 12 o’clock.” Clipping by courtesy of Edward V. Valentine, Esq.

315.  Mrs. Allan had a small income of her own from certain parcels of real estate which, it appears from transactions of assignment in 1822, were held in her name. It may be that she suggested to her husband that some of the proceeds from this property might be devoted to Poe. There is no direct evidence that she did so, however.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 188:]

316.  In his letter to John Allan from Fortress Monroe of March 10, 1829, Poe showed that the journey from Richmond to Norfolk took a day and a night. As he arrived home “the evening after the funeral,” March 2, he must have left Old Point Comfort sometime the day before, probably on the afternoon stage unless he went by water. The latter method was slower, and therefore probably not employed in this race with death.

317.  It must be remembered that in Poe’s day the term “evening” meant any time after three o’clock P.M. until darkness. In some parts of the South the word is still used that way by the older generation.

318.  Ellis & Allan Papers — “Mr. Ellis, please to furnish Edgar A. Poe with a suit of clothes, 3 pairs of socks or thread hose. McCrery will make them. Also a pair of suspenders, and hat and knife, pair of gloves.” This is in the handwriting [page 233:] of John Allan, but dated March 3, 1828, probably due to Mr. Allan’s troubled state of mind at his wife’s death, as the slip belongs in the records of 1829. Poe was not in Richmond in 1828.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 189:]

319.  The Roysters had talked to Poe after his return from the University and it had been agreed to defer the marriage for a year. At any rate, Elmira then married Mr. Shelton while Poe was away and not just before his return from the University, as several biographers aver.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 190:]

320.  Definite moves to obtain letters of influence to the War Department for a cadet’s appointment all follow this time, and Poe’s proceedings to get dear of the army from the time of this visit shows that the understanding with his guardian was reached at this time, and not before by previous correspondence.

321.  Poe to John Allan, March 10, 1829. Letter No. 9, Valentine Museum Collection.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 192:]

322.  The request for discharge of course had to be in the same name as that under which the soldier was enlisted.

323.  The Colonel evidently had the story from Poe and from John Allan’s letter to him, but he is somewhat mixed as to dates and precise facts. The theater burned in 1811. That Poe used it as a convenient method of explaining his adoption seems likely. It is also a more romantic reason, the kind that Poe liked to fill into his “autobiography.”

324.  The use of the word “absconded,” carrying with it the idea of financial defaulting, may indicate that, in his letter to the Colonel, John Allan made mention of Poe’s running away on account of debts.

325.  “Reduced to the necessity,” etc. — this is an interesting comment on the Colonel’s own opinion of the enlisted personnel of that day, and Poe’s desperate straits in Boston in 1827. Evidently “enlisting” was one step short of suicide.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 193:]

326.  The wording here strongly suggests that the approved sergeant was ready to fill the post of sergeant-major to which he would at the same time have to be promoted by regimental order. The point should be noted.

327.  Then at least three or four days each way. The orders would also be a day or so in being approved, written, and transmitted. It evidently took the Colonel’s letter three days to get to New York and the confirming order at headquarters was issued on the fourth. The order for discharge is dated ahead to the fifteenth of April because it allows a month’s half pay and is convenient to compute. This completely does away with the second Mrs. Allan’s story of delay during which the aggrieved substitute “grew tired waiting and wrote to Mr. Allan.”

328.  From various letters from Poe in the Valentine Museum Collection dated from Baltimore in the Summer of 1829, written to John Allan in Richmond.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 194:]

329.  This letter was afterward published hy Colonel Thomas H. Ellis, the son of Charles Ellis, in the Richmond Standard for April 22, 1880. Louise Allan Mayo also gave further publicity to this unfortunate epistle in Historic Homes of Richmond. The Richmond News, Illustrated Saturday Magazine, July 28, 1900.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 195:]

330.  The endorsement of this letter by the Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment shows that the Colonel was absent as Poe states.

331.  See Chapter III, page 38.

332.  This may refer to the “children,” probably not to anyone in Scotland as William Galt had cared for them in his will.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 196:]

333.  Hon. John H. Eaton, then Secretary of War, also bore the title of “Major.” In the South this would not he forgotten. See also James Preston’s letter.

334.  Hon. John H. Eaton of Tennessee, was Secretary of War in Jackson’s cabinet 1829-1837. He was a politician of great influence in the Jackson “democracy” and did not escape without grave scandals being connected with his name. John Allan was evidently not anxious to be beholden to him — “For myself I ask nothing.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 197:]

335.  The Hon. James P. Preston — “Mr. Preston,” was the father of young Preston who had been one of Poe’s rather intimate playmates at Mr. Clarke’s school; they sat on the same bench together there, and young Preston had at one time been in the habit of taking home some of Poe’s schoolboy verses for his mother’s criticism. In the letter which Mr. Preston gave Poe to the Secretary of War there is a patent reference to this.

336.  Preference of appointment was given to the descendants of Revolutionary officers.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 198:]

337.  William Wirt had just retired to Baltimore as ex U. S. Attorney General. In 1831 he represented the Cherokee Indians in their famous suit before the Supreme Court of the United States, to retain their lands (the Cherokee Nation vs. the State of Georgia). The court held that it had no jurisdiction in the case. An important constitutional principle was involved, and Wirt’s arguments were most able (Niles XXXVI. 231, 258.9; Stat. Man., II, 709). See also (Wooster vs. the State of Georgia), 1832, for an interesting side light on this case.

338.  From the mutilated manuscript in William Wirt’s handwriting, with the conclusion of the letter and the signature missing, now in the Boston Public Library. Dr. Thomas Ollive Mabbott is to be credited for making public this letter.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 199:]

339.  This remark arouses interesting speculations. Byron, and the influence of the Byron cult on young Poe was doubtless something which John Allan abhorred and had held responsible for many of his ward’s “immoral” flirtings with literature. The reader will remember that Don Quixote and Gil Blas were also on the Scotchman’s index expurgatorius.

340.  Poe seems to have replied at the same time to Carey, Lea & Carey asking them to hold his poems until they heard further. The manuscript of Al Aaraaf remained with them up until the end of July, 1829, by which time all hope of Mr. Allan’s help was at an end and Poe wrote them withdrawing it.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 200:]

341.  This name has been deleted from the Valentine Museum Letters, letter No. 13. Mosher Poe was a second cousin of Edgar’s. There is no doubt the story is true or Poe would not have dared to give his cousin’s name to John Allan. In one facsimile reproduced in the Valentine Letters the name “Mosher” occurs.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 201:]

342.  Poe to John Allan, June 25, 1829, Letter No. 13, Valentine Museum Collection.

343.  Had Poe not succeeded in getting the appointment, this story would have been an excellent excuse. See note 304.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 203:]

344.  Poe’s seeming allusion here to a trip abroad is the first evidence of his intentions to cover up the period of his army service by claiming for himself the prestige of foreign travel: John Allan had impressed upon him the social disgrace of enlistment.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 205:]

345.  The italics are Poe’s.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 206:]

346.  This would seem to indicate that Poe did not live continuously with the Clemms. His places of abode were no doubt largely contingent upon the state of the supplies from Richmond, and both the Herring and Poe cousins doubtless gave him shelter from time to time. Mrs. Clemm, however, says that Poe lived with her while in Baltimore in 1820. The statement does not necessarily mean “all the time.” Prof. Woodberry doubted Mrs. Clemm’s statement, but the Valentine Letters now confirm it.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 207:]

347.  See Chapter III, page 38.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 208:]

348.  Poe means by an editor in the public prints. It must be remembered that Poe’s “attack” on Neal in the letter to Carey, Lea & Carey was made two months before Neal’s remarks in the Yankee. See “Poe and John Neal” in the Appendix.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 209:]

349.  See Chapter X, page 164.

350.  Al Aaraaf is the region placed by the Arabian poets between the upper and nether regions, neither hell nor heaven, where those spirits who deserve to enter neither, dwell. Poe has personified his ideal of beauty in a beautiful maiden by the name of “Nesace” who dwells in a distant star —

“— for there

Her world lay lolling on the golden air

Near four bright suns —”

Poe has caught some of the tremendous sweep of space from Milton, and there are reminiscences of Queen Mab, with a strange admixture of Moore and Byron and perhaps a trace of Pinkney. Despite this, the fault of a young poet, it is peculiarly his own. The universe is ransacked for beautiful things to make up its lines, with notes, in which the young poet takes a pardonable pride.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 210:]

351.  This is the “foreign influence” pointed out by numerous critics in Poe’s second volume, due to his trip abroad in 1827, now known to be a pure myth.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 211:]

352.  A Richmond newspaper for January 19, 1830, Poe’s twenty-first birthday, prints the acknowledgment of the receipt of Al Aaraaf, etc.

353.  The persistence of the story about Poe’s “trip abroad” is incredible. Russian encyclopædias give detailed accounts of his “arrest in St. Petersburg,” and, confusing the title of Henry Middleton, the American Consul, with that of “minister,” have translated the word “priest.” So we have Poe, drunken, of course, being rescued from prison and Siberia by the “Rev. Middleton,” Bible in hand. Absurdity can go no farther! Henry Poe, Edgar’s brother, may have been to St. Petersburg while in the Navy or merchant marine. There is no proof. Poe probably “annexed” some of his brother’s adventures. Henry died soon after, so that the rest is silence.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 212:]

354.  We now hesitate not to say, that no man in America has been more shamefully over-estimated,” etc. Poe’s article on Rufus Dawes. See Chapter XXI, page 547

355.  Valentine Museum Letters, letter No. 24, page 257. If the young Poe had any knowledge of his guardian’s mode of life at this time, and it is quite probable that he had, in view of his great reverence for the memory of his foster-mother, his indignation over his guardian’s actions becomes only too dear. The situation does not need to be elaborated.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 214:]

356.  This is not certain but probable. General Scott had known Poe as a boy; John Allan knew him; a volume of Poe’s early poems was afterward found in the General’s library; several of Poe’s West Point classmates assert that General Scott helped Poe. At a much later date General Scott gave money to a collection taken up to help Poe, etc., etc. Also see letter No. 23, Valentine Museum Letters (November 6, 1830).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 215:]

357.  Valentine Museum Letters, letter No. 24, page 257.

358.  Some of Poe’s biographers make capital of Poe’s being over twenty-one at the time of his entrance at West Point, and to accuse him of “duplicity.” As a matter of fact to this day both at Annapolis and West Point various “dodges are worked” by candidates to circumvent the letter of the law about appointments: mail is sent to establish “legal residence” in other districts than that from where the candidate hails, etc. Poe’s age was afterward a joke at West Point. See Chapter XIII, page 274. It is now known that the Secretary of War himself gave Poe assurance that he could call himself twenty-one until his twenty-second birthday. See this chapter, page 249, also Valentine Museum Letters, letter No. 15, page 159

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 216:]

359.  Woodberry, vol. 1, 1909, page 67.

360.  This is not certain. It is thought that Poe took the opportunity to call on some literary friends in Philadelphia, as well as upon Carey, Lea & Carey. It may be that he arranged to publish the sonnet To Science in the Casket while in Philadelphia at this time. The poem appeared a few months later, October, 1830, and L. A. Wilmer is thought to have been connected with the Casket and the Saturday Evening Post about this time.






[S:0 - HVA34, 1934] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (H. Allen) (Chapter 12)