Text: Hervey Allen, “Chapter 13,” Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (1934), pp. 218-243


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[page 218:]

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
 
THE WEST POINT INTERLUDEE

THE not inconsiderable period of his short life which Poe spent at West Point, trying to carry out John Allan’s idea of what his career should be, may be considered, for the most part, as a spiritual and mental interlude. It lasted from June 25, 1830, to February 19, 1831,(361) and marked the passing of the days when he made his final decision to cast off all outside dictation and to follow, without further delay or indirection, a literary career. During the periods of drill and recitation his body, and the secondary part of his mind, was marched back and forth on the parade ground or to the classroom, but his spirit and desire were elsewhere.

Upon arrival, in the last week of June, 1830, he seems to have passed the entrance examinations without difficulty, and to have been received by a Captain Hitchcock and a Mr. Ross, to whom he was previously known or bore letters of introduction. On July 1, as we have already seen, he took the oath, and as the custom then was and still is, he immediately went to live under canvas in the annual summer encampment of the cadets. His tent mates were Cadets Read, Stockton from Philadelphia, and Henderson, the last a nephew of the Secretary of War.(362)

Upon arrival at “The Point,” Poe had found waiting for him a letter from his guardian which had been forwarded by his brother Henry from Baltimore, containing a $20 bill, and a complaint that he had taken some articles from home which did not belong to him. These it appears from his reply were some books from his own room and probably a brass inkstand, sand caster, and pen holder marked with John Allan’s name and the year ’13(363) These articles must have been [page 219:] in Poe’s possession for years in his own room, some of the books were doubtless the gift of Frances Allan, or his own scant little library. Nothing shows the strong sense of Mr. Allan’s overpowering sense of property, and his petty parsimony more than this incident.

Financially Poe’s experience at West Point was largely that of the fiasco at Charlottesville. The $20 was evidently to see him through the Military Academy. It, and the pair of blankets which he drew from Ellis & Allan in May, were the last evidences of any warmth which he received from his guardian, who now felt that on the generous cadet’s salary of $28 a month, and rations, Poe was amply upon his own. It was customary for the parents of cadets to make a deposit for the boys to draw upon, for their instruments, books, clothes, and other incidentals. But this was not done for Poe, although he writes later asking for “instruments and a Cambridge Mathematics,” but the letter received no reply. Indeed, his guardian did not communicate with him at all between June, 1830, and January, 1831. From the day Poe took the oath, it is quite obvious that John Allan considered and hoped that their intimate association was at an end.

About the year 1830, the Military Academy at West Point consisted of five fairly large stone buildings for administrative purposes, classrooms, and dormitories scattered about the “parade,” the heights above the Hudson. There were, in addition, six brick buildings for the officers and professors near the river, and some old military store houses of Revolutionary date for arms and equipment. The original barracks had been burnt some years before Poe’s arrival.

In 1830, the Academy was twenty-eight years old and there were some thirty odd professors, instructors, and assistants for a corps of about 250 cadets. First preference in appointment was given by law to the descendants of Revolutionary officers, which accounts for Poe’s anxiety in looking up his grandfather’s record in Baltimore, — the sons of the officers of 1812 coming next. The legal age for appointees was between fourteen and twenty-one, most of the boys being admitted in the early ‘teens, so that Poe was far more mature than the average cadet of his time, both in years and experience.

The course lasted four years, but was by no means so rigidly organized as at present. Under the conditions, Poe’s hope of receiving advanced standing owing to his previous military experience and attendance at the University of Virginia, might have possibly have been accorded him had he consistantly [[consistently]] distinguished himself. Some of the more advanced cadets were allowed to take part as instructors, for which they received additional pay. A cadet’s salary was fixed by law at $330, with certain allowances for rations and permission to purchase [page 220:] equipment at army rates. Text books, and articles of personal use were not provided, however, and Poe soon found himself in debt for necessaries which the parents of the other students either furnished, or provided by deposit. In his final letter from West Point, he complains bitterly of this and of the similar lack of the small necessities of life which John Allan’s parsimony had also inflicted upon him at the University of Virginia. To be without soap, candles, writing materials, room furniture, fuel, and clothing; to be forced to borrow even the minor articles for personal cleanliness and comfort, is a situation which is essentially exasperating and degrading. Poe took a peculiar pride in the neatness and care of his person and complains justly of the unnecessary “fatigues and degradations” which he was forced to undergo. The household economy of the time, particularly the Virginia plantation, supplied many of the articles, which are now purchased as a matter of course. In Poe’s day it was difficult, sometimes even impossible to buy them at all.(364) Such a situation does not need to be enlarged upon.

At Charlottesville the story of his birth had undoubtedly somewhat compromised his social position with the sons of Virginia aristocrats. At West Point this condition did not exist, Poe, indeed, seems to have definitely allied himself there with Virginians, who, up until the Civil War, constituted themselves a group apart, — yet the Military Academy was by no means democratic. It had its own peculiar snobbery. This consisted in affecting to look down on one who had served in the ranks. Future officers, and the sons of officers had their own opinion about one who had so far erred as to have been a common soldier. He did not “belong,” and his mannerisms, especially since they were marked, were doubly open to suspicion. In Poe’s history at West Point this played its part, and helped to make the already bitter, a little salt. To offset this, Poe gave himself out as a young man of many adventures, one who could tell much of strange places if he cared to. Thus the “mystery” was continued.

As for the rest, there was certainly something to be gained:

The Course of Study is completed in four years, each being devoted to a class; and includes the French language, drawing, natural and experimental [page 221:] philosophy, chemistry, and mineralogy, geography, history, ethics, and national law, mathematics in the highest branches, and lastly artillery and engineering.(365)

The country about the Academy was not without its attractions, had there been any time to enjoy them. The view from West Point down the gorge of the Hudson as far as Horse Race and Anthony’s Nose is peculiarly beautiful and was impressed firmly on the young poet’s memory. Old Fort Putnam on the hill behind the barracks had at that time the remains of various subterranean chambers, the Catskills, which had already been celebrated by Irving, were nearby, and in the neighborhood of the post was Stony Point, the scene of Major Andre’s sad adventure and the treason of General Arnold, in which, as we have seen, Poe might feel himself entitled to take a peculiar interest. But there was no time to wander among the hills as there had been at Charlottesville. A paternal government claimed his time and the intervals of leisure were few. Nevertheless, West Point left its mark, and later appears vaguely in some of Poe’s descriptions of New York scenery.

The cadets rose early; breakfasted, we may be sure, frugally; attended lectures; dined; and about four P.M. returned to the barracks to get into uniform for the “parade” or drills which occupied the bulk of the remaining hours of daylight. After supper there was a study period, with call to quarters about nine o’clock and early taps. Leaves were few and far between, with holidays even rarer. Here was scant time for dreaming.

From the West Point period, the beginning of Poe’s physical troubles definitely dates.(366) It is reasonably certain that he was of a type which matured early; he probably reached the prime of life before the full strength of manhood in many others began. Despite his early prowess as a swimmer, it is known that he was generally averse to physical exercise and easily fatigued.(367) He had a weak heart and little energy. Any long continued regimen of drill and exercise must have left him morose and unstrung. The conditions at West Point were precisely the worst that he could be called upon to undergo, because the most vigorous, and there was no time at all for escape and solitude. Every incident of his daily routine, and the forced intimacy of tent and barrack life, was an interruption to that stream of consciousness which, to a man of Poe’s type, was all in all — the reverie from which he hoped from time to time to snatch something worth preserving.

The ordinarily constituted man, certainly the cadets who surrounded [page 222:] Poe, could never have an inkling of the sense of hopelessness, nervous irritability, and spiritual frustration which comes to the artist as he feels those rare periods when consciousness becomes creative being interrupted by the trivialities of petty conversation, the necessity to appear polite, or the call of duty to some ultimately useless task. The result is like losing something out of the mouth while dining. No matter how much is eaten afterward the sense of loss is still there. Six months of this seems to have been sufficient to prostrate Poe and send him into a nervous collapse.(368) A boyhood in the same house with John Allan, followed by a period of wild anxiety, starvation, the loss of his sweetheart, and the death of his “mother” was an excellent preparation. Whether this entitled Poe to sympathy is not the question to be raised, the facts, and their result on tide man who was subjected to them, are, however, pertinent matter of inquiry.

The drills, during the summer encampment at West Point, are notoriously severe. It is then that the raw plebes are knocked into some kind of form for the coming academic year by the combined efforts of the military instructors, and the officious attentions of the upper classmen known as “hazing,” which is as much, and as important a part of the character and life-forming aim of the Military Academy as the text books or the sermons in Chapel.

Poe seems to have escaped some of the attention of the upper classmen by the fact that he had already passed two years in the army, and bore somewhat the character of a veteran. His age, which was several years greater than most of the others, and his evident maturity, seem also to have distinguished him from the rest and to have aided in building up a certain glamor and curiosity about his name and antecedents. He became known for his aloofness and pride, and the joke was circulated that having obtained an appointment for his son who had died, Poe had himself taken the boy’s place and entered West Point. It was the dignified “father” whom they now beheld. All this the ex-sergeant major seems to have taken not too good-naturedly while he added to his prestige by indicating that he was a youth with a romantic and thrilling past. Brother Henry’s adventures were now liberally drawn upon again for his own account, and to them Poe added certain other items about voyages to the Mediterranean, and experiences while penetrating the mysterious interior of Arabia that probably reflect the sources of his reading for Israfel, and the secondary oriental literature which engaged his attention about this time. That anyone could imagine such vivid experiences was probably beyond the literal horizon of his fellow cadets. The aura of the legend which Poe undoubtedly [page 223:] began to build up about himself, even at the University of Virginia, now took on a more definite form, and the stories of his “foreign voyages” were long remembered by his West Point classmates, stories that come to life years later in their reminiscences to confirm the myth for biographers.(369) Even the cold records of the War Department have scarcely been able to destroy their effect Someone at West Point also heard the story (which Poe had a year before written to John Allan) that tie romantic looking cadet was a grandson of Benedict Arnold, and this tale began to be whispered about the corridors of South Barracks. A friend at last made bold to ask Poe himself, and there is good authority for the statement that he would neither deny or affirm it. The truth seems to be that Poe really knew so little about his mother and her antecedents that he was not sure himself. Her maiden name, he knew, had been Arnold, and he knew little more, in addition the tale undoubtedly added a strange, and to him a delightfully diabolic color to his reputation.

Part of this desire for a mysterious notoriety was undoubtedly due to Poe’s own feeling of the necessity for padding out his personality in certain directions in which it lacked or had been frustrated, and for making a frame for the strange face in the portrait of himself, that he early set about painting. Both the frame and the countenance that looked out from it were largely artificial, but they were nevertheless works of art. A delight in gulling the simplicity of those about him, a belief in their simplicity which begot in him a dangerous sense of superiority and contempt, was also present. As he grew older this sense of superiority became more and more necessary to his own thought to offset the sense of weakness that came to afflict him, as he began to disintegrate physically and psychically. The romantic hero was the first to appear, only to be replaced later by the perfect logician.

It would have been an excellent thing for the young gentleman adventurer known as Cadet Edgar Allan Poe, whose critical intellect had already freed him from the narrow enthusiasm of patriotism, and unmasked for him the empty banality behind the brassy glitter of military life, if, at this period of his existence, he could have been removed by some miracle to an environment where he might have listened to and taken part in the debates and conversation of his superiors and equals. As it was, there was no one about him with whom he could talk. The personnel at the Academy, while he was there, seems to have been without exception of the completely usual stamp. No one of his classmates had any mental ambitions, and none of them ever achieved any distinction [page 224:] beyond that of brevet-general or pastor emeritus of an evangelical church. To them, Poe’s babel of critical remarks about poets and philosophers of whom they had never heard before, and seldom heard mentioned again in the warlike or peaceful events of their hide-bound lives, must have been incomprehensible and suspect.

The truth is that, even at the age of twenty-two, Poe had few contemporaries in the United States.(370) There were a few circles in Boston, New York or Philadelphia where his remarks might have found an audience. Baltimore was later on to provide another. For the rest, the old tradition of classical culture was fast disappearing along with the old generation which had founded the “Republic.” The new Jacksonian “Democracy” was already climbing into the saddle, the frontier democracy, which the followers of Jefferson mistakenly took for their own. It was no longer fashionable to be a “gentleman,” or to know anything. The tide of romanticism and secondary German philosophy, which Longfellow and Emerson were later on to introduce in America, had not yet begun to be mentioned. So far Poe had spoken in an atmosphere so ratified that it could not produce even an echo. At West Point the vacuum was complete.

American history has produced no more ludicrous paradox than this young literary genius shut up in an institution which was then, and for some years later, partly given up to educating and providing the military technique for many of those who were later on to use the knowledge they had so gained in trying to destroy the nation which provided the means for so doing.’ The world in which Poe moved had nothing to do with all this. The sectionalism which was even then beginning to divide the nation, the controversy over slavery, the awakening of industrialism, and the muling and pe’wking of the young democracy, even then beginning to strike out against all those who raised their heads above its level of thought or morals, did not exist for him. His world lay in the realms of thought, criticism, and the philosophy of European molding which he had first found in the pages of the English reviews upon the counters in the book loft at Ellis & Allan. Here he had met the young Macaulay, and “Christopher North,” become interested in Shelley, Keats, and Byron, Wordsworth, and the giant Coleridge, and it was with them that he thought, and out of them that he moved forth armed with a genuine comment on the philosophy of the time and the only lasting creative urge in romantic poetry that the United States produced. Longfellow and Emerson translated, remolded, [page 225:] and explained, but Poe took the data of romanticism and out of it created something new, a unique utterance in poetry, and a critical comment and application of philosophy to his time and environment that is only now beginning to become appreciated.(371) His art in prose and verse has already won its cloud-streaked place in the sun. In the scattered leaves of his critical and philosophical comments lie some of the earliest suggestions of the possible results of science upon the world and the spirit of man, doubts as to the ultimate self-sufficiency of democracy, queries as to the human value of a society which made physical comfort its goal, strange philanderings in psychology, and in the mathematics of astronomy.

As yet it was all very vague and youthfully crude, yet it was there, in embryo, in the young man in a swallow tail coat and bowler shako, who was being marched back and forth on the hot August parade ground at West Point, learning the precise angle at which the rifle must be held at “port arms,” and how to salute the flag which did not represent anything that he really cared very much about, and a great deal that was positively distasteful to him. For this performance he received three meals and about ninety cents a day. The strange result was that, in spite of it, he evolved from Coleridge and others his own critical theory of poetry and somehow, somewhere, continued to write poetry, poetry which did not view the change which even then he saw creeping across the machineless world into which he had been born with the undivided enthusiasm of most of his contemporaries.(372) In the Philadelphia Casket for October, 1830, appeared reprinted from the 1829 volume the young West Point cadet’s

SONNET — TO SCIENCE

Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!

Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.

Why preyest thou thus upon the poet’s heart,

Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?

How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,

Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering

To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,

Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing? [page 226:]

Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?

And driven the Hamadryad from the wood

To seek a shelter in some happier star?

Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,

The Elfin from the green grass, and from me

The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?

In the meantime, General Scott had visited West Point on a tour of inspection, probably, about the end of the summer encampment, and was, so Poe tells his guardian in a letter written home that Fall, most cordial in his attentions to the young Virginian.(373) General Scott was probably more than casually interested, for John Allan was by that time engaged to a lady who was one of his relations.

The Summer of 1830, indeed, had been a crucial one in the changes which it brought about in Poe’s relations with John Allan, and any projects which he may have had for the future favors of his guardian. None of Poe’s letters home had been answered. Mr. Allan was summering on his Lower Byrd Plantation in Goochland, and passing the time most pleasantly in courting the lady of his choice at Mr. Mayo’s on Belvedere. Poe no doubt heard of the turn which affairs had taken through the visit of some Virginian friends to West Point, Mr. Chevalier and Mr. Cunningham.(373) He could not help being much interested for he must have realized that in a very real sense he had interests at stake. The possibility of a legitimate heir would undoubtedly greatly weaken the already slender claim which he might still feel he had upon the favor and affection of John Allan. On October 5, 1830, Mr. Allan was married in the Patterson house in New York to his second wife, the wedding being attended by the Galts and other Richmond friends and relatives. The happy pair returned to live in Richmond. Poe tells his “father” that he had hoped to have a visit from him at “The Point,” as the other boys were visited by their relatives, but such an event was probably the last idea in John Allan’s mind.(373) With the new wife, both the dark and the bright memories of the first were swept away. John Allan had confessed the faults and the results of former indiscretions to his new partner before his marriage,(374) he had been accepted in spite of them, and naturally enough he did not care to renew the past, or the possibility of future complications by even a mention of Poe. He belonged to the realm of Frances Allan, and that world, for the good merchant, now enjoying an Indian Summer of youth, had completely passed away. To the new wife, Edgar Allan Poe was a name, the son of actors and a scribbler; to her husband a troublesome memory. It was hard, [page 227:] almost impossible for Poe to believe this. He still continued to write “affectionately” to “Dear Pa.” But there was no answer.

At the end of the Summer the battalion of cadets moved into their winter quarters. Poe’s room, which he shared with two others, was Number 28 of the old South Barracks, and here the final phase of Israfel in brass buttons dragged its way to an abrupt end through the Fall and Winter of 1830-31.

Number 28 was furnished, as were all the rooms in the barracks, with a more than Spartan simplicity. There were three beds, perhaps as many chairs, and a table shared in common by the inmates. A wardrobe for each, contained their equipment and clothes, for which a precise position was indicated by the regulations. No ornaments or pictures were tolerated, but as a special concession, certain lares might be “displayed,” upon the upper shelf of the cupboard. A broom, a few basins, slop tubs, and pitchers completed the domestic scene of a cadet’s background, to which an open fire, if the room was fortunate enough to abut on a chimney flue, and a few candlesticks, contributed the sole touches of warmth and light. Compared with this, Number 13 “Rowdy Row” at the University of Virginia had been a luxurious apartment and a haven of private refuge. To the usual assortment of textbooks, Poe somehow or other had contrived to add some genuine literature. These works of imagination consumed by far the larger portion of his study hours as well as his spare time. Even a drill or formation was insufficient at times to interrupt a favorite passage, yet, despite this, until he deliberately set out to neglect his studies, he stood high in his classes at the end of the semi-annual examination: third in French, and seventeenth in mathematics, in a class of eighty-seven.

There is a studied confusion about the incessant routine of a military academy that no haphazard method of existence can hope to equal. The method itself is beyond approach for producing a continuous series of events that perpetually threaten to make everyone late to something. As a consequence, the unfortunate young gentlemen subjected to the process are forever rushing about changing clothes or books, dashing up and down stairs, arising, going to bed, winding themselves in long sashes, buckling on swords, answering oral orders bawled through the long corridors, or stampeding off to formations and yelping “here” to their names at roll call thousands of times. The method of existence is so complicated that living is impossible.

The life of the inmates of Number 28 was further made more interesting, if less tolerable, by the visits at both stated and unexpected hours of the various officers of military and academic discipline who were charged with enforcing the list of thirty-three disciplinary “don’ts,” each with its ingenious penalty; or by the intrusions of upper classmen who were tacitly licensed by the traditions of the place to inflict the [page 228:] peculiarly exasperating personal annoyances of the code of hazing at any hour of the day or night. The blare of bugles and the crash of drums announced the beginning and close of the various and numerous periods into which the day was divided, a schedule which took no account of the value of leisure. There was literally no provision at all for privacy in barracks, and the cadets ate together in a large mess hall under the eyes of the officers. The hours of leave were so short as to preclude any trips into the country about, and if they had not been, there would have been no place to go. The observances of the ritual of rank and military restrictions, made visits to the married quarters of the officers uncomfortable when they were possible.

West Point was, at that time, remote from all places of any size and the visits of relatives and parents were perforce laborious, brief, and far between. In short, there was no social life at all. The only relief to the bareness and monotony of the place seems to have been a combination store and illicit groggery run by “Old Benny Haven,” who exchanged various petty, luxurious tidbits, and bottles of brandy for the small change of the cadets, when they had any, and lacking that, conducted a usurious form of barter in the clothes, blankets, equipment, and even the soap and candles of the young gentlemen. His place just off the post, was, of course, out of bounds, and, although frequently visited by the officers for convivial refreshment, was at once the only solace and the main cause of trouble for the cadets. In addition to Old Benny’s place, as often happens about military posts, the Commissary seems to have provided a loafing place at odd times. Here Poe became acquainted with the Commissary Clerk, at that time one J. Augustus Shea, who it seems had some literary propensities as he afterward published poems. Little George Shea, the clerk’s son, then a small child running about the grounds, was afterward recalled by Poe. Both father and son heard the poet deliver The Raven in New York fifteen years later when he was at the crest of his fame, and had renewed the old West Point intimacy.(669) In such surroundings the young Poe, who loved to imagine himself in luxurious and semi-oriental apartments, surrounded by sweeping draperies, a gloomy, religious light, and tripods of incense, found himself “at home.”

Number 28 South Barracks early attained the reputation of being a “hard” room. Those who aspired to a minimum of appearances on the rolls of discipline soon learned to avoid its precincts. From it, from time to time, issued pasquinades and diatribes in rhyme upon the officers and faculty which were clever enough both to amuse and to annoy. Lieutenant Joseph Locke of Savannah appears to have distinguished himself as a merciless enforcer of discipline, and his doubtless too frequent visits to Number 28 were soon celebrated by the pen which has alone preserved him to fame: [page 229:]

As for Locke, he is all in my eye,

May the devil right soon for his soul call,

He never was known to lie —

In bed at a reveillé “roll call.”

 

John Locke was a notable name;

Joe Locke is a greater; in short,

The former was well known to fame,

But the latter’s well known “to report”

Even Colonel Thayer, the Superintendent did not escape, although Poe seems to have found in him one of the few men he could admire while at the Military Academy.

Cadet T. H. Gibson was Poe’s roommate, and from him, although he set down his memories many years later, we are indebted for what is probably the most authentic picture of “Cadet Poe”:(376)

. . . The first conversation I had with Poe after we became installed as room-mates was characteristic of the man. A volume of Campbell’s Poems was lying upon our table, and he tossed it contemptuously aside with the curt remark: ‘Campbell is a plagiarist’; then without waiting for a reply he picked up the book, and turned the leaves over rapidly until he found the passage he was looking for.

‘There,’ he said, is a line more often quoted than any other passage of his: “Like angel visits few and far between,” and he stole it bodily from Blair’s Grave. Not satisfied with the theft he has spoiled it in the effort to disguise it. Blair wrote: “Like angel visits short and far between,” Campbell’s “Few and far between” is mere tautology.’

Poe at that time, though only twenty years of age,(376) had the appearance of being much older. He had a worn, weary discontented look, not easily forgotten by those who were intimate with him. Poe was easily fretted by any jest at his expense. . . . Very early in his brief career at the Point he established a high reputation for genius, and poems and squibs of local interest were daily issued from Number 28 and went the round of the classes. . . .

The studies of the Academy, Poe utterly ignored. I doubt if he ever studied a page of Lacroix, unless it was to glance hastily over it in the lecture room, while others of his section were reciting. It was evident from the first that he had no intention of going through with the course, and both Professors and Cadets of the older classes had him set down for a January Colt before the corps had been in barracks a week.

From a letter written to John Allan before he entered the Military Academy, it is evident that Poe counted confidently upon his former army experience and his preparation at the University of Virginia to get him through the course at West Point in short order. He tells his guardian that he hoped to complete it in six months. It is probable [page 230:] that he found it, from the nature of the arrangement of the curriculum, rather than from the difficulty of the subjects themselves, impossible to carry out the prediction. This miscalculation of the results of his abilities, combined with the prospect of the increased length of stay at West Point which it involved, and the growing distaste for the bare existence he found there, probably accounts for the discontented and haggard look which his roommate recalled over thirty years later. In the army itself Poe had found means to escape much of the physical drudgery of drills, and the way to considerable leisure for his dreams and composition by engaging in the clerical work which conferred such privileges. At West Point there was no way of avoiding the ironclad routine, and the young poet found himself bound, and turning ceaselessly upon a wheel where the torture became more irksome with each revolution. To look forward to an endless life of that kind of thing was not to be contemplated without despair. Indeed, it is probable that even the unexpected lengthening of its temporary continuance was more than he cared to face, and that he had, as his roommate seems to think, made up his mind to shake the dust of the place from his feet as early as the Fall of 1830. In addition there was the change in the affairs of John Allan which probably removed from Poe the last incentive to continue the situation.

Mr. Allan’s marriage had interfered sadly with these hopes. That it made Poe uneasy there can be no doubt. It was for that reason that he wrote John Allan in November that he regretted that his guardian had not felt it worth while to come up from New York to pay him a visit, although a sight of the man who had so often reviled and reproached him, could have brought little satisfaction. Doubtless there was some element of affection due to memories of old and happier times, but these were now remote. Nevertheless, Mr. Allan’s indifference, and the fact that he had ignored Poe, was alarming, so the November letter to Richmond may be regarded as a “feeler-out.” Poe tells his guardian that he has found West Point not unpleasant and that he is at that time (November 6, 1830) standing first in all his sections.

The roommate’s inference and recollection that Poe neglected his classes, probably arises from composite memories set down years later. That Poe was on the whole discontented and nervous, there is every reason to believe to be correct.

Poe’s standing academically, however, was not much affected. He probably did not have to study much; he was brilliant; had an excellent preparation, and seems to have found no difficulty in distinguishing himself in languages and mathematics. When he did decide to go, as he did, it was not by the route of failure in the classroom, but by disregarding the rules of discipline. For a little while he was not sure [page 231:] enough of the actual state of affairs in Richmond to cut the last tie which bound him to his past without some further thought.

This was probably the condition of his affairs, an uneasy condition, through the Fall and early Winter of 1830. It was a state of spiritual limbo that must have been particularly trying. Nevertheless, he was not quite ready to take so irrevocable a step on his own initiative. Nor can we blame him, for by this time he knew full well what it meant to starve. Even he could not afford to be independent on nothing at all. Byron, and not Chatterton was his model.

During this interlude he again began to drink. As nearly always just a little; but that little for him was a great deal too much. It probably helped to deplete his nerves already badly strained. Having experienced the effects of gulping, he now took to sipping. The stories as to his being raving drunk in the guard house are not true. Had they been so, he would not have been under the necessity of deliberately neglecting his duty to procure his release. There was, however, it seems often enough a bottle of brandy present in Number 28, occasionally resorted to in company with such friends as its contents and the inspired conversation of the owner might attract. About the time of the letter home, Poe’s roommate again pulls aside the curtain for a brief glimpse at Number 28:

It was a dark, cold, drizzling night, in the last days of November, when this event came off. The brandy bottle had been empty for two days, and just at dusk Poe proposed that we should draw straws the one who drew the shortest to go down to Old Benny’s and replenish our stock. The straws were drawn, and the lot fell on me.

Provided with four pounds of candles, and Poe’s last blanket, for traffic (silver and gold had we none, but such as we had we gave unto Benny), I started just as the bugle sounded ‘to quarters.’ It was a rough road to travel, but I knew every foot of it by night or day, and reached my place of destination in safety, but drenched to the skin. Old Benny was not in the best of humors that evening. Candles and blankets and regulation shoes, and similar articles of traffic, had accumulated largely on his hands, and the market for them was dull in that neighborhood. His chicken suppers and bottles of brandy had disappeared very rapidly of late, and he had received little, or no money in return.

At last, however, I succeeded in exchanging the candles and blankets for a bottle of brandy, and the hardest-featured, loudest-voiced old gander that it has been my lot to encounter. To chop the bird’s head off before venturing into barracks with him was a matter of pure necessity; and thus, in fact, Old Benny rendered him before delivery. I reached the suburbs of the barracks about nine o’clock. The bottle had not as much brandy in it as when I left Old Benny’s, but I was very confident I had not spilled any. I had carried the gander first over one shoulder and then over the other, and the consequence was that not only my shirt front, but my face and hands were as bloody as the entire contents of the old gander’s veins and arteries could make them. [page 232:]

Poe was on the lookout and met me some distance from the barracks, and my appearance at once inspired him with the idea of a grand hoax.(377) Our plans were perfected in an instant. The gander was tied, neck and feet and wings together, and the bloody feathers bristling in every direction gave it a nondescript appearance that would have defied recognition as a gander by the most astute naturalist on the continent. Poe took charge of the bottle, and preceded me to the room. ‘Old P.’ was puzzling his brains over the binomial theorem, and a visitor from the North Barracks was in the room awaiting the result of my expedition.

Poe had taken his seat, and pretended to be absorbed in the mysteries of Leçons Françaises. Laying the gander down outside the door, I walked or rather staggered into the room, pretending to be very drunk, and exhibiting in clothes and face a spectacle not often seen off the stage. ‘My God! what has happened?’ exclaimed Poe, with well-acted horror.

‘Old K— old K—!’ I repeated several times, and with gestures intended to be frantically savage.

‘Well, what of him?’ asked Poe.

‘He won’t stop me on the road any more’ — and I produced a large knife that we had stained with the few drops of blood, that remained in the old gander. ‘I have killed him!’

‘Nonsense!’ said Poe, ‘you are only trying one of your tricks on us.’

‘I didn’t suppose you would believe me,’ I replied, ‘so I cut off his head and brought it into barracks. Here it is!’ — and walking out of the door I caught the gander by the legs, and giving it one fearful swing around my head dashed it at the only candle in the room, and left them all in darkness with what two of them believed to be the head of one of the professors. The visitor leaped through the window and alighted in the slop tub, and made fast time for his own room in the North Barracks, spreading, as he went, the report that I had killed old K—, and that his head was there in number 28. The story gained credence, and for a time the excitement in barracks ran high. When we lit the candle again, “Old P.” was sitting in one corner, a blank picture(378) of horror, and it was some time before we could restore him to reason.

So the barracks were able to credit even murder to the discontented occupant of Number 28. A strange fellow after all! There was something about him one could not understand. Almost anything might be suspected of one who actually dared to be different — and was proud of it. “Benedict Arnold’s grandson!” Interesting no doubt, but dangerous. And so he continued here, as elsewhere, lonely; sad that he was set apart, and yet proud of it. It was this combination of pride, loneliness, and homesickness — the necessity of expressing his sense of malaise, and the desire for the comfort that nothing but dreams could bring him, [page 233:] which seems to have memorably combined at West Point and to have projected itself for the first time into great poems.

One can imagine him, after taps, waiting for the roommates to drift off into the dreamless sleep which was so often denied him by their mutterings, and by the beating at the bars of the restless wings of his own spirit, — one can imagine him getting up in the bare, cold room, and by the light of a carefully shaded candle, setting down the proud words of Israfel. How could they know, these heavy sleepers, those solemn memorizers of the banalities of textbooks — that in their midst, brooding over them in the long hours of the night, sat a spirit whose song was sweeter and clearer than that of the archangels of God! How human and earthy, and how comforting to his own feelings it was, to imagine that even in heaven his voice would be heard above all others, and be found more acceptable. Out of this gigantic and almost insane pride of heart welled up the lines of the poem ending at last in the majestic paean:

If I could dwell

Where Israfel

Hath dwelt, and he where I,

He might not sing so wildly well

A mortal melody

While a bolder note than this might swell

From my lyre within the sky.(379)

It was to Richmond, and the happier early days with Frances Allan and the friends of childhood, that he returned in homesick reveries, for homesick he was. Poe was one of those sensitive natures to which the incidents of existence were often painful. Ensconced in the old and familiar, this feeling was lulled; bleak and new surroundings became, by contrast, unbearable and served to make the past a heaven by contrast. Besides, his own intense consciousness of self, a consciousness so supreme as to render the outside world pale and remote, was of the type which tends to extend much of its self-love to the places where it has dwelt, so that a town, a room, or even a tree that has been a refuge becomes romantic and important, as do all things that have been pleasantly familiar in the past.

All this seemed true now of Richmond; the houses, the fields, the river, the ghostly figures that walked in the past of his boyhood, moved in a golden and vernal landscape, with something sacred about it, — a shrine, a green isle in the sea. Oh, the lost loved faces! the silent tones of voices! the dear, dear past forever wild with all regret! It was the only time when he had been happy, at one with himself, and beloved. This is the grand nostalgia the immortal regret, the famished yearning [page 234:] out of which so often springs great poetry. It was the only thing that comforted him, the idealized images of the past, witness:

Helen, thy beauty is to me

Like those Nicean banks of yore

That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,

The weary, way-worn wanderer bore

To his own native shore . . .

and the lines written some years later to Sarah

When melancholy and alone,

I sit on some moss-covered stone

Beside a murm’ring stream;

I think I hear thy voice’s sound

In every tuneful thing around,

Oh! what a pleasant dream —

and Poe’s dreams of the past were so vivid that he heard voices of the dead and lost speaking; not only the eye but the ear also had its memories:

The bowers whereat, in dreams, I see

The wantonest singing birds,

Are lips — and all thy melody

Of lip-begotten words.

Amid this longing for the past, in the presence of an always unbearable present, his spirit constantly stood —

A voice from out the Future cries,

“On! on!” but o’er the Past

(Dim gulf) my spirit lies

Mute, motionless, aghast!

And it was into this gulf, which he so brooded upon during the long hours of the night, while the rest of the inmates of the barracks slumbered around him, that Poe let down the leaky bucket of inspiration and drew forth To Helen, The Sleeper, The [[A]] Pæan, Fairy Land, and The Valley of Unrest, that most beautiful of all his reveries. These poems are rich with the dark jewels of sorrow, the dim northern twilight of Scotland and the Celtic folk tales he heard from the old people at Irvine, the mystic landscapes of Carolina, and the exotic compound of his “oriental” readings best exemplified, perhaps, by The City in the Sea. These he felt were worth preserving and adding to his already published verses. Before he left West Point he had made arrangements to do so.

The new manuscript collection, which included the poems published in Baltimore, and the new ones written at Mrs. Clemm’s, in Richmond, or at the Military Academy, he seems to have submitted to Colonel Thayer, who approved of them, and granted permission to allow the members of the cadet corps to subscribe towards their publication at [page 235:] seventy-five cents a copy (sic), the amount to be deducted from their pay. This permission, and Colonel Thayer’s probable appreciation of Poe’s work, expressed perhaps in some personal interview, seem to account for the young man’s admiration for that officer, the only personal enthusiasm of which we have any mention during the West Point interlude. Possessed of a guaranteed sale in advance of several hundred copies — nearly everyone seems to have subscribed — Poe wrote to Elam Bliss, a New York publisher, who, it seems, came personally to West Point, sometime about the end of 1830, and made arrangements with the young author to bring out the volume.

The enthusiasm for it among the cadets was by no means literary. They had no idea of the real nature of the book to which they subscribed, but undoubtedly thought it would contain a collection of the humorous verse satirizing the officers and the faculty, which had from time to time proceeded from the strange but clever fellow who inhabited Number 28. Poe on his part undoubtedly knew this, but he used the opportunity to get out his book, probably knowing full well that he would not be present to receive the personal expressions of disgust and disappointment, when its real nature became known. Some of the pearls, as the preface to the book shows, were intended to be cast where they might be audibly appreciated, — as for the grunts of disapproval from the ostensible audience, Poe would neither hear nor care, The important thing was, that a new book was underway. Mr. Bliss, or his agent, returned to New York with the manuscript ready for the printer, and with little or no effort the cost of the forthcoming volume was guaranteed.

How long Poe would have lingered at West Point doing “fours right” and “shoulder arms,” it is hard to tell. His decision to depart was undoubtedly hastened by an event in Richmond that, as the future proved, removed him from all prospects of any immediate or death-bed generosity which John Allan might fondly be hoped to display. The event was unexpected and uncomfortably disconcerting.

Sergeant Graves, “Bully,” had evidently waited up until about the end of the year (1830) in hopes that the money owed him, about which Poe had written so reassuringly the previous May, might be forthcoming. By that time the patience of the soldier who was still at Fortress Monroe, was exhausted, and he wrote to John Allan himself in no uncertain terms, demanding that the matter should be settled at once. As Poe had informed this soldier that Mr. Allan was seldom sober, the nature of the information which he possessed must have insured the prompt payment of his demand. It would never do, for a newly married man in Mr. Allan’s situation, to have allowed a common soldier to go about with a letter from his adopted “son” which plainly made such damaging assertions. In the concise words of the second wife “Mr. Allan sent him the [page 236:] money . . . and banished Poe from his affections.” That much, at least, of the good lady’s explanation seems to be literally true. The rest of her statements may well have been the convenient interpretation which, out of self-defense, her husband was forced to put upon it. No one can blame John Allan, in this instance, at least, for being outraged. The fact that Poe had never meant the letter to come home to roost, does not excuse his lack of loyalty in writing it. It is impossible to at once claim the benefits of intimate association, and to violate its confidences. Sergeant “Bully” Graves of the First United States Artillery had, by reason of the writings which he possessed, fallen heir to the only financial “legacy” that the Galt-Allan fortune was to contribute to the name of Edgar Allan Poe! An unfortunately flourishing signature of that young gentleman adorned the bottom of the fatal letter. Not only the cat, but all expectation of kittens, was now let out of the well-known bag.

Mr. Allan wrote Poe a furious letter, which must have been a masterpiece of invective. It reached Poe just in time to wish him a happy New Year for 1830. He was informed that he was disowned and that no further communications from him were desired. On January 3, 1830, Poe replied in what is probably the most literally autobiographical letter that he ever wrote.(380)

The mask that the sense of favors to come, or the lingering traces of real affection which Poe may have still retained — the necesssity [[necessity]] for patience and dissimulation that these had enforced in previous letters to his guardian, were now removed. With nothing to be lost by open defiance, he spits back the bitter truth.

The letter to “Bully” is acknowledged and the charge of Mr. Allan’s drinking reaffirmed. The truth, he says, he leaves to God, and John Allan’s conscience. The rest of the letter is given up to a multitude of reproaches, which, even when every allowance is made, still remain as a tremendous indictment of the character of John Allan. The parsimony so fatal at Charlottesville had also done its sharp work at West Point, but, above all, Poe in effect reproaches his guardian for his lack of affection and tells him that it was only Frances Allan who cared for him as for her own child. “If she had not died while I was away, there would have been nothing to regret.”

Perhaps, the most significant sentences of all, in this burning letter, are those in which Poe speaks of his own health. Despite the undoubted presence of some self pity, there is a hopeless truth in his statements that he knows he will not live long — “Thank God!” — and that his future will be one of indigence and sickness. He says, and this statement seems to be especially significant, that he has no energy nor health left, and he complains of the fatigues of “this place” — fatigues which his absolute [page 237:] want of necessities had subjected him to. The letter concludes with the announcement that he intends to resign. If the permission is not granted from home, he curtly informs John Allan that from the date of the letter he will neglect his studies and duties. Should the permission not be forthcoming he will leave West Point in ten days. Otherwise says he, “I should subject myself to being dismissed.” Poe’s resolution was evidently made while he was reading John Allan’s letter. The careful phrasing of the indignant reply evidently occupied a day or so in which the exact course to be pursued was turned over in Poe’s mind most carefully. This letter to John Allan begun on the third of January, 1831, was not mailed till the fifth. A few days later in Richmond John Allan himself endorsed upon it:

I rec’d this on the 10th and did not from its conclusion deem it necessary to reply. I made this note on the 13th and can see no good Reason to alter my opinion. I do not think the boy has one good quality. He may do or act as he pleases tho’ I would have saved him but on his own terms and conditions since I cannot believe a word he writes. His letter is the most bare-faced one-sided statement.

A careful comparison of dates in the case of this letter may serve to make clear exactly what happened. Poe’s last letter from West Point was begun on the third, mailed on the fifth (postmark), and received by Mr. Allan on the tenth of January. John Allan then considered his decision about it for three days before making his endorsement on the thirteenth. But the court-martial records show that after January seventh Edgar Allan Poe ceased to function as a cadet at West Point. In other words, he did not wait to hear from Mr. Allan, for, before the letter got to Richmond, Poe was already “on strike.”

There were, in reality, only two parties in this passage at arms. Between the granite-like obstinacy of John Allan and the final, nervous explosion of Poe’s indignation, West Point was a mere incident. If Mr. Allan’s consent to a resignation had been obtained, Poe would have profited to the extent of the traveling expenses which he needed — and that would have been all. Mr. Allan’s guardianship was at an end. The letter of January 3, 1831, to Richmond was the young poet’s moral Declaration of Independence.

There was, indeed, a much deeper cause for the declaration than has heretofore been suspected. A comparison of certain passages in John Allan’s will with the date of Poe’s letter to Sergeant Graves (“Bully”)? and the mention of the quarrel between “father” and “son” on the same date (“. . . The time was within half an hour after you had embittered every feeling of my heart against you by your abuse of my family, and myself, under your own roof — and at a time when you knew that my heart was almost breaking . . .”) gives, rise to some pertinent speculations. [page 238:]

Why had Mr. Allan been drinking about this time; why did he quarrel with Poe; and above all, why did he abuse Edgar’s family? Poe underscores the word family, and it can scarcely refer to anything else but the sore point about Mrs. Poe and Rosalie.(381) Nothing would be more likely to drive the foster-son out of the house immediately. But why drive him out, why! What was the motive? One sentence from John Allan’s will illuminates all these old letters, like switching on a light in a dark room full of musty documents:

The twins were born some time about the first of July 1830.

They were illegitimate. No wonder Mr. Allan was then “seldom sober.” That was why he was frantic with anxiety to get Edgar out of the house when he did return to Richmond in 1830, and why he kept urging and urging Poe to get his appointment and even tried to hurry the War Department. The appointment came in March; but Poe did not leave. On May 6 Mr. Allan picked a violent quarrel with his ward, the old calumny against Edgar’s mother was revived as a desperate but sure expedient to get rid of him — “under your own roof — at a time when you knew my heart was almost breaking.”(355) A few days later Poe drew the blankets from Ellis & Allan, and left via Baltimore. “When I parted from you at the steamboat, I knew that I should never see you again.” The same day that Poe took the oath at West Point, the twins were born in Richmond.

So it was not so very simple after all! Like all important and long enduring human relationships it was very, very complex. John Allan and Edgar Poe loved each other. In the inmost realm of the spirit they were father and son. Time and fate had made them so. That is the only satisfactory explanation of the enormous agitation behind their correspondence; the reason, why, in spite of all, they could never quite break it off. Even on the last West Point letter, the older man endorses: “He may do or act as he pleases tho’ I would have saved him but on his own terms. . . .” In the last analysis it was John Allan’s sensuousness and obstinacy that ruined the two finest associations of his remarkable life. It killed Frances Allan, and it blasted Poe. The strange, Scotch parsimony was only a concomitant. Even after his second marriage the revelation of “Bully’s” letter was a sore blow. The raveled thread was snapped; Poe left West Point, and went into a nervous collapse. If this was not tragedy, the word to describe it has not been coined.

The process of cutting the bonds of military discipline was more protracted than Poe surmised. Mr. Allan’s consent was not forthcoming, [page 239:] so the young man had to set about it the next way. The manner was simple enough; it consisted in taking the path of least resistance. After the receipt of the letter from Richmond, Poe simply gave up. Although the plan was deliberate, it also bears out his own testimony that he was too physically ill to go on. From January 7, 1831, he absented himself from all military formations, recitations, and from church, — and he disobeyed the orders of his superiors when he was directed to take part. The prime military virtue of obedience was thus hopelessly insulted, beyond that there was no “moral offence” involved. The story that he deserted either from the Army proper or from the Military Academy, is a legend which it is scarcely necessary to deny.

On January 5, 1831, it appears that a court-martial under the presidency of Lieutenant Leslie of the Engineers was convened at West Point to try several cadets for offences against discipline. For some reason the sittings of the court were postponed until January 28. During the two weeks prior to that event there were scarcely any duties which Cadet Poe did not ingeniously manage to neglect. As a consequence after disposing of some other cases — (382)

The Court next proceeded to the trial of Cadet E. A. Poe of the U. S. Military Academy on the following charges and specifications:

CHARGE 1st — GROSS NEGLECT OF DUTY

Specification 1st — In this, that he, the said Cadet Poe, did absent himself from the following parades and roll calls between the 7th January and 27th January 1831. . . .

Specification 2nd — In this, that he, the said Cadet E. A. Poe, did absent himself from all Academical duties between the 15th and 27th January 1831. . . .

CHARGE 2nd — DISOBEDIENCE OF ORDERS

Specification 1st — In this, that he, the said Cadet Poe, after having been directed by the officer of the day to attend church on the 23rd of January 1831, did fail to obey such order. . . .

Specification 2nd — In this, that he, the said Cadet Poe, did fail to attend the Academy on the 25th January 1831, after having been directed to do so by the officer of the day.

Poe pleaded guilty to all but the first specification of the first charge, to which he pleaded not guilty. As that charge was automatically proven by the rollbooks for formations, he thus put himself beyond all recommendations for mercy. “After mature deliberation on the testimony deduced,” the “prisoner” was found “Guilty on all the charges and specifications,” and it was adjudged “that he, Cadet E. A. Poe, be dismissed the service of the United States.”(382) The sentence was made [page 240:] effective as of March 6, 1831, in order to provide sufficient sums out of his pay to satisfy his indebtedness to the Academy. On that date Poe was officially discharged with a balance to his credit of twenty-four cents. Long before that, however, he was on his way to New York City.

The findings of the court-martial were approved by the Secretary of War on February 8, 1831, and seem to have taken a week or so before they were returned to West Point. Poe must have had some qualms imagining the face of Major Eaton as he read the record of the trial and called to mind the enthusiastic promises of a certain Richmond youth a little over a year before, one who had walked from Baltimore to plead his case personally. That, however, deterred neither Mr. Secretary nor Cadet Poe, and on February 17 or 18 the latter was given his release.

One can imagine him upon the evening of that eventful day packing up his books, John Allan’s inkstand, a few uniforms which he kept to remind him of past glories, and the lares and penates which accompanied even the poorest of waif poets in the iron-bound trunk that John Allan had sent him by steamboat to Baltimore. Then he made the rounds, saying good-bye, not without a certain relish for the brief glamor that surrounds a departing spirit at the Military Academy, who has dared to defy the delegated authority of the United States — and survived. And we can imagine him, too, selling off for what he could get, a few picayunes and fipenny bits at most, the scanty remains of his outfit. Perhaps there was a shako, or a slim sword exchanged next morning at Old Benny’s for a thin second-hand suit of citizen’s clothes, a parting nip with the old rascal “on the house,” with “here’s luck.” It was, we know, a cold, a very cold day.

On February 19, 1831, the steamboat from Albany stopped at the desolate West Point wharf to take on board a lonely figure dressed in a nondescript costume consisting of a thin and badly worn suit of second-hand clothes rendered somewhat grotesque by a cadet’s overcoat and a battered hat. A small iron-bound trunk was trundled on board, and the old side-wheeler “Henry Eckford” thrashed her way down stream toward New York.(383) The young man on the deck shivered and fingered the lonely coins in his pocket somewhat apprehensively. No one, who saw the nervous trembling of the bird-like fingers, would have suspected that they had just relinquished the sword and were already reaching ambitiously for a mightier weapon. The fare was at least seventy-five cents, and that was about all he had. The two freight barges [page 243:] behind the “Henry” took up the slack of the tow line with a swish and trailed on behind; the departing wail of the steamer’s whistle echoed up the gorge of the Hudson, to be answered by the notes of a bugle from the heights above. Future generals of the United States and the Confederacy were on their way to recitation and the several stars that afterwards adorned their shoulders or collars. Israfel was following his own.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 218:]

361.  These dates are deduced from the Valentine Museum Letters. Poe arrived at West Point in time to take the entrance examinations, which lasted two days. He probably arrived the day or the afternoon before. On June 28, 1830, he writes John Allan saying the examinations are over. The date of his leaving is from the letter written to John Allan from New York, February 21, 1831, in which he says he left West Point two days before. This for the first time gives Poe’s stay at West Point its proper duration.

362.  This, and some of the other material not hitherto included in Poe’s biographies, has been taken from the Valentine Museum Letters, Nos. 22, 23, 24, and 25, all but the last written by Poe from West Point, and all covering the period with interesting new data.

363.  As Poe had these with him for years, and at no time after the Spring of 1830 had an opportunity of taking any “souvenirs” from the Allan house, it is reasonably certain he brought them from Richmond when he left for West Point. See also Chapter IX, page 130, note 182.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 220:]

364.  Soap, candles, toilet preparations, minor articles of clothing, mattresses, towels, linen of all kinds, and articles of knit and woven ware were made at home for the most part. Not to have these, argued oneself homeless, and a nobody. With no cash to buy these, Poe’s condition at Charlottesville and West Point can be imagined. It was one of the things that not only made life unbearable but compromised his social position. A borrower is always a nuisance. Poe had been sent to West Point with a handshake and $20, the rest was silence. He was right in resenting this bitterly.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 221:]

365.  The Northern Traveler, third edition, revised and extended, published by G. & C. Carvill, New York, 1828 (and after). “A reliable guide book and compilation of information for travelers from official sources.”

366.  See Poe’s own statement, Valentine Museum Letters, letter No. 24.

367.  Testimony of classmates at the University of Virginia.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 222:]

368.  Valentine Museum Letters, letter No. 25. Poe from New York to John Allan just after leaving West Point.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 223:]

369.  Allan B. Magruder, a classmate of Poe, to Prof. George E. Woodberry April 23, 1884. See Woodberry, 1909, vol. I, page 70.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 224:]

370.  It must be remembered that Poe’s environment, even in Richmond, was largely Scotch; his primary education was founded in English schools, and his reading had been largely in the English periodicals found at Ellis & Allan. At the University of Virginia he had come across the rare Germanic influence then scarcely known in this country. Poe read French, Italian, and Latin.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 225:]

371.  This “comment” is scattered and sometimes dulled by Poe’s aping of greater knowledge than he possessed, and carelessness about facts, but it is there, nevertheless, in his (criticism, his stories, and in Eureka. Lowell said, “As it is, he has squared out blocks enough to build an enduring pyramid, but left them lying careless and unclaimed in many different quarries.” J. R. Lowell in Graham’s Magazine, 1845, vol. XXVH, no. 2, page 50.

372.  The cocksure optimism of Victorianism is utterly lacking in Poe. He was one of the few to see the implications of harm in the age of machinery just coming into its own. His chief quarrel with it, was that it destroyed beauty and leisure. As a Virginian and an egoist Poe despised mobocracy and a Santa Claus view of science; as an artist he depicted the ugliness of industrialism.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 226:]

373.  Valentine Museum Letters, letter No. 23.

374.  John Allan in his will made at Richmond, Virginia, April 17, 1832. See the copy of John Allan’s will, Appendix III.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 229:]

375.  Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, November, 1867.

376.  He was actually twenty-two, but had given his age in the records at West Point as nineteen years and some months.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 232:]

377.  Poe’s ceaseless desire to perpetrate hoaxes was not due solely to a sense of humor. The feeling of superiority which it conferred on him as the person who stood behind the curtain, was the main motive. This is frequently one of the minor manifestations of an exaggerated ego.

378.  “Old P.” was the other roommate, it appears. See the apocryphal, for the most part reminiscences of Timothy Pickering Jones, “Poe and I were classmates, roommates, and tent mates.” New York Sun, May 10, 1903.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 233:]

379.  The last verse of Israfel is quoted here as given in the 1845 version. The 1831 text shows numerous variations.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 236:]

380.  Valentine Museum Letters, letter No. 24. The Allan-Poe controversy cannot be understood thoroughly without a knowledge of this letter.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 238:]

381.  Mr. Allan would scarcely “abuse” Mrs. Clemm or Edgar’s paralyzed grandmother. The Poe cousins were not known to him personally. Henry might have come in for a tongue lashing, but all the probability here points to Edgar’s parents, “my family, and myself.” He may have included Mosher Poe in his remarks.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 239:]

382.  An abbreviated transcript of Military Academy Order No. 7, Engineer Department, Washington, February 8, 1831. Prof. James H. Harrison prints this, vol. II, pages 374-376, from Ingram.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 240:]

383.  From The Northern Traveler, a guidebook of the time, and a contemporary steamboat schedule, it appears that the steamer “Henry Eckford,” with two freight barges in tow, plied between New York and Albany and made local stops. The fare from New York to Albany was $1.00. The “Henry” called at West Point Dock, February 19, 1831, on the down trip.

 


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Notes:

The error on page 271, of “consistantly” for “consistently” was corrected beginning with the 1927 edition.


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[S:0 - HVA34, 1934] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (H. Allen) (Chapter 13)