Text: Edgar Allan Poe to George Washington Poe — July 14, 1839 (LTR-079)


Philadelphia - July 14. / 39

My Dear Sir,

Owing to my absence from Richmond for some time, I did not receive your letter until a few days ago, it having followed me from place to place, and at last caught me here.

I am truly glad that you have written , and hope that the correspondence thus commenced may lead to more intimate acquaintance hereafter. It affords me great pleasure, moreover, to recognize, in one of my own name & family, those very principles of stern independence which I trust, have always activated my own conduct through life, and which, at all events, have reduced me from high affluence to comparative poverty — or at least to a reliance upon my own resources.

Our relationship is that of second cousins. My father, David Poe Jr., was the sone of David Poe Sr, who was the brother of your paternal grandfather, George Poe Sr, Your father & mine were own cousins, and playmates. My wife, who is my own cousin, is also your second cousin, being the daughter of Maria Poe, my father's sister. She is connected with you, moreover, as being the daughter of the gentleman who married your aunt Harriet. She, you will remember was the first Mrs William Clemm — my wife's mother is the second. Neilson Poe, of the Bal. Chronicle, is my second cousin. He is the son of your brother's brother, Jacob Poe.

There can be no doubt, I think, that our family is originally German — as the name indicates. It is frequently met with in German works on Natural History, and a M. Poe is now living in Vienna who has much reputation as a naturalist. The name there is spelt with an accent thus, Poé, and is pronounced in two syllables, Po-a. As far back, however, as we can trace our immediate progenitors they are Irish. John Poe about a century ago, was a name of much note in the financial history of Ireland. He was of an ancient & noble family, and married a daughter of the British Admiral McBride — himself of very illustrious descent. From this John Poe we date. I give you a kind of table showing how we spring from him. He came to America in the fourth year of his marriage, with two children, David & George (your grandfather & mine) and settled in Nottingham Co. Pa. [page 2:]

Here he had eight children — making then in all. In the table I give all the names in the order of age.

                        __              |    John (dead)            __
                        |                |    William (dead)        |    Henry (dead)
                        | David --- <    David (dead) ------<    Edgar            __
                        |                |    Samuel (dead)        |__ Rosalie        |    Henry
* Mrs Wm        |                |    * Maria --------------------------------<    Virginia (dead)
  Clemm          |                |                  __                                    |__Virginia (my wife)
                        |                |                |      Elizabeth
* Mrs Henry    |                |__* Eliza  <      Lewis David (dead)
  Herring          |                                  |      Henry
  (dead)            |                                  |      George
                        |                                  |__  Emily
                        |                  __            __
                        |                |                |      George __
                        |                |                |      Neilson    | twins
                        |                |      Jacob <      Amelia  __|
                        |                |                |      Mosher
                        |                |                |__  Harriet
                        |  George <                  __
                        |                |                |    Your
John Poe ------<                  |  George  <    father's
                        |                |                |__ family
                        |                |                                                                      __
                        |                |                                Catherine                            |
                        |                |                                William                                |  all married except
* first Mrs        |            *  |  Harriet -------------- Josephine (Neilson's wife)    |  Harriet - each has
  Wm Clemm    |                |__                            Georgiana                          |  4 children
                        |                                                Harriet                            __|
                        |                __
                        | Robert    |
                        | John        |    all died unmarried except Hester & Mary
                        | Samuel    |    who are since dead, leaving each one
                        | James  <    child, also, since dead.
                        | Jane        |
                        | Hester    |
                        | Mary      |__
                        |                __
                        |                |      William    | ---- live in Augusta, Geo.
                        | William  <      Robert    |
                        |                |      Washington ----- lives in Maco, Geo
                        |__            |__  Matilda (dead)

By this table you will perceive that, according to the rules of British descent, I am the oldest, or head, of all the Poes in America, descendants of John. There are a great many of the name living, I understand, in S. Carolina — but these must be another family altogether — as the original John Poe had no brothers or sisters. My own age is 26; which, I presume, is very nearly your own. [page 3:]

With your father, my aunt & mother-in-law Mrs. Clemm, is of course well acquainted — at least was — for an access to fortune like that of your father's is apt to generate a strange forgetfulness of old friends. He was in Philadelphia a few months ago, when I saw him once for a short time. The circumstances of his first & second marriage, as also many of the circumstances of your own, are familiar to me.

In regard to myself. My father, with his wife, were on a visit to friends in Richmond Va, when a violent illness carried both off, within a few weeks of each other. I was then about a year old, and my sister, Rosealie, was an infant. A wealthy gentleman of Virga (of Scotish descent) a Mr John Allan, had taken a fancy to me, and, having no children of his own, adopted me — at the same time persuading a friend of his, Mr William Mackenzie, to adopt my sister. My grandfather, David Poe, was living at this time, in good circumstances, and his consent to the double adoption was obtained with some difficulty. I lived with Mr Allan, who remained childless, until my seventeenth-year, when he inherited from an uncle a fortune of some 30,000$ per annum. This vast income of wealth nearly turned his brain, and, worse, confirmed him in habits of habitual drunkenness. In his frequent paroxysms of this he treated me with what I considered indignity. I accordingly left his house, was recalled with apologies, left it a second time, and refused all offers of reconciliation until hearing of the extreme illness of his wife, whom I had always regarded as a mother. I then returned — but too late to find her alive. Upon her death, I again left the protection of Mr Allan, who now gave loose to all the baseness of his nature. In a short time after this he married a second wife, had two or three children, and died, of course without leaving me any thing. His second marriage was in <his> 62d year. I was at W. Point at the time, where, by my own influence alone, I had obtained a Cadets appointment. For the last ten years I have supported myself altogether by literary exertions. This is all of my private <history> which would interest you — and I fear that I have already occupied you too much with my personal concerns.

I am indebted to you for your letter to Gen. Houston. I will carefully preserve it and should I meet him at any time, will present it. Will you present my best regards and those of my wife, to your lady. I hope you will write again — it will give me great pleasure to hear from you at any time. I shall remain in Philadelphia perhaps for a year — but Richmond is my home, and a letter directed to that city will always reach me, in whatever part of the world I may be.

Very truly your friend
Edgar A Poe

Geo. W. Poe

P.S. Should you again see any of my W. P. [[West Point]] acquainances, will you remember me kindly to them?



The address reads: “George W. Poe [[/]] Houston, [[/]] Texas [[/]] via N. Orleans.” It bears a circular postal mark for Philadelphia, partly overlaying the “Geor” of the address, and a larger oval postal mark for New Orleans. There are also two “FWD” marks indicating that it was forwarded. The letter was, for some time, kept in a more modern envelope, bearing the note: “Edgar Allen [sic] Poe's letter [[/]] to my >>great, great<< grandfather. [[/]] E. P. Marrill [[/]] This letter has been in the family for a [[/]] long time. Please do not lose.”


[S:0 - MS, 1839] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to G. W. Poe (LTR079/RCL192)