Text: J. W. Ostrom, B. R. Pollin, and J. A. Savoye, “Chapter 01,” The Collected Letters of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. I: 1824-1845 (2008), pp. 1-74 (This material is protected by copyright)


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The John Allan Period

Letters 1-36: November 1824-April 1833

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Letter 1 — 1824, November 17 [CL-3] Poe and John Lyle (Richmond, VA) to the Governor and Council of Virginia (Richmond, VA):

To his Excellency the Governor & Council of Virga


At the request of the members of the Richmond Junior Volunteers we beg leave to solicit your permission for them to retain the arms which they lately were permitted to draw from the Armory. We are authorized to say that each Individual will not only pledge himself to take proper care of them, but we ourselves will promise to attend strictly to the order in which they are kept by the Company —

We have the honor to be


Your Mo. Obt Servts

John Lyle Capt R J V

Edgar A. Poe Lieut

Richmond 17th Novr 1824

Notes: Poe was an officer, even at fifteen, of a volunteer company of Richmond boys. The Richmond Junior Volunteers were part of the Junior Morgan Riflemen, an organization named after the famous Revolutionary War sharpshooters who served under Daniel Morgan (1736-1802). When the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) arrived in Richmond in October 1824, as part of his celebrated tour of the United States, Poe and his young uniformed companions served as the visiting General's honorary bodyguard. (See the statement of Thomas H. Ellis, quoted by Quinn, p. 87.) The Governor of Virginia in 1824 was James Pleasants, Jr. (1769-1839). No reply is known, but see LTR-2 for a subsequent letter on the same issue. For more on John Lyle, see the note to LTR-2.

Source: photocopy of the original MS (1 p.) in the Library of Virginia. A separate sheet is used to form an envelope, addressed: “To His Excellency the Governor / and / Executive Council / of / Virginia.” Endorsement on the envelope reads: “Application of Junior / Volunteers for Arms / Recd 17 Nov 1824.” There is no postmark. The letter is written in a particularly careful and attractive hand. In composing the word “permission,” the writer adhered to the formal tradition of using the old-fashioned “ƒs” for the double “s.” [page 4:]

Letter 2 — 1824, November 23 [CL-4] Poe and John Lyle (Richmond, VA) to Peter V. Daniel (Richmond, VA):

Mr Daniel


Be so good as to ask the Council for the paper we mentioned to you on Saturday. Our case is this. We had given up our arms to Dr Adams, according to promise when you told us we might keep them until called for by the Executive[.] Immediately upon hearing this we returned and asked Dr Adams for them again. He told us if we brought a communication from the Council stating that we might keep them until called for that he would return them to us without sending them to the Armory otherwise they would immediately be returned to [page 2] the Armory. We applied to you, you said you could not give us such a note, without the consent of the Council —

We beg that you would obtain this for us if possible

And we shall ever remain

Yr. Most Obt. Servt

John Lisle [sic] Captn

R. J. V.

Edgar A Poe Lieut.

23rd Novr 1824

Notes: Peter Vivian Daniel (1784-1860) was one of the three members of the Virginia State Council. He later became nationally prominent as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Whether or not the present request was granted is uncertain, and no reply from Daniel is known. In connection with the present letter, see LTR-1. (For three related letters, and other information, see Allen, 1:120-124 [1926], or pp. 99-102 [1934].) Dr. John Adams (1773-1825) was a physician (trained in Edinburgh, Scotland) who had turned to politics. He was a Virginia state legislator 1802-1804, and was elected Mayor of the city of Richmond on April 15, 1819, serving in that office until his death. The 1826 list of matriculating students at the University of Virginia includes the name of John Lyle (of Richmond), he having arrived just ten days before Poe. Griswold's “Memoir” (3:x [1850], or 1:xxvi [1853]) prints a letter from [page 5:] Robert G. Cabell which notes “John Lyle (since dead)” as among the witnesses of Poe's swimming feat. (For more on this feat, see LTR-42.)

Source: photocopy of the original MS (2 pp.) in the Library of Virginia. The letter was addressed on the verso of the second leaf to “Mr Peter V. Daniel / Council Chamber / of / Virginia.” There is no postmark. As in LTR-1, Poe's handwriting is unusually careful and refined, although he has misspelled the name of his friend, John Lyle. His signature bears a particularly elegant paraph, with a similar ornament under the date at the end of the letter. Again, as in LTR-1, Poe uses “ƒs” for the one instance of double-s (“poƒsible”), as he would continued to do in LTR-3, LTR-4, LTR-5, and LTR-6. He dropped this old-fashioned practice once he left school and entered the military, although it occasionally reappears in writing an address or an inscription.

Letter 3 — 1826, May 25 [CL-7] Poe (University of Virginia) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

University. May 1826

Dear Sir,

I this morning received the clothes you sent me, viz an [sic] uniform coat, six yards of striped cloth for pantaloons & four pair of socks — The coat is a beautiful one & fits me exactly — I thought it best not to write ‘till I received the clothes — or I should have written before this — You have heard no doubt of the disturbances in College — Soon after you left here the Grand Jury met and put the Students in a terrible fright — so much so that the lectures were unattended — and those whose names were upon the Sheriff's list — travelled off into the woods & mountains — taking their beds & provisions along with them — there were about 50 on the list — so you may suppose the College was very well thinn’d — this was the first day of the fright — the second day, “A proclamation” was issued by the faculty forbidding “any student under pain of a major punishment to leave his dormitory between the hours of 8 & 10 A M — (at which time the Sheriffs would be about) or in any way to resist the lawful authority of the Sheriffs” — This order however was very little attended to — as [page 6:] the fear of the Faculty could not counterbalance that of the Grand Jury — most of the “indicted” ran off a second time into the woods and upon an examination the next morning by the Faculty — Some were reprimanded — some suspended — [page 2] and one expelled — James Albert Clarke from Manchester (I went to school with him at Burke's) was suspended for two months, Armstead Carter from this neighbourhood, for the remainder of the session — And Thomas Barclay for ever — There have >>been<< several fights since you were here — One between Turner Dixon, and Blow from Norfolk excited more interest than any I have seen — for a common fight is so trifling an occurrence that no notice is taken of it — Blow got much the advantage in the scuffle — but Dixon posted him in very indecent terms — upon which the whole Norfolk party rose in arms — & nothing was talked off for a week, but Dixon's charge, & Blow's explanation — every pillar in the University was white with scratched paper — Dixon made <an> a physical attack upon Arthur Smith one of Blow's Norfolk friends — and a “very fine fellow” — he struck him with a large stone on one side of his head — whereupon Smith drew a pistol (which are all the fashion here) and had it not miss d’ [sic] fire, would have put an end to the controversy — but so it was — it did miss fire — and the matter has since been more peaceably settled — as the Proctor engaged a Magistrate to bind the whole forces on both sides — over to the peace — Give my love to Ma & Miss Nancy — & all my friends< — & >

I remain

Your's affectiona[tely]


Will you be so good as to send me a copy of the Historiæ of Tacitus — it is a small volume — also some more soap —

Notes: Poe matriculated at the University of Virginia, February 14, 1826, at the start of the second session, and registered in the School of Ancient Languages under Professor George Long (1800-1879) and in the School of Modern Languages under Professor George Blaettermann. He gave his home as Richmond and his birth date as January 19, 1809. For an account of the “disturbances” (a result of the Grand Jury's indictment of [page 7:] certain hotel keepers in the spring of 1826), see Quinn, pp. 106-107. Poe had attended William Burke's school in Richmond from April 1, 1823, to March, 1825 (see Quinn, p. 84, and The Poe Log, pp. 56, 58, and 64). “Ma” was Frances Keeling Allan (1785-1829), Poe's foster mother. “Miss Nancy” was Anne Moore Valentine (1787?-1850), Mrs. Allan's sister. (Poe also addressed her as Miss Valentine and Miss V., but apparently never as “Aunt Nancy,” as has been stated by Mary Phillips and others.) The 1826 list of matriculating students at the University of Virginia lists the names of James A[lbert]. Clarke (of Chesterfield County), John A[rmstead]. Carter (of Richmond), Thomas Barclay (of Albemarle County), Turner Dixon (of Fauquier County), Robert Blow (of Norfolk), and Arthur R. Smith (of Suffolk). Poe may be answering an unknown letter, which accompanied the clothes sent by John Allan. There is no verifiable evidence that Allan provided the newly requested items, nor, indeed, that he even answered the present letter. The only letters from Allan to Poe in 1826 for which there is any evidence are those of ca. February 24-27 (CL-6) and ca. December, 1826 (CL-9). (See also the note to LTR-28.) About 1999, The Poe Society of Baltimore was contacted by a private collector who claimed to have a volume of Tacitus’ Historiae, dating from about this period and with Poe's name neatly written on the flyleaf. Unfortunately, no opportunity was given to examine the book or the signature, making it impossible to evaluate the authenticity of this potentially interesting item.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (2 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The letter is not fully dated, but postmarked “CHARLT, VA, May 25,” and directed to “John Allan Esqr / Richmond, / Va / care Willm & Wm Galt Jr.” The address appears on the verso of the second leaf. John Allan docketed the letter as “E A Poe / University / May 1826.” As with several of Poe's letters to John Allan, it is difficult to read some minor details with any certainty in the present MS. Although the handwriting is generally neat, Poe's use of capitals is not always clear (such as the “g” in “Grand Jury”), and in regard to punctuation, his periods and dashes are effectively indistinguishable. Poe appears to have written up to the full right edge of the page. The dash following “... written before this” is slightly trimmed in the Stanard facsimile, making it appear misleadingly as a period. The dash following “... disturbances in College” is actually squeezed in just above the end of the word “College.” In the phrase “... very little attended to — as ... ” Poe originally wrote “as” immediately after “attended,” but corrected himself by writing “to” directly over it. [page 8:]

Letter 4 — 1826, September 21 [CL-8] Poe (University of Virginia) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

University. Septemr 21rst 1826

Dear Sir,

The whole college has been put in great consternation by the prospect of an examination — There is to be a general one on the first of December, which will occupy the time of the students till the fifteenth — the time for breaking up —

It has not yet been determined whether there will be any diplomas, or doctor's degrees given — but I should hardly think there will be any such thing, as this is only the second year of the institution & in other colleges three and four years are required in order to take a degree — that is, that time is supposed to be necessary — altho they sometimes confer them before — if the applicants are qualified —

Tho’ it will hardly be fair to examine those who have only been here one session, with those who have been here two — and some of whom have come from other colleges — still I suppose I shall have to stand my examination with the rest —

I have been studying a great deal in order to be prepared, and dare say I shall come off as well as the rest of them, that is — if I don’t get frightened — Perhaps you will have some business up here about that time, and then you can judge for yourself —

[page 2] They have nearly finished the Rotunda — The pillars of the Portico are completed and it greatly improves the appearance of the whole — The books are removed into the library — and we have a very fine collection[.]

We have had a great many fights up here lately — The faculty expelled Wickliffe last night for general bad conduct — but more especially for biting one of the student's arms with whom he was fighting — I saw the whole affair — it took place before my door — Wickliffe was much the strongest but not content with that — after getting the other completely in his power, he began to bite — I saw the [page 9:] arm afterwards — and it was really a serious matter — It was bitten from the shoulder to the elbow — and it is likely that pieces of flesh as large as my hand will be obliged to be cut out — He is from Kentucky — the same one that was in suspension when you were up here some time ago — Give my love to Ma and Miss Nancy — I remain,

Your's affectionatly [sic]

Edgar A Poe

Notes: The Faculty Minutes for December 15, 1826, show Poe in the second group for excellence in Latin and in the first group in French. (These records are given in facsimile in Kent, The Unveiling of the Bust of EAP, pp. 20-21.) Charles Wickliffe (born in 1808), of Lexington KY, is listed in the matriculation book of the University, with the note “dismissed.” The Faculty Minutes for September 20, 1826 involve “disturbances having taken place the night before,” also referred to as “a festive entertainment” in the dormitory of Charles L. Marshall (room no. 3) “without the consent of each of the Professors whose school he attended.” Noted are “disturbing noises” and the use of “spiritous or vinous liquor” and “insulting language,” but curiously there is no specific mention of Wickliffe or the fight so elaborately described by Poe. Thomas Bonner notes the present letter and LTR-3 as early examples of Poe's inherent gift for creating strong descriptions and his skill at handling a narrative, both of which would later be evident in his fiction and poetry. Bonner also states that “the descriptive elements here certainly suggest an interest in the grotesque as well as a tendency toward hyperbole” (p. 8).

Source: color photograph of the original MS (2 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The letter is directed to “Mr Jno Allan / Richmond, / Va / [...] Galt Jr.” The envelope, created by a second leaf, is damaged, lacking a large portion of the top left corner, possibly a note which was removed at some point. Only the words “of Va” can still be seen, perhaps part of a reference to the University of Virginia. The missing portion of the address is probably the same as that used in LTR-3, sending the letter to Allan by care of the Galts. It is docketed by John Allan as “E A Poe / University / 21 Septr 1826.” For a later item from Allan (CL-9), enclosing $100 “towards the close of the session,” see LTR-28, which implies at least one letter from Poe requesting funds (CL-8a). [page 10:]

Letter 5 — 1827, March 19 [CL-12] Poe (Richmond, VA) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Richmond Monday


After my treatment on yesterday and what passed between us this morning, I can hardly think you will be surprised at the contents of this letter. My determination is at length taken — to leave your house and indeavor [sic] to find some place in this wide world, where I will be treated — not as you have treated me —

This is not a hurried determination, but one on which I have long considered — and having so considered my resolution is unalterable — You may perhaps think that I have flown off in a passion, & that I am already wishing to return; But not so — I will give you the reasons which have actuated me, and then judge —

Since I have been able to think on any subject, my thoughts have aspired, and they have been taught by you to aspire, to eminence in public life — this cannot be attained without a good Education, such a one I cannot obtain at a Primary school —

[page 2] A collegiate Education therefore was what I most ardently desired, and I had been led to expect that it would at some future time be granted — but in a moment of caprice — you have blasted my hope <sed> because forsooth I disagreed with you in an opinion, which opinion I was forced to express —

Again, I have heard you say (when you little thought I was listening <)> and therefore must have said it in earnest) that you had no affection for me —

You have moreover ordered me to quit your house, and are continually upbraiding me with eating the bread of Idleness, when you yourself <m> were the only person to remedy the evil by placing me to some business —

You take delight in exposing me before those whom you think likely to advance my interest in this world — [page 11:]

You suffer me to be subjected to the whims & caprice, not only of your white family, but the [page 3] complete authority of the blacks — these grievances I could not submit to; and I am gone[.] I request that you will send me my trunk containing my clothes & books — and if you still have the least affection for me, As the last cal[l] I shall make on your bounty, To prevent the fulfillment of the Prediction you this morning expressed, send me as much money as will defray <my> the expences of my passage to some of the Northern cit[i]es & then support me for one month, by whic[h] time I shall be enabled to place myself [in] some situation where I may not only o[bt]ain a livelihood, but lay by a sum which one day or another will support me at the University — Send my trunk &c to the Court-house Tavern, send me I entreat you some money immediately — as I am in the greatest necessity — If you fail to comply with my request — I tremble for the consequence

Yours &c

Edgar A Poe

It depends upon yourself if hereafter you see or hear from me[.]

Notes: For an earlier but less overt estrangement between Poe and John Allan, see Allan's November 1, 1824 (RF-2) letter to Edgar's brother, William Henry Leonard Poe, generally called Henry. There is no certain evidence that either trunk or money was sent, although Poe's letter of August 10 (LTR-19) asks Allan to forward “a small trunk containing books & some letters,” which may or may not be the same trunk. Poe's heroics were probably little more than a youthful threat that ended in his setting sail for Boston — but see the notes to LTR-6, and the comment made by John Allan to his sister in Scotland, March 27, in which he expressed the opinion that Poe had gone to sea (presumably to seek his fortune), perhaps under the pseudonym of Henri Le Rennét. (See Quinn, p. 116, or Stanard, pp. 51-52, for the text of Allan's letter, from the original MS in the Ellis-Allan Papers, Library of Congress.) It has sometimes been said that the trunk now on display at the Poe Museum in Richmond, located and deposited by J. H. Whitty, was not only the trunk Poe had with him in Baltimore in 1849, but also the same sent by John Allan in 1827 (for example, see Stanard, p. 179). Plausible evidence for [page 12:] such claims, however, is lacking (see Savoye, “Two Biographical Digressions,” EAP Review, 5:22).

Source: color photograph of the original MS (3 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The bracketed readings on page 3 indicate tears in the MS. The address, appearing on the verso of the second leaf, reads simply: “John Allan Esqr / Present.” There is no postmark, indeed it appears that the letter was delivered by hand. It is docketed only as “Edgar A Poe.” The letter was dated by Mrs. Stanard (see Stanard, pp. 51-52). The OED lists “indeavor” as a nineteenth century spelling, but gives no instance beyond 1745. The first letter of the word is not clearly an “i” in the MS, although it does more closely resemble an “i” than an “e,” and seems to carry a dot above it. Poe's signature bears a paraph. John Allan's reply (CL-14) was undated but probably written on March 20, before receipt of Poe's letter of the same date (LTR-6).

Letter 6 — 1827, March 20 [CL-13] Poe (Richmond, VA) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Richmond Tuesday

Dear Sir,

Be so good as to send me my trunk with my clothes — I wrote to you on yesterday explaining my reasons for leaving — I suppose by my not receiving either my trunk, or an answer to my letter, that you did not receive it — I am in the greatest necessity, not having tasted food since Yesterday morning. I have no where to sleep at night, but roam about the Streets — I am nearly exhausted — I beseech you as you wish not your prediction concerning me to be fulfilled — to send me without delay my trunk containing my clothes, and to lend if you will not give me as much money as will defray the expence of my passage to <bos> Boston (.$12,) and a little to support me there untill [sic] I shall be enabled to engage in some business — I sail on Saturday — A letter will be received by me at the Court House Tavern, where be so good as to send my trunk —

Give my love to all at home — [page 13:]

I am Your's &c.

Edgar A Poe

I have not one cent in the world to provide any food

Notes: Allan's March 20, 1827 letter to Poe (CL-14) implies definite refusal of financial aid for the proposed trip to Boston (see Stanard, pp. 67-68), but Poe's present letter may have evoked the necessary $12, either from Allan or his wife. Allan's note on the verso reads only: “Edgar A Poes [sic] / Pretty Letter.” If the money was sent, any correspondence concerning it is unknown. The time of Poe's arrival in Boston is uncertain, though a date early in April seems probable. Poe may have stopped by Baltimore on the way (see TOM [Poems], 1:538-539). Attempts to name the ship on which he travelled have been inconclusive (see Stanard, p. 53; Quinn, p. 118; TOM [TAMP], p. xii; and TOM [RAOP], pp. xxvi-xxvii).

Source: color photograph of the original MS (1 p.) in the Valentine Museum. The envelope, formed from a second leaf, is addressed to “John Allan, Esqr / Present / care of Ellis & Allan,” but has no postmark. The letter was dated by Mrs. Stanard (see Stanard, pp. 51-52, and the notes to LTR-5). The present letter was written before Poe received Allan's of March 20 (CL-14). In the last sentence of Poe's letter, an extended line following the final “e” of “home” is presumed as a dash.

Letter 7 — 1828, December 1 [CL-16] Poe (Fort Moultrie, Charleston, SC) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Fort Moultrie, Charleston Hr

December 1rst 1828.

Dear Sir,

The letter of Lieut J. Howard left by Mr John, O, Lay [sic] for your perusal will explain the cause of my writing from Fort Moultrie.

Your note addressed to Mr Lay, & inclosed by him to Lieut: Howard was handed over by the latter to myself. In that note what chiefly gave me concern was hearing of your indisposition — I can [page 14:] readily see & forgive the suggestion which prompted you to write “he had better remain as he is until the termination of his enlistment.” It was perhaps under the impression that a military life was one after my own heart, and that it might be possible (although contrary to the Regulations of our Army) to obtain a commission for one who had not received his education at West Point, & who, from his age, was excluded that Academy; but I could not help thinking that you beleived [sic] me degraded & disgraced, and that any thing were preferable to my returning home & entailing on yourself a portion of my infamy: But, at no period of my life, have I regarded myself with a deeper Satisfaction — or did my heart swell with more honourable pride — The time may come (if at all it will come speedily) when much that appears of a doubtful nature will be explained away, and I shall have no hesitation in appearing among my former [page 2] connexions — at the present I have no such intention, and nothing, short of your absolute commands, should deter me from my purpose.

I have been in the American army as long as suits my ends or my inclination, and it is now time that I should leave it — To this effect I made known my circumstances to Lieut Howard who promised me my discharge solely upon a re-conciliation with yourself — In vain I told him that your wishes for me (as your letters assured me) were, and had always been those of a father & that you were ready to forgive even the worst offences — He insisted upon my writing you & that if a re-conciliation could be effected he would grant me my wish. This was advised in the goodness of his heart & with a view of serving me in a double sense — He has always been kind to me, and, in many respects, reminds me forcibly of yourself.

The period of an Enlistment is five years — the prime of my life would be wasted — I shall be driven to more decided measures if you refuse to assist me.

You need not fear for my future prosperity — I am altered from what you knew me, & am no longer a boy tossing about on the world without aim or consistency — I feel that within me which will make me fulfil your highest wishes & only beg you to suspend your judgement until you hear of me again. [page 15:]

You will perceive that I speak confidently — but when did [page 3] ever Ambition exist or Talent prosper without prior conviction of success? I have thrown myself on the world, like the Norman conqueror on the shores of Britain &, by my avowed assurance of victory, have destroyed the fleet which could alone cover my retreat — I must either conquer or die — succeed or be disgraced.

A letter addressed to Lieut: J. Howard assuring him of your reconciliation with myself (which you have never yet refused) & desiring my discharge would be all that is necessary — He is already acquainted with you from report & the high character given of you by Mr Lay.

Write me once more if you do really forgive me [and] let me know how my Ma preserves her health, and the concerns of the family since my departure.

Pecuniary assistance I do not desire — unless of your own free & unbiassed choice — I can struggle with any difficulty. My dearest love to Ma — it is only when absent that we can tell the value of such a friend — I hope she will not let my wayward disposition wear away the love she used to have for me.

Yours respectfully & affectionately

Edgar A. Poe

P.S. We are now under orders to sail for Old Point Comfort, and will arrive there before your answer can be received — Your address then will be to Lieut: J. Howard, Fortress Monroe — the same for myself.

Notes: Poe enlisted in the United States Army at Boston, May 26, 1827, under the alias Edgar A. Perry, aged 22, born in Boston, and was assigned to Battery H, First Artillery, then stationed at Fort Independence, Boston Harbor (see Quinn, p. 119). On November 8, 1827, the battery sailed for Fort Moultrie, Charleston Harbor, SC, where it arrived on November 18. Poe remained at Fort Moultrie until December 11, 1828 (see Quinn, p. 129). Poe's battery reached Fortress Monroe, Virginia, December 15, 1828 (see Quinn, p. 129). His plea to be released from the army is repeated in both of his next two letters to John Allan (LTR-8 and LTR-9). [page 16:] Almost nothing is known about Mr. Lay except as an intermediary in this transaction; The Poe Log (p. 86) says that he was a Richmond insurance agent. The “Norman conqueror” was William the Conqueror, who is said to have had his own ships burned after landing in England to prevent any of his troops from considering fleeing the battle.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (3 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The envelope, forming the verso of the second leaf, is postmarked “CHA HN S. C. / Dec. 3.” The letter is addressed to “John Allan Esqr / Richmond / Virginia. / care of Wm & Wm Galt, Jr.” Leaf two of the MS, comprising page 3 of the correspondence and the cover, is worn at the folds. A few of the periods may be interpreted as dashes, and vice versa. Poe's curious use of commas in the name “John, O, Lay” defies explanation except as an error — the second comma is probably intended to be a period, and the first merely a careless mark. This is Poe's first known letter to Allan since that of March 20, 1827 (LTR-6). John Allan did not reply. However, even if Poe did not write to Allan concerning his publication of Tamerlane and Other Poems in Boston, 1827, the tone of the present letter suggests some kind of written communication, possibly CL-15a, or perhaps a lost letter to his foster father, since the letter of March 20, 1827 (CL-14).

Letter 8 — 1828, December 22 [CL-17] Poe (Fortress Monroe, Old Point Comfort, VA) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Fortress Monroe (Va)

December 22d 1828 —

Dear Sir;

I wrote you shortly before leaving Fort Moultrie & am much hurt at receiving no answer. Perhaps my letter has not reached you & under that supposition I will recapitulate its contents. It was chiefly to sollicit [sic] your interest in freeing me from the Army of the U. S. in which, (as Mr Lay's letter from Lieut Howard informed you) — I am at present a soldier. I begged that you would suspend any judgement you might be inclined to form, upon many untoward circumstances, until you heard of me again — & begged you to give my dearest love to Ma [page 17:] & solicit her not to let my wayward disposition wear away the affection she used to have for me. I mentioned that all that was necessary to obtain my discharge from the army was your consent in a letter to Lieut J. Howard, who has heard of you by report, & the high character given you by Mr Lay; this being all that I asked at your hands, I was hurt at your declining to answer my letter. Since arriving at Fort Moultrie [page 2] Lieut Howard has given me an introduction to Col: James House of the 1rst Arty to whom I was before personally known only as a soldier of his regiment. He spoke kindly to me, told me that he was personally acquainted with my Grandfather Genl Poe, with yourself & family, & reassured me of my immediate discharge upon your consent. It must have been a matter of regret to me, that when those who were strangers took such deep interest in my welfare, <that> you who called me your son should refuse me even the common civility of answering a letter. If it is your wish to forget that I have been your son I am too proud to remind you of it again — I only beg you to remember that you yourself cherished the cause of my leaving your family — Ambition. If it has not taken the channel you wished it, it is not the less certain of its object. Richmond & the U. States were too narrow a sphere & the world shall be my theatre —

As I observed in the letter which you have not received — (you would have answered it if you had) you believe me degraded — but <th> do not believe it — There is that within my heart which has no connection with degradation — I can walk among [page 3] infection & be uncontaminated. There never was any period of my life when my bosom swelled with a deeper satisfaction, of myself & (except in the injury which I may have done to your feelings) — of my conduct — My father do not throw me aside as degraded[.] I will be an honor to your name.

Give my best love to my Ma & to all friends —

If you determine to abandon me — here take [I my] farewell — Neglected — I will be doubly [ambi]tious, & the world shall hear of the son whom you have thought unworthy of your notice. But if you let the love you bear me, outweigh the offence which I have given — then write me my father, quickly. My desire is for the present to be [page 18:] freed from the Army — Since I have been in it my character is one that will bear scrutiny & has merited the esteem of my officers — but I have accomplished my own ends — & I wish to be gone — Write to Lieut Howard — & to Col: House, desiring my discharge — & above all to myself.

Lieut Howard's direction is — Lieut J. Howard, Forss Monroe, Col: House's Col: Jas House — Fss Monroe — my own the same —

[page 4] My dearest love to Ma & all my friends

I am Your affectionate son

Edgar A Poe

Notes: For more on “General” Poe, see LTR-64 and notes. Poe's promise to become an honor to the Allan name was prompted probably both by ambition (see LTR-13) and by the publication of Tamerlane and Other Poems, though anonymously, in Boston (1827). Unfortunately, that slender pamphlet received little attention. TOM [TAOP, p. xxx] and Heartman & Canny [1943, p. 14] suggest a run of as many as 200 copies. In his 1829 prefatory note to “Tamerlane,” Poe describes it as having been “suppressed through circumstances of a private nature.” The “esteem of my officers” would appear to be confirmed by his rapid promotion to Sergeant Major (see Stanard, p. 85). Curious is the repetition of Poe's “love to Ma & to all my friends,” suggesting that he was about to end the letter, and added the final two paragraphs as an afterthought.

Poe's spelling of “sollicit,” repeated in LTR-28, is given for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by the OED, but here may be considered a careless error since he gives it correctly a few lines later.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (4 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The address, appearing in the middle of text on the verso of the second leaf, reads: “John Allan Esqr / Richmond / Va”; postmarked, “OLD PT COMF VA, Dec. 24.” It is docketed by John Allan as, “Edgar A. Poe / Decr 22, 1828.” Poe's signature bears a single, straight line underneath it. The bracketed reading on page 3 indicates a section torn from the MS. Apparently Allan did not answer this letter; the next known communication from him is dated May 18, 1829 (CL-26). Poe's battery reached Fortress Monroe, Old Point Comfort, VA, December 15, 1828 (see the notes to LTR-7). [page 19:]

Letter 9 — 1829, February 4 [CL-20] Poe (Fortress Monroe, Old Point Comfort, VA) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Fortress Monroe

February 4th 1829.

Dear Sir,

I wrote you some time ago from this place but have as yet received no reply. Since that time I wrote to John Mc Kenzie [sic] desiring him to see you personally & desire for me, of you, that you would interest yourself in procuring me a cadet's appointment at the Military Academy.

To this likewise I have received no answer, for which I can in no manner account, as he wrote me before I wrote to him & seemed to take an interest in my welfare.

I made the request to obtain a cadets’ appointment partly because I know that — (if <y> my age should prove no obstacle as I have since ascertained it will not) the appointment could easily be obtained >>either<< by your personal acquaintance with Mr Wirt — or by the recommendation of General Scott, or even of the officers residing at Fortress Monroe & partly because in making the request you would at once see to what direction my “future views & expectations” were inclined.

You can have no idea of the immense [page 2] advantages which my present station in the army would give me in the appointment of a cadet — it would be an unprecedented case in the American army, & having already passed thro the practical part even of the higher partion [sic] of the Artillery arm, my cadetship would only be considered as a necessary form which I >>am<< positive I could run thro’ in 6 months.

This is the view of the case which many at this place have taken in regard to myself. If you are willing to assist me it can now be effectually done — if not (as late circumstances have induced me to believe) I must remain contented until chance or other friends shall render me that assistance. [page 20:]

Under the certain expectation of kind news from home I have been led into expences which my present income will not support. I hinted as much in my former letter, and am at present in an uncomfortable situation[.] I have known the time when you would not have suffered me long to remain so.

[page 3] Whatever fault you may find with me I have not been ungrateful for past services but you blame me for the part which I have taken without considering the powerful impulses which actuated me — You will remember how much I had to suffer upon my return from the University. I never meant to offer a shadow of excuse for the infamous conduct of myself & others at that place.

It was however at the commencement of that year that I got deeply entangled in difficulty which all my after good conduct in the close of the session (to which all there can testify) could not clear away. I had never been from home before for any length of time. I say again I have no excuse to offer for my [con]duct except the common one of youth[fulnes]s — but I repeat that I was unable [if] my life had depended upon it to bear the consequences of that conduct in the taunts & abuse that followed it even from those who had been my warmest friends.

I shall wait with impatience for an [page 4] answer to this letter for upon it depend a great many of the circumstances of my future life — the assurance of an honourable & highly successful course in my own country — or the prospect — no certainty of an exile forever to another[.]

Give my love to Ma —

I am

Yours affectionately

Edgar A Poe

Notes: John Mackenzie, not “Mc Kenzie,” was the son of Mr. and Mrs. William Mackenzie of Richmond, who following Mrs. Poe's death adopted Edgar's sister, Rosalie Poe. No extant letter from John Mackenzie to Poe is known, but the present letter clearly indicates one [page 21:] (CL-18). There appears to be no further correspondence between these two men at this time. For one 1843 item from Poe to “MacKenzie,” probably John Mackenzie, see LTR-159. William Wirt (1772-1834) was the author of a biography of Patrick Henry (printed in 1817) and had been Attorney General of the United States from 1817 until the end of J. Q. Adams’ presidency, early in 1829. For Poe's later contact with him, see Wirt to Poe, May 11, 1829 (CL-22) and LTR-11. General Winfield Scott, a friend of the Allans, had known the young Poe in Richmond. Poe's hint for financial assistance appeared in LTR-7. For the reference to the difficulties at the University of Virginia, see LTR-28. Poe is apparently threatening to leave the army without permission, and therefore be forced to live as an exile in another country. For a similar threat to join the Polish army, see LTR-30. With the sole exception of his early visit to England with the Allans, Poe almost certainly never left the United States.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (4 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The address, written in the middle of text on the verso of the second leaf, reads: “John Allan Esqr / Richmond / Va,” with the postmark, “OLD PT COMF VA, Feb. 9.” It is docketed by John Allan, “E A Poe / Feby 4th, 1829.” Bracketed readings on page 3 represent tears in the MS. The missing part of the word “youth[fulnes]s” is suggested by the context, the remnant of the “f” and the apparent number of missing letters, with the word “youth” ending one line, with a hyphen, and the rest of the word beginning the next. The error of “partion” is obviously a fault in Poe's shaping of the word, initially intended to be “part” with the end “ion” squeezed in, to constitute “portion.” John Allan had not answered Poe's last two letters (CL-17 and CL-19), nor is there any evidence that he replied to the present one.

Letter 10 — 1829, March 10 [CL-21] Poe (Fortress Monroe, Old Point Comfort, VA) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Fortress Monroe.

March 10th 1829.

My dear Pa,

I arrived on the point this morning in good health, and if it were not for late occurrences, should feel much happier than I have for a long [page 22:] time. I have had a fearful warning, & have hardly ever known before what distres[s] was.

The Colonel has left the point this morning [for] Washington to congratulate the President [elect] so I have not yet seen him. He will ret[urn] on Thursday >>week<< next[.] In the mean time [I] [a]m employing mys[elf] in preparing for the [tests] [w]hich will engage my [at]tention at W. Point [if I] [s]hould be so fortunate [as] to obtain an appoint[ment.] [I] am anxious to retri[ev]e my good name wi[th my] [frie]nds & especially yo[ur] good opinion.

[I] think a letter of reco[mm]endation from Ju[dge Barbour,] [Maj]or Gibbon, & Col: P[res]ton forwarded to [Washington] [with] a letter to Mr [Pa]tterson requesting [that if] [nothing] would prev[ent it] I may be r[egarded as] [a Bos]tonian.

[Here probably one line of MS was burned off.] [page 2] me in the morning of my departure I went to your room to tell you good bye — but, as you were asleep, I would not disturb you.

My respects to Mr & Mrs Galt & Mr Wm Galt.

I am, dear Pa,

Your's affectionately

Edgar A. Poe

Notes: This is the first letter to John Allan in which Poe begins, “Dear Pa,” or “My dear Pa,” as he does in several instances after this date, a fact that shows a new intimacy between Poe and his foster father (see APXA-Allan). Poe had just returned from Richmond, where Frances Keeling Allan, his foster mother, had died on February 28, and had been buried on March 2, 1829. Poe was granted leave, apparently at John Allan's request, but reached Richmond on March 3, “the night after the burial” (see LTR-28). Col. James House, commanding officer of the First Regiment, United States Artillery, Fortress Monroe, had gone to congratulate President-elect Andrew Jackson. The suggested emendation of the names of Judge John Stode Barbour (1790-1855) and of Col. James Patton Preston (1774- 1843) is based upon Allan's letter to Poe, May 18, 1829 (CL-26), in which he says: “I was agreeably pleased to hear that the Honourable Jno J Barber [sic] did interest himself ... in your favour,” which suggests that [page 23:] Poe had asked Judge Barbour to write a letter of recommendation. In the same letter, Allan says: “Col. Preston wrote a warm letter in your favour to Major Eaton since your departure.” This reference, together with Mrs. Stanard's (Stanard, p. 110), supports the name of “Preston.” Col. Preston had been a former Governor of Virginia, and Major Eaton was the Secretary of War (see LTR-16, LTR-18 and LTR-20). Allen (1:144 [1926], or p. 118 [1934]) identifies Major James Gibbon as a resident of Richmond. James Galt, William Galt, Jr., and John Allan were the chief beneficiaries under the will of William Galt, who died March 26, 1825 (see Allen, 1:116 and 2:859-864 [1926], or pp. 96 and 687-691 [1934]); Allan was a nephew, James and William, adopted sons. Although many of Poe's early biographers repeated the false information that he was born in Baltimore, Edgar Poe, son of David and Elizabeth A. Poe, was born in Boston, south of the Common and near the Charles River, the exact location of the house being uncertain (see Quinn, pp. 31 and 727-729).

Source: color photograph of the original MS (2 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The holograph is badly burned at both sides, bottom, and center fold; however, the wording of the first paragraph is complete, and probably only one line is missing at the foot of the leaf. The present printing of the letter is as complete as possible, the bracketed emendations being based upon a close examination of the original MS. The envelope, a separate leaf, is addressed, “John Allan, Esqr / Richmond / Va:.” It is docketed by John Allan as, “Edgar A Poe / March 10 1829.” The postmark is essentially illegible. Poe's signature bears one long, straight line underneath, with a second short one just under the first three letters. In all probability, Poe is not answering a letter from Allan, but merely reporting the progress of plans made while Poe was at home.

Letter 11 — 1829, May 20 [CL-27] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):


May 20. 1829

Dear Pa,

I received your letter this morning enclosing a draft for $100 for which liberal allowance you will be sure that I feel grateful. [page 24:]

The draft which I drew at Mr Warwick's suggestion will of course be laid aside —

I have succeeded in finding Grandmother & my relations — but the fact of my Grandfather's having been Quater [sic] Master Gener[al] of the whole U. S. Army during the Revolutionary war is clearly established — but its being a well known fact at Washington, obviates the necessity of obtaining the certificates you mentioned.

<Not> Presuming upon Mr Wirt's former acquaintance, I introduced myself personally & for a first attempt at self introduction succeeded wonderfully — He treated me with great politeness, and [page 2] invited me to call & see him frequently while I stay in Baltimore — I have called upon him several times.

I have been introduced to many gentlemen of high standing in the city, who were formerly acquainted with my grandfather, & have altogether been treated very handsomely.

Give my best love to Miss Valentine & all at home —

I remain

Yours affectionately

Edgar A. Poe

Notes: Poe's lost letter of ca. May 14 (CL-25) apparently spoke of his having received a recommendation to West Point from Judge John S. Barbour, and of a successful interview with the Secretary of War in Washington. Allan, apparently encouraged by the promise of Poe's appointment to West Point in September, forwarded $100 in his letter of May 18 (CL-26). Also, his notation on the verso of the present letter, “pd his draft,” suggests that the order for $50, which Poe had drawn at Mr. Warwick's “suggestion,” was not laid aside. Corbin Warwick was a relative of John Allan, later serving as an executor to his will (see Allen, 2:866 [1926], or p. 693 [1934]). Poe, as Sergeant-Major Edgar A. Perry, had been discharged from the army, April 15, 1829 (see Quinn, p. 135, and The Poe Log, pp. 89-90). After leaving Fortress Monroe, perhaps directly, Poe went to Richmond. He seems to have remained at home at least until May 6, when John Allan gave him a letter of recommendation to John Eaton, Secretary of War (see Stanard, pp. 110-111). Following his [page 25:] “departure” from Richmond (see Allan's letter to Poe, May 18, 1829, CL-26), apparently aided by an advance from Allan of $50, Poe travelled to Washington, then on to Baltimore, where he found Mrs. David Poe (his ailing grandmother, widow of “General” Poe), Mrs. Maria Clemm (his aunt), and her young daughter (Virginia Eliza Clemm), her son (Henry Clemm), and Edgar's brother (William Henry Leonard Poe). The precise address of where they were living at this time is uncertain (see Markey and Krimmel, “Poe's Mystery House,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 86:387-395). The first mention of Mrs. Clemm's residence is found in the Baltimore City Directory of 1831, the location being Mechanic's Row, Wilk Street (now roughly Eastern Avenue). Whether Poe lived with them during the rest of 1829 is also uncertain, but the tone of his letters to Allan implies either that he did or was in close contact with them; and a document of sale, originally found in the Baltimore Court House and now part of the collection at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, shows that he sold a Negro slave for Maria Clemm on December 10, 1829 (see Evans, “When EAP Sold a Slave,” Baltimore Evening Sun, April 6, 1940; and Evans, “Poe in Amity Street,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 36:376-377). For William Wirt, see the note to LTR-9. Miss Anne Moore Valentine, sister of Frances Keeling Allan, continued to live at the Allan home after Mrs. Allan's death, on February 28, 1829. David Poe was actually the Assistant Deputy Quartermaster General for Baltimore rather than the whole army, and whether Poe is making a simple error or intentionally exaggerating is unknown. For more on “General” David Poe, see the note to LTR-64.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (2 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The envelope, a separate leaf, is addressed: “John Allan Esqr / Richmond / Va:.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD, May 20.” John Allan recorded on the verso of the cover: “Edgar A Poe / May 20, 1829 / [line] / Answered in anticipation / to Washington / gave Edgar $50 / remitted him 100 / pd his draft so / [total] $200.” Poe's signature bears a few short scratches which are probably the result of an attempt to mark the name with a paraph, thwarted by an uncooperative pen. On page 1, the bracketed reading indicates a small tear in the MS. There is a slight hint of an upstroke for the “a” in “Quater” that might reveal an intended “r”. The same word, however, is also misspelled in LTR-13, where Poe refers to the American Quarterly Review. The word “not,” shown in the present text as cancelled material, was evidently smeared while it was still wet, presumably in an attempt to erase it. In the final full paragraph, beginning [page 26:] “I have been introduced,” the commas after “city” and “grandfather” appear to be periods in the MS. Poe could hardly have meant for true periods, however, since the sentence does not end at either point, nor would the remaining text make sense as the beginning of a new sentence.

Letter 12 — 1829, before May 27 [CL-28] Poe (Heiskell's Indian Queen Hotel, Philadelphia, PA) to Isaac Lea (Philadelphia, PA):

Dear Sir,

I should have presumed upon the politeness of Mr R. Walsh for a personal introduction to yourself, but was prevented by his leaving town the morning after my arrival — You will be so kind as to consider this as a literary introduction until his return from N. Y.

I send you, for your tenderest consideration, a poem —

“Some sins do bear their privilege on earth.”

You will oblige me by placing this among the number.

It was my choice or chance or curse

To adopt the cause for better or worse

And with my worldly goods & wit

And soul & body worship it —

But not to detain you with my nonsense it were as well to speak of “the poem”.

It's [sic] title is “Al Aaraaf” — from the Al Aaraaf of the Arabians, a medium between Heaven & Hell where men suffer no punishment, but yet do not attain that tranquil & even happiness which they suppose to be the characteristic of heavenly enjoyment[.]

Un no rompido sueno

Un dia puro, allegre, libre

Quiera —

Libre de amor, de zelo

De odio, de esperanza, de re zelo — [page 27:]

[page 2] I have placed this “Al Aaraaf” in the celebrated star discovered by Tycho Brahe which appeared & dissapeared [sic] so suddenly. It is represented as a messenger star of the Deity, &, at the time of its discovery by Tycho, as on an embassy to our world. One of the peculiarities of Al Aaraaf is that, even after death, — those who make choice of the star as their residence do not enjoy immortality — but, after a second life of high excitement, sink into forgetfulness. & death — This idea is taken from Job — “I would not live <them> always — let me alone”. I have imagined that some would not be pleased (excuse the bull) with an immortality even of bliss. The poem commences with a sonnet (illegitimate) a la mode de Byron in his prisoner of Chillon. But this is a digression — I have imagined some well known characters of the age of the star's appearance, as transferred to Al Aaraaf — viz Michael Angelo — and others — of these Michael Angelo as yet, alone appears. I send you parts 1rst 2d & 3d. I have reasons for wishing not to publish the 4th at present — for its character depends in a measure upon the success or failure of the others —

As these 3 parts will be insufficient for a [page 3] volume — I have wished to publish some minor poems with Al Aaraaf — But as the work would depend for character upon the principal poem it is needless, at present to speak of the rest.

If the poem is published, succeed or not, I am “irrecoverably a poet.” But to your opinion I leave it, and as I should be proud of the honor of your press, failing in that I will make no other application.

I should add a circumstance which, tho’ no justification of a failure, is yet a boast in success — the poem is by a minor & truly written under extraordinary disadvantages.

with great respect

Your obt sert

Edgar A. Poe

I am staying at Heiskell's.

I cannot refrain from adding that Mr Wirt's voice is in my favor. [page 28:]

Notes: Quinn identifies Robert Walsh as the editor of the American Quarterly Review (p. 138), and “Heiskell's” as the Indian Queen Hotel, 15 South Fourth Street (p. 143). Although Lea's answer of May 27 (CL-29) is unlocated, it did not return the poem (see LTR-17). The line “Some sins do bear their privilege on earth” is from Shakespeare's King John (I.i.261). TOM [Poems, 1:147], prints the quatrain (“It was my choice ... worship it”) as “To Isaac Lea” solely as an informal title with the comment: “written, probably impromptu, in a letter.” He notes that “the ‘cause’ is poetry” and “the language of the marriage service of the Church of England, is echoed in the verses.” The passage “I would not live ... let me alone” is, as Poe suggests, from the biblical book of Job (7:16). For an examination of Poe's form of the name of Michelangelo, the Renaissance artist and poet, see the note to LTR-181. William Wirt's favorable “voice” was a letter of criticism (CL-22) concerning “Al Aaraaf.”

In explicating the theme of the title “Al Aaraaf,” Poe cites an excerpt from a Spanish poem (“Un no rompido ... de re zelo”). The poem is “Vida Retirada” by the great Renaissance writer Fray Luis de León. It was first published in Poesía (Madrid, 1790), more conveniently reprinted in Obras Completas (Madrid: Biblioteca de Obras Cristianas, 1951, p. 1429). The same excerpt, noted as by “Luis Ponce de Leon [sic],” was Poe's footnote 26 in the work that he is offering for publication to Isaac Lea, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (see TOM [Poems], 1:112 and 1:125, notes for line 173, although TOM incorrectly gives “interrupted” for “uninterrupted”). Poe uses the quotation to illustrate a sort of heavenly limbo, far from the author's intent, concerning a life of peace and tranquility, apart from the workaday world. The excerpt, however, needs several corrections: “Un no rompido sueno [sic]” in Poe's MS needs a tilde for “sueño”; “allegre” should be “alegre”; the accent, normal for día, may be ambiguously present but over the “a” (perhaps a mere blotch), or missing in an old text used by Poe; “quiera” should be “quiero”; the remaining lines are actually from two stanzas below in the original, and should read “... libre de amor, de celo, / de odio, de esperanzas, de recelo.” “Zelo” is an older form of “celo”, and the date of Poe's cited text has not been traced. The same is true of “rezelo,” incorrectly divided in Poe's text. Literally this combination of different lines (ll. 26-27 and 39-40, in the Spanish poem) means: “an unbroken sleep, a pure, happy, free day, do I wish. Free from love, from ambition, from hatred, from hopes, from fear.” [page 29:]

Source: photocopy of the original MS (3 pp.), formerly in the Drexel Institute, and now in the Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin. The autograph MS has ink blots and smears. The address, on the back of the last page, is directed to I. Lea, Esq., and was delivered by hand. The letter is folded and sealed with wax. It probably accompanied the MS of the poem. The letter is undated, but the year is certainly 1829, based on William Wirt's letter (CL-22), enclosed in LTR-13. There is no positive clue to the date except Lea's note at the top of the first page: “Ans’ May 27.” At the bottom of page 3 appears in pencil: “at City Hotel” (not in Poe's hand). Thus the present letter to Lea might be dated somewhat more precisely as May 11-27, 1829. In the first paragraph, Poe has changed “For N.Y.” to “from N.Y.” In the last paragraph on page 1, he corrected “yet to not attain” to “yet do not attain.” The isolated line, beginning “I send you,” is not indented in the MS, although Poe's intention is clearly a new paragraph. The 1948 and 1966 editions of The Letters erroneously omit the word “sueno” from the first line of the quoted poem, and “Brahe” is spelled “Brache.” In the first sentence on page 2 of the MS, Poe carelessly places the ending quotation mark for “Al Aaraaf” before the final “f.” Poe's exact placement of various punctuation marks is not always clear, but strictly adhering to duplication of this quirk in a printed form seems unnecessary and this instance has been editorially corrected in the text.

Letter 13 — 1829, May 29 [CL-30] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Baltimore May 29th


Dear Pa,

I am now going to make a request different from any I have ever yet made.

As I wrote you, some time since, I have been several times to visit Mr Wirt, who has treated me with great kindness & attention. I sent him, for his opinion, a day or two ago, a poem which I have written since I left home — & in the letter which I now enclose you have his [page 30:] opinion upon its merits — From such a man as Mr Wirt, the flattering character he has given of the work, will surely be to you a recommendation in its favor.

In the conclusion of the letter you will see that he advises me to “get a personal introduction to Mr Walsh” the editor of the American Quaterly [sic] Review & get his interest in my favor — that interest, and his highest encomiums on the poem are already obtained — as Editor of the Review he promises to notice it which will assure it, if not of popularity, of success —

Under these circumstances, I have thought [page 2] it my duty to write to you on the subject — Believing you to be free from prejudice, I think you will aid me, if you see cause; At my time of life there is much in being before the eye of the world — if once noticed I can easily cut out a path to reputation — It can certainly be of no disadvantage as it will not, even for a moment, interfere with other objects which I have in view.

I am aware of the difficulty of getting a poem published in this country — Mr Wirt & Mr Walsh have advised me of that — but the difficulty should be no object, with a proper aim in view.

If Mssrs Carey, Lea, & Carey, should decline publishing (as I have no reason to think they will not — they having invariably declined it with all our American poets) that is upon their own risk the request I have to make is this — that you will give me a letter to Mssrs Carey, Lea, & Carey saying that if in publishing the poem “Al Aaraaf” [page 3] they shall incur any loss — you will make it good to them.

The cost of publishing the work, in a style equal to any of our American publications, will at the extent be $100 — This then, of course, must be the limit of any loss supposing not a single copy of the work to be sold — It is more than probable that the work will be profitable & that I may gain instead of lose, even in a pecuniary way —

I would remark, in conclusion that I have long given up Byron as a model — for which, I think, I deserve some credit. [page 31:]

If you will help me in this matter I will be always grateful for your kindness.

If you conclude upon giving me a trial please enclose me the letter to Messrs Carey, Lea, & Carey — I shall wait anxiously for your answer —

Give my love to Miss Valentine & all

I remain Yours affecty:

E A. Poe

[page 4] Please present my thanks to Col: Preston for his obliging letter.

Notes: It is interesting to see, at this early point, Poe's ambition for a reputation, and for “being before the eye of the world.” (See his earlier promise to John Allan in LTR-7.) John Allan's notation on the right margin of page 4 indicates that the letter of William Wirt (CL-22) was enclosed and that the present letter was answered. Allan also wrote just below the last line of the letter: “replied to Monday 8th June 1829 strongly censuring his conduct — & refusing any aid —.” Allan's letter to Poe had been dated May 18, 1829. For William Wirt, see the note to LTR-9, and for his letter to Poe, see the note to LTR-12. Robert Walsh (1784-1859) had recently been a Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, and was editor of the American Quarterly Review (March 1827-December 1837), published in Philadelphia (1827-1833) by Carey & Lea (see American Magazines, 1:271). The third and fifth paragraphs suggest an exchange of letters between Poe and Robert Walsh (CL-23 and CL-24). They would have been written between Poe's letter to Wirt, May 11 (CL-22), and Poe's letter to Isaac Lea, before May 27, 1829 (LTR-12). In spite of Wirt's recommendation, and Poe's presumed direct appeal, Walsh apparently did not “notice” Poe's poem (see Quinn, p. 144), which was published in Baltimore by Hatch & Dunning, December 1829, in Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. For Colonel Preston's letter recommending Poe for West Point, see LTR-10. For “Miss Valentine,” see the notes to LTR-3 and LTR-11.

Poe's misspelling of “Quaterly” for “Quarterly” possibly suggests a hint of his Virginian accent, which would be inclined to drop the middle “r.” Similarly, in LTR-11 Poe gives his grandfather's title as “Quater Master.” [page 32:] (For other possible, but controversial, examples of Poe retaining in his rhymes some Southern pronunciations, see TOM [Poems], 1:xxv.)

Source: color photograph of the original MS (4 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The letter is addressed on page 4, “Mr John Allan / Richmond / Va.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD, May 31.” It is docketed by John Allan as, “Edgar A Poe / Balt. May 29 1829 / Letter of Wm Wirt / answd 8th June 1829.” The MS is torn at the right edge of page 3, but no words are lacking. Although it more closely resembles a period in the original, the mark in the second paragraph between “Mr Wirt” and “the flattering character” has been interpreted as a comma, clearly Poe's intention.

Letter 14 — 1829, June 25 [CL-34] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):


June 25, 1829

Dear Pa,

I wrote you on the 10th of June in reply to yours of the 8th in which I urged my reasons in further support of my request to be allowed to publish a poem — & I did intend, but forgot to say, in conclusion, that as I had submitted the question of its being expedient to your decision — I should by no means publish it without your approbation — I say this now, because I fear from your silence that I have offended you in pressing my request any farther.

The poem is now in the hands of Carey, Lea & Carey and I am only waiting for your answer to withdraw it or not — It was my wish immediately upon receiving your letter to return home thro’ Washington & ascertain the fate of my application — <of> which I am induced to think has succeeded — as there were, I understand several rejected — This I will do immediately upon hearing [page 2] from you.

In whatever errors I may have been led into, I would beg you to judge me impartially & to believe that I have acted from the single motive of trying to do something for myself — & with your assistance [page 33:] I trust I may — I have left untried no efforts to enter at W. Point & if I fail I can give you evidence that it is no fault of mine — but I hope to succeed —

I am afraid you will think that I am trying to impose on your good nature & would not except under peculiar circumstances have applied to you for any more money — but it is only a little that I now want.

I will explain the matter clearly — A cousin of my own (Edward Mosher) robbed me at Beltzhoover's Hotel while I was asleep in the same room with him of all the money I had with me (about 46$) [page 3] of which I recovered $10 — by searching his pockets the ensuing night, when he acknowledged the theft — I have been endeavouring in vain to obtain the balance from him — he says he has not got it & begs me not to expose him — & for his wife's sake I will not. I have a letter from him referring to the subject, which I will show you on arriving in Richmond.

I have been moderate in my expences & $50 of the money which you sent me I applied in paying a debt contracted a[t] Old Point for my substitute, for [which] I gave my note — the money necessary if Lt Howard had not gone on furlough would have been only 12$ as a bounty — but when he & Col: House left I had to scuffle for myself — I paid $25 — & gave my note for $50 — in all 75$.

Since I have been in Baltimore I have learnt something concerning my descent which would have, I am afraid, no very favourable effect if known to the War Dept: [page 4] viz: that I am the grandson of General Benedict Arnold — but this there will be no necessity of telling —

[space reserved for address]

Give my best love to all my friends — I hope you will give me a favourable answer concerning my poem tho’ I will strictly abide by your decision.

I am Yours affecty

E A. Poe [page 34:]

Notes: Poe's letter to Allan, June 10, 1829 (CL-32), is lost, as is Allan's letter to Poe of June 8 (CL-31) (see the note to LTR-13). For the reference to Lea & Carey, see LTR-12 and LTR-17. According to Wirt's letter to Poe, May 11, 1829 (CL-22), Poe planned to leave Baltimore for Philadelphia on the day-boat, May 12; thus Poe's letter to Isaac Lea, before May 27, 1829 (LTR-12), and the MS of “Al Aaraaf” were probably in the hands of the publishers upwards of two weeks before the receipt of either was acknowledged. An interview between Poe and Lea followed, but hearing nothing further from them, Poe wrote Carey, Lea, & Carey, July 28 (LTR-17), requesting the return of his poem. It is very possible that John Allan's refusal to give his “approbation” played no small part, especially at this time, in Poe's withdrawing his MS, though the apparent lack of encouragement from the publishers surely also contributed to his decision. The identity of Poe's cousin has caused some confusion. In printing this letter in Stanard, pp. 149-152, the line bearing the cousin's name was not included, probably reflecting Mrs. Stanard's Victorian sense of discretion. (The same line has also been carefully removed from the facsimile printed in that edition.) In the MS, Poe clearly writes Edward Mosher, but in the 1966 supplement to The Letters, Ostrom states that the name should be Edward Mosher Poe, without giving a source. (The Poe Log, p. 94, describes Edward Mosher as “a distant cousin,” also without giving a source.) Quinn (p. 146) provides the name as James Mosher Poe (1812-1885), a son of Jacob and Bridget Poe. Quinn is probably correct, for in LTR-16 Poe calls this cousin simply Mosher, and he also lists James Mosher Poe as Mosher in his genealogical table for LTR-79. Whether or not this cousin actually committed the theft attributed to him cannot be determined, but the use of an apparently false name is suspicious. John Allan last sent money to Poe on May 18, 1829 (CL-26), to finance in large part Poe's expenses en route to West Point (see the notes to LTR-11). Poe's professed relationship to Benedict Arnold is pure romancing; for Elizabeth Arnold's ancestry, see Quinn (p. 2) and the notes to LTR-79. Poe's substitute was Samuel Graves (see LTR-25, and Quinn, p. 742). John Allan did not reply to this letter.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (4 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The letter is addressed to: “John Allan, Esqr / Richmond, / Va:.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD, JUN 25.” The postmark and address appear on page 4, center, with the last few lines of correspondence running above and below. At the right margin appears Allan's notation: “Edgar A Poe / June 25th 1829.” [page 35:]

Letter 15 — 1829, July 15 [CL-35] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):


July 15th 1829

Dear Pa,

I have written you twice lately & have received no answer — I would not trouble you so often with my letters, but I am afraid that being up at the Byrd you might probably not have received them — I am very anxious to return home thro’ Washington where I have every hope of being appointed for Sepr & besides by being detained at Baltimore I am incurring unecessary [sic] expense as Grandmother is not in a situation to give me any accomodation [sic] —

I sometimes am afraid that you are angry & perhaps you have reason to be — but if you will but >>put<< a little more confidence in me — I will endeavor to deserve it —

[page 2] I am sure no one can be more anxious, or would do more towards helping myself than I would — if I had any means of doing it — without your assistance, I have none — I am anxious to abide by your directions, if I knew what they were —

You would relieve me from a great deal of anxiety by writing me soon — I think I have already had my share of trouble for one so young —

I am

Dear Pa

Yours affectionately

Edgar A. Poe

Notes: Poe's nudge that he has “written you twice” refers to the now lost letters of June 10, 1829 (CL-32) and June 25, 1829 (CL-34). Allan had not written to Poe since June 8, 1829 (CL-31), but did reply to the present letter on July 19, 1829 (CL-36). The “Byrd” was an estate of some 6,000 acres situated on the James River in Goochland county, about fifty miles west of Richmond, willed to John Allan by his uncle, William Galt, in [page 36:] 1825 (see Allen, 2:859 [1926], or p. 687 [1934]). Poe was unsuccessful in the September appointments to West Point. For “Grandmother,” see LTR-11 and note.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (2 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The envelope, a separate leaf, is addressed to “John Allan, Esqr / Richmond / Va..” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD / JUL 17.” The letter is docketed by John Allan as, “Edgar A Poe / July 19, 1829.”

Letter 16 — 1829, July 26 [CL-37] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):


July 26 — 1829 —

Dear Pa,

I received yours of the 19th on the 22d ulto & am truly thankful for the money which you sent me, notwithstanding the taunt with which it was given “that men of genius ought not to apply to your aid” — It is too often their necessity to want that little timely assistance which would prevent such applications —

I did not answer your letter by return of mail on account of my departure for Washington the next morning — but before I proceed to tell the event of my application I think it my duty to say something concerning the accusations & suspicions which are contained in your letter —

As regards the substitute, the reason why I did not tell you that it would cost $75 — was that I could not possibly foresee so improbable >>an<< event — The bounty is $12 — & <unless> but for the absence of Col: House & Lt Howard at the time of my discharge it would have been all that I should have had to pay — The officer commanding a company can (if he pleases) enlist the first recruit who offers & muster him as a substitute for another, of course paying only the bounty of 12 $ but as Lt Howard & Col: House were both absent, this arrangement could not be effected — As I told you it would only cost me $12 I did not wish to make you think me imposing upon you — so upon a [page 37:] substitute, offering for $75 — I gave him $25 & gave him my note of hand for the balance — when you remitted me $100 — thinking I had more than I should want. I thought it my best opportunity of taking up my note — which I did.

[page 2] If you will take into consideration the length of time I have been from home, which was occasioned by my not hearing from you (& I was unwilling to leave the city without your answer, expecting it every day) & other expenses, you will find that it has been impossible for me to enter into any extravagancies or improper expense — even supposing I had not lost the $46 — the time which intervened between my letter & your answer in the first instance was 22 days — in the latter one month & 4 days — as I had no reason to suppose you would not reply to my letter as I was unconscious of having offended, it would have been imprudent to leave without your answer — this expense was unavoidable —

As regards the money which was stolen I have sent you the only proof in my possession a letter from Mosher — in which there is an acknowledgement of the theft — I have no other. On receiving your last letter, I went immediately to Washington, on foot, & have returned the same way, having paid away $40 for my bill & being unwilling to spend the balance when I might avoid it, until I could see what prospects were in view — I saw Mr Eaton, he addressed me by name, & in reply to my questions told me — “that of the 47 surplus, on the roll, which I mentioned in my former letters, 19 were rejected [9] dismissed & 8 resigned [”] — consequently there [page 3] was yet a surplus of 10 before me on the roll. On asking for my papers of recommendation, which might be of service elsewhere — he told me that in that case my application would be considered as withdrawn, which he strongly advised me not to do — saying that there were still hopes of my obtaining the appointment in Sepr as during the encampment every year there were numerous resignations — if the number exceeded 10 I should be sure of the appt without farther application in Sepr if not I would at least be among the first on the next roll for the ensuing year — when of course my appointment was certain — when I mentioned that I feared my age would interfere he [page 38:] replied that 21 was the limit — that many entered at that time — & that I might call myself 21 until I was 22 — On leaving the office he called me back to endorse on my papers the name of my P. Office — I wrote Richmond. He said that I should certainly hear from him & that >>he<< regretted my useless trip to Washington — These are his precise words —

Having now explained every circumstance that seemed to require an explanation & shown that I have spared no exertions in the pursuit of my object. I write to you for information as to what course I must pursue — I would have returned home immediately but for the words [in] your letter “I am not particularly anxious to see you” — I know not how to interpret them[.]

[page 4] I could not help thinking that they amounted to a prohibition to return — if I had any means of support until I could obtain the appointment, I would not trouble you again — I am conscious of having offended you formerly — greatly — but I thought that had been forgiven. at least you told me so —

I know that I have done nothing since to deserve your displeasure —

[space reserved for address]

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 sh[ould] hear from you soon — as I do not know how to ac[t.]

I am Your's affectionately

Edgar A. [Poe]

Notes: Poe is replying to Allan's letter of July 19 (CL-36), in which he probably sent Poe $50 (see the next to last sentence, page 2). In addition to supplying this much-needed money, Allan apparently had again criticized Poe's business method in securing Samuel Graves as his army substitute (see LTR-14). In computing the time that intervened between his [page 39:] letter of May 20 (LTR-11) and Allan's reply of June 8, 1829 (CL-31), Poe erroneously included the day on which he wrote his letter and the day on which he received Allan's; thus he accounted for “22 days.” By the same procedure, however, one does not get “one month & 4 days” between Poe's letter of June 10 (CL-32) and Allan's reply of July 19 (CL-36), which seem to be the letters meant. For the letter (CL-33) from “Mosher” (probably James Mosher Poe) see the note to LTR-14. In his interview, Poe was giving his correct age as 21 on January next (January 19, 1809-January, 1830). John Henry Eaton (1790-1856) was Secretary of War (1829-1831). If correspondence ever existed between Poe and Mr. Eaton, it has been lost, as has any direct reference to it. Poe's “offended you formerly” seems to refer to his leaving Richmond in March 1827; and “that had been forgiven” undoubtedly alludes to the reconciliation following the death of Mrs. Allan, on February 28, 1829. On July 28, 1829, Poe wrote to Carey, Lea & Carey (LTR-17) requesting the return of his poem; though the letter of approbation that Poe requested from Mr. Allan could not have reached Baltimore by that date. Allan's strong disapprobation, previously expressed, may have precipitated the recalling of the MS.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (4 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The letter is addressed on page 4 to “John Allan, Esqr / Richmond / Va:.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD / JUL 26.” It is docketed by John Allan as, “Edgar A Poe / July 26th 1829.” The MS is torn at several places, slightly damaging several words towards the end of the letter, including Poe's signature. In the MS, Poe corrects his misspelling of “encampment” by inserting the “m” before the “p.”

Letter 17 — 1829, July 28 [CL-38] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to Carey, Lea & Carey (Philadelphia, PA):

Baltimore July 28th 1829.

Messrs Carey, Lea & Carey


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 [page 40:] 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 —

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 Jno Neal to the contrary, who now & then hitting, thro’ sheer impudence, upon a correct judgement in matters of authorship, is most unenviably ridiculous whenever he touches [page 2] 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) 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 obt servt

Edgar A. Poe

Notes: In connection with this letter, see LTR-12. The explanation for Poe's first paragraph may be found in LTR-16, though by inference only, for Allan's letter of July 19, 1829 (CL-36) would be essential but has not been located. No Poe work is known to have appeared in the Atlantic Souvenir. (For information on the Atlantic Souvenir, see R. Thompson, American Literary Annuals and Gift Books, pp. 49-55.) Poe's “having been sometime absent from this country” hardly bears up under available [page 41:] evidence; it is belied by the frequency of his known correspondence between December 1, 1828 and July 28, 1829, and though no certain letters to or from him are identified between March 25, 1827, and December 1, 1828, he is known to have been in the army, having enlisted on May 26, 1827. Where he was between March 24, 1827, when he seems to have left Richmond (see LTR-6), and May 26, 1827, is highly conjectural, but the limits of time almost preclude any trip abroad (see The Poe Log, pp. 79-80).

Source: photocopy of the original MS (2 pp.) in the New York Public Library, Berg Collection. The address is given on a separate leaf. Beneath Poe's dating is a notation, presumably by Isaac Lea: “Recd July 30/ Ans Aug. 3,” although the location of this reply (CL-39) is unknown, nor has it ever been printed.

Letter 18 — 1829, August 4 [CL-40] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Baltimore Aug: 4 — /29

Dear Sir,

I am unable to account for your not answering — if you are offended with me — I repeat that I have done nothing to deserve your displeasure. If you doubt what I say & think that I have neglected to use any exertions in the procuring my warrant — write yourself to Mr Eaton & he will tell you that more exertions could not have been — the appt might have been obtained for June if the application had been made 2 months sooner & you will remember that I was under the impression that you were making exertions to obtain the situation for me, while I was at Old Point & so situated as to be unable to use any exertions of my own — On returning home nothing had been done — it is therefore unjust to blame me for a failure, after using every endeavour, when success was impossible rendered so by your own delay —

If you have not forgiven me for my former conduct — that is a different thing — but you told me that you had — I am however aware [page 42:] that I have many enemies at home who fancy it their interest to injure me in your estimation —

[page 2] By your last letter I understood that it was not your wish that I should return home — I am anxious to do so — but if you think that I should not — I only wish to know what course I shall pursue —

If you are determined to do nothing more in my behalf — you will at least do me the common justice to tell me so — I am almost sure of getting the appt in Sepr & certain at any rate of getting it in June. if I could manage until that time I would be no longer a trouble to you —

I think it no more than right that you should answer my letter —

Perhaps the time may come when you will find that I have not deserved 1/2 the misfortunes which have happened to me & that you suspected me unworthily[.]

I am

Yours —

Edgar A. Poe

Notes: It should be noted that the salutation of the present letter, for the first time since Poe's visit to Richmond at the time of Mrs. Allan's death, begins with the more formal “Dear Sir” (see APXA-Allan). The September quota for West Point did not include Poe. In connection with this letter see the note to LTR-16. John Allan (CL-41) responded to Poe's plea and answered this letter (see the note to LTR-19).

Source: color photograph of the original MS (2 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The outside cover, a separate leaf, carries the address as, “Mr John Allan / Richmond / Va:.” The postmark reads “BALTE MD / AUG 4.” The letter is docketed by John Allan as, “Edgar A Poe / Augst 4th 1829.” Poe's signature bears a strong paraph.

Letter 19 — 1829, August 10 [CL-42] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):


August 10th 1829.

[page 43:]

Dear Pa,

I received yours this morning which releived [sic] me from more trouble than you can well imagine — I was afraid that you were offended & although I knew that I had done nothing to deserve your anger, I was in a most uncomfortable situation — without one cent of money — in a strange place & so quickly engaged in difficulties after the serious misfortunes which I have just escaped — My grandmother is extremely poor & ill (paralytic) [.] My aunt Maria if possible still worse & Henry entirely given up to drink & unable to help himself, much less me —

I am unwilling to appear obstinate as regards the substitute so will say nothing more concerning it — only remarking that they will no longer enlist men for the residue of anothers’ [sic] enlistment as formerly, consequently my substitute was enlisted for 5 years not 3 —

I stated in my last letter (to which I refer you) that Mr Eaton gave me strong hopes for Sepr at any <7> rate that the appt could be obtained for June next — I can obtain decent board [page 2] lodging & washing with other expenses of mending &c for 5 & perhaps even for 4 1/2 $ per week —

If I obtain the appt by the last of Sepr the amt of expense would be at most $30 — If I should be unfortunate & not obtain it >>until June<< I will not desire you to allow as much as that per week because by engaging for a longer period at a cheap boarding house I can do with much less — say even 10 even 8$ pr month — any thing with which you think it possible to exist — I am <not> not <as> so anxious of obtaining money from your good nature as of preserving your good will —

I am extremely anxious that you should believe that I have not attempted to impose upon you — I will in the meantime (if you wish it) write you often, but pledge myself to apply for no other assistance than what you shall think proper to allow —

I left behind me in Richmond a small trunk containing books & some letters — will you forward it on to Baltimore to the care of H. W. [page 44:] Bool Jr & if you think I may ask so much perhaps you [page 3] will put in it for me some few clothes as I am nearly without —

Give my love to Miss Valentine —

I remain

Dear Pa

Yours affectionately

Edgar A. Poe

Notes: In reply to Poe's letter of August 4, 1829 (LTR-18), Allan apparently sent money (CL-41); moreover, Allan's notation on the present letter indicates that he also sent more funds in his letter of August 19 (CL-43). Reflecting this encouraging support, the present letter and the next four revert to the familiar salutation of “Dear Pa.” It would seem that Samuel Graves, Poe's substitute, enlisted for “Edgar Perry” at the rate of $15 a year (see LTR-14 and LTR-16). Though there is no proof, it is possible that Poe was living with his relatives in Baltimore and that he sought the weekly allowance both for his benefit and theirs; Allan's contribution of $50, though adequate for six weeks, was quite insufficient for a period of ten months. Poe's reference to letters in his trunk is interesting; one can only speculate as to whether these might include any from John Allan, Frances Keeling Allan, Elmira Royster, or Richmond and University friends. For the identity of “H. W. Bool, Jr.,” see Jackson, “A Man Named Bool” (PS, 10:44). His evidence, chiefly quoted from J. H. Hewitt's Shadows on the Wall (pp. 88-90), indicates that Poe was boarding with Bool, a Baltimore bookseller and auctioneer, whose varied, antiquarian stock may have enticed Poe. Bool hanged himself over his losses in the Panic of 1837, although Thomson's Mercantile and Professional Directory for 1851-1852 lists H. W. Bool as an auctioneer at 84 W. Baltimore Street. (Since Hewitt does not give the date of the “great panic,” it is possible that he meant a similar event in a different year.) Jackson could not have known about the mention of a “scrap abt Harney N. Boo [sic]” in Poe's notes for the “Living Writers of America” (see Pollin, SAR 1991, pp. 177, 178, and 198, n. 140). For Anne Moore Valentine, see LTR-3. Poe is replying to a lost letter from Allan, dated probably ca. August 7, 1829 (CL-41).

Source: color photograph of the original MS (3 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The letter is addressed on the verso of the second leaf to, “Mr [page 45:] John Allan / Richmond / Va.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD, AUG. 10.” John Allan notes on the cover: “Edgar A Poe / Augst 10th 1829 / Answd Aug 19, 1829 / inclosed him $50.” Although somewhat marred by ink smears, the handwriting of the present letter shows particular care, and Poe's signature bears a nice paraph.

Letter 20 — 1829, October 30 [CL-46] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Balto: Oct: 30. 1829.

Dear Pa —

I received your letter this evening and am grieved that I can give you no positive evidence of my industry & zeal as regards the appt at W. Point: unless you will write to Mr Eaton himself who well remembers me & the earnestness of my application.

But you are labouring under a mistake which I beg you to correct by reference to all my former letters — I stated that Mr Eaton told me that an appt could be obtained by Sepr provided there were a sufficient number rejected at the June examination & regretted that I had not made an earlier application — that at all events, with the strong recommendations I had brought that I should have an appt at the next term which is in June next —

So far from having any doubts of my appt at that time, I am as certain of obtaining it as I am of being alive —

If you find this statement to be incorrect then condemn me — otherwise acquit me of any intention to practise [sic] upon your good nature — which I now feel myself to be above —

It is my intention upon the receipt of your letter to go again to Washington &, tho’ contrary to the usual practice, I will get Mr Eaton to give me my letter of appt now [page 2] — it will consist of an order to repair to W. P. in June for examination &c — & forward it to you that all doubts may be removed — I will tell him why I want it at present & I think he will give it. [page 46:]

I would have sent you the M. S. of my Poems long ago for your approval, but since I have collected them they have been continually in the hands of some person or another. & I have not had them in my own possession since Carey & Lea took them — I will send them to you at the first opportunity —

I am sorry that your letters to me have still with them a tone of anger as if my former errors were not forgiven — if I knew how to regain your affection God knows I would do any thing I could —

I am

Yours affectionately

Edgar A. Poe

Notes: For information on John H. Eaton, see LTR-16 and notes. For the letters of recommendation, cited by Poe, see Quinn, pp. 134-137 and The Poe Log, pp. 89-93. There is no evidence that Poe made the second trip to Washington to see Eaton. Poe's statement about his poems is probably an intentional evasion. Poe's letter, or pair of letters, to John Neal, September-November, 1829 (CL-44 and LTR-21), quotes several long passages from his poetry, suggesting that Carey, Lea & Carey must have eventually returned the MS as requested in his letter of July 28, 1829 (LTR-17). Alternatively, Poe may have kept copies. Also, Poe apparently sent the poem “Heaven” (later called “Fairyland”), probably with a letter, now lost, to N. P. Willis (CL-51) for inclusion in his new magazine, the American Monthly (April 1829-July 1831), published in Boston. Willis condemned the poem in the issue of November 1829 (see Quinn, p. 156; also Campbell, Poems, p. 197; and TOM [Poems], 1:139). At the time of the present letter to Allan, however, Poe's MS (possibly the same collection described by TOM [Poems], 1:582, as the “Wilmer Manuscript”) may have been in the hands of the Baltimore firm of Hatch & Dunning, which published Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems in December 1829. Poe's somewhat petulant tone may have discouraged Allan from replying, prompting another somewhat more conciliatory letter from Poe (LTR-22).

Curious is Poe's inconsistent spelling of “practise,” correctly given only a few lines below it. The error may reflect Poe's haste in writing the letter. Similarly, having originally written “correct” in the fourth paragraph, Poe later had to insert “in” to make it “incorrect.” [page 47:]

Source: color photograph of the original MS (2 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The envelope, a separate leaf, carries an address of, “John Allan Esqr / Richmond / Va:.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD / OCT 30.” Poe's signature bears a nice paraph. In this letter, and several others, Poe carelessly writes his “m” without a preliminary curve so that it looks like an “n.” The final words of several lines are squeezed in to fit the page. Poe is answering Allan's letter of ca. October 27-28, 1829 (CL-45).

Letter 21 — 1829, October-November [CL-47] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Neal (Boston, MA):

I am young — not yet twenty — am a poet — if deep worship of all beauty can make me one — and wish to be so in the more common meaning of the word. I would give the world to embody one half the ideas afloat in my imagination. (By the way, do you remember — or did you ever read the exclamation of Shelley about Shakspeare? — ‘What a number of ideas must have been afloat before such an author could arise!’) I appeal to you as a man that loves the same beauty which I adore — the beauty of the natural blue sky and the sunshiny earth — there can be no tie more strong than that of brother for brother — it is not so much that they love one another, as that they both love the same parent — their affections are always running in the same direction — the same channel — and cannot help mingling.

I am and have been, from my 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.

I am about to publish a volume of ‘Poems’ the greater part written before I was fifteen. Speaking about ‘Heaven,’ the editor of the Yankee says, ‘He might write a beautiful, if not a magnificent poem’ — (the very first words of encouragement I ever remember to have heard.) I am very certain that as yet I have not written either — but that I can, I will take oath — if they will give me time. [page 48:]

The poems to be published are ‘Al Aaraaf’ — ‘Tamerlane’ — one about four, the other about three hundred lines, with smaller pieces. ‘Al Aaraaf’ has some good poetry, and much extravagance, which I have not had time to throw away.

‘Al Aaraaf’ is a tale of another world — the star discovered by Tycho Brahe, which appeared and disappeared so suddenly — or rather, it is no tale at all. I will insert an extract, about the palace of its presiding Deity, in which you will see that I have supposed many of the lost sculptures of our world to have flown (in spirit) to the star ‘Al Aaraaf’ — a delicate place, more suited to their divinity.

[.... .]

Notes: John Neal (1793-1876) was the editor of the Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, which was soon to merge with the New-England Galaxy (American Magazines, 1:355). In Baltimore, under the pseudonym of Jehu O’Cataract, Neal had been a member of the Delphian Club, the same group which Poe was partially to satirize in his Tales of the Folio Club (see TOM [T&S], 2:200). The present letter is essentially a reply to Neal's encouraging paragraph in the Yankee (September 1829), n.s. 3:168, in which he praised “Heaven” (the earlier title of “Fairyland”). Neal's comments have been widely reprinted, including Quinn, pp. 152-154; Carlson, The Recognition of EAP, pp. 3-4; The Poe Log, p. 98 and 100; and Walker, EAP, the Critical Heritage, pp. 66-69, 76. Poe's “volume of ‘Poems’ ” was Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, published by Hatch & Dunning, Baltimore, 1829. The excerpts given by Neal, all taken from the versions of Poe's poems used in the edition just noted, included “Al Aaraaf,” part II, ll. 11-39 and part I, ll. 126-132; “Tamerlane,” sections 3-6 (omitting the first line of section 3 and the last four of section 5), section 11 and 23; and “To — — “ (“Should my early life seem ... ”), ll. 13-26. In addition to these excerpts, Poe misquotes Alexander Pope's “Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot,” perhaps from memory — the correct quotation is: “I left no calling for this idle trade; / No duty broke, no father disobeyed” (ll. 30-31). For this and other references to Pope in Poe's writings, see Pollin, “Alexander Pope and His Works in the Writings of EAP,” EAP Review, 2:52-70. Poe's linking of the two great British poets derives from paragraphs 4-6 ending the Preface to Prometheus Unbound, in which Shelley terms poetry “a mimetic art ... [created by] combination [page 49:] and representation.” Among the “loftiest” of “creations of their age” he names Shakespeare as sharing with his contemporaries (like Fletcher) a generic resemblance. In the next paragraph he states: “didactic poetry is my abhorrence.” These principles became basic in Poe's aesthetic (see Stovall, Edgar Poe the Poet, University of Virginia Press, 1969, pp. 160-161, who ascribes them solely to Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, ignoring Shelley's stronger influence). Poe dwells on these ideas in his review of Elizabeth Barrett's The Drama of Exile and Other Poems (BJ, January 4 and 11, 1845), specifically mentioning Shelley's Prometheus, with a sequence similar to that in Shelley's Preface (see Writings, 3:1-15, especially 3:14-15, with notes, 4:14-15).

Source: the text of the letter as first printed by Neal (with poetic selections submitted by Poe) in the Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette (December 1829), 1:295-298. In The Letters [1948 and 1966], Ostrom used the transcript sent by Neal in a letter to John H. Ingram, May 10, 1875, now in the University of Virginia, Ingram Collection (item 224). This transcript, however, is clearly just a copy of the article, with additional errors by Neal, and variants which carry no special authority. The dating of Poe's letter is established by the inclusive issues of the Yankee cited above. In his letter to Ingram, Neal admitted Poe's letter was directed to him. It is possible that a concluding portion of the original letter was omitted in both of Neal's printings of it in the Yankee and in the Portland Daily Advertiser, Friday, April 26, 1850. It seems probable that the present letter is at least Poe's second to Neal, an earlier one (CL-44) having accompanied the verses “Heaven” noted in the September Yankee (see Neal's comment, Quinn, p. 152; and The Poe Log, p. 100).

Letter 22 — 1829, November 12 [CL-48] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Balto Nov: 12th 1829

Dear Pa,

I wrote you about a fortnight ago and as I have not heard from you, I was afraid you had forgotten me —

I would not trouble you so often if I was not extremely pinched — I am almost without clothes — and, as I board by the month, the lady [page 50:] with whom I board is anxious for hey [sic] money — I have not had any (you know) since the middle of August —

I hope the letter I wrote last was received in which you will see that I have cleared myself from any censure of neglect as regards W. P. —

Hoping that you will not forget to write as soon as you receive this[.]

I am Dear Pa

Yours affectionately

Edgar A Poe

Notes: The unidentified “lady” Poe refers to may have been his aunt, Mrs. Maria Clemm. It is unknown whether or not John Allan sent either the trunk or clothes requested by Poe in his letter of August 10, 1829 (LTR-19), though he did send $50 on August 19 (CL-43). “W. P.” stands, of course, for West Point. Poe's statement that the landlady wants “hey money” is an obvious error for “her money.” For Allan's prompt reply (CL-49), see LTR-23.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (1 p.) in the Valentine Museum. The envelope, a separate leaf, is addressed to, “Mr John Allan / Richmond / Va:.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD NOV 12.” It is docketed by Allan as, “E. A. Poe / Nov. 12th 1829.” Poe's signature bears a somewhat hasty paraph.

Letter 23 — 1829, November 18 [CL-50] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Balto Nov 18th 1829

Dear Pa —

I duly recd your letter enclosing a check for $80, for which I am truly thankful — This will be quite sufficient for all the expenditures you mention but I am afraid if I purchase a piece of linen of which I am much in want I shall have none left for pocket money — & if you could get me a piece or a 1/2 piece at Mr Galts & send it to me by the boat, I could get it made up gratis by my Aunt Maria — [page 51:]

The Poems will be printed by Hatch & Dunning of this city upon terms advantageous to me they printing it & giving me 250 copies of the book: — <they> I will send it on by Mr Dunning who is going immediately to Richmond —

I am glad to hear that your trip to the springs was of service in recruiting your health & spirits —

Give my love to Miss V. —

I remain Dear Pa,

Yours affectionately

Edgar A Poe

Notes: Whether Allan sent Poe the requested linen, or when Poe left Baltimore, is unknown; that he did go to Richmond sometime between November 1829 and May 1830 is certain from his next letter to his foster father, June 28, 1830 (LTR-26). In 1889, Poe's old Baltimore friend Mary Starr remembered Mrs. Clemm's skill with a needle, noting that about the time of the present letter, she “supported herself by sewing, dress-making, or some similar work” (see Van Cleef, “Poe's Mary,” Harper's Monthly, 78:635). Mr. Galt was probably William Galt, Jr., the elder brother of James Galt, who along with James and John Allan inherited equal portions of the business left by William Galt, Sr. (see Allen, 2:862 [1926], or p. 689 [1934]; see also Poe's letter to Allan, October 16, 1831, LTR-32, addressed in care of William Galt). Hatch & Dunning published Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, December 1829, as an octavo of 72 pages (see Quinn, pp. 156, and 164-165). TOM [ATMP] suggests that the copies Poe was given were unbound (p. iii). “Miss V.” was Anne Moore Valentine (see the note to LTR-3). The known Poe-Allan correspondence offers no proof that John Allan helped finance the publication of Poe's poems, but his apparent request to see the MS (see LTR-20) may indicate an interest newly developed.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (1 p.) in the Valentine Museum. The envelope, on a separate leaf, is addressed to, “Mr Jno Allan / Richmond / Va:.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD, NOV 19.” It is docketed by John Allan as, “Edgar. A. Poe / Nov. 18th 1829.” Poe's signature bears a minor paraph. Poe is replying to John Allan's letter of ca. November 15, 1829 (CL-49). [page 52:]

Letter 24 — 1829, December 29 [CL-53] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Neal (Boston, MA):

[...] [w]as intended — I mention this merely to assure [y]ou that the delay was none of mine, as [i]n all matters, however trivial, I dete[st it]. I now forward them —

I thank you, Sir, for the kind interest you [e]xpress for my worldly as well as poetical [w]elfare — a sermon of prosing would [h]ave met with much less attention —

You will see that I have made the alterations you suggest “ventur’d out” in place of peer-ed — [w]hich is, at best, inapplicable to a statue — [a]nd other corrections of the same kind — [there] [is] much however (in metre) to be corrected — [b]ut I did not observe it till too late —

I wait anxiously for your notice of [page 2] the book — I think the best lines for sound are these in Al Aaraaf.

There Nature speaks and even ideal things

Flap shadowy sounds from visionary wings.

But the best thing (in every other respect) is the small piece headed “Preface.”

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

Thro’ gazing on th’ unquiet sky

“It is well to think well of one's self” — so sings somebody —

You will do me justice however —

I am D Sir,

Sincerely Yours

Edgar A. Poe [page 53:]

Notes: That Neal himself reviewed Poe's volume (Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems) seems evident from Neilson Poe's letter to his cousin, Josephine Clemm, January 26, 1830, in which Neilson says Neal has written in a published article that Poe is a “poet of genius” (see Quinn, p. 165). See TOM [Poems], 1:540-541 for a different view from Quinn's and other implications of Poe's response to Neal; also, Heartman & Canny [1943, pp. 25-26], for relevant data and reviews. The poem Poe calls “Preface” in the present letter was expanded as “Introduction” in his 1831 Poems, and later titled “Romance” (see TOM [Poems], 1:127-128).

Source: photocopy of the original MS (fragment of 1 p.), formerly in the collection of William H. Koester, and now in the Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin. John Neal's article from the Portland Daily Advertiser, April 26, 1850 is used for the material beginning on the second page of the letter and running up to the sentence before the quotation “Of late, eternal Condor years ... ” The MS is a fragment of probably one leaf, the upper portion, not more than seven or eight lines, having been cut or torn off. A cutting along the left margin of the MS has carried away certain initial letters. The incomplete word “dete[*****]” at the end of the first paragraph is ink-soaked and illegible. Ostrom thought it might be “determine,” but Moldenhauer (Descriptive Catalog, p. 42) suggests a more plausible “detest it,” which has been used in the present text. Although the Daily Advertiser omitted everything before “I thank you, Sir,” and erroneously gives “consciously” for “anxiously” in the last line of page 1 of the MS, no more reliable source is available for the missing portion of the letter. The MS being undated, the only available dating is that of the Advertiser, which places “Dec. 29, 1829” at the end of the letter.

Letter 25 — 1830, May 3 [CL-56] Poe (Richmond, VA) to Sergeant Samuel Graves (Old Point Comfort, VA):


May 3d 1830.

Dear Bully

I have just received your letter which is the first I have ever got from you — I suppose the reason of my not getting your other was that [page 54:] you directed to Washington — but I have not been there for some time — As to what you say about Downey Mr A very evidently misunderstood me, and I wish you to understand that I never sent any money by Downey whatsoever — Mr A is not very often sober — which accounts for it — I mentioned to him that I had seen Downey at Balto:, as I did, & that I wished to send it on by him, but he did not intend going to the point.

[page 2] I have tried to get the money for you from Mr A a dozen times — but he always shuffles me off — I have been very sorry that I have never had it in my power as yet to pay either you or St Griffith — but altho’ appearances are very much against me, I think you know me sufficiently well to believe that I have no intention of keeping you out of your money — the very first opportunity, you shall have it (both of you) with interest & my best thanks for your kindness. — I told St Benton why I never had it in my power — He will explain it.

[page 3] I suppose some of the officers told you that I am a cadet — If you are, at any time, going to leave the point, write to W. Point and let me know your station. you [sic] need be under no uneasiness about your money.

Give my respects to the company to St Benton & wife & sister in la[w.]

I remain,

Yrs truly

E A Poe

remember me to Mrs Graves — St Hooper & Charley — Duke &c

Notes: This is the first known letter by Poe since that to John Neal, December 29, 1829 (LTR-24), and shows that he had left Baltimore and was in Richmond. Samuel (Bully) Graves became Poe's army substitute on April 17, 1829 (see report of the War Department, in Quinn, pp. 742-743, and The Poe Log, p. 90). If Poe paid Graves the $50 balance due him as the substitute (see LTR-14 and LTR-16), then the present letter suggests that Poe was indebted, not only to Sergeant Griffith, but also to Graves, for such “expences” as he mentions to Allan in LTR-9. “Downey” remains unidentified. Poe's unfortunate allusion to Mr. Allan's [page 55:] alleged intemperance had repercussions in Allan's letter to Poe, December 27-28, 1830 (CL-60), after Graves had written to Allan (see LTR-28). According to Quinn (p. 166), Poe received his appointment to West Point in March 1830, but any letter ordering him to report at the Military Academy has disappeared. Those men to whom Poe wished to be remembered were probably members of Poe's former company, Battery H, First U. S. Artillery, stationed at Fortress Monroe. “Duke” may, perhaps, be “Bernard Duke,” given as no. 22 in Such Friends (p. 22) as possibly “a member of Poe's former company at Fortress Monroe, Va.”

Source: color photograph of the original MS (3 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The letter is addressed, on page 4, to “Mr Samuel Graves / Old Point Comfort / Virginia.” The postmark reads, “RICHD VA, MAY 3.” It is docketed by John Allan as, “Edgar A Poe / to S Graves / 3 May 1830.” Poe's signature bears a paraph. The MS is written in an unusually large hand for Poe; and a portion of page 3 is torn away, though no words are missing. Poe is apparently replying to two letters from Graves, one of which was not received: the letter Bully said was sent to Washington never reached Poe, and may be dated conjecturally as before May 1-3 (CL-54); the letter Poe received was directed to him, probably, in Richmond, and may be dated May 1-3, 1830 (CL-55), though it may have been written at Fortress Monroe and not postmarked at Old Point Comfort station until later.

Letter 26 — 1830, June 28 [CL-58] Poe (West Point, NY) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

West Point

June 28th

Dear Pa,

I take the very first opportunity which I have had since arriving here of acknowledging the receipt of your letter of the 21rst May inclosing a U. S. note for $20[.] I received it 3 days ago — it has been lying some time in the W. P. post office where it was forwarded from Balto by Henry. As to what you say about the books &c I have taken nothing except what I considered my own property. [page 56:]

Upon arriving here I delivered my letters of recommn & was very politely received by Capn Hitchcock & Mr Ross — The examination for admission is just over — a great many cadets of good family &c have been rejected as deficient. Among these was Peyton Giles son of the Governor — James D Brown, son of Jas Brown Jr has also been dismissed for deficiency after staying here 3 years. I find that I will possess many advantages & shall endeavor to improve them. Of 130 Cadets appointed every year only 30 or 35 ever graduate — the rest being dismissed for bad conduct or deficiency [ —] the Regulations are rigid in the extreme.

[page 2] Please present my respects to Mr and Mrs Jas: Galt, Miss Valentine & Miss Carter.

I remain

respectfully & truly


Edgar A Poe

I will be much pleased if you will answer this letter.

I am in camp at present — my tent mates are Read [sic] & Henderson (nephew of Major Eaton) & Stockton of Phila

Notes: This is Poe's first known letter to his foster father since that of November 18, 1829 (LTR-23). Poe must have left Richmond between his letter to Samuel Graves, May 3 (LTR-25), and Allan's letter of May 21, 1830 (CL-57), stopping over for a visit with his relatives in Baltimore. Entrance examinations for West Point were held during the last week in June (see Quinn, p. 169). Poe must have reached the Point during the week of June 20, the present letter indicating that the examinations were “just over.” The “rejected” students were undoubtedly of Richmond families. For James Galt, see the note to LTR-23; for Anne Moore Valentine, see LTR-3. Miss Carter escapes further identification. (Carter is a common name in Richmond.) Based on the payment records for cadets at West Point, Poe's tent mates were John Eaton Henderson, William Telfair Stockton, and William S. Reid (see Russell, “EAP: The Army Years,” USMA Library Bulletin, pp. 42-51). For a short note on Stockton (1812-1869), see The Poe Log, p. xliii. Summer encampments were held during July and August (see Quinn, p. 169). [page 57:]

Source: color photograph of the original MS (2 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The year date is not given, but references to West Point clearly indicate 1830. Moreover, Allan's note on the cover, a separate leaf, reads: “Edgar A Poe / June 28th 1830 / West Point.” The letter is addressed to, “Mr John Allan / Richmond / Va:.” The postmark reads, “WEST POINT, JUN 28.” In the original MS, the word “deficiency” ends a line, with the final characters oddly curling downward, apparently obscuring an intended dash, in the last sentence of page 1; a dash, therefore, has been editorially inserted. No reply by Allan to this letter is known. Allan's letter of May 21, 1830 (CL-57), which Poe is answering, was the first since ca. November 15, 1829 (CL-49) (see LTR-23 and notes).

Letter 27 — 1830, November 6 [CL-59] Poe (West Point, NY) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

West Point

Novr 6th 1830

Dear Sir,

I would have written you long before but did not know where my letters would reach you. I was greatly in hopes you would have come on to W. Point while you were in N. York, and was very much dissapointed [sic] when I heard you had gone on home without letting me hear from you. I have a very excellent standing in my class — in the first section in every thing and have great hopes of doing well. I have spent my time very pleasantly hitherto — but the study requisite is incessant, and the discipline exceedingly rigid. I have seen Genl Scott here since I came, and he was very polite and attentive — I am very much pleased with Colonel Thayer, and indeed with every thing at the institution —

If you would be so kind as to send me on a Box of Mathematical Instruments, and a copy of the [page 2] Cambridge Mathematics, you would confer a great favor upon me and render my situation much more comfortable, or forward to Col: Thayer the means of obtaining them; for as I have no deposit, my more necessary expenditures have run me into debt. [page 58:]

Please give my respects to Mrs A, and to Mr and Mrs Jas Galt and Miss V.

Mr Cunningham was also on here some time since, and Mr J. Chevalie and I was indeed very much in hopes that the beauty of the river would have tempted yourself and Mr and Mrs Jas Galt to have paid us a visit.

Yours affectionately

Edgar A Poe

Notes: John Allan may have been at “The Byrd,” the grand estate he inherited from William Galt, Sr., at the Springs, about 40 miles west of Richmond; alternatively, he may have been on a business trip to New York. General Winfield Scott (1786-1866) had strong personal ties to Richmond. He was an acquaintance of Mr. Allan, primarily through family connections with Allan's second wife. Colonel Sylvanus Thayer (1785-1872) was superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point. There is no evidence that Allan sent Poe the instruments and books requested. “Mrs A” is the second Mrs. Allan, John Allan having married Miss Louisa Gabriella Patterson (1800-1881), of Elizabeth, NJ, October 5, 1830 (see Quinn, pp. 169-170). Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Chevalie were Richmond friends; for the Galts and Miss V[alentine], see the notes to LTR-3 and LTR-23.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (2 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The letter is addressed, on a separate leaf to, “Mr John Allan / Richmond / Va:.” The postmark reads, “WEST POINT, NOV 10.” It is docketed by John Allan as, “E A Poe / West Point / 6 Nov. 1830.” Poe's signature bears a paraph. John Allan, apparently, had not written since May 21, 1830 (CL-57).

Letter 28 — 1831, January 3 [CL-61] Poe (West Point, NY) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

West Point Jany 3d 1830. [1831]


I suppose (altho’ you desire no further communication with [page 59:] yourself on my part,) that your restriction does not extend to my answering your final letter.

Did I, when an infant, sollicit [sic] your charity and protection, or was it of your own free will, that you volunteered your services in my behalf? It is well known to respectable individuals in Baltimore, and elsewhere, that my Grandfather (my natural protector at the time you interposed) was wealthy, and that I was his favourite grand-child — But the promises of adoption, and liberal education which you held forth to him in a letter which is now in possession of my family, induced him to resign all care of me into your hands. Under such circumstances, can it be said that I have no right to expect any thing at your hands? You may probably urge that you have given me a liberal education. I will leave the decision of that question to those who know how far liberal educations can be obtained in 8 months at the University of Va. Here you will say that it was my own fault that I did not return — You would not let me return because bills were presented you for payment which I never wished nor desired you to pay. Had you let me return, my reformation had been sure — as my conduct the last 3 months gave every reason to believe — and you would never have heard more of my extravagances. But I am not about to proclaim myself guilty of all that has been alledged against me, and which I have hitherto endured, simply because I was too proud to reply. I will boldly say that it was wholly and entirely your own mistaken parsimony that caused all the difficulties in which I was involved while at Charlottsville [sic]. The expences of the institution at the lowest estimate were $350 per annum. You sent me there with $110. Of this $50 were to be paid immediately for board — $60 for attendance upon 2 professors — and you even then did not miss the opportunity of abusing me because I did not attend 3. Then $15 more were to be paid for room-rent — remember that all this was to be paid in advance, with $110. — $12 more for a bed — and $12 more for room furniture. I had, of course, the mortification [page 2] of running in debt for public property — against the known rules of the institution, and was immediately regarded in the light of a beggar. You will remember that in a week after my arrival, I wrote to you for some [page 60:] more money, and for books — You replied in terms of the utmost abuse — if I had been the vilest wretch on earth you could not have been more abusive than you were because I could not contrive to pay $150 with $110. I had enclosed to you in my letter (according to your express commands) an account of the expences incurred amounting to $149 — the balance to be paid was $39 — You enclosed me $40, leaving me one dollar in pocket. In a short time afterwards I received a packet of books consisting of, Gil Blas, and the Cambridge Mathematics in 2 vols: books >>for<< which I had no earthly use since I had no means of attending the mathematical lectures. But books must be had, If I intended to remain at the institution — and they were bought accordingly upon credit. In this manner debts were accumulated, and money borrowed of Jews in Charlottesville at extravagant interest — for I was obliged to hire a servant, to pay for wood, for washing, and a thousand other necessaries. It was then that I became dissolute, for how could it be otherwise? I could associate with no students, except those who were in a similar situation with myself — altho’ from different causes — They from drunkenness, and extravagance — I, because it was my crime to have no one on Earth who cared for me, or loved me. I call God to witness that I have never loved dissipation — Those who know me know that my pursuits and habits are very far from any thing of the kind. But I was drawn into it by my companions[.] Even their professions of friendship — hollow as they were — were a relief. Towards the close of the session you sent me $100 — but it was too late — to be of any service in extricating me from my difficulties — I kept it for some time — thinking that if I could obtain more I could yet retrieve my character — I applied to James Galt — but he, I believe, from the best of motives refused to lend me any — I then became desperate, and gambled — until I finally i[n]volved myself irretrievably. If I have been to blame in all this — place yourself in my situation, and tell me if you would not have been [page 3] equally so. But these circumstances were all unknown to my friends when I returned home — They knew that I had been extravagant — but that was all — I had no hope of returning to Charlottesville, and I waited in vain in expectation that you would, at least, obtain me some employment. I [page 61:] saw no prospect of this — and I could endure it no longer. — Every day threatened with a warrant &c. I left home — and after nearly 2 years conduct with which no fault could be found — in the army, as a common soldier — I earned, myself, by the most humiliating privations — a Cadets’ warrant which you could have obtained at any time for asking. It was then that I thought I might venture to sollicit [sic] your assistance in giving me an outfit — I came home, you will remember, the night after the burial — If she had not have died while I was away there would have been nothing for me to regret — Your love I never valued — but she I believed loved me as her own child. You promised me to forgive all — but you soon forgot your promise. You sent me to W. Point like a beggar. The same difficulties are threatening me as before at Charlottesville — and I must resign.

As to your injunction not to trouble you with farther communication rest assured, Sir, that I will most religiously observe it. When I parted from you — at the steam-boat, I knew that I should nev[er] see you again.

As regards Sergt. Graves — I did write him that letter. As to the truth of its contents, I leave it to God, and your own conscience. — The time in which I wrote it was within a half 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.

I have no more to say — except that my future life (which thank God will not endure long) must be passed in indigence and sickness. I have no energy left, nor health. If it was possible, to put up with the fatigues of this place, and the inconveniences which my absolute want of necessaries subject me to, and [page 4] as I mentioned before it is my intention to resign. For this end it will be necessary that you (as my nominal guardian) enclose me your written permission. It will be useless to refuse me this last request — for I can leave the place without any permission — your refusal would only deprive me of the little pay which is now due as mileage.

[space reserved for address] [page 62:]

From the time of writing this I shall neglect my studies and duties at the institution — if I do not receive your answer in 10 days — I will leave the point without — for otherwise I should subject myself to dismission.

E A Poe

Notes: Elizabeth Arnold Poe died on December 8, 1811, in Richmond. Within a few days, John and Frances Allan took Edgar, and William and Jane Mackenzie took Rosalie, Poe's younger sister (see Quinn, p. 45). (Poe's brother, Henry, had been staying with his grandparents in Baltimore, where he remained.) For the wealth of “General” Poe, see LTR-64 (see also Eliza Poe to Mrs. Allan, February 8, 1813, reprinted in Quinn, pp. 61-62). The letter of John Allan to David Poe is unlocated, and its precise contents unrecorded. Poe attended the University of Virginia for ten months, February 14 to December 15, 1826 (see Quinn, pp. 97 and 101). For confirmation of Poe's expenses at the university, see Quinn, pp. 111-113. Frances Keeling Allan, Poe's foster mother, died February 28, 1829, and was buried at Shockoe Hill Cemetery, in Richmond, March 2. For Poe's letter to Graves, see LTR-25. Among Allan's offences, noted by Poe as “abuse of my family,” is surely the implication made in Allan's letter to Wm. H. L. Poe that Rosalie was illegitimate. Mentioning her by name, Allan comments: “at least She is half your Sister & God forbid my dear Henry that We should visit upon the living the Errors & Frailties of the dead” (see The Poe Log, p. 62). Allan did not write his permission for Poe's resignation from West Point; so Poe left the Academy on February 19, 1831 (see LTR-29), having been ordered dismissed by sentence of Court Martial and the approval of the Secretary of War (see Quinn, pp. 742-744). According to the record of Poe's trial, Poe's first neglect of duty was dated January 8 (see The Poe Log, pp. 113-114); moreover he remained at the Point for five weeks longer than stated in his threat.

Poe misspells “sollicit” twice in this letter, as he does previously in LTR-8. Poe also normalizes the word in five other letters, three reviews, and six instances in the narratives (see Pollin, Word Index to Poe's Fiction). The final word “dismission” is a now-archaic substitute for “dismissal,” although the OED still notes it in use as late as 1830.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (4 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. Poe misdated the letter 1830; its content, particularly the references to West Point, establishes the year as 1831. The address [page 63:] appears in the center portion of page 4, the last paragraph of the letter coming at the bottom of the page. The envelope is addressed to, “Mr John Allan / Richmond / Va:.” The postmark reads, “WEST POINT, JAN 5.” Below the address, John Allan wrote: “I recd this on the 10th, & did not from its conclusion deem it necessary to reply. I make this note on the 13th & 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 wd have saved him but on his own terms & conditions since I cannot believe a word he writes, His letter is the most barefaced one sided statement.” The torn part of the MS seems due to the breaking off of the sealing wax; therefore no words are lacking in Allan's note, for he was forced to write on both sides of the wax. Poe's signature is marked by a strong underline. Three earlier exchanges of letters are suggested in the present item. The first is between Poe and Allan (Poe to Allan, ca. February 21, CL-5, and Allan to Poe, ca. February 24-27, 1826, CL-6), early in the school year. The second is between Poe and Allan, late in the University session (Poe to Allan, October-November, CL-8a, and Allan to Poe, ca. December 1826, CL-9). The third, probably the last, from Poe to James Galt (CL-10), and from Galt to Poe (CL-11). The letter Poe is answering cannot be dated exactly, but a conjectural assignment would be December 27-28, 1830 (CL-60).

Letter 29 — 1831, February 21 [CL-63] Poe (New York, NY) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

N. York Feb 21, 1831

Dear Sir —

In spite of all my resolution to the contrary I am obliged once more to recur to you for assistance — It will however be the last time that I ever trouble any human being — I feel that I am on sick bed from which I never shall get up. I now make an appeal not to your affection because I have lost that but to your sense of justice. I wrote to you for permission to resign — because it was impossible that I could stay — my ear has been too shocking for any description — I am wearing away every day — even if my last sickness had not completed it. I wrote to you as I say for permission to resign because without your permission no resignation can be received — My reason for doing so [page 64:] was that I should obtain my mileage amounting to $30,35 [sic] — according to the rules of the institution. in my present circumstances a single dollar is of more importance >>to me<< than 10,000 are to you and you deliberately refused to answer my letter — I, as I told you, neglected my duty when I found it impossible to attend to it, and [page 2] the consequences were inevitable — dismissal. I have been dismissed — when a single line from you would have saved it — The whole academy have interested themselves in my behalf because my only crime was being sick — but it was of no use — I refer you to Col Thayer to the public records, for my standing and reputation for talent — but it was all in vain if you had granted me permission to resign — all might have been avoided — I have not strength nor energy left to write half what I feel — You one day or other will feeel [sic] how you have treated me. I left [West] Point two days ago and travelling to N. York without a cloak or any other clothing of importance. I have caught a most violent cold and am confined to my bed — I have no money — no friends — I have written to my brother — but he cannot help me — I shall never rise from my bed — besides a most violent cold on my lungs my ear discharges blood and matter continuall[y] and my headache is distracting — I hardly know what I am writing — I will [page 3] write no more — Please send me a little money — quickly — and forget what I said about you —

God bless you —

E A Poe

do [sic] not say a word to my sister.

I shall send to the P.O. every day.

Notes: The pleading tone of the present letter stands in sharp contrast to the strident defiance of LTR-28, which Allan did not answer. W [1909], 1:77-78, suggests that Poe left West Point with only twenty-four cents to his credit, unless he had a portion of the subscription money advanced by the cadets for his Poems of 1831, published by Elam Bliss in New York. Poe's “dismissal” from West Point became effective on March 6, 1831 (see the note to LTR-28). Poe's letter to Henry Poe in Baltimore (CL-62), is unlocated; it is the only letter Poe is known to have written to his brother, though Henry wrote to Edgar, October 25, 1824 (CL-2); William [page 65:] Henry Leonard Poe was two years Poe's senior and died August 1, 1831 (see Quinn, p. 16). See LTR-19 for Poe's comment about Henry's drinking. Rosalie Poe, Edgar's sister, lived with the family of William Mackenzie, friends of John Allan, in Richmond.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (3 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The letter is addressed on the verso of the second leaf to, “Mr John Allan / Richmond / Va.” The postmark reads, “NEW YORK, FEB 21.” The MS has an ink blot in the center of each page and a piece torn from the right margin of the second leaf, not affecting Poe's text. On page 3, just below the postscript, John Allan wrote: “Apl 12, 1833 it is now upwards of 2 years since I received the above precious relict of the Blackest Heart & deepest ingratitude alike destitute of honour & principle every day of his Life has only served to confirm his debased nature — suffice it to say my only regret is in Pity for his failings — his Talents are of an order that can never prove a comfort to their possessor.” The chirography of Poe's letter shows an unsteady hand. In particular, the curious word “feeel” shows some agitation, as he writes three loops after “fe,” but of two different sizes, the two of intermediate size most likely intended for “e.” Apparently, Allan did not reply to the present letter.

Letter 30 — 1831, March 10 [CL-64] Poe (New York, NY) to Colonel Sylvanus Thayer (West Point, NY):

New York March 10th 1831.


Having no longer any ties which can bind me to my native country — no prospects — nor any friends — I intend by the first opportunity to proceed to Paris with the view of obtaining, thro’ the interest of the Marquis de La Fayette, an appointment (if possible) in the Polish Army. In the event of the interference of France in behalf of Poland this may easily be effected — at all events it will be my only feasible plan of procedure.

The object of this letter is respectfully to request that you will give me such assistance as may lie in your power in furtherance of my views. [page 66:]

A certificate of “standing” in my class is all that I have any right to expect. Any thing farther — a letter to a friend in Paris — or to the Marquis — would be a kindness which I should never forget.

Most respectfully

Col: S. Thayer Yr. Obt St

Supt U.S.M.A. Edgar A Poe

Notes: In connection with this letter, see the notes to LTR-1 and LTR-28. There is no evidence beyond Poe's occasional claims to show that he ever went to England or the Continent after his return to America with the Allans in 1820. Although he had been dismissed from West Point by the time of the present letter, see LTR-27 for Poe's “excellent standing.”

Source: photocopy of the original MS (1 p.) in the U. S. Military Academy Library at West Point. The envelope, postmarked March 10 at New York, is addressed to “Lt. Col. S. Thayer, Superintendent, U.S.M.A., West Point.” Also on the envelope is a memorandum which reads: “Edgar A. Poe / New York March 10. 1831 / Wishes a letter respecting him, addressed to Genl Lafayette &c. as he wishes to join the Polish Army.” No reply by Colonel Thayer is known.

Letter 31 — 1831, May 6 [CL-65] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to William Gwynn (Baltimore, MD):

May 6th 1831.

Mr. W. Gwynn.

Dear Sir,

I am almost ashamed to ask any favour at your hands after my foolish conduct upon a former occasion — but I trust to your good nature.

I am very anxious to remain and settle myself in Balto as Mr. Allan has married again and I no longer look upon Richmond as my place of residence.

This wish of mine has also met with his approbation. [page 67:]

I write to request your influence in obtaining some situation or employment in this city.

Salary would be a minor consideration, but I do not wish to be idle.

Perhaps (since I understand Neilson has left you) you might be so kind as to employ me in your office in some capacity.

If so I will use every exertion to deserve your confidence.

Very Respectfully

Yr Ob. St

Edgar A. Poe

I would have waited upon you personally but am confined to my room with a severe sprain in my knee.

Notes: William Gwynn (1775-1854) was the editor of the Baltimore Gazette and Daily Advertiser (see W [1909], 1:55). No letter from Allan giving “approbation” is extant, although Poe may be assuming his opinion from other letters. Neilson, son of Jacob Poe, was Poe's cousin; a bitter and deeply harbored grudge grew between Poe and Neilson, apparently beginning with Neilson's disapproval of Poe's marriage to Virginia, and later through Neilson's repeated reluctance to assist Poe (see LTR-83).

Source: photocopy of the original MS (1 p.) in Pennsylvania Historical Society. There is no evidence that Gwynn replied to this letter.

Letter 32 — 1831, October 16 [CL-66] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):


Octo: 16th 1831.

Dear Sir,

It is a long time since I have written to you unless with an application for money or assistance. I am sorry that it is so seldom that I hear from you or even of you — for all communication seems to be at an end; and when I think of the long twenty one years that I have [page 68:] called you father, and you have called me son, I could cry like a child to think that it should all end in this. You know me too well to think me interested — if so: why have I rejected your thousand offers of love and kindness? It is true that when I have been in great extremity, I have always applied to you — for I had no other friend, but it is only at such a time as the present when I can write to you with the consciousness of making no application for assistance, that I dare to open my heart, or speak one word of old affection. When I look back upon the past and think of every thing — of how much you tried to do for me — of your forbearance and your generosity, in spite of the most flagrant ingratitude on my part, I can not help thinking <you> myself the greatest fool in [page 2] existence, — I am ready to curse the day when I was born.

But I am fully — truly conscious that all these better feelings have come too late — I am not the damned villain even to ask you to restore me to the twentieth part of those affections which I have so deservedly lost, and I am resigned to whatever fate is alotted [sic] me.

I write merely because I am by myself and have been thinking over old times, and my only friends, until my heart is full — At such a time the conversation of new acquaintance is like ice, and I prefer writing to you altho’ I know that you care nothing about me, and perhaps will not even read my letter.

I have nothing more to say — and this time, no favour to ask — Altho I am wretchedly poor, I have managed to get clear of the difficulty I spoke of in my last, and am out of debt, at any rate.

May God bless you —

E A P.

Will you not write one word to me?

Notes: The present item is Poe's first known letter to Allan since February 21, 1831 (LTR-29). Though there is no certain proof, Poe was almost surely living with his aunt, Mrs. Maria Clemm, in Mechanics Row, Wilk Street, Baltimore. Mrs. Clemm's residence is given in the Baltimore City Directory for 1831 (see notes to LTR-11). On the basis of Poe's [page 69:] statement in his next letter to Allan, November 18, 1831 (LTR-33), namely, “I would rather have done any thing on earth than apply to you again after your late kindness ... ” it would seem that John Allan (CL-67) replied to the present letter, and enclosed some money. John Allan had not written to Poe since December 27-28, 1830 (CL-60).

Source: color photograph of the original MS (2 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The envelope, a separate leaf, is addressed to “Mr John Allan / Richmond / Va.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD OCT 16.” It is docketed by John Allan as, “E A Poe / Baltimore / 16 Octr 1831.” Poe's initials are marked by a simple, straight underline. The letter is rather carelessly written: words are over-written, certain letters ill-constructed, and “altho” appears to have had its “t” put in last. Someone, perhaps Allan, has used this page to figure some numbers; and the names of “Galt” and “Druid” are repeated several times.

Letter 33 — 1831, November 18 [CL-68] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):


Novr 18. 1831,

My Dear Pa,

I am in the greatest distress and have no other friend on earth to apply to except yourself if you refuse to help me I know not what I shall do. I was arrested eleven days ago for a debt which I never expected to have to pay, and which was incurred as much on Hy's account as on my own about two years ago.

I would rather have done any thing on earth than apply to you again after your late kindness — but indeed I have no other resource, and I am in bad health, and unable to undergo as much hardships as formerly or I never would have asked you to give me another cent.

If you will only send me this one time $80, by Wednesday next, I will never forget your kindness & generosity. — if you refuse God only knows what I shall do, & all my hopes & prospects are ruined forever — [page 70:]

Yours affectionately

E A Poe

I have made every exertion but in vain.

Notes: The present item is the first letter from Poe to Allan since June 28, 1830 (LTR-26) in which Poe uses the familiar salutation, a fact that not only confirms the “late kindness” of John Allan (CL-67), but also suggests renewed hope in Poe that relations between them were once again “improved.” According to Quinn (p. 190), court evidence of Poe's arrest seems lacking; and what obligation he may have shared with his brother Henry is unknown. Henry, moreover, had died on August 1, 1831. Poe's next two letters to Allan, and Allan's notation on the back of the one for December 15, 1831 (LTR-34), should be read in connection with the present letter. It is a coincidence that on November 18, 1829 (LTR-23), just two years earlier, Poe wrote to John Allan to thank him for a check for $80; and though one might seek some connection between this sum and the two-year period provided by the two letters, none seems to exist on the basis of available evidence.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (1 p.) in the Valentine Museum. The envelope, a separate leaf, is addressed to, “John Allan Esqr / Richmond / Va.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD, NOV 18.” John Allan did not docket the letter. Poe's signature bears a slight paraph. John Allan did not reply to Poe's present letter.

Letter 34 — 1831, December 15 [CL-69] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Balt. Dec. 15th, 1831.

Dear Pa,

I am sure you could not refuse to assist me if you were well aware of the distress I am in. How often have you relieved the distresses of a perfect stranger in circumstances less urgent than mine, and yet when I beg and intreat you in the name of God to send me succour you will still refuse to aid me. I know that I have offended you past all forgiveness, and I know that I have no longer any hopes of being again [page 71:] received into your favour, but, for the sake of Christ, do not let me perish for a sum of money which you would never miss, and which would relieve me from the greatest earthly misery — especially as I promise by all that is sacred that I will never under any circumstances apply to you again. Oh! if you knew at this moment how wretched I am you would never forgive yourself for having refused me. You are enjoying yourself in all the blessings that wealth & happiness can bestow, and I am suffering every extremity of want and misery without even a chance of escape, or a friend to whom I can look up to for assistance.

Think for one moment, and if your nature and former heart are not altogether changed you [page 2] will no longer refuse me your assistance if not for my sake for the sake of humanity.

I know you have never turned a beggar from your door, and I apply to you in that light, I beg you for a little aid, and for the sake of all that was formerly dear to you I trust that you will relieve me.

If you wish me to humble myself before you I am humble — Sickness and misfortune have left me not a shadow of pride. I own that I am miserable and unworthy of your notice, but do not leave me to perish without leaving me still one resource. I feel at the very bottom of my heart that if you were in my situation and you in mine, how differently I would act.

Yours affecty


Notes: In connection with the present letter, continuing his desperate campaign to regain John Allan's affection, see LTR-33 and notes. Poe's last sentence, of course, makes no sense as it would, essentially, put Allan in both situations. Poe surely means to say, “if you were in my situation, and I were in yours,” which must remind one of the final stanza of his poem “Israfel,” first published about Spring of 1831.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (2 pp.) in the Valentine Museum. The envelope, a separate leaf, is addressed to, “Mr John Allan / Richmond / Va:.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD DEC 15.” Poe's initials are marked by a slight underline. It is docketed by John Allan as, [page 72:] “E A Poe / Baltimore / 15 Decr 1831.” Though Allan did not mail any reply to Poe's letter of November 18 (LTR-33), nor to Mrs. Clemm's equally ardent appeal of December 5 (see Stanard, p. 295 and The Poe Log, p. 123), he noted on the present letter, just below Poe's signature: “Wrote on the 7th Decr 1831 to John Walsh to procure his liberation & to give him $20 besides to keep him out of farther difficulties & value on me for such amt as might be required — neglected sending it on till the 12th Jany 1832[.] Then put in the office myself.” Allan's last statement is confusing; but if he sent a letter to Poe with the money, it is unlocated and unrecorded.

Letter 35 — 1831, December 29 [CL-70] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):


Decr: 29th 1831

Dear Sir,

Nothing but extreme misery and distress would make <y> me venture to intrude myself again upon your notice — If you knew how wretched I am I am sure that you would <ref> relieve me — No person in the world I am sure, could have undergone more wretchedness than I have done for some time past — and I have indeed no friend to look to but yourself — and no chance of extricating myself without your assistance. I know that I have no claim upon your generosity — and that what little share I had of your affection is long since forfeited, but, for the sake of what once was dear to you, for the sake of the love you bore me when I sat upon your knee and called you father do not forsake me this only time — and god will remember you accordingly —

E A Poe

Notes: This is Poe's last known letter to Allan, until that of April 12, 1833 (LTR-36), which ended their correspondence. Allan had not answered Poe's last two letters (LTR-33 and LTR-34), nor did he reply to the present one. [page 73:]

Source: color photograph of the original MS (1 p.) in the Valentine Museum. The envelope, a separate leaf, is addressed to, “John Allan Esqr / Richmond / Va.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD DEC 29.” It is docketed by John Allan as, “E A Poe / Decr 29th 1831 / Baltimore.” Poe's signature is marked by a short line under part of the middle initial and last name. The handwriting is clear, but of variable size and with a wavering left margin.

Letter 36 — 1833, April 12 [CL-71] Poe (Baltimore, MD) to John Allan (Richmond, VA):

Baltimore April 12th 1833

It has now been more than two years since you have assisted me, and more than three since you have spoken to me. I feel little hope that you will pay any regard to this letter, but still I cannot refrain from making one more attempt to interest you in my behalf. If you will only consider in what a situation I am placed you will surely pity me — without friends, without any means, consequently of obtaining employment, I am perishing — absolutely perishing for want of aid. And yet I am not idle — nor addicted to any vice — nor have I committed any offence against society which would render me deserving of so hard a fate. For God's sake pity me, and save me from destruction.

E A Poe

Notes: The present letter ends the correspondence between Poe and John Allan, the known items numbering 44-45 (see APXA-Allan). John Allan died on March 27, 1834. His will made no mention of Poe. (Allan's Last Will and Testament is reprinted in Allen, 2:865-869 [1926], or pp. 691-695 [1934].) Poe's final specific acknowledgment of financial aid from John Allan occurs in his letter of June 28, 1830 (LTR-26); however, Poe's reference to Allan's “late kindness,” in the letter of November 18, 1831 (LTR-33), and Allan's note on the letter of December 15, 1831 (LTR-34), contradict the first sentence of the present letter. Poe last talked face to face with Allan at their parting in Richmond, in May, 1830 (see LTR-28). In connection with the date of the present letter, it is interesting to read [page 74:] the date and note written by John Allan at the end of Poe's letter of February 21, 1831 (LTR-29). Regarding Poe's plea of poverty, see the postscript to LTR-37. By the time of this letter, Poe was living at no. 3 Amity Street, Baltimore, MD, with Maria Clemm, her two children (Virginia and Henry), and his invalid grandmother (Elizabeth C. Poe). Their primary source of support was the small annuity granted to the widow of “General” David Poe after Lafayette's visit to the U. S. in 1824. Although John Allan may have seen the matter somewhat differently, Poe was indeed “not idle,” having been for some time occupied in the writing and collecting of eleven stories, with an introduction, which he hoped to publish as Tales of the Folio Club (see TOM [T&S], 2:200-207). In the way of poetry from this time, TOM [Poems] lists “The Coliseum,” possibly “To Ianthe in Heaven” (later known as “To One in Paradise”), and four others printed as separate poems, with three more incorporated into tales.

Source: color photograph of the original MS (1 p.) in the Valentine Museum. The envelope, a separate leaf, is addressed to, “John Allan Esqr / Richmond / Va.” The postmark reads, “BALTE MD APR 12.” It is docketed by John Allan as, “E. A. Poe / Baltimore / 12 Apl 1833.” The text of the letter is written in a clear hand, in the middle of the page, with no salutation.




One page is accounted for in the pagination but not included in the text above because it is a blank back page. This is page 2.


[S:0 - CLT08, 2008] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (Ostrom, Pollin and Savoye) (Chapter 01)