Text: John Ward Ostrom, “Letters: Chapter I,” The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. I: 1824-1845 (1966), pp. 1-50 (This material is protected by copyright)


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November 1824 - April 1833

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1 ⇒ TO THE GOVERNOR AND COUNCIL OF VIRGINIA [[November 17, 1824]] [[LTR-001]] [[CL-3]]

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 Gentlemen
Your Mo. Obt Servts
John Lyle Capt R J V
Edgar A. Poe Lieut

Richmond 17th Novr 1824

This is Poe's first extant letter (but see Note 3, in which reference is made to a letter to Poe while he and the Allans were in England and to possible notes or letters from Poe, though no MSS. are traceable). Poe was an officer, even at fifteen, of the Junior Morgan Riflemen, a volunteer company of Richmond boys. When General Lafayette visited Richmond in October 1824, the Volunteers served as his bodyguard (see statement of T. H. Ellis, quoted by Quinn, Poe, p. 87). [CL 3]

2 ⇒ TO PETER V. DANIEL [November 23, 1824] [CL 4]

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 the [page 4:] [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 Captn R. J. V.

Edgar A Poe Lieut.

23rd Nov. 1824

It is not known whether the present request was granted. In this connection, see Letter 1. Peter V. Daniel was one of the three members of the Virginia State Council; later he became nationally prominent as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. [CL 4]

3 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [May 25, 1826] [CL 7]

University. May [25] 1826

Dear Sir,

I this morning received the clothes you sent me, viz an 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 thinned — 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 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 [page 5:] 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 missed 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 affecti[onately] Edgar

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

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 and in the School of Modern Languages under Professor George Blaetterman. 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 certain hotel keepers in the spring of 1826), see Quinn, Poe, pp. 106-107. Poe had attended William Burke's school in Richmond from April 1, 1823, to (?), according to Quinn, Poe, p. 84. “Ma” was Frances Keeling Valentine Allan, Poe's foster-mother; “Miss Nancy” was Anne Moore Valentine, Mrs. Allan's sister (Poe also addressed her as Miss Valentine and Miss V., but never as “Aunt Nancy,” as has been stated). There is no evidence that Allan sent the Tacitus or the soap, nor, indeed, that he even answered the letter; the only letters, for which there is any evidence, from Allan to Poe in 1826 are those of c. February 24-27 and c. December, 1826 (see Letter 28). [CL 7]

4 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [September 21, 1826] [CL 8]

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 wit[h] 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 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

[page 7:] here some time ago — Give my love to Ma and Miss Nancy — I remain,

Your's affectionatly

Edgar A Poe

The Faculty Minutes for December 15, 1826, show Poe in the second group for excellence in Latin and in the first group in French. For a later letter from Allan, enclosing $100 “towards the close of the session,” see Letter 28, which implies at least one letter from Poe requesting funds; both letters are unlocated. [CL 8]

5 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [March 19, 1827] [CL 12]

Richmond Monday [March 19, 1827]


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 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 reason[s] 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 [page 8:] 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 —

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 bou[nty], 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 [sh]all 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 m[e.]

For an earlier but less overt estrangement between Poe and John Allan, see Allan's letter to Henry Poe, November r, 1824 (Quinn, Poe, p. 89). There is no evidence that either trunk or money was sent, or that Poe's heroics were more than a youthful threat that ended in his setting sail for Boston-but see the notes to Letter 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. See Quinn, Poe, p. 116 (also VL, pp. 51-52), from the original letter in the Ellis-Allan Papers, Library of Congress. [CL 12]

6 ⇒ To JOHN ALLAN [March 20, 1827] [CL 13]

Richmond Tuesday [March 20, 1827]

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 [page 9:] 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 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

I am Your's &c.

Edgar A Poe

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

Allan's letter to Poe (March 20, 1827) implies definite refusal of financial aid for the proposed trip to Boston (see VL, pp. 67-68); but Poe's present letter may have evoked the necessary $12, either from Allan or his wife. However, Allan wrote on the verso, after adding an “s” to the signature, “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. Attempts to name the ship on which he travelled have been inconclusive (see VL, p. f 3; Quinn, Poe, p. 118; and Mabbott, Introduction to Tamerlane, p. xii, and Introduction to The Raven and Other Poems, pp. xxvi-xxvii). [CL 13]

7 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [December 1, 1828] [CL 16]

Fort Moultrie, Charleston Hr

December 1rst 1828.

Dear Sir,

The letter of Lieut J. Howard left by Mr John, O, Lay 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 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 [page 10:] 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 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.

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. [page 11:]

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.

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, Poe, p. 119). On November 8, 1827, the battery sailed for Fort Moultrie, Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, where it arrived on November 18. Poe remained at Fort Moultrie until December 11, 1828 (see Quinn, Poe, p. 129). Mr. Lay's identity, except as intermediary, is unknown. John Allan did not reply to Poe's letter. Poe's battery reached Fortress Monroe, Virginia, December 15, 1828 (see Quinn, Poe, p. 129). [CL 16]

8 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [December 22, 1828] [CL 17]

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 your interest in freeing me from the Army of the U.S. in [page 12:] 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 & 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 ny 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 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

For more on General Poe, see Letter 64, and notes. Poe's promise to become an honor to the Allan name was prompted probably both by ambition and by his having published Tamerlane, though anonymously, in Boston, 1827. Apparently Allan did not answer this letter, for the next known communication from him is dated May 18, 18 29 (see VL, p. 121). Poe's battery reached Fortress Monroe, Old Point Comfort, Virginia, December 15, 1828 (see the notes to Letter 7). [CL 17]

9 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [February 4, 1829] [CL 20]

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 desiring him to see you personally & desire for me, of you, that you would interest yourself in procuring me a cadets’ 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. [page 14:]

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 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.

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 & [f***]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 [page 15:]

Letter to and from John McKenzie [Mackenzie] of Richmond at this time are otherwise unknown. William Wirt was the author of a biography of Patrick Henry (1817) and had been recently Attorney General of the United States; for Poe's later contact with him, see Wirt to Poe, May 11, 1829 (VL, pp. 131-132) and Letter II. General Winfield Scott, a friend of the Allans, had known the young Poe in Richmond. Poe's hint for financial assistance appeared in Letter 7. For the reference to the difficulties at the University of Virginia, see Letter 28. Poe's threat of exile to another country does not seem to have been carried out; except for his early visit to England with the Allans, Poe almost certainly never left the United States. [CL 20]

10 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [March 10, 1829] [CL 21]

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 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 Barber,] [Maj]or Gibbon, & Col: P[res]ton forwarded to [Washington] [with] a letter to Mr [Pa]tterson requesting [that if] [nothing] would prev[ent] I may be r[egarded as] [a Bostonian.

[Here probably one line o f 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

This letter was very badly burned at both sides, bottom, and center fold; emendations are based on a close study of the letter. This is the [page 16:] 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 notes to Letter 3). 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 Mr. Allan's request, but reached Richmond, March 3, “the night after the burial” (see Letter 28). Col. James House, commanding officer of the First Regiment, United States Artillery, Fortress Monroe, had gone to congratulate Andrew Jackson, President-elect. The suggested emendation of the names of judge John J. Barber and of Col. James P. Preston is based upon John Allan's letter to Poe, May 18, 1829, in which he says: “I was agreeably pleased to hear that the Honourable Jno J Barber [sic] did interest himself ... in your favour” (VL, p. 121), which suggests that Poe had asked that “Ju[dge Barber]” write a letter of recommendation. Furthermore, Allan, in the same letter, says: “Col. Preston wrote a warm letter in your favour to Major Eaton since your departure.” This reference, together with Mrs. Stanard's (VL, p. 110) supports the emendation of “Preston.” Col. Preston had been a former Governor of Virginia (ibid.); and Major Eaton was the Secretary of War (ibid.). Allen, Israfel, p. 118, 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, Israfel, pp. 96, 687-691); Allan was a nephew, James and William, adopted sons. Edgar Poe, son of David and Elizabeth Arnold Poe, was born in Boston, south of the Common and near the Charles river, the exact location of the, house being uncertain (see Quinn, Poe, p. 31). [CL 21]

11 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [May 20, 1829] [CL 27]

Baltimore. 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. 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 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 [page 17:] 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 man[y] 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

Poe's lost letter apparently spoke of having received a recommendation to West Point from judge John J. Barber, and of a successful interview with the Secretary of War in Washington. Allan, encouraged by the promise of Poe's appointment to West Point in September, forwarded $100 in his letter of May 18. Also, his notation on the verso of the letter printed hereof, “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, Israfel, p. 693). Poe, as Sergeant-Major Edgar A. Perry, had been discharged from the army, April 15, 1829 (see Quinn, Poe, p. 135). 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 VL, pp. 110-111). Following his “departure” from Richmond (see Allan's letter to Poe, May 18, 1829, in the VL, p. 121), apparently aided by Allan's advance of $50 (see Allan's notation on the present letter, above), Poe went to Washington, then to Baltimore, where he found Mrs. David Poe, widow of General Poe, Mrs. Maria Clemm, his aunt, and her daughter, Virginia, and his brother, William Henry. Where they lived is uncertain, for the first mention of Maria Clemm's residence is found in the Baltimore City Directory of 1831, the location being Mechanics Row, Wilk Street (now 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, found in the Baltimore Court House, shows that he sold a negro slave for Maria Clemm, December 10, 1829 (see May G. Evans, “Poe in Amity Street,” Maryland Historical Magazine, XXXVI (December 1941), 363-380, especially, pp. 376-377). For William Wirt, see the note to Letter 9. Anne Moore Valentine, sister of Frances Valentine Allan, continued to live at the Allan home after Mrs. Allan's death, February 28, 1829. For more on General David Poe, see the note to Letter 64. [CL 27] [page 18:]

12 ⇒ TO I[SAAC] LEA [before May 27, 1829] [CL 28]

[Philadelphia, May ante 27, 1829]

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.”

Its’ 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

Un dia puro, allegre, libre

Quiera —

Libre de amor, de zelo

De odio, de esperanza, de re zelo —

[page 2] I have placed this “Al Aaraaf” in the celebrated star discovered by Tycho Brache which appeared & dissapeared 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 [page 19:] (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 stars’ 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 Heiskells’. I cannot refrain from adding that Mr Wirts’ voice is in my favor —

The year is 1829, for William Wirt's favorable “voice” — a letter of criticism of “Al Aaraaf” — is enclosed in Letter 1;. Wirt's autograph MS. in the Boston Public Library is dated May 11, 1829. Thus the Poe to Lea letter can be dated May 11-27, 1829. Quinn, Poe, p. 138, identifies R[obert] Walsh as editor of the American Quarterly Review, and p. 143, “Heiskell's” as the Indian Queen Hotel, 15 South Fourth Street. The whereabouts of Lea's answer of May 27 is not known. It did not return the poem (see Letter 17). [CL 28]

13 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [May 29, 1829] [CL 30]

Baltimore May 29th 1829,

Dear Pa,

I am now going to make a request different from any I have ever yet made. [page 20:]

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 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 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.

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 [page 21:] 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.

John Allan's notation on the right margin of page 4 indicates that the letter of William Wirt was enclosed and that the present letter was answered “8th June 1829”; also Allan wrote just below the last line of the letter, “replied to Monday 8th June 1829/ strongly censuring his conduct — & refusing/ any aid Allan's last letter to Poe had been dated May 18, 1829.

For William Wirt, see note to Letter 9. Robert Walsh was editor of the American Quarterly Review (March 1827-December 1837), published in Philadelphia (1827-1833) by Carey and Lea (see Mott, History of American Magazines, I, 271). Apparently Walsh did not “notice” Poe's poem (see Quinn, Poe, p. 144), which was published in Baltimore by Hatch and Dunning, December 1829, as Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. For Wirt's letter to Poe, see VL, pp. 131-132, and the note to Letter 12. For Colonel Preston's letter recommending Poe for West Point, see Letter 10, and VL, p. 110. [CL 30]

14 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [June 25, 1829] [CL 34]

Baltimore 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 [page 22:] 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 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 at 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

Poe's letter to Allan, June 10, 1829, is lost, as is Allan's of June 8 (see the note to Letter 13). For the reference to Lea and Carey, see [page 23:] Letters 12 and 17. According to Wirt's letter to Poe, May 11, 1829 (see VL, p. 131), Poe planned to leave Baltimore for Philadelphia on the day-boat, May 12; thus Poe's letter to Isaac Lea, May ante 27, 1829, and the MS. of “Al Aaraaf” were in the hands of the publishers upwards of two weeks, probably, before they acknowledged receipt of the letter or poem; then an interview between Poe and Isaac Lea followed, and hearing nothing more from them Poe wrote Carey, Lea and Carey, July 28, requesting the return of the MS. (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 poem, though the lack of encouragement on the part of the publishers also prompted the step.) The name of Edward Mosher at the end of page 2, above, lacking in both the facsimile and the printing of the letter in the VL, appears in the manuscript letter; Quinn (Poe, p. 146) supplies James Mosher Poe, incorrectly. The letter from Edward Mosher, cited by Poe, is lost. John Allan last sent money to Poe on May 18, 1829, to finance in large part Poe's expenses en route to West Point (see the notes to Letter 11). Poe's professed relationship to Benedict Arnold is pure romancing; for Elizabeth Arnold's ancestry, see Quinn, Poe, p. 2. Poe's substitute was Samuel Graves (see Quinn, Poe, p, 742, and Letter 25). John Allan did not reply to this letter. [CL 34]

15 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [July 15, 1829] [CL 35]

Baltimore 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 expense as Grandmother is not in a situation to give me any accomodation — 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 [page 24:] soon — I think I have already had my share of trouble for one so young —

I am Dear Pa

Yours affectionately

Edgar A. Poe

“Written you twice” refers to the lost letter of June to, 1829 (see Letter 14), and the letter of June 25, 1829. For “the Byrd,” an estate of some 6000 acres situated on the James river in Goochland county, about fifty miles west of Richmond, and willed to John Allan by his uncle, William Galt, in 1825, see Allen, Israfel, p. 687. Poe was unsuccessful in the September appointments to West Point. For “Grandmother,” see Letter 11 and note. Allan had not written to Poe since June 8, that letter being lost (but see Letter 14, and Allan's note on Poe's letter of May 29, 1829); however, Allan replied to the present letter, July 19, 1829, but his reply is unlocated. [CL 35]

16 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [July 26, 1829] [CL 37]

Baltimore 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 [page 25:] 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 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 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 [page 26:] 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 sho[uld] hear from you soon — as I do not know how to ac[t.]

I am Your's affectionately

Edgar A- [Poe]

John Allan probably sent Poe $50 (see the next to last sentence, page 2). Allan apparently had again criticized Poe's business method in securing Samuel Graves, his army substitute (see Letter 14). In computing the time that intervened between his letter of May 20 and Allan's reply of June 8, 1829, Poe included the day on which he wrote his letter and the day on which he received Allan's; thus he accounted for “22 days”; however, by the same procedure one does not get “one month & 4 days” between Poe's letter of June 10 and Allan's reply of July 19, which seem to be the letters meant. For the letter from Mosher, see the note to Letter 14. In his interview with John Eaton, Secretary of War, Poe was giving his correct age as 21 on January next (January 19, 1809-January, 1830). If correspondence ever existed between Poe and Mr. Eaton, it has been lost. 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 at the time of Mrs. Allan's death. On July 28, 1829, Poe wrote to Carey, Lea and Carey and requested [page 27:] 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 disapprobation, previously expressed, may have precipitated the recalling of the manuscript. [CL 37]

17 ⇒ TO CAREY, LEA & CAREY [July 28, 1829] [CL 38]

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 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 ci[r]cumstances 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 [page 28:]

In connection with this letter, see Letter 12. The explanation for Poe's first paragraph may be found in Letter 16, though by inference only, for Allan's letter of July 19, 1829 (location of original unknown) would be essential. No Poe work is known to have appeared in the Atlantic Souvenir. Poe's “having been sometime absent from this country” hardly bears up under available evidence; it is belied by the frequency of his known correspondence between December 1, 1828 and July 28, 1829, and though no letters to or from him are known 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 Letter 6), and May 26, 1827, is highly conjectural, but the limits of time almost preclude any trip abroad. [CL 38]

18 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [August 4, 1829] [CL 40]

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 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 [page 29:] 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

In connection with this letter see the note to Letter 16. The September quota for West Point did not include Poe. John Allan answered this letter (see Note 19). 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 “Dear Sir” (see Note 3). [CL 40]

19 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [August 10, 1829] [CL 42]

Baltimore August 10th 1829.

Dear Pa,

I received yours this morning which releived 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’ 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 S & perhaps even for 4 1/2 $ per week — [page 30:]

If I obtain the appt by the last of Sepr the am- 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 to 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. 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

In reply to Poe's letter of August 4, 1829, Allan apparently sent money; moreover, Allan's notation on the present letter indicates that he also sent more funds in his next letter of August 19. It would seem that Samuel Graves, Poe's substitute, enlisted for “Edgar Perry” at the rate of $15 a year (see Letters 14 and 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; however, Allan's contribution of $50, though adequate for six weeks, was quite insufficient for a period of ten months. This letter and the next four revert to the familiar salutation. Poe's reference to letters in his trunk is interesting. Were there any from John Allan, Frances Keeling Allan, Elmira Royster, or Richmond and University friends? H. W. Bool's identity is unknown. For Anne Moore Valentine, see Letter 3. [CL 42]

20 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [October 20, 1829] [CL 46]

Balt: 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 [page 31:] 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 app’ 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 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.

I would have sent you the M.S. of ny 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

John Eaton was Secretary of War. For the letters of recommendation, cited by Poe, see Quinn, Poe, pp. 134-137. There is no evidence that Poe made the second trip to Washington to see Eaton. Poe's statement about his poems is hardly correct: Carey, Lea and Carey must have returned the MS. as Poe requested in his letter of July 28, 1829 (Letter 17); Poe's letter, or letters, to John Neal, September-November, 1829, quotes certain passages from his poetry (see Letter 21 and notes) ; also, Poe apparently sent the poem “Heaven” (later called “Fairyland”), probably with a letter, now lost, to N. P. Willis for inclusion in his new monthly magazine, the American Monthly (April 1829-July 1831), published in Boston, for Willis condemned the poem in the issue of November 1829 (see Quinn, Poe, p. 156; also Campbell, Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, p. 197). However, at the time of the present letter to Allan, Poe's manuscript may have been in the hands of Hatch and Dunning, Baltimore, who published Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems in December 1829; no correspondence between Poe and the publishers is extant. [CL 46]

21 ⇒ TO JOHN NEAL [October-November 1829] [CL 47]

[Baltimore Oct.-Nov., 1829]

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 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 befor 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 <my > oath — if they will give me time.

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” [page 33:]

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.

[...  . .]

[Edgar A. Poe]

Poe's letter is subsequent to Neal's encouraging paragraph in The Yankee, III (September 1829), 168 n.s., in which he praised “Heaven” (the earlier title of “Fairyland”), Poe's “Poems” was Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, published by Hatch & Dunning, Baltimore, 1829. In the original the ellipsis at the end of the letter was replaced by passages from certain poems, the first and last lines of which were quoted by Neal in a letter to Ingram (see Note 21). [CL47]


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 with whom I board is anxious for hey 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

The “lady” Poe refers to may have been his aunt, Maria Clemm. There is no evidence that John Allan sent either the trunk or clothes requested [page 34:] by Poe in his letter of August 10, 1829, though he did send $50 on August 19. “W. P.,” of course, stands for West Point. [CL 48]

23 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [November 18, 1829] [CL 50]

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 —

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

Allan's letter, here referred to, is the last known until that of May 21, 1830; and the present letter is Poe's last known letter to Allan until that from West Point, June 2 Whether Allan sent Poe the 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. Mr. Galt was probably William Galt, Jr., the elder brother of James Galt, who with James and John Allan inherited equal portions of the business left by William Galt, Sr. (see Allen, Israfel, p. 689; see also Poe's letter to Allan, October 16, 1831, addressed in care of William Galt). Hatch and Dunning published Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Other Poems, December 1829, as an octavo of 72 pages (see Quinn, Poe, pp. 156, 164-165). Miss V. was Anne Moore Valentine (see the note to Letter 3). The known Poe-Allan correspondence offers no proof that John Allan helped finance the publication of Poe's poems, but his request to see the manuscript (see Letter 20) indicates an interest newly developed. [CL 50] [page 35:]

24 ⇒ TO JOHN NEAL [December 29, 1829] [CL 53]

[Baltimore December 29, 1829]

[... ] (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[*****]. 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]hick is, at best, inapplicable to a statue — [a]nd other <s> 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.†(1)

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

This 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, though it may be “determine.” [page 36:]

John Neal's Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, after the issue of December 182.9, was merged with the New-England Galaxy (see Mott, History of American Magazines, I, 355), but that Neal reviewed Poe's volume (Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Other 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, Poe, p. 165). [CL 53]

25 ⇒ TO SERGEANT SAMUEL GRAVES [May 3, 1830 [CL 56]

Richmond 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 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 ny 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 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 [page 37:]

This is the first known letter by Poe since that to John Neal, December 2.9, 1829, 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, Poe, pp. 742-743). If Poe paid Graves the $50 balance due him as the substitute (see Letters 14 and 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 Letter 9. “Downey” remains unidentified. Poe's unfortunate allusion to Mr. Allan's intemperance had repercussions in Allan's letter to Poe, December 29 (?), 1830, after Graves had written to Allan (see Letter 28). According to Quinn (Poe, p. 166), Poe received his appointment to West Point in March 1830; 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. [CL 56]

26 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [June 28, 1830] [CL 59]

West Point June 28th [1830]

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 enclosing 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.

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 Yours

Edgar A Poe — [page 38:]

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

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

This is Poe's first known letter to his foster-father since that of November 18, 1829. Poe must have left Richmond between his letter to Samuel Graves, May 3, and Allan's letter of May 21, 1830, 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, Poe, p. 169); thus Poe must have reached the Point during the week of June 20, for by June 28, Monday, the examinations are “just over.” The “rejected” students were undoubtedly of Richmond families. For James Galt, see the note to Letter 23; for Anne Moore Valentine, see Letter 3; Miss Carter of a Richmond family, Read, and Stockton escape further identification. Summer encampments were held during July and August (see Quinn, Poe, p. 169). No reply by Allan to this letter is known. [CL 58]

27 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [November 6, 1830] [CL 59]

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 when I heard you had gone on home without letting me hear from you. I have a very excellent standing in my classin 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.

Please give my respects to Mrs A and to Mr and Mrs Jas Galt and Miss V. [page 39:]

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

John Allan may have been at “The Byrd,” the estate inherited from William Galt, Sr., at the Springs, or in New York. General Winfield Scott was an acquaintance of Mr. Allan; Colonel Sylvanus Thayer 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, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, October S, 1830 (see Quinn, Poe, pp. 169-170). Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Chevalie were Richmond friends; for the Galts and Miss V[alentine], see the notes to Letters 3 and 23, [CL 59]

28 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [January 3, 1830] [CL 61]

West Point Jany 3d 1830. [1831]


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

Did I, when an infant, sollicit 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 favorite grandchild — 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 [page 40:] bills were presented you for payment which I never wished nor desired you to pay. Had you let me return„ ny 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 Charlotte[s]ville. 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 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 $3[9] — 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 — alho’ from different causes — They from drunkenness, and [page 41:] 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 charafter — 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 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 a 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 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 l[ike a beggar.] The same difficulties are threateni[n]g 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 [page 42:] 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]

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

E A Poe

Elizabeth Arnold Poe died December 8, 1811, in Richmond, and within a few days the John Allans took Edgar and the William Mackenzies took Rosalie, Poe's younger sister (see Quinn, Poe, p. 45). For the wealth of General David Poe, see Letter 64; see also Eliza Poe to Mrs. Allan, February 8, 1813 (Quinn, Poe, pp. 61-62). The letter of John Allan to General Poe is unlocated. Poe attended the University of Virginia for ten months (February 14 to December 15, 1826; see Quinn, Poe, pp. 97, 101). For confirmation of Poe's expenses at the University of Virginia, see Quinn, Poe, pp. 111-113. Three exchanges of letters (location of originals unknown) are suggested in the present letter: one between Poe and Allan (Poe to Allan, ca. February 21, and Allan to Poe, ca. February 24, 1826), early in the school year; another between Poe and Allan, late in the University session (Poe to Allan, October-November, and Allan to Poe, ca. December 1826); and still another, probably the last of the three, between Poe and James Galt, Galt and Poe. Frances Keeling Allan, Poe's foster-mother, died February 28, 1829, and was buried in Richmond, March 2. Poe's letter to Graves was dated May 3, 1830 (Letter 25). Allan did not write his permission for Poe's resignation from West Point; so Poe left the Academy on February 19, 1831 (see Letter 29), having been ordered dismissed by sentence of Court Martial and the approval of the Secretary of War, to take effect March 6, 1831 (see Quinn, Poe, pp. 742-744). [page 43:] According to the record of Poe's trial, Poe's first neglect of duty was dated January 8 (see Quinn, ibid.) ; moreover he remained at the Point for five weeks longer than he threatened to stay. [CL 61]

29 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [February 21, 1831] [CL 63]

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 was that I should obtain my mileage amounting to $30,35 — 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 felll how you have treated me. I left [West] Point two days ago and travelling to N. York without a cloak or an[y] 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 continual)[y] and my headache is [page 44:] 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 not say a word to my sister. I shall send to the P.O. every day.

See Letter 28, which Allan did not answer. The chirography of the present letter shows an unsteady hand. Woodberry (I, 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 Letter 28). Poe's letter to Henry Poe in Baltimore is unlocated; it is the only letter Poe is known to have written to his brother, though Henry wrote to Edgar, October 25, 1824 (see letter of John Allan to Henry Poe, November 1, 1824, in Quinn, Poe, p. 89); William Henry Poe was two years Poe's senior and died August 1, 1831 (see Quinn, Poe, p. 16). Apparently, Allan did not reply to the present letter. Rosalie Poe, Edgar's sister, lived with the William Mackenzies, friends of John Allan, in Richmond. [CL 63]

30 ⇒ TO COLONEL SYLVANUS THAYER [March 10, 1831] [CL 64]

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.

A certificate of “standing” in my class is all that I have any right [page 45:] 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

Yr. Obt St

Edgar A Poe

Col: S. Thayer

Supt U.S.M.A.

In connection with this letter, see the notes to Letters 1 and 28. There is no real evidence to show that Poe ever went to England or the Continent after his return to America with the Allans in 1820. [CL 64]

31 ⇒ TO WILLIAM GWYNN [May 6, 1831] [CL 65]

[Baltimore] 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.

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.

Gwynn was editor of the Baltimore Gazette and Daily Advertiser (W I, p. 55). No letter is extant from Allan to Poe giving “approbation.” Neilson, son of Jacob Poe, was Poe's cousin. There is no evidence that Gwynn replied to this letter. [CL 65] [page 46:]

32 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [October 16, 1831] [CL 66]

Baltimore. 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 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 im [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 me.

I write merely because I am by myself and have been thinking over old times, and my only frie[n]ds, until m[y] heart is full — At such a time the conversation of new acquaintance is like ice, and I prefer [w]riting 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 —


Will you not write one word to me? [page 47:]

This is Poe's first known letter to Allan since February 21, 1831. Poe was undoubtedly living with his aunt, Mrs. Maria Clemm, in Mechanics Row, Wilk Street, Baltimore, at this time; Mrs. Clemm's residence is given in the Baltimore City Directory for 1831, and though there is no proof that Poe lived with her, evidence points to the fact (see May G. Evans, “Poe in Amity Street,” Maryland Historical Magazine, XXXVI (December 1941), 377). On the basis of Poe's statement in his next letter to Allan, November 18, 1831, 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 replied to the present letter, though his letter is unlocated. [CL 66]

33 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [November 18, 1831] [CL 68]

Balt: 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

Yours affectionate)[y]

E A Poe

I have made every exertion but in vain.

This is the first letter from Poe to Allan since June 28, 1830, in which Poe uses the familiar salutation, a fact that not only confirms the “late kindness” of John Allan, but also suggests renewed hope in Poe that relations between them are once again “improved.” According to Quinn (Poe, p. 190), court evidence of Poe's arrest seems lacking; what obligation he shared with his brother Henry is unknown; moreover, Henry had died August 1, 1831. Poe's next two letters to Allan, and Allan's [page 48:] notation on the back of the one for December 15, 1831, should be read in connection with the present letter. It is a coincidence that on November 18, 1829, 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 the $80 and the two-year period provided by the two letters, no relation seems to exist on the basis of available evidence. John Allan did not reply to Poe's letter. [CL 68]


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 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 you[r]self 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 [page 49:] bottom of my heart that if you were in my situation and you in mine, how differently I would act.

Yours affects


In connection with the present letter, see Letter 33, and notes. [CL 69]

35 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [December 29, 1831] [CL 70]

Baltimore 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 you[r] 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

In connection with this letter, see Letters 33 and 34 and notes. This is Poe's last known letter to Allan, until that of April 12, 1833, which ended their correspondence. [CL 70]

36 ⇒ TO JOHN ALLAN [April 12, 1833] [CL 71]

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 [page 50:] 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

The present letter ends the correspondence between Poe and John Allan, the known items numbering 42-43 (see Note 3), with one or two others, supported by internal or external evidence, reasonably certain, and still others, without any definite support, possible (see the notes to the individual items in the series). John Allan died March 27, 1834. Poe's last specific acknowledgment of financial aid from John Allan occurs in his letter of June 28, 1830; however, Poe's reference to Allan's “late kindness,” in the letter of November 18, 1831, and Allan's note on the letter of December 15, 1831, contradict the first sentence of the present letter. Poe last talked with Allan at their parting in Richmond, in May, 1830 (see Letter 28). In connection with the date of the present letter, it is interesting to read the date and note written by John Allan at the end of Poe's letter of February 21, 1831. Regarding Poe's plea of poverty, see the postscript to Letter 37. [CL 71]



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 35:]

1.  Material between daggers is found in Woodberry (see Note 24).



In the original printing, an unusal special character is used between the number of the letter and the text describing the correspondents. In the current presentation, this special character has been rendered as a double right-pointing arrow. For the sake of the reader, the line that identifies a letter is given in a larger font, and in bold. The date of the letter, the letter number and check list number have also been added.


[S:0 - OLT66, 1966] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (J. W. Ostrom) (Letters: Chapter I)