Edgar's teens and the parting with John Allan
When Edgar grew into his teens the Allans moved around a
lot. They finally moved to a house they got from William
Galt in 1822 or 1823. Edgar continued his education during
this time and when he was fourteen he attended the academy
of Joseph H. Clarke, and after that he studied with
Clarke's successor William Burke.
Edgar's schooling in Richmond encouraged his gift
for language and he did very well in Latin and French. When
he was about sixteen he wrote one of his earliest surviving
poems; "Oh Tempora! Oh Mores!". Edgar wrote enough poems to
publish a book but Clarke persuaded John Allan not to
When Edgar returned from England he had a pale and
weak resemblance but in Richmond he turned to athletics. He
was a good runner, leaper and boxer and also a superior
swimmer. At the age of fifteen or sixteen he swam six miles
in the James River under a hot June sun, partly against
a strong tide.
Edgar obviously made a good impression on other
people. Thomas Ellis, the son of John Allan's business
partner once said:
"No boy ever had a greater influence over me than
At the age of fifteen he became a lieutenant in the
Junior Morgan Riflemen. As second-in-command he was
reviewed by the popular Marquis de Lafayette whom two weeks
earlier had praised Edgar's grandfather, General David Poe,
for his good work.
Edgar was, when he returned to Richmond, known as
Edgar Poe rather than Edgar Allan, to emphasize that he was
not formally adopted by the Allans. Rosalie on the other
hand was given the Mackenzies' name and Edgar's uncle,
William Galt, adopted his orphaned relative James.
Edgar was in search for a maternal figure in his
life. He was very fond of Fanny Allan
but her frequent
sickness made her less than the ideal mother. At one
occasion it is known that he called Rosalie's foster mother
"Ma". At the age of fourteen he became infatuated with Mrs.
Jane Stanard, the mother of one of his classmates. He came
to her when he felt unhappy at home and she somewhat
resembled both Fanny Allan and Eliza Poe.
Edgar had only
known her for about a year when she died at the age of 31,
probably insane. Edgar suffered from her death and his
behavior changed. This lead to conflicts at home with John
Allan who spoke of Edgar as; "Sulky & ill tempered to all
the family". John Allan took his bad mood as a sign of
thanklessness for all that he had done for Edgar.
On the morning of March 26, 1825, William Galt, the
owner of the Allans' house, "Suddenly threw back his
head & eyes and seemed oppressed." Uncle Galt
straightened himself and died. The Allans' inheritance from
Galt was estimated to three fourths of a million dollars,
including their house and three land estates.
John Allan later bought a house called Moldavia which
can be seen at the top of this page. It
was an impressive place that was more like an estate than a
house, with its flowergardens, trees, and eight outbuildings.
Nancy and Edgar got a room on the second floor. He was now
sixteen and a half and was preparing for University.
The time at the University
In February 1826 Edgar enrolled at the university of
Virginia. The university had opened the year before, after,
what was said, forty years of planning, and now had 177
Edgar was proud to attend to the University and he
had high ambitions in language. He took ancient languages
taught by George Long, and modern languages taught by
George Blaettermann. Edgar was an excellent student and his
translations were remembered as "precisely correct". He
studied French, Italian and probably some Spanish. He also
joined the Jefferson Society, a debating club, and grew
noted as a debater. He was also remembered as an
outstanding athlete, he sketched in charcoal, and continued
to develop as a writer.
Edgar was during his university year described as
moody and gloomy. This might be due to his first known
romantic attachment with a girl named Elmira Royster, whom
he met in Richmond before he left for the university. Edgar
wrote to her frequently, but her father opposed to the match
due to the age, Edgar was then about sixteen and a half and
Elmira was fifteen. He intercepted the letters, hence Edgar
did not receive any replies to them.
Edgar was very young to attend the University. The
average age for attending the university was about nineteen
years back in 1830, while Edgar was only a month past
The student life was chaotic and at times even
dangerous. During a riot in the school's first year, masked
students threw bricks and bottles at the professors. During
Edgar's year, seven students were expelled or suspended for
The violence and chaos took up much room in the
surviving letters Edgar sent to John Allan. In the letters
it could be read that one time a student was struck on the
head with a large stone and he pulled a pistol - which
apparently were quite common. The student misfired but
would otherwise have killed the attacker. At another
occasion a student was bit in his arm "and it is likely
that pieces of flesh as large as my hand will be obliged to
be cut out."
The quarrels with John Allan grew stronger, mostly
because of Edgar's financial problems. During the year he
got large gambling and other debts which he claimed was
because John Allan did not provide well enough. Thus he had
to stick to gambling to cover his expenses.
When Edgar returned to Richmond he had debts that
amounted to around $2000 - $2500. John Allan refused to pay
his debts and did not send him back to the university but
forced him to work at Allan's firm. Edgar was also
disappointed to discover that Elmira Royster was no longer
available. The first evening back in Richmond he went to a
party at Elmira's house only to find that it marked her
In March 1827 the strain between Edgar and John
Allan climaxed. This was the result of more than two years
of indifferences going back to the death of Jane Stanard,
and now the loss of Elmira. Edgar moved out of John Allan's
home and where he went is uncertain. Edgar was looking for
"some place in this wide world, where I will be treated
not as you have treated me." Edgar felt that Allan had
misled him, restricted him and rejected him. The letters
Edgar sent to John Allan showed, without concealment, that he
did not feel as a part of the family. He also wrote:
"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."
After several hostile letters in their correspondence
Edgar was in need for money and his things, and changed the
attitude in his letters. He wrote a friendly letter almost
begging John Allan for help. The letter was returned and on
the back of it Allan had written: "Pretty Letter".
Edgar lead a reckless life roaming the streets and
drank a lot. He sometimes took his brother's identity to
mislead his creditors and John Allan. He sometimes used the
alias Henri Le Rennet, a frenchifying of Henry Leonard. At
the time no one knew where Edgar went, but some letters were
said to be sent from St. Petersburg, Russia. In reality he
had followed his mother's advice
from the water color
painting and gone to Boston.