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Edgar's Childhood


John and Fanny Allan

Edgar's childhood


John Allan, originally from Scotland, started a business in Richmond, Virginia, together with his partner Charles Ellis, they called it; The House of Ellis and Allan. They traded with tobacco and other goods and made a great deal of money. John Allan and his wife Frances, also known as "Fanny", were frequent theater goers, and Frances joined the charitable women of Richmond who helped Eliza Poe's sickroom.
Eliza's daughter Rosalie, was taken in by a Richmond family called MacKenzie. Fanny was interested in the middle son, Edgar. John opposed her, but after he had sent a letter to David Poe Jr's relatives who had taken the oldest son William Henry Leonard, and could not afford another child, he gave in to Fanny's wishes. They did, however, not formally adopt Edgar. The Allans lived quite close to the MacKenzies and Edgar probably had the opportunity to meet his sister once in a while in his early years.
Edgar came from living more or less in a suitcase and in poverty, into this new family that was materially well off. John Allan promised David Poe Jr's relatives that he would give Edgar a good education, an education he himself had not had the opportunity to receive. He valued arithmetics, writing and reading highly since it was a must for success in business.
Fanny had herself been orphaned at the age of ten which probably was one of the reasons for taking Edgar to their home, and she was only 26, slightly older than Eliza. She was a good house wife and was very well organized, but she had apparently not received a good education considering the frequent spelling mistakes she made in her surviving letters.
Nothing much is known about Edgar's first years with the Allans and hardly anything to indicate his feelings of being put in a new home, and being separated from his brother and sister. When he was five years old John Allan sent him to a teacher named Clotilda Fisher and after this to the Richmond schoolmaster William Ewing who said that Edgar was charming and liked the school.
When Edgar was six and a half, the Allans moved to England. The five-year stay began with a trip around Scotland before they settled at 47 Southampton Row in Russel Square, London. John Allan set up a London House of Allan and Ellis which soon prospered after a modest start. The London tobacco market was depressed and John learned to deal with large shipments to make some money. By 1817 the firm was good for more than $300,000 and they rented a house at 39 Southampton Row for another five years.
Edgar Allan, as he was known during his stay in England, recieved his first formal education there. He was sent to board with the Misses Dubourg to a school on Sloane Street in Chelsea about three miles from the Allans' flat. John Allan, of course, paid for all the expenses. When Edgar was eight he boarded the school of the reverend John Bransby, at Stoke Newington, four miles from London. Edgar studied, among other subjects; latin and dancing and was quite successful. John Allan was very pleased with Edgar while Edgar seems to have remembered his schooldays in London as lonely and unhappy.
John Allan was very busy with his business and the family members felt neglected by him. Edgar was never formally adopted by the Allans and was, outside the family, hardly noticed. In letters received by the Allans, regards was sent to the whole family except to Edgar.
Fanny did not make Edgar's feelings of being neglected much better since she was frequently ill during their stay in England. She was also terribly homesick and after only a year abroad she wanted to return to Richmond. In 1817 she got so bad she had to be sent to the countryside to recover. She was then nursed by her sister Nancy. Her recoveries were few and only momentary. John Allan had a hard time believing in all this illness and blamed it on Fanny's imagination.
After three and a half years abroad, the London tobacco market collapsed. John Allan tried to sell out his business but failed in finding a buyer. The market was in utter chaos and some merchants even committed suicide. John Allan tried to get some help from his partner Ellis but no money was sent. July 17, 1819, the London House of Allan and Ellis collapsed since they could not keep up with their debts.
July 21, 1820, the Allans arrived in New York and had to send for a doctor emmediatley due to Fanny's sickness.


Last modified: February 07 2006 18:42:50.