John and Fanny Allan
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
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.