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Edgar's teens


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 publish it.
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 he had."
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 students.
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 seventeen.
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 high-stakes gambling.
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 engagement.
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.

Last modified: February 07 2006 19:03:15.