Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar was the second of their three children. When the third child was born, the father died, or disappeared, and Mrs. Poe went to Richmond with the two youngest children. The oldest boy, William Henry, had already been left with relatives in Baltimore. Mrs. Poe was in the last stages of tuberculosis. Weakened by the disease and worn out with the struggle to support her children, she died. Edgar, two years old, and the infant, Rosalie, were left as orphans. It was pure luck that Mrs. Frances Allan, the wife of a merchant in Richmond learned about the Poe babies. She had no children of her own and liked handsome little Edgar a lot more than his sister.
She took him home with her, and another family took his little sister Rosalie. Mrs. Allan would have liked to adopt Edgar, but her husband was unwilling to commit himself. At that time people thought acting was immoral. John Allan could not help regarding the little son of actor parents as a questionable person to inherit his name and the fortune he was busy accumulating. He was willing however, to support the child, and in time came to be proud of Edgar's good looks and intelligence. When Edgar was six years old, Mr. Allen's business took him to Scotland, the country from which he had come originally. The family stayed in Scotland and England for five years.
Edgar was eleven when the Allans returned to Richmond. Richmond in back then in the 1820's was a good place for a boy to live. It was still a small enough town for the fields, swamps, and woods to be close by. Boys swam in the river and in the little creeks, they fished, they tramped through the thick woods, looking for wild muscadines and chinquapins. In spite of the growing tension between foster father and son, Mr. Allen was willing to send Edgar to the University of Virginia. Edgar, in turn, was eager to go, to escape the Allen household if for no other reason. The student life of the University was more social than academic.
The young men drank too much, gambled too much, fought for the sheer enjoyment of violence, and rampaged over the campus at all hours. This was the worst possible environment for young Poe with his emotionally unstable temperament. He was unusually susceptible to alcohol; one mild drink sent him into a state of wild excitement. He gambled recklessly, incurring debts he could not begin to pay. Mr. Allan's pride and thrift could not tolerate such conduct. He pulled Edgar out of the University and set him to work at a lowly, routine job in his counting house. This was a humiliation Edgar could not bear; his answer was to leave home. He went to Boston, where he managed to publish a collection of his poems in pamphlet form, Tamerlane and Other Poems.
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