Poe was born at a time when transatlantic relations between the United States and Great Britain were quickly eroding, after twenty-five years of peace. Indignant at the continuing impressment of American sailors, the fledgling nation declared war in 1812. While battles erupted in Canada, along the Great Lakes, and at sea, the British blockaded the Chesapeake Bay and kept the Atlantic seacoast, including tidewater Virginia, in a state of alarm. In Richmond, where everyday life largely followed familiar routines, the Mackenzie family had adopted baby Rosalie Poe, while Edgar found a home with the Allans. John Allan was a tobacco and dry-goods merchant from Scotland, and Frances Valentine Allan had herself been an orphan.
A childless couple, the Allans reared the boy as a son but never adopted him. Edgar nevertheless attached himself emotionally to Frances, who, like his natural mother, was
slender, delicate, and prone to chronic illness. In his early years, at east, the lad was coddled and spoiled; he visited nearby plantations, where he played games with slave children, and he traveled to fashionable mountain spas with the Allans. One source (Weiss) plausibly mentions a black “Mammy” who took care of him. He received an early schooling and reportedly could read a newspaper by the age of five, though he was too young to worry that, one hundred miles to the north, British forces in 1814 had captured Washington and burned the Capitol.
In Baltimore, three weeks later, his grandfather, the aged Revolutionary veteran, helped to organize the defense that repelled the British attack and inspired the “Star-Spangled Banner. ”
Following the war’s conclusion, John Allan and his partner, Charles Ellis, decided to open a London office to capitalize on the renewal of trade, and in 1815, at the beginning of the socalled Era of Good Feelings, Allan took his family to England. Edgar asked to be reported, in one of Allan’s letters, as “not afraid coming across the Sea” (/PL,/ 26). The boy visited his foster father’s relatives in Ayrshire, Scotland, and then—as “Edgar Allan”—settled into his new home in the Bloomsbury section of London and began to see the legendary sights of the great city. During the five years of Allan’s English sojourn, Poe attended two different boarding schools, the first in Chelsea, run by the Misses Dubourg, and the second in the outlying village of Stoke
Questia Media America, Inc. /www.questia.com/
*Publication Information: *Book Title: A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan
Poe. Contributors: J. Gerald Kennedy – editor. Publisher: Oxford
University Press. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year:
2000. Page Number: 20.