Who Adopted Poe, and What Type of Relationship Did They Have?

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Edgar Allan Poe was adopted by a couple named John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia. Though he got along well with Frances Allan, Poe’s relationship with John Allan had its ups and downs and eventually ended badly.

Poe’s mother died in 1811, a year after his father abandoned the family. The Allans took him in as a foster child, adding their name in the middle of his original name of Edgar Poe. In 1812, the Allans had Poe baptized as an Episcopal, and in 1815, the family sailed for England. Poe studied in Scotland and London for several years before returning to Virginia with the family in 1820. As Poe grew up, John Allan sometimes treated him well and sometimes severely disciplined him. Allan opposed Poe’s ambition to become a writer and cut him out of his will. When Poe entered university, Allan did not send him enough money to live on. After Poe tried to raise money by gambling and went deeply into debt, Allan refused to help him and their relationship sundered.

Poverty stricken and on his own, Poe joined the army. Though Poe did well and was regularly promoted, he sought early release and asked John Allan to help him. For months John Allan ignored Poe’s pleas, but shortly after his wife Frances died, Allan helped Poe leave the army by finding a replacement to finish the rest of his service. In 1830 John Allan remarried, and not long afterward, he disowned Poe completely.