Text: Edgar Allan Poe to John Allan — December 1, 1828 (LTR-007)


Fort Moultrie, Charleston Hr
December 1 rst 1828.

Dear Sir,

The letter of Lieut J. Howard left by Mr John, O, Lay [[sic]] for your perusal will explain the cause of my writing from Fort Moultrie.

Your note addressed to Mr Lay, & inclosed by him to Lieut: Howard was handed over by the latter to myself. In that note what chiefly gave me concern was hearing of your indisposition — I can readily see & forgive the suggestion which prompted you to write “he had better remain as he is until the termination of his enlistment.” It was perhaps under the impression that a military life was one after my own heart, and that it might be possible (although contrary to the Regulations of our Army) to obtain a commission for one who had not received his education at West Point, & who, from his age, was excluded that Academy; but I could not help thinking that you beleived [[sic]] me degraded & disgraced, and that any thing were preferable to my returning home & entailing on yourself a portion of my infamy: But, at no period of my life, have I regarded myself with a deeper Satisfaction — or did my heart swell with more honourable pride — The time may come (if at all it will come speedily) when much that appears of a doubtful nature will be explained away, and I shall have no hesitation in appearing among my former [page 2:] connexions — at the present I have no such intention, and nothing, short of your absolute commands, should deter me from my purpose.

I have been in the American army as long as suits my ends or my inclination, and it is now time that I should leave it — To this effect I made known my circumstances to Lieut Howard who promised me my discharge solely upon a re-conciliation with yourself — In vain I told him that your wishes for me (as your letters assured me) were, and had always been those of a father & that you were ready to forgive even the worst offences — He insisted upon my writing you & that if a re-conciliation could be effected he would grant me my wish. This was advised in the goodness of his heart & with a view of serving me in a double sense — He has always been kind to me, and, in many respects, reminds me forcibly of yourself.

The period of an Enlistment is five years — the prime of my life would be wasted — I shall be driven to more decided measures if you refuse to assist me.

You need not fear for my future prosperity — I am altered from what you knew me, & am no longer a boy tossing about on the world without aim or consistency — I feel that within me which will make me fulfil your highest wishes & only beg you to suspend your judgement until you hear of me again.

You will perceive that I speak confidently — but when did [page 3:] ever Ambition exist or Talent prosper without prior conviction of success? I have thrown myself on the world, like the Norman conqueror on the shores of Britain &, by my avowed assurance of victory, have destroyed the fleet which could alone cover my retreat — I must either conquer or die — succeed or be disgraced.

A letter addressed to Lieut: J. Howard assuring him of your reconciliation with myself (which you have never yet refused) & desiring my discharge would be all that is necessary — He is already acquainted with you from report & the high character given of you by Mr Lay.

Write me once more if you do really forgive me [and] let me know how my Ma preserves her health, and the concerns of the family since my departure.

Pecuniary assistance I do not desire — unless of your own free & unbiassed choice — I can struggle with any difficulty. My dearest love to Ma — it is only when absent that we can tell the value of such a friend — I hope she will not let my wayward disposition wear away the love she used to have for me.

Yours respectfully & affectionately
Edgar A. Poe

P.S. We are now under orders to sail for Old Point Comfort, and will arrive there before your answer can be received — Your address then will be to Lieut: J. Howard, Fortress Monroe — the same for myself.



This letter is printed here with permission from the Valentine Museum in Richmond, Virginia. A photographic facsimile of this letter was published in Mary Newton Stanard, Edgar Allan Poe Letters Till Now Unpublished in the Valentine Museum, Richmond, Virginia, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1925.


[S:0 - MS, 1828] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to J. Allan (LTR007/RCL013)