Text: Edgar Allan Poe to John Allan — January 3, 1831 (LTR-028)


West Point   Jany 3d 1830. [[1831]]


I suppose (altho’ you desire no further communication with yourself on my part,) that your restriction does not extend to my answering your final letter.

Did I, when an infant, sollicit [[sic]] your charity and protection, or was it of your own free will, that you volunteered your services in my behalf? It is well known to respectable individuals in Baltimore, and elsewhere, that my Grandfather (my natural protector at the time you interposed) was wealthy, and that I was his favourite grand-child — But the promises of adoption, and liberal education which you held forth to him in a letter which is now in possession of my family, induced him to resign all care of me into your hands. Under such circumstances, can it be said that I have no right to expect any thing at your hands? You may probably urge that you have given me a liberal education. I will leave the decision of that question to those who know how far liberal educations can be obtained in 8 months at the University of Va. Here you will say that it was my own fault that I did not return — You would not let me return because bills were presented you for payment which I never wished nor desired you to pay. Had you let me return, my reformation had been sure — as my conduct the last 3 months gave every reason to believe — and you would never have heard more of my extravagances. But I am not about to proclaim myself guilty of all that has been alledged against me, and which I have hitherto endured, simply because I was too proud to reply. I will boldly say that it was wholly and entirely your own mistaken parsimony that caused all the difficulties in which I was involved while at Charlottsville [[sic]]. The expences of the institution at the lowest estimate were $350 per annum. You sent me there with $110. Of this $50 were to be paid immediately for board — $60 for attendance upon 2 professors — and you even then did not miss the opportunity of abusing me because I did not attend 3. Then $15 more were to be paid for room-rent — remember that all this was to be paid in advance, with $110. — $12 more for a bed — and $12 more for room furniture. I had, of course, the mortification [page 2:] of running in debt for public property — against the known rules of the institution, and was immediately regarded in the light of a beggar. You will remember that in a week after my arrival, I wrote to you for some more money, and for books — You replied in terms of the utmost abuse — if I had been the vilest wretch on earth you could not have been more abusive than you were because I could not contrive to pay $150 with $110. I had enclosed to you in my letter (according to your express commands) an account of the expences incurred amounting to $149 — the balance to be paid was $39 — You enclosed me $40, leaving me one dollar in pocket. In a short time afterwards I received a packet of books consisting of, Gil Blas, and the Cambridge Mathematics in 2 vols: books >>for<< which I had no earthly use since I had no means of attending the mathematical lectures. But books must be had, If I intended to remain at the institution — and they were bought accordingly upon credit. In this manner debts were accumulated, and money borrowed of Jews in Charlottesville at extravagant interest — for I was obliged to hire a servant, to pay for wood, for washing, and a thousand other necessaries. It was then that I became dissolute, for how could it be otherwise? I could associate with no students, except those who were in a similar situation with myself — altho’ from different causes — They from drunkenness, and extravagance — I, because it was my crime to have no one on Earth who cared for me, or loved me. I call God to witness that I have never loved dissipation — Those who know me know that my pursuits and habits are very far from any thing of the kind. But I was drawn into it by my companions[.] Even their professions of friendship — hollow as they were — were a relief. Towards the close of the session you sent me $100 — but it was too late — to be of any service in extricating me from my difficulties — I kept it for some time — thinking that if I could obtain more I could yet retrieve my character — I applied to James Galt — but he, I believe, from the best of motives refused to lend me any — I then became desperate, and gambled — until I finally i[n]volved myself irretrievably. If I have been to blame in all this — place yourself in my situation, and tell me if you would not have been [page 3:] equally so. But these circumstances were all unknown to my friends when I returned home — They knew that I had been extravagant — but that was all — I had no hope of returning to Charlottesville, and I waited in vain in expectation that you would, at least, obtain me some employment. I saw no prospect of this — and I could endure it no longer. — Every day threatened with a warrant &c. I left home — and after nearly 2 years conduct with which no fault could be found — in the army, as a common soldier — I earned, myself, by the most humiliating privations — a Cadets’ warrant which you could have obtained at any time for asking. It was then that I thought I might venture to sollicit [[sic]] your assistance in giving me an outfit — I came home, you will remember, the night after the burial — If she had not have died while I was away there would have been nothing for me to regret — Your love I never valued — but she I believed loved me as her own child. You promised me to forgive all — but you soon forgot your promise. You sent me to W. Point like a beggar. The same difficulties are threatening me as before at Charlottesville — and I must resign.

As to your injunction not to trouble you with farther communication rest assured, Sir, that I will most religiously observe it. When I parted from you — at the steam-boat, I knew that I should nev[er] see you again.

As regards Sergt. Graves — I did write him that letter. As to the truth of its contents, I leave it to God, and your own conscience. — The time in which I wrote it was within a half hour after you had embittered every feeling of my heart against you by your abuse of my family, and myself, under your own roof — and at a time when you knew that my heart was almost breaking.

I have no more to say — except that my future life (which thank God will not endure long) must be passed in indigence and sickness. I have no energy left, nor health. If it was possible, to put up with the fatigues of this place, and the inconveniences which my absolute want of necessaries subject me to, and [page 4:] as I mentioned before it is my intention to resign. For this end it will be necessary that you (as my nominal guardian) enclose me your written permission. It will be useless to refuse me this last request — for I can leave the place without any permission — your refusal would only deprive me of the little pay which is now due as mileage.

[[space reserved for address]]

From the time of writing this I shall neglect my studies and duties at the institution — if I do not receive your answer in 10 days — I will leave the point without — for otherwise I should subject myself to dismission.

E A Poe



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, 1831] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to J. Allan (LTR028/RCL061)