When or how did Poe acquire the name of "Allen"?

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I know that Edgar Allan Poe was born Edgar Poe. His foster father, John Allan, was the most important father figure in his life. However, I also know that John Allan and Edgar did not get along, and I was wondering why Edgar Poe took the name of Edgar Allan Poe. If anyone knows, please tell me!!!!

-- Anonymous, March 14, 2001



As you can probably guess, there is no easy answer to this question. For a start, Poe only used the 'Allan' twice (as far as we know): once when signing a letter, and once when a biography was published of him (in 1845, from memory). The rest of the time he was mostly 'Edgar A. Poe'.

While in England as a child, he was called Edgar Allan, presumably to prevent questions from people the Allans met. Yet, they could have legally adopted him and never did so. All very weird...

Since he was Edgar Poe while a child in America, and Edgar Allan for five significant years in England, the choice of Edgar Allan Poe is perhaps not totally surprising.

What is interesting for me is why he both acknowledged his foster father (hence the 'A') and simultaneously denied it (hence the 'A').

Hopefully this is of some help.

-- Anonymous, March 15, 2001


Poe was born to David and Eliza Poe on January 19, 1809 in Boston, presumably, as Edgar Poe. Following the death of his mother in Richmond, Virginia on December 8, 1811, Poe was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond on December 26, 1811. John Allan was a wealthy merchant and tobacco trader of Scottish descent and Frances, his wife, was the daughter of John Valentine of Princess Anne County. They married on February 5, 1803.

While Edgar Poe was readily accepted into the family (at least by Frances), he was never formally adopted. However, on January 7, 1812, he was baptized and christened as "Edgar Allan Poe" by the Reverend John Buchanan. Typically, he was referred to as Edgar Allan or Master Allan while in school. The general notion that he intentionally dropped the "Allan" in preference for the "A" because of any disaffection between he and his foster father is arguable at best and any substance to this suggestion is based on supposition.

It is certainly true that "Edgar A. Poe" was his predominant signature but he also used "E. A. Poe", "Eddy" and "Eddie". However, Poe still used "Edgar Allan Poe" as a signature throughout his life and this signature is used in eight of his letters, some as late as 1849. According to the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, this name appears in his own hand on the title page of the proposed edition of "Phantasy Pieces" for 1842.

Presumably, Poe was never formally adopted because John Allan did not wish to have an adopted heir. He remarried following the death of Frances and had three boys by his second wife, Louisa Patterson. John Allan died on March 27, 1834 and left Poe nothing.

To my recollection, I have never heard of Poe using the variant "Allen" for his middle name although this error has been repeated by the public for years.

See also http://www.eapoe.org/geninfo/poeallan.htm


-- Anonymous, March 15, 2001

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