Before jumping right into The Unexplained Death of Edgar Allan Poe’s foster mother Frances Allan. We must know about Edgar Allan Poe. Who was he? Why is he famous? Everything we need to know about him. It is alarming to know that Edgar Allan Poe’s life has been full of unexplainable deaths.
The life of Edgar Allan has always been full of sadness. But just when he was getting along in life, he lost his foster mother. The death of Frances Allan, the foster mother of Edgar Allan Poe is a Mystery and has caught many people’s eye.
The great poet we know today didn’t live a great life. All the women he loved, and all his family members died before him, influencing his poems. One of the major women in his life was Frances Allan.
1. Edgar Allan Poe
Born on 19 January 1809, Edgar Allan was a writer, editor, poet, and critic. He didn’t live a jolly life; his life was traumatic and filled with sadness. Even though he is mostly known for his short stories mystery tales and the Macabre. His life was full of struggles. Initially, he tried to earn from his writing, but he couldn’t, even his wealthy foster father had abandoned him.
It’s true when it’s said, “You get the glory after your death”. Even after being such a great writer, he spent his life in Poverty. He died young mysteriously when he was just 40 and his whole life he drank and fell into depression.
1.01. Edgar Allan Poe’s Biological Parents
Edgar Allan Poe was born in a family of Actors in Boston. His “biological father’s name was David Poe“, and his “biological mother was Elizabeth Arnold Poe“. He was the second born of his biological Parents. When Edgar Allan Poe was just 2 years old, his father, David Poe, abandoned his family and left. His mother, Elizabeth alone had to take care of her 3 children.
After Not so long, Elizabeth was suffering from tuberculosis (consumption then). She spent the rest of her remaining months at “Richmond Boarding House“. Elizabeth Poe was too stressed emotionally and overworking. She couldn’t take it long and died at the age of 24 just 3 days after Edgar’s 3rd birthday.
Soon after her death, the news of her husband, David Poe, also arrived. And strangely, they say David died of the same disease.
1.02. Edgar Allan Poe’s Foster Parents
After becoming an Orphan, Edgar had to split from his elder brother and younger sister.
His elder brother, William Henry Poe went to their paternal grandparent’s house. Richmond school’s owners adopted his younger sister, Rosalie. The Allan family adopted Edgar Poe.
John and Frances Allan belonged to a well-to-do family, and they had no children. Frances had always desired to have a child and after hearing about Elizabeth’s death and her orphan children. Frances insisted on adopting one of the kids. That’s how Edgar got adopted and also got the ‘Allan’ included in his name.
1.03. Edgar Allan Poe’s works
Even though, his past was dark and tragic. Poe decided to become a writer. The death of the women in Edgar’s life played an integral part in his writing. He chose to earn through writing alone and had to live a financially unstable life.
But “Poe is now one of the central figures of Literature”. He has written his works in different genres including “Gothic Fiction, Sci-fi, Mystery, and Detective Fiction”.
The title of “the inventor of Detective Fiction” is rightfully given in his regard.
He has worked on a lot of “Short Stories, Poems, and Novels”. He has greatly influenced Literature through his works. Some of his well knows works are: –
- “To My Mother”
- “The Raven”
- “To Helen”
- “The Masque of the Red Death”
- “Annabel Lee”
- “The Tell-Tale Heart”
- “The Gold Bug”
- “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”
2. Unexplained Death of Edgar Allan Poe’s Foster Mother Frances Allan
Edgar Allan Poe had already seen his mother and father die at a very young age. They had separated him from his siblings. A Childless Couple had adopted him and he had traveled to Richmond Virginia.
Edgar was not legally adopted but the wanting of a child in Frances’s heart made him get all the love. John Allan and Frances Allan loved Edgar as their child. But everything changed after the unexplained and strange death of Frances Allan.
2.01. Frances Allan
Born as Fanny Valentine on 14 February 1784 in Richmond, Virginia. Fanny was born a daughter, into the family of “John Valentine and Frances Thorowgood”. Just like Poe Fanny and her younger sister had also lost their parents at a very young age. Their half-sister and her husband raised both of them.
Fanny was a very beautiful, elegant, and admirable woman. She got married to a Scottish Merchant, John Allan in 1803. Since then, she got the name Frances Valentina Allan. She enjoyed watching theatres just like other Richmond women. She also knew about Edgar’s mother Elizabeth Poe and was one of the women to answer her plea.
Frances had a kind heart, but she often used to get sick. She wanted to have a baby desperately, but she was unable to bear one. After hearing the news of the death of Edgar’s Biological mother, and that her children were now an orphan. Frances along with her husband adopted 3-year-old Edgar in late December 1812 and treated him as their child.
Frances Allan was truly a loving mother to Edgar Poe, but Edgar Poe’s adoption was never official. His grandparents or relatives didn’t abandon him. His aunts used to keep on sending letters to Fanny thanking her. But they never got any reply from Fanny. Now, we don’t know if she was intentionally ignoring their letters or not.
2.02. Frances Allan’s Marriage and Sickness
Frances Valentina Allan tied the knot with John Allan on 5 February 1803. They lived under the Ellis & Allan Store. John Allan was a Scottish Tobacco Merchant working under his uncle. They adopted Edgar Allan Poe unofficially, immediately after Elizabeth Poe’s death. After 3 and half years John Allan shifted his family to London.
The Sea Voyage was hard for Frances, but John Allan dusted her off thinking that she was Complaining. John Allan kept traveling to places for his business and sick Frances could do nothing much but write him letters. One Day, John Allan decided to return to Richmond which Frances resisted.
John Allan was suffering financially at that time and wanted to go to Richmond soon. But due to sickness of Frances, their travel was delaying a lot. After a lot of trying, Frances agreed to travel. With all the sea sicknesses and all, they finally came back to Richmond. Frances seemed to live a life of quiet existence which most Richmond Women led.
2.03. Edgar Allan Poe and John Allan
After returning Frances got sicker. John Allan was already a father of two children from two different Women. Frances is genuinely unaware of it. We can also make out why John Allan didn’t want to adopt Edgar formally. After the death of his uncle, William Galt, John Allan became rich. Seems like he inherited his uncle’s property. The growing sickness of Frances Allan resulted in a drift between Edgar and John Allan.
Both of them had the same temper and personality so the clash between them was inevitable. John didn’t like the idea of Edgar wanting to become a writer. But Frances supported him and also encouraged him to recite Poetry and his artistic nature. She indeed was a loving mother but also a loving wife. She couldn’t go against her husband when he decided to cut off financial support to Edgar. Edgar had enrolled in a college and in need of money he started to gamble. Initially, it worked in favor of him but later he fell into the trap of debt. Allan denied paying anything in place of him. In the background of this Father-son drift, Frances was getting sicker.
With their relationship worsening Poe decided to leave the house and join the military. To get into the Military, Edgar lied about his age, even though he was only 18 at that time. He was very much attached to Frances and called her ‘Ma’. Edgar and John had so much trouble between them, that they overlooked Frances’s sickness. Poor Frances had no one to rely on as her husband and son, both were busy in themselves.
2.04. Edgar Allan Poe’s Life in the Military and Frances Allan’s Death
Edgar Allan Poe enlisted in the Military on 26 May 1827 with a false name and age. Even though he had sign up for only 5 years, he climbed to the ranks of “Sergeant Major” in only two years’ time. His Military career was blooming but he was growing tired of the cadet life.
On the other side, Frances’s health was worsening day by day. She suffered until her last breath. Finally on March 2, 1829, Saturday morning, Frances/Fanny took her last breath. The death of Frances was saddening because she couldn’t even see her dear child whom she loved the most in her final days. Not only that her death was also unexplained and simply labelled as “Tuberculosis”. It was very strange to believe that Edgar Allan Poe’s biological Parents had also died due to Tuberculosis. Hence, Frances Allan passed away and they buried her in “the Shockoe Hill Cemetery.”
Poe couldn’t even see her dead body as he arrived late. He arrived there after her burial. On seeing him arriving late John Allan got angrier, but we could see a loving bond between father-son. Poe was very dear to Frances so maybe to respect the dead, both men decided to end their fight.
2.05. Father-Son Breaking Bond
He even helped Poe to leave the Army and admitted him to West Point Military Academy. But this father-son bond was just temporary. Poe got admission to the academy in March 1830, but he soon got tired of it. He decided to quit the academy in January and was formally dismissed on March 6, 1831.
Poe’s this decision angered John Allan and he disowned him completely. John Allan had no worries about his heir as he already had one illegitimate child before the arrival of Poe. Not only that but he also got married to another woman after Frances Allan’s death. Within one year of his former wife’s death, he got remarried. That proves that he was continuously having an affair behind Frances’s back.
3. Edgar Allan Poe as a writer
Edgar Allan Poe and John Allan were now equal to strangers. Frances Allan was the only reason they were intact to each other. Without her, they had nothing to do with each other. The relationship between them remained unsolved to say the least. After quitting West Point, Edgar decided to follow his passion for writing.
After leaving Allan’s house. Poe went to Baltimore, to his paternal home, and lived with his grandmother, aunt, Maria Clemm, and her children. Finally deciding to earn money through his writings alone, he sold his short stories to magazines and Periodicals. His career as a writer didn’t work well, and he started working as an editor of “Southern Literary Messenger” in Richmond.
3.01. Poe’s Love Life influence in his Poems
Edgar Allan Poe’s first love was Elmira Royster Shelton. They were also engaged, but Elmira left him because her father forced her to marry a wealthy man. Poe wrote a lot of poems based on their love. After so many years, when Edgar was in his 40s and Elmira was 39, they restarted their love. They got re-engaged but Poe died 10 days after their marriage.
Virginia Clemm Poe- When Poe started to work as an editor, he shifted to Richmond with his aunt and her daughter, Virginia. On a controversial note, Poe married his cousin, Virginia in 1836. When they got married Poe was 27-year-old and Virginia was just 13. Their marriage didn’t last long because Virginia died at an early age. But, while in their marriage, Poe published the stories and poems widely popular today including “The Raven”. But, after Virginia’s death, his alcoholism and depression worsened.
Sarah Helen Whitman-Sarah was already a professional writer at that time. She wrote the poem “To Edgar Poe” while introducing herself to him. They began to write love letters to each other and their engagement was done. But Sarah wanted Poe to leave alcohol, which he couldn’t. And, this became the reason to break off their engagement. Poe also wrote a poem for her.
3.02. Edgar Allan Poe’s “Alone”
Alone, a poem by Edgar Allan Poe came out after his death. The poem, when found was title-less, but had a date of 17 March 1829. Frances Allan, Poe’s foster mother, had tragically passed away only one month prior. So, it appears that Poe wrote this poem in memory of Frances, as he found himself alone after her death.
3.03. Edgar Allan Poe’s Death
Poe’s death was mysterious just like his works. He was there lying in the gutter semi-consciously. Joseph W. Walker saw him, and he took Poe to the hospital, but Poe couldn’t make it. No one knows how he ended up in that situation when he was not even supposed to be there in Baltimore.
Poe was just 40 years old when he died on October 7, 1849. His reason for death is still unknown and has been full of theories. Some theories claim that he committed suicide, some include murder, rabies, debauchery, cholera, brain tumour, etc.
4. Final Note
Edgar Allan Poe is undoubtedly one of the greatest poets of English Literature. His works are magnificent. Even though his life was full of tragedy and hardship, he didn’t fail to gift such great poems and stories to the World. Just like his works, his life was also mysterious, especially the deaths around him including his death.
In 40 years, from the very time of his birth, he lost a lot of people in his life. From his biological Parents to his foster parents, From his wife to his siblings. Poe experienced many unnatural and unexplained deaths in his lifetime. “Tuberculosis” was the cause of all of their deaths. But it comes as a hard pill to swallow.
All the women he loved died at a very early age. To be frank, Edgar Allan Poe didn’t live a good life, he had a very traumatic life. The moment he decided to live happily, he lost someone dear to him. His life as a writer was also very hard as he never got paid enough.
The news of the unexplained passing of his foster mother was shattering for Poe. The relationship between Edgar’s foster father and him worsened after that, and thus he had to live in poverty. If Frances had never been sick and had lived a longer life, then maybe Edgar would have lived a bit better life. But, then again, we wouldn’t have got the great poet of all time.
All of his family members died a mysterious death and Edgar himself couldn’t escape such death.
Poe created mystery stories when he was alive and also died mysteriously making people still think about it. The great poet’s body is now buried under the grounds of “Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Baltimore”.