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Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

Writer and poet
Was a pupil at the
Manor House School (1817-20),
Which stood on this site
(172 Stoke Newington Church Street)

Born Edgar Poe on 19 January 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts, His parents died before he reached his third birthday and he was taken - although never adopted - by John and Frances Allan from Richmond.  In 1826 Poe entered University of Virginia leaving behind his sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster.  However, John Allan withdrew his support of Edgar during his studies who soon was forced to abandon the University.  Edgar also learnt that correspondence between himself and Sarah had been intercepted, probably on the basis that John Allan had presented Edgar as an unsuitable suitor.  On his return to Richmond, Edgar found that Sarah was now married.

Poe found happiness with Virginia Clemm, his thirteen year old cousin, whom he married on 16 May 1836.  Their relationship is understood to be that of a brother and sister.  Sadly, Virginia, or Sis as she was known to Edgar, died in 1847 from tuberculosis.

By this time Poe had achieved growing literary success but remained financially impoverished for much of this time.  Even the publication and critical acclaim of “The Raven” Periodic alcoholic excesses particularly during has wife’s illness did not help his circumstances.

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.  During those fits of absolute unconsciousness, I drank – God only knows how often or how much.  As a matter of course, my enemies referred the insanity to the drink, rather than the drink to the insanity.”

Remarkably, on a lecture tour which took Poe back to Richmond, he encountered his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster, who was by this time a widow.  They married in 1849.  Sadly their marriage was short lived with Poe’s death on 7th October 1849.

Poe describes the ancient village of Stoke Newington where he attended the Manor House School from 1817 – 1820 as being:

“a dream like and spirit soothing place, that venerable old town.  At this moment, I fancy, I feel the refreshing chilliness of its deeply-shadowed avenues, inhale the fragrance of its thousand shrubberies, and thrill anew with undefinable delight, at the deep hollow note of the church-bell, breaking, each hour, with sullen and sudden roar, upon the stillness of the dusky atmosphere in which the fretted gothic steeple lay imbedded and asleep.....

....Of this church the principal of our school was the pastor.....This reverend man, with countenance so demurely benign, with robes so glossy and so clerically flowing, with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and so vast,  - could this be he who, of late, with sour visage, and in snuffy habiliments, administered, ferule in hand, the Draconian laws of the academy?  Oh gigantic paradox, too utterly monstrous for solution!”

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Page updated: 15 Jun 2010 

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