Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Edgar ALLAN Poe and the A's and the E's

My family name is spelled differently by distant family members and mispronounced all the time by nearly anyone who doesn't interact with me. I may even mispronounce my own family name since I don't speak Polish. Recently I was asked if the misspelling of Edgar A. Poe’s middle name, Allan, bothers me. It happens quite frequently. Nope. I use it as a way to tell stories. It's the Scottish spelling! 

Most of his letters were signed Edgar A. Poe although he did sign E.A. Poe and his full name at times. 

It seems that the author was not given a middle name at birth, which was true for his father, his father’s father (grandfather), and his father’s father’s father (great grandfather). What seems like a Poe family tradition is made more complicated by William Henry Leonard Poe, Poe’s older brother. Perhaps the brother simply took all the middle names! That’s a joke. 
The author was born Edgar Poe and the middle name was added by Frances and John Allan, who took in the orphaned child but never adopted him legally.
(Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - General Topics - Poe’s Middle Name). 

Sacred to the memory of John Allan who departed this life March 27, 1834 in the 54th year of his age. He whose remains lie buried beneath this tomb was a native of Ayreshire, Scotland. 
John Allan's marker between his first wife, Frances Valentine Allan (right) and Louisa Allan (left). 

John Allan was born in 1779 in Scotland. By 1795, a sixteen-year-old Allan, who had been orphaned, immigrated to Richmond, Virginia, to work with his uncle and seek a better future for himself. 

In England the personal name is usually spelled Alan, the surname Allen; in Scotland the surname is more often Allan.

It's interesting to note the size of the markers. Frances Allan’s tombstone is much smaller and shorter than the markers for John Allan and Louisa Allan. At the time, the husband was considered the head of the household, and his decisions were mostly unquestioned. There was a family hierarchy and we often see this in the size and height of gravestones. The second Mrs. Allan’s grave is the same size and stature (actually, it looks a little bit larger in this picture) of her husband’s, most likely because she outlived him by decades. 

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