Poe Places: A Historical Journey in the Footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe: London, England

It’s taken me several years thus far to travel up and down the East Coast in search of the places entwined with the history of poet and writer, Edgar Allan Poe. His works have been such an inspiration to my own pen and he birthed my love of poetry and the detective story. So it makes absolute logical sense to travel up and down the coast to follow in the footsteps of a dead guy from 300 years ago right? Right.

Edgar was born in Boston, Massachusetts to David and Elizabeth Poe. He had two siblings, older brother Henry and younger sister Rosalie. The children, at a young age, found themselves parentless as their father abandoned them and at the age of three, Edgar’s mother, a then actress in Richmond, Virginia, died of tuberculosis. The children were then separated. Henry was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Boston, Rosalie to the McKenzie’s of Richmond and Edgar was adopted by John and Frances Allan, also of Richmond, Virginia.

While the places I have visited thus far are all of importance and have their own individual connection to Poe, they are not in any historical order and notably the states of New York and Massachusetts I have yet to visit. Today’s adventure, however, takes me to a place I’ve desired to visit for as long as I can remember and it may have a little or everything to do with a certain bear who loves marmalade.

A little after four years of being adopted by John and Frances Allan, the family moved to England where six year old Edgar would eventually spend the next five years of his life. The family began their journey in Liverpool, traveling to Scotland to visit family members before settling in London. Within those five years, the family moved around quite a bit, living in the Bloomsbury district of London where Poe attended a boarding school in the nearby district of Chelsea for three years and then finally during his last two years across the pond, attended Reverend John Bransby’s Manor School in the small town of Stoke Newington. It is here that I ventured to walk in his footsteps.

While the actual boarding school has long since been demolished, today at N16 Stoke Newington, Church Street, 172 (this was challenging to keep straight in my head to say correctly to the incredibly kind cab driver) two memorials rest. One is that of a bust of Poe commissioned by the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Prague in 2011 as well as a brown plaque produced by the London Borough of Hackney of that same year.

As with every place that Poe has notably spent time in, it is presumed that such place influenced and inspired his writing. It is known Poe frequented the British Museum and is thought perhaps where his interest and creative imagination with science began. As well, he also likely visited the Tower of London where he would have had a glimpse of the famous (albeit clipped wings) ravens. Several of his works are set in London including The Fall of the House of Usher and Ligeia, The Balloon Hoax, and a lesser known romantic comedy, (yes, you read that correctly, a comedy) A Succession of Sunday’s.

“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 indefinable 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…..”

Edgar Allan Poe describing Stoke Newington

Londoners are quite proud of their place in Poe history and two significant connections with Britain are that of a brass telescope that John Allan purchased for Edgar while in London, which is now housed in the collection at the Poe House in Baltimore, Maryland. Additionally, of a literary significance, it was The Library of the British Museum that discovered the first known copy of Poe’s first collection of poetry, Tamerlane.

telescope gifted to Edgar Allan Poe from John Allan while residing in London and as it sits today at the Poe House of Baltimore.

Thanks for reading and if you’ve stumbled upon my journey for the first time, you can read here to see where I have been thus far in my now ten years and counting adventures of following in the footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe.

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