Edgar Allan Poe was descended on his father's side from a Revolutionary hero, General David Poe. The Poes were a good family of Baltimore, where many of them still live as prominent citizens. It is said that General Poe was descended from one of Cromwell's officers, who received grants of land in Ireland. One of the poet's ancestors, John Poe, emigrated from Ireland to Pennsylvania; and from there the Poes went to Maryland. General Poe was an ardent patriot both before and during the Revolution.
General Poe's son David, the eldest, was not much like his father. In Baltimore he enjoyed himself with his friends and played at amateur theatricals with the Thespian Club. He was supposed to be studying law. For this purpose he went to live with an uncle in Augusta, Georgia; but his father soon heard that he had given up law to become an actor. General Poe was very angry and after that allowed the young man to shift for himself.
Edgar Allan Poe's mother was an English actress, whose mother had also been an actress. She was born at sea, and as she went with her mother on her travels from town to town, naturally the daughter learned the mother's art as a means of self-support, and in time became very successful.
At seventeen, her mother having married again, Elizabeth Arnold, for that was her name, was thrown upon her own resources. She joined a Philadelphia company, and remained with it for the next four years. In June, 1802, she acted in Baltimore, and perhaps it was there that David Poe, Jr., first saw her. She was pretty and gay, yet a good girl and a very fine actress.
She soon married a young Mr. Hopkins, who had been playing with the company, and for the following two years the young couple lived in Virginia. It was then that David Poe, Jr., having left his uncle's home at Augusta and gone on the stage in Charleston, joined the same company. He was not a very good actor; and he never rose to a high place in his profession.
In the following year Mr. Hopkins died, and a few months later young
David Poe married Mrs. Hopkins, who had been Elizabeth Arnold.
Mr. and Mrs. David Poe were now husband and wife, and very poor, as most actors are. Soon after their marriage they went to Boston, and remained for some years. There Edgar Poe, their second son, was born, January 19, 1809.
While Edgar was still a little child his parents went to Richmond, Virginia, to fill an engagement in the theater there. Misfortune followed them. His father died in poverty, and his mother did not survive him long. Edgar and his brother and sister were thus left penniless orphans. But good friends took care of them.
Edgar was adopted by a Mrs. Allan, the wife of a wealthy man in the city of Richmond. She was very fond of the bright little boy, and as long as she lived he had a good home. He was petted and spoiled; but those were almost the only years of his life when he had plenty of money. He was very fond of his adoptive mother, and held her memory dear to the day of his death. He was now known as Edgar Allan.