Eddie Poe's young reality.
It is a cold December 8, 1811. On January 19th you will be three years old. You are standing at the foot of the bed looking at your dead mother. She seems to be sleeping but you heard one of the ladies say she was dead. You have heard of dead and you don’t like it. It scares you. You do not understand but you know it is bad. Dead is where the demons live. A demon is the worst thing there is. A demon could eat you.
Your brother is not here. Your sister has been taken away and you are alone, all alone. You loved Mum and you can’t understand why she would go and die and leave you. Ladies are walking around talking about you to other ladies in whispers. You are terribly afraid. Suddenly there are tears in your throat. Your chest aches. Your heart is turning to stone. It’s The demons. They are squeezing your heart. They are going to make you dead and eat you.
A nice smelling lady takes your hand and says, "Of course you are sad little one. Go ahead and cry Eddie. We are all sad at losing your wonderful and talented mother." You cannot cry. This nice lady does not know about The Demons, but she took your hand just in time. She saved you.
"Come with me child." She does not smell like Mum did, it is not such a sweet scent. Her hand is cold. You are in a nice carriage and she has tucked you under her arm and covered you with a warm blanket. It feels good. You want to sleep now. The Demons have left and your heart is no longer so heavy. You believe however, a demon left a tiny stone as there is still a distant ache.
You are off to enjoy the benefits of a rich man’s life. Both you and your sister Rosalie were taken in by neighbors in a well-to-do section of town. Your memory of Mum will quickly fade from you but The Demons will come around still bringing death.
One day the open buggy trotted past a cemetery where you had learned the dead people live. The Demons caused you to have tremors and upset you for the rest of the day. Your mother Fanny could not understand what had happened to her young lad and marked it off to your being more sensitive than most children, but you know why you carry fear, it is The Demons. They will leave another stone in your heart when your brother dies and another when your sister dies. That makes three stones and more death is to come. They are waiting around taking their time, but they shall come for you too one day before you get old.
Your early years were all any child could wish for, but of course you did not realize that. Your mother, Fannie and her sister Nancy doted upon you to the point Pa would speak to them about making you a sissy. They bathed and freshly clothed you every day. Your food was the best of the times. Pa complained of not being fortunate to have a good education so he was determined to enable you to have the benefit of the education he missed.
Being Scottish and a merchant, he valued learning the ledger, mathematics, reading and the mastery of language. You never were formally adopted, but in the early years Pa called you “Son” and so treated you. He was on a mission to give you the best and wished the best for you. Will you disappoint him terribly? Well unfortunately you will. Did he teach you the wonders of drink and frivolity as a child? Yes he most certainly did. Did drink, gambling and frivolity bring you down in Pa’s eyes? Did Pa, being Scottish, not give you enough money to get through school? Well that was your excuse for gambling, anyway. Did your lavish lifestyle, as a boy, cause it to be impossible for you to hunker down with a tight budget?
Did the young life of having no responsibility except to make good at school, deter you from wanting employment of consequence? Sadly these problems brought about an unhappy split between yourself and Pa, who was no longer “Pa” but “Sir”. It seemed John Allan could take out his heart and put it in his pocket, only using it from time to time. After your disappointing actions while away getting the education promised, John Allan never took his heart out of his pocket for you again.
It was in your genes to be an entertainer or performer. You migrated toward becoming a wordsmith and soaked up the teachings from your tutors, one of which noted your natural bent for poetry when only five years old. Knowing how to speak and becoming an author was a form of entertainment. Again, entertainment was your birthright. You started well by being a Toastmaster for Pa at age five.
Against all odds you chose to become a poet, despite the fact that none of the great writers of your time could earn a living on their writing talent alone. You chose writing for a living, which was more difficult than your parents who chose acting for a living. While it was a noble desire it was a terrible choice for the times.
It was that choice which was the final break between Eddie and John Allan. Many think of John Allan as being an ogre and casting away Eddie, however there is another side to that thought. Eddie played a large hand in his future. John Allan could not stand the thought of all the fine educational exposures he had given Eddie. The finest tailored clothes, the finest schools, even when John was having a cash problem. Then having the boy turn out to be such an ingrate and cast it all away to become a poet was just more than the man could stomach.
You are headed for all the benefits that could be bestowed upon you by a wealthy family. You shall travel across the sea to begin your education in Europe where the history of mankind is everywhere and civilization is at its peak.
John Allan, the man Eddie was to refer to as Pa, was a gregarious Scotsman who enjoyed giving parties and establishing himself in society. Being a Scotsman and merchant he watched his ledgers carefully, thus he was never extravagant with money; however he considered his social gatherings a good will promotion for his import and tobacco business.
He was a handsome sort and enjoyed charming the ladies. This led to other joys with the ladies. John and Fanny had been married seven years when Fanny discovered John had fathered an illegitimate boy, also a girl. Thus she had no problem in getting John to go along with bringing Eddie into the family. It became obvious Fanny would remain barren. It also was during this period that he ceased to pay for the illegitimate son’s education. He had been discovered, thus he coldly ceased educational support. This coldness by John Allan about money would trouble Eddie in years to come. In the early years, Eddie benefited beyond his understanding of how fortunate he really was. These were the good times; however when you are raised with everything you could need and make no effort to earn these privileges you are not being prepared to sail alone.
“Ma, when are you and Aunt Nancy going to quit bathing me? I want to bathe myself.” “Well Eddie, I never thought of it, dear. Are you telling me you do not like to bathe?” “No I do not mother. When I have to stand up, it makes me feel like everyone is watching me naked. I dream about being naked and folks see me and laugh. I don’t feel right when Aunt Nancy washes me and it makes me feel funny.”
“Alright Eddie, from now on you can bathe yourself, but I will have to check behind your ears and you will have to promise me to use soap everywhere, on your hair and face; wash well under your arms and your behind and your privates, alright? When you wash your behind and your privates you must stand up to make sure the soap gets everywhere. For a while I will check you very carefully.” “Does Aunt Nancy have to see me naked?” No dear, not since it seems to bother you.”
“You know how much your father enjoys your being the toastmaster of his dinner parties. We both would be horrified if you were not clean.” “Yes Ma.”
Eddie was almost six and quite glib for a boy his age. John Allan was a people person. He and his stepmother Fanny loved to entertain. Accordingly Mr. Allan was quite proud to call upon his son Edgar for a toast.
Eddie was dressed perfectly. His glass of port held high, he bestowed the group with his talented verbosity. Eddie never failed to get applause after he drank and smacked his lips as if to appreciate the quality of the wine. He liked that glass of wine as it made him feel warm toward father’s friends, who fawned over him and occasionally gave him another glass. The second glass made Eddie drunk and while that was a source for humor for the guests, he tottered off to bed, feeling a bit unsettled and not at all well the next morning. Of course, no one thought a glass or two of wine would have any effect upon Eddie; however drink never suited Eddie’s physical being.
In early June, 1815, Eddie learned he would be sailing to London. “Ma, why do we have to go to London? I like it fine here.” “We all like it here dear, however your father intends to open an office in Europe and we will be there quite some time I’m afraid.” “You don’t want to go either, Ma?” “Well Eddie, Aunt Nancy and I like it here also; however it will be a wonderful opportunity for you to get a well rounded education and learn about other parts of the world. We both love you so very much and we take heart in the fact that this trip will be of great benefit to you. Of course we all need Father to prosper so we can continue to enjoy our present lifestyle. We are all fortunate your father is a good provider.”
“Pa, how long are we going to be on the boat?” “It is referred to as a ship, son. We will be under sail a month.” “That sounds like a long time Pa. I don’t think I like this trip. Ma doesn’t want to go and neither does Aunt Nancy.”
“Son, you and your mother and Nancy need to be thinking about seeing other parts of the world and enjoying the nice things my business earns for our family. I didn’t get the education I am seeing you get, yet I am proud of my accomplishments. This business is being built larger so we may have nice things, and this trip is necessary in order to keep earning money, Eddie. When you get older you will understand more about what one must do in order not to be poor, like so many folks we see. Well, I guess your life is a bit different. You hardly ever see the poor side of life.”
The ship, Lothair was a double deck passenger sailing ship built near Boston in 1810. She was built of white oak with pine sides. She had been making her scheduled trips for five years, half of her life expectancy. John Allan was ready. He had arranged with his partner to sell one of the slaves and rent out the others. He had sold the family furniture and arranged for the family stores and luggage to be brought aboard.
The Allan family would board the pilot boat at the dock the following day. They would board June, 22nd 1815. The trip would last 36 days. They rode the pilot boat to the Lothair which took more than an hour. The pilot boat was rather small and the waters were choppy. The sea spray was quite abundant and one had to hold on to keep ones seating..
From this time on, Fanny would remain continuously ill. Her sister Nancy also was uncomfortable a good bit of the time. All of them, except John, were seasick for about three days. The Lothair was in choppy seas and intermittent weather for half of the voyage. The passengers remained in their cabins often during the day and were anxious to arrive at Liverpool.
There would be a different life for the Allan family the next thirty-six days; living in a tiny cabin, unable to have fine food prepared and being waited upon by the house slaves as they had been used to for years. As was customary they had brought their own stores and would do their own food preparation, which was a problem right from the start.
Immediately after boarding John Allan sought out Captain Stone. “Captain Stone, I arranged passage on your ship with the express understanding there would be sufficient sleeping arrangements and cooking facilities. We only have three births while there are four of us. Additionally there is not as much as a place to boil a slice of bacon. Your steward must have given us the wrong cabin.”
“Sir you purchased quarters for three adults and there was no mention of cooking facilities. If you expected more you should have been more specific. We did not charge you for the child and accordingly we do not furnish separate sleeping quarters for those who pay no fare.” We can accommodate you with a way to cook, however we shall charge for that. As for additional sleeping, there is nothing I can do. There is only the cabin deck for sleeping I’m afraid.”
John was thoroughly irritated and marked Captain Stone down as extremely cheap. It must be noted however, that John Allan was also penurious and this is most likely why he did not get exactly what he wished. He loved Eddie enough however to see he got one of the three bunks while he himself took to the cabin deck for a bed. He stemmed his anger by writing the owners of the vessel complaining of sleeping on the cabin deck.
The Lothair was a bit over 300 tons. Therefore it was not as smooth a sail as a heaver ship would be and a choppy sea was with them the entire journey. The two women were never so happy to see the shore. It was immediately to a hot bath as soon as possible, thinking they never would wash away the smell of being only partially clean. John however, seemed to enjoy the trip as did Edgar. Being young and well mannered he was a favorite of many of the passengers, which delighted John.
It was a terribly hot day in July when the Lothair docked at Liverpool.