Friday, May 8, 2009

John Allan's will, part 2

When John Allan died on March 27, 1834, the Richmond Enquirer referred to him as "one of the worthiest citizens of Richmond... — and none was better known, none more highly respected — distinguished for his humanity, his hospitality, his attachment to his friends, his devotion to his family."

At the Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery for Henrico County, located within the Capitol in Richmond, John Allan's will was probated on May 8, 1834. Allan had struggled with his will for years — perhaps admirably. Despite two marriages, he had an affair on the side which produced at least two children (twins, in fact). The hard decision for him was whether to provide for them or not (he had likely given them at least some money throughout is life). In the final version of his will, Allan left money to the family of his first wife ("three hundred dollars annually" to his sister-in-law Ann Moore Valentine throughout "her natural life") and for "his fault" (his euphemism for his illegitimate children with Elizabeth Wills) he offered one-fifth of his estate or $4000 each when they reached 21 years old.

Though Allan claimed that his second wife (now widow) Louisa Patterson Allan knew all about his illegitimate children, she did not seem pleased with the now public admission of Allan's "fault." She renounced all her rights under the will and instead chose to take her share under the intestate law — meaning that she asked the court to pretend a will never existed. Concerned for Allan's three legitimate children with her, Louisa seems to have ensured that his illegitimate children earned nothing at all. I have not been able to determine how much of this information got to the public, if Allan suffered any posthumous social vilification, etc.

Allan's foster-son, Edgar Poe, of course, was left nothing in this will, or through intestate law. Some biographers have speculated that Louisa Allan's animosity towards her husband's old life prevented his concern for Poe. However, Allan's disinterest in Poe started much earlier. Allan for years had perceived an ingratitude from Poe — whether or not this is true is irrelevant because the perception alone was enough.

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