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In 1811, a penniless actress dies in Richmond, Virginia after a long illness, and her young son, Edgar Poe, is taken in by the beautiful, childless Frances Allan. Frances is delighted with her foster son, who is renamed Edgar Allan Poe, but her husband, rich merchant John Allan, becomes jealous of the attention Frances lavishes on Edgar. Time does not improve Poe and Allan's relationship, but the boy's devotion to his foster mother never wavers, even at age twelve when he falls in love with a schoolmate, Elmira Royster. Years later, on the eve of Poe's departure for the University of Virginia, Poe and Elmira declare their love for each other. At the same time, however, Allan tells Elmira's father that he has no intention of making Poe his legal heir, prompting Mr. Royster to forbid Elmira's marriage to Poe. At the university, Poe spends his days writing, drinking and gambling and soon is in debt. Thomas Jefferson, the university president and former U.S. President, tries to encourage Poe and counsels him to be diplomatic with Allan, who wants Poe to stop wasting his time on literature. Poe confronts Allan, who refuses to cover his debts or continue paying his tuition unless he studies law. Poe refuses, and after discovering that Elmira is engaged to another man, leaves Richmond. He publishes his first book of poetry, but finally, hungry and bitter, joins the army and persuades Allan to get him an appointment to West Point. Poe fails there as well, however, and goes to Baltimore to visit his father's sister, Mariah Clemm. There Poe meets his shy, naïve cousin Virginia and falls in love with her. More of his poems are published, leading to two job offers to edit literary magazines. Poe chooses the job located in Richmond to prove to Allan and Elmira that he does not need them anymore. Frances dies before Poe can return, however, and heartbroken, he devotes himself to Virginia, whom he marries, and to changing copyright laws to protect authors. At a ball one evening, Poe encounters Elmira, who tells him that her father left her no choice but to marry someone else. Later, Poe's drinking increases, and after one of his frequent binges, he quits his job when the magazine owner, T. W. White, castigates him for neglecting his work. Poe then takes Virginia and Mariah to Philadelphia, where he becomes the editor of another magazine, and at first they are very content, especially when Charles Dickens visits the magazine's office and praises Poe's writings. Soon, however, Poe's persistence in fighting the copyright laws and in drinking result in the loss of his job. Virginia loves him nonetheless and encourages him to keep writing. Poe becomes frantic when Virginia's health fails, for they have no money for medicine, and takes his latest poem, "The Raven," to Mr. Griswold of the Broadway Journal . Griswold refuses to buy it though, after a group of printers listen to a reading of it and do not like it. The printers nevertheless raise some money with which Poe buys food for Virginia, but it is too late and she dies. After her death, Poe sinks deeper into despair and becomes a complete drunkard. He finally collapses and is taken to a Baltimore hospital, where he dies while speaking of Virginia.