Brooch with a lock of Poe’s hair

Brooch with a lock of Poe’s hair Koester Poe Collection, Harry Ransom Center 1849

Just before leaving Richmond in February 1826 to attend the University of Virginia, Poe became engaged to Elmira Royster, a young woman who lived in the Allan family’s neighborhood. Royster’s father opposed the match and intercepted the letters Poe wrote to her from the university, ending the courtship. In the summer of 1849, Poe traveled to Richmond hoping to convince Elmira Royster Shelton, by then a wealthy widow, to marry him. He went to great lengths to convince her that he had never stopped loving her, even asking Maria Clemm to fabricate a letter supporting his claim. Although a romantic relationship appears to have developed, it is unclear whether there was any formal arrangement between Poe and Shelton. In his deathbed delirium, he claimed to have a wife in Richmond; Shelton later said that they had not even been engaged. Poe gave Shelton this brooch.