The Lady Loves of Edgar Allen Poe

Having zipped through Peter Ackroyd’s Poe: A Life Cut Short, I am wading through the last pages, sad to find myself near the end. Edgar Allen Poe was a very confused individual, but he certainly romanced quite a few women. They are here in order:


Edgar Allen Poe married his cousin, Virginia, pictured above immediately after death. She married him when she was 13 and he, 26. No one knows for sure if this marriage was ever consummated. She died of tuberculosis. He infamously traduced her memory after her death. On her deathbed, Virginia claimed that Ellet, pictured below, had killed her.

300px-Elizabeth_Ellet_croppedElizabeth Ellet wrote romantic poetry as well as The Women of the American Revolution, published in 1845. She was involved in a romantic scandal involving herself, Edgar Allen Poe, and a Bostonian poet named Frances Sargent Osgood, pictured below:

Frances Osgood

For some reason, Virginia Clemm Poe had no objection to Frances Osgood, whom she invited many times to their home. After Virginia died, Edgar Allen Poe fell in love simultaneously with two women (again): Annie Richmond, who was married, and Sarah Helen Whitman, who was a widow. He courted them in two different incarnations of himself, Eddie for Annie (the first), and Edgar for Sarah (in a hat, under Annie):

Annie Richmond

Sarah Helen Whitman

Helen Whitman took care of her aged mother, who seemed to see through Edgar’s continual hysterics. When the marriage to Helen and the romance with Annie fell through, Edgar managed to pull himself together. In the last year of his life, he wrote “The Bells” and “Annabel Lee” and refound a childhood sweetheart,  Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton, shown as a girl and then a grown woman:


Elmira Shelton

He would have liked to marry Mrs. Shelton, but her children opposed the match and “her dead husband had bequeathed the estate to her on condition that she did not remarry” (Ackroyd). While waxing poetic for Mrs. Shelton, he nursed his poor broken heart over Annie Richmond. Apparently Mrs. Shelton was willing to consider throwing everything to the winds for Poe. If not for his strange death, there might really have been a marriage (?) between Edgar and some poor new woman whom he could torment.