Elmira Shelton House

Edgar Allan Poe's Richmond/Elmira Shelton House
Poe Museum
Written By Poe Museum

The Poe Museum, located in Richmond, Virginia, interprets the life and influence of Edgar Allan Poe for the education and enjoyment of a global audience.

History of the House

Built in 1844, this was the home of the woman to whom Poe was engaged, both when he was 17 and when he was 40. Their first engagement was broken off by her father while Poe was attending the University of Virginia. Mr. Royster intercepted and destroyed Poe’s letters to her and convinced Elmira that Poe had forgotten about her. Elmira soon engaged herself to Alexander Barrett Shelton. After Shelton’s early death, Elmira rented this house on Church Hill across Grace Street from Saint John’s Church. Her brothers also lived nearby on Grace Street. ​

Life Without Poe

Royster finally married Alexander B. Shelton when she was 17. Her family preferred Shelton, who was a man of means, to Poe, who carried gambling debt and was trying to make a living through his writing. Shelton died leaving her and their four children a sizable inheritance stipulating that she'd lose a portion if she remarried. ​

A Chance for True Love

When Poe returned to Richmond in 1848 and 1849, he began to visit Shelton regularly, much to the disapproval of both her brothers and her children. Her son Southall and daughter Ann mocked Poe behind his back and begged their mother not to marry him. However, by the end of September, Elmira had agreed to marry Poe, and they set the wedding date for October 17, after his return from a business trip to Philadelphia. Poe never reached Philadelphia but died in Baltimore ten days before the ceremony would have taken place. ​

Murderous Rumors

A rumor eventually suggested that Mrs. Shelton’s brothers had beaten Poe and that his injuries had caused his early death. Although this story appeared in the United States Magazine in 1857, the theory was never widely accepted, and the cause of Poe’s death remains a mystery.​

Cover photo credit: Epousesquecido via Wikimedia.

Edgar Allan Poe's Richmond

Elmira Shelton House

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