Edgar Allan Poe Becomes Engaged to Sarah Elmira Royster

August 1849
Engaged Again
Poe travels to Richmond and convinces his childhood sweetheart, Elmira Royster Shelton, to become his fiancée. He joins the Sons of Temperance, an organization that forbids drinking (sort of like a nineteenth-century equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous). The next month, Poe travels to Baltimore.

Increasingly unstable after his wife's death, Poe attempted to court the poet Sarah Helen Whitman, who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. Their engagement failed, purportedly because of Poe's drinking and erratic behavior. However, there is also strong evidence that Whitman's mother intervened and did much to derail their relationship. Poe then returned to Richmond and resumed a relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster.

By 1848, Poe's child-bride Virginia had also died, and he called on Elmira while visiting Richmond. She attended some of his lectures and performances, and the two renewed their relationship, despite the resistance of her children, and despite the provisions of Alexander Shelton's will. (Also, despite Poe's largely undeserved reputation as a heavy drinker). When Poe left Richmond on September 27, 1849, he was expecting to return soon for his marriage to Elmira. However, he was to die in Baltimore on October 7 under circumstances that remain mysterious. Elmira never remarried, and for many years denied that she was ever engaged to Poe; she was, however, to admit everything to Poe's physician, Dr. John Joseph Moran, in 1884. The truth had still long been generally known, and she was commonly called "Poe's Leonore" in Richmond for the rest of her life. Her obituary in the Richmond "Whig" referred to her as "Poe's first and last love". Just which of the many ladies Poe knew over the years he addressed his poetry to is a matter of controversy among scholars; by general consensus, several of the poems, including "Song", in the 1827 "Tamerlane and Other Poems", Poe's first published work, are about Elmira. Many authorities contend that Elmira was the "lost Leonore" of Poe's 1845 magnum opus "The Raven", and the "Annabel Lee" of the 1849 (posthumously published) work of that name. Today, Elmira's house on East Grace Street in Richmond is a National Historic Landmark.