December 2012 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Poe's Engagement Ring For Sale

It's no secret that Edgar Allan Poe had a murky romantic life. Anyone who has taken American Lit 101 knows that he married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. But she wasn't his first love or his last. Elmira Royster Sheldon holds both honors, and it was to this lady that the engagement ring engraved "Edgar" belonged. Elmira and Edgar were childhood sweethearts, but when he left for the University of Virginia, her parents married her off to someone wealthier. Meeting again after the deaths of her husband and his wife, the two rekindled their romance, and Poe presented her with this ring. Alas, he died under mysterious circumstances before the wedding day. Next week, the simple gold band, with attending correspondence, photographic portraits, and a lock of Poe's hair, will be for sale.

PoeLots.jpgThe Poe lot is one of 299 lots of historical and literary manuscripts from the 'Property of a Distinguished American Private Collector' being auctioned by Profiles in History, the California auction house run by Syfy star Joe Maddalena. The breadth and quality of the material is sure to draw serious collectors to what will be the grande finale of rare book and document auctions for 2012. There are incredible letters from John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Thomas Paine; an archive in the hand of the 'Birdman of Alcatraz;' a rare four-page Van Gogh letter; and at least one good example from what seems like every canonical American author from Alcott to Whitman. Some of the documents haven't been on the market since the seventies and eighties and were previously in the pedigree collections of Estelle Doheny and Philip D. Sang.

One wonders how the Poe ring, estimated at $30,000-50,000, will compare to Jane Austen's ring, which sold earlier this year in London for $236,557? Like that treasured piece, the Poe ring has remained in the family all these years. This is its first appearance at auction.

The auction will take place on December 18 in Calabasas Hills, CA*. A second auction--Part II of the Property of a Distinguished American Private Collector--is schedule for May of next year.
*An earlier post was incorrect about the location of this auction. It is in California, not New York City, as first reported.