The Museum Collection

Copy of Edgar Allan Poe Sketch of Elmira Royster

ID #:
Creator: Nora Houston (after Edgar Allan Poe)
Date: ca.1920 (Original ca. 1826)
Format: Pencil on Paper
Dimensions: 14" x 11"
Source: Gift of James Whitty
Collection: Poe Foundation, Inc.
Place of Publication:
Publish Date:


Elmira Royster became engaged to Edgar Allan Poe before he left Richmond to attend the University of Virginia in 1826. During Poe's absence, Royster's father intercepted Poe's letters to her in order to break the engagement. In 1828, Royster married Alexander Shelton, instead. This copy was made from one of at least two drawings Poe made of Royster. According to one of his letters, which may not be entirely reliable, Poe kept one of the drawings until around 1847, when he claims it was lost after he showed it to his friend Eliza White. According to the inscription on the present drawing, the original was procured by Charles G. Barney of Richmond directly from Elmira Royster Shelton. The artist, Nora Houston later recalled the original drawing was about the size of a silver dollar. The present whereabouts of the original are unknown.

This copy of Poe's drawing was made around 1920 by Richmond artist Nora Huston (1883-1942). Houston studied at the Art Students League under William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri before continuting her studies in Paris. She returned to Richmond in 1909 and was an active artist and suffragette. She was instumental in the founding of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the League of Women Voters, and the Child Labor Council.

Poe collector James H. Whitty commissioned this drawing and presented it to the Poe Museum.