The Museum Collection
Lock of Eliza White's Hair
Description:Rumors linked Poe with Eliza White, the daughter of Poe's employer, Thomas White, the owner of the Southern Literary Messenger. In 1835, Poe dedicated his poem "Lines Written in an Album: To Elizabeth" to her, though he had previously written it for his cousin Elizabeth. Mr. White is said to have discouraged their relationship, and Poe married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, instead.
The donor of this piece, Tula D. Pendleton, acquired it from Miss Bell Lynes, a niece of Thomas White. Lynes was given the lock by Eliza White. When interviewed by Pendleton for a 1906 article "Some Memories of Poe" in Bob Taylor's Magazine, Lynes recalled seeing Poe and Eliza White at a party at Thomas White's house and that those present remarked on what an attractive couple Eliza and Edgar were. She continued, "Mr. Poe was the most enthusiastic dancer I ever saw, although he remained cold and calm, showing his delight only in his eyes." Though Lynes recalled that Eliza rarely spoke of Poe, she cryptically added "Eliza never married." During the interview, Lynes held this lock of hair against her own white hair to show the interviewer the similarity in shade.
A friend of Poe's Susan Archer Talley Weiss, described Eliza White as a "slender, graceful blonde" reminding one of the "Watteau shepperdesses" painted on fans. No picture of Eliza White is known to survive. According to Lynes, the one owned by the White family was destroyed in a fire.