Edgar Allan Poe’s Lock of Hair: The Extraordinary Story of a Memento Mori
Due to his fame, a piece of Poe became an object of desire.
A writer such as Edgar Allan Poe deserves an extraordinary story. Perhaps not quite like the ones that he wrote (because in his case the work is, in a sense, greater than the man himself), but at least one that contains eccentricity, mystery and even perhaps a certain comedy.
This was unexpectedly achieved by a lock of his hair, and whose story began on the day of his death, when one of his nieces, Elizabeth Rebecca Herring, standing by his deathbed, cut some of his hair according to the tradition of the time.
From then on the lock of hair had its own kind of destiny, as despite the fact that at the beginning it was a memento mori, a family relic by which to remember the deceased, Poe’s fame meant that that extension of his body became an object of desire. Collectors, for example, saw something that they wanted to have in their display cases, while museums and public and private cultural institutions and fans of Poe fought to get their hands on the lock.
But randomness also plays a role in this story. If not, how could it be explained that just thirty years ago a woman found the lock of air behind a framed copy of a portrait of Poe painted by Oscar Halling?
The analyses are not conclusive, however, above all because there is no direct line of descent with which to compare the genetic material and identification is based on a crossover of documental information, above all letters among Poe’s relatives.
But in any case, the story of the lock of hair is a kind of homage, as comic as it is mysterious, that would have no doubt amused Poe.
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