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Hair Apparent

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Saving the hair of a loved one, a long-held tradition, is evident in the lives of the Romantic poets and the broader society. Mary Shelley’s mother, the feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, died shortly after giving birth to the future author of Frankenstein; as a remembrance, Mary Shelley’s father, William Godwin, preserved locks of his wife’s hair. Later, they were made into a necklace adorned with two lockets, each of which contained hair, with the initials “MWS” (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) and “PBS” (Percy Bysshe Shelley). Before Lord Byron’s daughter Allegra — her mother was Mary Shelley’s stepsister Claire Clairmont — died at age five, she wrote her father a letter from the Italian convent where she lived. The correspondence included locks of the child’s blond hair. Wagner’s album contains several samples of hair, adorned with ribbons, which have been secured to the pages.