Friday, January 20, 2012

Nathaniel Parker Willis Introduces Poe to Frances Sargent Osgood 1845

Heres a virtual movie of Frances Sargent Osgood (née Locke) (June 18, 1811 -- May 12, 1850) who was an American poet and one of the most popular women writers during her timeNicknamed "Fanny," she was also famous for her exchange of romantic poems with Edgar Allan Poe. Here she briefly discusses her thoughts on first meeting Edgar Allan Poe. The dialogue used in this virtual movie is based upon what she actually wrote.

Poetry Animations

Relationship with Poe

In February 1845, Poe gave a lecture in New York in which he criticized American poetry, especially that of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He made special mention, however, of Osgood, saying she had "a rosy future" in literature. Though she missed the lecture, she wrote to her friend, saying Poe was "called the severest critic of the day," making his compliment that much more impressive.

It is believed Poe and Osgood first met in person when introduced by Nathaniel Parker Willis in March 1845 when Osgood had been separated from (but not divorced from) her husband. Poe's wife Virginia was still alive, but in ill health. Poe may have been attracted to Osgood because they were both born in Boston and possibly due to her childlike qualities which were similar to Virginia's. She may have already been in an early stage of tuberculosis, just like Virginia

Poe used his role as one-third owner of the Broadway Journal to print some of Osgood's poems, including some flirtatious ones. Poe responded with published poems of his own, occasionally under his pseudonym of Edgar T. S. Grey. Most notable is his poem "A Valentine." The poem is actually a riddle which conceals Osgood's name, found by taking letter 1 from line 1, letter 2 from line 2, and so on. Despite these passionate interchanges, the relationship between Poe and Osgood is often considered purely platonic.

Oddly, Poe's wife Virginia approved of the relationship and often invited Osgood to visit their home. Virginia believed their friendship had a "restraining" effect on her husband. Poe had given up alcohol to impress Osgood, for example. Virginia may also have been aware of her own impending death and was looking for someone who would take care of Poe. Osgood's husband Samuel also did not object, apparently used to his wife's impetuous behavior; he himself had a reputation as a philanderer. Others, however, were not as supportive; Osgood and Poe were widely criticized and harassed for their relationship.

Fellow poet Elizabeth F. Ellet, whose affection Poe had scorned, spread rumors about Poe and Osgood's friendship, even contacting Virginia about alleged improprieties. Ellet even suggested that Osgood's third child, Fanny Fay, was not her husband's but Poe's. Fanny Fay was born in June 1846 but died in October. Poe biographer Kenneth Silverman says the possibility of Poe as Fanny Fay's father is "possible but most unlikely." Osgood, in an attempt to protect her public character, sent Margaret Fuller and Anne Lynch to request Poe return her personal letters to him to be destroyed. In July 1846 Osgood's husband Samuel demanded Ellet apologize to his wife, lest he sue her for defamation. Ellet responded in a letter, retracted her statements, and put the blame on Poe and his wife Virginia. Osgood and Poe did not interact after 1847.

Poe was not the only man to engage in literary flirtation with Osgood. Several men wrote of their affection for her, including Rufus Wilmot Griswold, to whom Osgood dedicated a book of poetry. She also wrote a Valentine poem that mingled her own name with Griswold's. The competition between Griswold and Poe for Osgood may have led to their infamous rivalry, best exemplified in Griswold's character assassination of Poe after Poe's death.

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