Frances Sargent Osgood – June 18, 1811 – May 12, 1850
Frances Osgood, known as “Fanny”, was one of the most popular and prolific poets of the early nineteenth century. Born, raised, and educated in Boston, Fanny found initial success, having some of her earliest works published at the age of fourteen. It was just a few years subsequent that she met and married a portrait painted by the name of Samuel Osgood. The couple relocated to England where Fanny continued to enjoy literary success even as she entered motherhood with the birth of her first daughter, Ellen Frances in 1838.
The death of her father the following year brought the family back stateside and by the summer of 1839, a second daughter, May Vincent, joined the Osgood family. Even with the demands of full time motherhood, Fanny continued to write and publish and by the time the family resettled in New York City, her career had become so successful that her personal life had begun to suffer and as such, she and Samuel separated (though never divorced.)
In 1845 she met Edgar Allen Poe (married at the time) and the two began a close and flirtatious public relationship that included personal letters and poems written to one another. Their relationship caused such a public scandal that accusations that Fanny’s third child was Poe’s rather than Samuel’s . The child did not survive infancy. Samuel came to his wife’s aid demanding that those leveling the accusations offer public apology which the Osgood family received though the damage had been done. The family moved to Philadelphia to escape the trauma done by the Osgood / Poe relationship though by that time Fanny was so sick with tuberculosis that she would die by 1850 at the young age of 38. Both her daughters would succumb to the disease within a year of their mother’s death. Below are some of the poems exchanged by Osgood and Poe.
Your heart is a music-box, dearest!
With exquisite tunes at command,
Of melody sweetest and clearest,
If tried by a delicate hand;
But its workmanship, love, is so fine,
At a single rude touch it would break;
Then, oh! be the magic key mine,
Its fairy-like whispers to wake.
And there ’s one little tune it can play,
That I fancy all others above,—
You learned it of Cupid one day,—
It begins with and ends with “I love!” “I love!”
My heart echoes to it “I love!”
-Frances Sargent Locke Osgood
For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda,
Shall find her own sweet name, that nestling lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly the lines! — they hold a treasure
Divine — a talisman — an amulet
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure —
The words — the syllables! Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a sabre,
If one could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus
Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets — as the name is a poet’s, too,
Its letters, although naturally lying
Like the knight Pinto — Mendez Ferdinando —
Still form a synonym for Truth — Cease tryng!
You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you can do.
-Edgar Allen Poe