“Fanny’s First Smile” by Frances Sargent Osgood

by Ann Neilson

This was most likely written for Osgood’s daughter, Fanny Fay, who was born in June of 1846, and died in October of 1847. It is an endearing tribute to the early steps of infancy and motherhood and gives us a glimpse into the brief life of Osgood’s third, and last, child.

Since I’m posting this, I want to clear up a common rumor I see floating around, being whether or not Edgar Allan Poe fathered Fanny Fay Osgood. This may surprise some readers, and, no, Poe most likely did not father Fanny Fay. What is a source for these incredulous lies? I’m pointing my finger towards John Evangelist Walsh, especially concerning his novel Plumes in the Dust. According to Walsh, Edgar Allan Poe may have been Fanny’s father, due to circumstances involving the absence of Osgood’s husband, Samuel, and Poe and Fanny coincidentally meeting at a hotel during the summer of Samuel’s absence and Fanny’s conception (to summarize it terribly briefly). There’s also a claim that Poe’s poem, “Ulalume,” was inspired by the death of Fanny Fay, since Poe mentions the month October in the poem, the same month of Fanny’s death. We know how poets are about subtly throwing in things like this to represent the catastrophes in their lives. However, other Poe scholars, such as Sidney P. Mossdeny these claims. In “Did Poe Father Fanny Fay?”, Moss explains that the window of Fanny’s conception and Poe and Osgood’s meeting do not correlate—a pretty obvious error that Walsh must have missed, for it was during July of 1845 when Frances and Poe met, but Fanny was not born until June of 1846. Maybe Walsh thought babies were dropped in from storks, which wouldn’t surprise me.

Fanny’s First Smile

By Frances Sargent Osgood
Originally published in Graham’s Magazine, April, 1847, pg. 262.

It came to my heart—like the first gleam of morning,
To one who has watched through a long, dreary night—
It flew to my heart—without prelude or warning—
And wakened at once there a wordless delight.

That sweet pleading mouth, and those eyes of deep azure,
That gazed into mine so imploringly sad,
How faint o’er them floated the light of that pleasure,
Like sunshine o’er flowers, that the night-mist has clad!

Until that golden moment, her soft, fairy features
Had seemed like a suffering seraph’s to me—
A stray child of Heaven’s, amid earth’s coarser creatures,
Looking back for her lost home, that still she could see!

But now, in that first smile, resigning the vision,
The soul of my loved one replies to mine own;
Thank God for that moment of sweet recognition,
That over my heart like the Morning light shone!