The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

Tag: Frances Sargent Osgood

“The Surprise” by Frances Sargent Osgood

The Surprise. 
By Frances S. Osgood
From Godey’s Lady’s Book, Volume 39, November, 1849, pg. 362.

They stood within a curtain’s shade,
Apart from all, and thus he spake:
“Sweet cousin, wouldst thou know the maid,
For whom my fondest wishes wake?”

A moment glowed her youthful cheek,
A moment flashed her timid eyes,
In mute reply—she dared not speak—
Alas, how soon her sweet hope dies!

“I’ll lead thee to her—yonder, dearest!”
He took her hand, ’twas marble cold;
They crossed the hall: “What is’t thou fearest?
Look up, Carille—my love behold!”

With sudden pride, she dashed aside
The curls that hid her drooping brow?
“I welcome her!” she proudly cried,
And raised her eyes—what sees she now?

No high born dame, to mock her shame,
No rival, robed in rich array;
Back to her cheek the blushes came,
And swiftly rose her pulse’s play.

Before her stood, in simple guise,
Reflected by a mirror bright,
Her own slight form!—her own dark eyes
Gave back her gaze of wild delight!

“Fanny’s First Smile” by Frances Sargent Osgood

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!

The Poetry of Frances Sargent Osgood’s Siblings

This evening, I was reading a letter from author John Neal to poetess Frances Sargent Osgood, which curiously mentions Neal becoming acquainted with Osgood’s “sister.” Despite Wikipedia clearly listing the fact that Osgood had eight siblings, and not having the foresight to look there first (can you imagine?) this prompted me to search for Fanny’s mysterious sibling. Further research showed that Frances had not only one, but two sisters and a brother of high literary reputation during the 19th century. Fanny’s half-sister, author Anna Maria Wells, was notable for her verse and book, The Floweret. A Gift of Love.; her brother, A. A. Locke, was Andrew Aitchison Locke, a poet and writer for journals; and her sister, Mrs. E. D. Harrington,* also wrote verse. This is to name only a few of her siblings. With this information, I endeavored to find poetry by the siblings and uncovered a few, which I will present in this post. You will find one poem each by Locke and Harrington, although I plan to post more as I come across them. I have another by Locke which will be up soon.

By Mrs. E. D. Harrington
From The Sixth Reader of the Popular Series by Marcius Wilson, pg. 119

1. On the table a goblet of sweet, fresh milk;
On the sofa a banner of crimson silk;
Over the picture a garland of flowers;
On the hearth a bright fire, giving cheer to the hours;
In the cage a gay bird, on an ivory ring,
Singing a carol to welcome the Spring;
In Elsie’s young heart a beneficent thought,
From the story of Jesus the Merciful caught.

2. Baby drank up the fresh goblet of milk;
John marched away with the banner of silk;
The flowers drooped silently, one by one;
The fire turned to ashes at setting of sun;
The cage was left open, one warm, sunny day,
And, beckoned by Summer, the bird flew away;
But the thought haply planted in Elsie’s child-heart
Took root and became of her spirit a part,
And blossomed in many a generous deed,
Like flowers blooming fair from a wayside seed.

Written after returning from a Party.
By A. A. Locke
From Ladies’ Magazine and Literary Gazette, Volume IV, pg. 486. Attributed to Locke in Sarah Josepha Hale’s 1848 Flora’s Interpreter, or the American Book of Flowers and Sentiments, pg. 209

No! it is not for wasted days I pine,
Nor for my slandered youth’s long banishment,
Nor for the wand of fame, so coldly mine,
It seemeth but a thorn in malice rent
From its right root to wound my heart’s content:
My foes I scorn and tread on—but my woe
Is the cold hollowness of friends to know.

To seek for sympathy, yet see it lie
Too low to purchase but with golden dust—
In aching loneliness of heart to sigh
Even for the comforter it dare not trust—
For thought it knows the bane, the tired heart must
Gasp for some nectar drop—ah, who can guess
Famine more dire in life’s long wilderness!

Had I but pearls of price—did golden piles
Of hoarded wealth swell in my treasury,
Easy I’d win the fawning flatterer’s smiles,
And bend the sturdiest Stoic’s iron knee—
For gold alone buys this world’s courtesy.
I grieve not that my gold could buy their grace
But that a man should need a toy so base.

Yet if ye keep aloof—if ye forego
The world, and all the trammels set aside,
Though ’tis her joy ungratefully to throw
Scorn on her slaves, her vassals to deride,
She will from pole to pole, through time and tide,
Still follow you with persecuting spell,
And by her whispers foul, make earth a hell.

Oh! for an island in the boundless deep!
Where rumor of that world might never come,
Oh! for a cave where weltering waves might keep
Eternal music—round which night winds roam,
Mixing incessant—with the surging foam:
Here might I rest and smile—in liberty
Forgotten live, since I unwept must die.

*This source states that an Elizabeth married Henry F. Harrington. Comparing the notes of the first source and this source, I wonder if there was a mixup concerning Mr. Harrington’s name. I speculate that Mrs. Harrington’s name is Elizabeth, considering Harrington was younger than Frances (according to the provided source) and that Elizabeth is the last listed among her siblings.

“The Soul’s Lament for Home” by Frances Sargent Osgood

The Soul’s Lament for Home
Frances Sargent Osgood
From Graham’s Magazine, March, 1843, pg. 194.

As ‘plains the home-sick ocean-shell,
Far from its own remembered sea,
Repeating, like a fairy spell
Of love, the charmed melody
It learned within that whispering wave,
Whose wondrous and mysterious tone
Still wildly haunts its winding cave
Of pearl, with softest music-moan—

So asks my home-sick soul, below,
For something loved, yet undefined;
So mourns to mingle with the flow
Of music, from the Eternal Mind;
So murmurs, with its child-like sigh,
The melody it learned above,
To which no echo may reply,
Save from thy voice, Celestial Love!

“Illustration of Plate” (“My heart would be at ease, if my solitude were blest with your society”) by Frances Sargent Osgood


Photo of a plate from Frances Sargent Osgood’s Poetry of Flowers and Flowers of Poetry. This plate accompanies Osgood’s poem, “Illustration of Plate.” Engraver is unknown. From the Literary Maiden’s collection.

My heart would be at ease, if my solitude were blest with your society

If thou wert here, my fairy-queen.
With all thy graces, wiles, and spells,
How soon would show this sylvan scene,
What magic in thy presence dwells!

The crests of foam the wavelets wear,
Would change to crowns of living pearl;
And balm would be the ambient air
And radiant joy the sun, my girl!

F. S. O.