College of Liberal Arts

Department of English

 

Mary De Jong

"'Read Here Thy Name Concealed':
Frances Osgood's Poems on Parting with Edgar Allan Poe"


Although Poe and Osgood stopped meeting after the scandals created in 1845-46 by Osgood's and Elizabeth Ellet's letters to him, Osgood used her writings to maintain and redefine her relationship with Poe. Her previously unpublished poem headed
"To —," an unconventional sonnet that covertly spells his name, responds to his acrostic valentine for her. Evidently written in early 1847, Osgood's acrostic compliments Poe's genius, expresses sorrow at their parting, and states that she "must bless" the woman (probably Marie Louise Shew) who now "watch[es] . . . o'er him," as she wishes to do. Several of Osgood's published writings from mid-1846 likewise portray a mutual love virtuously deferred for heaven. Not simply autobiographical, these works reflect the contemporary romantic ideal of twin souls, which was popularized by novelists, magazinists, and Bettina von Arnim's Goethe's Correspondence with a Child. Osgood's poems about soul mates—some of them identified as "fragments" of a projected "story" or "play"—dramatize a woman poet's eternal bond with a master poet. (Her story "Athenais" [1846] portrays poets who fall in love while reading one another's magazine lyrics.) The poems about "poet-love" are at once consciously literary texts capable of standing alone as romantic lyrics and dramatic monologues, strategic explications of her position as Poe's admirer and spiritual lover, and veiled messages for Poe. These writings yield a fuller understanding of their mutual affection as well as the interaction of antebellum literary conventions with ideals of heterosexual love.

     

     

     

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