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“Read Here Thy Name Concealed”: Frances Osgood’s Poems on Parting with Edgar Allan Poe Mary De Jong Pennsylvania State University, Altoona College Introduced to Edgar Allan Poe in a drawing room in New York’s Astor House in early March 1845, Frances Sargent Osgood soon became his friend and favorite American woman poet. Later that month she proudly reported to a friend Poe’s praise of her work in a recent lecture on American poets : “& he did not know me then,” she wrote. “I was introduced to him afterwards-& like him very much.” The Osgood-Poe relationship grew increasingly complex as they enjoyed one another’s company at salons, smaller private parties, and the Poes’ home, exchanged letters, and published compliments to one another. In early 1846 Elizabeth F. Ellet, another member of New York’s literary coteries , saw one of Osgood’s letters to Poe. Choosing to construe it as incriminating, Ellet persuaded Mrs. Osgood to recall her correspondence. Margaret Fuller and Anne C. Lynch were dispatched on that awkward errand. In handing over the letters, Poe angrily called Osgood’s self-appointed protectors “busy-bodies” and said Mrs. Ellet should be concerned instead about her own letters to him. Ellet’s denial that such letters existed drew other people into the affair, initiating a series of incidents , insults, and threats that alienated Poe from the New York literary establishment.2 Conceding in late 1849 that she had heard rumors that Poe behaved badly when he was drinking , Osgood publicly maintained that he had always been a perfect gentleman in her presence. She wrote that from the “moment” they were introduced “until his death we were friends; although we met only during the first year of our a~quaintance.”~ This essay offers no new evidence that later meetings in the sense of prearranged or consensual contacts took place (but see n. 36 for Sarah Helen Whitman’s considered opinion on that subject). Nor does it argue that such meetings occurred . It builds upon articles by Buford Jones and Kent Ljungquist (n. 2), Burton R. Pollin (n. 31), and Mary De Jong (n. 25) demonstrating the likelihood of an intertextual dialogue between Poe and Osgood that commenced before 1845 and continued for the rest of her life. Most Poe scholars have focused on his criticism of her poems or speculated about his emotional or specifically psychosexual investment in her.4 I propose to consider more carefully what Osgood made of their interaction . This essay centers on her writings after the winter of 1845-46, as yet generally unrecognized as simultaneously recording and recreating their relationship . I The following poem, previously unpublished, sheds light on Osgood’s attitude: TO- “And tho’ he called another Abra came!’‘ Oh! thou who canst with wizard skill embalm In the rich amber of thy delicate verse Thine airy love with genii-woven charm Safe from the evil eye and from all harm Of coarse, profane regard-I-in thy terse Quaint melody Ah! Thou didst teach the Have traced love’s fair & wingkd dream too And lo! so fondly doth this heart still dwell Upon the Past- our Past!-that I, altho’ It break-must bless that being if near thee She become all I could but pray to be May she watch truly o’er that haughty heart Scathed ever by the lightning-wing of woe spell well Read here thy name concealed & now in truth Neatly written in ink in Osgood’s hand, the manuscript is apparently a fair copy. A penciled line solves the puzzle by connecting the letters of the addressee’s name. “Edgar Allan Pod7is spelled by the initial letters of the last word in the first line, the next-to-last word in the second line, the third word from the end of the third line, and so forth, through line 8. The second a in “Allan” appears at the beginning of the last word in line 9; the e in “Poe” is placed at the beginning of the seventh we part. 27 (rather than the fifth) word from the end of line 13.5 been disposed to “bless” a presumptuous poet’s intimacy with her own patron-especially not in...


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