Text: Frances Sargent Osgood, “Reminiscences of Edgar A. Poe,” Saroni’s Musical Times (New York), vol. I, no. 11, December 8, 1849, 1:118-119


[page 118, column 1, continued:]

Written for Saroni’s Musical Times.


You ask me, my friend, to write for you my reminiscences of Edgar Poe. For you, who knew and understood my affectionate interest in him, and my frank acknowledgment of that interest to all who had a claim upon my confidence, for you, I will willingly do so. I think no one could know him — no one has known him personally — certainly no woman — without feeling the same interest. I can sincerely say, that although I have frequently heard of aberrations on his part from “the straight and narrow path,” I have never seen him otherwise than gentle, generous, well-bred, and fastidiously refined. To a sensitive and delicately nurtured woman, there was a peculiar and irresistible charm in the chivalric, graceful and almost tender reverence with which he invariably approached all women who won his respect. It was this which first commanded and always retained my regard for him.

I have been told that when his sorrows and pecuniary embarrassments had driven him to the use of stimulants, which a less delicate organization might have borne without injury, he was in the habit of speaking disrespectfully of the ladies of his acquaintance. It is difficult for me to believe this; for to me, to whom he came during the year of our acquaintance for counsel and kindness in all his many anxieties and griefs, he never spoke irreverently of any woman save one, and then only in my defence, and though I rebuked him for his momentary forgetfulness of the respect due to himself and to me, I could not but forgive the offence for the sake of the generous impulse which prompted it.

Yet even were these sad rumors true of him, the wise and well informed knew how to regard, as they would the impetuous anger of a spoiled infant, bulked of its capricious will, the equally harmless and unmeaning phrenzy of that stray child of Poetry and Passion.

For the few unwomanly and slander-loving gossips who have injured him and themselves only by repeating his ravings, when, in such moods, they have accepted his society, I have only to vouchsafe my wonder and my pity. They cannot surely harm the true and pure, who, reverencing his genius and pitying his misfortunes and his errors, endeavored, by their timely kindness and sympathy, to soothe his sad career.

It was in his own simple yet poetical home that, to me, the character of Edgar Poe appeared in its most beautiful light.

Playful, affectionate, witty, alternately docile and wayward as a petted child — for his young, gentle and idolized wife, and for all who came, he had even in the midst of his most harassing literary duties, a kind word, a pleasant smile, a graceful and courteous attention.

At his desk beneath the romantic picture of his loved and lost Lenore, he would sit, hour after hour, patient, assiduous and [column 2:] uncomplaining, tracing in an exquisitely clear chirography and with almost superhuman swiftness, the lightning thoughts — the “rare and radiant” fancies as they flashed through his wonderful and ever wakeful brain.

I recollect, one morning, towards the close of his residence in this city, when he seemed unusually gay and light-hearted. Virginia, his sweet wife, had written me a pressing invitation to come to them; and I, who never could resist her affectionate summons, and who enjoyed his society far more in his own home than elsewhere, hastened to Amity street. I found him just completing his series of papers entitled “The Literati of New-York.” “See,” said he, displaying, in laughing triumph, several little rolls of narrow paper, (he always wrote thus for the press,)” I am going to show you, by the difference of length in these, the different degrees of estimation in which I hold all you literary people. In each of these, one of you is rolled up and fully discussed. Come, Virginia, help me!” And one by one they unfolded them. At last they come [[came]] to one which seemed interminable. Virginia laughingly ran to one corner of the room with one end, and her husband to the opposite with the other.” And whose lengthened sweetness long drawn out is that?” said I. ”Hear her!” he cried, “just as if her little vain heart did’nt tell her it’s herself!”

My first meeting with the Poet was at the Astor House. A few days previous, Mr. Willis had handed me, at the table d’hote, that strange and thrilling poem entitled “The Raven,” saying that the author wanted my opinion of it.

Its effect upon me was so singular, so like that of “wierd, unearthly music,” that it was with a feeling almost of dread, I heard he desired an introduction. Yet I could not refuse without seeming ungrateful, because I had just heard of his enthusiastic and partial eulogy of my writings, in his lecture on American Literature.

I shall never forget the morning when I was summoned to the drawing-room by Mr. Willis to receive him. With his proud and beautiful head erect, his dark eyes flashing with the elective light of feeling and of thought, a peculiar, an inimitable blending of sweetness and hauteur in his expression and manner, he greeted me, calmly, gravely, almost coldly; yet with so marked an earnestness that I could not help being deeply impressed by it.

From that moment until his death we were friends; although we met only during the first year of our acquaintance. And in his last words, ere reason had forever left her imperial throne in that overtasked brain, I have a touching memento of his undying faith and friendship.

During that year, while travelling for my health, I maintained a correspondence with Mr. Poe, in accordance with the earnest entreaties of his wife, who imagined that my influence over him had a restraining and beneficial effect. It had, as far as this — that having solemnly promised me to give up the use of stimulants, he so firmly respected his promise and me, as never once, during our whole acquaintance, to appear in my presence when in the slightest degree affected by them.

Of the charming love and confidence that existed between his wife and himself, always delightfully apparent to me, in spite of the many little poetical episodes, in which the impassioned romance of his temperament impelled him to indulge; of this I cannot speak too earnestly — too warmly. I believe she was the only woman whom he ever truly loved; and this is evidenced by the exquisite pathos of the little poem lately written, called Annabel Lee, of which she was the subject, and which is by far the most natural, simple, tender and touchingly beautiful of all his songs.

I have heard it said that it was intended to illustrate a late love affair of the author; but they who believe this, have in their dulness, evidently misunderstood or missed the beautiful meaning latent in the most lovely of all its verses — where he says,

“A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

My beautiful Annabel Lee,

So that her high-born kinsmen came,

And bore her away from me.”

There seems a strange and almost profane disregard of the sacred purity and spiritual tenderness of this delicious ballad, in thus overlooking the allusion to the kindred angels and the heavenly Father of the lost and loved and unforgotten wife.

But it was in his conversations and his letters, far more than in his published poetry and prose writings, that the genius of [page 119:] Poe was most gloriously revealed. His letters were divinely beautiful, and for hours I have listened to him, entranced by strains of such pure and almost celestial eloquence as I have never read or heard elsewhere. Alas! in the thrilling words of Stoddard,

“He might have soared in the morning light,

But he built his nest

With the birds of night!


But he lies in dust,

And the stone is rolled,

 Over the sepulchre dim and cold,

 He has cancelled all he had done or said,

 And gone to the dear and holy dead.

 Let us forget the path he trod,

And leave him now,

To his Maker, God.”



The full title of the periodical is Saroni’s Musical Times, A Weekly Journal, Devoted to Music, Literature and the Fine Arts. It was edited and published by Herrman S. Saroni, a former student of Felix Mendelssohn.

The name of Mrs. Osgood is not revealed in the article as printed by Saroni. Instead, Rufus W. Griswold, in his infamous Memoir of Poe, appropriates the present article, omitting any mention of the original publication but identifying Mrs. Osgood as the author. In so doing, Griswold recasts these reminiscences as if they had been written to him personally. The first printing was correctly identified by Burton R. Pollin, who reprinted the full text in “F. S. Osgood and Saroni’s Musical Times: Documents linking Poe, Osgood, and Griswold,” Poe Studies, 23 (Dec. 1990), pp. 27-36.

A copy of the original article from Saroni’s Musical Times was kindly provided by the New York Public Library, Performing Arts Library.


[S:1 - SMT, 1849] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Reminiscences of Edgar A. Poe (F. S. Osgood, 1849)