Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “To Frances S. Osgood,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 233-236 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 233:]


These graceful lines of compliment were probably inspired by a line “Ah! may'st thou always be what now thou art” in Byron's dedication of Childe Harold to “Ianthe.”(1)

Poe's poem can be addressed to almost any lady, and he inscribed it to several friends in turn. The first was his cousin, Elizabeth Rebecca Herring, for whom he wrote it in her album at some time prior to her marriage in 1834. This version was not published until 1917.

Poe first printed the piece himself in the Southern Literary Messenger, September 1835, addressed to an Eliza who was generally then understood to be Eliza White, the eighteen-year-old daughter of the proprietor of the magazine. She was “a slender, graceful blonde, with deep blue eyes ... a great student, and very ... intelligent. She was said to be engaged to Poe.... It was soon broken off on account of his dissipation.”(2) She never married, and lived until 1888, being noted in later years for brilliant Shakespearean readings.(3)

In the summer of 1839, Poe again printed the poem — this time [page 234:] as a filler addressed to nobody in particular — in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. And a year or two later it was written out in the album of Mary Estelle [[Esther]] Herring (younger half-sister of Elizabeth Rebecca) and signed by Virginia E. Poe.(4)

The poem served the author again in 1845, when it was addressed — in two forms — to Mrs. Osgood. The first quatrain appeared as “To F——” in the Broadway Journal, September 13, 1845, as a reply to her “Echo Song” beginning:

I know a noble heart that beats

For one it loves how “wildly well!”

I only know for whom it beats;

But I must never tell!(5)

Very soon thereafter the whole appeared, plainly dedicated “To F——s S. O——d” in The Raven and Other Poems.

Nor was this quite all. There is a signed manuscript, certainly genuine, specially written for a very young lady. I think she may have been Mary Neal (daughter of Poe's old friend John Neal) who asked for Poe's autograph on April 25, 1846.(6)


(A) Manuscript in the album of Elizabeth Rebecca Herring (ca. 1833), printed by J. H. Whitty in Complete Poems (1917), p. 324; (B) Southern Literary Messenger, September 1835 (1:748); (C) Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, August 1839 (5:75); (D) manuscript written and signed by Virginia E. Poe in the album of Mary Estelle [[Esther]] Herring (ca. 1841), now in the Koester Collection at the University of Texas, facsimiled by Kenneth Rede in the American Collector, December 1926 (3:102); (E) Broadway Journal, September 13, 1845 (2:148), lines 1-4; (F) The Raven and Other Poems (1845), p. 25; (G) The Lover's Gift (Hartford, 1848), p. 99; (H) Works (1850), II, 32; (J) manuscript of uncertain date in the Chapin Library of Williams College.

I give A, F (exactly like H) , and J in full. Variants from the other texts are given against F. [page 235:]

[page 236:]

VARIANTS [[for version F]]

Title:  Lines Written in an Album (B); To — (C, D, G); To F — (E)

1  Eliza! — let thy generous heart (B); Fair maiden, let thy generous heart (C); Beloved, let thy generous heart (D)

3  everything / every thing (B, C, D, G)

5-8  Not in E

6  Thy unassuming beauty (B, C); Thy virtue, grace, and beauty (D)

7  Shall be an endless / And truth shall be a (B); Thy truth — shall be a (C); Shall be a constant (D)

8  Forever — and love a duty (B, C); And love of thee — a duty (D)


[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 233:]

1  See Killis Campbell, Complete Poems (1917), p. 227.

2  See Weiss, Home Life of Poe (1907), p. 79. Ingram's statement, Edgar Allan Poe (1880), I, 130, that Poe wrote the lines in Eliza White's album seems to be based merely on the title of the first printed version.

3  See Phillips (1926), II, 1183.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 234:]

4  Poe himself wrote out “The Coliseum” and “To One in Paradise” in Mary's album. See Kenneth Rede in American Collector, December 1926.

5  Printed in the Broadway Journal of September 6; obviously, with its quotation from “Israfel,” meant for Poe.

6  See her letter to Mrs. Osgood, quoted by W. M. Griswold in Passages from the Correspondence ... of Rufus W. Griswold (1898), pp. 203-204: “I guess I do want a lock of Mr. Poe's hair ... but I also want a line of his writing ... I will enclose in this letter a note for him.”





[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (To Frances S. Osgood)