Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Impromptu — To Kate Carol,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 379-380 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 379:]


Poe met the popular poetess Frances Sargent Osgood early in March 1845, very soon after he had praised her verses in his lecture on “The Poets and Poetry of America” on the evening of February 28, 1845. The lady was at the time not living with her husband, the painter Samuel S. Osgood, although she desired a reconciliation. A literary romance with the author of “The Raven” soon began, and a good many verses were exchanged by the two poets. During the year Poe was to rededicate two of his early poems of compliment (“To F[rance]s S. O[sgoo]d” and “To F[rances]”) to her. But there were some wholly new pieces composed by each of them. Mrs. Osgood, who was extremely facile, often had more than one article in a single issue of a magazine, and used several pen names.

In the notes “To Correspondents” in the Broadway Journal of March 29, 1845, we find “A thousand thanks to Kate Carol,” and in the next issue of April 5 appears “Kate Carol’s” poem “The Rivulet’s Dream” with an introduction:

We might guess who is the fair author of the following lines, which have been sent to us in a MS. evidently disguised — but we are not satisfied with guessing, and would give the world to know. We think the “Rivulet’s Dream” an exceedingly graceful and imaginative poem, and our readers will agree with us. Kate Carol will do us the justice to note that we have preferred her “sober second thought” in the concluding line. — Eds. B. J.

Despite the plural signature, this is surely by Poe, whose colleagues, Briggs and Watson, had little interest in poetic ladies. Mrs. Osgood’s authorship of the poem is sure for it appears in her Poems (1850),(1) pages 449-450, with its first line, “A careless rill was dreaming,” as title.

In the paper of April 26, in the “Editorial Miscellany,” three puns from a recent issue of the Boston Post are printed, immediately followed by “Impromptu — To Kate Carol.” No fairminded scholar should doubt they were Poe’s, but the discoverer was [page 380:] Whitty, whose discussion was rambling and inept.(2) The puns in “The Impromptu” probably pleased the Virginia poet, who presumably pronounced the words “deah eye,” and the New England poetess who probably said “idear.”


(A) Broadway Journal, April 26, 1845 (1:271); (B) Complete Poems, ed. J. H. Whitty (1911), p. 147.

The original printing (A) is followed.


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 379:]

1  Poems by Frances Sargent Osgood (Philadelphia, 1850), copyrighted 1849, actually issued in December 1849.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 380:]

2  He misprinted a word; and in his notes in Complete Poems (1911), p. 287, called “Love’s Reply,” in the Broadway Journal of April 12, 1845 (1:231), a “response.” That set of verses is about three female friends of Mrs. Osgood bidding her farewell on her departure for England. More confusion was added when the playful Fanny copied Poe’s verses out for her friend Elizabeth Oakes Smith, with a new title, “To the Sinless Child”! See an article in American Literature, March 1936, and Mary A. Wyman, Two American Pioneers (1927), p. 123. Mrs. Osgood’s manuscript of the four lines is now at the University of Virginia.





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