Last Update: Dec. 15, 2000 Navigation: Main Menu Poe's Misc[Text: Edgar Allan Poe, "The Literati" (part V) (B), from The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, vol. III, 1850, pp. 87-112.]
FRANCES SARGENT OSGOOD.
MRS. OSGOOD, for the last three or four years, has been rapidly attaining distinction; and this, evidently, with no effort at attaining it. She seems, in fact, to have no object in view beyond that of giving voice to the fancies or the feelings of the moment. "Necessity," says the proverb, "is the mother of Invention;" and the invention of Mrs. O., at least, springs plainly from necessity from the necessity of invention. Not to write poetry not to act it, think it, dream it, and be it, is entirely out of her power.
It may be questioned whether with more industry, more method, more definite purpose, more ambition, Mrs. Osgood would have made a more decided impression on the public mind. She might, upon the whole, have written better poems; but the chances are that she would have failed in conveying so vivid and so just an idea of her powers as poet. The warm abandonnement of her style that charm which now so captivates is but a portion and a consequence of her unworldly nature of her disregard of mere fame; but it affords us glimpses, which we could not otherwise have obtained, of a capacity for accomplishing what she has not accomplished, and in all probability never will. In the world of poetry, however, there is already more than enough of uncongenial ambition and pretence.
Mrs. Osgood has taken no care whatever of her literary fame. A great number of her finest compositions, both in verse and prose, have been written anonymously, and are now lying perdus about the country, in out-of-the way nooks and corners. Many a goodly reputation has been reared upon a far more unstable basis than her unclaimed and uncollected "fugitive pieces."
Her first volume, I believe, was published, seven
or eight years ago, by Edward Churton, of London, during the residence
of the poetess in that city. I have now lying before me a second edition
of it, dated 1842 a beautifully printed book, dedicated to the Reverend
Hobart Caunter. It contains a number of what the Bostonians call "juvenile"'
poems, written when Mrs. O., (then
The story is the well known one of Edgar, Elfrida, and Earl Athelwood. The king, hearing of Elfrida's extraordinary beauty, commissions his favorite, Athelwood, to visit her and ascertain if report speaks truly of her charms. The earl, becoming himself enamored, represents the lady as anything but beautiful or agreeable. The king is satisfied. Athelwood soon afterward woos and weds Elfrida giving Edgar to understand that the heiress' wealth is the object. The true state of the case, however, is betrayed by an enemy; and the monarch resolves to visit the earl at his castle and to judge for himself. Hearing of this resolve, Athelwood, in despair, confesses to his wife his duplicity, and entreats her to render null as far as possible the effect of her charms by dressing with unusual plainness. This the wife promises to do; but, fired with ambition and resentment at the wrong done her, arrays herself in her most magnificent and becoming costume. The king is charmed, and the result is the destruction of Athelwood and the elevation of Elfrida to the throne.
These incidents are well adapted to dramatic purposes, and with more of that art which Mrs. Osgood does not possess, she might have woven them into a tragedy which the world would not willingly let die. As it is, she has merely succeeded in showing what she might, should, and could have done, and yet, unhappily, did not.
The character of Elfrida is the bright point of the play. Her beauty and consciousness of it her indignation and uncompromising ambition are depicted with power. There is a fine blending of the poetry of passion and the passion of poetry, in the lines which follow:
Why even now he bendsVery similar, but even more glowing, is the love-inspired eloquence of Edgar.
Earth hath no language, love, befitting thee,To this Elfrida replies:
If Athelwood should hear thee!And to this, Edgar:
Name not the felon knave to me, Elfrida!The answer of Elfrida at this point is profoundly true to nature, and would alone suffice to assure any critic of Mrs. Osgood's dramatic talent:
When but a child I saw thee in my dreams!The woman's soul here shrinks from the direct avowal of want of love for her husband, and flies to poetry and appeals to fate,
In general, the "situations" of "Elfrida" are improbable or ultra-romantic, and its incidents unconsequential, seldom furthering the business of the play. The dénouement is feeble, and its moral of very equivocal tendency indeed but I have already shown that it is the especial office neither of poetry nor of the drama, to inculcate truth, unless incidentally. Mrs. Osgood, however, although she has unquestionably failed in writing a good play, has, even in failing, given indication of dramatic power. The great tragic element, passion, breathes in every line of her composition, and had she but the art, or the patience, to model or control it, she might be eminently successful as a playwright. I am justified in these opinions not only by "Elfrida," but by "Woman's Trust, a Dramatic Sketch," included, also, in the English edition.
A Masked Ball. Madelon and a Stranger in a Recess.Here the stranger details some incidents of the first wooing of Madelon by Rupert, and concludes with,
Lady, my task is o'er dost doubt me still?The "Miscellaneous Poems" of the volume many of them written in childhood are, of course, various in character and merit. "The Dying Rosebud's Lament," although by no means one of the best, will very well serve to show the earlier and most characteristic manner of the poetess:
Ah, me! ah wo is meThe poetical reader will agree with me that few things have ever been written (by any poet, at any age,) more delicately fanciful than the passages italicised and yet they are the work of a girl not more than fourteen years of age. The clearness and force of expression, and the nice appositeness of the overt and insinuated meaning, are, when we consider the youth of the writer, even more remarkable than the fancy.
I cannot speak of Mrs. Osgood's poems without a strong propensity to ring the changes upon the indefinite word "grace" and its derivatives. About everything she writes we perceive this indescribable charm of which, perhaps, the elements are a vivid fancy and a quick sense of the proportionate. Grace, however, may be most satisfactorily defined as "a term applied, in despair, to that class of the impressions of Beauty which admit of no analysis." It is in this irresoluble effect that Mrs. Osgood excels any poetess of her country and it is to this easily appreciable effect that her popularity is owing. Nor is she more graceful herself than a lover of the graceful, under whatever guise it is presented to her consideration. The sentiment renders itself manifest, in innumerable instances, as well throughout her prose as her poetry. Whatever be her theme, she at once extorts from it its whole essentiality of grace. Fanny Ellsler has been often lauded; true poets have sung her praises; but we look in vain for anything written about her, which so distinctly and vividly paints her to the eye as the half dozen quatrains which follow. They are to be found in the English volume:
She comes ! the spirit of the dance!This is, indeed, poetry and of the most unquestionable kind poetry truthful in the proper sense that is to say, breathing of Nature. There is here nothing forced or artificial no hardly sustained enthusiasm. The poetess speaks because she feels, and what she feels; but then what she feels is felt only by the truly poetical. The thought in the last line of the quatrain will not be so fully appreciated by the reader as it should be; for latterly it has been imitated, plagiarized, repeated ad infinitum: but the other passages italicized have still left them all their original effect. The idea in the two last lines is exquisitely näive and natural; that in the two last lines of the second quatrain, beautiful beyond measure; that of the whole fifth quatrain, magnificent unsurpassed in the entire compass of American poetry. It is instinct with the noblest poetical requisite imagination.
Of the same trait I find, to my surprise, one of the best exemplifications among the "Juvenile Rhymes."
For Fancy is a fairy that can hear,The little poem called "The Music Box" has been as widely circulated as any of Mrs. Osgood's compositions. The melody and harmony of this jeu d'esprit are perfect, and there is in it a rich tint of that epigrammatism for which the poetess is noted. Some of the intentional epigrams interspersed through the works are peculiarly happy. Here is one which, while replete with the rarest "spirit of point," is yet something more than pointed.
TO AN ATHEIST POET.Here [[,]] again, is something very similar:
Fanny shuts her smiling eyes,Is it not a little surprising, however, that a writer capable of so much precision and finish as the author of these epigrams must be, should have failed to see how much of force is lost in the inversion of "the sinner vain?" Why not have written "Fanny's like the silly sinner?" or, if "silly" be thought too jocose, "the blinded sinner?" The rhythm, at the same time, would thus be much improved by bringing the lines,
Fanny's like the silly sinner,into exact equality.
In mingled epigram and espieglerie Mrs. Osgood is even more especially at home. I have seldom seen anything in this way more happily done than the song entitled "If He Can."
"The Unexpected Declaration" is, perhaps, even a finer
The point of this poem, however, might have been sharpened, and the polish increased in lustre, by the application of the emory of brevity. From what the lover says much might well have been omitted; and I should have preferred leaving out altogether the autorial comments; for the story is fully told without them. The "'Why do you weep?" "Why do you frown?" and "Why do you smile?" supply all the imagination requires; to supply more than it requires, oppresses and offends it. Nothing more deeply grieves it or more vexes the true taste in general, than hyperism of any kind. In Germany, Wohlgeborn is a loftier title than Edelgeborn; and in Greece, the thrice-victorious at the Olympic games could claim a statue of the size of life, while he who had conquered but once was entitled only to a colossal one.
The English collection of which I speak was entitled
"A Wreath of Wild Flowers from New England." It met with a really
cordial reception in Great Britain was favorably noticed by the "Literary
Gazette," "Times," "Atlas," "Monthly Chronicle," and especially by the
"Court Journal," "The Court and Ladies' Magazine," "La Belle Assemblée,"
and other similar works. "We have long been familiar," says the high authority
of the "Literary Gazette," "with the name of our fair author. . . . . Our
expectations have been fulfilled, and we have here a delightful gathering
of the sweetest of wild flowers, all looking as fresh and beautiful as
if they had grown in the richest of English pasture in place of having
been 'nursed by the cataract.' True, the wreath might have been improved
with a little more care a trifling attention or two paid to the formation
of it. A stalk here and there that obtrudes itself between the bells of
the flowers, might have become so interwoven as to have been concealed,
and the whole have looked as if it had grown in that perfect and beautiful
form. Though, after all, we are perhaps too chary; for in Nature every
leaf is not ironed out to a form, nor propped up with a wiry precision,
but blown and ruffled by the
Messrs. Clarke and Austin, of New York, have lately
issued another, but still a very uncomplete [[incomplete]] collection of
"Poems by Frances S. Osgood." In general, it includes by no means the best
of her works. "The Daughter of Herodias" one of her longest compositions,
and a very noble poem, putting me in mind of the best efforts of Mrs. Hemans
is omitted: it is included, however, in the last edition of Doctor
Griswold's "Poets and Poetry of America." In Mrs. [[Messrs.]] C. and A.'s
collection there occur, too, very many of those half sentimental, half
allegorical compositions of which, at one period, the authoress seemed
to be particularly fond for the reason, perhaps, that they afforded her
good opportunity for the exercise of her ingenuity and epigrammatic talent:
no poet, however, can admit them to be poetry at all. Still, the volume
contains some pieces which enable us to take a new view of the powers of
the writer. A few additional years, with their inevitable sorrow, appear
to have stirred the depths of her heart. We see less of frivolity
less of vivacity more of tenderness earnestness even passion
and far more of the true imagination
In not presenting to the public at one view all that
she has written in verse, Mrs. Osgood has incurred the risk of losing that
credit to which she is entitled on the score of versatility of variety
in invention and expression. There is scarcely a form of poetical composition
in which she has not made experiment; and there is none in which she has
not very happily succeeded. Her defects are chiefly negative and by no
means numerous. Her versification is sometimes exceedingly good, but more
frequently feeble through the use of harsh consonants, and such words as
"thou'dst" for "thou wouldst," with other unnecessary contractions,
inversions, and obsolete expressions. Her imagery is often mixed; indeed
it is rarely otherwise. The epigrammatism of her conclusions gives to her
poems, as wholes, the air of being more skilfully constructed than they
really are. On the other hand, we look in vain throughout her works for
an offence against the finer taste, or against decorum for a low thought
or a platitude. A happy refinement an instinct of the pure and delicate
is one of her most noticeable excellencies. She may be properly commended,
too, for originality of poetic invention, whether in the conception of
a theme or in the manner of treating it. Consequences of this trait are
her point and piquancy. Fancy and näiveté appear in
all she writes. Regarding the loftier merits, I am forced to speak of her
in more measured terms. She has occasional passages of true imagination
but scarcely the glowing, vigorous, and sustained ideality of
Mrs. Maria Brooks or even, in general, the less ethereal elevation of
Mrs. Welby. In that indescribable something, however, which, for want of
a more definite term, we are accustomed to call "grace" that charm so
Of pure prose of prose proper she has, perhaps, never written a line in her life. Her usual magazine papers are a class by themselves. She begins with a resolute effort at being sedate that is to say, sufficiently prosaic and matter-of-fact for the purpose of a legend or an essay; but, after a few sentences, we behold uprising the leaven of the Muse; then, with a flourish and some vain attempts at repression, a scrap of verse renders itself manifest; then comes a little poem outright; then another and another and another, with impertinent patches of prose in between until at length the mask is thrown fairly off and far away, and the whole article sings.
Upon the whole, I have spoken of Mrs. Osgood so much in detail, less on account of what she has actually done than on account of what I perceive in her the ability to do.
In character she is ardent, sensitive, impulsive the very soul of truth and honor; a worshipper of the beautiful, with a heart so radically artless as to seem abundant in art; universally admired, respected, and beloved. In person, she is about the medium height, slender even to fragility, graceful whether in action or repose; complexion usually pale; hair black and glossy; eyes a clear, luminous grey, large, and with singular capacity for expression.
LYDIA M. CHILD.
has acquired a just celebrity by many compositions of high merit, the most
noticeable of which are "Hobomok," "Philothea," and a "History of the Condition
of Women." "Philothea," in especial, is written with great vigor, and,
as a classical romance, is not far inferior to the "Anacharsis" of Barthelemi;
its style is a model for purity, chastity and ease. Some of her
magazine papers are distinguished for graceful and brilliant imagination
a quality rarely noticed in our countrywomen.
Mrs. Child, casually observed, has nothing
particularly striking in her personal appearance. One would pass
her in the street a dozen times without notice. She is low in stature
and slightly framed. Her complexion is florid; eyes and hair are dark;
features in general diminutive. The expression of her countenance, when
animated, is highly intellectual. Her dress is usually plain, not even
neat anything but fashionable. Her bearing needs excitement
THOMAS DUNN BROWN [[ENGLISH]].
I HAVE seen one or two scraps
of verse with this gentleman's nom de plume* appended, which had
considerable merit. For example:
I must confess, however, that I do not appreciate
the "dainty rhythm" of such a word as "Azthene," and, perhaps, there is
some taint of egotism in the passage about "the magic" of Mr. Brown's pen.
Let us be charitable, however, and set all this down under the head of
the pure imagination or invention the first of poetical requisites.
The inexcusable sin of Mr. Brown is imitation if this be not too
mild a term. Barry Cornwall, for example, sings about a "dainty rhythm,"
Mr. Brown forthwith, in B flat, hoots about it too. He has taken,
however, his most unwarrantable liberties in the way of plagiarism, from
* Thomas Dunn English. [[This footnote
appears at the bottom of page 101.]]
I place Mr. Brown, to be sure, on my list of literary people not on account of his poetry, (which I presume he himself is not weak enough to estimate very highly,) but on the score of his having edited, for several months, "with the aid of numerous collaborators," a magazine called "The Aristidean." This work, although professedly a "monthly," was issued at irregular intervals, and was unfortunate, I fear, in not attaining at any period more than about fifty subscribers.
Mr. Brown has at least that amount of talent which
would enable him to succeed in his father's profession that of a ferryman
on the Schuylkill but the fate of "The Aristidean" should indicate to
him that, to prosper in any higher walk of life, he must apply himself
to study. No spectacle can be more ludicrous than that of a man without
the commonest school education, busying himself in attempts to instruct
mankind on topics of polite literature. The absurdity, in such cases, does
not lie merely in the ignorance displayed by the would-be instructor, but
in the transparency of the shifts by which he endeavors to keep this ignorance
concealed. The "editor of the Aristidean," for example, was not the
public laughing-stock throughout the five months of his magazine's existence,
so much on account of writing "lay" for "lie," "went" for "gone," "set"
for "sit," etc. etc., or for coupling nouns in the plural with verbs in
the singular as when he writes, above,
he was not, I say, laughed at so much on account of his excusable
deficiencies in English grammar (although an editor should undoubtedly
be able to write his own name) as on account of the pertinacity
with which he exposes his weakness, in lamenting the "typographical blunders"
which so unluckily would creep into his work. He should have
reflected that there is not in all America a proof-reader so blind as to
permit such errors to escape him. The rhyme, for instance,
in the matter of the "dreams" that "seems," would have distinctly shown
even the most uneducated printers' devil
Were I writing merely for American readers, I should
not, of course, have introduced Mr. Brown's name in this book. With us,
such as "The Aristidean" and its editor, are not altogether unparalleled,
and are sufficiently well understood but my purpose is to convey to foreigners
some idea of a condition of literary affairs among us, which otherwise
they might find it difficult to comprehend or to conceive. That Mr.
Brown's blunders are really such as I have described them that I have
not distorted their character or exaggerated their grossness in any respect
that there existed in New York, for some months, as conductor of a magazine
that called itself the organ of the Tyler party, and was even mentioned,
at times, by respectable papers, a man who obviously
never went to school,
and was so profoundly ignorant as not to know that he could not spell
are serious and positive facts uncolored in the slightest degree demonstrable,
in a word, upon the spot, by reference to almost any editorial sentence
upon any page of the magazine in question. But a single instance will suffice:
Mr. Hirst, in one of his poems, has the lines,
At page 200 of "The Aristidean" for September, 1845, Mr. Brown, commenting on the English of the passage says: "This lambkin might have used better language than 'like me' unless he intended it for a specimen of choice Choctaw, when it may, for all we know to the contrary, pass muster." It is needless, I presume, to proceed farther in a search for the most direct proof possible or conceivable, of the ignorance of Mr. Brown who, in similar cases, invariably writes "like I."
In an editorial announcement on page 242 of the same
"number," he says: "This and the three succeeding numbers brings
the work up to January and with the two numbers previously published
up a volume or half year of numbers." But enough of this absurdity:
Mr. Brown had, for the motto on his magazine cover, the words of Richelieu,
Here the two monosyllables "an ass" should have been appended. They were no doubt omitted through "one of those dd typographical blunders" which, through life, have been at once the bane and the antidote of Mr. Brown.
I make these remarks in no spirit of unkindness. Mr. B. is yet young certainly not more than thirty-eight or nine and might readily improve himself at points where he is most defective. No one of any generosity would think the worse of him for getting private instruction.
I do not personally know him. About his appearance there is nothing very remarkable except that he exists in a perpetual state of vacillation between mustachio and goatee. In character, a windbeutel.
MISS BOGART has been for many years before the public as a writer of poems and tales (principally the former) for the periodicals, having made her debût as a contributor to the original "New York Mirror." Doctor Griswold, in a foot-note appended to one of her poems quoted in his "Poets and Poetry," speaks of the "volume" from which he quotes; but Miss Bogart has not yet collected her writings in volume form. Her fugitive pieces have usually been signed "Estelle." They are noticeable for nerve, dignity and finish. Perhaps the four stanzas entitled "He came too Late," and introduced into Dr. Griswold's volume, are the most favorable specimen of her manner. Had he not quoted them I should have copied them here.
Miss Bogart is a member of one of the oldest
families in the State. An interesting sketch of her progenitors is
to be found in Thompson's "History of Long Island." She is about the medium
height, straight and slender; black hair and eyes; countenance full of
vivacity and intelligence. She converses with fluency and spirit, enunciates
distinctly, and exhibits interest in whatever is addressed to her a rare
quality in good talkers; has a keen appreciation of genius and of natural
scenery; is cheerful and fond of society.
CATHERINE M. SEDGWICK.
MISS SEDGWICK is not only one of our most celebrated and most meritorious writers, but attained reputation at a period when American reputation in letters was regarded as a phenomenon; and thus, like Irving, Cooper, Paulding, Bryant, Halleck, and one or two others, she is indebted, certainly, for some portion of the esteem in which she was and is held, to that patriotic pride and gratitude to which I have already alluded, and for which we must make reasonable allowance in estimating the absolute merit of our literary pioneers.
Her earliest published work of any length was "A New England Tale," designed in the first place as a religious tract, but expanding itself into a volume of considerable size. Its success partially owing, perhaps, to the influence of the parties for whom or at whose instigation it was written encouraged the author to attempt a novel of somewhat greater elaborateness as well as length, and "Redwood" was soon announced, establishing her at once as the first female prose writer of her country. It was reprinted in England, and translated, I believe, into French and Italian. "Hope Leslie" next appeared also a novel and was more favorably received even than its predecessors. Afterwards came "Clarence," not quite so successful, and then "The Linwoods," which took rank in the public esteem with "Hope Leslie." These are all of her longer prose fictions, but she has written numerous shorter ones of great merit such as "The Rich Poor Man and the Poor Rich Man," "Live and Let Live," (both in volume form,) with various articles for the magazines and annuals, to which she is still an industrious contributor. About ten years since she published a compilation of several of her fugitive prose pieces, under the title "Tales and Sketches," and a short time ago a series of "Letters from Abroad" not the least popular or least meritorious of her compositions.
Miss Sedgwick has now and then been nicknamed
"the Miss Edgeworth of America;" but she has done nothing to bring down
upon her the vengeance of so equivocal a title. That she has
All her stories are full of interest.
The "New England Tale" and "Hope Leslie" are especially so, but upon the
whole I am best pleased with "The Linwoods." Its prevailing features are
ease, purity of style, pathos, and verisimilitude. To plot it has
little pretension. The scene is in America, and, as the sub-title
indicates, "Sixty years since." This, by-the-by, is taken from "Waverley."
The adventures of the family of a Mr. Linwood, a resident of New York,
form the principal theme. The character of this gentleman is happily
drawn, although there is an antagonism between the initial and concluding
touches the end has forgotten the beginning, like the government of Trinculo.
Mr. L. has two children, Herbert and Isabella. Being himself a Tory,
the boyish impulses of his son in favor of the revolutionists are watched
with anxiety and vexation; and on the breaking out of the war, Herbert,
positively refusing to drink the king's health, is expelled from home by
his father an event on which hinges the main interest of the narrative.
Isabella is the heroine proper, full of generous impulses, beautiful, intellectual,
indeed, a most fascinating creature. But the family of a Widow
Lee throws quite a charm over all the book a matronly, pious and devoted
mother, yielding up her son to the cause of her country the son gallant,
chivalrous, yet thoughtful; a daughter, gentle, loving, melancholy, and
susceptible of light impressions. This daughter, Bessie Lee, is one
of the most effective personations to be found in our fictitious literature,
and may lay claims to the distinction of originality no slight distinction
where character is concerned. It is the old story, to be sure,
of a meek and trusting heart broken by treachery and abandonment, but in
the narration of Miss Sedgwick it breaks upon us with all the freshness
I have already alluded to her usual excellence of style; but she has a very peculiar fault that of discrepancy between the words and character of the speaker the fault, indeed, more properly belongs to the depicting of character itself.
For example, at page 38, vol. 1, of "The Linwoods: "
"No more of my contempt for the Yankees, Hal, an' thou lovest me," replied Jasper. "You remember Æsop's advice to Crsus at the Persian court ?"
"No, I am sure I do not. You have the most provoking way of resting the lever by which you bring out your own knowledge, on your friend's ignorance."
Now all this is pointed, (although the last sentence would have been improved by letting the words "on your friend's ignorance" come immediately after "resting,") but it is by no means the language of schoolboys and such are the speakers.
Again, at page 226, vol. 1, of the same novel:
"Now, out on you, you lazy, slavish
loons !" cried Rose. "Cannot you see these men are raised up to fight
for freedom for more than themselves ? If the chain be broken at
one end, the links will fall apart sooner or later. When you see
the sun on the mountain top, you may be sure it will shine into the deepest
Who would suppose this graceful eloquence to
proceed from the mouth of a negro woman ? Yet such is Rose.
Again, at page 24, vol. 1, same novel :
"True, I never saw her; but I tell you, young lad, that there is such a thing as seeing the shadow of things far distant and past, and never seeing the realities, though they it be that cast the shadows.''
Here the speaker is an old woman who, a few sentences before, has been boasting of her proficiency in "tellin' fortins."
I might object, too, very decidedly to the vulgarity of such a phrase as "I put in my oar," (meaning, "I joined in the conversation,") when proceeding from the mouth of so well-bred a personage as Miss Isabella Linwood. These are, certainly, most remarkable inadvertences.
As the author of many books of several absolutely bound volumes in the ordinary "novel" form of auld lang syne, Miss Sedgwick has a certain adventitious hold upon the attention of the public, a species of tenure that has nothing to do with literature proper a very decided advantage, in short, over her more modern rivals whom fashion and the growing influence of the want of an international copyright law have condemned to the external insignificance of the yellow-backed pamphleteering.
We must permit, however, neither this advantage nor the more obvious one of her having been one of our pioneers, to bias the critical judgment as it makes estimate of her abilities in comparison with those of her present cotemporaries. She has neither the vigor of Mrs. Stephens nor the vivacious grace of Miss Chubbuck, nor the pure style of Mrs. Embury, nor the classic imagination of Mrs. Child, nor the naturalness of Mrs. Annan, nor the thoughtful and suggestive originality of Miss Fuller; but in many of the qualities mentioned she excels, and in no one of them is she particularly deficient. She is an author of marked talent, but by no means of such decided genius as would entitle her to that precedence among our female writers which, under the circumstances to which I have alluded, seems to be yielded her by the voice of the public.
Strictly speaking, Miss Sedgwick is not
of the literati of New York city, but she passes here about half
or rather more than half her time. Her home is Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Her family is one of the first in America. Her father, Theodore Sedgwick
the elder, was an eminent jurist and descended from one of
She is about the medium height, perhaps a little below it. Her forehead is an unusually fine one; nose of a slightly Roman curve; eyes dark and piercing; mouth well formed and remarkably pleasant in its expression. The portrait in "Graham's Magazine" is by no means a likeness, and, although the hair is represented as curled, (Miss Sedgwick at present wears a cap at least most usually,) gives her the air of being much older than she is.
Her manners are those of a high-bred woman, but her ordinary manner vacillates, in a singular way, between cordiality and a reserve amounting to hauteur.
LEWIS GAYLORD CLARK.
MR. CLARK is known principally as the twin brother of the late Willis Gaylord Clark, the poet, of Philadelphia, with whom he has often been confounded from similarity both of person and of name. He is known, also, within a more limited circle, as one of the editors of "The Knickerbocker Magazine," and it is in this latter capacity that I must be considered as placing him among literary people. He writes little himself, the editorial scraps which usually appear in fine type at the end of "The Knickerbocker" being the joint composition of a great variety of gentlemen (most of them possessing shrewdness and talent,) connected with diverse journals about the city of New York. It is only in some such manner, as might be supposed, that so amusing and so heterogeneous a medley of chit-chat could be put together. Were a little more pains taken in elevating the tone of this "Editors' Table," (which its best friends are forced to admit is at present a little Boweryish,) I should have no hesitation in commending it in general as a very creditable and very entertaining specimen of what may be termed easy writing and hard reading.
It is not, of course, to be understood from
anything I have here said, that Mr. Clark does not occasionally contribute
editorial matter to the magazine. His compositions, however, are
far from numerous, and are always to be distinguished by their style,
"The Knickerbocker" has been long established, and seems to have in it some important elements of success. Its title, for a merely local one, is unquestionably good. Its contributors have usually been men of eminence. Washington Irving was at one period regularly engaged. Paulding, Bryant, Neal, and several others of nearly equal note have also at various times furnished articles, although none of these gentlemen, I believe, continue their communications. In general, the contributed matter has been praiseworthy; the printing, paper, and so forth, have been excellent, and there certainly has been no lack of exertion in the way of what is termed "putting the work before the eye of the public;" still some incomprehensible incubus has seemed always to sit heavily upon it, and it has never succeeded in attaining position among intelligent or educated readers. On account of the manner in which it is necessarily edited, the work is deficient in that absolutely indispensable element, individuality. As the editor has no precise character, the magazine, as a matter of course, can have none. When I say "no precise character," I mean that Mr. C., as a literary man, has about him no determinateness, no distinctiveness, no saliency of point; an apple, in fact, or a pumpkin, has more angles. He is as smooth as oil or a sermon from Doctor Hawks; he is noticeable for nothing in the world except for the markedness by which he is noticeable for nothing.
What is the precise circulation of "The Knickerbocker" at present I am unable to say; it has been variously stated at from eight to eighteen hundred subscribers. The former estimate is no doubt too low, and the latter, I presume, is far too high. There are, perhaps, some fifteen hundred copies printed.
At the period of his brother's decease, Mr.
Lewis G. Clark bore to him a striking resemblance, but within the last
year or two there has been much alteration in the person of the editor
of the "Knickerbocker." He is now, perhaps, forty-two or three, but
ANNE C. LYNCH.
MISS ANNE CHARLOTTE LYNCH has written little; her compositions are even too few to be collected in volume form. Her prose has been, for the most part, anonymous critical papers in "The New York Mirror" and elsewhere, with unacknowledged contributions to the annuals, especially "The Gift," and "The Diadem," both of Philadelphia. Her "Diary of a Recluse," published in the former work, is, perhaps, the best specimen of her prose manner and ability. I remember, also, a fair critique on Fanny Kemble's poems; this appeared in "The Democratic Review."
In poetry, however, she has done better, and
given evidence of at least unusual talent. Some of her compositions
in this way are of merit, and one or two of excellence. In the former
class I place her "Bones in the Desert," published in "The Opal " for 1846,
her "Farewell to Ole Bull," first printed in "The Tribune," and one or
two of her sonnets not forgetting some graceful and touching lines on
the death of Mrs. Willis. In the latter class I place two noble poems,
"The Ideal" and "The Ideal Found." These should be considered as one, for
each is by itself imperfect. In modulation and vigor of rhythm, in
dignity and elevation of sentiment, in metaphorical appositeness and accuracy,
and in energy of expression, I really do not know where to point out anything
American much superior to them. Their ideality is not so manifest
as their passion, but I think it an unusual indication of taste in Miss
Lynch, or (more strictly) of an intuitive sense of poetry's true nature,
that this passion is just sufficiently subdued
In character Miss Lynch is enthusiastic, chivalric, self-sacrificing, "equal to any fate," capable of even martyrdom in whatever should seem to her a holy cause a most exemplary daughter. She has her hobbies, however, (of which a very indefinite idea of "duty" is one,) and is, of course, readily imposed upon by any artful person who perceives and takes advantage of this most amiable failing.
In person she is rather above the usual height, somewhat slender, with dark hair and eyes the whole countenance at times full of intelligent expression. Her demeanor is dignified, graceful, and noticeable for repose. She goes much into literary society.
[The entry for Mrs. Osgood is substantially revised from that printed in "The Literati" of 1846. The revised version was first printed in the Southern Literary Messenger for August 1849. Interestingly, the references to the number of years, such as in the first sentence, have been changed by one year from those given in Godey's, suggesting that the revision was made in 1847. Most of the manuscript of this later version of the entry survives in several fragments, probably intended for Poe's proposed "Literary America" of 1848. The Griswold text omits, from page 95, quotations of Mrs. Osgood's poems "The Music Box" and "If He Can"; from page 96, a quotation from "The Unexpected Declaration"; and from page 98, quotations from "She Loves Him Yet" and a poem beginning "Yes, lower to the level." All of these quotations are given in the manuscript. It is reasonable to presume that Griswold cut out these long quotations for the sake of shortening the entry. One sentence in the Griswold version which does not appear in the original is on page 98, reading, "It is not only rhythmically perfect, but it evinces much originality in its structure." Whether Griswold added it or had a text revised by Poe is a matter of conjecture.]
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[S:1 - Works, 1850]