Portraits of American Women Writers That Appeared in Print Before 1861 - Header and Menu

MARIA BROOKS (1794 or 1795 – 1845)

Caroline May, ed. American Female Poets (1848), frontispiece.

FRANCES S. OSGOOD (1811 – 1850)

Raised and educated in her family's home in Massachusetts , Frances Osgood became a published author at the age of fourteen when she began to contribute to Juvenile Miscellany magazine using the pseudonym " Florence ." In 1834 Boston artist Samuel Osgood asked her to sit for a portrait and wooed her with stories of his own love affairs as she posed; the two married a year later. Moving first to London and then to New York City , she traveled among the literary communities in each place. During this time she contributed to and edited magazines and published poetry collections while raising two daughters.

In 1845, Frances Osgood met Edgar Allan Poe and the two writers began a literary courtship that escalated into a series of scandals. Although she and her husband were separated at the time, Frances Osgood's relationship with Poe aroused the jealousy of other admirers (respectively, editor Rufus Griswold and poet Elizabeth Ellet). Eventually ending their liaison to quell the rumors that had damaged her reputation among literati of New York , she maintained her affection for Poe and included her requiem for him "The Hand That Swept the Sounding Lyre" as the final piece in her 1850 collection of poems.

Though some critics berated her writing as overly effusive and sentimental, Frances Osgood achieved a wide readership during her career, and her celebrity was based on her success as an author, not merely on her connection to Poe. After 1847 she suffered from consumption and continued to write from the confines of her bedroom in New York , where she died in 1850.

In 1846, Edgar Allan Poe described her in his “The Literati of New York City. No. V,” in Godey’s Lady’s Book, v. 33, p. 129:

In person she is about the medium height, slender even to fragility, graceful whether in action or repose; complexion usually pale; hair very black and glossy; eyes of a clear, luminous gray, large, and with a singular capacity of expression. In no respect can she be termed beautiful, (as the world understands the epithet,) but the question, “Is it really possible that she is not so?” is very frequently asked, and most frequently by those who most intimately know her.

Other portraits appear in:

“Our Contributors,” in Graham’s Magazine 22 (1843): 53-55, frontispiece showing five separate portraits.

Thomas B. Read, ed. Female Poets of America (1849), vignette on added engraved title page; plate opposite p. 71 in later editions.

“Mrs. Frances Sargent Osgood,” in The American Phrenological Journal, vol. 12 (1850), p. 255.

“Mrs. Frances S. Osgood,” in Sartain’s Magazine 7 (1850): 52.

Mary E. Hewitt, ed. The Memorial (1851), frontispiece.

Sarah J. Hale, ed. Woman’s Record (1853), p. 458; also 1855 ed.

Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck, eds. Cyclopaedia of American Literature (1855), vol. 2, p. 559.

Henry Coppée, ed. A Gallery of Distinguished English and American Female Poets (1860), p. 230.

The Ladies’ Repository (March, 1860), plate preceding p. 129.



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