Thursday, June 18, 2009

Osgood and B-movies

Today, June 18, marks two interesting anniversaries.

Frances "Fanny" Osgood was born this day in 1811. An accomplished, well-known writer herself, she carried on a brief public flirtation with Poe — while both were still married. She was among the most popular women writers of her generation, dabbling both in poetry and in short prose. Her connection to Poe, though short-lived, became infamous. Her relationship with Poe's critical rival Rufus Griswold may have also led to friction between the two men, ultimately resulting in Griswold's character assassination of Poe beginning in 1849. Osgood herself died shortly after Poe's death; she had struggled with tuberculosis for years. In 1850, a posthumous edition of her works was published. One of the poems included in that collection was "Old Friends". It's an unusual one; much of her work is stereotypically feminine with particular emphasis on flowers. This one is about a dying man whose faithful dog clings to his side:
Cold blows the bleak wind around the long stranger,
Wild beat the snows in his thin waving hair,
One only true friend,—his old faithful Ranger,
Clings to his side in the wintry despair.

Sad and forsaken, his heart throbbing slowly,
His limbs numb'd and aching, his eyes dim with tears,
Back steals remembrance, with grief sweet and holy,
Back steals remembrance to happier years.

One only true friend, his old faithful Ranger,
Clings to his side in his wintry despair;
Wild blows the bleak wind around the lone stranger,
Drear drifts the snow in his thin waving hair.

Hunger and age, they have done their work drearily,
Yet is the forest tree grand in its fall;
Faith and affection, still gleaming out cheerily,
Like the sun, o'er the scene, halo it all.

Today also marks the anniversary of the world debut of Roger Corman's film House of Usher in 1960. A master of the B-movie, Corman took major advantage of Poe's name (much less than his actual works) to spit out a series of extremely loose adaptations of Poe's work beginning with House of Usher. Vincent Price made an appearance in all but one of them, including House of Usher. The one in which Price is conspicuously absent, The Premature Burial, is (coincidentally?) my personal favorite. Other Corman/Price collaborations include The Pit and the Pendulum and The Masque of the Red Death. All were very low budget but attracted decent audiences — and still do, to this day. Regardless of what you think of them, Poe's sudden surge in popularity in the 1960s is nothing to be ashamed of.


Anonymous said...

A general question - you are very good at linking the disparate to Poe. I think you should win some prize for the Nabokov-Poe connection -- is there any link between Gogol and Poe?

Rob Velella said...

No connection as far as I know - not that it doesn't exist! I'll keep my eyes and ears open. Anyone out there know anything?

Cynthia said...

Hi Rob, Did Griswold and Osgood have more than a professional relationship? I know he escorted her to salons, and was jealous of her admiration of Poe, but haven't read that the two were romantically linked. I did read somewhere, that after Griswold died, the only pictures on his night table were of Poe and Osgood...

Great thread! Thanks!

Rob Velella said...

Good question. It seems obvious to me that Griswold was enamored with her; it does not seem controversial that there was something going on, and any bio on Poe mentions it. How far that relationship went is unclear. My opinion on Fanny Osgood is that she was an unintentional flirt, which definitely drew in Poe and Griswold. Fanny did write a Valentine poem to Griswold but the question should remain, did she return Griswold's affections?

The portraits in Griswold's possession (not sure where the "night table" idea came from) were not purposeful. Griswold had just suffered a horrible fire that left him with next to nothing (including only a few fingernails) - what didn't burn was partly coincidence, but lucky because he was working on posthumous editions by both those authors. It should not be read into any further than that.

Cynthia said...

I can't remember where I read about the photos, but it was put in sort of an eerie context so thanks for clarifying!

Yes, I understood Griswold to be really taken by her but it seems as though she "wanted to be just friends" so to speak... I understand the Valentine poem was more of a token of appreciation and friendship. With the records of her time with Poe, it seems clear he was who she preferred.

Thanks again!

Rob Velella said...

I don't think they were photos (both Poe and Osgood were dead before photography was available); they probably weren't even dagguereotypes. In fact, as far as I know, there are no daguerreotypes or photos of Osgood (what a shame!), only paintings and engravings.

Cynthia said...

My mistake-- of course they weren't photos! I meant pictures... :)

Poe Forward said...

To quote Henry Miller: "I think there was just as much f*cking going on then as now."