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to which, in its mode of construction, its scenic effects, and several other points, it bears as close a resemblance as, in the nature of things, it could very well bear. It is by no means improbable, however, that Mrs. Mowatt received some assistance from Mr. Sargent in the composition of her comedy, or at least was guided by his advice in many particulars of technicality.
"Shells and Sea Weeds," a series of brief poems, recording the incidents of a voyage to Cuba, is, I think, the best work in verse of its author, and evinces a fine fancy, with keen appreciation of the beautiful in natural scenery. Mr. Sargent is fond of sea-pieces, and paints them with skill, flooding them with that warmth and geniality which are their character and their due. “A Life on the Ocean Wave" has attained great popularity, but is by no means so good as the less lyrical compositions, “A Calm," “The Gale," "Tropical Weather," and "A Night Storm at Sea."
“ The Light of the Light-house” is a spirited poem, with many musical and fanciful passages, well expressed. For example
But, oh, Aurora's crimson light,
That makes the watch-fire dim,
Than Ellen is to him.
Wild flowers and singing birds,
And singeth in her words. There is something of the Dibdin spirit throughout the poem, and, indeed, throughout all the sea poems of Mr. Sargent—a little too much of it, perhaps.
His prose is not quite so meritorious as his poetry. He writes “ easily,” and is apt at burlesque and sarcasm—both rather broad than original. Mr. Sargent has an excellent memory for good hits, and no little dexterity in their application. To those who meddle little with books, some of his satirical papers must appear brilliant. In a word, he is one of the most prominent members of a very extensive American family—the men of industry, talent and tact.
In stature he is short--not more than five feet five-but well proportioned. His face is a fine one; the features regular and expressive. His demeanor is very gentlemanly. Unmarried, and about thirty years of age.
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 a 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 Hobard Caunter. It contains a number of what the Bostonians call "juvenile” poems, written when Mrs. O., (then
Miss Locke,) could not have been more than thirteen, and evincing unusual precocity. The leading piece is “Elfrida, a Dramatic Poem,” but in many respects well entitled to the appellation, “ drama." I allude chiefly to the passionate expression of particular portions, to delineation of character, and to occasional scenic effect :-in construction, or plot-in general conduct and plausibility, the play fails ; comparatively, of course—for the hand of genius is evinced throughout.
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 bends
Haply the star of Edgar's festival,
I've been a queen in visions ! Very similar, but even more glowing, is the love-inspired eloquance of Edgar.
Earth hath no language, love, befitting thee,
To bloom below!
If Athelwood should hear thee!
Name not the felon knave to me, Elfrida !
Thou lovest him not l-oh, say thou dost not love him! The answer of Elfrida at this point is profoundly true to nalure, 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,
by way of excusing that infidelity which is at once her glory and her shame.
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.