Laughton Osborn

Found- a rare anonymous work by Laughton Osborn, an almost completely forgotten writer and one time friend of Poe - A Handbook of Young Artists and Amateurs in Oil Painting (Wiley and Putnam New York 1845.) The author is given as 'An American Artist' and the book demonstrates  a very thorough technical knowledge of the subject, particularly the making and mixing of colours. Very much a writer manqué, his entry in the American Dictionary of Biography ends on this pathetic note: 'His plays were obviously for the library, and not for the footlights, and a search of dramatic records fails disclose any mention of their production in New York or elsewhere.' An online search some 80 years later shows no mention of any performances or reviews of his plays but brings up one modern critic (David S Reynolds) writing that his plays '…have been  deservedly ignored because they sheepishly attempt to duplicate both the  the form and content of Shakespeare's plays.' As a friend (and correspondent) of the 'divine Edgar', surely the greatest of all American writers, he may be worthy of greater note. Poe writes about him fulsomely in The Literati of New York (1850) which is available at Wikisource. The shorter Allibone has this: 'Novelist. Author Confessions of a Poet, Sixty Years of the Life of Jeremy Levis,etc. A writer of some power, whose works have been criticised as of questionable morality.'

Here is his entry in the American Dictionary of Biography:

LAUGHTON OSBORN (c. 1809-Dec. 13, 
1878), poet, dramatist, was a man whose pecul- 
iar temperament, antagonistic disposition, er- 
ratic outlook on life, and desire to be something 
different and to live apart from his fellow men, 
are occasionally found among those in the minor 
ranks of the literary profession.
He was born in New York City, where his father was a
 well-known and wealthy physician, and during his 
course of study at Columbia, from which he was 
graduated in 1827, he is said by at least one class- 
mate to have been studious and popular. That 
he was studious there can be no doubt. If he 
was popular, a change must have come over him 
after he left college, perhaps owing to the death 
of a favorite sister, and aggravated by the un- 
favorable reception accorded to his books. After 
he returned from a year of foreign travel, he 
lived for nearly half a century in retirement in 
New York, although he was surrounded by many 
who might have become his friends and asso- 
ciates in society and the world of letters. In 
183 1 his Sixty Years of the Life of Jeremy Levis 
was published in two volumes, its rambling style 
and varied material revealing beyond doubt that 
he had been a faithful student of Laurence Sterne 
and Tristram Shandy. The harsh and antago- 
nistic comment of the press upon this book set 
him against the critics and reviewers, and there- 
after he waged continuous verbal warfare with 
them. Many of his books were issued at his own 
expense and without his name, among his successive
publications being The Dream of Alla- 
Ad-Deen; The Confessions of a Poet (1835); 
The Vision of Rubeta, an Epic Story of the Island 
of Manhattan : with Illustrations Done on Stone 
(1838), aimed particularly at William Leete 
Stone, 1792-1844 [q.v.], but which also con- 
tained a fierce attack on Wordsworth and replies 
to his critics, and Arthur Carryl (1841), a vol- 
ume of miscellaneous poems and a "novel" in two 
cantos which gave the name to the volume. These 
were followed by numerous tragedies and comedies
 with such titles as The Heart's Sacrifice, 
Matilda of Denmark, Bianco Capello, and Mari- 
amne, a Tragedy of Jewish History. He also 
wrote a Handbook of Young Artists and Ama- 
teurs in Oil Painting, published in 1845. 

In addition to his literary gifts, he was a paint- 
er and musician of some skill, and a master of 
several languages. According to James Grant 
Wilson, he was at least six feet tall, of fine phy- 
sique and carriage, while Poe, writing of him 
when he was about the age of thirty-five, says 
that he was "probably five feet ten or eleven, 
muscular and active." Poe also described him 
as "undoubtedly one of 'Nature's own noble- 
men,' full of generosity, courage, honor — chival- 
rous in every respect, but unhappily, carrying 
his ideas of chivalry, or rather of independence, 
to the point of Quixotism, if not of absolute in- 
sanity. He has no doubt been misapprehended, 
and therefore wronged, by the world; but he 
should not fail to remember that the source of 
the wrong lay in his own idiosyncracy — one 
altogether unintelligible and unappreciable by 
the mass of mankind" (post, p. 56). His plays 
were obviously for the library, and not for the 
footlights, and a search of dramatic records fails 
disclose any mention of their production in 
New York or elsewhere. 

[E. A. Poe, The Literati (1850) ; S. A. Allibone, A 
Critical Dict, of English Lit. and British and Am. 
Authors, vol. II (1870) ; J. G. Wilson, Bryant and His 
Friends (1886) ; the World (N. Y.), Dec. 14, 1878.] 

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