Ithaca, N. IN her American way, Margaret Fuller was mistress to her age. She was one of the most enterprising journalists, critics and foreign correspondents of the first half of the 19th century, a diligent editor of the transcendentalist quarterly, The Dial, who did yeoman's work -unpaid - for Ralph Waldo Emerson and A. Bronson Alcott, the magazine's sponsors. Her literary criticism was as exacting as that of Poe, her more famous contemporary, but less tainted by poisonous personal motives.
She was, however, unduly hard on Longfellow, claiming it was pointless to call him a plagiarist, as Poe had done, when it was ''so obvious that the greater part of his mental stores were derived from the work of others. Her intellectual relationships with Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Greeley and others in this country, and her meetings abroad with people like Thomas Carlyle, the Brownings, George Sand, the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini and the Polish poet and patriot, Adam Mickiewicz, constitute a directory of the major and minor figures of the 19thcentury cultural establishment.
Even before she had become a critic and a mover in international circles, she was famous for her ''Conversations'' - twice-yearly courses on such subjects as poetry, the fine arts, ''Beauty,'' ''Prudence'' and Greek mythology, conducted in Boston bookstores and parlors. Those seminars were considered pioneering efforts in the education of upper-class matrons and young women otherwise doomed to decorative lives as mothers and wives who sewed, sketched a bit, played Chopin waltzes with admirable skill and wrote polite literature to keep up their spirits. Her book, ''Woman in the Nineteenth Century,'' a polemic against the benign neglect of woman's intelligence in the United States and the legal ruses and social customs that kept women in their status as second-class citizens, was published in and became a landmark tract in the history of American feminism.
She was also the exceedingly plain woman whom Hawthorne nonetheless used as a model for Zenobia, the beautiful female reformer of his novel, ''The Blithedale Romance. Lastly, she was a stereotypical 19thcentury New England blue stocking, a figure of literary anecdotes. She once brashly announced, ''I accept the Universe! That is a portrait that borders on caricature, perhaps; but in any recital of Fuller's career there is more than enough solid achievement to guarantee her a permanent niche in American cultural history. As recently as 40 years ago Fuller and her friendships, her affiliation with The Dial, her association with that mid-century experiment in communal living on the banks of the Charles River, Brook Farm, provided material enough for one of those chapters in high school textbooks that effectively dampened one's interest in American literature for a lifetime.
Today, even among supposedly literate adults to say nothing of tuned-out high school students , the mention of her name is all too likely to produce a blank stare. Hudspeth of Pennsylvania State University, therefore, is something of a triumph, both as a scholarly service and as an act of restoration.
It brings back to the forefront a figure who had belonged there all along. Hudspeth has already devoted 14 years to this project; the first two volumes are now in print and four more are projected to cover the last nine years of Fuller's life -years in which she moved out of provincial Boston and onto the stage of world history. But even these two volumes of her wide-ranging correspondence, bristling with energy and ideas, make it plain that the 19th century, above all else, was an age that believed in putting on paper whatever was on its mind.
THE Hudspeth volumes are a superb example of that patient recovery of the American past, generally by unheralded scholars, which is altering our views of American history and American culture. Another magisterial example is the volume edition of Emerson's chaotic journals, completed last year by the Harvard University Press, a labor which gives us a far more vital picture of a complicated man than the steel engraving most of us know as Emerson. No doubt it is because the economics of such publishing ventures are so unattractive and the sheer mass of material is so formidable, that the scholarly task of resurrecting 19th-century American life has been largely consigned to the university presses of the country.
If American trade publishers and the American reading public could be persuaded to temper their avid curiosity for every stray bit of Bloomsbury gossip, progress in 19th-century American studies might be a good deal less glacial.
It is not a question of chauvinism, merely a matter of parity. There is some comfort in the Bloomsbury example, however. Incredible as it may seem, 30 years ago Virginia Woolf was considered a second-rate James Joyce, scarcely worth extensive consideration. Today, every scrap of her private diaries and personal letters is part of a thriving cottage industry and they are published by commercial publishers. Margaret Fuller's reputation, as Mr. Hudspeth's edition of her letters clearly reveals, became the victim of family and friends who were overly concerned with her good name.
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The family, understandably, hoped to bury the rumors that she had never married the Marchese Giovanni Angelo Ossoli, a member of the minor nobility associated with the Papal court in Rome, or that she had only married him after the birth of their son, ''Angelino,'' in September The question is still unresolved. Hudspeth, in his concise and informative introduction, says that ''the best circumstantial evidence we have suggests a marriage in , some months after the birth of the child. Fuller's friends - notably Emerson and two transcendentalist ministers, William Henry Channing and James Freeman Clarke - were eager to commemorate her life and drew upon her papers and the recollections of friends to publish the ''Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli'' in two volumes in What they produced was a funerary monument: a stone woman, proper and sexless and suitably high-minded.
That was bad enough, but as Mr.
Hudspeth indicates, their treatment of the documentary material was close to scandalous. Emerson and his collegues edited and suppressed texts, snipped and pasted, joined fragments from different letters, shuffled journal entries and then sent the originals, rather than copies, to the printer. Some of the sheets, as Emerson acknowledged, came back from the typesetter so soiled that they were unreadable.
Others were lost. Consequently the missing letters have had to be reprinted in the Hudspeth edition from the stilted versions of the ''Memoirs'' texts. Hudspeth advises: ''The editor cannot vouch for the accuracy of texts whose only authority is the 'Memoirs.
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There are a number of recent admirable biographies that are alert to the editorial manhandling of the ''Memoirs'' and that provide a warmer and more humane portrait of the woman. But the first two volumes of Mr. Hudspeth's edition of the complete letters, covering Fuller's life to her 31st year, will come as something of a surprise. In one of her last letters to Fuller, Spring exhorted her to reconsider:. I must now say my most important thing and stop. And that is that much as we should love to see you, and strange as it may seem, we, as well as all your friends who have spoken to us about it, believe it will be undesirable for you to return at present.
We believe all you write from Italy will be better received and that if you return you will lose the power to write as well for you would not be so happy and […] your dear friend Giovanni would not — and could not be so happy here as in his own beautiful Italy […]. It is because we love you we say stay!
It is because we believe it best for you, and in this advising you, you have a proof of the true friendship and affection of, Rebecca. This point of view, taken for granted by subsequent readers, has been variously reiterated until now, especially because it was crystallized by early biographers. In Julia Ward Howe describes Ossoli.
To one wearied with the over-intellection and restless aspiration of the accomplished New Englander of that time, the simple geniality of the Italian nature had all the charm of novelty and contrast. This is what I will discuss as the first instantiation of the Fuller archive. In his notes and some journal entries regarding this experience, Thoreau mixes the materiality of the clothes he sees on the shore with imagined dresses and memories of other clothes he bought from the scavengers.
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For this reason, he faces the enormous difficulty of curating objects that can only be presumed to have belonged to Fuller. In doing so, Thoreau starts to consider the current after-death lives of these fragments Fig. Henry David Thoreau field notes: manuscript, c. Elikom Jones said he would forward a ladies shift which a Quorum man had got — with perhaps the initial S M F on it —. How should these profoundly intimate things be treated? Papers and clothing are not only reminiscent of the dead people they belonged to, but they are contiguous to, and synecdoches of, their bodies, thus creating a unique and oddly intimate but impersonal relation with those who are handling them.
The time spent collecting this first provisional archive is an intimate one, in close proximity to the location of death and absence, and it is used to establish personal relations with the objects recovered, inspecting their current meaning beyond their past employ.
He then concentrated his observations on the new entities created by the combination of personal items and the work of the sea and sand, that together have formed impermanent and coalesced objects, where the organic material of the sand fills the void left by the absent body:. Everything like a pocket among the rags was filled out with sand by the action of the waves though every one had been ripped open. I picked up the skirt of a gentlemans coat with a pair of linen gloves beside it the latter so knotted up among the rags that I could not separate them without a knife — yet the fingers were filled with sand as if there was a hand in them.
What the editors received, and what survived in these passages, is a large part of the Fuller Family Papers at the Houghton Library.
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If the silence — the absence of the manuscript — is the productive force behind all the attempts to construct a Fuller archive, the Memoirs deals with this vacant object in a very specific way. The ghost manuscript and the Memoirs embody two kinds of silence that are inherent in the archival process, and they pose different methodological challenges. In contrast, the Memoirs suggests another type of silence: the silence of suppression and erasure, a normative silence made of substitutions.
The shared critical perspective is that this work is a ruthless cut and paste of fragments of letters sent or received by Fuller, pieces of her writings, and quotations from other works. The edition consists of two volumes: the front page of the first bears the title Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli , with two epigraphs by Ben Jonson and Leonardo da Vinci. When the two first became acquainted, they would write in French or English.
They began to communicate in Italian when Fuller settled in Rome and Florence. In the Memoirs the only language transpiring from this correspondence is English, with only a sentence in French used by Emerson as an epigraph to one of the chapters. If a preoccupation concerning the American audience of the Memoirs — which would probably have preferred to read the text in English — perhaps inspired the editors to discard everything that could not fit the national frame they designed for Fuller, other, more private concerns guided some of the editing labour.
Emerson and Carlyle had a long history of epistolary exchanges and collaboration, and Fuller, in her letter, spoke very candidly about Carlyle. Similar to the erasure of the translation work that immobilized the language into a normative English, the comments written by Fuller, more intimate and private, were normalized into a more benevolent representation of placid interactions between Emerson and Carlyle.
Margaret Fuller Family Papers, vol. Grieving for an absent beloved allowed the creation of a spatio-temporal dimension suspended by the progressive time of the everyday. On the contrary, they immediately engaged in a temporality that was progressive, measurable, and ultimately capitalistic. So far we have seen two very different models of perceiving and constituting the Fuller archive: the organic, intimate, and inclusive assemblage of Thoreau, and the normative, public, and nationalistic one implemented by Emerson and his co-editors.
But there is another model that can be pursued: that of the palimpsest. In a letter written to Fuller in December , Arconati illustrates some of the difficulties in reading Fuller:. What resulted is the Margaret Fuller Transnational Archive MFTA , a project that aims to digitally map networks of publication involving Fuller and the circles of European political and cultural figures with whom she came in contact during the years she spent in Europe, in the momentous era of European revolutions of the s.
Rather than looking only at the locations as the fundamental places of origin of the writings, the MFTA aims to emphasize the interconnections, interrelations, and dissemination of ideas that travel beyond national borders and confines.
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- Margaret Fuller: A New American Life (Hardcover)!
- Margaret Fuller and Her Circles!
- Margaret Fuller and Her Circles!
The project aims to stress that Fuller, through her private relations and in her professional capacity as a European correspondent for the New York Tribune , established forms of collaboration with Italian political exiles such as Costanza Arconati, Cristina di Belgiojoso, and Giuseppe Mazzini during the Italian Risorgimento, while working steadily to maintain a constant flow of communications with her American readers, her family, and her friends in the United States.