Born in 1810, Margaret Fuller was one of the most influential personalities in early American literature. As a writer, lecturer, and editor of The Dial, transcendentalism’s premier publication during it’s first two years, Margaret influenced the transcendentalist movement and is noted as being one of the earliest founders of women’s liberation.
Forced through her education by her father, Margaret’s health floundered, but did, in fact, give her a broad knowledge of literature and languages. Margaret held conversation classes in Boston, for society women on social and literary topics. As an ardent feminist, Margaret published her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century in 1845, which dealt with feminism and its relation to economic, intellectual, political, and sexual ideals. As a forerunner of transcendentalism, Margaret edited the Dial, for its first two premier years, during 1840 to 1842.
Other writers, who were her compatriots and contemporaries, used Fuller as characters in their own novels, so thought-provoking was she. Fuller has been identified as Zenobia in the Blithedale Romance, by Hawthorne and she is easily recognizable as Miranda in James Russell Lowell’s the Fable for Critics.
In response to her favored Summer on the Lakes in 1843, Horace Greeley called Margaret to New York City, and she became the first literary critic of the New York Tribune. Her Papers on Literature and Art (1846) were later reprinted from her work there.
In 1847, Fuller went to Rome, fell in love, and married the Marchese Ossoli, who was a devoted follower of Mazzini. Fuller joined her new husband in the Revolution and corresponded to New York, describing the situation for Tribune readers. Sadly, while traveling home from abroad in 1850, the ship that her and her family (for by then she had given birth to a baby boy) was on sank off of Fire Island, N.Y.
The entire family drowned. Her incomplete works were later republished by her brother. How sad it is that the world lost a great progressive thinker so early in her prime!
Some of my favorite quotes of Fuller’s are:
-What woman needs is not as a woman to act or rule, but as a nature to grow, as an intellect to discern, as a soul to live freely, and unimpeded to unfold such powers as were given her when we left our common home.
-Humanity is not made for society, but society is made for humanity. No institution can be good which does not tend to improve the individual.
-Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live.
-Nature provides exceptions to every rule.
And while Fuller had such notable published works, such as At Home And Abroad Or, Things And Thoughts In America and Europe, and Woman in the Nineteenth Century,one of my favorite passages can be found in Summer on the Lakes, in 1843, as Margaret so poetically describes visiting Niagara Falls in the moonlight:
“It was grand, and it was also gorgeous; the yellow rays of the moon made the broken waves appear like auburn tresses twining around the black rocks. But they did not inspire me as before. I felt a foreboding of a mightier emotion to rise up and swallow all others, and I passed on to the terrapin bridge. Everything was changed, the misty apparition had taken off its many-colored crown which it had worn by day, and a bow of silvery White spanned its summit. The moonlight gave a poetical indefiniteness to the distant parts of the waters, and while the rapids were glancing in her beams, the river below the falls was black as night, save where the reflection of the sky gave it the appearance of a shield of blued steel. No gaping tourists loitered, eyeing with their glasses, or sketching on cards the hoary locks of the ancient river god. All tended to harmonize with the natural grandeur of the scene. I gazed long. I saw how here mutability and unchangeableness were united. I surveyed the conspiring waters rushing against the rocky ledge to overthrow it at one mad plunge, till, like toppling ambition, o’erleaping themselves, they fall on t’other side, expanding into foam ere they reach the deep channel where they creep submissively away.”
Fuller had a certain poetical love of nature, and found the most intriguing ways to paint a literary picture. It is this vivid love and observation of nature, that I am sure help to make her one of the influential Transcendentalist of her time.
FOR MORE ON MARGARET FULLER