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Fuller in Her Own Time

A Biographical Chronicle of Her Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates

Joel Myerson

Publication Year: 2008

Writer, editor, journalist, educator, feminist, conversationalist, and reformer Margaret Fuller (1810–1850) was one of the leading intellectuals of nineteenth-century America as well as a prominent member of Concord literary circles. Yet the challenging spirit behind her intellectual confidence and mesmerizing energy led to the invention of an unbalanced legacy that denied her a place among the canonical Concord writers. This collection of first-hand reminiscences by those who knew Fuller personally rescues her from these confusions and provides a clearer identity for this misrepresented personality.
     The forty-one remembrances from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Carlyle, Harriet Martineau, Henry James, and twenty-four others chart Fuller’s expanding influence from schooldays in Boston, meetings at the Transcendental Club, teaching in Providence and Boston, work on the New York Tribune, publications and conversations, travels in the British Isles, and life and love in Italy before her tragic early death. Joel Myerson’s perceptive introduction assesses the pre- and postmortem building of Fuller’s reputation as well as her relationship to the prominent Transcendentalists, reformers, literati, and other personalities of her time, and his headnotes to each selection present valuable connecting contexts.
     The woman who admitted that “at nineteen she was the most intolerable girl that ever took a seat in a drawing-room,” whose Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major book-length feminist call to action in America, never conformed to nineteenth-century expectations of self-effacing womanhood. The fascinating contradictions revealed by these narratives create a lively, lifelike biography of Fuller’s “rare gifts and solid acquirements . . . and unfailing intellectual sympathy.”

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xxix

“Margaret Fuller Gets Her Due” proclaimed the headline, written a mere one hundred and forty–five years after her death.2 What happened to Fuller between her death in a shipwreck off Fire Island, New York, in 1850 and this statement confi rming the renaissance of interest in her? How did...


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pp. xxxi-xxxvi

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Fuller as a Schoolgirl in 1819–1820

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pp. 1-2

Sitting on the girls’ benches, conspicuous among the school-girls of unlettered origin by that look which rarely fails to betray hereditary and congenital culture, was a young person very nearly of my own age. She came with the reputation of being “smart,” as we should have called it, clever...

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Journal Comments on Fuller in 1836 and 1838

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pp. 3-6

[17 December 1836] . . . I have secured the services of Miss Fuller, a lady of high reputation, and competent to enter into the views of education, which direct the experiment in which I am now engaged. . . . [28 March 1837] Tuesday evening I spent with Miss Fuller;—Rev Mr. Dwight also. Miss Fuller seems more inclined to take large...

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Epistolary Comments on Fuller in 1836, 1843, and 1850

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pp. 7-8

. . . Miss Fuller is with us now—and you will be glad to hear that we find real satisfaction—Miss F., Mr E[merson]. and myself—in our intercourse with each other. We like her—she likes us—I speak in this way—because you know we came together almost strangers—all to one another and...

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Fuller in Providence in 1837–1838

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pp. 9-10

It is easy to see what happened when a young person of no special natural ability and of small and fragmentary culture talked according to his own notion, as Novalis wrote. Margaret Fuller (not yet a marchioness, but a school-mistress) lived then and pursued her noble calling nobly in Providence...

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Fuller as a Teacher in 1837–1838

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pp. 11-19

To Margaret Fuller and her biographers the eighteen months of her employment as “Lady Superior” in the Green Street School, Providence, R.I., were little more than an incident in her remarkable and varied career, but to a small group of the old scholars in that school it was a most important...

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Fuller as a Teacher in 1838

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pp. 20-23

[2 May 1838] Miss Fuller was quite displeased and mentioned the names of two or three who she thought had not tried nor studied their lesson at all. She thought there were but few in school whose natural powers were not good but she wished to arouse our dormant faculties and break up the film...

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Fuller as a Teacher in 1838

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pp. 24-25

[19 December 1838] Miss Fuller called her class in English Poetry and when we were all seated, she talked to us so aff ectionately and feelingly that few could restrain their tears. I felt more sad than ever at leaving her and I never loved her so much as I did then and do now. She told us that her...

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Fuller as a Teacher in 1838–1839

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pp. 26-36

In June, 1837, Margaret Fuller became an assistant teacher in the Green Street School in Providence, Rhode Island. Her connection with Bronson Alcott’s controversial school in Boston had been terminated in the preceding April, and, in spite of her desire to work on a projected life of Goethe...

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Fuller’s Conversations in 1839 and 1840

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pp. 37-46

Miss Fuller in her introductory conversation enlarged upon the topics which she touched in her letter to Mrs. Ripley. She spoke of the education of our grandmothers as healthy though confined, and said that in what was called the improved education of the present day the boundaries had been...

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Epistolary and Journal Comments on Fuller in 1839, 1841, and 1842

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pp. 47-49

I was invited to dine at Mr. [George] Bancroft’s, yesterday, with Miss Margaret Fuller; but Providence had given me some business to do; for which I was very thankful. When my Dove and Sophie Hawthorne can go with me, I shall not be afraid to accept invitations to meet literary lions...

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Epistolary Comments on Fuller in 1839, 1841, and 1850

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pp. 50-52

Both your letters found me at Mr. Emerson’s, but I waited until I came home, to answer them. Miss Fuller has been there for a week past, and I have not yet learned the art of self-regulation so far as to be able to do anything when she is near. I see so few people who are anything but pictures...

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Journal Comments on Fuller in 1840

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pp. 53-54

[3 August 1840] . . . Saw Miss Fuller, but did not get much. I seldom get much from her. Is it my fault? No doubt. This much, she said some good things about the infl uence of Christianity at this day. Read me some beautiful poetry, which will shine upon the Dial...

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Fuller’s Conversations in 1841

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pp. 55-62

[March 8, 1841] margaret recapitulated the statements she made last week. By thus giving to each fabled Deity its place in the scheme of Mythology, she did not mean to ignore the enfolding ideas, the one thought developed in all—as in Rhea, Bacchus, Pan. She would only imply that each...

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Fuller in New York in 1844–1846

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pp. 63-71

My first acquaintance with Margaret Fuller was made through the pages of “The Dial.” The lofty range and rare ability of that work, and its un-American richness of culture and ripeness of thought, naturally filled the ‘fit audience, though few,’ with a high estimate of those who were known...

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“The Literati of New York City” (1846)

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pp. 72-73

. . . What poet, in especial, but must feel at least the better portion of himself more fairly represented in even his commonest sonnet (earnestly written) than in his most elaborate or most intimate personalities? I put all this as a general proposition, to which Miss Fuller...

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Fuller at the Italian School, London, in 1846

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pp. 74-76

Miss Fuller (the authoress of Woman in the Nineteenth Century, the best work on the subject which has yet appeared,) kindly consented to the request that she would say a few words to the meeting [on 10 November 1846]. Miss Fuller had no expectation that she would be thus solicited, but...

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Epistolary Comments on Fuller in 1846 and 1852

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pp. 77-78

Miss Fuller came duly as you announced; was welcomed for your sake and her own. A high-soaring, clear, enthusiast soul; in whose speech there is much of all that one wants to find in speech. A sharp subtle intellect too; and less of that shoreless Asiastic dreaminess than I have sometimes met...

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Fuller in Italy in 1847

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pp. 79-80

It so happened that our party in Genoa, Leghorn, Naples, and Rome, was a good deal with that of Miss Fuller. Between Leghorn and Civita Vecchia our steamer, an English one, was run down in the night by a French steamer. As they were going in opposite directions, at the rate of twelve...

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Fuller in Rome in 1847–1849

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pp. 81-91

As soon as she heard of our arrival [in Rome, November 1847] she stretched forth a friendly, cordial hand and greeted us most warmly—she gave us great assistance in our search for convenient lodgings, and we were soon happily established near her. Our intercourse was henceforth most...

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Fuller in Rome in 1849

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pp. 92-93

By a peculiar coincidence, Anna [Gale]’s brother, Frederick W. Gale, who had graduated with honors from Harvard in 1836, and had visited her at the Green Street School happened to be living in Florence, Italy, in December of 1849. He was a well-educated man, who had not been...

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Fuller in Florence in 1850

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pp. 94-101

I passed about six weeks in the city of Florence, during the months of March and April, 1850. During the whole of that time Madame Ossoli was residing in a house at the corner of the Via della Misericordia and the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. This house is one of those large, well built...

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Fuller’s Death in 1850

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pp. 102-108

On Thursday, July 15th, at noon, the Elizabeth was off the Jersey coast, somewhere between Cape May and Barnegat; and, as the weather was thick, with a fresh breeze blowing from the east of south, the officer in command, desirous to secure a good offing, stood east-north-east. His purpose was...

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Epistolary Comments on Fuller in 1850, 1851, and 1852

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pp. 109-111

I hope you will succeed in do[ing] justice to your lamented friend and give energy to its readers. I think if she had survived only her husband—and been impressed with that kind of grief which gives a zest of immortality to certain minds we read about, her expression etc. etc. I may as well...

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Epistolary Comments on Fuller in 1851

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pp. 112-114

I think I said once in a letter which I wrote perhaps last winter, that in a solid year, a life of Margaret Fuller might be looked for. This may still be possible, but I regard it as doubtful. At least two persons are now engaged with this difficult task...

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Journal Comments on Fuller in 1851 and 1852

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pp. 115-118

[3 February 1851] In the evening I went to Mr Alcott’s with quite a large party. As a discussion of “Margaret Fuller” or of “Woman” it was entirely a failure but it was a fine talk. Mr. [Thomas Wentworth] Higginson of Newburyport, Ralph Emerson, and Miss Hunt were there in addition to...

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From Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1852)

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pp. 119-126

It was while Margaret was residing at Jamaica Plain, in the summer of 1839, that we fi rst really met as friends, though for several years previous we had been upon terms of kindest mutual regard. And, as the best way of showing how her wonderful character opened upon me, the growth of our...

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From Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1852)

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pp. 127-131

My acquaintance with Margaret commenced in the year 1823, at Cambridge, my native place and hers. I was then a member of Harvard College, in which my father held one of the offi ces of instruction, and I used frequently to meet her in the social circles of which the families connected...

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From Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1852)

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pp. 132-138

. . . Inexhaustible in power of insight, and with a good-will “broad as ether,” she could enter into the needs, and sympathize with the various excellences, of the greatest variety of characters. One thing only she demanded of all her friends,—that they should have some “extraordinary...

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From Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1852)

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pp. 139-154

I became acquainted with Margaret in 1835. Perhaps it was a year earlier that Henry Hedge, who had long been her friend, told me of her genius and studies, and loaned me her manuscript translation of Goethe’s Tasso. I was afterwards still more interested in her, by the warm praises of Harriet...

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Epistolary Comments on Fuller in 1852

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pp. 155-156

I too read it [Memoirs] with deep interest and profound attention, hoping at last to know Margaret and do her justice—but in vain I sought to solve the problem of a nature so complex—when she speaks of the loneliness of her life, her sorrows and confl icts (as on Thanksgiving day and other...

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Epistolary and Other Comments on Fuller in 1856,1882, and 1884

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pp. 157-162

She was always kind and very full of fun with me,—and when I last saw her in Florence, there was a quiet tenderness in her manner which I recall with great satisfaction. She was very unprepossessing personally. Her hair was scant and sandy. Her skin dry and soft. Her features were large and the eyes...

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From “Margaret Fuller Ossoli” (1861)

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pp. 163-167

In closing our brief narrative of these impressive events [of her life], we have only one remark to make on the pathetic consistency of fate which belonged to all that concerned this very extraordinary woman. The word “fragmentary” seems best to characterize all that related to her. Her early...

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Anniversary Celebration of Fuller’s Sixtieth Birthday (1870)

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pp. 168-169

[23 May 1870] p.m. At the Celebration of Marg. Fuller’s 60th Birthday held at the rooms of the Woman’s Club. The company is worthy of the occasion. [James Freeman] Clarke, [Frederic Henry] Hedge, [William Henry] Channing, [Christopher Pearse] Cranch, Mr and Mrs [Rebecca] Spring...

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From Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography (1877)

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pp. 170-172

. . . The difference between us was that while she was living and moving in an ideal world, talking in private and discoursing in public about the most fanciful and shallow conceits which the transcendentalists of Boston took for philosophy, she looked down upon persons who acted instead of talking...

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Margaret Fuller (1884)

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pp. 173-174

In looking for the causes of the great infl uence possessed by Margaret Fuller over her pupils, companions, and friends, I find something in the fact of her unusual truth-speaking power. She not only did not speak lies after our foolish social customs, but she met you fairly. She broke her lance...

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Journal Comments on Fuller in 1858 (1884)

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pp. 175-178

Rome, 3 April 1858] . . . From [discussing Horatio] Greenough, Mr. [Joseph] Mozier passed to Margaret Fuller, whom he knew well, she having been an inmate of his during a part of her residence in Italy. His developements about poor Margaret were very curious. He says that Ossoli’s family...

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From Reminiscences of Ednah Dow Cheney (1902)

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pp. 179-181

Her nature was intense, sensitive, and passionate, and a hereditary tendency to self-consciousness and apparent self-conceit was so blended with loftiness of the soul and the highest ambition that she was constantly misunderstood by the crowd about her, who saw only the outward manner...

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The “Margaret-ghost” (1903)

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pp. 182-184

. . . our kindly diarist [Mrs. Emelyn Story] “went home with Margaret and sat with her in her quiet little upper chamber all the evening. W[illiam]. came for me, and we stayed until a late hour of the night.” The unquestionably haunting Margaret-ghost, looking out from her quiet little upper...

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From Alcott Memoirs (1915)

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pp. 185-186

Of gifted Margaret Fuller I retain a most vivid impression. She often visited the Alcotts during my life with them. I remember one occasion when at tea in the Alcott’s Concord home, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller sat at the table with Mr. and Mrs. Alcott, Louisa, her...

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A Brother’s Memories of Fuller (1936)

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pp. 187-193

. . . in the study of history she would dwell upon what was excellent in distinguished characters, and try to incite us to emulation. I was deliberate in my judgment and not impressible. I remember discouraging her after one of her historical talks in which she urged us to be ambitious of attaining what...

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Reminiscences of Margaret Fuller (1974)

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pp. 194-202

[7 August 1859] . . . I knew Margaret only three years and not intimately as she would have said. But I was a close observer, and beside being a positive clairvoyante at moments, I was a keener judge than those who knew her better, because I was wholly independent of her personal magnetism...


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pp. 203-205

Works Cited

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pp. 207-209


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pp. 211-217

Writers in Their Own Time

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pp. 219

E-ISBN-13: 9781587297465
E-ISBN-10: 1587297469
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587296918
Print-ISBN-10: 1587296918

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: paper

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Subject Headings

  • Feminists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Women authors, American -- 19th century -- Biography.
  • Fuller, Margaret, 1810-1850.
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