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Featured Books

Summer on the Lakes in 1843 (Prairie State Books)Summary and Reviews of Summer on the Lakes in 1843 (Prairie State Books)
Woman in the Nineteenth Century: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Criticism (Norton Critical EditSummary and Reviews of Woman in the Nineteenth Century: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Criticism (Norton Critical Editions)
At Home and Abroad; or, Things and Thoughts in America and Europe (Dodo Press)Summary and Reviews of At Home and Abroad; or, Things and Thoughts in America and Europe (Dodo Press)
Life Without And Life Within: Or Reviews, Narratives, Essays And Poems (1859)Summary and Reviews of Life Without And Life Within: Or Reviews, Narratives, Essays And Poems (1859)
Art, Literature And The DramaSummary and Reviews of Art, Literature And The Drama
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Margaret Fuller

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Sarah Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) spent her childhood steeped in reading literature and philosophy, studying four languages, walking, singing, and piano playing.  She did all these things every day as part of a schedule that ran from 5:00am to 11:00pm.  This schedule may have contributed to nightmares and headaches that she experienced her entire life, but it also produced an uncommonly educated woman who by the time she was in her early twenties had met Transcendentalist luminaries Emerson, Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, W.H. Channing, and others.

Her father had made sure she stuck with the routine that gave her this education, but he died in 1835 leaving Fuller no choice but to turn to teaching school.  She only taught for about a year, however, and soon left Providence, Rhode Island, where she had been teaching, and moved to Boston to be part of the intelligentsia that had blossomed there.  She not only fit into this group but also distinguished herself within it.  She translated and published in English Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe in the Last Years of His Life and edited The Dial, the unofficial publication of the Transcendentalism movement, with Emerson for two years.  What really set her apart, though, was her "Conversations."  These meetings of women in the city were so popular that, eventually, Fuller had to admit men.  Fuller's goal for her group was to stimulate thought in women because she believed that women were taught to exhibit themselves outwardly and had been discouraged from forming ideas for themselves.

In the summer of 1843, Fuller went to the mid-west with some friends and returned concerned about the condition of the Indians and the acculturation of the West based on the East.  She wrote Summer on the Lakes, in 1843 about her trip, which included passages about these concerns and descriptions of all the splendor of nature in the region.  This book impressed the editor of the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley, who, in 1844, gave her a job as literary critic and published her next book, Woman in the Nineteenth Century.  Fuller based Woman in the Nineteenth Century on an essay she had published in The Dial called "The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men. Woman versus Women."

Fuller spent eighteen months at the Tribune, and it was a busy time.  She wrote almost 250 reviews and some essays during this time, and included some of these in a book in 1846 called Papers in Literature and Art.  In these reviews and essays, she not only had the opportunity to write a famous survey of American literature but also could express her reformist side with reports on women's prisons, a halfway house for women, immigrant slums, and hospitals.  She did not ignore broad social issues, either, like capital punishment, abolitionism, the Mexican War, and conditions in insane asylums.

In 1846, Fuller went to England as one of the first American foreign correspondents ever.  She toured England, where the literary elite received her admiringly because of Papers in Literature and Art.  While in England, she met several social reformers and reformist writers, like Giuseppe Mazzini, Adam Mickiewicz, and the scandal-ridden George Sand.  She later moved to Rome, caught the republican spirit that was sweeping Europe at the time, and wrote dispatches to the Tribune calling for American support of the revolutions that were going on all over Europe.  She met Giovanni Ossoli in Rome, with whom she had a son and most likely married in 1849.  The Roman Republic fell in July of 1849, and Fuller and Ossoli fled to Rieti.  A nurse almost startved their son, Angelo, in Rieti, but he survived and was able to accompany his parents to Florence.  Fuller thought her friends in Florence, including poets Robert and Elizabeth Browning, would give her support, but they apparently did not approve of her relationship with Ossoli.  So, Margaret sailed with Giovanni and Angelo for New York in May 1850.  Unfortunately, the ship wrecked just off the coast of Fire Island and nearly in sight of New York City, and All three died.  Searchers, including Thoreau, were only able to find young Angelo's body.

Thus, the world lost one of the leading women in literary history too early.  Though her reputation as a writer suffered after ambivalent editors Emerson, W.H. Channing, and James Freeman Clarke edited out her more radical ideas when they published her journals and letters, she regained some of the reputation she enjoyed when she was living in the 1960s during the feminist movement.  Today, literary historians recognize her for her influence on nineteenth century feminists as well.

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