Cover image for "My heart is a large kingdom" : selected letters of Margaret Fuller
"My heart is a large kingdom" : selected letters of Margaret Fuller
Fuller, Margaret, 1810-1850.
Publication Information:
Ithaca [N.Y.] : Cornell University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xix, 336 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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PS2506 .A4 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This single-volume selection of the letters of Margaret Fuller affords a unique opportunity for renewed acquaintance with a great American thinker of the Transcendentalist circle. The letters represent Fuller at all stages of her life and career, and show her engaged as literary critic, as translator and as champion of German literature and thought, as teacher, as travel writer, as literary editor, as journalist, as feminist, as revolutionary, as wife and mother. "My Heart Is a Large Kingdom," unlike previous collections, includes only letters transcribed from Fuller's manuscripts and does not reproduce correspondence known only from printed sources and copies in hands other than Fuller's.Among the recipients of the letters in this generous selection are such literary and cultural figures as Bronson Alcott, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Arthur Hugh Clough, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Giuseppe Mazzini, Giovanni Angelo Ossoli (Fuller's husband), George Ripley, and Henry David Thoreau. Taken together, the letters serve as a chronicle of Fuller's lifetime and provide glimpses into her thoughts and feelings during the years of the "Conversations," Dial, and the revolution in Rome.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Fuller (1810-1850) was the "it girl" of Transcendentalism and one of the most trenchant critics and insightful thinkers 19th-century America produced. She translated German literature, wrote for the New York Daily Tribune and edited the Transcendentalist magazine the Dial. In this valuable collection of Fuller's private correspondence, readers will find a precocious eight-year-old Margaret writing to her "Papa," assuring him that "If you have spies they will certainly inform you that we are not very dissipated," and keeping him apprised of her Latin studies. At 20, Fuller articulates her controversial religious convictions to a cousin. In a letter to her mother, she describes her whirlwind travels to Europe, admitting that she's relieved finally to be in one place for six months. Among the most revealing are her letters to James Freeman Clarke, a distant cousin, about Goethe, about the marriages of mutual acquaintances and about God. The letters to Emerson, Fuller's fellow Transcendentalist (and her successor at the Dial), are also a delight. A May 1843 dispute between the two about whether or not the birth of a daughter is as "sacred" as the birth of a son illustrates their reparteeÄFuller never hesitated to disagree with Emerson, but always did so with respect, grace and wit. Hudspeth (Univ. of Redlands) edited the definitive six-volume edition of Fuller's letters; this volume of selections from the larger oeuvre will make Fuller accessible to a larger number of readers. Specialists and general readers with an interest in 19th-century American culture alike owe a debt to Hudspeth for this welcome contribution to scholarship. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Culled from Hudspeth's previous six-volume Letters of Margaret Fuller (Cornell Univ.), this selection of letters draws a comprehensive and balanced picture of the transcendentalist, covering the full scope of her life from age eight until her death in 1850 in a shipwreck. To assist the reader, the editor provides very brief and exceedingly helpful biographical sketches of the correspondents. The letters are printed in their entirety, unlike the only other selection of her letters, edited by Perry Miller (Margaret Fuller: American Romantic, Peter Smith, 1983. o.p.), which has only a handful of extracts of letters from the last few years of her life. While many letters focus on her education and literary development, the family and social letters complete the picture of this extraordinary woman. This volume is an excellent alternative for academic and public libraries that were unable to afford the larger work.DPaolina Taglienti, Long Island Univ., Brooklyn, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

A formidable figure in 19th-century US literature and culture, Fuller (1810-50) worked as translator of Johann Peter Eckermann's Gesprache mit Goethe (1839); organized of a series of "conversations" with women in Boston; edited (1840-42) the transcendental quarterly The Dial; acted as literary critic, feature writer, and foreign correspondent for Horace Greeley's New York Tribune; and wrote Summer on the Lakes (1844), Papers on Literature and Art (1846), and, most important, Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845). In an attempt to provide a representative record of the author's brief but productive life, Hudspeth (Univ. of Redlands) has drawn 171 letters, each painstakingly transcribed, from his six-volume The Letters of Margaret Fuller (1983-94; vols. 1-3, CH, Nov'83, Apr'85). The dates of the selected letters range from 1818 to 1850. Letters are addressed to A. Bronson Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry D. Thoreau, Sarah Helen Whitman, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Evert A. Duyckinck, and Giovanni Angelo Ossoli (the man she apparently married in 1849), among others. Hudspeth claims that the present volume accurately mirrors Fuller's "interests, her friendships, her ideas, her longings, and her successes." Accordingly, it becomes the best one-volume edition of Fuller's letters now available. Recommended especially to those academic libraries that do not own the six-volume set. All levels. D. D. Kummings University of Wisconsin--Parkside



Chapter One Hold on in courage of soul. * * *     When Sarah Margaret Fuller was born, on 23 May 1810, her father was a successful lawyer who had moved to the outskirts of Cambridge, Massachusetts. His first child, she was an object of his love and devotion, which he expressed by expecting much of her. Timothy Fuller shaped his daughter's mind as he would try to shape the minds of his sons, but only she was fully fit to profit from the regimen that he imposed. She early learned languages; she read widely in popular literature, in political economy, philosophy, history, poetry, and drama. Margaret had the advantage of Timothy's own classical training at Harvard and his insistence that things be done in an orderly manner. She grew up with a combination of tutelage at home and private schools in Boston and Groton, and, finally, she underwent an intense course of self-instruction. Although she later remembered those days as harsh and deforming, for she had nightmares and periods of anxiety, the letters she wrote at the time make it abundantly dear that she also danced at Harvard balls, shared enthusiasms with a circle of young women, and was thoroughly at home in the local social life. She even fell in love with George Davis, a distant cousin, but he disappointed her.     Her intellectual development did not slow down, for in her teens she became intensely interested in German literature and rapidly cultivated fluency in the language. This was a time when German had come to dominate the scholarly world of theology, but Fuller was more interested in the literary works of Goethe, Novalis, Schiller, and others. She was, of course, serf-taught, but she was able to talk to and correspond with Frederic Henry Hedge, a deeply learned minister who had studied in Germany. She asked his advice, read what he suggested, and then challenged him to give her new directions.     Even more important was her friendship with yet another distant cousin, James Freeman Clarke, who shared her passion for German literature. Fortunately for us, Clarke left New England to take a pastorate in Louisville, thus making it necessary for Fuller to write often and in detail to him. It is through these letters that we now get the best insight into the mind of a brilliant young woman as she expands her knowledge and develops her own critical power. But it was not literature alone that prompted the letters, for Fuller was willing to keep Clarke up to date about the goings on in Cambridge and Boston, and so we have a corresponding record of life among their friends in New England.     But Margaret's father put an end to that life when he moved the family to Groton, some forty miles from Cambridge. Fuller felt isolated and balked, so she turned to her books, even more determined to keep abreast of the world of letters. All too soon, however, disaster fell: her father suddenly died of cholera on 1 October 1835. Though he had been successful, Timothy had not left the family on a sound financial basis, so the family faced an immediate need for action. Margaret had just been invited to go abroad in the company of Samuel G. Ward (a young man who became her second love) and John and Eliza Farrar, a Harvard professor of mathematics and his wife. Fuller, of course, had to decline the trip and look for employment. Her only choice was teaching, for she was not yet practiced enough to think of herself as a professional author, and even if she were rash enough to try, the probability of making a living with her pen was small. So teach she did.     Her first opportunity came when she found that Bronson Alcott needed an assistant at his Temple School in Boston. An educational reformer and philosopher, Alcott had tried to teach in radically new ways, among them the use of Socratic dialogues with his pupils. Elizabeth Peabody had been Alcott's first teacher and recorder of the talks with the children, but the subject matter sometimes bordered on sexuality and the manhood of Jesus--topics that could and did cause scandal--so Peabody resigned. Fuller took the position in 1836, only to find Alcott interesting but improvident, for he could not pay her for her efforts. It was, then, with some relief that she received an offer to teach in Providence, where Hiram Fuller (no relation) had established a school on Alcott's principles but on a firmer financial basis. He offered Fuller a handsome salary of $1,000 a year and the freedom to teach the girls in the school as she wished. In midsummer 1837 she accepted the offer.     In one way it was not a propitious time for Fuller to leave Massachusetts, for she had finally made the acquaintance of the man most electrifying to young intellectuals--Ralph Waldo Emerson, at whose home she spent a satisfying visit in July 1836 and again in May and June 1837. But because Emerson lived in Concord, they could stay in touch only by letters, so Fuller began another significant correspondence.     She was a successful teacher in Providence, and she became a part of a lively intellectual circle of men and women, but she liked neither the city nor the teaching. She fretted under the daily routine of instruction, and she was impatient with the complacent? rather conservative bent of her Providence acquaintances. Inevitably she gave it all up, even though the financial reward was substantial. Early in 1839 she went back to Boston, where she gave private lessons and translated Johann Peter Eckermann's Gespräche mit Goethe , a "table talk" book of conversations with the master. Fortunately for Fuller, George Ripley had begun a series of translations of German works, Specimens of Foreign Standard Literature, and he accepted her work for publication.     At the same time Fuller planned a new project: in November 1859 she organized a series of "Conversations" for women in Boston. Participants paid $10 to join. Fuller would begin each session by offering an opinion and then draw out her participants in a conversational give-and-take. The series was highly successful, for it gave Fuller an income, and it was very attractive to the women, some of whom were also prominent intellectuals; others were the wives of public men in the Boston area. Fuller was a natural conversationalist, so she was able to exploit this modification of the lecture format for five years. She gave semiannual courses and opened some of them to men--unhappily, it turned out, for the men, as might have been predicted, dominated the discussions and silenced the women. But her Conversations limited to women seem to have been consistently successful and strengthened her public presence.     During those years Fuller's friendship with Sam Ward grew into love, but, like Davis before him, Ward did not respond to her. She thought Ward a promising young painter and encouraged him to develop his talent, but he was in fact headed to Baring Brothers to join his father as a banker. Even more confounding was the fact that Ward fell in love with one of Fuller's close friends, Anna Barker, a beauty from New Orleans whom Fuller deeply admired. Sam and Anna married on Ward's birthday, 3 October 1840, a date Fuller noted each succeeding year.     Readers will find in the letters in this section a record of Fuller's growth from childhood to maturity. These letters show clearly how important German literature was to her and how liberated she felt in exploring it. The letters chart the emotions of a woman trying to find her place in a world that offers her few opportunities. She loves and loses two men, her father dies, and she makes her first, successful ventures outward into a professional life as conversationalist and writer. 1. To Timothy Fuller Cambridgeport. 16 Dec. 1818. Dear Papa.     I was very sorry to hear of your accident. I dreamed the night Mamma recieved your letter that you were sick and your life was despaired of when you suddenly recovered. I hope the latter will be accomplished not the former. Papa I do not suppose you think it a good excuse to say that I could not write. No Papa nor do I either for I could have done it. But I have been like Basil in the "Tomorrow" and have determined to be so no longer. I am resolved to write you every week. I have requested Mamma often to let me learn to make puddings and pies. Now I will tell you what I study Latin twice a week and Arithmetick when Aunt Elizabeth is here. If you have spies they will certainly inform you that we are not very dissipated. We have been three times to Dr. Williams and once to Mr Gannetts Aunt Elizabeth often goes to Boston. Eugene has got well but William Henry is rather fretful today. Eugene was very much pleased to recieve your letter but I found it began to grow dirty and took it into custody. Mamma has given me one of the arches to put my letters in for I hope you will write to me when you are not more usefully employed. I do not see how I have contrived to write without being forced to search my brain for something to say except your letter furnished a variety of topicks for I cannot write a long letter seldom more than a page and a half neither do I see how you and Mamma write so much. Perhaps I shall now though. It will take you fifteen minutes to read this letter and me an hour to write it. You say a relation of your pain would be uninterresting to any but an affectionate wife. Do not forget that I am Your afectionate Daughter. Sarah M Fuller 2. To Timothy Fuller Cambridge. 16 January 1820 My dear father     I received your letter of the 29th about a week ago[.] I should have written to you much sooner but have been very busy. I begin to be anxious about my letter of the 28th which you do not mention having received in any of your letters. If it has not miscarried it reached you a fortnight ago. Your letter to me was dated the day after mine was written but you do not mention it in any of your letters to Mamma.--     I attend a school which is kept by Aunt Abigail for Eugene and myself and my cousins which with writing and singing schools and my lessons to Uncle Elisha takes up most of my time--     I have not written to Miss Kilshaw yet as there is no opportunity of sending our letters. Deep rooted indeed is my affection for her May it flourish an ever blooming flower till our kindred spirits absolved from earthly day mount together to those blissful regions where never again we shall be seperated. I am not romantic, I am not making professions when I say I love Ellen better than my life. I love her better and reverence her more for her misfortunes. Why should I not she is as lovely as sweet tempered as before. These were what I loved before and as she possesses all these now why should my love diminish. Ought it not rather to increase as she has more need of it. It is for herself alone I grieve for the loss of fortune. She will be exposed to many a trial a temptation she would otherwise have escaped Not but I know she will go through them all No But I shall feel all her sorrows--     You will let me read Zeluco? will you not and no conditions. Have you been to the theatre this winter? Have they any oratorios at Washington?--I am writing a new tale called The young satirist. You must expect the remainder of this page to be filled with a series of unconnected intelligence My beautiful pen now makes a large mark I will write no farther. 17th January 1820.     Yesterday I threw by my pen for the reason mentioned above. Have you read Hesitation yet. I knew you would (though you are no novel reader) to see if they were rightly delineated for I am possessed of the greatest blessing of life a good and kind father. Oh I can never repay you for all the love you have shown me. But I will do all I can.     We have had a dreadful snowstorm today. I never look around the room and behold all the comforts with which Heaven has blessed me without thinking of those wretched creatures who are wandering in all the snow without food or shelter. I am too young No I am not. In nine years a great part of my life I can remember but two good actions done those more out of sefishness than charity. There is a poor woman of the name of Wentworth in Boston she would willingly procure a subsistence but has not the means. My dear father a dollar would be a great sum to this poor woman. You remember the handsome dollar that I know your generosity would have bestowed on when I had finished my Deserted Village I shall finish it well and desire nothing but the pleasure of giving it to her. My dear father send it to me immediately I am going into town this week I have a thousand things to say but neither time or paper to say them in.     Farewel my dear Father I am Your affectionate daughter. Margaret Fuller     P S I do not like Sarah, call me Margaret alone, pray do! 3. To Margarett C. Fuller Boston. December 9th. 1821 Dearest mother,     I received or rather grandmother did my fathers letter on the 7th. I do not think his plan of making you his secretary a very feasible plan. I fancy you will be too much engaged besides you do not write half so fast as he can, and are not sufficiently fond of letter writing; do tell my father that I expect some letters from him. You know mother that I am not a very good dancer. I wish to go to Mr Park's dancing school. I do not think it would interfere with my studies as it will keep only Thursday an[d] Saturday and I should have all the evenings to myself. I wish you would let me know your determination as quickly as possible as this quarter will finish a week from next Tuesday. Uncle Williams is better, but he says it is very hard for him to lie in bed so, and so hungry too. Poor Susan is confined to her bed. Last Tuesday night she had shivering fits, she went to bed but was attacked again in the morning, and is now quite ill. I went to Mr Frothingham's on Thanksgiving day and heard Mr Everet. I liked his sermon or rather lecture much except two or three expressions which I could not understand such as "the active centres of fermentation and in my opinion his pronunciation was not very good. The meeting house was very much crowded and there was some excellent singing. They say that the choir at Mr. F's is the best in Boston. I believe I did not tell you in my former letter that uncle Abraham had carried me and aunt Sarah and the two girls to the ampitheatre. The performance was Blue Beard, in which we had the pleasure of seeing fire, smoke, battles, death, blood, skeletons and all the ghostly preparations. But there were many beautiful horses and some of the performances really wonderful. One of the little ponies being ordered to jump through a balloon went and stuck his nose through the paper and then not liking the sport ran back. An Arabian horse kept excellent time to the tune of Nancy Dawson. By the way uncle Abraham says that he had as lieve see Mr Whittlers children take a cane and ride around the room as hear me play on the piano and that it came as near to these performances as my music did to that of Mrs Holman and Mrs French. Uncle Elisha asked me if I talked to him about it on purpose to quarrel with him I shall not ever play before him I fancy tho' he says I may when he is asleep. My best love to papa I am your affectionate daughter. Sarah M Fuller. 4. To Timothy Fuller Cambridge. 25th. Jan. 1824. My dearest father,     I was delighted a short time ago by receiving a letter from you. I should very much prefer going to Mr Emerson's on every account, and if I go to Miss Prescott's I must be compelled to give up seeing you at all. But if you wish it, I am willing to go, only, I hope you will not keep me there very long. I would give you the particulars of Miss Pratts party, as you desire, but it is so long ago I have really forgotten them. I was very happy, I am passionately fond of dancing and there is none at all in Cambridge except at the Cotillon parties. I thank you most sincerely, my beloved father, for the interest you take in my pleasures. Be assured, I will do all that is in my power to manifest my gratitude for the indulgence and kindness you have ever shown in endeavoring to gratify even my slightest wishes. I think there never was so kind and affectionate a father as you and I am most profoundly and ardently sensible of it. At Miss Wells's there was dancing to the piano, singing, music, and chess. I played "Mary list awake," Bruce's address to his army,"--and "Oh this is the spot." Miss[e]s Gray and Wells accompanied me on the flute and flageolet. Miss Channing Miss Cochran and Miss Brewster, who have all delightful voices sang and played. I was particularly pleased with Miss Cochran's singing, for though her voice is neither very powerful, nor of great compass; I think it is the most soft and melodious I ever heard. Miss Howard did not sing well at all. There was great difficulty in prevailing on her to sing and when she did, she played without any apparent diffidence to the middle of the tune, when she suddenly b[r]oke off and buried her face in her hands. Every one thought that she was very silly and affected, and some gentlemen told me she always did just the same thing, and they supposed she thought it graceful and practised it at home for effect. Misses Spooner and Pratt played for us to dance, and my partner for the two first dances was Mr Ripley, who had the first part last Commencement, and as you thought spoke so finely. Afterwards I danced with Messrs Lunt, Newell, Emerson and Denny, Adeline Denny's brother. There is to be a Cotillon party this week. If you were at home, I am sure Mother would be willing that I should go, when she knew you I wished it Elisabeth Ware, Charlotte M'Kean, Abba D'Wolfe, the Misses Hilliard indeed all the young ladies of my age in Cambridge except Harriette Alston H Fay and poor Sarah M. Fuller are going, and Sarah M. is going to Groton next summer and in all human probability will not go to a dance this two years. If there was time for Mother to receive a letter from you, signifying your desire, that I should go, I am sure she would let me, but that cannot be, as the party is on Thursday.     You have I suppose received a letter from Uncle Elisha, giving you the particulars of his being exposed to the infection of the small pox. But I do not believe he can have caught it. Uncle Abraham has written to him advising him not to avoid it by any means. Uncle A has been inoculated for the kine pock again, and mother thinks she shall be so too. Mother was very unwell yesterday, she seemed very feverish and I feared that she would be sick, but she appears much better to day. Have you any objection to my having my music bound. I can get it done in two volumes, half binding for two dollars. I am extremely obliged to you for your permission to buy a Graeca Minora. Dearest father, yr most affectionate daughter. Sarah Margaret Fuller. Excerpted from "My Heart Is a Large Kingdom" by . Copyright © 2001 by Cornell University. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.