Margaret Fuller, Wandering Pilgrim

Margaret Fuller, Wandering Pilgrim

Margaret Fuller, Wandering Pilgrim

Margaret Fuller, Wandering Pilgrim


"How is it that I seem to be this Margaret Fuller," the pioneering feminist, journalist, and political revolutionary asked herself as a child. "What does it mean?" Filled with new insights into the causes and consequences of Fuller's lifelong psychic conflict, this biography chronicles the journey of an American Romantic pilgrim as she wanders from New England into the larger world--and then back home under circumstances that Fuller herself likened to those of both the prodigal child of the Bible and Oedipus of Greek mythology.

Meg McGavran Murray discusses Fuller's Puritan ancestry, her life as the precocious child of a preoccupied, grieving mother and of a tyrannical father who took over her upbringing, her escape from her loveless home into books, and the unorthodox--and influential--male and female role models to which her reading exposed her. Murray also covers Fuller's authorship of Woman in the Nineteenth Century, her career as a New-York Tribune journalist first in New York and later in Rome, her pregnancy out of wedlock, her witness of the fall of Rome in 1849 during the Roman Revolution, and her return to the land of her birth, where she knew she would be received as an outcast.

Other biographies call Fuller a Romantic. Margaret Fuller, Wandering Pilgrim illustrates how Fuller internalized the lives of the heroes and heroines in the ancient and modern Romantic literature that she had read as a child and adolescent, as well as how she used her Romantic imagination to broaden women's roles in Woman in the Nineteenth Century, even as she wandered the earth in search of a home.


I have been a stranger here in my own land.

—Antigone, in Sophocles, Antigone

Pain is very keen with me,” Margaret Fuller wrote James Nathan, the Germanborn Jewish businessman she had fallen in love with while in New York. So it was. Though Fuller triumphed in public as author of Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845), conversationalist, pioneering journalist, and political revolutionary, her private life was full of pain. Erotically attracted to women as well as men, including Nathan and her married mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fuller was repeatedly rejected in love. While working as a journalist in Rome she fell in love with a gentle young Italian, Giovanni Angelo Ossoli, from an old and noble family. Yet this relationship, too, became for her a source of pain when she discovered she was pregnant out of wedlock. Keeping this from her friend Cary Sturgis, Fuller nonetheless came close to revealing it when she wrote home to Cary: “I am a poor magnet with power to be wounded by the bodies I attract.” in this case, however, the “body” she attracted, Ossoli, stayed. and when their baby was born on 5 September 1848 in Rieti, Italy, Ossoli was there. Though Fuller had long harbored doubts about the institution of marriage, one biographer has offered evidence that, before the baby’s 6 November baptism, Fuller—America’s first full-fledged intellectual woman—may nevertheless have married the kind but uneducated Ossoli. As a radical Romantic who defied nineteenth-century social conventions, a woman whose unorthodox thinking and actions led her to celebrity and “a premature grave,” Fuller serves as inspiration and warning.

Two months after her baby’s birth, Fuller, who was sending reports home to the New-York Tribune about the republican fight to free Italy from the control of the pope, local kings and foreign invaders, wrote her mother about the stabbing death of Pope Pius IX’s minister. in her letter she quotes words from a song sung by the pope’s troops of the line as they marched that night alongside “the people”: “Happy the hand which rids the world of a tyrant!” in this letter Fuller, whose recent motherhood has awakened in her a new appreciation of her own mother, tells her mother not to worry because “some higher power leads me through strange, dark, thorny paths” that are “broken at times by glades opening” into “prospects . . .

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