The Writings of Margaret Fuller: Selected and Edited by Mason Wade

The Writings of Margaret Fuller: Selected and Edited by Mason Wade

The Writings of Margaret Fuller: Selected and Edited by Mason Wade

The Writings of Margaret Fuller: Selected and Edited by Mason Wade

Excerpt

This book has been put together in the belief that the merit of Margaret Fuller's work has been obscured by the richness of her personality and the melodrama of her life. She was by no means a great writer. She wrote too much, with necessity driving her pen; she wrote too hastily, with a constitutional impatience of organization and detail; she wrote awkwardly, for conversation and not the written word was her natural medium. Her life was cut short only a few years after she had determined to devote her energies to a literary career, and just as she was entering upon what promised to be a period of emotional and intellectual maturity. The tragedy of her early death and the romantic story of her last years in Europe received more attention from her contemporaries than did her works, which were never properly edited or collected. The "Margaret Myth" grew apace as those who had felt the force of her remarkable personality contributed their reminiscences, but her literary reputation grew dim. Then the Civil War altered the intellectual climate of New England. The myth survived the change, and the personality was remembered, but the work was largely neglected, although reprints appeared as late as 1874. In recent years her work has been practically inaccessible.

Vernon Parrington complained that "the written record that Margaret Fuller left is quite inadequate to explain her contemporary reputation." In her able study, "Margaret Fuller as a Literary Critic," Helen Neill McMaster offered the explanation of inadequate publication and editorial blundering. Margaret Fuller published five books during her lifetime. The first two were translations from the German, radically abridged to meet the exigencies of publication in an era when there was only a minute audience for German literature in America. Her first original book, Summer on the Lakes, was revised from a journal kept during her tour of the Middle West in 1843, and, like Thoreau Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, in its original form was almost a selected edition of her works. It contained long extracts from books she had read and criticisms . . .

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