Minerva and the Muse: A Life of Margaret Fuller

By Joan Von Mehren | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11

What a woman needs is not as a woman to act or rule, but as a nature to grow, as an intellect to discern, as a soul to live freely, and unimpeded to unfold such powers as were given her when we left our common home.



The Great Lawsuit

IN THE FALL of 1842 Margarett Crane Fuller decided to rent a house in Cambridge. She wrote that she had been "so long a housekeeper" that she felt "misplaced" as a guest or a boarder, and needed to be the "center of [a] home" for her children. With Arthur and Richard both at the college, she could offer "shelter and affection."1 At first Margaret found it difficult to pick up family life again in the narrow Queen Anne-style house on Ellery Street near the college. She worried that a return to housekeeping would be exhausting for her mother, and her fears seemed justified. "We spend too much; my time is invaded, -- Mother makes herself sick, & does not meet the feelings of the boys," she fumed in her journal. Living on her own, Margaret had enjoyed being able to give vent to her volatile feelings whenever she wished. Now she thought she would have to keep a tight rein on herself so as not to upset her mother, but within weeks she was able to report that Margarett Crane Fuller had "learnt not to be over anxious" when Margaret gave in to her temper and tears.2

While in Concord in the summer, she had read over the manuscript collection of Ellery Channing's poems and now agreed with Emerson that Channing was an impressive talent. "My constellation seems full now he is added," she wrote in her journal in October, even though she was certain she would never love him as she had others. She felt that she had divined "what his final wisdom must be," but in December, when Ellery and Ellen, unable to find a place to board in Concord, joined her and her mother in Cambridge, he returned to the moody behavior for which he was known before his marriage. Encouraging him to prepare his poems for publication, Emerson offered to help with the editing, and Sam Ward promised to pay the publishing costs. The effort kept Ellery in a constant state of strain, but Margaret refused to let his temperamental behavior upset her. "Ellery has harassing cares," she wrote Elizabeth Hoar, "but, since I cannot aid, I do not dwell upon them, and I am able to prevent Mother from doing it, too, which sometimes seems to me an absolute miracle." She was equally amazed at Ellen's patience but still felt that the marriage was a "possible tragedy."3

Margaret contributed her share of the household expenses and spent two days of each week in Boston giving lessons and leading her Conversation classes. The 1842-43 season began with the theme, "How can constancy, a fixedness of

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Minerva and the Muse: A Life of Margaret Fuller
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction - Margaret Fuller: Should She Be Famous? 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Protected Years 6
  • Chapter 2 - A Varied Education 24
  • Chapter 3 - An Unfavorable Turn 38
  • Chapter 4 - Vain World Begone 54
  • Chapter 5 - A Trial to Fortitude 72
  • Chapter 6 - Schoolkeeping in Providence 90
  • Chapter 7 - Episodes in the Crusade 104
  • Chapter 8 - The Dial: Discontent and Freedom 120
  • Chapter 9 - A Sojourner on Earth 137
  • Chapter 10 - Marriage Studies 152
  • Chapter 11 - The Great Lawsuit 162
  • Chapter 12 - Summer on the Lakes 172
  • Chapter 13 - Woman in the Nineteenth Century 189
  • Chapter 14 - Mary and Horace Greeley 200
  • Chapter 15 - James Nathan 207
  • Chapter 16 - New York, 1845-1846 215
  • Chapter 17 - England and Scotland 230
  • Chapter 18 - France 241
  • Chapter 19 - Italy at Last 252
  • Chapter 20 - Return to Rome 264
  • Chapter 21 - 1848: on Her Own 276
  • Chapter 22 - The Roman Republic 289
  • Chapter 23 - Siege and Escape 303
  • Chapter 24 - Florence 318
  • Chapter 25 - Return 333
  • Chapter 26 - Aftermath and Debate 340
  • Notes 353
  • Index 387
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