Minerva and the Muse: A Life of Margaret Fuller

By Joan Von Mehren | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13

Persist to ask, and it will come,/Seek not for rest in humbler home;/So shalt thou see, what few have seen,/The palace home of King and Queen.



Woman in the Nineteenth Century

WHILE LIVING in a boardinghouse with a view overlooking the Hudson River, Fuller and Sturgis spent their days walking in the hills, taking excursions on the river, and writing: Fuller on her revision of "The Great Lawsuit," and Sturgis on a collection of stories for children. In November Ellery Channing joined them for a three-day junket into the Catskills. Horace Greeley had also added Ellery to the Tribune's literary department, and after settling Ellen and Greta with his family in Boston, he stopped over on his way to the new job. Another visitor was Christopher Pearse Cranch, who had forsaken his divinity school education to become a poet-artist. He came with his wife, Elizabeth De Windt Cranch, whose parents owned Locust Grove, a nearby estate. The Cranches were now living on Amity Place in New York, and their large house was a haven for artists and poets. William Henry Channing boarded with the Cranches when he was in town. William, too, visited Margaret and Caroline at Fishkfll Landing.

Another of Fuller's friends nearby was Georgiana Bruce, the adventurous Englishwoman whom she had met at Brook Farm. She was now working as an assistant warden of women prisoners under the innovative Eliza Farnham at Sing-Sing Prison in Ossining, New York, on the Hudson, about forty miles south of Fishkill Landing. Fuller, with the thought that she might one day write a self-culture novel for women based on the Wilhelm Meister model, had been encouraging Bruce to send her sketches of the life histories of her charges, many of whom were prostitutes. "[T]heir degradation" highlighted the plight of women in general, Fuller explained in a letter to Bruce, "for a society beats with one great heart," She arranged to visit the prison the last weekend in October with Sturgis and William Channing, who was experienced in prison visiting. The plan was that he would talk to the men prisoners while Fuller talked to the women.1

Writing in advance for advice on how to handle herself, Fuller was curious to know whether she was right in assuming that the black women would speak more freely than the whites, and she wondered how the prostitutes viewed the whole concept of chastity. "Do they see any reality in it," she asked Bruce, "or look on it merely as a circumstance of condition, like the possession of fine clothes? You know novelists are fond of representing them as if they looked up

-189-

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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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