Minerva and the Muse: A Life of Margaret Fuller

By Joan Von Mehren | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 18

To themselves be woe, who have eyes and see not, ears and hear not, the convulsions and sobs of injured Humanity.



France

FROM THE TIME Fuller learned in Edinburgh of James Nathan's forthcoming marriage, Rebecca Spring repeatedly urged her to demand the return of her letters, but Fuller denied that there was anything in them other than "spiritual exaltation." Later, in London, she spoke so warmly and naturally of her friendship with Nathan to Thomas Delf that he asked Nathan in a letter if it could be possible that she knew of his engagement. But her controlled public manner veiled a fierce resentment; on October 25 she sent Nathan in Hamburg a sharp note, congratulating him and requesting an exchange of letters, because it was "most fitting for each party to have this part of the record."1

Shortly after arriving in Paris, Fuller received a letter from Nathan in which he argued that she had no right to be angry; he reminded her that his "anxiety to be clearly understood" from the "earliest beginning" of their relationship had been the cause of "much insult" to her and "much pain" to him, and he concluded that the only possible act on his part that could have altered the "understanding" that theirs was no more than a friendship was his "fanciful present" of the white veil. But even in that case, he noted, he had taken care at the time to exact a promise from her that she would not give the gift any "ordinary construction." He went on:

The native mysticism of my being, perhaps race, that suggested the idea of the gift, was ever alone enough of a cause, not to let me hope to dare join, so clear, broad and disciplined an understanding as yours, for any length of time; had it even been possible for a moment to forget, my entire deficiency and inferiority of education, the moral and social inequality etc. etc. but if you remember your own remarks on this subject, and which were very clearly made, all this saying of mine is useless or rather unnecessary, as those remarks settled the point long since, and really I never should ever have said all this, but for the evident irritation and haste, in which you wish the exchange of letters and which suggest, as though with what happened, I had lost not only all right upon, but even all your confidence to possess them. 2

Nathan preferred that they each keep the letters in their possession until they returned to New York and could "talk the matter over more fully and fairly." He assured her that her privacy would be respected in his handling of her letters and of his continual high regard for her even though her last letter had "thrown such a cold shower of uncertainty and distrust" over their friendship. 3

In a scorching reply, Fuller demanded the return of her letters and accused

-241-

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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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