Minerva and the Muse: A Life of Margaret Fuller

By Joan Von Mehren | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 20

I have not been so well since I was a child, nor so happy ever as during the last six weeks.



Return to Rome

WHILE Fuller worked her way back to Rome during August and September 1847, she wrote Adam Mickiewicz frequently. When she arrived in Milan on the first of August, she found a letter scolding her for letting "romantic reveries" and "melancholy" take over her imagination. "I tried to make you understand that you should not confine your life to books and reveries. You have pleaded the liberty of woman in a masculine and frank style. Live and act, as you write." Mickiewicz stressed that the key to happiness lay in learning how to express freely one's own experience in the daily acts of life:

I saw you, with all your knowledge and your imagination and all your literary reputation, living in bondage worse than that of a servant. You were obligated to everybody. You have persuaded yourself that all you need is to express your ideas and feelings in books. You existed like a ghost that whispers to the living its plans and desires, no longer able to realize them itself. . . . Do not forget that even in your private life as a woman you have rights to maintain. Emerson says rightly: give all for love, but this love must not be that of the shepherds of Florian nor that of schoolboys and German ladies. The relationships which suit you are those which develop and free your spirit, responding to the legitimate needs of your organism and leaving you free at all times. You are the sole judge of these needs.1

Fuller instantly replied that she found his words "harsh," but he refused to soften his message. He reiterated that she had to learn how to integrate the happiness and animation of her inner life with her whole physical life so that the shocks of reality would not continue to drive her into moods of melancholy and discouragement:

I know well that you often feel gay and always animated internally, especially when you meditate or when you dream and compose. But try to get this inner life lodged and established in all your body. . . . I tried to make you understand the purpose of your existence, to inspire manly sentiments in you. Your mind still does not wish to believe that a new epoch commences and that it has already begun. New for woman too. . . . . . . You still live spiritually in the society of Shakespeare, Schiller, Byron. Literature is not the whole life.2

Mickiewicz recognized that Fuller was driven by erotic energy that she had not learned to focus on the goals she was pursuing. She had made herself a reputation as a herald of a new age for women, but she had failed to recognize that she was herself still very much a victim of the repression of the old order and of the escape strategies she used to cope with her situation. When he told

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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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