Joan von Mehren
Margaret Fuller, an American woman after whom a street on the Janiculum Hill in Rome has been named, and who was known as the Marchesa Ossoli in her last year of life, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the eldest of eight children. Her father, a Harvard-educated lawyer who served in the U.S. Congress, was a liberal-minded but demanding parent who submitted his daughter from the age of three to a rigorous regimen in the classics and literature. She became a constant reader, admired for her familiarity with English, French, and Italian literature, and with respect for the English Romantics, even though she later credited Jean-Jacques Rousseau with having the greatest influence on her. In her early twenties she discovered German literature. She taught herself the language, translated Goethe's Torquato Tasso and several of his poems, and prepared to write his biography. Believing that her education would not be complete without a visit to Italy, which she honored for having given to posterity its love of beauty and art, she agreed to help with the education of her younger siblings to help earn the cost of the voyage, but her father's sudden death when she was twenty-five left the family in financial straits and dashed her hopes for a European journey.
While Fuller was teaching in Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, she published several book reviews and some occasional poetry and collected material for her Goethe biography. Although she never finished it, she became known as Goethe's most effective American publicist. By the time Conversations with Goethe in the Last Years of His Life (translated from the German of Eckermann) was published in 1839, she had a solid reputation as a literary critic and interpreter of foreign literature among the New England transcendentalists, of whom Ralph Waldo Emerson was the most prominent. With him she established a lifelong relationship in which the two were often at odds. However, when the