Critics & Crusaders: A Century of American Protest

By Charles A. Madison | Go to book overview

MARGARET FULLER

TRANSCENDENTAL REBEL

To us, nearly a century after her death, Margaret Fuller's enduring eminence seems inexplicable when considered in the light of her published work; while much of it is still vigorous and readable, even the most finished of her essays lacks the depth and directness of distinguished writing. We soon discover, however, that her fame derives from her remarkable personality rather than from her books. Only the husks of her brilliant mind went into print. This she knew better than anyone else. "I feel within myself an immense power," she remarked with her usual candor, "but I cannot bring it out." It was this torrential power, which became quick and magnetic in the heat of conversation, that made her the sibylline voice of her generation and gained her lasting renown. But this leading role in the Transcendental ferment was not the sum of her achievement. Moved by an unquenchable unrest, stirred by an irresistible passion for freedom, she forsook the tranquillity of her native New England for the barricades of a Europe in revolt. And although the French invaders defeated Garibaldi's Legion and restored Rome to the Pope, her heroic efforts in behalf of the shortlived Roman Republic capped the glorious adventure of her tragic life.

In Cambridge, where Margaret was born in 1810, her father Timothy Fuller was known as a stubborn nonconformist. He had definite ideas on politics and education, and decided to test his

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