American Critic and Essayist
1810 – 1850 A.D.
Margaret Fuller, Marchioness Ossoli, an American critic and essayist, born at Cambridgeport, Mass. She received a broad education and early felt a deep interest in social questions. In 1835 she began to teach school near Boston, and formed an acquaintance with eminent literary men, including Emerson, Hawthorne and Channing. She possessed an almost irresistible power of winning the intellectual and moral confidence of those with whom she came in contact, and it was more as a conversationalist than as a writer that earned the title of The Priestess of Transcendentalism.
In 1840 she became the editor of The Dial, a poetical and philosophical magazine, and in 1844 she removed to New York, and wrote literary criticisms for the Tribune. Two years later she went to Europe, and resided for some time in Rome where she married the Marquis Ossoli, by whom she had one child.
She took an active part in the Italian struggle for independence and served heroically in the hospitals during the siege of Rome. On May 17, 1850, she sailed for America, but on approaching New York the vessel was wrecked in a fog off Fire Island Beach, and she with her husband and son was drowned.
In a letter to Emerson in 1847 Carlyle said:
“Margaret is an excellent soul; since she went, I have been reading some of her Papers in a new Book we have got; greatly superior to all I knew before; in fact the undeniable utterances of a true heroic mind; altogether unique, so far as I know, among the Writing Women of this generation; rare enough, too, God knows, among the Writing Men. She is very narrow, sometimes; but she is truly high.”
Josephine Lazarus in 1893 in the Century said:
“Despite her Puritan conscience and discipline, Margaret Fuller was perhaps, a bacchante, with something lawless, chaotic, and unregulated. For so complex a nature as hers, what was needed was some large, unifying principle that could coordinate all the facts of life, and bring them into harmony and accord; in other words, some deep spiritual conviction, that inner vision and touch of the divine which opens out horizons always luminous, and deeps where there is forever peace. Lacking this, her ideals were always human, her kingdom was of earth, and she never gained that full mastery and knowledge of the truth which alone can make us free. Nevertheless, her destiny, though incomplete, was a high one, and worthy to be crowned with martyrdom.”
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.