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Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli, Vol. I by Margaret Fuller Ossoli

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powers of picturesque description, they value your book very
much, and rate you higher for it.

'The other comprises those who were previously aware of these
high qualities,--and who, seeing in a book to which they
had looked for a lasting monument to your fame, a degree
of presumptuousness, irreverence, inaccuracy, hasty
generalization, and ultraism on many points, which they did
not expect, lament the haste in which you have written, and
the injustice which you have consequently done to so important
a task, and to your own powers of being and doing. To this
class I belong.

'I got the book as soon as it came out,--long before I
received the copy endeared by your handwriting,--and
devoted myself to reading it. I gave myself up to my natural
impressions, without seeking to ascertain those of others.
Frequently I felt pleasure and admiration, but more frequently
disappointment, sometimes positive distaste.

'There are many topics treated of in this book of which I am
not a judge; but I do pretend, even where I cannot criticize
in detail, to have an opinion as to the general tone of
thought. When Herschel writes his Introduction to Natural
Philosophy, I cannot test all he says, but I cannot err about
his fairness, his manliness, and wide range of knowledge. When
Jouffroy writes his lectures, I am not conversant with all his
topics of thought, but I can appreciate his lucid style and
admirable method. When Webster speaks on the currency, I do
not understand the subject, but I do understand his mode of
treating it, and can see what a blaze of light streams from
his torch. When Harriet Martineau writes about America, I
often cannot test that rashness and inaccuracy of which I hear
so much, but I can feel that they exist. A want of soundness,
of habits of patient investigation, of completeness, of
arrangement, are felt throughout the book; and, for all
its fine descriptions of scenery, breadth of reasoning, and
generous daring, I cannot be happy in it, because it is not
worthy of my friend, and I think a few months given to ripen
it, to balance, compare, and mellow, would have made it so. * *

'Certainly you show no spirit of harshness towards this
country in general. I think your tone most kindly. But many
passages are deformed by intemperance of epithet. * * Would
your heart, could you but investigate the matter, approve such
overstatement, such a crude, intemperate tirade as you have
been guilty of about Mr. Alcott,--a true and noble man,
a philanthropist, whom a true and noble woman, also a
philanthropist, should have delighted to honor; whose
disinterested and resolute efforts, for the redemption of poor
humanity, all independent and faithful minds should sustain,
since the "broadcloth" vulgar will be sure to assail them; a
philosopher, worthy of the palmy times of ancient Greece;
a man whom Carlyle and Berkely, whom you so uphold, would
delight to honor; a man whom the worldlings of Boston hold
in as much horror as the worldlings of ancient Athens did
Socrates. They smile to hear their verdict confirmed from
the other side of the Atlantic, by their censor, Harriet

'I do not like that your book should be an abolition book. You
might have borne your testimony as decidedly as you pleased;
but why leaven the whole book with it? This subject haunts us
on almost every page. It _is_ a great subject, but your book
had other purposes to fulfil.

'I have thought it right to say all this to you, since I felt
it. I have shrunk from the effort, for I fear that I must
lose you. Not that I think all authors are like Gil Bias'
archbishop. No; if your heart turns from me, I shall still
love you, still think you noble. I know it must be so trying
to fail of sympathy, at such a time, where we expect it. And,
besides, I felt from the book that the sympathy between us is
less general than I had supposed, it was so strong on several
points. It is strong enough for me to love you ever, and I
could no more have been happy in your friendship, if I had not
spoken out now.'


'You question me as to the nature of the benefits conferred
upon me by Mr. E.'s preaching. I answer, that his influence
has been more beneficial to me than that of any American, and
that from him I first learned what is meant by an inward life.
Many other springs have since fed the stream of living waters,
but he first opened the fountain. That the "mind is its own
place," was a dead phrase to me, till he cast light upon
my mind. Several of his sermons stand apart in memory, like
landmarks of my spiritual history. It would take a volume to
tell what this one influence did for me. But perhaps I shall
some time see that it was best for me to be forced to help

* * * * *

'Some remarks which I made last night trouble me, and I cannot
fix my attention upon other things till I have qualified them.
I suffered myself to speak in too unmeasured terms, and my
expressions were fitted to bring into discredit the religious
instruction which has been given me, or which I have sought.

'I do not think "all men are born for the purpose of unfolding
beautiful ideas;" for the vocation of many is evidently the
culture of affections by deeds of kindness. But I do think
that the vocations of men and women differ, and that those who
are forced to act out of their sphere are shorn of inward and
outward brightness.

'For myself, I wish to say, that, if I am in a mood of
darkness and despondency, I nevertheless consider such a mood
unworthy of a Christian, or indeed of any one who believes in
the immortality of the soul. No one, who had steady faith
in this and in the goodness of God, could be otherwise than
cheerful. I reverence the serenity of a truly religious mind
so much, that I think, if I live, I may some time attain to

'Although I do not believe in a Special Providence regulating
outward events, and could not reconcile such a belief with
what I have seen of life, I do not the less believe in the
paternal government of a Deity. That He should visit the souls
of those who seek Him seems to me the nobler way to conceive
of his influence. And if there were not some error in my way
of seeking, I do not believe I should suffer from languor or
deadness on spiritual subjects, at the time when I have most
need to feel myself at home there. To find this error is my
earnest wish; and perhaps I am now travelling to that end,
though by a thorny road. It is a mortification to find so
much yet to do; for at one time the scheme of things seemed
so clear, that, with Cromwell, I might say, "I was once in
grace." With my mind I prize high objects as much as then:
it is my heart which is cold. And sometimes I fear that the
necessity of urging them on those under my care dulls my sense
of their beauty. It is so hard to prevent one's feelings from
evaporating in words.'

* * * * *

'"The faint sickness of a wounded heart." How frequently
do these words of Beckford recur to my mind! His prayer,
imperfect as it is, says more to me than many a purer
aspiration. It breathes such an experience of impassioned
anguish. He had everything,--health, personal advantages,
almost boundless wealth, genius, exquisite taste, culture; he
could, in some way, express his whole being. Yet well-nigh he
sank beneath the sickness of the wounded heart; and solitude,
"country of the unhappy," was all he craved at last.

'Goethe, too, says he has known, in all his active, wise, and
honored life, no four weeks of happiness. This teaches me on
the other side; for, like Goethe, I have never given way to
my feelings, but have lived active, thoughtful, seeking to
be wise. Yet I have long days and weeks of heartache; and
at those times, though I am busy every moment, and cultivate
every pleasant feeling, and look always upwards to the pure
ideal region, yet this ache is like a bodily wound, whose
pain haunts even when it is not attended to, and disturbs the
dreams of the patient who has fallen asleep from exhaustion.

'There is a German in Boston, who has a wound in his breast,
received in battle long ago. It never troubles him, except
when he sings, and then, if he gives out his voice with much
expression, it opens, and cannot, for a long time, be stanched
again. So with me: when I rise into one of those rapturous
moods of thought, such as I had a day or two since, my wound
opens again, and all I can do is to be patient, and let it
take its own time to skin over. I see it will never do more.
Some time ago I thought the barb was fairly out; but no, the
fragments rankle there still, and will, while there is any
earth attached to my spirit. Is it not because, in my pride, I
held the mantle close, and let the weapon, which some friendly
physician might have extracted, splinter in the wound?'

* * * * *

'_Sunday, July_, 1838.--I partook, for the first time, of the
Lord's Supper. I had often wished to do so, but had not been
able to find a clergyman,--from whom I could be willing to
receive it,--willing to admit me on my own terms. Mr. H----
did so; and I shall ever respect and value him, if only for
the liberality he displayed on this occasion. It was the
Sunday after the death of his wife, a lady whom I truly
honored, and should, probably, had we known one another
longer, have also loved. She was the soul of truth and honor;
her mind was strong, her reverence for the noble and beautiful
fervent, her energy in promoting the best interests of those
who came under her influence unusual. She was as full of wit
and playfulness as of goodness. Her union with her husband
was really one of mind and heart, of mutual respect and
tenderness; likeness in unlikeness made it strong. I wished
particularly to share in this rite on an occasion so suited to
bring out its due significance.'


'The Sun, the Moon, the Waters, and the Air,
The hopeful, holy, terrible, and fair,
All that is ever speaking, never spoken,
Spells that are ever breaking, never broken,
Have played upon my soul; and every string
Confessed the touch, which once could make it ring
Celestial notes. And still, though changed the tone,
Though damp and jarring fall the lyre hath known
It would, if fitly played, its deep notes wove
Into one tissue of belief and love,
Yield melodies for angel audience meet,
And paeans fit Creative Power to greet.
O injured lyre! thy golden frame is marred,
No garlands deck thee, no libations poured
Tell to the earth the triumphs of thy song;
No princely halls echo thy strains along.
But still the strings are there; and, if they break,
Even in death rare melody will make,
Might'st thou once more be tuned, and power be given
To tell in numbers all thou canst of heaven!'




Je n'ai point rencontre, dans ma vie, de femme plus noble; ayant
autant de sympathie pour ses semblables, et dont l'esprit fut plus
vivifiant. Je me suis tout de suite sentie attiree par elle. Quand je
fis sa connoissance, j'ignorais que ce fut une femme remarquable.



* * * * *

I became acquainted with Margaret in 1835. Perhaps it was a year
earlier that Henry Hedge, who had long been her friend, told me of
her genius and studies, and loaned me her manuscript translation of
Goethe's Tasso. I was afterwards still more interested in her, by the
warm praises of Harriet Martineau, who had become acquainted with her
at Cambridge, and who, finding Margaret's fancy for seeing me, took a
generous interest in bringing us together. I remember, during a week
in the winter of 1835-6, in which Miss Martineau was my guest, she
returned again and again to the topic of Margaret's excelling genius
and conversation, and enjoined it on me to seek her acquaintance:
which I willingly promised. I am not sure that it was not in Miss
Martineau's company, a little earlier, that I first saw her. And I
find a memorandum, in her own journal, of a visit, made by my brother
Charles and myself, to Miss Martineau, at Mrs. Farrar's. It was not,
however, till the next July, after a little diplomatizing in billets
by the ladies, that her first visit to our house was arranged, and
she came to spend a fortnight with my wife. I still remember the first
half-hour of Margaret's conversation. She was then twenty-six years
old. She had a face and frame that would indicate fulness and tenacity
of life. She was rather under the middle height; her complexion was
fair, with strong fair hair. She was then, as always, carefully and
becomingly dressed, and of ladylike self-possession. For the rest, her
appearance had nothing prepossessing. Her extreme plainness,--a trick
of incessantly opening and shutting her eyelids,--the nasal tone of
her voice,--all repelled; and I said to myself, we shall never
get far. It is to be said, that Margaret made a disagreeable first
impression on most persons, including those who became afterwards her
best friends, to such an extreme that they did not wish to be in the
same room with her. This was partly the effect of her manners, which
expressed an overweening sense of power, and slight esteem of others,
and partly the prejudice of her fame. She had a dangerous reputation
for satire, in addition to her great scholarship. The men thought she
carried too many guns, and the women did not like one who despised
them. I believe I fancied her too much interested in personal history;
and her talk was a comedy in which dramatic justice was done to
everybody's foibles. I remember that she made me laugh more than I
liked; for I was, at that time, an eager scholar of ethics, and had
tasted the sweets of solitude and stoicism, and I found something
profane in the hours of amusing gossip into which she drew me, and,
when I returned to my library, had much to think of the crackling of
thorns under a pot. Margaret, who had stuffed me out as a philosopher,
in her own fancy, was too intent on establishing a good footing
between us, to omit any art of winning. She studied my tastes, piqued
and amused me, challenged frankness by frankness, and did not conceal
the good opinion of me she brought with her, nor her wish to please.
She was curious to know my opinions and experiences. Of course, it was
impossible long to hold out against such urgent assault. She had
an incredible variety of anecdotes, and the readiest wit to give an
absurd turn to whatever passed; and the eyes, which were so plain at
first, soon swam with fun and drolleries, and the very tides of joy
and superabundant life.

This rumor was much spread abroad, that she was sneering,
scoffing, critical, disdainful of humble people, and of all but
the intellectual. I had heard it whenever she was named. It was a
superficial judgment. Her satire was only the pastime and necessity of
her talent, the play of superabundant animal spirits. And it will be
seen, in the sequel, that her mind presently disclosed many moods and
powers, in successive platforms or terraces, each above each, that
quite effaced this first impression, in the opulence of the following

Let us hear what she has herself to say on the subject of
tea-table-talk, in a letter to a young lady, to whom she was already
much attached:--

I am repelled by your account of your party. It is beneath you
to amuse yourself with active satire, with what is vulgarly
called quizzing. When such a person as ---- chooses to throw
himself in your way, I sympathize with your keen perception of
his ridiculous points. But to laugh a whole evening at vulgar
nondescripts,--is that an employment for one who was born
passionately to love, to admire, to sustain truth? This would
be much more excusable in a chameleon like me. Yet, whatever
may be the vulgar view of my character, I can truly say, I
know not the hour in which I ever looked for the ridiculous.
It has always been forced upon me, and is the accident of my
existence. I would not want the sense of it when it comes, for
that would show an obtuseness of mental organization; but, on
peril of my soul, I would not move an eyelash to look for it.'

When she came to Concord, she was already rich in friends, rich in
experiences, rich in culture. She was well read in French, Italian,
and German literature. She had learned Latin and a little Greek. But
her English reading was incomplete; and, while she knew Moliere, and
Rousseau, and any quantity of French letters, memoirs, and novels, and
was a dear student of Dante and Petrarca, and knew German books more
cordially than any other person, she was little read in Shakspeare;
and I believe I had the pleasure of making her acquainted with
Chaucer, with Ben Jonson, with Herbert, Chapman, Ford, Beaumont and
Fletcher, with Bacon, and Sir Thomas Browne. I was seven years her
senior, and had the habit of idle reading in old English books, and,
though riot much versed, yet quite enough to give me the right to
lead her. She fancied that her sympathy and taste had led her to an
exclusive culture of southern European books.

She had large experiences. She had been a precocious scholar at Dr.
Park's school; good in mathematics and in languages. Her father, whom
she had recently lost had been proud of her, and petted her. She had
drawn at Cambridge, numbers of lively young men about her. She had had
a circle of young women who were devoted to her, and who described her
as "a wonder of intellect, who had yet no religion." She had drawn
to her every superior young man or young woman she had met, and whole
romances of life and love had been confided, counselled, thought, and
lived through, in her cognizance and sympathy.

These histories are rapid, so that she had already beheld many
times the youth, meridian, and old age of passion. She had, besides,
selected, from so many, a few eminent companions, and already felt
that she was not likely to see anything more beautiful than her
beauties, anything more powerful and generous than her youths. She had
found out her own secret by early comparison, and knew what power to
draw confidence, what necessity to lead in every circle, belonged of
right to her. Her powers were maturing, and nobler sentiments were
subliming the first heats and rude experiments. She had outward
calmness and dignity. She had come to the ambition to be filled with
all nobleness.

Of the friends who surrounded her, at that period, it is neither easy
to speak, nor not to speak. A life of Margaret is impossible without
them, she mixed herself so inextricably with her company; and when
this little book was first projected, it was proposed to entitle it
"Margaret and her Friends," the subject persisting to offer itself in
the plural number. But, on trial, that form proved impossible, and it
only remained that the narrative, like a Greek tragedy, should suppose
the chorus always on the stage, sympathizing and sympathized with by
the queen of the scene.

Yet I remember these persons as a fair, commanding troop, every one
of them adorned by some splendor of beauty, of grace, of talent, or
of character, and comprising in their band persons who have since
disclosed sterling worth and elevated aims in the conduct of life.

Three beautiful women,--either of whom would have been the fairest
ornament of Papanti's Assemblies, but for the presence of the
other,--were her friends. One of these early became, and long
remained, nearly the central figure in Margaret's brilliant circle,
attracting to herself, by her grace and her singular natural
eloquence, every feeling of affection, hope, and pride.

Two others I recall, whose rich and cultivated voices in song
were,--one a little earlier, the other a little later,--the joy of
every house into which they came; and, indeed, Margaret's taste for
music was amply gratified in the taste and science which several
persons among her intimate friends possessed. She was successively
intimate with two sisters, whose taste for music had been opened, by a
fine and severe culture, to the knowledge and to the expression of all
the wealth of the German masters.

I remember another, whom every muse inspired, skilful alike with the
pencil and the pen, and by whom both were almost contemned for their
inadequateness, in the height and scope of her aims.

'With her,' said Margaret, 'I can talk of anything. She is
like me. She is able to look facts in the face. We enjoy the
clearest, widest, most direct communication. She may be no
happier than ----, but she will know her own mind too clearly
to make any great mistake in conduct, and will learn a deep
meaning from her days.'

'It is not in the way of tenderness that I love ----. I prize
her always; and this is all the love some natures ever know.
And I also feel that I may always expect she will be with me.
I delight to picture to myself certain persons translated,
illuminated. There are a few in whom I see occasionally the
future being piercing, promising,--whom I can strip of all
that masks their temporary relations, and elevate to their
natural position. Sometimes I have not known these persons
intimately,--oftener I have; for it is only in the deepest
hours that this light is likely to break out. But some of
those I have best befriended I cannot thus portray, and very
few men I can. It does not depend at all on the beauty of
their forms, at present; it is in the eye and the smile, that
the hope shines through. I can see exactly how ---- will look:
not like this angel in the paper; she will not bring flowers,
but a living coal, to the lips of the singer; her eyes will
not burn as now with smothered fires, they will be ever
deeper, and glow more intensely; her cheek will be smooth, but
marble pale; her gestures nobly free, but few.'

Another was a lady who was devoted to landscape-painting, and who
enjoyed the distinction of being the only pupil of Allston, and who,
in her alliance with Margaret, gave as much honor as she received, by
the security of her spirit, and by the heroism of her devotion to her
friend. Her friends called her "the perpetual peace-offering," and
Margaret says of her,--'She is here, and her neighborhood casts the
mildness and purity too of the moonbeam on the else parti-colored

There was another lady, more late and reluctantly entering Margaret's
circle, with a mind as high, and more mathematically exact, drawn by
taste to Greek, as Margaret to Italian genius, tempted to do homage
to Margaret's flowing expressive energy, but still more inclined and
secured to her side by the good sense and the heroism which Margaret
disclosed, perhaps not a little by the sufferings which she addressed
herself to alleviate, as long as Margaret lived. Margaret had a
courage in her address which it was not easy to resist. She called
all her friends by their Christian names. In their early intercourse
I suppose this lady's billets were more punctiliously worded
than Margaret liked; so she subscribed herself, in reply, 'Your
affectionate "Miss Fuller."' When the difficulties were at length
surmounted, and the conditions ascertained on which two admirable
persons could live together, the best understanding grew up, and
subsisted during her life. In her journal is a note:--

'Passed the morning in Sleepy Hollow, with ----. What fine,
just distinctions she made! Worlds grew clearer as we
talked. I grieve to see her fine frame subject to such rude
discipline. But she truly said, "I am not a failed experiment;
for, in the bad hours, I do not forget what I thought in the

None interested her more at that time, and for many years after, than
a youth with whom she had been acquainted in Cambridge before he left
the University, and the unfolding of whose powers she had watched with
the warmest sympathy. He was an amateur, and, but for the exactions
not to be resisted of an _American_, that is to say, of a commercial,
career,--his acceptance of which she never ceased to regard as an
apostasy,--himself a high artist. He was her companion, and, though
much younger, her guide in the study of art. With him she examined,
leaf by leaf, the designs of Raphael, of Michel Angelo, of Da Vinci,
of Guercino, the architecture of the Greeks, the books of Palladio,
the Ruins, and Prisons of Piranesi; and long kept up a profuse
correspondence on books and studies in which they had a mutual
interest. And yet, as happened so often, these literary sympathies,
though sincere, were only veils and occasions to beguile the time, so
profound was her interest in the character and fortunes of her friend.

There was another youth, whom she found later, of invalid habit, which
had infected in some degree the tone of his mind, but of a delicate
and pervasive insight, and the highest appreciation for genius in
letters, arts, and life. Margaret describes 'his complexion as clear
in its pallor, and his eye steady.' His turn of mind, and his habits
of life, had almost a monastic turn,--a jealousy of the common
tendencies of literary men either to display or to philosophy.
Margaret was struck with the singular fineness of his perceptions,
and the pious tendency of his thoughts, and enjoyed with him his proud
reception, not as from above, but almost on equal ground, of Homer and
AEschylus, of Dante and Petrarch, of Montaigne, of Calderon, of Goethe.
Margaret wished, also, to defend his privacy from the dangerous
solicitations to premature authorship:--

'His mind should be approached close by one who needs its
fragrance. All with him leads rather to glimpses and insights,
than to broad, comprehensive views. Till he needs the public,
the public does not need him. The lonely lamp, the niche, the
dark cathedral grove, befit him best. Let him shroud himself
in the symbols of his native ritual, till he can issue forth
on the wings of song.'

She was at this time, too, much drawn also to a man of poetic
sensibility, and of much reading,--which he took the greatest pains to
conceal,--studious of the art of poetry, but still more a poet in his
conversation than in his poems,--who attracted Margaret by the flowing
humor with which he filled the present hour, and the prodigality with
which he forgot all the past.

'Unequal and uncertain,' she says, 'but in his good moods,
of the best for a companion, absolutely abandoned to the
revelations of the moment, without distrust or check of any
kind, unlimited and delicate, abundant in thought, and free of
motion, he enriches life, and fills the hour.'

'I wish I could retain ----'s talk last night. It was
wonderful; it was about all the past experiences frozen down
in the soul, and the impossibility of being penetrated by
anything. "Had I met you," said he, "when I was young!--but
now nothing can penetrate." Absurd as was what he said, on
one side, it was the finest poetic-inspiration on the other,
painting the cruel process of life, except where genius
continually burns over the stubble fields.

"Life," he said, "is continually eating us up." He said, "Mr.
E. is quite wrong about books. He wants them all good; now I
want many bad. Literature is not merely a collection of gems,
but a great system of interpretation." He railed at me as
artificial. "It don't strike me when you are alone with me,"
he says; "but it does when others are present. You don't
follow out the fancy of the moment; you converse; you have
treasured thoughts to tell; you are disciplined,--artificial."
I pleaded guilty, and observed that I supposed that it must
be so with one of any continuity of thought, or earnestness
of character. "As to that," says he, "I shall not like you the
better for your excellence. I don't know what is the matter.
I feel strongly attracted towards you; but there is a drawback
in my mind,--I don't know exactly what. You will always be
wanting to grow forward; now I like to grow backward, too. You
are too ideal. Ideal people anticipate their lives; and they
make themselves and everybody around them restless, by always
being beforehand with themselves."

'I listened attentively; for what he said was excellent.
Following up the humor of the moment, he arrests admirable
thoughts on the wing. But I cannot but see, that what they say
of my or other obscure lives is true of every prophetic, of
every tragic character. And then I like to have them make me
look on that side, and reverence the lovely forms of nature,
and the shifting moods, and the clinging instincts. But I must
not let them disturb me. There is an only guide, the voice in
the heart, that asks, "Was thy wish sincere? If so, thou canst
not stray from nature, nor be so perverted but she will make
thee true again." I must take my own path, and learn from
them all, without being paralyzed for the day. We need great
energy, faith, and self-reliance to endure to-day. My age
may not be the best, my position may be bad, my character
ill-formed; but Thou, oh Spirit! hast no regard to aught but
the seeking heart; and, if I try to walk upright, wilt guide
me. What despair must he feel, who, after a whole life passed
in trying to build up himself, resolves that it would have
been far better if he had kept still as the clod of the
valley, or yielded easily as the leaf to every breeze! A path
has been appointed me. I have walked in it as steadily as I
could. I am what I am; that which I am not, teach me in the
others. I will bear the pain of imperfection, but not of
doubt. E. must not shake me in my worldliness, nor ---- in the
fine motion that has given me what I have of life, nor this
child of genius make me lay aside the armor, without which I
had lain bleeding on the field long since; but, if they can
keep closer to nature, and learn to interpret her as souls,
also, let me learn from them what I have not.'

And, in connection with this conversation, she has copied the
following lines which this gentleman addressed to her:--


I mark beneath thy life the virtue shine
That deep within the star's eye opes its day;
I clutch the gorgeous thoughts thou throw'st away
From the profound unfathomable mine,
And with them this mean common hour do twine,
As glassy waters on the dry beach play.
And I were rich as night, them to combine
With, my poor store, and warm me with thy ray.
From the fixed answer of those dateless eyes
I meet bold hints of spirit's mystery
As to what's past, and hungry prophecies
Of deeds to-day, and things which are to be;
Of lofty life that with the eagle flies,
And humble love that clasps humanity."

I have thus vaguely designated, among the numerous group of her
friends, only those who were much in her company, in the early years
of my acquaintance with her.

She wore this circle of friends, when I first knew her, as a necklace
of diamonds about her neck. They were so much to each other, that
Margaret seemed to represent them all, and, to know her, was to
acquire a place with them. The confidences given her were their best,
and she held them to them. She was an active, inspiring companion and
correspondent, and all the art, the thought, and the nobleness in New
England, seemed, at that moment, related to her, and she to it. She
was everywhere a welcome guest. The houses of her friends in town
and country were open to her, and every hospitable attention eagerly
offered. Her arrival was a holiday, and so was her abode. She stayed a
few days, often a week, more seldom a month, and all tasks that could
be suspended were put aside to catch the favorable hour, in walking,
riding, or boating, to talk with this joyful guest, who brought wit,
anecdotes, love-stories, tragedies, oracles with her, and, with her
broad web of relations to so many fine friends, seemed like the queen
of some parliament of love, who carried the key to all confidences,
and to whom every question had been finally referred.

Persons were her game, specially, if marked by fortune, or character,
or success;--to such was she sent. She addressed them with a
hardihood,--almost a haughty assurance,--queen-like. Indeed, they fell
in her way, where the access might have seemed difficult, by
wonderful casualties; and the inveterate recluse, the coyest maid, the
waywardest poet, made no resistance, but yielded at discretion, as if
they had been waiting for her, all doors to this imperious dame.
She disarmed the suspicion of recluse scholars by the absence of
bookishness. The ease with which she entered into conversation made
them forget all they had heard of her; and she was infinitely less
interested in literature than in life. They saw she valued earnest
persons, and Dante, Petrarch, and Goethe, because they thought as she
did, and gratified her with high portraits, which she was everywhere
seeking. She drew her companions to surprising confessions. She was
the wedding-guest, to whom the long-pent story must be told; and
they were not less struck, on reflection, at the suddenness of the
friendship which had established, in one day, new and permanent
covenants. She extorted the secret of life, which cannot be told
without setting heart and mind in a glow; and thus had the best of
those she saw. Whatever romance, whatever virtue, whatever impressive
experience,--this came to her; and she lived in a superior circle; for
they suppressed all their common-place in her presence.

She was perfectly true to this confidence. She never confounded
relations, but kept a hundred fine threads in her hand, without
crossing or entangling any. An entire intimacy, which seemed to make
both sharers of the whole horizon of each others' and of all truth,
did not yet make her false to any other friend; gave no title to the
history that an equal trust of another friend had put in her keeping.
In this reticence was no prudery and no effort. For, so rich her
mind, that she never was tempted to treachery, by the desire of
entertaining. The day was never long enough to exhaust her opulent
memory; and I, who knew her intimately for ten years,--from July,
1836, till August, 1846, when she sailed for Europe,--never saw her
without surprise at her new powers.

Of the conversations above alluded to, the substance was whatever was
suggested by her passionate wish for equal companions, to the end
of making life altogether noble. With the firmest tact she led
the discourse into the midst of their daily living and working,
recognizing the good-will and sincerity which each man has in his
aims, and treating so playfully and intellectually all the points,
that one seemed to see his life _en beau_, and was flattered by
beholding what he had found so tedious in its workday weeds, shining
in glorious costume. Each of his friends passed before him in the
new light; hope seemed to spring under his feet, and life was worth
living. The auditor jumped for joy, and thirsted for unlimited
draughts. What! is this the dame, who, I heard, was sneering and
critical? this the blue-stocking, of whom I stood in terror and
dislike? this wondrous woman, full of counsel, full of tenderness,
before whom every mean thing is ashamed, and hides itself; this new
Corinne, more variously gifted, wise, sportive, eloquent, who seems to
have learned all languages, Heaven knows when or how,--I should think
she was born to them,--magnificent, prophetic, reading my life at her
will, and puzzling me with riddles like this, 'Yours is an example of
a destiny springing from character:' and, again, 'I see your destiny
hovering before you, but it always escapes from you.'

The test of this eloquence was its range. It told on children, and on
old people; on men of the world, and on sainted maids. She could hold
them all by her honeyed tongue. A lady of the best eminence, whom
Margaret occasionally visited, in one of our cities of spindles,
speaking one day of her neighbors, said, "I stand in a certain awe of
the moneyed men, the manufacturers, and so on, knowing that they will
have small interest in Plato, or in Biot; but I saw them approach
Margaret, with perfect security, for she could give them bread that
they could eat." Some persons are thrown off their balance when in
society; others are thrown on to balance; the excitement of company,
and the observation of other characters, correct their biases.
Margaret always appeared to unexpected advantage in conversation
with a large circle. She had more sanity than any other; whilst, in
private, her vision was often through colored lenses.

Her talents were so various, and her conversation so rich and
entertaining, that one might talk with her many times, by the parlor
fire, before he discovered the strength which served as foundation to
so much accomplishment and eloquence. But, concealed under flowers and
music, was the broadest good sense, very well able to dispose of all
this pile of native and foreign ornaments, and quite able to work
without them. She could always rally on this, in every circumstance,
and in every company, and find herself on a firm footing of equality
with any party whatever, and make herself useful, and, if need be,

The old Anaximenes, seeking, I suppose, for a source sufficiently
diffusive, said, that Mind must be _in the air_, which, when all men
breathed, they were filled with one intelligence. And when men have
larger measures of reason, as AEsop, Cervantes, Franklin, Scott, they
gain in universality, or are no longer confined to a few associates,
but are good company for all persons,--philosophers, women, men of
fashion, tradesmen, and servants. Indeed, an older philosopher
than Anaximenes, namely, language itself, had taught to distinguish
superior or purer sense as _common_ sense.

Margaret had, with certain limitations, or, must we say, _strictures_,
these larger lungs, inhaling this universal element, and could speak
to Jew and Greek, free and bond, to each in his own tongue. The
Concord stage-coachman distinguished her by his respect, and the
chambermaid was pretty sure to confide to her, on the second day, her
homely romance.

I regret that it is not in my power to give any true report of
Margaret's conversation. She soon became an established friend and
frequent inmate of our house, and continued, thenceforward, for years,
to come, once in three or four months, to spend a week or a fortnight
with us. She adopted all the people and all the interests she found
here. Your people shall be my people, and yonder darling boy I shall
cherish as my own. Her ready sympathies endeared her to my wife and my
mother, each of whom highly esteemed her good sense and sincerity.
She suited each, and all. Yet, she was not a person to be suspected of
complaisance, and her attachments, one might say, were chemical.

She had so many tasks of her own, that she was a very easy guest to
entertain, as she could be left to herself, day after day, without
apology. According to our usual habit, we seldom met in the forenoon.
After dinner, we read something together, or walked, or rode. In the
evening, she came to the library, and many and many a conversation was
there held, whose details, if they could be preserved, would justify
all encomiums. They interested me in every manner;--talent, memory,
wit, stern introspection, poetic play, religion, the finest personal
feeling, the aspects of the future, each followed each in full
activity, and left me, I remember, enriched and sometimes astonished
by the gifts of my guest. Her topics were numerous, but the cardinal
points of poetry, love, and religion, were never far off. She was a
student of art, and, though untravelled, knew, much better than most
persons who had been abroad, the conventional reputation of each of
the masters. She was familiar with all the field of elegant criticism
in literature. Among the problems of the day, these two attracted
her chiefly, Mythology and Demonology; then, also, French Socialism,
especially as it concerned woman; the whole prolific family of
reforms, and, of course, the genius and career of each remarkable

She had other friends, in this town, beside those in my house. A lady,
already alluded to, lived in the village, who had known her longer
than I, and whose prejudices Margaret had resolutely fought down,
until she converted her into the firmest and most efficient of
friends. In 1842, Nathaniel Hawthorne, already then known to the world
by his Twice-Told Tales, came to live in Concord, in the "Old Manse,"
with his wife, who was herself an artist. With these welcomed persons
Margaret formed a strict and happy acquaintance. She liked their
old house, and the taste which had filled it with new articles of
beautiful form, yet harmonized with the antique furniture left by the
former proprietors. She liked, too, the pleasing walks, and rides, and
boatings, which that neighborhood commanded.

In 1842, William Ellery Channing, whose wife was her sister, built
a house in Concord, and this circumstance made a new tie and another
home for Margaret.


It was soon evident that there was somewhat a little pagan about her;
that she had some faith more or less distinct in a fate, and in a
guardian genius; that her fancy, or her pride, had played with
her religion. She had a taste for gems, ciphers, talismans, omens,
coincidences, and birth-days. She had a special love for the planet
Jupiter, and a belief that the month of September was inauspicious
to her. She never forgot that her name, Margarita, signified a pearl.
'When I first met with the name Leila,' she said, 'I knew, from the
very look and sound, it was mine; I knew that it meant night,--night,
which brings out stars, as sorrow brings out truths.' Sortilege she
valued. She tried _sortes biblicae_, and her hits were memorable. I
think each new book which interested her, she was disposed to put
to this test, and know if it had somewhat personal to say to her. As
happens to such persons, these guesses were justified by the event.
She chose carbuncle for her own stone, and when a dear friend was to
give her a gem, this was the one selected. She valued what she had
somewhere read, that carbuncles are male and female. The female casts
out light, the male has his within himself. 'Mine,' she said, 'is the
male.' And she was wont to put on her carbuncle, a bracelet, or some
selected gem, to write letters to certain friends. One of her friends
she coupled with the onyx, another in a decided way with the amethyst.
She learned that the ancients esteemed this gem a talisman to dispel
intoxication, to give good thoughts and understanding 'The Greek
meaning is _antidote against drunkenness_.' She characterized
her friends by these stones, and wrote to the last mentioned, the
following lines:--

'TO ----.

'Slow wandering on a tangled way,
To their lost child pure spirits say:--
The diamond marshal thee by day,
By night, the carbuncle defend,
Heart's blood of a bosom friend.
On thy brow, the amethyst,
Violet of purest earth,
When by fullest sunlight kissed,
Best reveals its regal birth;
And when that haloed moment flies,
Shall keep thee steadfast, chaste, and wise.'

Coincidences, good and bad, _contretemps_, seals, ciphers, mottoes,
omens, anniversaries, names, dreams, are all of a certain importance
to her. Her letters are often dated on some marked anniversary of her
own, or of her correspondent's calendar. She signalized saints' days,
"All-Souls," and "All-Saints," by poems, which had for her a mystical
value. She remarked a preestablished harmony of the names of her
personal friends, as well as of her historical favorites; that
of Emanuel, for Swedenborg; and Rosencrantz, for the head of the
Rosicrucians. 'If Christian Rosencrantz,' she said, 'is not a made
name, the genius of the age interfered in the baptismal rite, as in
the cases of the archangels of art, Michael and Raphael, and in giving
the name of Emanuel to the captain of the New Jerusalem. _Sub rosa
crux_, I think, is the true derivation, and not the chemical one,
generation, corruption, &c.' In this spirit, she soon surrounded
herself with a little mythology of her own. She had a series of
anniversaries, which she kept. Her seal-ring of the flying Mercury
had its legend. She chose the _Sistrum_ for her emblem, and had it
carefully drawn with a view to its being engraved on a gem. And I
know not how many verses and legends came recommended to her by this
symbolism. Her dreams, of course, partook of this symmetry. The same
dream returns to her periodically, annually, and punctual to its
night. One dream she marks in her journal as repeated for the fourth

'In C., I at last distinctly recognized the figure of the
early vision, whom I found after I had left A., who led me,
on the bridge, towards the city, glittering in sunset, but,
midway, the bridge went under water. I have often seen in her
face that it was she, but refused to believe it.'

She valued, of course, the significance of flowers, and chose emblems
for her friends from her garden.


'Content, in purple lustre clad,
Kingly serene, and golden glad,
No demi-hues of sad contrition,
No pallors of enforced submission;--
Give me such content as this,
And keep awhile the rosy bliss.'


This catching at straws of coincidence, where all is geometrical,
seems the necessity of certain natures. It, is true, that, in every
good work, the particulars are right, and, that every spot of light on
the ground, under the trees, is a perfect image of the sun. Yet, for
astronomical purposes, an observatory is better than an orchard; and
in a universe which is nothing but generations, or an unbroken suite
of cause and effect, to infer Providence, because a man happens to
find a shilling on the pavement just when he wants one to spend, is
puerile, and much as if each of us should date his letters and notes
of hand from his own birthday, instead of from Christ's or the king's
reign, or the current Congress. These, to be sure, are also, at first,
petty and private beginnings, but, by the world of men, clothed with a
social and cosmical character.

It will be seen, however, that this propensity Margaret held with
certain tenets of fate, which always swayed her, and which Goethe,
who had found room and fine names for all this in his system, had
encouraged; and, I may add, which her own experiences, early and late,
seemed strangely to justify.

Some extracts, from her letters to different persons, will show how
this matter lay in her mind.

'_December 17, 1829_.--The following instance of beautiful
credulity, in Rousseau, has taken my mind greatly. This remote
seeking for the decrees of fate, this feeling of a destiny,
casting its shadows from the very morning of thought, is the
most beautiful species of idealism in our day. 'Tis finely
manifested in Wallenstein, where the two common men sum up
their superficial observations on the life and doings of
Wallenstein, and show that, not until this agitating crisis,
have they caught any idea of the deep thoughts which shaped
that hero, who has, without their feeling it, moulded _their_

'"Tasso," says Rousseau, "has predicted my misfortunes. Have
you remarked that Tasso has this peculiarity, that you cannot
take from his work a single strophe, nor from any strophe
a single line, nor from any line a single word, without
disarranging the whole poem? Very well! take away the strophe
I speak of, the stanza has no connection with those that
precede or follow it; it is absolutely useless. _Tasso
probably wrote it involuntarily, and without comprehending it

'As to the impossibility of taking from Tasso without
disarranging the poem, &c., I dare say 'tis not one whit more
justly said of his, than, of any other narrative poem. _Mais,
n'importe_, 'tis sufficient if Rousseau believed this. I found
the stanza in question; admire its meaning beauty.

'I hope you have Italian enough to appreciate the singular
perfection in expression. If not, look to Fairfax's Jerusalem
Delivered, Canto 12, Stanza 77; but Rousseau says these lines
have no connection with what goes before, or after; _they are
preceded_, stanza 76, by these three lines, which he does not
think fit to mention.'

* * * * *

"Misero mostro d'infelice amore;
Misero mostro a cui sol pena e degna
Dell' immensa impieta, la vita indegna."

"Vivro fra i miei tormenti e fra le cure,
Mie giuste furie, forsennato errante.
Paventero l'ombre solinghe e scure,
Che l'primo error mi recheranno avante
E del sol che scopri le mie sventure,
A schivo ed in orrore avro il sembiante.
Temero me medesmo; e da me stesso
Sempre fuggendo, avro me sempre appresso."



'_Dec._12, 1843.--When Goethe received a letter from Zelter,
with a handsome superscription, he said. "Lay that aside; it
is Zelter's true hand-writing. Every man has a daemon, who is
busy to confuse and limit his life. No way is the action of
this power more clearly shown, than in the hand-writing. On
this occasion, the evil influences have been evaded; the mood,
the hand, the pen and paper have conspired to let our friend
write truly himself."

'You may perceive, I quote from memory, as the sentences
are anything but Goethean; but I think often of this little
passage. With me, for weeks and months, the daemon works his
will. Nothing succeeds with me. I fall ill, or am otherwise
interrupted. At these times, whether of frost, or sultry
weather, I would gladly neither plant nor reap,--wait for
the better times, which sometimes come, when I forget that
sickness is ever possible; when all interruptions are upborne
like straws on the full stream of my life, and the words that
accompany it are as much in harmony as sedges murmuring near
the bank. Not all, yet not unlike. But it often happens, that
something presents itself, and must be done, in the bad time;
nothing presents itself in the good: so I, like the others,
seem worse and poorer than I am.'

In another letter to an earlier friend, she expatiates a little.

'As to the Daemoniacal, I know not that I can say to you
anything more precise than you find from Goethe. There are
no precise terms for such thoughts. The word _instinctive_
indicates their existence. I intimated it in the little piece
on the Drachenfels. It may be best understood, perhaps, by a
symbol. As the sun shines from the serene heavens, dispelling
noxious exhalations, and calling forth exquisite thoughts
on the surface of earth in the shape of shrub or flower, so
gnome-like works the fire within the hidden caverns and secret
veins of earth, fashioning existences which have a longer
share in time, perhaps, because they are not immortal in
thought. Love, beauty, wisdom, goodness are intelligent, but
this power moves only to seize its prey. It is not necessarily
either malignant or the reverse, but it has no scope beyond
demonstrating its existence. When conscious, self-asserting,
it becomes (as power working for its own sake, unwilling to
acknowledge love for its superior, must) the devil. That is
the legend of Lucifer, the star that would not own its
centre. Yet, while it is unconscious, it is not devilish, only
daemoniac. In nature, we trace it in all volcanic workings, in
a boding position of lights, in whispers of the wind, which
has no pedigree; in deceitful invitations of the water, in the
sullen rock, which never shall find a voice, and in the shapes
of all those beings who go about seeking what they may devour.
We speak of a mystery, a dread; we shudder, but we approach
still nearer, and a part of our nature listens, sometimes
answers to this influence, which, if not indestructible, is at
least indissolubly linked with the existence of matter.

'In genius, and in character, it works, as you say,
instinctively; it refuses to be analyzed by the understanding,
and is most of all inaccessible to the person who possesses
it. We can only say, I have it, he has it. You have seen it
often in the eyes of those Italian faces you like. It is most
obvious in the eye. As we look on such eyes, we think on
the tiger, the serpent, beings who lurk, glide, fascinate,
mysteriously control. For it is occult by its nature, and if
it could meet you on the highway, and be familiarly known as
an acquaintance, could not exist. The angels of light do not
love, yet they do not insist on exterminating it.

'It has given rise to the fables of wizard, enchantress, and
the like; these beings are scarcely good, yet not necessarily
bad. Power tempts them. They draw their skills from the dead,
because their being is coeval with that of matter, and matter
is the mother of death.'

In later days, she allowed herself sometimes to dwell sadly on the
resistances which she called her fate, and remarked, that 'all life
that has been or could be natural to me, is invariably denied.'

She wrote long afterwards:--

'My days at Milan were not unmarked. I have known some happy
hours, but they all lead to sorrow, and not only the cups of
wine, but of milk, seem drugged with poison, for me. It does
not seem to be my fault, this destiny. I do not court these
things,--they come. I am a poor magnet, with power to be
wounded by the bodies I attract.'


I said that Margaret had a broad good sense, which brought her near to
all people. I am to say that she had also a strong temperament, which
is that counter force which makes individuality, by driving all the
powers in the direction of the ruling thought or feeling, and, when it
is allowed full sway, isolating them. These two tendencies were always
invading each other, and now one and now the other carried the day.
This alternation perplexes the biographer, as it did the observer.
We contradict on the second page what we affirm on the first: and I
remember how often I was compelled to correct my impressions of her
character when living; for after I had settled it once for all that
she wanted this or that perception, at our next interview she would
say with emphasis the very word.

I think, in her case, there was something abnormal in those obscure
habits and necessities which we denote by the word Temperament. In the
first days of our acquaintance, I felt her to be a foreigner,--that,
with her, one would always be sensible of some barrier, as if in
making up a friendship with a cultivated Spaniard or Turk. She had a
strong constitution, and of course its reactions were strong; and
this is the reason why in all her life she has so much to say of her
_fate_. She was in jubilant spirits in the morning, and ended the day
with nervous headache, whose spasms, my wife told me, produced total
prostration. She had great energy of speech and action, and seemed
formed for high emergencies.

Her life concentrated itself on certain happy days, happy hours, happy
moments. The rest was a void. She had read that a man of letters must
lose many days, to work well in one. Much more must a Sappho or a
sibyl. The capacity of pleasure was balanced by the capacity of pain.
'If I had wist!--' she writes, 'I am a worse self-tormentor than
Rousseau, and all my riches are fuel to the fire. My beautiful lore,
like the tropic clime, hatches scorpions to sting me. There is a
verse, which Annie of Lochroyan sings about her ring, that torments my
memory, 'tis so true of myself.'

When I found she lived at a rate so much faster than mine, and which
was violent compared with mine, I foreboded rash and painful crises,
and had a feeling as if a voice cried, _Stand from under!_--as if, a
little further on, this destiny was threatened with jars and reverses,
which no friendship could avert or console. This feeling partly wore
off, on better acquaintance, but remained latent; and I had always
an impression that her energy was too much a force of blood, and
therefore never felt the security for her peace which belongs to more
purely intellectual natures. She seemed more vulnerable. For the
same reason, she remained inscrutable to me; her strength was not my
strength,--her powers were a surprise. She passed into new states of
great advance, but I understood these no better. It were long to tell
her peculiarities. Her childhood was full of presentiments. She was
then a somnambulist. She was subject to attacks of delirium, and,
later, perceived that she had spectral illusions. When she was twelve,
she had a determination of blood to the head. 'My parents,' she said,

'were much mortified to see the fineness of my complexion
destroyed. My own vanity was for a time severely wounded; but
I recovered, and made up my mind to be bright and ugly.'

She was all her lifetime the victim of disease and pain. She read and
wrote in bed, and believed that she could understand anything better
when she was ill. Pain acted like a girdle, to give tension to her
powers. A lady, who was with her one day during a terrible attack of
nervous headache, which made Margaret totally helpless, assured me
that Margaret was yet in the finest vein of humor, and kept those who
were assisting her in a strange, painful excitement, between
laughing and crying, by perpetual brilliant sallies. There were other
peculiarities of habit and power. When she turned her head on one
side, she alleged she had second sight, like St. Francis. These traits
or predispositions made her a willing listener to all the uncertain
science of mesmerism and its goblin brood, which have been rife in
recent years.

She had a feeling that she ought to have been a man, and said of
herself, 'A man's ambition with a woman's heart, is an evil lot.' In
some verses which she wrote 'To the Moon,' occur these lines:--

'But if I steadfast gaze upon thy face,
A human secret, like my own, I trace;
For, through the woman's smile looks the male eye.'

And she found something of true portraiture in a disagreeable novel of
Balzac's, "_Le Livre Mystique_," in which an equivocal figure exerts
alternately a masculine and a feminine influence on the characters of
the plot.

Of all this nocturnal element in her nature she was very conscious,
and was disposed, of course, to give it as fine names as it would
carry, and to draw advantage from it. 'Attica,' she said to a friend,
'is your province, Thessaly is mine: Attica produced the marble
wonders, of the great geniuses; but Thessaly is the land of magic.'

'I have a great share of Typhon to the Osiris, wild rush and
leap, blind force for the sake of force.'

* * * * *

'Dante, thou didst not describe, in all thy apartments of
Inferno, this tremendous repression of an existence half
unfolded; this swoon as the soul was ready to be born.'

* * * * *

'Every year I live, I dislike routine more and more, though I
see that society rests on that, and other falsehoods. The
more I screw myself down to hours, the more I become expert at
giving out thought and life in regulated rations,--the more I
weary of this world, and long to move upon the wing, without
props and sedan chairs.'


'_Dec._ 26, 1839.--If you could look into my mind just now,
you would send far from you those who love and hate. I am
on the Drachenfels, and cannot get off; it is one of my
naughtiest moods. Last Sunday, I wrote a long letter,
describing it in prose and verse, and I had twenty minds to
send it you as a literary curiosity; then I thought, this
might destroy relations, and I might not be able to be calm
and chip marble with you any more, if I talked to you in
magnetism and music; so I sealed and sent it in the due

'I remember you say, that forlorn seasons often turn out
the most profitable. Perhaps I shall find it so. I have been
reading Plato all the week, because I could not write. I hoped
to be tuned up thereby. I perceive, with gladness, a keener
insight in myself, day by day; yet, after all, could not make
a good statement this morning on the subject of beauty.'

She had, indeed, a rude strength, which, if it could have been
supported by an equal health, would have given her the efficiency of
the strongest men. As it was, she had great power of work. The account
of her reading in Groton is at a rate like Gibbon's, and, later, that
of her writing, considered with the fact that writing was not grateful
to her, is incredible. She often proposed to her friends, in the
progress of intimacy, to write every day. 'I think less than a daily
offering of thought and feeling would not content me, so much seems
to pass unspoken.' In Italy, she tells Madame Arconati, that she has
'more than a hundred correspondents;' and it was her habit there to
devote one day of every week to those distant friends. The facility
with which she assumed stints of literary labor, which veteran feeders
of the press would shrink from,--assumed and performed,--when her
friends were to be served, I have often observed with wonder, and
with fear, when I considered the near extremes of ill-health, and
the manner in which her life heaped itself in high and happy moments,
which were avenged by lassitude and pain.

'As each task comes,' she said, 'I borrow a readiness from its
aspect, as I always do brightness from the face of a friend.
Yet, as soon as the hour is past, I sink.'

I think most of her friends will remember to have felt, at one time
or another, some uneasiness, as if this athletic soul craved a larger
atmosphere than it found; as if she were ill-timed and mis-mated,
and felt in herself a tide of life, which compared with the slow
circulation of others as a torrent with a rill. She found no full
expression of it but in music. Beethoven's Symphony was the only right
thing the city of the Puritans had for her. Those to whom music has a
representative value, affording them a stricter copy of their inward
life than any other of the expressive arts, will, perhaps, enter into
the spirit which dictated the following letter to her patron saint, on
her return, one evening, from the Boston Academy of Music.


'_Saturday Evening. 25th Nov._, 1843.

'My only friend,

'How shall I thank thee for once more breaking the chains of
my sorrowful slumber? My heart beats. I live again, for I feel
that I am worthy audience for thee, and that my being would be
reason enough for thine.

'Master, my eyes are always clear. I see that the universe is
rich, if I am poor. I see the insignificance of my sorrows. In
my will, I am not a captive; in my intellect, not a slave. Is
it then my fault that the palsy of my affections benumbs my
whole life?

'I know that the curse is but for the time. I know what the
eternal justice promises. But on this one sphere, it is sad.
Thou didst say, thou hadst no friend but thy art. But that one
is enough. I have no art, in which to vent the swell of a soul
as deep as thine, Beethoven, and of a kindred frame. Thou wilt
not think me presumptuous in this saying, as another might.
I have always known that thou wouldst welcome and know me, as
would no other who ever lived upon the earth since its first

'Thou wouldst forgive me, master, that I have not been true to
my eventual destiny, and therefore have suffered on every side
"the pangs of despised love." Thou didst the same; but thou
didst borrow from those errors the inspiration of thy genius.
Why is it not thus with me? Is it because, as a woman, I
am bound by a physical-law, which prevents the soul from
manifesting itself? Sometimes the moon seems mockingly to say
so,--to say that I, too, shall not shine, unless I can find a
sun. O, cold and barren moon, tell a different tale!

'But thou, oh blessed master! dost answer all my questions,
and make it my privilege to be. Like a humble wife to the
sage, or poet, it is my triumph that I can understand and
cherish thee: like a mistress, I arm thee for the fight: like
a young daughter, I tenderly bind thy wounds. Thou art to me
beyond compare, for thou art all I want. No heavenly sweetness
of saint or martyr, no many-leaved Raphael, no golden
Plato, is anything to me, compared with thee. The infinite
Shakspeare, the stern Angelo, Dante,--bittersweet like
thee,--are no longer seen in thy presence. And, beside these
names, there are none that could vibrate in thy crystal
sphere. Thou hast all of them, and that ample surge of life
besides, that great winged being which they only dreamed of.
There is none greater than Shakspeare; he, too, is a god; but
his creations are successive; thy _fiat_ comprehends them all.

'Last summer, I met thy mood in nature, on those wide
impassioned plains flower and crag-bestrown. There, the tide
of emotion had rolled over, and left the vision of its smiles
and sobs, as I saw to-night from thee.

'If thou wouldst take me wholly to thyself--! I am lost in
this world, where I sometimes meet angels, but of a different
star from mine. Even so does thy spirit plead with all
spirits. But thou dost triumph and bring them all in.

'Master, I have this summer envied the oriole which had even
a swinging nest in the high bough. I have envied the least
flower that came to seed, though that seed were strown to the
wind. But I envy none when I am with thee.'


Margaret at first astonished and repelled us by a complacency that
seemed the most assured since the days of Scaliger. She spoke, in the
quietest manner, of the girls she had formed, the young men who owed
everything to her, the fine companions she had long ago exhausted. In
the coolest way, she said to her friends, 'I now know all the people
worth knowing in America, and I find no intellect comparable to my
own.' In vain, on one occasion, I professed my reverence for a youth
of genius, and my curiosity in his future,--'O no, she was intimate
with his mind,' and I 'spoiled him, by overrating him.' Meantime,
we knew that she neither had seen, nor would see, his subtle

I have heard, that from the beginning of her life, she idealized
herself as a sovereign. She told--she early saw herself to be
intellectually superior to those around her, and that for years she
dwelt upon the idea, until she believed that she was not her
parents' child, but an European princess confided to their care. She
remembered, that, when a little girl, she was walking one day under
the apple trees with such an air and step, that her father pointed her
out to her sister, saying, _Incedit regina._ And her letters sometimes
convey these exultations, as the following, which was written to
a lady, and which contained Margaret's translation of Goethe's

To ----.

1838.--Which of us has not felt the questionings expressed in
this bold fragment? Does it not seem, were we gods, or could
steal their fire, we would make men not only happier, but
free,--glorious? Yes, my life is strange; thine is strange. We
are, we shall be, in this life, mutilated beings, but there
is in my bosom a faith, that I shall see the reason; a glory,
that I can endure to be so imperfect; and a feeling, ever
elastic, that fate and time shall have the shame and the
blame, if I am mutilated. I will do all I can,--and, if one
cannot succeed, there is a beauty in martyrdom.

Your letters are excellent. I did not mean to check your
writing, only I thought that you might wish a confidence
that I must anticipate with a protest. But I take my natural
position always: and the more I see, the more I feel that it
is regal. Without throne, sceptre, or guards, still a queen.

It is certain that Margaret occasionally let slip, with all the
innocence imaginable, some phrase betraying the presence of a rather
mountainous ME, in a way to surprise those who knew her good
sense. She could say, as if she were stating a scientific fact, in
enumerating the merits of somebody, 'He appreciates _me_.' There
was something of hereditary organization in this, and something of
unfavorable circumstance in the fact, that she had in early life no
companion, and few afterwards, in her finer studies; but there was
also an ebullient sense of power, which she felt to be in her, which
as yet had found no right channels. I remember she once said to me,
what I heard as a mere statement of fact, and nowise as unbecoming,
that 'no man gave such invitation to her mind as to tempt her to a
full expression; that she felt a power to enrich her thought with such
wealth and variety of embellishment as would, no doubt, be tedious to
such as she conversed with.'

Her impatience she expressed as she could. 'I feel within myself,' she

'an immense force, but I cannot bring it out. It may sound
like a joke, but I do feel something corresponding to that
tale of the Destinies falling in love with Hermes.'

In her journal, in the summer of 1844, she writes:--

'Mrs. Ware talked with me about education,--wilful
education,--in which she is trying to get interested. I talk
with a Goethean moderation on this subject, which rather
surprises her and ----, who are nearer the entrance of the
studio. I am really old on this subject. In near eight years'
experience, I have learned as much as others would in eighty,
from my great talent at explanation, tact in the use of
means, and immediate and invariable power over the minds of
my pupils. My wish has been, to purify my own conscience, when
near them; give clear views of the aims of this life; show
them where the magazines of knowledge lie; and leave the rest
to themselves and the Spirit, who must teach and help them to
self-impulse. I told Mrs. W. it was much if we did not injure
them; if they were passing the time in a way that was _not
bad_, so that good influences have a chance. Perhaps people
in general must expect greater outward results, or they would
feel no interest.'


'With the intellect I always have, always shall, overcome; but
that is not the half of the work. The life, the life! O, my
God! shall the life never be sweet?'

I have inquired diligently of those who saw her often, and in
different companies, concerning her habitual tone, and something like
this is the report:--In conversation, Margaret seldom, except as a
special grace, admitted others upon an equal ground with herself. She
was exceedingly tender, when she pleased to be, and most cherishing
in her influence; but to elicit this tenderness, it was necessary to
submit first to her personally. When a person was overwhelmed by
her, and answered not a word, except, "Margaret, be merciful to me, a
sinner," then her love and tenderness would come like a seraph's,
and often an acknowledgment that she had been too harsh, and even a
craving for pardon, with a humility,--which, perhaps, she had caught
from the other. But her instinct was not humility,--that was always an

This arrogant tone of her conversation, if it came to be the subject
of comment, of course, she defended, and with such broad good nature,
and on grounds of simple truth, as were not easy to set aside. She
quoted from Manzoni's _Carmagnola_, the lines:--

"Tolga il ciel che alcuno
Piu altamente di me pensi ch'io stesso."

"God forbid that any one should conceive more highly of me than
I myself." Meantime, the tone of her journals is humble, tearful,
religious, and rises easily into prayer.

I am obliged to an ingenious correspondent for the substance of the
following account of this idiosyncrasy:--

Margaret was one of the few persons who looked upon life as an
art, and every person not merely as an artist, but as a work
of art. She looked upon herself as a living statue, which
should always stand on a polished pedestal, with right
accessories, and under the most fitting lights. She would have
been glad to have everybody so live and act. She was annoyed
when they did not, and when they did not regard her from the
point of view which alone did justice to her. No one could
be more lenient in her judgments of those whom she saw to be
living in this light. Their faults were to be held as "the
disproportions of the ungrown giant." But the faults of
persons who were unjustified by this ideal, were odious.
Unhappily, her constitutional self-esteem sometimes blinded
the eyes that should have seen that an idea lay at the bottom
of some lives which she did not quite so readily comprehend as
beauty; that truth had other manifestations than those which
engaged her natural sympathies; that sometimes the soul
illuminated only the smallest arc--of a circle so large that
it was lost in the clouds of another world.

This apology reminds me of a little speech once made to her, at his
own house, by Dr. Channing, who held her in the highest regard: "Miss
Fuller, when I consider that you are and have all that Miss ---- has
so long wished for, and that you scorn her, and that she still admires
you,--I think her place in heaven will be very high."

But qualities of this kind can only be truly described by the
impression they make on the bystander; and it is certain that her
friends excused in her, because she had a right to it, a tone which
they would have reckoned intolerable in any other. Many years since,
one of her earliest and fastest friends quoted Spenser's sonnet as
accurately descriptive of Margaret:--

"Rudely thou wrongest my dear heart's desire,
In finding fault with her too portly pride;
The thing which I do most in her admire
Is of the world unworthy most envied.
For, in those lofty looks is close implied
Scorn of base things, disdain of foul dishonor,
Threatening rash eyes which gaze on her so wide
That loosely they ne dare to look upon her:
Such pride is praise, such portliness is honor,
That boldened innocence bears in her eyes;
And her fair countenance, like a goodly banner,
Spreads in defiance of all enemies.
Was never in this world aught worthy tried,
Without a spark of some self-pleasing pride."


She had been early remarked for her sense and sprightliness, and for
her skill in school exercises. Now she had added wide reading, and
of the books most grateful to her. She had read the Italian poets
by herself, and from sympathy. I said, that, by the leading part
she naturally took, she had identified herself with all the elegant
culture in this country. Almost every person who had any distinction
for wit, or art, or scholarship, was known to her; and she was
familiar with the leading books and topics. There is a kind of
undulation in the popularity of the great writers, even of the first
rank. We have seen a recent importance given to Behmen and Swedenborg;
and Shakspeare has unquestionably gained with the present generation.
It is distinctive, too, of the taste of the period,--the new vogue
given to the genius of Dante. An edition of Cary's translation,
reprinted in Boston, many years ago, was rapidly sold; and, for the
last twenty years, all studious youths and maidens have been reading
the Inferno. Margaret had very early found her way to Dante, and from
a certain native preference which she felt or fancied for the Italian
genius. The following letter, though of a later date, relates to these


'_December_, 1842.--When you were here, you seemed to think I
might perhaps have done something on the _Vita Nuova_; and the
next day I opened the book, and considered how I could do
it. But you shall not expect that, either, for your present
occasion. When I first mentioned it to you, it was only as a
piece of Sunday work, which I thought of doing for you alone;
and because it has never seemed to me you entered enough into
the genius of the Italian to apprehend the mind, which has
seemed so great to me, and a star unlike, if not higher than
all the others in our sky. Else, I should have given you
the original, rather than any version of mine. I intended to
translate the poems, with which it is interspersed, into plain
prose. Milnes and Longfellow have tried each their power at
doing it in verse, and have done better, probably, than I
could, yet not well. But this would not satisfy me for the
public. Besides, the translating Dante is a piece of literary
presumption, and challenges a criticism to which I am not sure
that I am, as the Germans say, _gewachsen_. Italian, as well
as German, I learned by myself, unassisted, except as to the
pronunciation. I have never been brought into connection
with minds trained to any severity in these kinds of elegant
culture. I have used all the means within my reach, but my not
going abroad is an insuperable defect in the technical part
of my education. I was easily capable of attaining excellence,
perhaps mastery, in the use of some implements. Now I know,
at least, _what I do not know_, and I get along by never
voluntarily going beyond my depth, and, when called on to do
it, stating my incompetency. At moments when I feel tempted to
regret that I could not follow out the plan I had marked
for myself, and develop powers which are not usual here, I
reflect, that if I had attained high finish and an easy range
in these respects, I should not have been thrown back on my
own resources, or known them as I do. But Lord Brougham should
not translate Greek orations, nor a maid-of-all-work attempt
such a piece of delicate handling as to translate the _Vita

Here is a letter, without date, to another correspondent:

'To-day, on reading over some of the sonnets of Michel Angelo,
I felt them more than usual. I know not why I have not read
them thus before, except that the beauty was pointed out to me
at first by another, instead of my coming unexpectedly upon
it of myself. All the great writers, all the persons who have
been dear to me, I have found and chosen; they have not been
proposed to me. My intimacy with them came upon me as natural
eras, unexpected and thrice dear. Thus I have appreciated, but
not been able to feel, Michel Angelo as a poet.

'It is a singular fact in my mental history, that, while I
understand the principles and construction of language much
better than formerly, I cannot read so well _les langues
meridionales_. I suppose it is that I am less _meridionale_
myself. I understand the genius of the north better than I

Dante, Petrarca, Tasso, were her friends among the old poets,--for to
Ariosto she assigned a far lower place,--Alfieri and Manzoni, among
the new. But what was of still more import to her education, she had
read German books, and, for the three years before I knew her, almost
exclusively,--Lessing, Schiller, Richter, Tieck, Novalis, and, above
all, GOETHE. It was very obvious, at the first intercourse with her,
though her rich and busy mind never reproduced undigested reading,
that the last writer,--food or poison,--the most powerful of all
mental reagents,--the pivotal mind in modern literature,--for all
before him are ancients, and all who have read him are moderns,--that
this mind had been her teacher, and, of course, the place was filled,
nor was there room for any other. She had that symptom which appears
in all the students of Goethe,--an ill-dissembled contempt of all
criticism on him which they hear from others, as if it were totally
irrelevant; and they are themselves always preparing to say the right
word,--a _prestige_ which is allowed, of course, until they do
speak: when they have delivered their volley, they pass, like their
foregoers, to the rear.

The effect on Margaret was complete. She was perfectly timed to it.
She found her moods met, her topics treated, the liberty of thought
she loved, the same climate of mind. Of course, this book superseded
all others, for the time, and tinged deeply all her thoughts. The
religion, the science, the Catholicism, the worship of art, the
mysticism and daemonology, and withal the clear recognition of moral
distinctions as final and eternal, all charmed her; and Faust, and
Tasso, and Mignon, and Makaria, and Iphigenia, became irresistible
names. It was one of those agreeable historical coincidences, perhaps
invariable, though not yet registered, the simultaneous appearance
of a teacher and of pupils, between whom exists a strict affinity.
Nowhere did Goethe find a braver, more intelligent, or more
sympathetic reader. About the time I knew her, she was meditating
a biography of Goethe, and did set herself to the task in 1837. She
spent much time on it, and has left heaps of manuscripts, which are
notes, transcripts, and studies in that direction. But she wanted
leisure and health to finish it, amid the multitude of projected works
with which her brain teemed. She used great discretion on this point,
and made no promises. In 1839, she published her translation of
Eckermann, a book which makes the basis of the translation of
Eckermann since published in London, by Mr. Oxenford. In the Dial,
in July, 1841, she wrote an article on Goethe, which is, on many
accounts, her best paper.


Margaret was in the habit of sending to her correspondents, in lieu of
letters, sheets of criticism on her recent readings. From such quite
private folios, never intended for the press, and, indeed, containing
here and there names and allusions, which it is now necessary to veil
or suppress, I select the following notices, chiefly of French books.
Most of these were addressed to me, but the three first to an earlier

'Reading Schiller's introduction to the Wars of the League,
I have been led back to my old friend, the Duke of Sully,
and his charming king. He was a man, that Henri! How gay and
graceful seems his unflinching frankness! He wore life
as lightly as the feather in his cap. I have become much
interested, too, in the two Guises, who had seemed to me mere
intriguers, and not of so splendid abilities, when I was less
able to appreciate the difficulties they daily and hourly
combated. I want to read some more books about them. Do you
know whether I could get Matthieu, or de Thou, or the Memoirs
of the House of Nevers?

'I do not think this is a respectable way of passing my
summer, but I cannot help it.

'I never read any life of Moliere. Are the facts very
interesting? You see clearly in his writing what he was: a
man not high, not poetic; but firm, wide, genuine, whose
clearsightedness only made him more noble. I love him well
that he could see without showing these myriad mean faults of
the social man, and yet make no nearer approach to misanthropy
than his Alceste. These witty Frenchmen. Rabelais, Montaigne,
Moliere, are great as were their marshals and _preux
chevaliers_; when the Frenchman tries to be poetical,
he becomes theatrical, but he can be romantic, and also
dignified, maugre shrugs and snuff-boxes.'

* * * * *

'_Thursday Evening_.--Although I have been much engaged these
two days. I have read Spiridion twice. I could have wished
to go through it the second time more at leisure, but as I am
going away, I thought I would send it back, lest it should be
wanted before my return.

'The development of the religious sentiment being the same as
in Helene, I at first missed the lyric effusion of that work,
which seems to me more and more beautiful, as I think of it
more. This, however, was a mere prejudice, of course, as the
thought here is poured into a quite different mould, and I was
not troubled by it on a second reading.

'Again, when I came to look at the work by itself, I thought
the attempt too bold. A piece of character-painting does not
seem to be the place for a statement of these wide and high
subjects. For here the philosophy is not merely implied in the
poetry and religion, but assumes to show a face of its own.
And, as none should meddle with these matters who are not in
earnest, so, such will prefer to find the thought of a teacher
or fellow-disciple expressed as directly and as bare of
ornament as possible.

'I was interested in De Wette's Theodor, and that learned and
(_on dit_) profound man seemed to me so to fail, that I did
not finish the book, nor try whether I could believe the
novice should ever arrive at manly stature.

'I am not so clear as to the scope and bearing of this
book, as of that. I suppose if I were to read Lamennais, or
L'Erminier, I should know what they all want or intend. And
if you meet with _Les paroles d'un Croyant_, I will beg you to
get it for me, for I am more curious than ever. I had supposed
the view taken by these persons in France, to be the same with
that of Novalis and the German Catholics, in which I have
been deeply interested. But from this book, it would seem to
approach the faith of some of my friends here, which has been
styled Psychotheism. And the gap in the theoretical fabric is
the same as with them. I read with unutterable interest the
despair of Alexis in his Eclectic course, his return to the
teachings of external nature, his new birth, and consequent
appreciation of poetry and music. But the question of Free
Will,--how to reconcile its workings with necessity and
compensation,--how to reconcile the life of the heart with
that of the intellect,--how to listen to the whispering breeze
of Spirit, while breasting, as a man should, the surges of the
world,--these enigmas Sand and her friends seem to have solved
no better than M.F. and her friends.

'The practical optimism is much the same as ours, except that
there is more hope for the masses--soon.

'This work is written with great vigor, scarce any faltering
on the wing. The horrors are disgusting, as are those of every
writer except Dante. Even genius should content itself in
dipping the pencil in cloud and mist. The apparitions of
Spiridion are managed with great beauty. As in Helene, as in
Novalis, I recognized, with delight, the eye that gazed, the
ear that listened, till the spectres came, as they do to the
Highlander on his rocky couch, to the German peasant on his
mountain. How different from the vulgar eye which looks, but
never sees! Here the beautiful apparition advances from the
solar ray, or returns to the fountain of light and truth, as
it should, when eagle eyes are gazing.

'I am astonished at her insight into the life of thought. She
must know it through some man. Women, under any circumstances,
can scarce do more than dip the foot in this broad and deep
river; they have not strength to contend with the current.
Brave, if they do not delicately shrink from the cold water.
No Sibyls have existed like those of Michel Angelo; those
of Raphael are the true brides of a God, but not themselves
divine. It is easy for women to be heroic in action, but when
it comes to interrogating God, the universe, the soul, and,
above all, trying to live above their own hearts, they dart
down to their nests like so many larks, and, if they cannot
find them, fret like the French Corinne. Goethe's Makaria
was born of the stars. Mr. Flint's Platonic old lady a _lusus
naturae_, and the Dudevant has loved a philosopher.

'I suppose the view of the present state of Catholicism no way
exaggerated. Alexis is no more persecuted than Abelard was,
and is so, for the same reasons. From the examinations of the
Italian convents in Leopold's time, it seems that the grossest
materialism not only reigns, but is taught and professed in
them. And Catholicism loads and infects as all dead forms do,
however beautiful and noble during their lives.' * *


'1839.--When I first knew George Sand, I thought I found tried
the experiment I wanted. I did not value Bettine so much;
she had not pride enough for me; only now when I am sure of
myself, would I pour out my soul at the feet of another. In
the assured soul it is kingly prodigality; in one which cannot
forbear, it is mere babyhood. I love _abandon_ only when
natures are capable of the extreme reverse. I knew Bettine
would end in nothing, when I read her book. I knew she could
not outlive her love.

'But in _Les Sept Cordes de la Lyre_, which I read first, I
saw the knowledge of the passions, and of social institutions,
with the celestial choice which rose above them. I loved
Helene, who could so well hear the terrene voices, yet keep
her eye fixed on the stars. That would be my wish, also, to
know all, then choose; I ever revered her, for I was not sure
that I could have resisted the call of the Now, could have
left the spirit, and gone to God. And, at a more ambitious
age, I could not have refused the philosopher. But I hoped
from her steadfastness, and I thought I heard the last tones
of a purified life:--Gretchen, in the golden cloud, raised
above all past delusions, worthy to redeem and upbear the wise
man, who stumbled into the pit of error while searching for

'Still, in _Andre_, and in _Jacques_, I traced the same high
morality of one who had tried the liberty of circumstance
only to learn to appreciate the liberty of law, to know that
license is the foe of freedom. And, though the sophistry of
passion in these books disgusted me, flowers of purest hue
seemed to grow upon the dank and dirty ground. I thought she
had cast aside the slough of her past life, and began a new
existence beneath the sun of a true Ideal.

'But here (in the _Lettres d'un Voyageur_) what do I see? An
unfortunate bewailing her loneliness, bewailing her mistakes,
writing for money! She has genius, and a manly grasp of mind,
but not a manly heart! Will there never be a being to combine
a mail's mind and woman's heart, and who yet finds life too
rich to weep over? Never?

'When I read in _Leone Lioni_ the account of the jeweller's
daughter's life with her mother, passed in dress and in
learning to be looked at when dressed, _avec un front
impassible_, it reminded me exceedingly of ----, and her
mother. What a heroine she would be for Sand! She has the same
fearless softness with Juliet, and a sportive _naivete_, a
mixture of bird and kitten, unknown to the dupe of Lioni.

'If I were a man, and wished a wife, as many do, merely as an
ornament, or silken toy, I would take ---- as soon as any I
know. Her fantastic, impassioned, and mutable nature would
yield an inexhaustible amusement. She is capable of the most
romantic actions;--wild as the falcon, and voluptuous as the
tuberose,--yet she has not in her the elements of romance,
like a deeper and less susceptible nature. My cold and
reasoning E., with her one love lying, perhaps, never to be
unfolded, beneath such sheaths of pride and reserve, would
make a far better heroine.

'Both these characters are natural, while S. and T. are
_naturally factitious_, because so imitative, and her mother
differs from Juliet and her mother, by the impulse a single
strong character gave them. Even at this distance of time,
there is a slight but perceptible taste of iron in the water.

'George Sand disappoints me, as almost all beings have,
especially since I have been brought close to her person
by the _Lettres d'un Voyageur_. Her remarks on Lavater seem
really shallow, and hasty, _a la mode du genre femenin_. No
self-ruling Aspasia she, but a frail woman mourning over a
lot. Any peculiarity in her destiny seems accidental. She is
forced to this and that, to earn her bread forsooth!

'Yet her style,--with what a deeply smouldering fire it
burns!--not vehement, but intense, like Jean Jacques.'


'_Sept._, 1839.

'"La harpe tremble encore, et la flute soupire."

'Sometimes we doubt this, and think the music has finally
ceased, so sultry still lies the air around us, or only
disturbed by the fife and drum of talent, calling to the
parade-ground of social life. The ear grows dull.

'"Faith asks her daily bread,
And Fancy is no longer fed."

'So materialistic is the course of common life, that we _ask
daily_ new Messiahs from literature and art, to turn us from
the Pharisaic observance of law, to the baptism of spirit. But
stars arise upon our murky sky, and the flute _soupire_ from
the quarter where we least expect it.

'_La jeune France_! I had not believed in this youthful
pretender. I thought she had no pure blood in her veins, no
aristocratic features in her face, no natural grace in her
gait. I thought her an illegitimate child of the generous, but
extravagant youth of Germany. I thought she had been left at
the foundling hospital, as not worth a parent's care, and that
now, grown up, she was trying to prove at once her parentage
and her charms by certificates which might be headed, Innocent
Adultery, Celestial Crime, &c.

'The slight acquaintance I had with Hugo, and company, did not
dispel these impressions. And I thought Chateaubriand (far too
French for my taste also,) belonged to _l'ancien regime_, and
that Beranger and Courier stood apart. Nodier, Paul de Kock,
Sue, Jules Janin, I did not know, except through the absurd
reports of English reviewers; Le Maistre and Lamennais, as

'But I have now got a peep at this galaxy. I begin to divine
the meaning of St. Simonianism, Cousinism, and the movement
which the same causes have produced in belles-lettres. I
perceive that _la jeune France_ is the legitimate, though far
younger sister of Germany; taught by her, but not born of her,
but of a common mother. I see, at least begin to see, what
she has learned from England, and what the bloody rain of
the revolution has done to fertilize her soil, naturally too

'Blessed be the early days when I sat at the feet of Rousseau,
prophet sad and stately as any of Jewry! Every onward movement
of the age, every downward step into the solemn depths of my
own soul, recalls thy oracles, O Jean Jacques! But as these
things only glimmer upon me at present, clouds of rose and
amber, in the perspective of a long, dim woodland glade, which
I must traverse if I would get a fair look at them from the
hill-top,--as I cannot, to say sooth, get the works of these
always working geniuses, but by slow degrees, in a country
that has no heed of them till her railroads and canals are
finished,--I need not jot down my petty impressions of the
movement writers. I wish to speak of one among them, aided,
honored by them, but not of them. He is to _la jeune France_
rather the herald of a tourney, or the master of ceremonies
at a patriotic festival, than a warrior for her battles, or an
advocate to win her cause.

'The works of M. de Vigny having come in my way, I have read
quite through this thick volume.

'I read, a year since, in the London and Westminster,
an admirable sketch of Armand Carrel. The writer speaks
particularly of the use of which Carrel's experience of
practical life had been to him as an author; how it had
tempered and sharpened the blade of his intellect to the
Damascene perfection. It has been of like use to de Vigny,
though not in equal degree.

'De Vigny _passed_,--but for manly steadfastness, he would
probably say _wasted_,--his best years in the army. He is now
about forty; and we have in this book the flower of these best
years. It is a night-blooming Cereus, for his days were passed
in the duties of his profession. These duties, so tiresome and
unprofitable in time of peace, were the ground in which the
seed sprang up, which produced these many-leaved and calm

'The first portion of this volume, _Servitude et Grandeurs
Militaires_, contains an account of the way in which he
received his false tendency. Cherished on the "wounded
knees" of his aged father, he listened to tales of the great
Frederic, whom the veteran had known personally. After an
excellent sketch of the king, he says: "I expatiate here,
almost in spite of myself, because this was the first great
man whose portrait was thus drawn for me at home,--a portrait
after nature,--and because my admiration of him was the first
symptom of my useless love of arms,--the first cause of one of
the most complete delusions of my life." This admiration
for the great king remained so lively in his mind, that even
Bonaparte in his gestures seemed to him, in later days, a

'At the military school, "the drum stifled the voices of our
masters, and the mysterious voices of books seemed to us cold
and pedantic. Tropes and logarithms seemed to us only steps to
mount to the star of the Legion of Honor,--the fairest star of
heaven to us children."

'"No meditation could keep long in chains heads made
constantly giddy by the noise of cannon and bells for the _Te
Deum_. When one of our former comrades returned to pay us a
visit in uniform, and his arm in a scarf, we blushed at
our books, and threw them at the heads of our teachers. Our
teachers were always reading us bulletins from the _grande
armee_, and our cries of _Vive l'Empereur_ interrupted Tacitus
and Plato. Our preceptors resembled heralds of arms, our study
halls barracks, and our examinations reviews."

'Thus was he led into the army; and, he says, "It was only
very late, that I perceived that my services were one long
mistake, and that I had imported into a life altogether
active, a nature altogether contemplative."

'He entered the army at the time of Napoleon's fall, and,
like others, wasted life in waiting for war. For these young
persons could not believe that peace and calm were possible to
France; could not believe that she could lead any life but one
of conquest.

'As De Vigny was gradually undeceived, he says: "Loaded with
an ennui which I did not dream of in a life I had so ardently
desired, it became a necessity to me to detach myself by night
from the vain and tiresome tumult of military days. From these
nights, in which I enlarged in silence the knowledge I had
acquired from our public and tumultuous studies, proceeded
my poems and books. From these days, there remain to me these
recollections, whose chief traits I here assemble around one
idea. For, not reckoning for the glory of arms, either on
the present or future, I sought it in the souvenirs of my
comrades. My own little adventures will not serve, except
as frame to those pictures of the military life, and of
the manners of our armies, all whose traits are by no means

'And thus springs up, in the most natural manner, this little
book on the army.

'It has the truth, the delicacy, and the healthiness of a
production native to the soil; the merit of love-letters,
journals, lyric poems, &c., written without any formal
intention of turning life into a book, but because the writer
could not help it. What, more than anything else, engaged the
attention of De Vigny, was the false position of two beings
towards a factitious society: the soldier, now that standing
armies are the mode, and the poet, now that Olympic games
or pastimes are not the mode. He has treated the first best,
because with profounder _connoissance du fait_. For De Vigny
is not a poet; he has only an eye to perceive the existence
of these birds of heaven. But in few ways, except their own
broken harp-tone's thrill, have their peculiar sorrows and
difficulties been so well illustrated. The character of the
soldier, with its virtues and faults, is portrayed with such
delicacy, that to condense would ruin. The peculiar reserve,
the habit of duty, the beauty of a character which cannot look
forward, and need not look back, are given with distinguished

'Of the three stories which adorn this part of the book,
_Le Cachet Rouge_ is the loveliest, _La Canne au Jonc_ the
noblest. Never was anything more sweetly naive than parts of
_Le Cachet Rouge_. _La pauvre petite femme_, she was just such
a person as my ----. And then the farewell injunctions,--_du
pauvre petite mare_,--the nobleness and the coarseness of
the poor captain. It is as original as beautiful, _c'est dire
beaucoup_. In _La Canne au Jonc_, Collingwood, who embodies
the high feeling of duty, is taken too raw out of a book,--his
letters to his daughters. But the effect on the character of
_le Capitaine Renaud_, and the unfolding of his interior life,
are done with the spiritual beauty of Manzoni.

'_Cinq-Mars_ is a romance in the style of Walter Scott. It
is well brought out, figures in good relief, lights well
distributed, sentiment high, but nowhere exaggerated,
knowledge exact, and the good and bad of human nature painted
with that impartiality which becomes a man, and a man of the
world. All right, no failure anywhere; also, no wonderful
success, no genius, no magic. It is one of those works which
I should consider only excusable as the amusement of leisure
hours; and, though few could write it, chiefly valuable to the

'Here he has arranged, as in a bouquet, what he knew,--and a
great deal it is,--of the time of Louis XIII., as he has of
the Regency in "La Marechale d'Ancre,"--a much finer work,
indeed one of the best-arranged and finished modern dramas.
The Leonora Galigai is better than anything I have seen in
Victor Hugo, and as good as Schiller. Stello is a bolder
attempt. It is the history of three poets,--Gilbert, Andre
Chenier, Chatterton. He has also written a drama called
Chatterton, inferior to the story here. The "marvellous boy"
seems to have captivated his imagination marvellously. In
thought, these productions are worthless; for taste, beauty of
sentiment, and power of description, remarkable. His advocacy
of the poets' cause is about as effective and well-planned
as Don Quixote's tourney with the wind-mill. How would you
provide for the poet _bon homme_ De Vigny?--from a joint-stock
company Poet's Fund, or how?

'His translation of Othello, which I glanced at, is good for a

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