Margaret Fuller and the Brownings

by Rosella Mamoli Zorzi

1. A Prologue

It is now a time when one can speak of "canonization" for Margaret Fuller, in the sense that she has entered the canon of Transcendentalism, of the history of journalism, of history: this conference, and the number of approaches and papers presented, is evidence of the status of Fuller. The publication of Chevigny's anthology, of the six volumes of her letters, of her dispatches from Rome and finally of her essays1 has been essential in this process. However, Fuller manages to remain a "haunting" figure, both due to her tragic death and to the by now well-studied impact she has had on a number of important literary figures, the most explicit definition of the Margaret ghost ­ «the unquestionably haunting Margaret-ghost» ­ being that evoked by Henry James in William Wetmore Story and His Friends (1903)2, a title that strangely resonates with the intended title of Fuller's Memoirs, originally called Margaret and Her Friends3. A «ghost» that haunted, to his own «wonderment», Henry James, perhaps from the moment he heard of Fuller's death at sea, as a boy of seven crossing over «those very waters» («Fire Island at least was just without our big Bay») with his father and Washington Irving, from New York to Fort Hamilton, or from the moment he was shown, still a boy, «at an exhibition of pictures», «a small full-length portrait of Miss Fuller, seated as now appears to me and wrapped in a long white shawl, the failure of which to do justice to its original my companions denounced with some emphasis»4.

That «Margaret-ghost» haunted, as is well-known, many other writers, from Nathaniel Hawthorne to James Russell Lowell, from Emerson to Oscar Wilde, in different ways, as many critics and biographers have shown, and as that essential book by Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, Margaret Fuller's Life and Writings, even in its first edition dating back to 1976, has documented. Just about the same time as the scholarly work of Chevigny was being done, one (more) great American poet placed Fuller in a book called History (1973), writing a poem on her haunting figure but also placing her in the history of the usa, and of Western culture, as she was one of a series of figures ranging from Xerxes and Alexander, to Dante, Rembrandt, Goethe, Thoreau, Emerson, Henry Adams, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams. This poet, Robert Lowell, opened up a dialogue between a 20th-century male poet and a 19th-century woman, in a way that brings to mind John Berryman's dialogue with Anne Bradstreet in his Homage to Mistress Bradstreet (1956). I will quote the poem:

Margaret Fuller Drowned

You had everything to rattle the men who wrote. / The first American woman? Margaret Fuller / in a white nightgown, your hair fallen long / at the foot of the foremast, you just forty, / your husband Angelo thirty, your Angelino one- / all drowned with brief anguish together Your fire-call, / your voice, was like thorns crackling under a pot, / you knew the Church burdens and infects as all dead forms, / however gallant and lovely in their life; / progress is not by renunciation. / «Myself», you wrote, «is all I know of heaven. / With my intellect, I always can / and always shall make out, but that's not half- / the life, the life, O my God, will never be sweet?»5

No doubt Lowell's imagination was "haunted" by the figure of the Romantic woman («in a white nightgown, your hair fallen long / at the foot of the foremast»), and he repeated the famous sentence («I shall always reign through the intellect, but the life, the life! O my God! Shall that never be sweet?») that Ellen Moers has traced as an undercurrent in Victorian times, finding it quoted from memory by George Eliot6. Lowell's imagination, however, also caught the essence of the radical historian («you knew the Church burdens and infects as all dead forms»).

It is this aspect ­ that of the radical political commentator and historian ­ which was so difficult to accept for one of Fuller's contemporaries, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose comments, much more hostile than Robert Browning's, seem in a way more disturbing to us than those of other writers. If we cannot justify such unacceptable judgments on Fuller or Ossoli as those expressed by Hawthorne ­ whose scarce esteem of Ossoli is given the lie by Ossoli's far from illiterate or stupid Italian letters preserved in the Houghton Library7 ­ the strange reactions of intelligent men ­ even of geniuses as Hawthorne or James were ­ can be explained and have been explained in terms of the male historical fear of the new, and of the threatening new of women, as such critics as Chevigny, Moers and Gubar have shown8. It is more difficult to understand how another woman, who had much in common with Fuller, could possibly express censures ­ however different from those of these men. It is my hypothesis that Barrett Browning had a clear understanding of Fuller's political positions, which were not her own, and did not dismiss Fuller as a historian, contrary to what may seem at a first glance, but as a radical historian. Barrett Browning's reaction is not that of a writer "haunted" by the Margaret ghost, but that of a critic who has recognized ­ and does not share ­ somebody else's theories.

2. The Story of a Friendship

Elizabeth Barrett (1806-61), at the time of Fuller's arrival in Europe (August 1846), was certainly much more famous than Robert Browning (1812-89), soon to become her husband and "saviour". Fuller arrived in England and tried to contact Barrett, whose Drama of Exile and Other Poems she had reviewed in "The Tribune" (January 4th, 1845, reprinting the essay in her Papers on Literature and Art), with both appreciation and reservations (more than Poe9 had), as we will see. She had also reviewed Robert Browning's Paracelsus, Strafford, and Bells and Pomegranates, in "The Tribune", one year later (April 1st, 1846), books which contained some of the Italian poems which Fuller would ask Emelyn Story for in 1849. Fuller was in fact the first American critic who discussed Robert Browning's poems at length, while other critics limited themselves to underlining the difficulty of his poetry10, which also Fuller did. An early review of Paracelsus, published in "The Dial" (April 1843), attributed by Higginson to Fuller, is now ascribed to Emerson11.

Fuller tried to meet Barrett, just as she contacted Wordsworth, Carlyle, the fiery and libertarian Mrs Fletcher in Scotland12, George Sand in Paris, in addition, of course, to Mazzini, Mickiewicz, and others.

Her introductory letters or her renown as the author of Woman in the Nineteenth Century opened most doors to her, somewhat to her own surprise, as she wrote from Birmingham to Richard Fuller on 27th September, 1846, and repeated in other letters:

I find a surprising number of persons who not only receive me warmly, but have a preconceived strong desire to know me. This is founded mostly on their knowledge of "Woman in the 19th century & c"13.

After she arrived in London, on October 1st, 1846 (Hudspeth, Preface, Letters, iv, p. 9) she did see the Carlyles, Mazzini, and other celebrities, but she missed Tennyson, who was out of town, and the by then married Brownings who had gone to Italy. However, even if the meeting was made impossible by the actual circumstances, it is evident from Barrett's comments that she did not particularly wish to meet the announced Fuller, and the fact that Barrett was worrying about her St. Marylebone marriage and elopement, planning first to go to Greece (August 18th) and then actually going to Italy (September 12th, 1846), is not sufficient to explain this attitude of Barrett's.

Fuller seemed to fulfill all social and literary expected requirements: she had an introductory letter written by one of the "Young America" poets, Cornelius Mathews (iv, p. 207, n. 1)14; Barrett had received Woman in the Nineteenth Century, and had been reviewed by Fuller, although she does not seem to have seen the review when Fuller arrived.

There seems to be a sort of irritation on the part of Barrett as regards Fuller's work: what she had written to Browning on January 4th 1846 was not very sympathetic as regards Woman in the Nineteenth Century:

I have this moment a parcel of books []. Woman in the nineteenth century from a Mrs. or Miss Fuller ­ How I hate those "Women of England" "Women & their mission" & the rest ­ As if any possible good were to be done by such expositions of right or wrong15.

Her reaction to the announced visit of Fuller in the summer was far from sympathetic too. In a letter of August 15th, 1846, to Robert, she wrote:

I did not tell you yesterday that I have another new fear... an American lady who in her time has reviewed both you & me, it seems, comes to see me is about to come to see me... armed with a letter of introduction from Mr. Mathews ­ & in a week, I may expect her perhaps. She is directed too, towards Mr. Horne. Observe the double chain thrown across the road at my feet ­ I am entreated to show her attention & to introduce her to my friends... things out of the question as I am situated. Yet I have not boldness to say «I will not see you» ­ I almost must see her, I do fear. Mr. Mathews ought to have felt his way a little, before throwing such a weight on me ­. He is delighted with your Bells & Pomegranates (to pass from his frailties to his merits) & her review of them is sent to me, he says ­ only that I do not receive it16.

Robert himself had something to say about the matter, as he wrote to Elizabeth on August 16th, 1846:

You shall tell me more about Mr. Mathews and his review. And with respect to his lady-friend, you will see her, I think17 (my emphasis).

Robert was apparently misled about the reviews, which were not by Cornelius Mathews, but by Fuller, although, as I mentioned, the reviews were still unread by the Brownings when Fuller arrived in England.

Apparently Hiram Powers gave Robert Browning Fuller's review when he visited the poet in Florence, in May 184718, and William Curtis seems to have done the same19. If Barrett had seen Fuller's review, which she had not, at the time of their first possible encounter, this might perhaps not have quite helped. Fuller's review of A Drama of Exile and Other Poems offered an initial strong praise of Barrett, as Fuller found Barrett ranking «in vigor and nobleness of conception, depth of spiritual experience, and command of classic allusion, above any female writer the world has yet known»20; she then praised Barrett's lack of «morbid sentimentalism», a fault far too common in women poets, and Barrett's «mental scope», akin to that of Milton or Dante; after this strong praise, however, Fuller proceeded to criticize Barrett's lack of «plastic power», found her «deficient in the power of compression», «overstrained» in «thought and expression», and even took issue with Barrett's invalidity that caused a «want of pliant and glowing life» in her poetry. She recognized Barrett's popularity in America, where her The Brown Rosary was circulated in manuscript, and quoted at length from The Romance of The Swan's Nest, Lady Geraldine's Courtship, and The Cry of the Children. It is characteristic of Fuller that she should be so critical of a poet she actually greatly admired.

In her first review of Robert's poems21, also a long one, Fuller underlined the «peculiarity of his genius» ­ which she also underlined in her second review ­ admitted to not having had a copy of Sordello, but spoke at length of the tragedy Strafford. If the main character has «tragic force and majesty», «the march of action [is] necessarily rapid and imposing», «the events induced of universal interest», Fuller underlines also a «lack of moral interest» in the protagonist, and a want of «the true tragic element» to be found in other dramas. Browning, according to Fuller, has not yet reached full mastery of his subjects. The criticism of Pippa Passes is more positive, and Fuller underlines Browning's ability in constructing a drama where there is a central line (represented by Pippa), uniting different episodes: this work «admits of an enchanting variety and an unobtrusive unity», in fact one of the great innovations of Browning's poetry. After quoting long excerpts from Browning's poems (from Pippa Passes, Italy and France, Christina, and others), Fuller underlines the poet's ability in creating women characters, not painting women as they are to the poet but as «they are in themselves». In her second review of Luria and A Soul's Tragedy22, a much shorter piece, she underlined the soaring character of Browning's mind, his "genius", which also hints at the high level his readers must have in order not too find him difficult. The three reviews of the work by Barrett and Browning are a good example of Fuller's criticism, where admiration was always accompanied by a close scrutiny of the strengths and weaknesses of the texts. However the Brownings may later have reacted to these reviews, at the time of Fuller's efforts to meet them they had not read them.

Barrett's irritation at Fuller in the summer of 1846 is perhaps part of the same feeling that made her irritated with Anna Jameson and Harriet Martineau, as she considered the two women's feminism too advanced. When Elizabeth heard that Harriet Martineau was arriving from the Lakes in London, on August 21st, 1846, she wrote to Robert in a tone very similar to that she had used about Fuller's visit:

there are nets on all sides of us. I am under promise to see her [Miss Martineau], & I shrink both from herself & her consequences ­ Now, is it not tiresome? [] The hunters are upon us [] & where we run, we run into nets23.

It may be that Barrett felt the chains and the net of social intercourse were too heavy on her in the very days when she was planning to escape her dictatorial father, but, again, it seems as if this was not reason enough.

Fuller's attitude was the opposite, and continued to be such. She did not give up hope of meeting the Brownings, having learnt about their marriage and flight to Italy, as at the end of October (Letters, October 30th, 1846, iv, p. 235) and then again in mid November 1846, she could still write, «Browning has just married Miss Barrett, and gone to Italy. I may meet them there» (Letters, iv, p. 244), obviously in a still hopeful mood.

In the spring of the following year, April 1847, she wrote to Mary Howitt who had just left Paris, asking her for the address of Mrs Browning in Italy («If I go near I am anxious to see her», Letters, iv, p. 268), and on May 14th, 1847, having heard from John Kenyon that Carlyle had given a note to Fuller, Mr Browning was expecting Fuller, whom «It is a delight to expect»24.

In 1848 and 1849 there are signs of Fuller's persisting interest in the Florentine Brownings. A letter from Barrett, dated March 3rd, 1848, written from Florence, acknowledges a letter from Fuller. It is a courteous letter where Barrett expresses some regrets at not having met Fuller in London, and «afterwards in Pisa, Florence, and Rome»25, but at the same time it is a letter where the author presents herself and Robert Browning as «great wanderers and planners and dreamers; ­ Bohemians in the spirit», who could be either in Rome or in Florence from one day to the next. Barrett seems to insist on this «Bohemian» quality as if wanting to avoid engagements, including that of making friends with Costanza Arconati Visconti, presented to her by Fuller. Poor health is also given as a motive to justify unavailability.

In a letter sealed with red wax26, Fuller asked Emelyn Story, on November 28th, 1848 if she had yet met the Brownings («Are the Brownings still in Florence and have you made their acquaintance? If not, should you like to do so through a note from me?», Letters, v, p. 159), even offering to help her to do so27. The Brownings, in fact, saw a great number of Americans in Florence28. Fuller, the Brownings, William Wetmore and Emelyn Story were all «among the ghosts [] of the little related, vanished world» of the «Precursors», as James called them29.

On January 7th, 1849, again in a letter to Emelyn, Fuller expresses the wish that the Brownings would go to Rome, «the centre of the Italian Movement» («I wish the Brownings would come too. Why do they not? How can people stay in Florence always when they might be in Rome?», Letters, v, p. 170), and a couple of weeks later, on January 27th, she has obviously corresponded with Mrs Browning («I have a letter from Mrs. Browning in which she expresses her pleas[ure] in making your acquaintance. I am very glad for both. Since I cannot see them now, I want some of their thoughts and, think you, not they be so candid as to lend me a copy of Bells and Pomegranates. I want so much to read again the poems about Italy and can't get them» (Letters, v, p. 189).

Fuller, as is well known, finally met the Brownings in Florence. By October 25th, 1849, she could write to George W. Curtis:

I have exchanged visits with the Brownings, like Mr. B. already very much and expect to like her, though she seems too gentle and faded at first sight to excite positive feeling of any kind (Letters, v, p. 275).

Six days later (October 31st, 1849) Fuller could write to Sam Ward:

I like Mr. and Mrs. Browning extremely (Letters, v, p. 279).

And in November she wrote to Emelyn Story:

I see Mr. and Mrs. Browning often, but Mrs. B. will not be able to go out any more, being again enceinte, their baby is surpassingly pretty. Our intercourse as yet has not amounted to much, being taken too much in snatches. She seems to me just as you described her (Letters, v, p. 280).

The letter refers to what became one of Barrett's miscarriages that imperilled her life over Christmas 184930. In these letters there seems to lurk some kind of unexplained reservation as regards the quality of their friendship. By December 6th, 1849 Fuller was thanking Mrs Browning for a «cap pattern» worn by little Pen. No doubt the two women were united by their love of their children31. But in the letter she also wrote, with characteristic frankness:

It seemed to me when I was last in your house, as if a curtain fell down between us. A great sadness fell upon me, just after Mr. Browning came in; it did not seem to come from him; he seemed cheerful and glowing after his walk, but some cause changed suddenly the temper of my soul, so that I could hardly realize what was passing and the cloud did not leave me for several hours. Did you share any such influence? I think probably it was confined to me, but have noted the day and hour in my diary, in case any interpretation should later be tendered (Letters, v, p. 289).

One wonders if the "interpretation" might have had to do with Barrett's spiritualist interests, which flourished later in Florence, but were there even as she was still in Wimpole Street, as early as 1845. In the following months, up to Fuller's departure, there were frequent visits between Fuller and the Brownings, as testified by several letters. Fuller's long letter to Caroline Sturgis Tappan, on December 17th, 1849, seems still to express some reservations:

Mr. Browning was here yesterday and inspired by this occasion [the execution of Dr. John White Webster for killing Dr. George Parkman, an uncle of the historian] (Letters, v, p. 307, n. 5), we exchanged our chronicles of the kind. When you first showed me Pippa passes [sic] I did not foresee what pleasant hours I should pass with the writer, only that writer I never see. We talk too fast; he is too entertaining for us to get really acquainted (Letters, v, p. 307).

Browning must have been fascinated with a notorious and horrific story of an execution and a murder, subjects we often find in his poems. Fuller's reservations on the writer seem to suggest the impression which Browning made on such a writer as Henry James, who could not reconcile his figure as a poet with that of the sociable "lion", creating a story, The Private Life (1892), out of this discrepancy. These reservations, however, seem to disappear in Fuller's letter of February [1st?]1850:

There are several delightful persons whom I see in an intimate way [] Mr. Browning, who enriches every hour I pass with him, is a most cordial, true, and noble man (Letters, vi, p. 51).

to reappear in that of February 15, to Emelyn:

I see the Brownings often []. Their society affords me great entertainment and pleasure, but I fancy I make little return. I do not feel drawn out, especially by Browning; when he comes here for an hour, I feel exhilarated by his full tide of talk, fine talk it is: he tells so many things I want to know, and his generous loyal nature warms one so truly the while (Letters, vi, p. 62).

Fuller seems in fact contradictory in her assessment of Browning's personality, by whom, on the one hand, she is «exhilarated», but who rather overcomes her, on the other, with his strong personality. In the letter of April 16th, to Emelyn again, the deepening of the friendship seems to have done away with whatever reservations there might have been previously:

On Saturday I passed an entire day, very delightfully, with the Brownings. I love and admire them both more, as I know them better; we meet more truly of late. You may have seen B.'s new poem by now. I suppose he had written to W. He took his address long ago for that purpose (Letters, vi, p. 77).

The chains and the nets which Barrett found stopping her steps in Wimpole Street have given way to a good friendship four years later. But when the news of Fuller's death reached the Brownings, their reactions were in fact quite different. Browning's letter of August 16th, 1850, to John Kenyon, expresses a deep sense of loss and affection, Barrett's letter of 1850 to Mary Russell Mitford is not exactly a panegyric. Robert wrote:

The worst has been this dreadful loss of dear, brave, noble Margaret Fuller, with her husband and child []. We loved her, and she loved Ba, coming here oftener as the time for her departure approached []. The more particular accounts that have reached us are simply heart-rending for our best hope is that after she had lashed her child to the Italian woman, and launched them from the ship on the desperate chance of their reaching the shore alive, she fainted and felt no more, since she was drowned in the forecastle, easily by comparison, while her husband remained on the ship till it broke up, nearly eleven hours of that agony Forgive all the pain I cause you by telling what will not out of my thoughts32 [last line, my emphasis].

If one compares Browning's deeply grieved letter to John Kenyon with Elizabeth's, one can see in Elizabeth's letter a very different attitude. After expressing her deep grief over the news of Fuller's death, Barrett writes on September 24th [1850] to Mary Russell Mitford:

Now she is where there is no more grief & «no more sea» ­ and none of the restless in this world, none of the shipwrecked in heart, ever seemed to me to want peace more than she did. We saw much of her last winter, ­ & over a great gulf of differing opinion, we both felt drawn strongly to her. High & pure aspirations she had ­ yes, and a tender woman's heart, ­ & we honored the truth & courage in her, rare in woman or man. The work she was preparing upon Italy w.d probably have been more equal to her faculty than anything previously produced by her pen, (her other writing, being curiously inferior to the impressions her conversation gave you): indeed she told me it was the only production to which she had given time & labour. But, if rescued, the M-S would be but raw material. I believe nothing was finished: ­ nor, if finished, could the work have been otherwise than deeply coloured by those bloody colours of socialistic views, which would have drawn the wolves on her, with a still more howling enmity between England & America. Therefore it was better for her to go33.

Fuller's Florentine radical views were obviously too much for Barrett; in her last, well-known, dispatch to "The Tribune", of January 6th, 1850, Fuller had written:

The next revolution, here and elsewhere, will be radical. Not only Jesuitism must go, but the Roman Catholic religion must go. The Pope cannot retain even his spiritual power []. Not only the Austrian, and every potentate of foreign blood, must be deposed, but every man who assumes an arbitrary lordship over fellow man, must be driven out. It will be an uncompromising revolution []34.

These words seem to have been too strong for Barrett, even if there certainly is an echo of the Declaration of Independence in the reference to the «arbitrary lordship» over one's fellow men.

Barrett also brought into the picture a «howling enmity» between England and America, in the sense that Fuller's socialistic views seemed (to Barrett) to be unacceptable to America, as opposed to England; Barrett seems here to go back to her idea of the usa as a most conservative country, an idea which she expressed in a letter of 1847, where she wrote that she believed that her poem against slavery, The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim Point, would «never be printed in America», and if it should, would «bring the writer into a scrape of disfavor»35. The poem was, in fact, printed with great success in the abolitionist "Liberty Bell" in 1848. If one takes the slavery question, it is evident that England was ahead of the times as regards the usa, and that "socialistic" views grew in Europe before they did in America; however, the political refugees of the 1848 revolutions brought their theories with them and found refuge in America.

Barrett's view of Fuller is in a way more clear-sighted than that of Robert, or other contemporaries, who limited themselves to grieving over the tragedy of Fuller's life, or to putting together the well-edited figure reconstructed in the Memoirs of 1852: Barrett identified a historian. Barrett approached many of the questions brought to the fore by Fuller, and had much in common with her. Both women had a strong classical and biblical education36, and had suffered from the rigid behaviour of their fathers. If Fuller attributed her headaches to the excessive quantity of duties her father had imposed on her, Barrett's invalidity was an obvious example of a self-saving device, not uncommon in Victorian women, to escape the authority of a father. And although Charles Capper has convincingly shown that Fuller's father was not the tyrant we were accustomed to read about, it is also true that Fuller's own reaction to her certainly loving father was, subjectively, that of a child who felt too much was being asked of her, even if she was keen on the rich education that was imparted to her.

Both Fuller and Barrett loved Italy, experienced love and maternity at a late age there, and witnessed tragic political events. This is testified by Barrett's poem Casa Guidi Windows, the first part of which was written in 1848 (the second in 1851): the little child singing O bella libertà, bella!37 at the very beginning of the poem, could be, both in tone and meaning, one of Fuller's choices. Barrett celebrated

The first torch of Italian freedom, lit / To toss in the next tiger's face who should / Approach too near them in a greedy fit, / The first pulse of an even flow of blood / To prove the level of Italian veins / Towards rights perceived and granted (p. 231).

Casa Guidi Windows did not celebrate a radical revolution, but it did correspond in point of view to Fuller's early hopes, even in Pius ix. Some of the hopes expressed in Italy's having an enlightened future leader ­ Mazzini for Fuller ­ were expressed also by Barrett: «[] We want thee, O unfound / And sovran teacher» (p. 235). Also, there was the wish that someone should «strike fire into the masses, fill / [] these wills into a unity of will, / and make of Italy a nation []» (p. 236).

Barrett's cry, after the end of the democratic illusion, O Freedom! o my Florence! (p. 245) has all the passion ­ and the rhetoric, even to the exclamation mark ­ of Fuller's passionate Byronic «O Rome, my country!», although the actual participation of Fuller and of the Brownings in the 1848-50 events cannot be compared. The ending of Casa Guidi, with the narrator looking into her little boy's English blue eyes and hoping for a better future, is, also, totally different from Fuller's radical positions.

In 1856 Barrett was to publish her verse-novel, Aurora Leigh, nine volumes of blank verse, which has been amply recognized as one of the most advanced works of Victorian feminism38. This long poem, which was «conceived as early as 1845»39, presented a protagonist, who ­ like Fuller and like Barrett ­ constructs her education through her father's library. Aurora refuses marriage at 20 (to her cousin Romney), and goes against Victorian expectations and morality in going by herself to London (where her garret is modeled after George Sand's Paris attic) and to Italy, where she "rescues" the maiden-mother Marian Erle, whom her cousin had meant to marry. Much of the poem is about the right of women not to marry and to pursue their own literary career. Not only did Barrett discuss the problem of women and art ­ and significantly Virginia Woolf did discuss Aurora Leigh40 ­ but she also discussed the role of women in the political debate, including the question of slavery, a problem on which both Barrett and Fuller had something to say: as mentioned above, Barrett's poem The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point, spoken in the first person by a black runaway slave, was first printed in 1848 in the American "Liberty Bell"41, and sold at the annual anti-slavery Bazaar in Boston, with great public impact. Although Fuller had refused Maria Weston Chapman's request to devote one of her conversations to slavery while she was in Boston (December 26th, 1840, Letters, ii, pp. 197-8), she did write several articles on the issue and book reviews in "The New-York Daily Tribune" while in New York in 1845-642.

Behind Aurora Leigh there are sources which were also dear to Fuller: Corinne ou l'Italie by Madame de Staël, George Sand, to whom Barrett wrote two sonnets, in additon to Fourier, Cabet, and others.

In spite of Barrett's new ideas, Fuller was ahead of her. It took Barrett some time to become involved in Italian politics, with her 1860 Poems for Congress, but she saw clearly Fuller's radical positions. This woman defined by Barrett as «one of the out & out Reds»43 was not dismissed as a haunting ghost, but as a historian with, to Elizabeth, unacceptable views. As a historian Fuller was trying to deepen her critical understanding of the recent revolutions reading Lamartine's Histoire de la Révolution de 1848 and Louis Blanc's Révolution francaise; histoire de dix ans (1830-1840) (Letters, vi, p. 51)44. As a reader of the Italian "L'Alba", Fuller must have been familiar with Marx, who published a long letter (June 29th, 1848) in that newspaper declaring what his attitude towards the «despots of Europe» would be, and recognizing that that particular Italian newspaper was very close to his own "Neue Rheinische Zeitung"45.

Barrett also ignored Fuller's ever present "early" Christianity, opposed to Roman Catholicism46. She denied value to the work of Fuller («I believe nothing was finished; nor, if finished, could the work have been otherwise than deeply coloured by those blood colours of Socialistic views»), but she did not write that «she left nothing behind her, her written utterance being naught», as Henry James wrote. We are here, «after more than half a century», indeed, after a century, not to «make talk» about her, as James again wrote, but to discuss her writings.

No contribution by Robert Browning reached Emerson for Fuller's Memoirs47; Elizabeth Barrett Browning does not seem to have been asked to contribute. The strange friendship of these three important literary figures is sealed in that silence.


1. B. G. Chevigny, Margaret Fuller. The Woman and the Myth (Revised and Expanded Edition), Northeastern Press, Boston, 1994; The Letters of Margaret Fuller, R. N. Hudspeth (ed.), 6 vols., Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London 1983-1994; L. J. Reynolds, S. Belasco Smith (eds.), "These Sad But Glorious Days". Dispatches from Europe, 1846-1850, Yale University Press, New Haven and London 1991; J. Myerson, J. M. Bean (eds.), Margaret Fuller Critic. Essays, Columbia University Press, New York 2000. The first edition of Chevigny's book (The Feminist Press, Old Westbury 1976) has proved a groundbreaking book. As for Italy, Emma Detti's Margaret Fuller e i suoi corrispondenti, Le Monnier, Firenze 1942, had been long out of print when Fuller's letters from Rome came out in an Italian edition in 1986: R. Mamoli Zorzi (ed.), Margaret Fuller. Un'americana a Roma, Lettere 1847-1849, Studio Tesi, Pordenone 1986.

2. H. James, William Wetmore Story and His Friends, Thames and Hudson, London 1903, i, p. 127.

3. Emerson and William Channing had originally thought of this title, see C. Capper, Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life, Oxford University Press, New York 1992, p. 265.

4. H. James, A Small Boy and Others (1913), in F. W. Dupee (ed.), Autobiography, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1983, p. 37. The portrait by Thomas Hicks is 16 inches x 13 inches, oil on canvas, see Th. E. Stebbins Jr. (ed.), The Lure of Italy, American Artists and the Italian Experience 1760-1914, Harry N. Abrams, New York 1992, pp. 198-200. One wonders if this was the painting that James saw.

5. R. Lowell, History, Faber and Faber, London 1973, p. 87.

6. E. Moers, Literary Women, Anchor Books, New York 1977, p. 223.

7. In xvi of the Margaret Fuller Papers at the Houghton Library there are many letters written by Ossoli to Fuller in L'Aquila and Rieti, both while she was expecting Angelino and after his birth. They are simple but well-written letters, that convey to Fuller both Ossoli's personal feelings of affection and anxiety for her and the baby, and political news of the public events taking place in Rome, and in Italy, including the assault of the Jewish ghetto (letter of October 24th, 1848).

8. See also Mamoli Zorzi, Introduzione, in Margaret Fuller. Un'americana a Roma, cit., pp. xxx-xxxi.

9. Poe dedicated his The Raven and Other Poems (1845) «To the noblest of her sex / To the Author of / The Drama of Exile / To Miss Elizabeth Barrett». The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, ed. by E. Kintner, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1969, i, p. 299. Poe's The Raven and Other Poems was reviewed by Fuller on November 26, 1845, in "The Tribune", see J. Myerson (ed.), Margaret Fuller: Essays on American Life and Letters, College and University Press, New Haven 1978, pp. 311-6.

10. L. Greer, Browning and America, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 1952, p. 23.

11. It was a 14-line notice of Paracelsus within the more general heading "Record of the Months", see "The Dial", Russell & Russell, New York 1961, p. 535 (April 1843). On the history of this attribution see Greer, Browning and America, cit., pp. 218-23.

12. On the identification of this interesting woman, whose name is not given by Fuller in spite of her portrait of the same, see R. Mamoli Zorzi, Due personaggi nelle lettere di Margaret Fuller, in "Ateneo Veneto", 24, 1-2, 1986, pp. 290-8. The other character described but not named explicitly by Fuller is the German sculptor Theodor W. Achtermann.

13. The Letters of Margaret Fuller, cit., iv, 1845-47, 1987, p. 228. References to the six volumes of these letters will appear in the text.

14. Cornelius Mathews' Big Abel and the Little Manhattan was reviewed by Fuller, together with Simms' The Wigwam and the Cabin (October 11, 1845, "The New-York Daily Tribune"), see J. Myerson, A Descriptive Bibliography, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh 1978, p. 125. The romance concerned Abel Henry Hudson and Lankey Fogle's visit to Manhattan.

15. P. Kelley, S. Lewis (eds.), The Brownings' Correspondence, xi, Wedgestone Press, Winsfield 1993, p. 281. The other books which Barrett had received were the first two volumes of Harriet Martineau's Forest and Game Law Tales, ivi, n. 7, p. 270, published by Moxon in December and January, and Philip James Bailey's Festus, first published in 1830 and reprinted in 1845, ivi, p. 283, which was reviewed by Fuller on September 8th, 1845, in "The New-York Daily Tribune", and reprinted in Life Without and Life Within, p. 124; The Women of England was a new edition of Sarah Ellis's book (The Browning's Correspondence, cit., xi, p. 283).

16. The Browning's Correspondence, cit., xiii, 1995, p. 253. Also Letters, iv, n. 1, p. 220.

17. The Browning's Correspondence, cit., p. 260

18. Greer, Browning and America, cit., p. 45.

19. J. von Mehren, Minerva and the Muse. A Life of Margaret Fuller, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst 1994, p. 321.

20. A Drama of Exile ("The New-York DailyTribune", January 4th, 1845), in Correspondence, cit., 10, p. 357. The whole essay, including Fuller's long quotation of Barrett's poems, is reprinted in this volume, pp. 357-62.

21. Paracelsus; Strafford; and Bells and Pomegranates ("The New-York Daily Tribune", April 1st, 1846), in Correspondence, cit., 12, pp. 377-84.

22. Luria and A Soul's Tragedy ("The New-York DailyTribune", July 10th, 1846), in The Browning's Correspondence, cit., 13, pp. 397-8.

23. Ivi, p. 278.

24. Ivi, 14, p. 202 (1998).

25. The letter is entirely reprinted in L. Rostenberg, Margaret Fuller and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in "American Notes and Queries", February 1943, ii, p. 164.

26. The letter, published by Hudspeth, and the envelope with the red wax, are at Columbia (X812 St7S6, Rare Books).

27. According to James, the Storys met the Brownings in Florence «early in 1848», before the Storys went to Rome. See James, William Wetmore Story, cit., i, p. 96.

28. Greer, Browning and America, cit., pp. 46-52.

29. James, William Wetmore Story, cit., i, p. 99.

30. See M. Foster, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. A Biography, Chatto and Windus, London 1988.

31. One of the most touching letters regarding the death of children, a common occurrence in the 19th century, was written to Fuller by Horace Greeley (August 14th, 1849) who wrote to her, in spite of not having had a reply to his previous letter, to open his heart to Fuller on the death of his child: «I cannot help writing just this one more about our lost angel boy. My Pickie! My Pickie! How sad is this world without him!» (Margaret Fuller Papers, x, 58, Houghton Library).

32. The Letters of Robert Browning, collected by T. J. Wise, ed. by T. L. Hood, Murray, London 1933, pp. 31-2.

33. M. B. Raymond, M. R. Sullivan, The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford, Wedgestone Press and Wellesley College, Amstrong Browning Institute of Baylor University 1983, 3, p. 309; also Chevigny, Margaret Fuller. The Woman and the Myth, cit., p. 414. Barrett's letter of August 28, 1850 to Mrs Ogilvy is very similar in tone, even if not expressing any political opinion: Fuller «was very averse to going ­ but I dare say it is all better so, for the child was not a healthy child, & she was not a happy woman & mortification & care of all kinds seemed opening before her. It is better so, God knows», P. N. Heydon, Ph. Kelley (eds.), Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Letters to Mrs David Ogilvy 1849-1861, Quadrangle, The New York Times Book Co. and The Browning Institute, 1973, p. 25.

34. Reynolds, Belasco Smith (eds.), "These Sad But Glorious Days", cit., p. 321.

35. Letter of mid-January 1847 to Cornelius Matthews in The Browning's Correspondence, cit., xiv, p. 99.

36. On Fuller's education and the classics, and on the figure of her father and her relation with him, see Capper, Margaret Fuller, cit., especially ch. 3 and ch. 4.

37. E. Barrett Browning, Casa Guidi Windows, in The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Cambridge edition, with a New Introduction by R. M. Adams, Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1974, p. 224.

38. Fuller's Woman in the Nineteenth Century and Aurora Leigh were reviewed together in "The North British Review", winter 1857 issue, where Fuller's book had an «abrupt dismissal». C. Kaplan, Introduction to Aurora Leigh with Other Poems, The Women's Press, London 1978, p. 9.

39. Kaplan, Introduction to Aurora Leigh, cit., p. 5.

40. V. Woolf, The Common Reader, Second Series, The Hogarth Press, London 1932, pp. 201-13.

41. The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, cit., p. 191. The poem was then reprinted as a pamphlet the following year, and collected in the Poems of 1850, ivi; see also von Mehren, Minerva and the Muse, cit., p. 321.

42. See Mamoli Zorzi, Le Indie occidentali: specchio per la democrazia americana, in "Africa America Asia Australia", n. 12, 1992, p. 88.

43. Letter of December 1st 1849 to Mary Russell Mitford in Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford, cit., 3, p. 285; see also Reynolds, Belasco Smith (eds.), "These Sad But Glorious Days", cit., p. 35.

44. See Chevigny, Margaret Fuller, cit., pp. 394-5; von Mehren, Minerva and the Muse, cit., pp. 326.

45. Fuller, moreover, had translated a long article from the German for "The Tribune" in 1845, where the author quoted passages from Marx and Engels' The Condition of the Working Classes in England. However, Fuller does not seem to have read the 1848 Manifesto. When Marx and Engels began to collaborate to "The Tribune" (1851), Fuller was dead. See my Introduzione to Un'americana a Roma, cit., p. xix.

46. Introduction to Reynolds, Belasco Smith (eds.), "These Sad but Glorious Days", cit., p. 35.

47. Emerson wrote to William Wetmore Story that Carlyle had been told by Browning, whom he had asked to contribute to the Memoirs, that he had sent his reminiscences of Fuller to Emerson, but the latter never received them. Letter of September 13th, 1851 (Columbia Rare Book, Mss.).