Mutual Interpretation:
Margaret Fuller's Journey to Rome

by Bell Gale Chevigny

Had Margaret Fuller fulfilled her youthful dream, she would have accompanied Harriet Martineau to Europe in 1835 when she was twenty-five. But her father's death on the eve of her trip caused a delay of eleven years, years of transformative experience in both Europe and Fuller herself. Arriving in time for the great social changes of 1846-50, she was prepared to understand and interpret them fruitfully to her compatriots as no other American could. Now she travelled as an accomplished teacher, creator of groundbreaking Conversations for women, analyst of gender relations, translator, editor, travel writer, literary and social critic, and journalist. All this meant that Fuller brought to Europe a richly informed curiosity commitment to human fulfillment, social equality and justice, and an expansive ideal of democracy. Her insights into perception and knowledge (the ways we see and know, learn and fail to learn), made her uniquely sensitive to changes in European society and to their relationship to her consciousness and that of her homeland.

These unfolding connections, profoundly dialectical and feminist, are implicit in her supple and evolving term, "mutual interpretation", my subject here. This term grew out of processes which shaped her personal relationships and growth, public action, political vision, and, crucially, the relation between these things. Her "interpretation" takes various forms, and "mutual" juggles its many senses ­ reciprocal, joint, shared, and common ­ as it is applied to friendship, travel, journalism, and political consciousness.

Acutely aware that the self is socially constructed ­ and further shaped by place and time ­ Fuller also had learned that all our knowledge is constructed and limited historically, geographically, and by gender, race, and class. This perspective did not make her determinist. For, perceiving that the self is also contradictory and multiple, this career student-teacher understood that one's knowledge, like one's self, is malleable and grows if we are open to new perspectives and capable of engaging them dialectically, letting them clash and mingle with our own. Further, anticipating object-relations psychology, Fuller understood selfhood as fundamentally relational: «I need to be called out», she wrote, «and never think alone, without imagining some companion»1.

Self-knowledge for Fuller then demanded knowledge of the other, which was obtained through a double move like that of empathy ­ identification and distinction. «Man is nothing but the desire to feel himself in another», wrote Bettina von Arnim, whom Fuller translated; Fuller would have assented with this addition: «and the wisdom to discover the uniqueness of that other». The vibrant discovery of likeness and difference yields more faithful perception of the other and sets in motion a re-vision of oneself, which altered self can in turn offer the other a freshly challenging mirror. Instead of each mirroring the other in static and infinite recess, Fuller's mirroring advances the interpretation of the other, often literally by projecting it into the future.

In Massachusetts, Fuller honed these intuitions in personal relations. Differences between friends, what she and Emerson called the «foe' in your friend»2, galvanized her; in ideal friendship, each helped the other to discern what she called «the law of one's being». «Mutuality» named the ethos of friendship for Fuller, encompassing reciprocity, openness, equality, and joint experiments; and interpretation was a chief obligation of friendship. Friendship required the growth of both; interpretative dialogue ­ never complete, always in process ­ promoted it.

Fuller's respect for otherness also informed her encounters with other classes or cultures. The wise traveller, she argued, divests herself as best she can of preconceptions, and seeks to read the alien terrain on its own terms, to find the law of its being. «It is always thus with the new form of life», she writes of the Midwest in Summer on the Lakes, in 1843, «we must learn to look at it by its own standard»3. That standard can be learned only in meaningful contact. This comes partly from physical immersion (thus Fuller sought ­ far too briefly, as she knew ­ to mix with Native Americans) and partly from engaging the idioms of others. In an attack on cultural imperialism, she put it succinctly (man here meaning human being), «Would you speak to a man? First learn his language»4.

Equally important is attending to the cultural and ideological assumptions one brings to the encounter. Fuller dramatizes this brilliantly in Summer on the Lakes, describing how, on her first visit to Niagara Falls, her mind was flooded with images, «unsought and unwelcome», of «naked savages stealing behind me with uplifted tomahawks»5. Finding herself haunted more by colonialist fantasies than by real Native Americans alerted Fuller to the difficulty of «serving as anything other than a standard-bearer for [...] colonial imperatives»6. Summer on the Lakes, by juxtaposing her own experiences with citations of white experts on Native Americans, challenges readers to attend to ways they too are inscribed by colonial ideology. A poem that closes the volume, urges mutuality on the reader: «read me, even as you would be read»7.

Mutual interpretation names her objectives in journalism as well as relationships and travel. She characterized her endeavor at the "New-York Daily Tribune" as aiding in «the great work of mutual education [...] I never regarded literature merely as a collection of exquisite products, but rather as a means of mutual interpretation»8. In a review of poems by William Thom, she criticized elitist biases, insisting that literature is «the great mutual system of interpretation between all kinds and classes of men. It is an epistolary correspondence between brethren of one family», embracing the work both of «nature's nobleman» and the prisoner who writes in «soot and water»9. The American literature we need, Fuller argued, will cut across ethnic as well as class lines. «What suits Great Britain [...] does not suit a mixed race, continually enriched with new blood from other stocks the most unlike that of our first descent»10. As literary critic, she put diverse works into dialogue with each other, and began to map a multiclass, multiracial, multiethnic American literature. And she continued to survey current European literatures to encourage a cosmopolitan taste.

Mutual interpretation similarly informed her social criticism for the "Tribune". While adopting the essentially Whig agenda of her editor, Horace Greeley, she also went beyond it in embracing Democratic reformist issues11. Fuller was drawn to explore the living conditions of women and marginal groups like prisoners, the poor, the mentally ill, Jews, Irish immigrants and slaves (with a review of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass). These groups' issues, like others addressed ­ imperialism, the death penalty, the Mexican war ­ were put implicitly or explicitly into dialogue with each other. Her reaching out to include many kinds of people and experience while protesting failures of democratic policy all contribute to a radical feminist and democratic vision she was in perpetual process of shaping. Her translations from immigrant newspapers (including possibly the earliest mention in the U. S. press of Marx and Engels)12 and her attention to struggles against European autocracy gave the question of U. S. fidelity to its mission additional urgency. Increasingly opposed to manifest destiny as enacted in the Mexican war, Fuller urged a destiny more committed to equality and an inclusive democracy at home, and an international democratic movement.

With this eclecticism, this myriad outreach, Fuller was re-interpreting herself as a committed and activist intellectual. By expanding social consciousness in her readers, she was urging them to demand an elastic and emancipatory democracy, to respect and protect the rights of all, and to resist U. S. imperialist gestures. The shared conception, or radically democratic ideological consensus, that Fuller hoped to forge with her readership, is yet another sense of mutual interpretation.

While still in New York City then, Fuller was already travelling ­ literally to Sing-Sing and Blackwell's Island, and figuratively across social divides her writing sought to reduce. This continued in Great Britain and France where she enthusiastically described public baths, public laundries, workers' schools, day-care centers that might be adapted at home13. Europe also shocked her into deeper class awareness. «Poverty in England has terrors of which I never dreamed at home», she wrote, yet we know that she had visited the slums of New York's Five Points14. Ideological growth explains the change. What her deep-seated adherence to U. S. democratic rhetoric had made her miss at home, European traditions of social criticism illuminated. What Fuller perceived as inequity at home began to look abroad like class division. Her class awareness would lead to her celebration of Paris' social revolution of February 1848 which she held up as a mirror to her countrymen so that they might «learn in time for a preventive wisdom [...] the real meaning of Fraternity, Equality [...] learn to reverence [...] the true aristocracy of a nation, the only real nobles [...] the Laboring Classes»15.

Fuller would write this from Rome; she neither witnessed the Paris rising nor considered it at length in any surviving manuscript. Though allusions to a further-reaching critique than either Fourier or Mazzini contemplated punctuate her writings, the richest example of mutual interpretation would center on her engagement of Italy and the Italians. Three influential encounters ­ with exiled Mazzini in London, with Mickiewicz, and George Sand in Paris ­ readied her to hit the ground running in Italy: each held up an interpretative mirror that enlarged her consciousness ­ of Italy's suffering and hopes, of her right to passion, and of what she called «acting out her nature», by following her desires16.

In Italy at last in the spring of 1847, she found the place and people most suited for mutual interpretation. «The Italians sympathize with my character and understand my organization as no other people ever did», Fuller reported, and, on another register: «Italy receives me as a long lost child, and I feel myself at home here»17. Fuller's entry into Rome was a psychological homecoming: she was returning to the scene and people of her earliest study, performed as a child with her now long-lost, much mourned, father. Her reading of Roman heroes, undertaken initially to please her father, had shaped her character and colored her dreams. «I kept their statues as belonging to the hall of my ancestors», she had reflected at thirty, «and loved to conquer obstacles, and fed my youth and strength for their sake»18. This complex intimacy ­ father and child and difficult dream ­ was stirred to life by her being in Rome, with the difference that she was now grown and freer to continue to grow than she had ever felt in her father's custody. Rome ­ as she later wrote of Mazzini ­ was the natural haven of «orphans of the soul»19. Thus, even before she felt Ossoli's love or engaged the Italian people, Rome released Fuller's capacity for love, happiness, and even rapture as no other place had done. To understand her Roman experience ­ her feeling for the city, its denizens, and its social struggle ­ we must see them as suffused by her enlarged emotional responsiveness. All manner of Roman experiences contributed: she wrote often of St. Cecilia, whose image gave «the sense of an inexhaustible love ­ the only love that is much worth thinking about»20. Her intellectual life and her political analysis, though often fierily indignant, were informed by her fresh access to love.

When Fuller resolved in 1847 to break away from her companions' tour and make a home in Rome, seeking explicitly «to know the common people» and «to live with their life»21, her vantage-point shifted quite literally, from lofty alienation to engagement on the ground. «We have just had glorious times with the October feasts, when all the Roman people were out», she wrote to her brother Richard. «I am now truly happy here really in Rome, so quiet and familiar [;] no longer, like the mob, a staring sight-seeing stranger riding about finely dressed in a coach to see the Muses and Sibyls»22. With deliberate irony, this misled elite with its uniform responses becomes for Fuller a «mob». To learn how to live economically and speak demotic Italian (in Florence the intellectuals spoke French), she sought immersion in the local life. She revelled in the prospect of an unlimited stay in «this country, dream of my heart and realization of my mind». And, «to any one who can feel», she wrote, «it must be torture merely to travel to Italy and give a passing stare at the beautiful body without ever having time or peace to come in contact with its soul»23. Once she had «experienced the different atmosphere of the European mind», she wrote, «I suffer more than ever from that which is peculiarly American or English», and she sought a «divorce» from it24. The «divorce» was accelerated both by her growing intimacy with Ossoli and her emerging desire to become an historian from-the-bottom-up of the Italian struggle.

Fuller's internal travel results in a drastic re-location, an apparent shift of loyalties and identification with regard both to class and nationality. But in fact, her growing Italianization deepened and sharpened her Americaness; the metaphor we want is dual citizenship of an unusually interactive kind. In a sense, Fuller Italianized herself for America. Her «divorce» from things «peculiarly American» would enable her to discover how Italian and American concerns were actually married and to better identify America's peculiar needs. While her "Tribune" dispatches, as Reynolds and Smith show, took the form of a romantic and progressive history of the Italian struggle governed by a spiritual force, or the idea of democracy25, Fuller's lifelong preoccupations with ideology, perception and knowledge, provide a lively sub-text. In it, she pursues three processes: Americans' learning to see contemporary Italy on its own terms, Italians' learning habits of independent citizenship and her own capacity to discern both of these. Through mutual interpretation, these processes illuminate one another.

«Rome is an all hacknied theme and by the most accomplished pens», Fuller had written26. Americans' travel to Rome was vastly more inscribed than travel to Niagara and Indian country, and again Fuller had to learn to move beyond conditioned responses. One response was epitomized by James Fenimore Cooper's 1838 formulation: «The Roman glorifies himself in what his ancestors have been, the American in what his posterity will be»27. Fuller's experience, by contrast, would lead her to reverse both propositions; she gradually came to expect that Italy's past greatness might be superceded by its imminent future, while America's future seemed threatened by current betrayals of its past promise.

At first she occupied herself in discovering how to see Italy on its own terms, that is, in the context of daily life in the off-season. In effect, Rome itself taught her how to read the city, tempting her to walk without object and make spontaneous discoveries, which she then read about in the evenings. She rejoiced in closing the gap between experience and knowledge. «I study with delight», she wrote to her mother, «now that I can verify everything»28. By December, 1847, she had learned to see beyond «the pitiful, peddling, Anglicized Rome» and to deconstruct the city's historical layers «at first so painfully and discordantly jumbled together». First she discerns traces of ancient Rome and, when she concentrates on them, «the superstructures vanish, and you recognize the local habitation of so many thoughts», she writes. Kings, Consuls, Tribunes and Emperors flood her mental vision as they did when she was a child, and «the warriors of eagle sight and remorseless beak, return». Then, fighting her Protestant prejudices with intense study, she learns to discern in Papal Rome «growths of the human spirit» instead of a seeming «senseless mass of juggleries». Finally she discriminates «bright hopes» even in the oppressed darkness of modern Rome29. The palpable historical layering of Rome taught her to think comparatively, to mutually interpret present and past. The conceit of three Romes continually informs her meditation on a city which grew «not out of the necessities of commerce nor the luxuries of wealth, but first out of heroism, then out of faith»30, a third time, implicitly out of heroic faith in republicanism. Later she would find more promise in this third Rome than existed even «in her greatest days»31. Still later, entering the Roman Republic, Mazzini would call Rome «the single city [] privileged by God to die only to rise again greater than before»; he too would invoke three Romes ­ of the Emperors, the Popes, and the People32.

Unfortunately, Fuller found that her own fruitful «abandonment to the spirit of place» was «impossible to most Americans; they retain too much of their English blood; and the travelling English, as a tribe, seems to me the most unseeing of all possible animals»33. In her taxonomy of Americans abroad, Fuller studies what makes the difference in her compatriots' capacity to see. The «servile» American overvalues Europe, the «conceited» American sees nothing there of value, while the «thinking» American is a comparatist like Fuller herself, a dialectician as gardener, eager to collect abroad «seeds of the Past» which will withstand a «new culture» at home and as hybrids attain new stature. And in order to «know the conditions under which he may best place them in that new world», this exemplary American «does not neglect to study their history in this»34.

The sculptor Horatio Greenough, who took part in Florence in celebrating the Pope's granting of a National Guard, is such a thinking American. He is one «who penetrates beyond the cheats of tradesmen and the cunning of a mob corrupted by centuries of slavery, to know the real mind, the vital blood, of Italy». Characterizing the oppression of Italy as slavery enables Fuller to compare reactionary ideology in the U. S. with that in Italy: «many Americans in Italy», she writes, «talk about the corrupt and degenerate state of Italy as they do about that of our slaves at home. They come ready trained to that mode of reasoning which affirms that, because men are degraded by bad institutions, they are not fit for better»35. Here is a quintessential instance of the dialectical working of mutual interpretation. Recognizing that the same arguments are used against emancipation of Italy and against emancipation of blacks at home, that the cause of «tyranny and wrong are everywhere the same», makes her turn with new vehemence on her country as «the darkest offender, because with the least excuse, foresworn» to her high calling36. The Italian struggle operates for Fuller as a mirror magnifying her homeland and leading her to belated appreciation of the Abolitionists37.

Then, as a series of revolutions explode in 1848, she finds that the spirit of America is more alive in Italy than at home. «My country is at present spoiled by prosperity, stupid with the lust of gain, soiled by crime in its willing perpetuation of slavery, shamed by an unjust war», she writes, while «in Europe, amid the teachings of adversity, a nobler spirit is struggling []. This is what makes my America»38. This conceit of a portable America signals her dismantling of a hierarchy grounded in belief in American exceptionalism, and her urging instead of an egalitarian cosmopolitanism, which would re-position America morally as one among nations.

Once the Italians have seized the moral lead from America, Fuller's task as historian of the Italian struggle gains new impetus. It becomes her responsibility to demonstrate that the Italian people, like American slaves, though «degraded by bad institutions», are «fit for better». Fuller's lifelong interests in social experiment and holistic education have readied her to embrace this challenge. Hence «the people» take center stage in the dispatches. Besides, as Reynolds and Smith argue, the romantic historian has a formal need for a heroic protagonist39. And her commitment to Mazzini's cause and rhetoric heightens her interest in «the People». Finally, her privileged knowledge and experience, through Ossoli, of that innovative proving-ground of popular sovereignty, the Civic Guard, make the people a natural and desired object of study. Although always eminently American, in Italy Fuller took on a role that in some respects anticipates the suggestive description of the organic intellectual that Antonio Gramsci would later frame in his Prison Notebooks40. They shared a comprehensive philosophy, privileging experience over theory and process over product. Gramsci preferred «organic» intellectuals (members of an emergent social class who elaborate its self-consciousness about culture, politics, and economics) to «traditional» elitist intellectuals (who so long represented the dominant social group that they fancy themselves autonomous). In the West and in New York Fuller was already abjuring the contemplative role to become «part of a social movement by nourishing and being nourished by the philosophical views of oppressed people themselves»41, but with Italians her identification became more pronounced than with any other group except women. She was now a trans-national organic intellectual. Her practice of mutual interpretation would reinforce the Italians' growing consciousness while feeding an emerging radical democratic and internationalist consensus in America.

This was no easy task. Americans' ideological need to see Rome's past greatness blinded them to its contemporary struggle and, more fundamentally, to seeing the Italians as agents in that struggle. As Brigitte Bailey observes, Italy was «constructed by American tourists as a posthistorical, feminized, and aesthetic realm ­ outside and opposed to the modern world of rational, masculine agency and progressive history»42. The picturesque genre sketch, showing Italians with no more agency than the landscape they adorn, was so inscribed in the American gaze that even supporters of Mazzini and Italian unification illustrated their texts with such images43.

While Fuller's aesthetic appetite was never checked, her capacity to see Italians as agents grew steadily during her years in Rome, and indeed her aesthetic excitement usually derives from popular expressions of political initiative. What she calls «that beautiful poetic manner peculiar to this artist people» draws her attention when it indicates growing capacities for independence44. These appear both in traditional festivities, where, Fuller writes, «the thought, the feeling, the genius of the people have had more chance to expand, to express themselves [] than anywhere else»45, and in spontaneous celebrations, for instance, of the Pope's 1847 reforms. Fuller writes of «the continual hymn in the streets of Florence, in honor of Pius ix», of «extempore concerts» and «rejoicings at the theaters»46. And she detailed the people's adaptation of the traditional Carnival moccoletti, the feast of the tapers, to celebrate revolutionary victories in 1848 ­ instead of competing to extinguish the tapers, holding them aloft, while clanking chains, to signify «the tyrannic power now vanquished by the people»47.

Fuller's respect for the Italian people developed gradually and not altogether consistently. In her first Italian dispatches, the new liberal Pope Pius ix seemed to bid almost more than the people to be Fuller's «heroic protagonist». Although she never failed to note the irreconcilability of «Reform and Priestcraft»48, she was moved, like the people, by Pius ix's reforms, to believe he was good-hearted. His bounty touched her orphaned spirit, and she wrote: «It makes me very happy to be for once in a place ruled by a father's love»49. She never believed that the Moderate road (which sought a reformed Papacy presiding over a loose federation of Italian kingdoms) would «suffice to lead Italy to her goal. But it is an onward, upward road, and the people learn as it advances»50. Hence, she writes about the people's early enthusiasm for the Pope: «I saw with pleasure their childlike joy and trust»51. The term «childlike» was less condescending for Fuller than it might seem to a modern reader, especially given her own trustful yielding to Rome at this time, which she also characterized as childlike. Moreover, she believed popular responsiveness represented the shaking off of slavish cynicism and a receptivity to education. The «ignorance of the people», Fuller consistently attributed to «centuries of the worst government, the neglect of popular education, the enslavement of speech and the Press»52. It would be alleviated by «enlightened minds [] elder brothers and guardians of the lower people», especially after the creation of the National Guard, which permitted «free interchange of thought between the different classes». Meanwhile, she notes the people's learning of «prudence»53 and «singular discretion», in distinguishing minor from major affronts to themselves54. (To be sure, Fuller sometimes did condescend: in the Italian countryside, though she claimed to love the people, she found their ignorance «amazing». They regarded her, she writes, as «a divine visitant, ­ an instructive Ceres, ­ telling them [] legends of the lives of their own Saints»55).

But, in early 1848, when news of the flight of Metternich and the risings in Milan and Venice produced troops swarming north from Tuscany, Naples and Rome, Fuller writes without a trace of condescension. The Roman people begin to instruct her ­ about their generosity in giving all they have to support the troops; and about their courage in battle, despite foreigners' convictions to the contrary. Fuller delighted in the serial embarrassments of her favorite foil, the «bristling» Englishman. When Sicilian rebels gave the lie to this Brit's assertion that «this people would not fight», he retorted that the Sicilians were exceptional, that in Lombardy, Italian cowardice would be revealed. But when the Milanese also fought, the Brit argued the superiority of Lombards to Romans, who couldn't do without their minestra. Fuller then documents the Romans' marching without food56. The analogous doubt in the U. S. about slaves summoning courage to fight for their liberty was here implicitly addressed. (Harriet Beecher Stowe would soon assail this doubt in Uncle Tom's Cabin as would Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Fuller's 1884 biographer, in an 1861 essay).

Next, and despite himself, the Pope himself taught the people of the contradiction inherent in a Papal nation and a nationalist Pope: as a nationalist, he had blessed the banners of the troops marching north, but, upon reflection as a Catholic, he retracted his support. The shock admonished the people to depend on themselves. A Bolognese boast Fuller had cited about the Italians' «vivacious genius» proves true: «we are unhappy but not stupid [] we can learn as much in two months as other nations in twenty years»57. The erstwhile «children» become keen observers of the Pope's serial abandonment of his promises and even then give him the benefit of the doubt until, in November, 1848, they are pushed beyond endurance.

Fuller details a series of affronts: the Cardinals mislead the Pope, the Pope insults the people by elevating the treacherous Pellegrino Rossi, Rossi withdraws the new popular rights, and calls on «the troops of the line», not the National Guard, to defend him. In narrating the assassination of Rossi, Fuller's emphasis is on restraint and unity. The stabbing is presented as a work of mutual accord between the Guard and the regular troops, who remained motionless and silent, until evening when they took to the streets with the people to sing, «Happy the one who rids the earth of a tyrant». Fuller, who did not witness the scene, takes instruction from it: «I never thought to have heard of a violent death with satisfaction, but this act affected me as one of terrible justice»58.

The next day, when the Swiss Guard fired on the people seeking to see the Pope, the carriage of Prince Barberini with its «liveried retinue» rushed past Fuller's house to seek shelter in the Palazzo's barred courtyard. Fuller's servant, «Antonia, seeing it, exclaimed, Thank Heaven, we are poor, we have nothing to fear!». This identification of poverty with safety is for Fuller the fundamental promise of this revolutionary moment, hence, she hopes, «a sentiment which will soon be universal in Europe»59. (Later, in fact, when the Roman Republic was under siege, Fuller would write that she could go from one end of the city to the other, among the poorest denizens, «alone and on foot», for political dignity had rehabilitated the criminal. The Romans' «energies have true vent; his better feelings are roused; he has thrown aside the stiletto»60).

The Pope's flight after the assassination offers the people another invaluable lesson. «Well, who would have thought it?» Fuller quotes them asking. «The Pope, the Cardinals, the Princes are gone, and Rome is perfectly tranquil, and one does not miss anything, except that there are not so many rich carriages and liveries. The Pope may regret too late that he ever gave the people a chance to make this reflection». Even one of the class of «unheeding cabbage-sellers» rouses himself to scorn the Pope's cowardly retreat from his convictions61. In months to come, Fuller observes that the people go on to question the necessity even of the priesthood62.

Finally, the still-exiled Mazzini's urging of a Constitutional Assembly was widely accepted, first in Florence, at the urging of Giuseppe Montanelli, whom Fuller deemed a leader greater than any yet in Rome. Montanelli magnanimously deferred to Rome, «a sister city, still more illustrious than ours»63, as the appropriate locus for the Assembly. And the Roman people welcomed Mazzini's thought as soon as they understood it and proved their deserving of suffrage. «A few weeks' schooling» at popular meetings, clubs, and in conversation with the Civic Guard prepare Italian citizens to vote «in larger proportions than at contested elections in our own country» for the Assembly64.

Fuller's two absorbing themes, American's inaptitude for learning and the Italians' great aptitude for the same come together in her account of the proclamation of the Roman Republic in February, 1849. «I rose and went forth to seek the Republic» she writes with the joy of a woman going to meet her beloved, which indeed the Republic was for her, and with the assurance of an ambassador, which she alone was for the America she hoped to bring into being. (In the "Tribune", she had just announced that, in another century, she would ask to be Ambassador herself65). «Over the Quirinal I went, through the Forum to the Capitol», she says, marking the monuments of Papal and ancient Rome on her way to Republican Rome rediviva. Her narrative then centers on the problem of perception. A British observer imperially dismisses the event, hoping «to see all those fellows shot yet». Fuller has higher expectations of a thoughtful American artist passing his first winter there. But he «"had no confidence in the People". Why? Because "they were not like our People"». During the reading of the decree which announces the end of the Papacy and the birth of «a pure Democracy», she looks to the American for «an answering glance [...] a little of that soul which made my country what she is». But he remains impassive, «Receiving all his birthright from a triumph of democracy, he was quite indifferent to this manifestation on this consecrated spot». He is blind to the American spirit re-enacted before him because its source has withered in his complacency. Worse, he notes that the people seem not to be taking part, that there are only soldiers. «Soldiers!» Fuller exclaims. «The Civic Guard; all the decent men in Rome»66.

Like this representative American, so does the U. S. fail to respond, sending neither an Ambassador to the Republic nor a token of sympathy, despite Fuller's beseeching, even after the French mount their attack. Surrogate Ambassador of a better America, she continues as historian, as nurse to Rome's defenders and, in defeat, as prophet. Her confidence is dialectical: «temporary repression will sow the seed of perpetual resistance»67.

Indeed, it would be soldiers ­ «only soldiers»­ who would vindicate Fuller's profoundly democratic belief in the essential human drive for emancipation. «Only soldiers» in Italy would rise again to the occasion, educated by their opportunity (though with more moderate political goals), in 1859. In the U. S. four years later, following the Emancipation proclamation, African-Americans, «only soldiers» would discover their dignity and their courage in fighting for their freedom and (though not all of this would be won) a more expansive, more radically democratic, fuller and Fulleresque America68.


1. The Letters of Margaret Fuller, R. N. Hudspeth (ed.), 6 vols., Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London 1983-1994, vi, p. 193.

2. B. G. Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth: Margaret Fuller's Life and Writings, rev. ed., Northeastern University Press, Boston 1994, p. 125.

3. Ivi, p. 319.

4. United States Exploring Expedition, ivi, p. 344.

5. Ivi, p. 317.

6. S. Gilmore, Margaret Fuller "Receiving the Indians", in F. Fleischmann (ed.), Margaret Fuller's Cultural Critique: Her Age and Legacy, Peter Lang Publishing, New York 2000, p. 194.

7. Ivi, p. 221.

8. The Letters of Margaret Fuller, cit., v, p. 359.

9. P. Miller (ed.), Margaret Fuller: American Romantic, Cornell University Press, Ithaca 1963, p. 215.

10. Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, cit., p. 186.

11. J. M. Bean, J. Myerson (eds.), Introduction, in Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846, Columbia University Press, New York 2000, and Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, cit., pp. 290 ff.

12. In August, 1845, Fuller translated Heinrich Bornstein's discussion of Marx, Ruge, and Engels; see Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, cit., p. 294.

13. Marcus and Rebecca Spring's interest in these experiments stimulated Fuller's own. M. Fuller, "These Sad But Glorious Days". Dispatches from Europe, 1846-1850, L. J. Reynolds, S. Belasco Smith (eds.),Yale University Press, New Haven 1991, pp. 9-11.

14. Ivi, p. 88.

15. Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, cit., p. 446 and Fuller, "These Sad But Glorious Days", cit., p. 211. For Fuller's ideological growth, see Chevigny, To the Edges of Ideology: Margaret Fuller's Centrifugal Evolution, in "American Quarterly", xxxviii, 1986, pp. 173-201.

16. Meeting George Sand, for example, whose work Fuller had long championed, though with regret for her moral lapses, was a drama of personal mutual recognition and re-interpretation. Now Sand displayed a comfortable fusion of man's mind and woman's heart that Fuller had always longed for and not found at home. Fuller's stress on Sand's womanhood ­ «I liked the woman in her too very much: I never liked a woman better» ­ suggests Sand's presence was reinterpreting «woman» for her, confirming woman's right to exploit all her talents. Sand's multiple liaisons were reinterpreted: «She might have loved one man permanently», Fuller wrote, had she found one to «interest and command her throughout her range»; that failing, she has «naturally» and often changed lovers. Sand «needs no defence», Fuller concludes, «but only to be understood, for she has bravely acted out her nature» (Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, cit., pp. 361-2.) Later Fuller explained her own liaison to Ossoli in the same language: «for bad or for good, I acted out my character». Ivi, p. 487. Fuller has followed her own injunction and read Sand as she would be read.

17. The Letters of Margaret Fuller, cit., iv, pp. 299, 293.

18. Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, cit., p. 41.

19. «Rome was the theme of his thoughts, but, very early exiled, he had never seen that home to which all the orphans of the soul so naturally turn». Fuller, "These Sad But Glorious Days", cit., p. 263.

20. Ivi, p. 241.

21. The Letters of Margaret Fuller, cit., iv, pp. 276-7.

22. Ivi, p. 310.

23. Ivi, iv, pp. 305-6.

24. Ivi, p. 310.

25. Fuller, "These Sad But Glorious Days", cit., pp. 27-8. I question their notion that her history is simply «linear», however; Fuller's growing habit of reading the emerging Roman Republic in relation to ancient and Papal Romes, and her invocation of figures like St. Peter and Cola di Rienzo to compare with contemporary figures suggests that history is layered like the topography of Rome itself, or that its movement is spiral, returning to echo a past moment with a difference.

26. The Letters of Margaret Fuller, cit., iv, p. 156.

27. See A. W. Salomone, The Nineteenth Century Discovery of Italy: An Essay In American Cultural History, in "American Historical Review", lxxiii, 1968, pp. 1359-91.

28. The Letters of Margaret Fuller, cit., iv, p. 313.

29. Fuller, "These Sad But Glorious Days", cit., pp. 168-9.

30. Ivi, p. 285.

31. Ivi, pp. 157, 209.

32. Ivi, p. 263.

33. Ivi, p. 132. The absurdly blind Englishman appears frequently in her dispatches as a foil to the implicit seeing American she would make of her reader. In Fuller's time, Italy and England were U. S. tourists' destinations of choice, and she strives, for her country's own sake, to turn its attention from conservative England to promising Italy.

34. Ivi, p. 165 (Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, cit., pp. 435-37).

35. Ivi, p. 159 (Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, cit., p. 433).

36. Ivi pp. 165-6 (Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, cit., p. 438).

37. Ibid.

38. Ivi, p. 230 (Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, cit., p. 452).

39. Ivi, p. 30.

40. Q. Hoare, G. N. Smith (eds. and trans.), Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, International Publishers, New York 1983. Elsewhere I have written of Fuller acting as organic intellectual in her New York journalism; see B. G. Chevigny, "Cheat me [On] by No Illusion": Margaret Fuller's Cultural Critique and its Legacies, in Fleischmann (ed.), Margaret Fuller's Cultural Critique, cit., pp. 27-41.

41. C. West, The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison 1989, p. 231. It is a provocative fact that Gramsci's notion of the intellectual's role grew out of his study of the Risorgimento, though he focused chiefly on its latter phase (1859-60), when the Moderates absorbed the Action party of Garibaldi. (J. Cammett, Antonio Gramsci and the Origins of Italian Communism, Stanford University Press, Stanford 1967, p. 214). Fuller attends to those whose growing political self-consciousness led them to oppose the moderates in the earlier, and very brief, period. Her «membership» in this group was, of course, based on ideological sympathy.

42. B. Bailey, Representing Italy: Fuller, History Painting, and the Popular Press, in Fleischmann (ed.), Margaret Fuller's Cultural Critique, cit., p. 232.

43. Bailey cites the art critic Henry Tuckerman and the United States Magazine and Democratic Review in this regard. Ivi, p. 230.

44. Fuller, "These Sad But Glorious Days", cit., p. 158 (Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, cit., p. 433).

45. Ivi, p. 180.

46. Ivi, pp. 159-60. Verdi's series of operas about tyrants so filled the air, allegorizing, orchestrating, and accompanying events, that she complained, «there is little hope of hearing in Italy other music than Verdi's». Ivi, p. 180.

47. Ivi, pp. 210-11.

48. Ivi, p. 205.

49. Ivi, p. 169.

50. Ivi, p. 160.

51. Ivi, p. 155. (Chevigny, The Woman and the Myth, cit., p. 432).

52. Ivi, p. 225.

53. Ivi, p. 157.

54. Ivi, p. 187.

55. The Letters of Margaret Fuller, cit., v, p. 86.

56. Fuller, "These Sad But Glorious Days", cit., pp. 213-4.

57. Ivi, p. 157.

58. The Letters of Margaret Fuller, cit., v, pp. 146-7.

59. Ivi, p. 147.

60. Fuller, "These Sad But Glorious Days", cit., p. 284.

61. Ivi, pp. 243-4.

62. Ivi, p. 250.

63. Ivi, p. 255.

64. Ibid.

65. Ivi, p. 245.

66. Ivi, p. 256.

67. Ivi, p. 306.

68. Fuller makes the equation again in July, 1849, asking W. H. Channing, who had «felt so oppressed in the slave states» to «imagine what I felt at seeing all the noblest youth, all the genius of this dear land, again enslaved». The Letters of Margaret Fuller, cit., v, p. 247.