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Letter from Margaret Fuller to Mary Peabody, 17 April 1836

Groton 17th April 1836

My dear Mary,

I will not refuse to answer your appeal
although you ask of me what I feel little able to give.
I feel less and less confidence in what I am able
to do for other people as I perceive more clearly
how little, maugre a real desire to excel which has
been in my heart (however I may have appeared to
others) from a very early
age, how very little I have been able to do for myself.
Since I have been so weak and so much indisposed
that I could not be absorbed in any pursuit or
fulfil any duty with energy -- I have looked more
closely and, I believe, more calmly into myself than
ever before and I am grieved to perceive how
little I know and that little how inaccurately
and how open my judgement on any topick must be
to error.-- It must always be best to know the truth
but I confess these meditations have just at present
the effect to damp that ardour by which I kept
myself and some others warm.

The feelings expressed in your letter are the
reverse of what mine were by nature. I had always
a strong desire to know that I could be self-sufficing

and should have welcomed such an experiment
as that of your Cuba sojourn as a means of
testing how much of that with which I glowed
might be attributed to my own vital
energies and how much was breathed into
me by others. Probably enough you are much
nearer right than I and that "the noblest
of all arts that of forming a vigorous,
healthy and beautiful mind, a work of
unwearied care which must be constantly
retouched through every part of life" requires
all sorts of means and appliances in aid
of one's native energies. Perhaps if I had desired
more from other's minds I should have received more.

Beside being at present in this languid and
rather dissatisfied state, I have less power
of giving myself out voluntarily than becomes
a grown up person. If you could come and see
me I dare-say it would always be easy for
me to talk to you but writing a letter is an
act of pure volition. Formerly I could not
bring myself to correspond regularly with any
one. Since I have been separated from all

my friends and desired so much to hear regu-
larly from them I have endeavored to show
myself grateful, but they are generally
pleased to say that my letters are but a poor
substitute for my conversation. This, of course, I
interpret into a compliment as well as I am

Thus, you see, I cannot promise you much. But
I am glad you should have felt and
expressed such an impulse towards me.
I have always liked to see and should
always like to hear from you. If you will
write to me when the spirit prompts and permit
me to answer in the same manner without regard
to any regular interchange or balance of ["favor"]
there, possibly, may by and by come a breath from
my being strong enough to dispel some of the Salem

I have lately been very happy while reading Sartor
Resartus. It is a good book to make one feel cour-
ageous. What mental riches accumulated under
the most seemingly propitious circumstances.
How few can war against the "spirit of the age"
as Carlyle does, always so earnest, never bitter
and even his contempt as he would say but

"inverted love". Do you not think any of us might
write a supplement to Sartor from our own
experiences which would be our best manual
and Sunday school teacher. I intend to prepare
a blank book for the purpose and begin to fill
it my next birth day (for I still retain
the childish habit of measuring my life by "time

Give my love to Miss Burley and ask her if she
is not afraid of mortifying me by delaying to answer

[The following lines appear as cross-writing on page 1 (see the page image).] so egotistical
a letter as mine
was. You see my dear
Mary I took you a'
pied de lettre and
have answered you as
I supposed you wrote in
sober sadness about the
tending and watering of that
most fragrant plant, the
mind. As to my "wit" or what
has been styled such, that is
likely to disturb nobody at
present. I believe it is extinct.
But if it should ever revive believe
me it could never wantonly or wittingly
wound a pure and gentle spirit.

Sincerely yours Margaret F.
[The address is written in the middle of page 4 of the letter]


Miss Mary Peabody
Salem, Mass.

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