More About Margaret Fuller's Heavily-Edited Letter

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The Memoirs of Margaret Fuller (1852) included two disconnected paragraphs of Margaret Fuller’s 19 April 1836 letter to James Freeman Clarke marked in shaded, roman text. The editors deleted all the remaining text (given here in italics). Minor changes in punctuation and spelling in the published version are not noted; more substantial changes, including changes in emphasis appear below in brackets. Transcription from the 1852 London edition of the Memoirs (volume 1, p. 166-169).

Dear Friend,

Your letter imparted to me a pure satisfaction: the heart seemed to speak in it without reserve- Sometimes it seems as if you had a feeling of pride which stood between you and me, or some other feeling!- 'Tis but a film- yet sufficient to prevent you from radiating much heat upon my earth-bound state. Who is the imaginative love. Give name and date!-

“I am shocked to perceive you think I am writing the life of Goethe. No, indeed! I shall need a great deal of preparation before I shall [“can” replaced by “shall’] have it clear in my head. I have taken a great many notes; but I shall not begin to write it, till it all lies mapped out before me. I have no materials for ten years of his life, from the time he went to Weimar, up to the Italian journey. Besides, I wish to see the books that have been written about him in Germany, by friend or foe. I wish to look at the matter from all sides. New lights are constantly dawning on [“upon” replaced by “on”] me; and I think it possible I shall come out far enough from the Carlyle view, and perhaps from yours, and distaste you, which will trouble me.

In a brief, but seemingly, calm and authentic notice of Goethe’s life which I met with in an English publication the other day I find it stated that his son was illegitimate, that he lived out of wedlock with the mother for twenty years and only married her on acct of the son as late as 1806- I confess this has greatly pained and troubled me- I had no idea that the mighty “Indifferentist” went so far with his experimentalizing in real life. I had not supposed he “was” all he “writ,” and have always maintained that stories which have been told me (as coming from Dr Follen) which represented him as a man of licentious life could not be true because he was living at a court whose outward morality, at least, must be pure under the auspices of a princess like the Grand duchess Amelia.- In the same publication many, not agreeable, hints are thrown out respecting those very ten years which I know so little about.

* * “How am I to get the information I want, unless I go to Europe? To whom should I write to choose my materials? I have thought of Mr. Carlyle, but still more of Goethe’s friend, Von Muller. I dare say he would be pleased at the idea of a life of G. written in this hemisphere, and be very willing to help me. If you have any-thing to tell me, you will, and not mince matters. Of course, my impressions of Goethe’s works cannot be influenced by information I get about his life; but, as to this latter, I suspect I must have been hasty in my inferences. I apply to you without scruple. There [“These” replaced by “There”]are subjects on which men [“gentlemen” replaced by “men”] and women [“ladies” replaced by “women”] usually talk a great deal, but apart from one another. You, however, are well aware that I am very destitute of what is commonly called modesty. With regard to this, how fine the remark of our present subject: `Courage and modesty are virtues which every sort of society reveres, because they are virtues which cannot be counterfeited; also, they are known by the same hue.’ When that blush does not come naturally into my face, I do not drop a veil to make people think it is there. All this may be very unlovely [emphasis and quotation remarks removed from “’unlovely’“], but it is I.”

As to sending the 40 vols, do not, till you know [cer]tainly that I shall not go to Europe- That will be decided the first of June and I will write and tell you- When I wrote for the Goethe I thought it was decided but it is not. My mind is much harassed by anxiety and suspense- add to this that my health has been most miserable for two or three months back. So I do not accomplish much- If I thought my constitution was really broken and that I must never again know my natural energy of body and mind I should be almost overcome, but the physician says it is only the extreme cold winter acting on a frame debilitated by a severe illness and all the painful emotion which came after and that the summer will probably restore me.

What subjects do you wish me to write upon for your mag. And how can I send if I do write. It seems to me I have but little to give the West. I have left myself no room for critiques on your writing but by and by I will do what you desire — Would you not like me to wait till I have read your N. American piece. Be assured you have heart and mind sympathy from me — I should like to come to the West very much perhaps, if I do not go abroad, I might for a time if I could do something to pay my way. Perhaps you do not know that I am to have scarce any money.- I suppose if I have health I can earn it as others do- I have a protegé that I wish you could get a place for. She is a farmer’s daughter, far from elegant or pretty but with a sterling heart and mind and really good education. She knows Latin, French and Italian and could teach the common English branches and something of Mathematics I have taken some pains with her and feel a desire that her earnest wish to go and teach at the South or West should be gratified.- She is persuaded it would do her good and I know enough of the misery of being baffled and hemmed in on every side by seemingly insignificant barriers to feel an interest in giving her a chance to try her experiment too. She would make a good governess or assistant- if any thing of the sort falls in your way think of her an[d] thou lovest me.

I know you must hate these crossed letters-

M. F.

I have been reading, with delight, Herschell’s discourse on Nat. Philosophy- Do you know it?

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