The Letters of Margaret Fuller Analysis
As a record of the private and public life of one of the nineteenth century United States’ leading literary figures, The Letters of Margaret Fuller conveys a wide range of moods and ideas. The tone of the letters can be lofty or playful, highly intellectual and serious, bright and witty, consoling, passionate, and reflective. The style of her prose can likewise be complex and even convoluted; at other times, her directness and simplicity prove to be suitable for expressing her lucid, even brilliant, insights. The addressees of Fuller’s letters are as various as their content and styles. She wrote newsy, often hurried, letters to her parents and siblings, informing them of her activities while she was away or summarizing news at home in her parents’ absence. Letters to close women friends often show aspects of Margaret Fuller’s personality that seem at odds with her very confident, assertive public persona: She sometimes expresses doubts about her abilities or admits to disappointments (in love or in her professional life). Given the span of years covered by the five volumes of The Letters of Margaret Fuller, they also trace her development from a precocious child who avidly sought her father’s approval to an accomplished and famous woman who had become a citizen of the world.
The more famous addressees of Fuller’s letters indicate the breadth of her association with public figures, both in the United States and in Europe. An early letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson thanks him for giving her a copy of his book Nature (1836); their friendship had an important impact on Fuller’s ideas, even though in later years—especially after her travels in Europe—she was less close to him, both intellectually and personally. An 1841 letter to Henry David Thoreau, written while she was editor of The Dial, thanks him for a poem he submitted and gives both praise and criticism for it. Volumes 1 through 3 contain letters whose addressees are predominantly family, friends, and public figures in New England.
One of the more striking features of volume 4 is the many love letters Fuller wrote to James Nathan, a German businessman from Hamburg whom she met in New York. Fuller’s letters to Nathan are often deeply passionate; her other letters—even other love letters—rarely attain the same level of emotional intensity. The letters to Nathan show Margaret Fuller as a lover, one of the many roles presented to the reader throughout The Letters of Margaret Fuller . As an informal, unstructured form of autobiography, the letters show Fuller as a dutiful daughter, caring and advice-giving sister, and respectful granddaughter and niece. They also show her as a concerned friend, thoughtful student, astute editor, and insightful cultural and literary critic. As Fuller matured and her horizons...
(The entire section is 690 words.)