Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Letters of Margaret Fuller, comprising five volumes and almost nine hundred letters, provides a rich and complex record of the life and ideas of this prominent nineteenth century American intellectual and feminist. The letters cover virtually her entire life, beginning with one she wrote at age seven and concluding with those of 1849, less than one year before her death. They are organized chronologically by year; each volume has a separate preface that summarizes the major events, both personal and historical, of the years of that volume. Additionally, volume 1 contains an introduction that discusses Fuller’s life, her work, and textual issues concerning the publication of the letters. Robert N. Hudspeth, editor for all five volumes, has taken great care to present all the surviving letters that Fuller wrote, providing a less biased view of Fuller than that of the often unreliable Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli, written and edited after her death by her close friends Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Henry Channing, and James Freeman Clarke.

The letters provide insight into Fuller’s many moods, the range of her intellectual and social interests, and her highly diverse professional career. Moreover, because Fuller knew many of the major thinkers, writers, reformers, and artists of her day, her letters provide a fascinating social history of the early to mid-nineteenth century, in Europe as well as in her native United States.

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(The entire section is 594 words.)