Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life, the Private Years Summary

Margaret Fuller

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

MARGARET FULLER: AN AMERICAN ROMANTIC LIFE, THE PRIVATE YEARS offers readers a fascinating and painstakingly accurate account of the Transcendentalist thinker who founded her era’s premier journal, the DIAL, and who organized a series of educational discussion sessions for women called “Conversations.” Author Charles Capper examines original sources, many drawn on for the first time, to reveal the circumstances that fostered Fuller’s intellectual growth and widespread popularity.

The young woman’s New England inheritance included a Puritan lineage, which she denounced, writing, “You cannon make poetry out of Puritans,” but which nonetheless affected her in the form of her father, Timothy Fuller, Jr.’s, strict attention to his eldest daughter’s mental development. He supervised her abnormally accelerated learning by dictating which Greek and Latin texts she should translate before age ten, and he withheld praise while constantly issuing correctives, as he believed producing a perfectionist by acting as one constituted the ultimate demonstration of love.

As a result of her father’s treatment and her unusual interests and accomplishments, highly unusual for a young woman of the time, Fuller grew up emotionally conflicted and socially isolated, circumstances that shaped a personality many of her peers perceived as arrogant. Rejection enhanced her pain, and the teenaged Fuller turned toward mentors who shared her talents and visions—friends and neighbors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Freeman Clarke, who would, with Fuller, lead the philosophical, religious, and literary movement known as Transcendentalism.

Capper’s lively prose enriches Fuller’s story and leaves readers eager for the second volume in his account of this extraordinary woman’s life.