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Jaylia3

Reflections

Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life - Megan Marshall

“I will never do as Waldo does . . . flee to the woods”

 

Margaret Fuller was the intellectual equal of her close friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, but while he was retiring she had a passionate, engage-the-world personality that makes Megan Marshall’s thoroughly researched and engaging biography of her the most moving book I’ve read in a long time. The book opens with Margaret as a precocious child, who from an early age was driven to excel intellectually by her father in spite of the fact that she was a daughter not a son, and it ends with the heartbreaking ship wreck that killed Margaret and her new husband and child within sight of the Long Island shoreline.

 

In between Margaret wrote books that challenged the status quo regarding women, culture, and politics. While she was part of the Transcendentalist school of thought she traveled far from New England. During a trip to the Great Lakes region she spent time with Native Americans, afterwards writing about the plight of their culture, and she was in Europe as a correspondent during the continent wide upheavals of 1848. It took me a long time to finish this biography because I kept pausing to read some of Margaret’s own works, which are available for free on sites like Project Gutenberg and Google Books.

 

Margaret was brilliant in a time when smart woman made men uncomfortable. Gender limited her options, but Margaret tried to use her well developed intellect to play an important role in the world like the heroes of America’s Revolutionary War that she admired. In spite of her antipathy to marriage as it was practiced in the mid-1800’s, Margaret longed for a full life with love and a child of her own, yearnings that were not fulfilled until a few years before her death.

 

This biography by Megan Marshall held me rapt because it brought both Margaret Fuller and the post-Revolutionary, pre-Civil War era in the United States and Europe to life for me. The book’s pages are full of the intellectual, revolutionary and literary leaders of the time, and Margaret's own words, quoted throughout the text, are so well put and insightful even now that I found myself underlining almost all of them.