Prefatory Note

Written in the summer of 1873, by James Gotendorf, formerly James Nathan

  THIRTY years ago the family of my late and lamented friend, Horace Greeley, occupied one of those old and spacious mansions on the banks of the East River, wherewith former generations had skirted both sides of Manhattan Island. From its large balcony in the rear it commanded a full and noble view over the shores of Long Island down to the Bay and up to the Sound.

  A long and well shaded lane, beginning at what was at that time called the old Cato Road, somewhere in the neighbourhood of the present Fiftieth Street, led up to the good-sized and cultivated garden, which surrounded the house, and-studded with fine old fruit—and shade-trees—extended southerly over an unbroken plot of ground towards a piece of woodland. A sweet rivulet ran its bubbling course, meandering through knoll and dell or frolicking hither and thither, while an equally lovely and winding footpath sometimes accompanied, sometimes crossed it into the woods or led easterly to and over the craggy rocks, that overhung and bounded the river-altogether, a still and chosen spot for walk and talk.

  It was here, at a place sometimes called “the Farm,” and late in the fall of the year 1844, while Margaret Fuller (Ossoli) was residing in the family of the Greeley’s and writing the artistic and literary criticisms for the Tribune, that I first met her.

  Her high intellectuality, purity of sentiment and winning conversation soon attracted me and my visits beyond the limits of leisure, afforded by the duties of an active business life, and the natural suggestion, that fragments of time, late evening—or early morning-hours might be employed for epistolary communications, soon resulted on her part in the following letters, the first thirty-nine of which, mostly without date, were written either in answer to mine or in connection with preceding conversations. The remainder followed me upon travels.

  For many years after the tragical end of their author, I would not part with this mother-less offspring of our spiritual intercourse and with the exception of a few detached leaves, submitted for a similar purpose to her friend and biographer, Mr. W. H. Channing, at his solicitation, no human eye has ever seen them. But now when more than a generation has passed and no earthly interest or feeling can possibly be injured, I cannot suffer their exquisite naturalness and sweetness to sink into the grave. More especially do I not feel justified in withholding them from others, who, having deeply loved her in life and mourned her death, are entitled to this sacred experience of her inmost soul, while at the same time I feel, I can wreathe no fresher laurels around the cherished memory of “ Margaret” than by showing, through these letters, that great and gifted as she was as a writer, she was no less so in the soft and tender emotions of a true woman’s heart.

  Of a correspondence like this, so infinitely frank, confiding and truthful, it is but proper, that some passages and letters be withheld, but as soul and sentiment are valued by quality, enough is given to answer every purpose. In the long lapse of time, a word or two has become illegible, but each has been reproduced as correctly as it could be deciphered. For the reader unacquainted with her sad fate I may say in conclusion that after these letters were written she, in London, found letters, and then went to Rome and to Heaven, but the mutually much longed for meeting is yet to be, somewhere! somehow!