From: Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1874).
Author: R.W. Emerson, W.H. Channing, J.F. Clarke
Published: Roberts Brothers 1874 Boston


  I have alluded to the fact, that, in the summer of 1840, Margaret underwent some change in the tone and the direction of her thoughts, to which she attributed a high importance. I remember, at an earlier period, when in earnest conversation with her, she seemed to have that height and daring, that I saw she was ready to do whatever she thought; and I observed that, with her literary riches, her invention and wit, her boundless fun and drollery, her light satire, and the most entertaining conversation in America, consisted a certain pathos of sentiment, and a march of character, threatening to arrive presently at the shores and plunge into the sea of Buddhism and mystical trances. The literature of asceticism and rapturous piety was familiar to her. The conversation of certain mystics, who had appeared in Boston about this time, had interested her, but in no commanding degree. But in this year, 1840, in which events occurred which combined great happiness and pain for her affections, she remained for some time in a sort of ecstatic solitude. She made many attempts to describe her frame of mind to me, but did not inspire me with confidence that she had now come to any experiences that were profound or permanent. She was vexed at the want of sympathy on my part, and I again felt that this craving for sympathy did not prove the inspiration. There was a certain restlessness and fever, which I did not like should deceive a soul which was capable of greatness. But jets of magnanimity were always natural to her; and her aspiring mind, eager for a higher and still a higher ground, made her gradually familiar with the range of the mystics, and, though never herself laid in the chamber called Peace, never quite authentically and originally speaking from the absolute or prophetic mount, yet she borrowed from her frequent visits to its precincts an occasional enthusiasm, which gave a religious dignity to her thought.

  ‘I have plagues about me, but they don’t touch me now. I thank nightly the benignant Spirit, for the unaccustomed serenity in which it enfolds me —is very wretched; and once I could not have helped taking on me all his griefs, and through him the griefs of his class; but now I drink only the wormwood of the minute, and that has always equal parts,—a drop of sweet to a drop of bitter. But I shall never be callous, never unable to understand home-sickness. Am not I, too, one of the band who know not where to lay their heads? Am I wise enough to hear such things? Perhaps not; but happy enough, surely. For that Power which daily makes me understand the value of the little wheat amid the field of tares, and shows me bow the kingdom of heaven is sown in the earth like a grain of mustard-seed, is good to me, and bids me call unhappiness happy.’

‘TO ——.

  March, 1842.—My inward life has been more rich and deep, and of more calm and musical flow than ever before. It seems to me that Heaven, whose course has ever been to cross-bias me, as Herbert said, is no niggard in its compensations. I have indeed been forced to take up old burdens, from which I thought I had learned what they could teach; the pen has been snatched from my hand just as I most longed to use it; I have been forced to dissipate, when I most wished to concentrate; to feel the hourly presence of others’ mental wants, when, it seemed, I was just on the point of satisfying my own. But a new page is turned, and an era begun, from which I am not yet sufficiently remote to describe it as I would. I have lived a life, if only in the music I have heard, and one development seemed to follow another therein, as if bound together by destiny, and all things were done for me. All minds, all scenes, have ministered to me. Nature has seemed an ever-open secret; the Divine, a sheltering love; truth, an always springing fountain; and my soul more alone, and less lonely, more hopeful, patient, and, above all, more gentle and humble in its living. New minds have come to reveal themselves to me, though I do not wish it, for I feel myself inadequate to the ties already formed. I have not strength or time to meet the thoughts of those I love already. But these new have come with gifts too fair to be refused, and which have cheered my passive mind.’

  June, 1844.—Last night, in the boat, I could not help thinking, each has something, none has enough. I fear to want them all; and, through ages, if not forever, promises and beckons the life of reception, of renunciation. Passing every seven days from one region to the other, the maiden grows weary of packing the trunk, yet blesses Thee, O rich God! ‘

  Her letters at this period betray a pathetic alternation of feeling, between her aspiring for a rest in the absolute Centre, and her necessity of a perfect sympathy with her friends. She writes to one of them:—

  ‘What I want, the word I crave, I do not expect to hear from the lips of man. I do not wish to be, I do not wish to have, a mediator; yet I cannot help wishing, when I am with you, that some tones of the longed-for music could be vibrating in the air around us. But I will not be impatient again; for, though I am but as I am, I like not to feel the eyes I have loved averted.’

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