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


  Margaret’s love of beauty made her, of course, a votary of nature, but rather for pleasurable excitement than with a deep poetic feeling. Her imperfect vision and her bad health were serious impediments to intimacy with woods and rivers. She had never paid,—and it is a little remarkable,—any attention to natural sciences. She neither botanized, nor geologized, nor dissected. Still she delighted in short country rambles, in the varieties of landscape, in pastoral country, in mountain outlines, and, above all, in the sea-shore. At Nantasket Beach, and at Newport, she spent a month or two of many successive summers. She paid homage to rocks, woods, flowers, rivers, and the moon. She spent a good deal of time out of doors, sitting, perhaps, with a book in some sheltered recess commanding a landscape. She watched, by day and by night, the skies and the earth, and believed she knew all their expressions. She wrote in her journal, or in her correspondence, a series of “moonlights,” in which she seriously attempts to describe the light and scenery of successive nights of the summer moon. Of course, her raptures must appear sickly and superficial to an observer, who, with equal feeling, had better powers of observation.

  Nothing is more rare than a talent to describe landscape, and, especially, skyscape, or cloudscape, although a vast number of letters, from correspondents between the ages of twenty and thirty, are filled with experiments in this kind. Margaret, in her turn, made many vain attempts, and, to a lover of nature, who knows that every day has new and inimitable lights and shades, one of these descriptions is as vapid as the raptures of a citizen arrived at his first meadow. Of course, he is charmed, but, of course, he cannot tell what he sees, or what pleases him. Yet Margaret often speaks with a certain tenderness and beauty of the impressions made upon her.


  Fishkill, 25 Nov., 1844.—You would have been happy as I have been in the company of the mountains. “They are companions both bold and calm. They exhilarate and they satisfy. To live, too, on the bank of the great river so long, has been the realization of a dream. Though I have been reading and thinking, yet this has been my life.

  ‘After they were all in bed,’ she writes from the “Manse,” in Concord, ‘I went out, and walked till near twelve. The moonlight filled my heart. These embowering elms stood in solemn black, the praying monastics of this holy night; full of grace, in every sense; their life so full, so hushed; not a leaf stirred.’

  You say that nature does not keep her promise; but, surely, she satisfies us now and then for the time. The drama is always in progress, but here and there she speaks out a sentence, full in its cadence, complete in its structure; it occupies, for the time, the sense and the thought. We have no care for promises. Will you say it is the superficialness of my liſe, that I have known “hours with men and nature, that bore their proper fruit,—all present ate and were filled, and there were taken up of the fragments twelve baskets full? Is it because of the superficial mind, or the believing heart, that I can say this?

  Only through emotion do we know thee, Nature! We lean upon thy breast, and feel its pulses vibrate to our own. That is knowledge, for that is love. Thought will never reach it.

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