Death of Her Father.

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


  On the evening of the 30th of September, 1835, my father was seized with cholera, and on the 2d of October, was a corpse. For the first two days, my grief, under this calamity, was such as I dare not speak of. But since my father’s head is laid in the dust, I feel an awful calm, and am becoming familiar with the thoughts of being an orphan. I have prayed to God that duty may now be the first object, and self set aside. May I have light and strength to do what is right, in the highest sense, for my mother, brothers, and sister. * *

  It has been a gloomy week, indeed. The children have all been ill, and dearest mother is overpowered with sorrow, fatigue, and anxiety. I suppose she must be ill too, when the children recover. I shall endeavor to keep my mind steady, by remembering that there is a God, and that grief is but for a season. Grant, oh Father, that neither the joys nor sorrows of this past year shall have visited my heart in vain! Make me wise and strong for the performance of immediate duties, and ripen me, by what means Thou seest best, for those which lie beyond. * *

  My father’s image follows me constantly. Whenever I am in my room, he seems to open the door, and to look on me with a complacent, tender smile. What would I not give to have it in my power, to make that heart once more beat with joy! The saddest feeling is the remembrance of little things, in which I have fallen short of love and duty. I never sympathized in his liking for this farm, and secretly wondered how a mind which had, for thirty years, been so widely engaged in the affairs of men, could care so much for trees and crops. But now, amidst the beautiful autumn days, I walk over the grounds, and look with painful emotions at every little improvement. He had selected a spot to place a seat where I might go to read alone, and had asked me to visit it. I contented myself with “When you please, father;” but we never went! What would I not now give, if I had fixed a time, and shown more interest! A day or two since, I went there. The tops of the distant blue hills were veiled in delicate autumn haze; soft silence brooded over the landscape; on one side, a brook gave to the gently sloping meadow spring-like verdure; on the other, a grove,—which he had named for me,—lay softly glowing in the gorgeous hues of October. It was very sad. May this sorrow give me a higher sense of duty in the relationships which remain.

  Dearest mother is worn to a shadow. Sometimes, when I look on her pale face, and think of all her grief, and the cares and anxieties which now beset her, I am appalled by the thought that she may not continue with us long. Nothing sustains me now but the thought that God, who saw .fit to restore me to life when I was so very willing to leave it,—more so, perhaps, than I shall ever be again,—must have some good work for me to do.

  Nov. 3, 1835.—I thought I should be able to write ere now, how our affairs were settled, but that time has not come yet: My father left no will, and, in consequence, our path is hedged in by many petty difficulties. He has left less property than we had anticipated, for he was not fortunate in his investments in real estate. There will, however, be enough to maintain my mother, and educate the children decently. I have often had reason to regret being of the softer sex, and never more than now. If I were an eldest son, I could be guardian to my brothers and sister, administer the estate, and really become the head of my family. As it is, I am very ignorant of the management and value of property, and of practical details. I always hated the din of such affairs, and hoped to find a life long refuge from them in the serene world of literature and the arts. But I am now full of desire to learn them, that I may be able to advise and act, where it is necessary. The same mind which has made other attainments, can, in time, compass these, however uncongenial to its nature and habits.

  I shall be obliged to give up selfishness in the end. May God enable me to see the way clear, and not to let down the intellectual, in raising the moral tone of my mind. Difficulties and duties became instinct the very night after my father’s death, and a solemn prayer was offered then, that I might combine what is due to others with what is due to myself. The spirit of that prayer I shall constantly endeavor to maintain. What ought to be done for a few months to come is plain, and, as I proceed, the view will open.

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