Miss Martineau.

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


  In the summer of 1835, Margaret found a fresh stimulus to self-culture in the society of Miss Martineau, whom she met while on a visit at Cambridge, in the house of her friend, Mrs. Farrar. How animating this intercourse then was to her, appears from her journals.

  Miss Martineau received me so kindly as to banish all embarrassment at once. * * We had some talk, about “Carlyleism,” and I was not quite satisfied with the ground she took, but there was no opportunity for full discussion. * * I wished to give myself wholly up to receive an impression of her. * * What shrewdness in detecting various shades of character! Yet, what she said of Hannah More and Miss Edgeworth, grated upon my feelings.* *

  Again, later:—‘I cannot conceive how we chanced upon the subject of our conversation, but never shall I forget what she said. It has bound me to her. In, that hour, most unexpectedly to me, we passed the barrier that separates acquaintance from friendship, and I saw how greatly her heart is to be valued.

  And again:—‘We sat together close to the pulpit. I was deeply moved by Mr. ——’s manner of praying for “our friends,” and I put up this prayer for my companion, which I recorded, as it rose in my heart: “Author of good, Source of all beauty and holiness, thanks to Thee for the purifying, elevating communion that I have enjoyed with this beloved and revered being. Grant, that the thoughts she has awakened, and the bright image of her existence, may live in my memory, inciting my earth-bound spirit to higher words and deeds. May her path be guarded and blessed. May her noble mind be kept firmly poised in its native truth, unsullied by prejudice or error, and strong to resist whatever outwardly or inwardly shall war against its high vocation. May each day bring to this generous seeker new riches of true philosophy and of Divine Love. And, amidst all trials, give her to know and feel that Thou, the All-sufficing, art with her, leading her on through eternity to likeness of Thyself.”

  I sigh for an intellectual guide. Nothing but the sense of what God has done for me, in bringing me nearer to himself, saves me from despair. With what envy I looked at Flaxman’s picture of Hesiod sitting at the the feet of the Muse! How blest would it be to be thus instructed in one’s vocation! Anything would I do and suffer, to be sure that, when leaving earth, I should not be haunted with recollections of “aims unreached, occasions lost.” I have hoped some friend would do,—what none has ever yet done,—comprehend me wholly, mentally, and morally, and enable me better to comprehend myself. I have had some hope that Miss Martineau might be this friend, but cannot yet tell. She has what I want,—vigorous reasoning powers, invention, clear views of her objects,—and she has been trained to the best means of execution. Add to this, that there are no strong intellectual sympathies between us, such as would blind her to my defects.

  A delightful letter from Miss Martineau. I mused long upon the noble courage with which she stepped forward into life, and the accurate judgment with which she has become acquainted with its practical details, without letting her fine imagination become tamed. I shall be cheered and sustained, amidst all fretting and uncongenial circumstances, by remembrance of her earnest love of truth and ardent faith.

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