The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Ossoli, Margaret Fuller
OSSOLI, Margaret Fuller, marchioness, an American authoress, born in Cambridgeport, Mass., May 23, 1810, died by shipwreck on Fire Island beach, off Long Island, July 16, 1850. She was the eldest child of Timothy Fuller, who conducted her early education. At six years of age she read Latin; at eight she began to pore over Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Molière; and her lonely studies had induced a habit of melancholy and reserve before she was sent to school at Groton, Mass. There she was remarkable for her capacity and freaks of passion, and for eccentricities. She returned home at the age of 15, and began an extended course of self-culture. She began to study German in 1832, and within a year had read the principal works of Goethe, Schiller, Tieck, Körner, and Novalis. The family removed to Groton in 1833; her father died two years afterward, leaving little property; and she began to teach languages in Boston to private classes and in Mr. Alcott's school. In 1837 she became principal of a school in Providence. Emerson thus describes her personal appearance at this period: “She was rather under the middle height; her complexion was fair, with strong fair hair. She was then, as always, carefully and becomingly dressed, and of lady-like self-possession. For the rest, her appearance had nothing prepossessing. Her extreme plainness, a trick of incessantly opening and shutting her eyelids, the nasal tone of her voice, all repelled.” On better acquaintance he found her more agreeable: “She was an active, inspiring companion and correspondent, and all the art, the thought, and the nobleness in New England seemed at that moment related to her and she to it. She was everywhere a welcome guest. The houses of her friends in town and country were open to her, and every hospitable attention eagerly offered. Her arrival was a holiday, and so was her abode. She stayed a few days, often a week, more seldom a month; and all tasks that could be suspended were put aside to catch the favorable hour, in walking, riding, or boating, to talk with this joyful guest, who brought wit, anecdotes, love stories, tragedies, oracles with her.” In 1839 she went to reside at Jamaica Plain in the vicinity of Boston, and in 1840 became editor of the “Dial,” a quarterly journal, which she conducted for two years, aided by R. W. Emerson, George Ripley, and others. One of her contributions to this work was afterward expanded into a volume entitled “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” (New York, 1845). In 1841 she translated and published the “Letters of Günderode and Bettina,” and in 1843 made a journey to Michigan and Lake Superior, and published “Summer on the Lakes.” In December, 1844, she removed to New York and became a writer for the “Tribune,” principally of reviews, which were subsequently published under the title of “Papers on Art and Literature” (New York, 1846). She went to Europe in the spring of 1846, and arrived at Rome in May, 1847, where in December she was married to a Roman nobleman, the marquis Giovanni Angelo Ossoli. She was in Rome during the revolution of 1848, and during the siege of the city by the French in 1849 was, at the request of Mazzini, appointed directress of one of the hospitals for the wounded. Subsequently she wrote a history of the revolution and siege, the manuscript of which was lost at the time of her death. In May, 1850, she embarked at Leghorn in the ship Elizabeth for New York, with her husband and infant son, both of whom perished with her in the wreck of the vessel in the vicinity of its intended port. A new edition of her works, in six volumes, was published in Boston in 1874. — See “Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli,” by R. W. Emerson, W. H. Channing, and J. F. Clarke (Boston, 1852).