Chapter 15: marriage and motherhood. (1847-1850.)Margaret Fuller's profoundest feeling about marriage and motherhood had already been recorded for years in a fragment of her journal. With strong, firm touches, in this confession, she balances what she has against what she would fain possess; and visibly tries to make the best of the actual:
It may naturally be asked why, with such a true woman's longing for home and children, Margaret Fuller had never been married. Loved “with oriental adoration,” in Horace Greeley's phrase, by many women, she had also been loved sincerely by many men, while some of each sex had no doubt disliked her. Her letters to the men with whom she was, in maturer years, most intimate are singularly free, I will not merely say from coquettishness or sentimentality, but from anything that could fall short of her high standard of friendship. There is, however, no question that she had in early life at least one deep experience of personal emotion, followed by a reaction of disappointment. It is a satisfaction to know that the same letters which prove this — letters which I am not authorized to publish, nor should I wish to do it — show her only in an unselfish and generous aspect, while they bring her nearer to us by proving that even she, with all her Roman ambition, was still “a very woman” at heart.  With this retrospect for a background, the married life of Margaret Fuller Ossoli may now be studied. It will be portrayed, so far as possible, from original documents; the first place being given to a letter, relating to her, not included in the “Memoirs,” from Mr. Cass, then American charge d'affaires at Rome, and one of the few in whom she put confidence, at the great crisis of her life. The letter is addressed to Mrs. W. Ellery Channing, of Concord, Massachusetts, who, as has already been said, was the younger sister of Madame Ossoli.
I have no home on the earth, and [yet] I can think of one that would have a degree of beautiful harmony with my inward life.But, driven from home to home as a Renouncer, I get the picture and the poetry of each. Keys of gold, silver, iron, and lead are in my casket. No one loves me. But I love many a good deal, and see some way into their eventual beauty. I am myself growing better and shall by and by be a worthy object of love, one that will not anywhere disappoint or need forbearance. Meanwhile I have no fetter on me, no engagement, and as I look on others, almost every other, can I fail to feel this a great privilege? I have no way tied my hands or feet. And yet the varied calls on my sympathy have been such that I hope not  to be made partial, cold, or ignorant by this isolation. I have no child, and the woman in me has so craved this experience, that it has seemed the want of it must paralyze me. But now as I look on these lovely children of a human birth, what slow and neutralizing cares they bring with them to the mother! The children of the muse come quicker, with less pain and disgust, rest more lightly on the bosom and have... [here the fragment ends.]Ms. (W. H. C.)
The circumstances under which Margaret Fuller and her husband first met have been several times described; and every account of them must mainly rest upon the important narrative by Mrs. William W. Story, the greater part of which was published long since in the “Memoirs.”2 In this letter she not only describes the occasion when Madame Ossoli confided the secret of the marriage and placed the evidences of it in Mrs. Story's hands; but she gives from immediate authority a narrative of the first interviews between those who were thus strangely brought together. If I vary somewhat from this account, as heretofore printed, it is because Mrs. Story's original letter lies before me; and I have attached importance  to certain passages which were omitted, perhaps for want of space or reasons of literary convenience, in the “Memoirs.” Soon after Margaret Fuller's first coming to Rome, early in 1847, she went, one day, to hear vespers at St. Peter's, and, after the service, proposed to her companions, Mr.Spring and Mrs. Spring, that they should wander separately, at will, among the chapels, and meet at a certain designated point. Failing, however, to find them again, she walked about, in some perplexity, scanning different groups through her eye-glass. Ere long a young man of gentlemanly address came up to her, seeing her evident discomfort, and offered his services as guide. After they had continued their search in vain, for some time, during which the crowd had dispersed, he endeavored to find a carriage for her; and this failing, they walked together to her residence, conversing with some difficulty, as he knew no English and she had not yet learned Italian. At the door they parted, and she told her friends the adventure. A day or two after this, she observed the same young man walking before the house, as if meditating entrance; and they finally met once or twice before she left Rome for the summer. She was absent from June to October, visiting Florence, Bologna, Venice, Milan, the Italian lakes, and Switzerland. In October she established herself again in Rome, having an t “apartment” in the Corso, and trying to live for six months on four hundred dollars.  She wrote to her mother that she had not been so well since she was a child, or so happy even then. She had grown accustomed to the climate, which had at first affected her unfavorably; she could study history and antiquities; she had near her some tried friends, such as Mr.Cranch and Mrs. Cranch and Mr. and Mrs. Story; and she received her acquaintances, at her rooms, in a simple way, every Monday evening. Among these guests came constantly her new acquaintance, the young Italian,--well known by this time as Giovanni Angelo, Marquis Ossoli. He sympathized ill her zeal for what then seemed the promise of Italian liberty, and it is thought by those who best knew them that she did much in strengthening his purpose to throw off the traditions of his family, and pledge himself to the party of the people. Yet through his kindred he still kept up some relations with the other side, and the two attended the meetings held by the different factions; being meanwhile steadily drawn together by the excitement of a common interest. It happened that the old Marquis Ossoli died of a lingering illness that winter, and, as Angelo was his youngest and only unmarried child, the care of the father came peculiarly upon this son. During this time of anxiety he used to spend a few daily moments with Margaret Fuller, sure of sympathy and strength; and it was immediately after his father's death that he disclosed his love, “telling her,” according to Mrs. Story  “that he must marry her or be miserable.” “She refused to look on him as a lover,” continued Mrs. Story,
and insisted that it was not fitting,that it was best he should marry a younger woman; that she would be his friend but not his wife. In this way it rested for some weeks, during which we saw Ossoli pale, dejected, and unhappy. He was always with her, but in a sort of hopeless, desperate manner, until at length he convinced her of his love, and she married him. Ms.After this followed the siege of Rome, and Margaret Fuller's service in the hospitals,--as already described in Mr. Cass's letter,--while Ossoli was in the army outside the city. One day, after great anxiety, she called Mrs. Story to her, and confided to her the secret of her marriage, showing her the marriage certificate and those relating to the birth of her child. These she confided to Mrs. Story, with a book containing the narrative of her whole acquaintance with her husband. The papers were kept for a time by Mrs. Story, and at length returned to Madame Ossoli; and every trace of them is now lost forever. The conclusion of Mrs. Story's narrative will now be given almost entire, its picture of the married life of the Ossolis being too valuable to be omitted. Like the passages just quoted, this has never before been printed:-- ... At once. Ossoli, Margaret, and the child went to Florence. Rome was shut upon them, and they had  some difficulty in getting a permission to remain even in Florence. (Mr. Greenough interested himself to get this for them.) After this we never saw them; some letters have which tell a tale of deep maternal happiness and satisfaction-of the tenderness of her husband, and of serene days such as her life had known but few. I look back upon those days in Florence as the peacefullest she had ever known; in them she had sweet communion with nature, love, and a tender mother's joy. I believe that she was coming home to richer blessings, and a life if of some struggles, still of sure enjoyment.
To this narrative I will add another letter, from Mrs. Story to Mrs. J. R. Lowell, transcribed  by the latter for Miss Sarah F. Clarke, and giving some additional particulars. It is without a date, but belongs to just this period, and has not before been printed:--
I have heard it suggested by some one that Ossoli had married Margaret under the impression of her having a large fortune. That this is utterly false I can declare, since to my own knowledge he was in the habit, even from their first acquaintance, of making for her what the Italians term little economies, and was in Margaret's unreserved confidence as to the feeble state of her purse.Again, I have heard it said that he was a person entirely without education. I can only say that his education was equal to that of most Roman gentlemen, not thorough, but such as suited him for his rank and position. He had from his youth been under the care of a priest, who taught him as a tutor. He knew not much of foreign languages, read French a little, and was a good deal interested in Italian history. Many of our countrymen who saw him could discover little in him, but that was rather because he was not quickly interested in others, than that he lacked interesting points. He was always reserved, and, when with Margaret, preferred always to hear her talk, even  when she spoke a language he did not know, than to talk himself or hear any one else. His manner towards Margaret was devoted and lover-like to a striking degree. He cared not how trivial was the service if he might perform it for her. I remember to have seen him one morning, after they had been married nearly two years, set off on an errand to get the handle of her parasol mended, with as much genuine knightly zeal as if the charge had been a much weightier one. As he took it, he said, ‘ How sweet it is to do little things for you; never attend to such yourself, always leave them to me for my pleasure.’ When she was ill he nursed and watched over her with the tenderness of woman. When she said to him, ‘How have you learned to be so good a nurse,’ he said, ‘My father was ill, and I tended upon him.’ No service was too trivial, no sacrifice too great for him. He never wished her to give up any pleasure because he could not share it, but if she were interested, he would go with her to any house, leave her, and call again to take her home. Such tender, unselfish love I have rarely before seen; it made green her days, and gave her an expression of peace and serenity which before was a stranger to her. ‘ No companion in nature was ever so much to me as is Ossoli;’ does not this show that his soul was deep and full of emotion; for who that knew Margaret Fuller would believe that any other companion would have been agreeable to her in her communion with nature. What a beautiful picture is that of their return to Rome after a day spent on the Campagna!Ms.
It is a curious fact that, throughout this letter, Mrs. Lowell uniformly spells the name of Margaret Fuller's husband “Ossili,” and it illustrates how vague a knowledge of the whole affair had at first reached America. Through such statements as these it came to be better understood; and the really simple and noble character of Margaret Fuller's young lover stood out above all distrust. There lie before me two old-fashioned daguerreotypes of him, and a lock of his hair, the characteristic  blue-black hair of his nation. The pictures represent a thoroughly Italian face and figure: dark, delicate, slender; by no means the man, one would say, to marry at thirty an American woman of thirty-seven, she being poor, intellectual, and without beauty. Yet it will be very evident, when we come to read their letters to each other, that the disinterested and devoted love which marked this marriage was so far a fulfillment of Margaret Fuller's early dreams. Mr. Kinney, the American consul, wrote to Mr. Emerson from Turin, May 2, 1851:
It is abundantly evident that her young husband discharged all the obligations of his relation to her con amore. His admiration amounted to veneration, and her yearning to be loved seemed at least to be satisfied. Ms.There is every reason to believe that this statement was none too strong.