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Chapter 14: European travel. (1846-1847.)

This was Margaret Fuller's last note to Mr. Emerson before her departure for Europe:--

New York, 15th July, 1846.
I leave Boston in the Cambria, 1st August. Shall be at home at my mother's in Cambridgeport the morning of the 30th July. Can see you either that day or the next there, as I shall not go out. Please write to care of Richard [Fuller], 6 State Street, Boston, which day you will come.

I should like to take the letter to Carlyle, and wish you would name the Springs in it. Mr. S. has been one of those much helped by Mr. C. I should like to see Tennyson, but doubt whether Mr. C. would take any trouble about it. I take a letter to Miss Barrett. I am likely to see Browning through her. It would do no harm to mention it, though. J have done much to make him known here.1

Sailing on the appointed day, she landed at Liverpool, August 12th. A note-book lies before me, kept by her during the first weeks of her European life. It contains hints that were often [221] amplified for her “Tribune” letters; but for my. self, I always find the first note-book more interesting. “Memory,” says the poet Gray, “is ten times worse than a lead pencil,” and it is really of more value to know what struck a traveler at the outset than what was afterwards added to his knowledge. Nothing tests one's habits of mind and independence of character like the first glimpse of a foreign country; and it must be remembered that Europe was far more foreign to Americans forty years ago than to-day. Omitting a few preliminary passages, the note-book goes on as follows, being here printed precisely as it is written; the exact dates being rarely given in it, but the time being the latter part of August, 1846, and thenceforward:--

Went to the Paradise-street chapel to hear James Martineau. His over-intellectual appearance. His conservative tendencies, liberality only in spots. Mr. Ireland, a most liberal man, a devout reader of the ‘ Dial.’ His early record of Waldo [Emerson]. Delight at seeing these impressions confirmed by the stand he has taken since. Mr. Ireland, declining all stimulants on the most ultra ground, takes four or five strong cups of tea, which he does not need.--Monday morning. Mechanics' Institute,--method of instruction--seventeen hundred pupils. Provision for the girls. Fine building bought for them, at seven thousand pounds. Woman nominally, not really, at the head. Royal Institute. Series of works of early Italian art collected by Roscoe. Statue of Roscoe by Chantrey.

Afternoon. Sweet place on the banks of the Mersey, [222] called ‘the Dingle.’ Feeling of the man of letters toward the man of money. Park laid out by Mr. Gates for use of the public, a very good means of doing good. Marriage of Mr. J. at Dr. H.'s. Peculiar management of Fleas! Mrs. H. the translator of ‘ Spiridion.’ Fine heads of Godwin, Herwegh, Hoffmann von Fallersleben, Rachel. Splendid full length of Goethe, which I want for myself. Mem. to get a fine head of Rachel for Caroline. Herwegh, too, perhaps. Head of Catharina of Russia. Colossal and Ideal head of Beethoven.

Early letters of Carlyle, written in the style of the ‘Life of Schiller,’ occasionally swelling into that of Dr. Johnson. Very low views of life, comfortable and prudential advice as to marriage, envy of riches, thirst for fame avowed as a leading motive.

Tuesday. Pay up bill. Great expensiveness of the Adelphi. Route from Liverpool to Lancaster. From the latter canal boat to Kendal. Beautiful picture presented by the young Bengalese, our fellow-traveler. Cordial talk of English gentleman. Silly German, with his horrid chat and smirk. His foolish way of addressing an intelligent child. Kendal, the Castle. To Ambleside. Drive presents a landscape for once, lit up by sunshine as exquisite as I had hoped even. Man and Nature go hand in hand here in England. Blue bell, Campanula.

The fuchsia grows here to great size in the open air. Directions for its culture, note in letter to mother. Make a bed of bog-earth and sand, plant the fuchsias, and give them constantly a great deal of water-this is all that is needful.

Ambleside. Miss Martineau's house. The look of [223] health in her face, but a harried, excited, over-stimulated state of mind. Home at the confectioner's, a sweet little English home, with modest, gentle, English Jane to wait. Her courtesy about Eddie [Edward Spring]. Many such little things show us how natural is the disgust of the English to the bad manners and careless habits they find in America. Their ways of driving over these excellent roads are even amusing from their care.

Evening at Mrs. Derby's, sister-in-law of Sir Humphrey. Her mother, aged seventy-six, a fine specimen of what I have heard of the Scotch lady. Next day drive with Mrs. P. Handsome dwellings on the banks of Windermere. Evening at Miss M.'s. Mr. Milman, Dr. Gregory. Stories about Hartley Coleridge, and account of Sara C., author of ‘Phantasmion.’ Note the chapter she has added to the ‘Aids to Reflection’ now about to be published.

It seems the cause of Coleridge's separation from his wife and family was wholly with himself: because his opium and his indolence prevented his making any exertions to support them. That burden fell on Southey, who, without means, except from his pen, sustained the four persons thus added to his family. Just as I might do for — if I would. Hartley Coleridge's bad habits naturally inherited from his father. Waiter offers to keep ‘ the talking gentleman’ to board him, to clothe him. Oh don't, don't take away the ‘talking gentleman!’ How wicked to transmit these morbid states to children! Mr. Mailman's hard and worldly estimate. Introduced to Dr. Gregory. A man of truly large, benevolent mind.

Next day Grasmere, Rydal Mount. I was disappointed in the habitation of Wordsworth. It is almost [224] the least beautiful spot hereabout. Remarks of our landlady about W. how pleasing, constantly ending with ‘And Mrs. Wordsworth, too.’ ‘ And really, ma'am, I think it is because he is so kind a neighbor.’

Windermere. The professed magnetizer with his beaux yeux and extreme sensibility, unable to confer benefit without receiving injury, gave me yet another view of this grand subject.2

Mr.Bracebridge and Mrs. Bracebridge, specimens, we understand, of the first English hairystocracy, spoken of as something extra — of their class,--and, indeed, they were very liberal. Mr. B. much engaged in prison and other reforms. Owns a place in Athens, and lives there often.

Sunday evening with B.'s and G.'s. Gossip about the upper classes, but in a good spirit. It amused me to hear the mechanical, measured way in which they talked of character. With all the abuses of America, we have one advantage which outweighs them all. Most persons reject the privilege, but it is, really, possible for one to grow.

Monday. Spent the morning in finishing letter for the steamer. Afternoon on the lake of Grasmere. Wet feet. Extraordinary kindness of the ladies of the Clan Campbell. Easedale, Loughrigg, a most enchanting place, dear to Wordsworth.

Thursday. Romantic story of our landlady's husband, quite in my line. Walk along the hills, little ravine, arched bridge, and brook rushing beneath it. Delightful walk over the fields past Fox How. Speak [225] of Dr. Arnold and the justice done him all around. Said to have made a happy and equal marriage. Visit to Wordsworth. Evening at the Greys'. Cultivated and liberal mind of the manufacturer. Ditto of the country gentleman. Countess Hahn Hahn had just been at Ambleside.

Wednesday. To Langdale. Scaurfell the scene of the ‘ Excursion.’ Rothay church. First fall lunch in the farm-house. Dungeon Ghyll Force. Most enchanting view at last. As fine a day as I ever had. Account in evening by tedious Miss Briggs of the ease with which one may be lost in the mist. This 26th was Eddie's birthday.

Thursday. Farewell to Ambleside. A happy eight days we have had here.

Ms. Note-Book.

Portions of a more complete narrative, based on these sketches, will be found in her “Memoirs,”3 and other portions in her “Tribune” letters. The instances of alternate contraction and expansion, in these ampler narratives, are very interesting and characteristic, and the total impression of truthfulness and accuracy is strong. There are no signs of retouching for literary effect, but in many cases the single word of memorandum suggests a paragraph, while on other points caution or courtesy dictated a reticence which it is now needless to maintain.

Here is a passage from her Edinburgh diary. David Scott, whose pictures interested her so [226] much, painted a striking portrait of Emerson, which is now in the Concord, Massachusetts, public library:--

[September, 1846.] At Robert Chambers's. Saw there beautiful book of Highlanders in their costumes. Hopes of chemistry as to making food. Remark of R. C. as to the clumsiness of nature's means of providing for that purpose, etc. Mrs. C. with her fifteen children and three pair of twins among them.

Monday. Visit to the Bank of Scotland. To [David] Scott's room. a severe, earnest man with high imaginations. I liked him much, and his pictures from him, though there was not one which, taken by itself, could be called really good.

Note here, not that it has to do anything with these matters, but because I happen to think of it here, that the tune of “ Scots wha hae” is, according to tradition, the original one of “Hey tutti Taiti,” to which the Scots did actually march to the field of Bannockburn. Shoemaker amazed at the N. Y. [New York] shoes. Evening at Mrs. Crowe's. S. B. [Samuel Brown.] D. S. [David Scott.] Mr. De Quincey. Pleasant flow of talk, but the Opium Eater did not get into his gorgeous style. Good story told by S. B. about Burns. Write it out for “Tribune” and quote the pertinent verse.4 I was very sorry to leave Edina now; might have had such good times with the two friends.

Her view of Mary Queen of Scots is put in too striking a manner to be omitted--

[September, 1846.]

Holyrood. Prince Labanoff [227] The world would not suffer that poor beautiful girl to have the least good time, and now cannot rest for championing her. Singular misery of the lot of a woman with whom all men were dying in love, except her two last husbands; and with the first, a poor sickly child, she had no happiness. A woman the object of desire to so many, yet never suffered to become the parent of more than two children, and from those separated in so brief a space after birth, and never permitted to take the least comfort in them afterwards. Picture of Montrose charmed my eye. Some noble Vandykes. A full length of George by Wilkie. Hateful old John Knox, with a wife like himself. Came up the Canongate. Were ever people so villainously dirty?

Ms. Note-Book.5

During her tour in Scotland it is interesting to see how lightly she passes by the night when she was lost on Ben Lomond, of which so full an account is given in her “Memoirs:”6--

[September, 1846.] Inversnaid. In the boat to Rowardennan. Loch Lomond. Boatmen. A fine race. Gaelic songs. Relate their import. Undoubting faith of these people in the story of “The lady of the Lake.” “ Oh, yes,” said the boatmen, “we know they are true, having been handed down from father to son for so many generations.” At Rowardennan. Down in the boat to Luss. Character of the place. Cleanliness for once. The minister, a “ceevil hamely man.” The Manse. Sunset on Ben Lomond. I was alone. Evening. [228] Dance of the reapers in the barn. Highland strathspey and fling? Enormous price of fruit in Edinburgh; total wait of it in the country. Quote of Sir W. Scott the feelings of Fitz James about treachery, etc., in his dream; speak of his character and quote concluding lines in “ Lady of the Lake.”

Observation on figures of men and women engaged in the Highland dances. Labor alone will not develop the form.

Next day. Saturday, 12th September. Ascent of Ben Lomond. Lost, and pass the night on a heathery mountain. All the adventures of the eventful twenty hours to be written out in full. Love Marcus and Rebecca [Spring] forever.

Sunday. Sick all day from fatigue or excitement. Dinner given by M. [Marcus Spring] to the shepherds. Their natural politeness and propriety of feeling. Peter Cameron. Monday. Still ill, but walked out in the afternoon and saw the purple hills and lake, with what delightful emotions. I seemed to have become acquainted with their genius as I could not in any other way. Inquiring lady thought it must have been “ awkward” for me on the hill between 12 and 1! Tuesday. Leave Rowardennan. Steamboat with its execrable fiddle, à l'ordinaire. Tarbet. Rowed along lochs through pass of Glencrae to Cairndow. Boat to Inverary on Loch Fine. Night there. Read “ Legend of Montrose.”

Wednesday morning. Duke of Argyle's place. Highland servant in full costume, stupid as the stones he trod on. Noble park. Black Highland cattle. Cross in the market-place from Iona.

Margaret Fuller's note-book closes abruptly, like that of many a traveler, just as she reaches [229] London, where it would be the most interesting. Her farther progress can be traced by her letters to the “Tribune,” which have been reprinted by her brother in the volume of her works called “At Home and Abroad.” Over this period I shall pass rapidly, as it is very amply treated in the printed “Memoirs.”7 She had, of course, that peculiar delight of the cultivated American in London, where, as Willis said, he sees whole shelves of his library walking about in coats and gowns. With her boundless love of knowledge, and the scantiness of libraries and museums in the America of that day, she was charmed by the centralization of London; the concentration in one spot of treasures such as may by and by be found scattered through many cities in America, but will Never be brought together in one. She saw the heroes of that day, some of whom are heroes still: Wordsworth, Dr. Chalmers, Andrew Combe, the Howitts, Dr. Southwood Smith, De Quincey, Joanna Baillie. Browning, just married, had gone to Italy. Her descriptions of Carlyle are almost as spicy as Carlyle's own letters, and she dismisses Lewes in almost as trenchant a manner as that in which Carlyle dismissed Heraud. Best of all for her, she made acquaintance with Mazzini, whom she was soon to meet again in Italy. She was very cordially received, her two volumes of “Miscellanies” having just been favorably reviewed by the English press; she was inundated [230] with invitations and opportunities, and could only mourn, like so many Americans since her day, that these delightful hospitalities encroached sadly upon the time to be given to galleries and museums.

In Paris she saw La Mennais, Beranger, and George Sand; went constantly to the lectures, galleries, and Chamber of Deputies; saw Rachel act and heard Chopin play. She found her “Essay on American literature” translated and published in “La Revue Independante,” though the satisfaction was mitigated by having her name announced as Elizabeth. She worked away at learning colloquial French until she spoke it fluently, though not accurately; and her teacher pleased her by saying that her accent was like that of an Italian, though this from French lips can never be much of a compliment. Yet with her deep love for Italy she was probably pleased at the thought of speaking French like an Italian, just as Englishmen are said to be pleased at speaking it like Englishmen — which, to do them justice, they usually accomplish. On February 25, 1847, she left Paris for Italy, and in early spring established herself for a time in Rome. In summer she went to the different Italian cities, then to Switzerland. In October she settled herself for the winter in Rome, whose wonderful inspiration she profoundly felt. She says of her own first experiences there, “All mean things were forgotten in the joy that rushed over me like a flood.” She felt, as so many Americans [231] feel in Europe, an impulse to separate herself for a time from all English-speaking people and plunge into a wholly untried atmosphere. She had new and interesting friends, such as the Milanese Madame Arconati, Marchesa Visconti; and a Polish lady, born Princess Radzivill. But unlike, alas! the majority of Americans in Europe, her whole sympathy was with the party of progress, and the rapid unrolling of events in 1848 made an occasion for her, “such a time as I have always dreamed of,” she writes. She saw the uprising against Austria; the Austrian arms burned in the public square. She was herself poor, a stranger remote from home; but she was for a time better in health than since she was a child, and her whole heart was with the Italian revolution. When Mazzini returned from his seventeen years of exile, she was able to stand by his side. She saw the republic established; she saw it fall. In April, 1849, Rome was besieged by the French army. Yet already a deeper thread than even the welfare of Italy had mingled itself in her life. In December, 1847, she had been secretly married; in September, 1848, her child had been born. But for this climax of her life I must turn to the narratives of others.

1 Ms.

2 This apparently refers to the celebrated H. G. Atkinson, who converted Miss Martineau to his opinions. Another account of him by Miss Fuller will be found in her Memoirs, II. 173.

3 II. 171. The Tribune letters may be found in At Home and Abroad.

4 This story may be found in Memoirs, II. 177; and the Tribune letter in At Home and Abroad, p. 139.

5 There is a passage somewhat similar, but not nearly so well stated, reprinted from the Tribune, in At Home and Abroad, p. 149.

6 Memoirs, II. 178; also, At Home and Abroad, p 153.

7 Memoirs, II. 184.

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