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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Margaret Fuller Ossoli

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Margaret grew to fifteen with an exuberance of life and affection, which the chilling atmosphere of that New England home somewhat suppressed, and with an increasing love for books and cultured people. "I rise a little before five," she writes, "walk an hour, and then practise on the piano till seven, when we breakfast. Next, I read French--Sismondi's Literature of the South of Europe--till eight; then two or three lectures in Brown's Philosophy. About half past nine I go to Mr. Perkins's school, and study Greek till twelve, when, the school being dismissed, I recite, go home, and practise again till dinner, at two. Then, when I can, I read two hours in Italian."

And why all this hard work for a girl of fifteen? The "all-powerful motive of ambition," she says. "I am determined on distinction, which formerly I thought to win at an easy rate; but now I see that long years of labor must be given."

She had learned the secret of most prominent lives. The majority in this world will always be mediocre, because they lack high-minded ambition and the willingness to work.

Two years after, at seventeen, she writes: "I am studying Madame de Stael, Epictetus, Milton, Racine, and the Castilian ballads, with great delight.... I am engrossed in reading the elder Italian poets, beginning with Berni, from whom I shall proceed to Pulci and Politian." How almost infinitely above "beaus and dresses" was such intellectual work as this!

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It was impossible for such a girl not to influence the mind of every person she met. At nineteen she became the warm friend of Rev. James Freeman Clarke, "whose friendship," he says, "was to me a gift of the gods.... With what eagerness did she seek for knowledge! What fire, what exuberance, what reach, grasp, overflow of thought, shone in her conversation!... And what she thus was to me, she was to many others. Inexhaustible in power of insight, and with a good will 'broad as ether,' she could enter into the needs, and sympathize with the various excellences, of the greatest variety of characters. One thing only she demanded of all her friends, that they should not be satisfied with the common routine of life,--that they should aspire to something higher, better, holier, than had now attained."

Witty, learned, imaginative, she was conceded to be the best conversationist in any circle. She possessed the charm that every woman may possess,--appreciation of others, and interest in their welfare. This sympathy unlocked every heart to her. She was made the confidante of thousands. All classes loved her. Now it was a serving girl who told Margaret her troubles and her cares; now it was a distinguished man of letters. She was always an inspiration. Men never talked idle, commonplace talk with her; she could appreciate the best of their minds and hearts, and they gave it. She was fond of social life, and no party seemed complete without her.

At twenty-two she began to study German, and in three months was reading with ease Goethe's Faust, Tasso and Iphigenia, Koerner, Richter, and Schiller. She greatly admired Goethe, desiring, like him, "always to have some engrossing object of pursuit." Besides all this study she was teaching six little children, to help bear the expenses of the household.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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