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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Margaret Fuller Ossoli

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The family at this time moved to Groton, a great privation for Margaret, who enjoyed and needed the culture of Boston society. But she says, "As, sad or merry, I must always be learning, I laid down a course of study at the beginning of the winter." This consisted of the history and geography of modern Europe, and of America, architecture, and the works of Alfieri, Goethe, and Schiller. The teaching was continued because her brothers must be sent to Harvard College, and this required money; not the first nor the last time that sisters have worked to give brothers an education superior to their own.

At last the constitution, never robust, broke down, and for nine days Margaret lay hovering between this world and the next. The tender mother called her "dear lamb," and watched her constantly, while the stern father, who never praised his children, lest it might harm them, said, "My dear, I have been thinking of you in the night, and I cannot remember that you have any faults. You have defects, of course, as all mortals have, but I do not know that you have a single fault."

"While Margaret recovered, the father was taken suddenly with cholera, and died after a two days' illness. He was sadly missed, for at heart he was devoted to his family. When the estate was settled, there was little left for each; so for Margaret life would be more laborious than ever. She had expected to visit Europe with Harriet Martineau, who was just returning home from a visit to this country, but the father's death crushed this long-cherished and ardently-prayed-for journey. She must stay at home and work for others.

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Books were read now more eagerly than ever,--Sartor Resartus, Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Heine. But money must be earned. Ah! if genius could only develop in ease and prosperity. It rarely has the chance. The tree grows best when the dirt is oftenest stirred about the roots; perhaps the best in us comes only from such stirring.

Margaret now obtained a situation as teacher of French and Latin in Bronson Alcott's school. Here she was appreciated by both master and pupils. Mr. Alcott said, "I think her the most brilliant talker of the day. She has a quick and comprehensive wit, a firm command of her thoughts, and a speech to win the ear of the most cultivated." She taught advanced classes in German and Italian, besides having several private pupils.

Before this time she had become a valued friend of the Emerson family. Mr. Emerson says, "Sometimes 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.... The day was never long enough to exhaust her opulent memory, and I, who knew her intimately for ten years, never saw her without surprise at her new powers."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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