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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Margaret Fuller Ossoli

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She was passionately fond of music and of art, saying, "I have been very happy with four hundred and seventy designs of Raphael in my possession for a week." She loved nature like a friend, paying homage to rocks and woods and flowers. She said, "I hate not to be beautiful when all around is so."

After teaching with Mr. Alcott, she became the principal teacher in a school at Providence, R.I. Here, as ever, she showed great wisdom both with children and adults. The little folks in the house were allowed to look at the gifts of many friends in her room, on condition that they would not touch them. One day a young visitor came, and insisted on taking down a microscope, and broke it. The child who belonged in the house was well-nigh heart-broken over the affair, and, though protesting her innocence, was suspected both of the deed and of falsehood. Miss Fuller took the weeping child upon her knee, saying, "Now, my dear little girl, tell me all about it; only remember that you must be careful, for I shall believe every word you say." Investigation showed that the child thus confided in told the whole truth.

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After two years in Providence she returned to Boston, and in 1839 began a series of parlor lectures, or "conversations," as they were called. This seemed a strange thing for a woman, when public speaking by her sex was almost unknown. These talks were given weekly, from eleven o'clock till one, to twenty-five or thirty of the most cultivated women of the city. Now the subject of discussion was Grecian mythology; now it was fine arts, education, or the relations of woman to the family, the church, society, and literature. These meetings were continued through five winters, supplemented by evening "conversations," attended by both men and women. In these gatherings Margaret was at her best,--brilliant, eloquent, charming.

During this time a few gifted men, Emerson, Channing, and others, decided to start a literary and philosophical magazine called the Dial. Probably no woman in the country would have been chosen as the editor, save Margaret Fuller. She accepted the position, and for four years managed the journal ably, writing for it some valuable essays. Some of these were published later in her book on Literature and Art. Her Woman in the Nineteenth Century, a learned and vigorous essay on woman's place in the world, first appeared in part in the Dial. Of this work, she said, in closing it, "After taking a long walk, early one most exhilarating morning, I sat down to work, and did not give it the last stroke till near nine in the evening. Then I felt a delightful glow, as if I had put a good deal of my true life in it, and as if, should I go away now, the measure of my footprint would be left on the earth."

Miss Fuller had published, besides these works, two books of translations from the German, and a sketch of travel called Summer on the Lakes. Her experience was like that of most authors who are beginning,--some fame, but no money realized. All this time she was frail in health, overworked, struggling against odds to make a living for herself and those she loved. But there were some compensations in this life of toil. One person wrote her, "What I am I owe in large measure to the stimulus you imparted. You roused my heart with high hopes; you raised my aims from paltry and vain pursuits to those which lasted and fed the soul; you inspired me with a great ambition, and made me see the worth and the meaning of life."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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