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Margaret Fuller's First Depiction of Indians and the Limits on Social Protest: An Exercise in Women's Studies Pedagogy.

By July 1842 Margaret Fuller had handed over editorship of the Transcendental Club's journal, the Dial, to her successor Ralph Waldo Emerson. Earlier that year, the two had arranged for Fuller to review two collections of folk ballads, both published in Germany but readily available in the United States. [1] In early June, Fuller promised Emerson "50 or 60" pages in time for publication in the October issue (Emerson, Letters 62). The two books to be reviewed were Rheinsagen aus dem Munde des Volks und deutscher Dichter. Fur Schule, Haus und Wandershaft (1837) [Traditions of the Rhine from the Mouths of the People and German Poets. For School, Home, and Travelling], which Fuller translated simply as "Traditions of the Rhine from the mouths of the people and German poets. By Karl Simrock"; and Neugriechische Volkslieder, gesammelt und herausgegeben von C. Fauriel (1825), which Fuller translated as "Modern Greek popular Songs, collected and published by C. Fauriel" (Fuller, "Romaic" 137, 153). This second volume, s he made clear, had been translated by Wilhelm Muller into German from its original French and was "furnished both with the French editor's explanations and ... [with Muller's] own" (Fuller, "Romaic" 153-54). [2]

The lengthy review essay (forty-three pages in print) appeared under the title "Romaic and Rhine Ballads." Although "Romaic and Rhine Ballads" has received scant notice from Fuller scholars, it nonetheless merits further attention. To begin with, it contributes to the view that Fuller was the preeminent and perhaps the best read Germanist of her generation. The elegance and accuracy of her translations illustrate her ease and fluency in the language (remarkable, at least in part, because Fuller had never visited Germany nor had access to formal training in German language or letters). [3] Even more important, however, is the fact that "Romaic and Rhine Ballads" represents Fuller's first published attempt to respond to what was happening to the Indian. [4] In this review, ostensibly focused on German and modern Greek folk ballads, Fuller inscribed a subtext about "our aborigines" (179).

Not surprisingly, that subtext raises the same questions that most scholars routinely raise about Fuller's first published book, Summer on the Lakes, in 1843 (1844). For example, Lucy Maddox finds in Summer on the Lakes unambiguous evidence that, despite Fuller's expressed sympathy for the Indians, she nonetheless never challenged the view that "in the future they face only 'speedy extinction'" (144). Similarly, in her own thoughtful discussion of Summer on the Lakes, Christina Zwarg regrets that Fuller's "witness to the crisis of the Native Americans sometimes caused her to endorse the discourse of the vanishing American which, historians remind us, became a deadly excuse for the aggressive expansion of European culture" (109). In effect, like many others, both Maddox and Zwarg thus chastise Fuller because, in Zwarg's words, she "found it... difficult to refute the fatal construction of the Native American" (109).

What compels attention in "Romaic and Rhine Ballads" is that it raises these questions a full year before Fuller embarked on her tour of the frontier settlements that dotted the prairies of Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory and a full year before she encountered the Indians of Mackinaw Island, whom she sympathetically depicted in the closing chapters of Summer on the Lakes as a people unwillingly torn from their traditional lands and lifeways. Precisely because the 1842 review essay--written before Fuller had had any real firsthand experience of Native Peoples [5]-so perfectly predicts the language and equivocations that trouble readers of Summer on the Lakes, it affronts us with the conundrum that we encounter often with Fuller: what can today's readers reasonably expect, even from a woman described by her contemporaries as "striking" in her "clear, sharp understanding" (Clarke 113-14)? Or, to put the matter more pointedly, was it even possible for Fuller to move beyond deep sympathy for the plight of the Indian to a thoroughgoing rejection of her era's "fatal construction" and the official removal policies that such a construction enabled?

These are not idle questions. In introductory women's studies courses especially, young women undergraduates look to the past for unblemished heroines and faultless role models. Given Fuller's extraordinary intellect and a demonstrated capacity in her life and writings for piercing the conventions and accepted wisdom of her day, students demand always the "perfect perspective" that her friend James Freeman Clarke attributed to Fuller in his memoir of her (114). But as teachers, the best we can offer are complicated realities. The realities surrounding the composition of "Romaic and Rhine Ballads" are complicated, indeed. Not only was Fuller hemmed in by the available discourses of her day, but-while she wrote-she was also literally hemmed in by domestic turmoil in the Emerson household. As a result, this early review essay serves as a useful object lesson about the complicated contexts-both historical and personal-that enmesh any serious act of writing, and it provides telling evidence of the sometimes subtle ways in which the

personal invades the political.


The first book discussed in "Romaic and Rhine Ballads" is Karl Simrock's collection, "Traditions of the Rhine." Fuller offers both a summary and an appraisal, drawing comparisons between plot elements in the German ballads and analogous elements in Greek epics and in the works of the contemporary Italian poet and novelist, Allessandro Manzoni (146). She offers historical information about the ballads and discusses their significance in the German-speaking regions of Europe. As she reverently retells some of the stories elaborated in these ballads, she repeatedly praises their "simplicity and depth" (141). In closing this segment of her review, Fuller approvingly avers that German ballads "express a nation" whose "romance grew from the heart, not the head" (153).

Still, Fuller makes clear at the outset that, although "Traditions of the Rhine" appears "first in order," it is not "first in favor" (137). Her preference, clearly, is for the second collection, "Modern Greek popular Songs," to which she devotes the rest and, indeed, the largest part of her review. [6] A varied collection, comprising everything from traditional wedding songs to heroic ballads, the "songs" here are translated from the "modern" folk vernacular--as opposed to classical Greek. This book, she says, is "of an entirely different character" from the first (153). At this point, her review too takes on an entirely different character, everywhere hinting at analogies that she waits to make explicit. What intrigues Fuller in the second collection are the songs and stories that their German translator, Muller, labels as "historical" (156). These celebrate as heroic freedom fighters the "Klepht," Greek renegades who fled to the mountains to wage guerilla resistance against the invading and occupying Turks . Although Greek resistance to the conquering Ottoman Empire had been ongoing since the second half of the fifteenth century, most of the Klepht ballads that attracted Fuller refer to exploits from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the period that culminated in the successful 1821-32 war for independence and the constitutional monarchy that was still in place in 1842.

Pointedly employing familiar images from the already over-inscribed figure of the romanticized noble savage, Fuller tells her readers that the characteristics that mark the Klepht include "the flashing eye, the body hardened to pain and famine, the light hold on life, the eagle gaze at death, [and] ... the wild chamois gesture of man, who seeks...simply to be free" (154). She even adjusts her translation to ensure that the resemblance would be inescapable. Where the German text describes one famous Klepht captain leaping over wagons laden with Getreide, which properly refers to grain or feed for livestock, Fuller pictures the hero leaping over "wagons laden high with corn," a decidedly American allusion (177; emphasis added). [7] Moreover, if the German ballads were best symbolized by the grape, whose wine delivers a keen but familiarly "civilized... pleasure," according to Fuller "the whortleberry, not the grape, is the fruit that expresses what these [Greek] ballads are" (154). The terms of the contrast are clear: The whortleberry (European variant of the American blueberry) is uncultivated, growing wild and in abundance, convenient sustenance for those who are nomadic or without formal agriculture. With this kind of loaded language, Fuller prepared her readers to divine for themselves the parallel stories at which she was hinting.

First, however, she had to establish the historical context for the "numerous and expressive...Klepht or Robber Songs" about "the exploits of those in combat with the soldiers of the Pachas and Beys" (156). Selectively extracting (her term) and translating "from Muller's introduction" (154), Fuller offers the following:

Klepht originally meant Robber; but since it has been applied to the heroes of the Greek mountains, the word has gained a new and noble meaning.

In part they were from the native Greek militia, Armatoli, who, on occasions of extraordinary aggression or treachery from the Turk, would fly to the mountains, and there make a stand against his power....

A different occasion called out the Armatoli of Thessaly. When the conquering Turk broke in here the dwellers of the fruitful plain bent to the yoke without resistance. But the shepherds of Olympus, of Pelion, of the Thessalian ridges connected with Pindus, and the heights which now bear the name of Agrapha, refused to yield. With arms in hand, they often rushed down from their natural fortresses on the cultivated plains and rich cities, and plundered the conquerors, and also, sometimes, those to whose cowardice they thought the national shame and sorrow were due. Thus they received the name of Klepht, given at first by their foes as a term of abuse, but which they willingly adopted and used with pride, to distinguish themselves from the peaceful Rajas of the plain, the slaves of the Turk. Thus in these ballads it is obvious that they use this name as a title of honor. (156-57)

While these paragraphs are certainly explanatory, they also introduce at least some language and situations that would have been familiar to Fuller's readers from popular Indian captivity narratives or newspaper accounts of the Indian wars. "Native" warriors retreating "to the mountains" or to other difficult terrains in order to "make a stand against" invading whites was standard news fare. Indeed, on May 11, 1842, just four months before Fuller began writing her review, the Boston Courier reported how one Seminole war chief had eluded "hot pursuit" by luring an American light infantry brigade into the Florida swamps and then "retreated three different times, ... from hammock to hammock" ("The Florida War Ended Again!"). [8] And, warriors "with arms in hand" rushing down upon frontier settlements or army outposts, plundering and resisting white incursions into their traditional lands, were stock figures in popular literature by the 1830s (see Kolodny).

However overdetermined her translation and however suggestive the passages she chose to extract, Fuller still was not yet ready to give the game away. Instead, she appealed to her readers' sympathies by constructing the Klepht cause as a "war" admirable "for the traits of individual heroism that signalized it, and the indomitable love of freedom that made it glorious" (154). She then cemented those sympathies by translating a passage from Muller. a passage she says "which exhibits one of the most interesting features of national character": "The Greek clings with a love so tender to the land of his birth, that he, despite all dangers and ill treatment to which he is there exposed from his barbarous rulers, can find nowhere else a heaven on earth, and regards each foreign land as a place of exile and sorrow" (155). The emphasis, of course, is on the patriotic affinity that the Greek feels for his homeland, a love for "the land of his birth" that both justifies and valorizes an otherwise apparently futile Kleph t resistance to "barbarous rulers." Composing her review in the summer of 1842, at the termination of the Second Seminole War--with the remaining Seminole now being forcibly removed from the Territory of Florida to Indian Territory in Oklahoma and with the Cherokee Trail of Tears still a bitter national memory--Fuller could be reasonably certain that readers of the Dial would see parallels. As that liberal readership well understood, Indians were also experiencing "exile and sorrow" when removed to a "foreign land."

Given the politics and romantic idealism of the Dial circle, the government's Indian policies were neither ignored nor uncontested. Even Emerson, a man both temperamentally and philosophically uncomfortable with overt political activism, had been importuned by his Concord neighbors to write a letter to President Martin Van Buren, in April 1838, to "protest against the removal of the Cherokee Indians from the State of Georgia" (qtd. in Alexander 127). Now, as Fuller hurried to complete her review while a houseguest of the Emersons, President John Tyler was taking credit for ending the very expensive and largely unpopular Second Seminole War being waged in the Florida swamps (Mahon 310). [9]

The parallels were unmistakable. If, in Fuller's translation from Muller, "The Turks were soon weary of living in perpetual war with these Klephts, a war in which ... complete victory would have added nothing of value to their possessions" ("Romaic" 157), so too had the entire nation wearied of fighting the remaining Seminole in Florida. The naval flotilla that pursued the Indians through the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp had proven costly both in casualties and in dollars. Little of value was to be gained from further hostilities. As President Tyler had announced in May, "The further pursuit of these miserable beings by a large military force seems to be as injudicious as it is unavailing" (Tyler).

In Fuller's translation, where she states that the Turks "offered them peace on such conditions as most of the Klepht were willing to accept" ("Romaic" 157), she reminded readers of the treaty terms in Florida, where the majority of Seminole had finally (if reluctantly) agreed to removal to Oklahoma. When she noted that "[s]ome of the inhabitants of the wildest and least accessible heights refused even this, and have maintained absolute freedom to this time" ("Romaic" 157), Fuller simultaneously brought to mind those whom President Tyler called "the few Indians yet remaining" in the most inaccessible reaches of the swamps and Everglades (Tyler; see also Mahon 317).

Removal was not the sole issue in the national debate over Indian policy, however. To be sure, in his letter to Van Buren about impending Cherokee removal, Emerson had painted a bleak picture of the United States government "contracting to put this active [Cherokee] nation into carts and boats,.., to drag them over mountains and rivers to a wilderness at a vast distance beyond the Mississippi" ("Cherokee Letter" 102). What troubled Emerson as much as the removal was the revelation of a great flaw "in the moral character of the government" ("Cherokee Letter" 104). While a minority of Cherokee chiefs--under great pressure--had reluctantly consented to emigration, the vast majority of Cherokee rejected the treaty signed at New Echota and resisted removal from Georgia, even suing in federal court to retain their rights and lands. In enforcing the questionable New Echota treaty, and thereby abrogating all prior agreements with the Cherokee, the U.S. government appeared to be repeating an ongoing pattern of duplici ty in its treaty relations with Native Peoples. Once again, the government appeared bent on "an act of fraud and robbery," claimed Emerson ("Cherokee Letter" 104) [10]

Fuller knew all this, of course." In her review, she played on the notoriety of Emerson's letter and on the recent, widely circulated news story that congressmen sympathetic to the Cherokee were once again raising questions "in regard to alleged frauds on the Cherokee Indians" ("Correspondence of the Courier"). Leaving off her translation of Muller, in her own words she reports that, having once made agreements with the Klepht, "soon the Turks found that too much had been granted, and a course began of treachery and indirect tyranny" ("Romaic" 157). This "rous[ed] the resistance of those who had submitted," she continues, and explains why previously pacified Greeks "would fly again to the mountains, and... be turned into Klepht in a day" ("Romaic" 157). In short, Fuller was using Turkish "treachery" to point to American governmental duplicity and, with that, justifying the Indians in their Klepht-like "romantic and ceaseless warfare" ("Romaic" 157).

At this point, with the sympathies of her Dial audience assured and her analogy played out to its completion, Fuller made explicit what she hoped her readers had all along understood: "The Klepht, on his guard all the time against his treacherous and powerful foe, with no friends, but his sword, his mountains, and his courage, was trained to utmost hardihood, agility, presence of mind, and brilliant invention. In self-reliance and power of endurance he was like our Indians. The spirit in which he looks on life and nature is the same" ("Romaic" 157). The reader alert to Fuller's rhetorical strategies will note not only the completion of her analogy but also the equivocal language in which it is hedged. Backing away from any full identification between Indians and Greek freedom fighters, Fuller opts for a simile- "like our Indians" (emphasis added)- and restricts the very terms of similarity. The two groups are like "in self-reliance and power of endurance" and in a certain spirit. Her analogy, in effect, has i ts limits.

The next twenty pages of "Romaic and Rhine Ballads" contain further translations both from Muller and from the ballads themselves, all the while continuing the kind of loaded language that will sustain the analogy in her readers' minds. In translating a ballad in which the outnumbered Klepht fight heroically against "a thousand and five hundred" Turkish soldiers, for example, Fuller tells us that when the battle was over, among the Klepht "but three braves were absent." Then, in case the reader missed the word, she glosses the poem with the comment that the Klepht "use, like our Indians, the word brave, braves, as the highest title for a man" ("Romaic" 160). Finally, in her closing paragraphs, Fuller again explicitly returns to her theme that "in so many... respects, they [the Klepht] represent our Indians" ("Romaic" 179).

Her response to that representation is not political but aesthetic: "Whatever we can obtain from our aborigines has the same beauty with these ballads" ("Romaic" 179). In other words, Fuller wants Indian song and lore to be preserved in the same manner that the Klepht ballads have been preserved: "Had we but as complete a collection as this! Some German should visit this country, and aid with his power of selection, and critical discernment, the sympathy, enthusiasm, and energy of [George] Catlin" ("Romaic" 179). Contradicting her own analogy by dropping any allusion to Indian resistance, here Fuller reduces all her concern to the urgent need to appropriate "whatever we can obtain from our aborigines"--before it is gone forever. For today's reader, the statement is chilling in its simultaneous acknowledgment of Native American narrative traditions and its tacit acquiescence to the notion that the Indians would not survive long enough--or survive culturally--to "complete a collection" on their own.


The ardent and idealistic undergraduate who comes to "Romaic and Rhine Ballads" through women's studies is deeply disappointed. Repeatedly, the essay had appeared poised to become a thoroughgoing piece of social protest, offering a trenchant critique of anti-Indian racism and a forceful condemnation of the nation's vicious Indian policies. Yet Fuller had chosen otherwise. Our students demand to know why. As I shall demonstrate, the reasons were many, deriving from both the political and personal contexts in which she labored.

To begin with, in the first issue of the Dial, Fuller had laid out her view of the critic's role. In "A Short Essay on Critics," published just two years before she began writing "Romaic and Rhine Ballads," Fuller made clear that her ideal critic avoided "sectarian prejudices, or an undue vehemence in favor of petty plans or temporary objects" [10-11] The critics of art and literature who (under her editorship) would appear in the pages of the Dial, in other words, might entice readers to "catch the contagion of their mental activity," but they were never to "direct us how to regulate our own" ("A Short Essay" 10). Guided by these strictures of her own devising, Fuller was then in no position, just two years later, to convert the critic's role into one of vehement advocacy. [12]

Even if Fuller had been disposed to break free from her own construction of the critic's role in order to follow through on the logic of her central analogy, the available discourses of her era conspired against her. As Maddox and others have made abundantly clear, "the almost universally shared assumption" during Fuller's lifetime was "that there were only two options for the Indians: to become civilized, or to become extinct" [24]. An essay published in the North American Review in 1838 put the matter succinctly: "The moment the new world was discovered, the doom of the savage races who inhabited it was sealed; they must either conform to the institutions of the Europeans, or disappear from the face of the earth" (qtd. in Maddox 26). Unfortunately, the predominant opinion leaned toward disappearance. For Americans eager to obtain coveted Indian lands, the discourse of the inevitably vanishing Indian provided guilt-free cover for what the August 12, 1842, Boston Courier euphemistically termed "reliev[ing] th e settlers from the presence of these troublesome neighbors" ("The Dakotah Treaties"). Individuals genuinely sympathetic to the Indians did not offer any alternative discourse, however. Not even the "sympathy, enthusiasm, and energy of Catlin" offered Fuller that.

In an era when popular magazines published "more and more sentimental eulogies for the vanishing Indian" (Maddox 31), George Catlin's "Indian Gallery" provided at least an attempt at a corrective. Having lived and traveled among the Plains Indians between 1832 and 1836, Catlin produced hundreds of watercolor portraits of Indians, scenes of Indian life, and landscape sketches. He had also collected clothing, pipes, weapons, medicine bundles, baskets, and even "a full-size Crow tepee" (Halpin xi). In 1837 he began to organize both his paintings and his collection into a comprehensive gallery of the vitality and vibrancy of the great contemporary horse cultures of the northern and southern Plains. He opened "Catlin's Indian Gallery" first in New York City on Apr11 25, 1837, and in his advertisements, he promised to be "present at all of his exhibitions, giving illustrations and explanations in the form of a Lecture" (qtd. in Halpin xii). Between 1837 and 1839, Catlin took his enormously successful exhibition to Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston. Fuller's high praise for Catlin makes clear that she saw the exhibit when it visited Boston.

In that event, Fuller may also have heard Catlin opine that "Art may mourn when these people are swept from their earth" (qtd. in Halpin vii). In other words, Catlin himself--despite his admiration for peoples he had visited at the height of their post-contact power--nonetheless accepted the reigning discourse of the vanishing Indian. "The artists of future ages," he wrote, "may look in vain for another race so picturesque in their costumes, their weapons, their colours, their manly games, and their chase" (qtd. in Halpin vii). As would Fuller in 1842, Catlin embedded his dismay at what was happening to the Indian in an aesthetic response. For him, the Indian was already an artifact, "picturesque" but inevitably doomed.

Whatever Fuller may have heard him say in Boston in the late 1830s, by 1841 Catlin's views were in print and explicit. Based on extensive notes taken during his years west of the Mississippi, in 1841 Catlin published his two-volume compendium entitled Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians. There, in the opening pages of the first volume, Catlin made clear how he understood his unusual undertaking. His paintings, together with these volumes, comprised "a literal and graphic delineation... of an interesting race of people, who are rapidly passing away from the face of the earth" (3). His role, as he saw it, was one of "lending a hand to a dying nation, who have no historians or biographers of their own to pourtray with fidelity their native looks and history" (3). Given her enthusiasm for Catlin, it is inconceivable that Fuller would not have devoured his volumes soon after their appearance--the more so because Catlin's self-described role of "snatching from a h asty oblivion what could be saved for the benefit of posterity" was precisely what Fuller hoped to encourage (Catlin 3). The only difference was that, where Catlin preserved pictures of ritual and material culture, Fuller hoped to preserve the ballad, or what we now term oral narrative traditions. The purpose of their preservation endeavors, however, was identical. The materials they were bent on saving, in Catlin's words, were to be "perpetuat[ed] ... as a fair and just monument, to the memory of a truly lofty and noble race" (3).

The tone of Fuller's review-essay is similarly retrospective. "In this bustling, ambitious, superficial country,... where all the thought is for the future," she explained at the outset, it is essential sometimes to "gaz[e] up with reverence to the ivied ruin and ... the ancient shrine" ("Romaic" 138). The two books of ballad collections appealed because they sang "the songs ... of genius now past" ("Romaic" 138). The collection of Klepht ballads thus stood as a just monument to "the atmosphere which a high civilization, though mostly forgotten, does not fail to leave behind" ("Romaic" 138).

Into this reverence for the past, Fuller attempted to enfold the American Indian, certain that the Indian too might otherwise be "mostly forgotten" and certain that the oral tradition of "our aborigines has the same beauty with these ballads" ("Romaic" 179). Fuller assumed, in short, that--like the Klepht ballads--Indian narratives would prove "entirely destitute of...symbolical character," offering instead "a plain transcript of realities.... They please by their scenery and exhibition of character" ("Romaic" 180).

In this, Fuller again parroted the erroneous assumptions of her era. As Maddox points out, white observers consistently asserted the incapacity of Indian languages to handle complexity or to express symbolic systems. Rarely trained in any of the Native American languages, Indian agents nonetheless routinely reported that "the most complex intellectual maneuver any Indian ... could manage was the construction of a simple metaphor, or occasionally an analogy; the Indian could not speculate about things that have no visible form, nor comprehend notional ideas" (Maddox 24). Still, it was precisely this gross misunderstanding of Indian languages that helped cement for Fuller her association of Indian oral traditions with the features of Klepht ballads. A competing romantic discourse provided the link.

The tenets of American romanticism, after all, centered on a call for greater personal freedom for all individuals. Romantic aesthetics celebrated the simple life, often fixating on primitivism, exoticism, and the power of unadorned (i.e., uncontrived) narrative. Thus, to her credit--even if for all the wrong reasons--Fuller wanted Indian traditions preserved in "as complete a collection as this!" For Fuller, "a plain transcript of realities" was aesthetically pleasing because it "happen[s] to be of the class called Romantic" ("Romaic" 180). Indian narratives, she suspected, were, like the Klepht ballads, examples of what she considered Romantic art.

Here, and here alone, she differed from her contemporaries. Because most white Americans accepted the view that Indian languages were limited and crude, few thought there was anything of value to be saved from Native songs or stories. As Maddox reminds us by way of example, the Indian agent Jedediah Morse, writing a report of his experiences for the secretary of war, concluded that there was no reason to try to preserve any Indian languages, except as specimens and curiosities. 'As fast as possible,' Morse wrote in 1822, 'let Indians forget their own languages, in which nothing is written, and nothing of course can be preserved' (24). At the same time that Morse's views were being translated into official government policy, Fuller's view that the Indian languages might have created Romantic art stood out as anomalous, indeed.

That anomaly notwithstanding, Fuller still accepted, without question, the pervasive discourse of the vanishing Indian; and because that discourse was so pervasive, it made it impossible for her to think through the logical implications of her review essay's central analogy. To put it bluntly, that logic was (and for many Americans still is) unthinkable. For, at the heart of Fuller's assertion that the Klepht are "like our Indians" sits the tacit charge that the Americans must then be like the invading Turks, treacherous interlopers into a land not their own. [13]

What "saved" Fuller from confronting this dreadful logic was the slipperiness of her governing grammatical construction. The Klepht are "like our Indians," and the two are "the same" only in spirit (emphasis added). That simile, of course, derived from the racism inherent in the discourse of the vanishing Indian. Despite their status as renegades and robbers, in every respect--racially, culturally, linguistically--the Klepht were Greek, products of "a high civilization" ("Romaic" 179). Not even the harsh conditions under which they fought, averred Fuller, could induce them to "become savage and cruel" ("Romaic" 178). The Turks, by contrast, were portrayed as barbaric in these ballads, inflicting tortures and exercising villainous tyranny. Like most Euro-Americans then and now, Fuller was simply incapable of depositing Indians and Americans respectively into those personae. For her, the Indian was irretrievably "other," the scion of a lofty and noble race, perhaps, but never the exemplar of "a high civilizatio n." [14] "[A] high civilization," of course, is what Fuller was determined her country might yet become. Throughout her career, she was never blind to the mean utilitarianism and crass practicality of Americans. She loathed "find[ing] the word 'property' in every line" ("Present State" 2-3). If, in her own day, she saw Americans' "thoughts .... fly about in bank bills or expand into corporation charters," nonetheless she steadfastly held firm to the belief that, one day, they would "put on more graceful and soaring pinions" ("Present State" 3). However flawed, the United States remained for her (as she put it in Woman in the Nineteenth Century just three years later) a nation "surely destined to elucidate a great moral law" (15). In short, had Fuller dared explore the dreadful logic of her review essay's central analogy, the sustaining categories of her intellectual world would collapse.


To this point, my arguments have been largely unexceptional. Many critics before me have pointed to the pervasive cultural and political contexts that circumscribed Fuller's complicated responses to Native Peoples--although, as I pointed out earlier, most of those studies address Summer on the Lakes and never "Romaic and Rhine Ballads." Now, however, I want to shift to the immediate personal context. There, too, the sustaining categories of Fuller's mental world were at risk.

"Romaic and Rhine Ballads" was begun and completed during a five-week residence at the Emerson home in Concord, Massachusetts. From there, she wrote to a friend, "Beneath this roof of peace, beneficence, and intellectual activity, I find just the alternation of repose and satisfying pleasure that I need" (Letters 3: 90-91). But only two days later, on August 27, 1842, she hinted at a very different reality in her private journal. Noting that her younger brother, Richard, had recently also visited the Emerson household, Fuller confided that "his common sense, and homely affection are grateful after these fine people with whom I live at swords points (though for the present turned downwards)" (qtd. in Myerson 327). Although she had not anticipated it, Fuller found the Emerson home wracked by tense and powerful emotional undercurrents.

At Emerson's invitation--and at her own request--Fuller had set out to "really live in your house a month" and arrived late in the evening on August 17, 1842 (Letters 3: 83). [15] There is no mention of Emerson's wife, Lidian, in the journal entry for that evening, only the notation of a "pleasant" late "walk with Waldo" (as Emerson was known to his closest friends) "near the river [in] the misty moonlight" (qtd. in Myerson 322). [16] But on the second evening, Thursday, August 18, 1842, Fuller recorded that "Lidian came in to see me before dinner" (qtd. in Myerson 322). We know from Emerson's letters that, during this period, Lidian was "suffering from a swol[le]n face the sequel of the dentist's operations" (see Myerson n. 12, 322).

Lidian was suffering from much more than a recent tooth extraction, however. Her firstborn son, Waldo, had died of scarlet fever just seven months earlier at the age of five. Within a month of the child's death, Emerson left on an extended lecture tour. Now, throughout the spring and summer, despite Lidian's low-grade fever, the household was attempting to function as though nothing had happened. In addition to herself, Fuller's letters and journal--and Emerson's letters, too--record a parade of houseguests, dinner guests, and afternoon guests. Emerson's mother, "very feeble & needing rest," was a permanent resident, as were two household servants requiring supervision (Emerson, Letters 82). There were also two young daughters who needed attention, one aged nine months and the other three and a half years old. Through it all, as Fuller would later write to Emerson, Lidian displayed "unfailing and generous kindness" (Letters 3: 98).

Even so, Lidian was showing signs of strain. On August 11, her husband had felt compelled to offer a muted apology on her behalf in a letter to his brother, William, a recent houseguest. First, Emerson reported that "Lidian...thanks you...for remembering her darling who returns not to her house." Then Emerson added that his wife "to this day still fears & fears that you were uncomfortable when here from various misadventures in her household affairs" (Letters 79). Clearly, all was not going smoothly. Little wonder, then, that on the second evening of Fuller's visit, Lidian sought out a sympathetic soul with whom to unburden herself of pent-up grief. "She wept for the lost child," Fuller recorded in her journal, "and I was tempted to do the same, which relieved much from the oppression I have felt since I came" (qtd. in Myerson 322).

Unfortunately, perhaps because Fuller had not yet experienced motherhood, she deemed herself an imperfect recipient of Lidian's confidences. Still, she tried: "Though I can never meet Lidian on such subjects, I felt for her today and she liked to have me" (qtd. in Myerson 322-23). That said, it was Fuller--not Lidian--who went that day with Emerson "to walk to Walden pond, as usual, & staid till near sunset on the water's brink beneath the pines" (qtd. in Myerson 323). In her grieving, what Lidian most craved--but never enjoyed--was precisely this kind of intimate time with her husband.

To be fair, Emerson too suffered. In a letter to Elizabeth Palmer Peabody written the day after little Waldo's death, Emerson described a world from which, now, "all that is glad & festal & almost all that is social even, for me" has departed (qtd. in Myerson, n. 13, 322-23). He would later express those feelings in his poem "Threnody" (1847). In a subsequent letter to Carolyn Sturgis, however, Emerson admitted, "Alas! I chiefly grieve that I cannot grieve, that this fact [of Waldo's death] takes no more deep hold than other facts, is as dreamlike as they" (Letters 9). At the time of Fuller's visit, Emerson was busily gathering written memorials for the child. Emerson "showed me all he and others had written, about the child," Fuller noted in her journal--and then added tellingly, "[T]here is (scarcely anything) very little from [his] own observation, though he was with him so much" (qtd. in Myerson 323). It was the same quality of emotional reticence that now rendered Emerson incapable of consoling his wife- -or, indeed, of recognizing that she needed consolation. [17]

For her part, Fuller was learning to accept Emerson's emotional limitations and value "a cool mind, like his" (Letters 3: 91). As she explained in a letter that same August, Emerson "met men, not as a brother, but as a critic." Quoting Emerson, she continued, "He feels himself 'shut up in a crystal cell,' from which only 'a great love or a great task could release me,' and hardly expects either from what remains in this life" (Letters 3: 91). [18] Fuller was content to " [l]eave him in his cell affirming absolute truth," as long as she could still take advantage of his companionship and conversation (Letters 3: 91). "His influence on me has been that of lofty assurance and sweet serenity," she continued in the same letter. Summing up Emerson's importance to her in the letter's closing line, she wrote, "[he] makes me think" (Letters 3: 92). Fuller echoed the sentiments of her letter when she noted in her private journal that she and Emerson "have good meetings.... But my expectations are moderate now" (qtd. in Myerson 326). [19]

One of their "good meetings" occurred on September 1, when Fuller recorded in her journal a revelatory conversation "on Man and Woman, and Marriage" (qtd. in Myerson 330). Emerson, Fuller wrote, "took his usual ground. Love is only phenomenal, a contrivance of nature" (qtd. in Myerson 330). As Emerson viewed the matter, physical or emotional attraction -- or whatever was commonly understood as "love" -- was nature's "contrivance" to assure species continuity, but it was essentially unimportant. "The soul knows nothing of marriage, in the sense of a permanent union between two personal existences," Emerson told Fuller. Instead, he elaborated, "The soul is married to each new thought as it enters into it." For Emerson, "There is but one love, that for the Soul of all Souls" (qtd. in Myerson 330). Then, in perhaps the saddest revelation of what Emerson's philosophy cost him emotionally, he admitted, "still at last you find yourself lonely" (qtd. in Myerson 330).

Of course, none of this was any surprise to Fuller. They had had these conversations many times before, and "they always leave us both where they found us" (qtd. in Myerson 330). However often Fuller argued "that the permanent marriage cannot interfere with the soul's destiny," Emerson remained unmoved (Letters 3: 96). But on this particular afternoon's ramble, the conversation exposed the insoluble problem at the core of the Emerson marriage. Fuller recorded Emerson saying the following: "Ask any woman whether her aim in this union [i.e., marriage] is to further the genius of her husband; and she will say yes, but her conduct will always be to claim a devotion day by day that will be injurious to him, if he yields" (qtd. in Myerson 330-31). Whether he fully understood what he was disclosing is unclear. But with those words, Emerson described not only an inability but a chosen refusal of emotional responsiveness to Lidian.

The conversation proved prophetic. By now, Lidian was desperate to lay claim to some measure of her husband's "devotion." Fuller's journal entry for September 2 tells it all:

It is a most brilliant day, & I stole the morning from my writing to take Lidian and then Mamma to ride. [20] L. has had a slow fever which has confined her to her chamber almost ever since I came, & I have not been attentive to her as I should have been, if I had thought she cared about it. I did not go into her room at all for a day or two, simply because I was engaged all the time and kept expecting to see her down stairs. When I did go in, she burst into tears, at sight of me, but laid the blame on her nerves, having taken opium &c. [21] I felt embarrassed, & did not know whether I ought to stay or go. Presently she said something which made me suppose she thought [Emerson] passed the evenings in talking with me, & a painful feeling flashed across me, such as I have not had, all has seemed so perfectly understood between us. I said that I was with Ellery [Fuller's brother-in law, Ellery Channing] or H[enry]. T[horeau]. both of the eve gs & that [Emerson] was writing in the study. (qtd. in Myerson 331)

Although Fuller wrote in her journal that she "dismissed it all, as a mere sick moment of L's," she also made clear in that same entry that she fully understood what was going on (qtd. in Myerson 331).

However justly we may fault Fuller for her insensitivity (even rudeness) to Lidian, she nonetheless understood Lidian's outburst of jealousy as an expression of despair over her husband's coldness. Fuller had accurately taken the measure of her friend Emerson. "He lives in his own way," she explained in her journal, "& he don't soothe the illness, or morbid feelings of a friend, because he would not wish any one to do it for him" (qtd. in Myerson 331). "It is useless to expect it," she tried to conclude, but then went on: "what does it signify whether he is with me or at his writing. L. knows perfectly well, that he has no regard for me ... a minute longer than I could fill up the time with thoughts" (qtd. in Myerson 331). Obviously, Fuller had accepted Emerson's view that Lidian could not be an intellectual companion--as was Fuller. [22] But from the previous day's conversation on marriage, Fuller wholly appreciated that what Lidian did offer was precisely what her husband rejected: "His life is /in/ the int ellect not the affections" (qtd. in Myerson 331).

Still, Fuller could not conclude the journal entry with that observation, however accurate. What had occurred the previous day--the same day Fuller recorded Emerson's view on marriage--had proven too disturbing. In effect, at dinner on September 1, Lidian's sense of desolation overcame her. It was this signal event that had precipitated Fuller's ride with Lidian the morning of September 2, followed by Fuller's attempt in her journal to make sense of Lidian's earlier revelation of jealousy. Once again, Fuller's journal is worth quoting at length:

Yesterday she said to me, at dinner, I have not yet been out, will you be my guide for a little walk this afternoon. I said ["] I am engaged to walk with Mr. E. but ["]--(I was going to say, I will walk with you first,) when L. burst into tears. The family were all present, they looked at their plates. Waldo looked on the ground, but soft & serene as ever. I said "My dear Lidian, certainly I will go with you." "No!["] she said ["] I do not want you to make any sacrifice, but I do feel perfectly desolate and forlorn, and I thought if I once got out, the fresh air would do me good, and that with you, I should have courage, but go with Mr. E. I will not go[.]" (qtd. in Myerson 331)

The spacing in the journal manuscript leaves the closing words open to interpretation. Lidian may have been urging Fuller to proceed in her planned walk with Emerson ("but [you] go with Mr. E.") and, as was Lidian's usual habit, withdrawing her own demand to walk ("I will not go"). Or Lidian may have been venting her fury by refusing to walk with her husband ("with Mr. E. I will not go"). Either way, the underlying complaint is the same. Feverish, lonely, and still grieving, Lidian has been shut up in this busy household, without any attempt by her husband to soothe, console, or even walk out with her. When she finally expresses her anguish, her husband remains unresponsive, "look[ing] on the ground, but soft & serene as ever." Not even his wife's outburst elicits arousal. Only Fuller responds: "I hardly knew what to say, but I insisted on going with her, & then she insisted on going so that I might return in time for my other walk" (qtd. in Myerson 331).

Despite Fuller's sisterly insistence on walking with Lidian, she records without comment Lidian's solicitude that their walk together not intrude on Fuller's planned time with Emerson. Even more troubling than this omission is Fuller's record of Emerson's response and her assessment of that response: "Waldo said not a word: he retained his sweetness of look, but never offered to do the least thing. I can never admire him enough at such times; he is so true to himself" (qtd. in Myerson 331; emphasis added). To the modern reader, Emerson's refusal to try to comfort or even acknowledge his wife's pain is monstrous, an expression of unbridled egoism. But Fuller's attempt in her journal to rationalize the situation is even more unnerving.

Just one year later, in the July 1843 issue of the Dial, Fuller would publish her first manifesto on women's rights, "The Great Lawsuit: Man versus Men. Woman versus Women," the essay she then expanded into Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845). In both these texts, she anatomized the defects in the institution of marriage, including the subordination of women to an exclusively domestic sphere, and she argued for a mutuality that would encourage both partners' continual growth and spiritual development. It is not unreasonable to speculate that what she witnessed in the Emerson home on this particular visit strengthened Fuller's conviction, as she later phrased it in Woman, that marriage required partners who were "both capable of deep affection" and "both capable of large mental development" (141). Still, given Fuller's emerging feminism, and the fact that she always argued for both intellectual and affectional partnership in marriage, one might have expected a more immediately critical view of Emerson and t he Emerson marriage. There is, however, no feminist analysis in the journal of the inequity at the heart of this marriage. Fuller simply assumes Lidian's limited intellectual horizons and never calls upon the husband to share with his wife that mutual process of "self-culture" so lauded by the Transcendentalists. Nor does Fuller ever acknowledge that it is Lidian's (unrequited yet steadfast) affection for her husband that sustains her efforts to keep his home both a lively meetingplace for friends and houseguests and also a sanctuary where the husband's study remains inviolate. Never does Fuller focus on what Emerson might owe his wife in return for all her efforts on his behalf. Instead, the best she can manage is a sympathetic view of Lidian's impossible situation. "I think she will always have these pains, because she has always a lurking hope that Waldo's character will alter, and that he will be capable of an intimate union." But, as Fuller confided to her journal, "now I feel convinced that it will neve r be more perfect between them two . . . because he dont believe in any thing better" (qtd. in Myerson 331-32).

To some degree, Fuller empathized with Lidian's dilemma and tried to express that to Lidian when they were out together: "Yet in reply to all L. said, I would not but own that though I thought it was the only way, to take him for what he is, as he wishes to be taken, and though my experience of him has been, for that very reason, so precious to me, I dont know that I could have fortitude for it in a more intimate relation" (qtd. in Myerson 332). In effect, Fuller's moderated expectation of what a friendship with Emerson might embrace enables her to continue the friendship; but she harbors no illusion that she could accept the same limitations--as Lidian has been forced to do--in the "more intimate relation" of marriage. [23]


Throughout most of her Concord visit, Fuller struggled to complete "the article on ballads" (qtd. in Myerson 328). On August 18, the day after her arrival, she recorded that "Waldo brought me at once the inkhorn and pen" and that she "began at once to write for him" (qtd. in Myerson 322). But she also noted that her initial efforts did not meet "with much success, the subject has lost its charm" (qtd. in Myerson 322). It may not be inconsequential that, on the same day, Fuller detailed Lidian's first visit to her room and admitted that their shared grieving "for the lost child . . . relieved much from the oppression I have felt since I came." In calling attention to this coincidence, I do not mean to suggest that Fuller's sympathy for Lidian was responsible for lessening her interest in the ballads. But Lidian's visit certainly provided Fuller with a discomfiting clue as to what was really transpiring in the Emerson household.

The next day, August 19, Fuller recorded that "I kept at my writing almost all day, but with small success." Although the journal entry does not explore why she is struggling, it nonetheless provides some tantalizing hints: "I cannot get hold of my subject in a way to suit me. I shall not be able to do at all what I intended. The richness of material is a disadvantage. I am obliged to reject too much and this chills me" (qtd. in Myerson 324). On the one hand, these lines appear to reveal Fuller's frustration with having to make hard choices about which material to cut and which material to edit and quote. On the other hand, these lines also suggest that she found the two volumes of ballads so rich in potential subject matter that she was having difficulty finding a single or organizing focus. But she had been thinking about these ballads at least since spring (the review had first been promised in June, after all). And, given the fact that material for her central analogy had been appearing regularly in the n ewspapers for months, as news of the closing skirmishes in the Second Seminole War mounted, we may reasonably surmise that she already had some fix on what she was about and knew quite well what she "intended." The real difficulty, therefore, was in "get[ting] hold of my subject in a way to suit me."

Although Fuller never makes the connection herself, a reading of her 1842 journal against "Romaic and Rhine Ballads" strongly points to the conclusion that-at least in part-she struggled with the review essay in precisely the same way she struggled to find some satisfying emotional path through her growing awareness of the turbulence in the Emerson marriage. Potentially, both struggles challenged her ability to keep faith with her cherished relationships- one with her country, the other with her friend and mentor. Had she, in fact, translated and included in her review many more of the Klepht ballads (or even more of Muller's commentary), the analogy between the Klepht in their battle against the Turks and the Indians in their continuing resistance to Euro-America would have been overwhelming. And decidedly accusatory. The real "disadvantage" in "the richness of the material," in other words, was that it left no room for neutrality. The writer would have to take sides in the American conflict, just as she had in the Greek. Yet in her immediate environment, Fuller was steeling herself not to take sides. Despite her very real sympathy for Lidian's sense of being "desolate, and forlorn," to Fuller Emerson embodied pure intellect (what the Transcendentalists termed moral reason), a gateway to higher Truth. Despite all evidence to the contrary, "Nothing could be nobler," Fuller keeps insisting, "nor more consoling than to be his wife, if one's mind were only thoroughly made up to the truth" (qtd. in Myerson 322). Clearly, she could no more concede the monstrousness of Emerson's emotional coldness toward Lidian than she could the monstrousness of her nation's assault on Native Peoples. So, from "Modern Greek popular Songs" as from her daily observations, she felt obliged to edit, ignore, and reject what she could not handle. At some level-in each instance-she was aware of the duplicity of the psychological tricks she played. In her journal, albeit in muted form, she confessed, "I am obliged to reject too much and this chills me." [24]

Finally, on Sunday, August 28, a day of "heavy rain," Fuller reports that she felt "sad" and "spent the day in my room" (qtd. in Myerson 328). She also reports that "I finished yesterday, after a sort, the article on ballads." Whether it was the rain or the troubles in the Emerson home that precipitated her sadness, the completion of the article did not help. Fuller was not happy with the piece and called it only "a patchwork thing" (qtd. in Myerson 328). Evidence within the 1842 journal suggests that she may have continued working on revisions. On September 2, Fuller noted that "I stole the morning from my writing to take Lidian and then Mamma to ride" (qtd. in Myerson 331). If, in fact, Fuller was trying to revise the essay through the early days of September, then she made the attempt around the time that Lidian first exploded over dinner. Indeed, that happened on September 1, and Fuller's ride with Lidian on September 2 was part of her sympathetic response.

The point to be made here is that Fuller's rewrites coincided with surrounding emotional turmoil which rendered proper revision essentially impossible. In addition to weeding out stylistic infelicities, the purpose of revision is to focus more sharply, to clarify and hone an argument, and to make pointed and unambiguous what has been only imperfectly delineated. But within the Emerson household, Fuller was daily practicing strategies not of focus or clarification but of evasion. Although she repeatedly tells Emerson that she remains "unconvinced of your way of thinking" about marriage, she never directly confronts him regarding the emotional isolation he has thus inflicted on his wife (Letters 3: 96). And rather than encourage Lidian's attempt at rebellion, Fuller instead counsels her "to take him for what he is." As a result, even though Fuller's 1842 journal and many of her subsequent letters to Emerson are filled with summaries of their ongoing disagreements over the meaning of marriage, the whole remains abstract and divorced from hard realities--not unlike the final shape of her review essay.

Once it was published, Fuller was disappointed in readers' responses. In an October 16, 1842, letter to Emerson, she complained that "every one praises the few Rhine ballads, none the Romaic" (Letters 3: 97). Yet it was into her far longer discussion of the Greek (or "romaic") ballads that Fuller had invested her energy. One plausible explanation is that Fuller had so muffled the implications of her central analogy--by substituting a plea on behalf of the preservation of "art" for a plea on behalf of the preservation of a people--that her discussion of the Greek ballads could have no powerful impact. More plausible is the possibility that, even limited as it was, her controlling analogy was too disturbing. Not even the liberal readership of the Dial wanted to grapple with its informing logic. Because the Rhine ballads fit a familiar aesthetic and suggested no troubling analogies, they garnered all the praise. Still, Fuller knew which part of her essay was really important, so she rather plaintively asked Emer son, "If you could get me vouchers of interest for the Romaics, I should be encouraged to make a rosary of all the rest" (Letters 3: 97) [25]

Given the power and pervasiveness of the "vanishing Indian" discourses that surrounded her, it is uncertain whether--under any circumstances--Fuller could have converted "Romaic and Rhine Ballads" into a more radical critique of the nation's Indian policies. Her performance in Summer on the Lakes argues against it. [26] What is certain is that, by writing the review amid the domestic turmoil in the Emerson household, Fuller found radical critique altogether impossible. Together, pervasive cultural contexts and the evasions she practiced in the Emerson home eviscerated her political will. Because of that, she acquiesced to what she could only construe as inevitable: Lidian will suffer; the Indians will perish. But consider her alternatives: seeing the man who was, at that moment in her life, her most indispensable friend and mentor as an emotional monster; and condemning the country for which she entertained such high hopes as a latter-day incarnation of the "barbarous" Turk. Under such circumstances, "perfect perspective" is difficult to maintain.

None of this exhaustive exhumation of how "Romaic and Rhine Ballads" got composed will satisfy women's studies undergraduates, however. Nor should it. For these students, quite properly, the issues raised by Fuller's review essay are still palpable. At the University of Arizona, most of our students come from the desert southwest where the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) provides substandard healthcare on the reservations and where ancient peoples must still litigate in order to protect traditional land and water rights. Forced abductions to Indian boarding schools remain part of living memory, and grandparents recall how their (always Anglo) teachers in those schools were formally instructed by the BIA to instill in their young charges "repugnance for Indian life and habits." [27]

But then the purpose of this exercise has not been to exonerate or explain away, but simply to explain. It is the best exercise I know for helping students ask how they themselves, however unwittingly, daily enact the racisms and sexisms inherent in the institutions and cultural contexts that surround us all. As with Fuller, I remind students, too often we do not create the discourses we employ; they create us. Only when we are aware of these complicated realities can we begin to address and change them. Even so, no matter how hard we try, none of us--not even the brilliant and well-intentioned Fuller--will ever boast a truly "perfect perspective." Just a better one.


While researching her Ph.D. dissertation on German influences--and particularly the influence of Goethe--in the work of Margaret Fuller ("Margaret Fuller and the Politics of German Sensibility," Univ. of Arizona, 2000), Amanda Ritchie recognized that "Romaic and Rhine Ballads" carried a subtext about American Indians; to the best of my knowledge, she is the first Fuller scholar to note this subtext. Dr. Ritchie also examined Fuller's 1842 journal for information about the composition of the review. I am, therefore, indebted to Dr. Ritchie for bringing these materials to my attention and for her invaluable help in checking Fuller's translations from the German texts. All problems and errors in this essay, however, are wholly my own.

I was aided in additional research for this essay and in preparing it for publication by my research assistant, James Lilley. His help, too, was invaluable.

Finally, like all those who study Margaret Fuller, I am indebted to Joel Myerson for his important bibliographical scholarship and for his many personal kindnesses in responding to questions and e-mails.

(1.) In "Romaic and Rhine Ballads," Fuller says of one of these collections, "It should be read; considering that it has been published so many years" (179).

(2.) Muller's edition of Neugriechische Volkslieder is an en face edition, with the original Greek texts printed on the left and his German translations on the facing right page. Because Fuller may also have had some rudimentary reading knowledge of (mostly classical) Greek, it is conceivable that her translations referred to both the Greek and German texts.

(3.) In a December 1842 letter to Emerson, Fuller says that she learned German "by myself, unassisted, except as to the pronunciation." She added, "My not going abroad is an insuperable defect in the technical part of my education" (Letters 3: 103).

(4.) Fuller's poem "Governor Everett Receiving the Indian Chiefs, November 1837" may well have been written--or drafted--prior to "Romaic and Rhine Ballads," but this is uncertain. The poem was first published in her Summer on the Lakes, in 1843, which appeared in 1844. See Susan Gilmore's "Margaret Fuller 'Receiving' the 'Indians'" for an excellent discussion of the poem.

(5.) As Fuller revealed in an 1840 letter to Emerson, most of her knowledge of Indians came from books and stage plays. She herself had never "seen a fine specimen of the race," though she wanted to: "I should like very much to visit one of the tribes. I am sure I could face the dirt, and discomfort and melancholy to see somewhat of the stately gesture and concentrated mood" (Letters 2: 128).

(6.) Fuller's discussion of this collection takes up the closing twenty-five pages of the review, while "Traditions of the Rhine" occupies just under sixteen pages.

(7.) Compare p. 36 in Muller with p. 177 in Fuller's 1842 "Romaic and Rhine Ballads."

(8.) At the time Fuller was writing, "hammock" (or "hummock") used in this context referred to a hillock or knoll, or to any protuberance of land rising above the surrounding surface of earth, water, ice, or swamp.

(9.) The Seminole were one of what were then known as the Five Civilized Tribes, which also included the Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw. In the eighteenth century, they had separated from the Creek nation and, to escape encroaching white settlement, fled to Florida. There they absorbed remnants of the Apalachee tribe and runaway slaves. They first fought Andrew Jackson in 1817-18. Led by chief Osceola, they again battled United States forces in the Second Seminole War of 1835-42, after which most were removed to Oklahoma. In his thorough account of this Second Seminole War, John K. Mahon justly comments that "the national policy of Indian removal met its fiercest opposition from the Seminoles" (326). President John Tyler's proclamation ending "active hostilities in Florida" came on 10 May 1842 and was reprinted in full in the 16 May 1842 issue of the Boston Courier.

(10.) Emerson's letter alluded to but did not enumerate all the disturbing details of the Cherokee situation. In 1827, the Cherokee had established themselves in Georgia as the Cherokee Nation, with a constitution providing for an elected government. The Cherokee Nation had a written language, published its own newspapers and books, established schools, and practiced advanced agricultural techniques. Many Cherokee had adopted Euro-American cultural practices, including styles of clothing and food preparation. In 1829, the discovery of gold on Cherokee land prompted the State of Georgia to seek their removal. A minority of chiefs was virtually forced into signing a fraudulent treaty, ceding all Cherokee land in exchange for "five million dollars and a claim to new lands west of the Mississippi" (Alexander 129). This treaty was signed at New Echota, the Cherokee capital. When the majority of Cherokee chiefs sued to retain their Georgia lands, Supreme Court Justice John Marshall found for the Cherokee and agains t the state of Georgia in an 1831 decision. President Andrew Jackson, however, was determined to ignore Marshall's decision. When Van Buren succeeded to the presidency, he attempted to delay removal for two years. But the governor of Georgia rejected Van Buren's plan and, by December 4,1838, the last party of Cherokee began the trek that came to be known as the "trail of tears." Thousands of Cherokee died en route to Oklahoma.

(11.) Alexander reports that Emerson's letter was "sent to a Massachusetts congressman who then arranged for its publication" (132). The letter was widely reprinted and reported in newspapers nationwide.

(12.) For a perceptive discussion of "the ethical dilemma" inherent in this stance, see Ellison 256-60.

(13.) The modern version of this resistance to fully accepting the burden of history is the continuing resistance by Americans to settle land claims and water rights suits brought by various Indian nations.

(14.) In this regard, it is instructive to remember that Emerson's plea on behalf of the Cherokee was, in part, based on "the painful labors of these red men to redeem their own race from the doom of eternal inferiority, and to borrow and domesticate in the tribe the arts and customs of the Caucasian race" (qtd. in Alexander 133). In other words, Emerson wanted to save the Cherokee not because they were Indians defrauded of their rightful lands, but because they were Indians who had now become "white"--at least culturally-and turned their lands into recognizable "American" farms, plantations, and townships.

(15.) Emerson had initially invited Fuller to Concord to complete the essay review, promising to reserve for her "desk & inkhorn ... for the Romaic poetry" (Letters 75). When Fuller wrote to Emerson on August 10, 1842, to confirm her visit, her eagerness was apparent: "I should like to come to you next week, if you please." At his home, she was certain, she would be "fixed in [a] congenial situation" (Letters 3: 83).

(16.) Lydia Jackson was Emerson's second wife and was known to her friends as Lidian.

(17.) In an excellent discussion of Emerson's general incapacity for certain kinds of intimacy, Jeffrey Steele comments on Emerson's "view of friendship": Constructing a model in which friendship 'must not surmise or provide for infirmity' ..., Emerson often found it difficult to respond fully to the sense of imperfection and crisis that led some of his friends to draw on his emotional support" (122).

(18.) Because Emerson shared his private journals with Fuller during her visit, she was able to quote from them.

(19.) In his transcription of Fuller's 1842 journal, Joel Myerson footnotes this statement with the following apt gloss from the letters of her brother-in-law, Ellery Channing (n. 28, 326): "Ellery later called Emerson 'a terrible man to deal with ... he cannot establish a personal relation with any one, while he can get on agreeably with everybody.'"

(20.) "Mamma" was Emerson's mother, also living in the house.

(21.) Tincture of laudanum, a mixture of opium and water, was a common pain reliever of the day and was often recommended following tooth extraction.

(22.) The sad truth is that neither Fuller nor Emerson had ever taken Lidian's true measure. In a bitter satire on transcendentalism as she had witnessed it manifest in her husband, Lidian demonstrated a sharp and sardonic wit:

Loathe and shun the sick. They are in bad taste, and may untune us for writing the poem floating through the mind....

Despise the unintellectual, and make them feel that you do by not noticing their remark and question lest they presume to intrude into your conversation....

It is mean and weak to seek for sympathy; it is mean and weak to give it... Never wish to be loved. Who are you to expect that? Besides, the great never value being loved. (qtd. in Berkson 17)

Not surprisingly, this statement was written sometime in the 1840s. Unfortunately, Lidian never felt comfortable with her writing skills. But her children recalled that "conversations seem to be Mother's natural field." Her son Edward observed that after any conversation, "I regularly hear ... that 'It was a failure because Mrs. E. wasn't there,' or 'Oh yes they talked a good deal about cats and rats and sealing wax and whether pigs had wings, but at last Mrs. Emerson spoke, and then all the fools were silent'" (qtd. by Carpenter xiii).

(23.) The rest of Fuller's 1842 journal repeats the identical oscillations between growing sympathy for Lidian and insistent admiration for Emerson. On September 4, for example, Fuller records that Emerson "read me what he has written in his journal about marriage"; she writes down "two sentences that represent the two sides of his thought," one of which ends with the phrase, "I marry impersonally" (qtd. in Myerson 335). Two weeks later, true to the promise she'd made to herself earlier in the journal, Fuller records that "I gave the aft" & eve g to Lidian" (qtd. in Myerson 337). Still, dinner remained an on-going occasion of tension. Near the end of her stay, Fuller noted, "The only thing I hate is our dining together. It is never pleasant and some days I dislike it so that I go out just before dinner & stay till night" (qtd. in Myerson 338). Fruitlessly, Fuller tries to explain to Emerson that his wife's continuing grieving is not "all for the child's sake," but clearly Emerson does not take the hint (see M yerson 339). The last journal entry praises Emerson--"I have been fairly intoxicated with his mind"--but ends with a commitment to Lidian: "I will do more in attending to her, for I see I could be of real use. She says she feels I am always just to her, but I might be more" (qtd. in Myerson 340). In her fine biography of Fuller, Joan Von Mehren justly comments that this visit to Concord left Fuller "uneasy. She sensed that she would never visit the Emersons again on the same free terms, and she was right" (161).

(24.) Days later, on August 24, Fuller again complained "that my writing thrives but ill, though I spend the appointed time at it" (qtd. in Myerson 326). In this entry, she attributed her difficulty to the distractions of all the good Conversation taking place among the many visitors to the Emerson home: "so many interesting subjects being talked over day by day I cannot bend my mind with full force on one poor theme" (qtd. in Myerson 326). I would suggest, however, that the good conversation proved a saving distraction because "it disipates my mind" (qtd. in Myerson 326). In other words, Fuller wanted not to concentrate on that "one poor theme" that asked her to take sides.

(25.) In Emerson's subsequent letters to Fuller, there is no further mention of "Romaic and Rhine Ballads." Presumably, therefore, he never could supply her "with vouchers of interest for the Romaics."

(26.) In Summer on the Lakes, Fuller admits without equivocation, "I have no hope of liberalizing the missionary, of humanizing the sharks of the trade, of infusing the conscientious drop into the flinty bosom of policy, of saving the Indian from immediate degradation, and speedy death." She resorts to the identical response that is employed in "Romaic and Rhine Ballads": "Yet, ere they depart, I wish there might be some masterly attempt to reproduce, in art or literature, what is proper to them, a kind of beauty and grandeur, which...ought to leave in the world its monuments" (189).

(27.) Through the 1950s, this was the usual phrasing in BIA-published manuals for teachers on the reservations and in the boarding schools.


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Title Annotation:19th-century writer
Publication:Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers
Article Type:Critical Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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