On the trail of Margaret Fuller in Italy

Gaby bridge boat Rome.jpg
. . . the miseries of a New England spring; a bright sun came for an hour or two in the morning, just to coax you forth without your cloak, and then came up a villanous, horrible wind, exactly like the worst east wind of Boston, breaking the heart, racking the brain, and turning hope and fancy to an irrevocable green and yellow hue, in lieu of their native rose
— Margaret Fuller

I’ve always loved what Margaret Fuller wrote about the “miseries” of a New England spring. She wasn’t far off the truth. We get so hopeful this time of year. I even made the mistake of planting seeds in my garden one warm Saturday in March, totally jumping the gun! We are just eager to get on with it. But Fuller was right, the spring wind is sharp and cutting and cold.

In fact, Margaret Fuller was far away from America when she wrote about “the worst east wind of Boston” that breaks the heart and racks the brain. In fact, she was just sailing into the harbor at Genoa. She had longed dreamed of going to Italy, and finally her dream had come true. “At last,” she wrote home to her readers at the New York Herald Tribune, “I have found my Italy!”

Some years ago, I followed Margaret Fuller’s footsteps in Europe, first on my own and then with several small groups of travellers. We were eager to learn, about Margaret Fuller, her thoughts, her writing, her life. But also, we wanted to learn about Fuller in the context of this country, Italy, she loved so much.

Her years in Italy were full to bursting. Arriving in Rome in the spring of 1847, she became a foreign correspondent for an American newspaper, witnessed a revolution and wrote about it, penning her columns from the front lines. She fell in love, got pregnant and gave birth to a little boy. She was often enchanted by Italy’s beauty, art, history and culture but she was lonely as well, sometimes homesick.

We made a pilgrimage of it, travelling to Italy to seek to understand a little more the life and mind and heart of this intellectual giant of a woman.

J Rankin