Woman in the Nineteenth Century

by Margaret Fuller

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To Mazzini and To Mr. and Mrs. Spring

"Al Cittadino Reppresentante del Popolo Romano."

Rome, March 8, 1849.

Dear Mazzini: Though knowing you occupied by the most important affairs, I again feel impelled to write a few lines. What emboldens me is the persuasion that the best friends, in point of sympathy and intelligence,—the only friends of a man of ideas and of marked character,—must be women. You have your mother; no doubt you have others, perhaps many. Of that I know nothing; only I like to offer also my tribute of affection.

When I think that only two years ago you thought of coming into Italy with us in disguise, it seems very glorious that you are about to enter republican Rome as a Roman citizen. It seems almost the most sublime and poetical fact of history. Yet, even in the first thrill of joy, I felt "he will think his work but beginning, now."

When I read from your hand these words, "II lungo esilio testè ricominciato, la vita non confortata, fuorchè d'affetti lontani e contesi, e la speranza lungamente protrata, e il desiderio che comincia a farmi si supremo, di dormire finalmente in pace, da chè non ho potuto, vivere in terra mia,"—when I read these words they made me weep bitterly, and I thought of them always with a great pang at the heart. But it is not so, dear Mazzini,—you do not return to sleep under the sod of Italy, but to see your thought springing up all over the soil. The gardeners seem to me, in point of instinctive wisdom or deep thought, mostly incompetent to the care of the garden; but on idea like this will be able to make use of any implements. The necessity, it is to be hoped, will educate the men, by making them work. It is not this, I believe, which still keeps your heart so melancholy; for I seem to read the same melancholy in your answer to the Roman assembly, You speak of "few and late years," but some full ones still remain. A century is not needed, nor should the same man, in the same form of thought, work too long on an age. He would mould and bind it too much to himself. Better for him to die and return incarnated to give the same truth on yet another side. Jesus of Nazareth died young; but had he not spoken and acted as much truth as the world could bear in his time? A frailty, a perpetual short-coming, motion in a curve-line, seems the destiny of this earth.

The excuse awaits us elsewhere; there must be one,—for it is true, as said Goethe, "care is taken that the tree grow not up into the heavens." Men like you, appointed ministers, must not be less earnest in their work; yet to the greatest, the day, the moment is all their kingdom, God takes care of the increase.

Farewell! For your sake I could wish at this moment to be an Italian and a man of action; but though I am an American, I am not even a woman of action; so the best I can do is to pray with the whole heart, "Heaven bless dear Mazzini!—cheer his heart, and give him worthy helpers to carry out his holy purposes."


Florence, Dec. 12, 1840.

DEAR M. AND R.: * * * Your letter, dear R, was written in your noblest and most womanly spirit. I thank you warmly for your sympathy about my little boy. What he is to me, even you can hardly dream; you that have three, in whom the natural thirst of the heart was earlier satisfied, can scarcely know what my one ewe-lamb is to me. That he may live, that I may find bread for him, that I may not spoil him by overweening love, that I may grow daily better for his sake, are the ever-recurring thoughts,—say prayers,—that give their hue to all the current of my life.

But, in answer to what you say, that it is still better to give the world a living soul than a portion of my life in a printed book, it is true; and yet, of my book I could know whether it would be of some worth or not; of my child, I must wait to see what his worth will be. I play with him, my ever-growing mystery! but from the solemnity of the thoughts he brings is refuge only in God. Was I worthy to be parent of a soul, with its eternal, immense capacity for weal and woe? "God be merciful to me a sinner!" comes so naturally to a mother's heart!

* * * * * What you say about the Peace way is deeply true; if any one see clearly how to work in that way, let him, in God's name! Only, if he abstain from fighting against giant wrongs, let him be sure he is really and ardently at work undermining them, or, better still, sustaining the rights that are to supplant them. Meanwhile, I am not sure that I can keep my hands free from blood. Cobden is good; but if he had stood in Kossuth's place, would he not have drawn his sword against the Austrian? You, could you let a Croat insult your wife, carry off your son to be an Austrian serf, and leave your daughter bleeding in the dust? Yet it is true that while Moses slew the Egyptian, Christ stood still to be spit upon; and it is true that death to man could do him no harm. You have the truth, you have the right, but could you act up to it in all circumstances? Stifled under the Roman priesthood, would you not have thrown it off with all your force? Would you have waited unknown centuries, hoping for the moment when you could see another method?

Yet the agonies of that baptism of blood I feel, O how deeply! in the golden June days of Rome. Consistent no way, I felt I should have shrunk back,—I could not have had it shed. Christ did not have to see his dear ones pass the dark river; he could go alone, however, in prophetic spirit. No doubt he foresaw the crusades.

In answer to what you say of ——, I wish the little effort I made for him had been wiselier applied. Yet these are not the things one regrets. It does not do to calculate too closely with the affectionate human impulse. We must be content to make many mistakes, or we should move too slowly to help our brothers much.

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