NEWS & INTERVIEWS
MARGARET FULLER wins the Pulitzer!
Margaret Fuller mention in “By the Book”
interview with Tom Perrotta
in the New York Times Book Review
“How Megan Marshall came to write
a biography about Margaret Fuller,”
Kate Tuttle, Boston Sunday Globe
Margaret Fuller listed in Publishers Weekly
“Spring Announcements Top 10” for 2013
in the category of Literary Biographies,
Essays, & Criticism
On Point with Tom Ashbrook,
Margaret Fuller: Journalist,
“Tipped Off,” NYT “Draft”
Opinionator blog, March 23, 2013
My Book, The Movie
“Sex and the Single Transcendentalist—
an evening with Megan Marshall,” blog post
by Peter J. Reilly at Forbes.com
“Who Will Play Margaret Fuller
When the Movie Comes Out?” blog post
by Peter J. Reilly at Forbes.com
“The Tipster: Margaret Fuller’s biographer
and ‘the man from Idaho,’”
Marcia Franklin, The Blue Review
"Book Review: Margaret Fuller:
A New American Life by Megan Marshall"
blog post by Mockingbird Hill Cottage
“Rite of Spring” by Christopher Benfey
New York Review of Books blog
A New American Life
By Megan Marshall
PRAISE | Q&A
The award-winning author of The Peabody Sisters takes a fresh look at the trailblazing life of a great American heroine—Thoreau’s first editor, Emerson’s close friend, first female war correspondent, and passionate advocate of personal liberation and political freedom.
From an early age, Margaret Fuller provoked and dazzled New England’s intellectual elite. Her famous Conversations changed women’s sense of how they could think and live; her editorship of the Transcendentalist literary journal The Dial shaped American Romanticism. Now, Megan Marshall, whose acclaimed The Peabody Sisters “discovered” three fascinating women, has done it again: no biography of Fuller has made her ideas so alive or her life so moving.
Marshall tells the story of how Fuller, tired of Boston, accepted Horace Greeley’s offer to be the New York Tribune’s front-page columnist. The move unleashed a crusading concern for the urban poor and the plight of prostitutes, and a late-in-life hunger for passionate experience. In Italy as a foreign correspondent, Fuller took a secret lover, a young officer in the Roman Guard; she wrote dispatches on the brutal 1849 Siege of Rome; and she gave birth to a son.
Yet, when all three died in a shipwreck off Fire Island shortly after Fuller’s 40th birthday, the sense and passion of her life’s work were eclipsed by tragedy and scandal. Marshall’s inspired account brings an American heroine back to indelible life.
“Margaret Fuller is as seductive as it is impressive. It has the grain and emotional amplitude of a serious novel . . . [and] pushes Ms. Marshall into the front rank of American biographers.”
—Dwight Garner, New York Times
"Many have told the story of Margaret Fuller, the Transcendentalist, feminist author and foreign correspondent who covered revolutionary Europe between 1846 and 1850. But Megan Marshall is the first to excavate from Fuller’s public and private writings the distinctive loneliness of the female public intellectual. “A lonely child” who found no intellectual match among her peers, Fuller formed strong attachments to such cultured elders as Ralph Waldo Emerson. She sought initially to write and think with them, but none could return her ferocious seriousness. She found herself obliged, in the end, to write for herself alone. Marriage was its own complicated question, though she chose it finally. Then loneliness found its answer—Fuller had a child. Marshall writes: “Margaret realized the ‘great novelty, the immense gain’ of motherhood: ‘nothing else can break the spell of loneliness.’ ” It’s rare indeed that a biography can make you weep. Marshall’s beautifully written account does exactly that."
—Danielle Allen, Wall Street Journal
“Marshall has designed her work for a general audience, and by the force of her graceful writing, and her narrative trajectory, she propels her interpretation of Fuller the individual, Fuller the woman, Fuller the activist, and Fuller the romantic into contemporary awareness and esteem.”
—Mary Kelley, New England Quarterly
“This month Megan Marshall joins the cohort of distinguished Fullerites with ‘Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.’ Marshall is a gifted storyteller steeped in the parochial society of nineteenth century-century Boston and Concord . . . There are many ways of doing justice to Fuller, and Marshall makes an eloquent case for her as a new paradigm: the single career woman, at home in a world of men, who admire her intelligence, though it turns them off; and the seeker of experience, who doesn’t want to miss out on motherhood, yet is terrified that it will compromise her work life . . . Marshall excels at creating a sense of intimacy—with both her subjects and her reader.”
— Judith Thurman, The New Yorker
“In this thoroughly absorbing, lively new biography, Megan Marshall’s sympathy for Fuller — for the dilemma she faced as a powerfully intelligent woman whose time and place repeatedly thwarted her ambitions — nearly outpaces her admiration, though the book passionately evokes both. Fuller, so often misunderstood in life, richly deserves the nuanced, compassionate portrait Marshall paints.”
—Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe
“Megan Marshall’s ‘empathetic’ biography of Fuller analyzes with special insight the subterranean tensions that marked Fuller’s friendship with Emerson.”
—Robert Pogue Harrison, New York Review of Books
"Marshall's biography is an enlightening and absorbing portrait of a woman whose struggles and triumphs reflect the constraints of a bygone era and yet resonate today. In these pages, liberally enriched with quotations from her own vivid prose, Margaret Fuller comes to life. It's not unusual to find, at the end of a biography, that its subject meets with death. But it's rare that the reader comes upon that expected ending with tears in her eyes."
—Natalie Wexler, Washington Independent Review of Books
“The rest of the world might take it’s time arriving at equal rights, but Margaret Fuller had evened things up for herself.”
—Kathryn Harrison, New York Times Book Review
“Fascinating and well-researched . . . Marshall’s prescient reading of Fuller’s life makes this book worthy of her subject.”
—Susan Cheever, The Daily Beast
“A thorough and sympathetic treatment of the famed feminist. . . . You can meet the resolute yet tender Margaret Fuller in the pages of Marshall’s excellent biography.”
“Shaping her narrative like a novel, Marshall brings the reader as close as possible to Fuller’s inner life and conveys the inspirational power she has achieved for several generations of women.”
—Elaine Showalter, The New Republic
“The mind has a light of its own,” wrote Margaret Fuller, and the radiance of her inner world vitalizes Marshall’s profoundly simpatico portrait of this path-breaking feminist and courageous journalist and writer. Marshall encountered Fuller while working on her acclaimed first book, The Peabody Sisters (2005), and she inhabits Fuller’s dramatic, oft-told story with unique intimacy by virtue of her fluency in and judicious quoting of Fuller’s extraordinarily vivid letters. Marshall conveys Fuller’s “passionate intensity,” “unusual intellect and outsized personality,” “expansive sympathy,” and extraordinary valor as she illuminates family struggles, social obstacles, and private heartache in conjunction with each phase of Fuller’s phenomenal achievements as an innovative teacher, lecturer, and editor. Marshall brings stirring historical and psychological insights to Fuller’s complicated relationship with Emerson and the other transcendentalists, her journey west and response to the horrific plight of Native Americans, her gripping dispatches on social ills as a front-page columnist for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, and her triumphs in Europe as “America’s first female foreign correspondent.” How spectacularly detailed and compassionate Marshall’s chronicle is of Fuller’s scandalous love for an Italian soldier, the birth of their son, her heroic coverage of the 1849 siege of Rome, and her and her family’s tragic deaths when their ship wrecks in sight of the American coast. A magnificent biography of a revolutionary thinker, witness, and writer.
—Donna Seaman, Booklist ★ (Starred Review)
“A deeply sympathetic life of an exceptional mind, protofeminist and revolutionary. . . . Pulitzer finalist Marshall is perfectly suited to her material. . . . Lively, intuitive study of a remarkable American character.”
—Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2013
“Pulitzer Prize finalist Marshall (The Peabody Sisters) takes on the life of a lesser-known American writer in this biography of Margaret Fuller. . . . Though organized around places Fuller lived, the book’s real driving force is her relationships, from the perfectionist father who gave her a thirst for education early on to the circle of academics and radicals over whom Fuller exerted her influence, among them Ralph Waldo Emerson. Marshall can’t avoid the romantic scandal of Fuller’s life—her accidental pregnancy by and secret marriage to the noble-born Giovanni Ossoli. The couple died in a shipwreck along with their newborn son soon after. But this scandal isn’t the focus of the book. Instead, Marshall seeks to render the plight of a female intellectual struggling to balance societal expectations with her lofty ambitions and ideals. The book’s success comes from the way that Marshall allows the reader to understand and empathize with Fuller in her plight.”
—Publishers Weekly, January 21, 2013
"Megan Marshall's brilliant Margaret Fuller brings us as close as we are ever likely to get to this astonishing creature. She rushes out at us from her nineteenth century, always several steps ahead, inspiring, heartbreaking, magnificent."
—Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity
"Megan Marshall’s Margaret Fuller: A New American Life is the best single volume ever written on Fuller. Carefully researched and beautifully composed, the book brings Fuller back to life in all her intellectual vivacity and emotional intensity. Marshall’s Fuller overwhelms the reader just as Fuller herself overwhelmed everyone she met. A masterpiece of empathetic biography, this is the book Fuller herself would have wanted. You will not be able to put it down."
—Robert D. Richardson, author of Emerson: The Mind on Fire and William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism
"Megan Marshall gives new meaning to close reading—from words on a page she conjures a fantastically rich inner life, a meld of body, mind, and soul. Drawing on the letters and diaries of Margaret Fuller and her circle, she has brought us a brave, visionary, sensual, tough-minded intellectual, a "first woman" who was unique yet stood for all women. A masterful achievement by a great American writer and scholar."
—Evan Thomas, author of Ike's Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the World