There are at least three classes of persons who travel in our own land and abroad. The first and largest in number consists of those who, “having eyes, see not, and ears, hear not,” anything which is profitable to be remembered. Crossing lake and ocean, passing over the broad prairies of the New World or the classic fields of the Old, though they look on the virgin soil sown thickly with flowers by the hand of God, or on scenes memorable in man’s history, they gaze heedlessly, and when they return home can but tell us what they ate and drank, and where slept, — no more; for this and matters of like import are all for which they have cared in their wanderings.
Those composing the second class travel more intelligently. They visit scrupulously all places which are noted either as the homes of literature, the abodes of Art, or made classic by the pens of ancient genius. Accurately do they mark the distance of one famed city from another, the size and general appearance of each; they see as many as possible of celebrated pictures and works of art, and mark carefully dimensions, age, and all details concerning them. Men, too, whom the world regards as great men, whether because of wisdom, poesy, warlike achievements, or of wealth and station, they seek to take by the hand and in some degree to know; at least to note their appearance, demeanor, and mode of life. Writers belonging to this class of travellers are not to be undervalued; returning home, they can give much useful information, and tell much which all wish to hear and know, though, as their narratives are chiefly circumstantial, and every year circumstances change, such recitals lessen constantly in value.
But there is a third class of those who journey, who see indeed the outward, and observe it well. They, too, seek localities where Art and Genius dwell, or have painted on canvas or sculptured in marble their memorials; they become acquainted with the people, both famed and obscure, of the lands which they visit and in which for a time they abide; their hearts throb as they stand on places where great deeds have been done, with whose dust perhaps is mingled the sacred ashes of men who fell in the warfare for truth and freedom, — a warfare begun early in the world’s history, and not yet ended. But they do much more than this. There is, though in a different sense from what ancient Pagans fancied, a genius or guardian spirit of each scene, each stream and lake and country, and this spirit is ever speaking, but in a tone which only the attent ear of the noble and gifted can hear, and in a language which such minds and hearts only can understand. With vision which needs no miracle to make it prophetic, they see the destinies which nations are all-unconsciously shaping for themselves, and note the deep meaning of passing events which only make others wonder. Beneath the mask of mere externals, their eyes discern the character of those whom they meet, and, refusing to accept popular judgment in place of truth, they see often the real relation which men bear to their race and age, and observe the facts by which to determine whether such men are great only because of circumstances, or by the irresistible power of their own minds. When such narrate their journeyings, we have what is valuable not for a few years only, but, because of its philosophic and suggestive spirit, what must always be useful.
The reader of the following pages, it is believed, will decide that Margaret Fuller deserves to rank with the latter class of travellers, while not neglectful of those details which it is well to learn and remember.
Twelve years ago she journeyed, in company with several friends, on the Lakes, and through some of the Western States. Returning, she published a volume describing this journey, which seems worthy of republication. It seems so because it rather gives an idea of Western scenery and character, than enters into guide-book statements which would be all erroneous now.
Beside this, it is much a record of thoughts as well as things, and those thoughts have lost none of their significance now. It gives us also knowledge of Indian character, and impressions respecting that much injured and fast vanishing race, which justice to them makes it desirable should be remembered. The friends of Madame Ossoli will be glad to make permanent this additional proof of her sympathy with all the oppressed, no matter whether that oppression find embodiment in the Indian or the African, the American or the European.
The second part of the present volume gives my sister’s impressions and observations during her European journey and residence in Italy. This is done through letters, which originally appeared in the New York Tribune but have never before been gathered into book form. There may be a degree of incompleteness, sometimes perhaps inaccuracy, in these letters, which are inseparable attendants upon letter-writing during a journey or amid exciting and warlike scenes. None can lament more than I that their writer lives not to revise them. Some errors, too, were doubtless made in the original printing of these letters, owing to her handwriting not being easily read by those who were not familiar with it, and very probably some such errors may have escaped my notice in the revision, especially as many emendations must be conjectural, the original manuscript not now existing.
There is one fact, however, which gives this part of the volume a high value. Madame Ossoli was in Rome during the most eventful period of its modern history. She was almost the only American who remained there during the Italian Revolution, and the siege of the city. Her marriage with the Marquis Ossoli, who was Captain of the Civic Guard and active in the republican councils and army, and her own ardent love of freedom, and sacrifices for it, brought her into immediate acquaintance with the leaders in the revolutionary army, and made her cognizant of their plans, their motives, and their characters. Unsuccessful for a time as has been that struggle for freedom, it was yet a noble one, and its true history should be known in this country and in all lands, that justice may be done to those who sacrificed much, some even life, in behalf of liberty. Her peculiar fitness to write the history of this struggle is well expressed by Mr. Greeley, in his Introduction to one of her volumes recently published. “Of Italy’s last struggle for liberty and light,” he says, “she might not merely say, with the Grattan of Ireland’s kindred effort, half a century earlier, ‘I stood by its cradle; I followed its hearse.’ She might fairly claim to have been a portion of its incitement, its animation, its informing soul. She bore more than a woman’s part in its conflicts and its perils; and the bombs of that ruthless army which a false and traitorous government impelled against the ramparts of Republican Rome, could have stilled no voice more eloquent in its exposures, no heart more lofty in its defiance, of the villany which so wantonly drowned in blood the hopes, while crushing the dearest rights, of a people, than those of Margaret Fuller.”
Inadequate, indeed, are these letters as a memorial and vindication of that struggle, in comparison with the history which Madame Ossoli had written, and which perished with her; but well do they deserve to be preserved, as the record of a clear-minded and true-hearted eyewitness of, and participator in, this effort to establish a new and better Roman Republic. In one respect they have an interest higher than would the history. They were written during the struggle, and show the fluctuations of hope and despondency-which animated those most deeply interested. I have thought it right to leave unchanged all expressions of her opinion and feeling, even when it is evident from the letters themselves that these were gradually somewhat modified by ensuing events. Especially did this change occur in regard to the Pope, whom she at first regarded, in common with all lovers of freedom in this and other lands, with a hopefulness which was doomed to a cruel disappointment. She was, however, never for a moment deceived as to his character. His heart she believed kindly and good; his intellect, of a low order; his views as to reform, narrow, intending only what is partial, temporary, and alleviating, never a permanent, vital reform, which should remove the cause of the ills on account of which his people groaned. Really to elevate and free Italy, it was necessary to remove the yoke of ecclesiastical and political thraldom; to do this formed no part of his plans, — from his very nature he was incapable of so great a purpose. The expression in her letters of this opinion, when most people hoped better things, was at first censured, as doing injustice to Pius IX.; but alas! events proved the impulses of his heart to be in subjection to the prejudices of his mind, and that mind to be weaker than even she had deemed it, with views as narrow as she had feared.
The third part of this volume contains some letters to friends, which were never written for the public eye, but are necessary to complete, as far as can now be done, the narrative of her residence abroad. Some few of these have already appeared in her “Memoirs,” a work I cannot too warmly recommend to those who would know my sister’s character. Many more of her letters may be there found, equally worthy of perusal, but not so necessary to complete the history of events in Italy.
The fourth part contains the details of that shipwreck which caused mourning not only in the hearts of her kindred, but of the many who knew and loved her. These, with some poems commemorative of her character and eventful death, form a sad but fitting close to a book which records her European journeyings, and her voyage to a home which proved to be not in this land, where were waiting warm hearts to bid her welcome, but one in a land yet freer, better than this, where she can be no less loved by the angels, by our Saviour, and the Infinite Father. After the copy for this volume had been sent to the press, it was found necessary to omit some portions of the work in the republication, as too much matter had been furnished for a volume of reasonable size. The Editor made these omissions with much reluctance, but the desire to bring a record of Madame Ossoli’s journeyings within the compass of one volume outweighed that reluctance. He believes the omissions have been made in such a way as not materially to diminish its value, especially as most which has been omitted will find place in another volume he hopes soon to issue, containing a portion of the miscellaneous writings of Madame Ossoli.
All of these omissions that are important occur in the Summer on the Lakes, it being thought better to omit from a portion of the work which had previously been before the public in book form. The episodical nature of that work, too, enabled the Editor to make omissions without in any way marring its unity. These omissions, when other than mere verbal ones, consist of extracts from books which she read in relation to the Indians; an account of and translation from the Seeress of Prevorst, a German work which had not then, but has since, been translated into English, and republished in this country; a few extracts from letters and poems sent to her by friends while she was in the West, one of which poems has been since published elsewhere by its author; and the story of Marianna, (a great portion of which may be found in my sister’s “Memoirs,”) and also Lines to Edith, a short poem. Marianna and Lines to Edith will probably be republished in another volume. From the letters of Madame Ossoli in Parts II. and III. no omissions have been made other than verbal, or when pertaining to trifling incidents, having only a temporary interest. Nothing in any portion of the book recording my sister’s own observations or opinions has been omitted or changed. The reader, too, will notice that nothing affecting the unity of the narrative is here wanting, the volume even gaining in that respect by the omission of extracts from other writers, and of a story and short poem not connected in any regard with Western life.
In conclusion, the Editor would express the sincere hope that this volume may not only be of general interest, but inspire its readers with an increased love of republican institutions, and an earnest purpose to seek the removal of every national wrong which hinders our beloved country from being a perfect example and hearty helper of other nations in their struggles for liberty. May it do something, also, to remove misapprehension of the motives, character, and action of those noble patriots of Italy, who strove, though for a time vainly, to make their country free, and to deepen the sympathy which every true American should feel with faithful men everywhere, who by art are seeking to refine, by philanthropic exertion to elevate, by the diffusion of truth to enlighten, or by self-sacrifice and earnest effort to free, their fellow-men.