Other than her infamous pronouncement, "I accept the Universe," there is perhaps no more quoted line from the great Margaret Fuller (whom I posted about below in The Most Famous Woman in America) than this phrase from her best-known work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century (Note to publishers: This book deserves a new, more distinguished edition):
But if you ask me what offices they may fill; I reply--any. I do not care what case you put; let them be sea-captains, if you will.
Such then is the title of my friend Megan Marshall's excellent piece in the November 15, 2007, issue of The London Review of Books. Megan is the Pulitzer finalist for her biography, The Peabody Sisters, which captures the spirit of three remarkable and under-written-about-until-Megan's-work siblings, contemporaries and friends of Margaret Fuller. Meticulously researched and elegantly written. Five stars from me.
Megan's LRB piece is ostensibly a review of the second volume of Charles Capper's exhaustive biography of Fuller: Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life, Volume II: The Public Years. But she does a lot more with the piece, capturing the grand themes of Margaret's life and placing them in context. Only a writer familiar with the world of Margaret's contemporaries could have conveyed so much about her in such a relatively short piece.
I met Megan at a reading she was giving for The Peabody Sisters at the Concord Bookshop, the very same small town where Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne (who married Sophia Peabody), and Margaret's sister, Ellen, lived, and where Margaret visited frequently. Megan's reading was impressive, so much so that, a few weeks later, when I was in the nut aisle of Whole Foods in our mutual hometown of Newton, Mass, I recognized her. Lacking proper restraint, I went up to her, somewhere near the walnut bin; we struck up a conversation; and exchanged emails. Barely a week later, we bumped into each once more, again in the nut aisle. And, though it's hard to type this, a few weeks later, yet again. Needless to say, we've taken something from the symbolism and become friends.
Congrats, Megan, on this excellent piece and may you do much more writing about our mutual friend, Margaret.