View the H-SHEAR Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in H-SHEAR's April 2007 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in H-SHEAR's April 2007 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the H-SHEAR home page.
Reply to Anne C. Rose, by Megan Marshall I am deeply grateful for Prof. Rose's praise of my book and her understanding and appreciation of its aims. Her criticisms raise interesting and important questions about the nature of trade book publishing and of literary biography as a genre. A few simple answers--for space reasons, my publisher did not allow me to include a bibliography, which was unfortunate. The Civil War, marriage, motherhood, widowhood--all these are issues I would love to tackle in a second volume on the Peabody sisters. As Melville writes in Moby Dick-- "Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!" May I find enough of each of these to permit. Although I consulted numerous secondary sources (including Prof. Rose's excellent _Transcendentalism as a Social Movement, 1830-1850_), it is customary for authors of literary biographies to use endnotes chiefly as a means of identifying primary sources quoted in the text along with specific facts that might not be easily verifiable. I understand that the practice of many historians differs, but if readers will examine the sourcing of recent biographies of Hawthorne, Emerson and others, they will find that my method is in accord with those. In fact, my publisher allowed me over one hundred pages of documentary endnotes, many of them quite lengthy, and I was lucky in this. I regretted, however, that I was limited to a certain number of pages for the index. Any authors cited solely in my endnotes and not in the body of the text (and these included most of the authors of the secondary sources I'd consulted) were not permitted entries in the index. There is a layer of secondary source references contained in the endnotes that is not easily accessible to readers either through a bibliography or by scanning the index. My intention was to write a book that would interest general readers as well as historians and literary scholars by presenting a narrative that was informed by new material I'd discovered during years of work in archives--and I appreciate Prof. Rose's recognition of this effort on my part. As I wrote the book, these were the pages piled around my desk--my typescripts of letters and journals and commonplace books. Where I needed supporting contextual material on subjects such as art education for women, the history of various illnesses and their treatment, the rise of boarding house culture, I consulted relevant secondary sources and cited those as well. As I examined other published accounts of the sisters' lives, I found differences, but I chose not to take up those debates in my text, which encompassed so much else. Some can be found in endnotes, others I left aside, preferring to trace (and document) the narrative strands I did find evidence to support, rather than those I didn't. A case in point: for more than a century, accounts of Margaret Fuller's conversations have located the important 1839-40 first series in Elizabeth Peabody's bookroom. I found out that Elizabeth had attended those conversations as a commuter from Salem, making a valuable record of those sessions she attended (a transcript of which can be found at the American Antiquarian Society). It simply is not known where those sessions were held; Peabody's bookshop opened a year later. This seemed an important "discovery," in light of the lengthy published record that appeared to contradict. I traced the source of the error to Emerson's account in _Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli_ (1852). But was I to take this up in my text, or follow the long history of this error in an endnote? Although this fascinated me personally, I decided against it. I hope readers will find that I made contributions to the history of ideas in _The Peabody Sisters_. Much of what I felt I had to contribute in this way was, however, embedded in narrative--for example, the issues discussed in Fuller's first-series conversations were significant and little has been written about them because the documentary evidence has only recently come to light. I wrote on this, but did not flag it as new material or as a new way of understanding Fuller's conversations because that would have distracted from the narrative that was my first concern. After publishing the book, I decided to gather together material on another such facet and publish it as an article which readers may wish to consult-- "Elizabeth Palmer Peabody: The First Transcendentalist?" Even this article was written in a biographical style, but it makes an argument, drawing on sources either overlooked or never before seen by Peabody scholars, for Peabody's particular transcendentalism and her foundational role in what Prof. Rose so brilliantly termed a "social movement." Much of this material can also be found in my book, but threaded over a number of decades in the text. Perhaps readers of H-SHEAR Book Review would like to respond by commenting on the differences they perceive between literary biography and cultural history. Biography as a genre has sometimes been criticized by historians as limited in scope, even as, since Plutarch, it has been seen by others as the foundation of historical writing and as a particularly effective means of interesting a wide audience in the study of the past. Is this debate still alive? Megan Marshall American Fellow Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University Notes . Anne C. Rose, _Transcendentalism as a Social Movement, 1830-1850_ (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981). . Megan Marshall, "Elizabeth Palmer Peabody: The First Transcendentalist," _Massachusetts Historical Review_ 8 (2006): 1-15.