Framing Margaret Fuller: A Gallery
Framing Margaret Fuller
One of the pleasures of surveying and studying an archive is the encounter with the material objects that complement, and often times problematize the paper documents: drawings, locks of hair, daguerreotypes, photographs, mementos. Through these objects the vigorous reality and persistence of the archive acquires more force, it becomes thicker, as it comprehends added dimensions, including a more personal relation between the observer and the object. The Fuller Family Papers housed at the Houghton Library is this kind of archive, with some memorable objects that have helped establish, over the decades, the scholarly perception of Margaret Fuller. The images of Margaret Fuller that we know and are familiar with, have helped shape our scholarly relation with her and her work, but, even more interestingly, are part of how the archive has been constructed. The attention provided in recent years to photography studies and material culture has favored, as Dana Luciano states, “a more capacious critical gaze, one capable of attending more closely to the photograph’s synesthetic and emotional appeal,” in what she names a “touching sight, in both sense of the term.” (Dana Luciano, “Touching Seeing,” American Literary History, 28, 1, Spring 2016, p. 140).
By providing a gallery of all the images relating to Margaret Fuller, we intend to reflect on how they have shaped “Fuller” for the scholars who have encountered her, helping to construct a certain literary character. In order to contextualize these images we include all the bibliographic information currently available, in an effort to consider also Fuller’s and her family’s awareness of the production, consumption and use of images, including the innovative significance of daguerreotypes in the 1840s.
In the James Freeman Clarke Additional Papers, 1717-1889 (MS Am 1569.1). Houghton Library, Harvard University, and precisely in series IV, folder 152 (date 1835-1840), we find a drawing that has been considered a portrait of a young Margaret Fuller. In the finding aid it is described as "profile drawing of "SMF."
The brief note at the top of the page says: "This fits SMF's descrition about 1830-32. Perhaps AHC"
Photo by Sonia Di Loreto, Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Photograph of Thomas Hicks's Painting of Margaret Fuller
Thomas Hicks painted Margaret Fuller in Rome, but that painting is privately owned. The Houghton Library has a photo of the painting hanging on a wall, and it is catalogued in the Margaret Fuller Family Papers, 1662-1970 (MS Am 1086). Houghton Library, Harvard University. This is the description:Margaret Fuller, photographic image of a framed portrait painting hanging on a brick wall : color snapshot copy print photograph, 1970 June. 1 folder Date: 1970. It depicts the Hicks painting of Fuller, hanging on the wall of Constance Fuller Threinen, of Middleton, Wisconsin. It includes a copy of a 1970 June 17 letter from Constance Fuller Threinen to Louise Ambler of the Fogg Art Museum concerning the daguerreotype owned by Harvard.
This image shows Fuller facing to the viewer's left.
The only known and documented daguerreotype of Margaret Fuller is in the "Images of the Channing, Fuller, and Loring Families, circa 1850-1887" (MS Am 2593, Houghton Library, Harvard University).
It was presented in memory of Margaret Fuller Channing Loring by her granddaughter, Charlotte Loring Lowell (Mrs. Ralph Lowell) and received in 1960. The donor was the great-grandchild of William Ellery Channing 2nd and Ellen Kilshaw Fuller Channing.
This is the description in the Houghton Library's finding aid: "Fuller, Margaret, 1810-1850. Half-length seated portrait : daguerreotype in case (with cover missing), before 1850. 1 item in 2 folders ; 12 x 11 centimeters.Date: 1850. Depicts Fuller seated, with left hand touching left side of head, elbow on desk and looking down at a book. White shawl covers both shoulders. Right side of face is shown with braided hair wrapped around exposed ear."
Photo by Sonia Di Loreto. Courtesy of Houhgton Library, Harvard University.
There are two more copies of this daguerreotype (one at the Met in NYC, and the other at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts). They are both by Southworth and Howes, some of the best and most appreciated daguerreotypists of their day. This is the copy taken from the volume Young America : the Daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes, edited by Grant Romer and Brian Willis, New York : International Center of Photography, 2005. The note says: "Probably a copy plate (possibly from an original by Plumbe Studio, New York, 1846; this sitting is referred to by Fuller in a letter to her brother, Richard Fuller, dates July 4, 1846, and July 14, 1846. (p. 163)
In the letter written July 4th, 1846 Fuller writes to Richard: “Mr. Plumbe has sent to ask me, if I would let him take a daguerreotype of me for his galley and I shall try for those for you and Eugene at the same time.” (Hudspeth, vol. IV, p. 214). In her letter to Richard dated July 14th, 1846 Fuller asks: “Have you found my plates and had the cards engraved for me? It will save me a good deal of trouble as I cannot write cards neatly.” (Hudspeth, vol. IV, p. 217).
There is another daguerreotype, which is in the same Papers as the "documented" one, but there is no trace of it in any book, or in any study, and it certainly does not belong in the Fuller iconography. In the "Images of the Channing, Fuller, and Loring Families, circa 1850-1887" (MS Am 2593, Houghton Library, Harvard University), folder # 4, there is the following daguerreotype, described as: "Fuller, Margaret, 1810-1850. Bust portrait : daguerreotype in copper frame, before 1850. 1 item in 1 folder ; 7 x 5 centimeters. Date: 1850.
Depicts Fuller with white lace scarf-wrap on head and black dress. Left side of face is shown; she is gazing into distance."
It was presented in memory of Margaret Fuller Channing Loring by her granddaughter, Charlotte Loring Lowell (Mrs. Ralph Lowell); received: 1960. The donor was the great-grandchild of William Ellery Channing 2nd and Ellen Kilshaw Fuller Channing.
In an email exchange, Leslie Morris, curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at the Houghton Library confirmed that they believe it is Margaret Fuller, because "it is the attribution that came with it, and the donor was a member of the family".
Photos by Sonia Di Loreto. Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University.
The Fuller Family
In the same family Papers, a Fuller family portrait is contained, showing how the whole family was interested in self-representation, and how they were consumers of images.
In "Images of the Channing, Fuller, and Loring Families, circa 1850-1887 (MS Am 2593, Houghton Library, Harvard University) folder #2: Fuller family. Group portrait : photograph print, before 1856. 1 item in 1 folder.Date: 1856. Possibly a print from a daguerreotype?
The note explains: Includes images of: William Henry Fuller (brother of MF, d.1878), Margaret Crane Fuller (mother of MF, 1789-1859), Arthur B. (Arthur Buckminster) Fuller (brother of MF, 1822-1862), Ellen Kilshaw Fuller Channing (d. 1856, sister of MF and wife of William Ellery Channing 2nd), and Richard Frederick Fuller (brother of MF, 1824-1869).
Written by Sonia Di Loreto
Acknowledgements: Molly O’Hagan Hardy, Director of Digital and Book History Initiatives; Lauren B. Hewes, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, AAS; Leslie Morris, curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, Houghton Library, Harvard University.