London, Mazzini and the Italian SchoolView Fullscreen
In October 1846, Fuller travelled with her friends, Marcus and Rebecca Spring, from Glasgow down through northern England and the midlands, arriving finally in London.
Fuller’s ninth dispatch to the Tribune, written while she was in Paris in early 1847, looks back on her experiences in London. First, she describes several visits she made to famous tourist sites, including the British Museum, Hampton Court, Kew Gardens and the Museum of Economic Geology. Finally, Fuller describes her visit to the Italian Gratuitous School, and her meeting with the school’s founder, the Italian revolutionary – then living in exile – Giuseppe Mazzini. Fuller had probably first heard of Mazzini during her brief association, in the late 1830s in New York, with the “Young America” movement, a cultural revolutionary group, modelling themselves after Mazzini’s “Young Italy.” Mazzini’s Italian Gratuitous School was established in 1841 to provide education for Italian orphans who had been brought to London to work as labourers. Fuller remarks that Mazzini has been "excluded from publication in his native language," before recommending that her Tribune audience read Mazzini’s English articles on the “Italian Martyrs” in The People’s Journal, a radical London periodical, edited by John Saunders.
Fuller’s meeting with Mazzini and her visit to the school (as well as an evening spent with Mazzini and Carlyle), described in her Tribune article, and in letters to friends, is often interpreted by biographers as a moment of political transformation and awakening for Fuller, when her liberal reformist views begin to give way to a radical, revolutionary, and Internationalist perspective. The Tribune letter also reveals Fuller’s heightened consciousness of the political power of her own writing, and the account of Mazzini and the Italian School is first and foremost Fuller’s contribution to an ongoing debate – staged mainly in The People’s Journal, where Mazzini was a regular contributor – over the radical mission of the school, and over Mazzini’s own political mission more broadly. W. J Linton, Mazzini's secretary and fellow revolutionary had praised the school in July 1846, for educating the Italian boys without encouraging curiosity for its own sake, and for teaching science “as the way leading to the better and progressive understanding of God’s design” (147). In spite of his own radicalism, Linton’s natural theology seems almost calculated to be apolitical. Fuller picks up this language, but alters the tenor of the religious metaphor – it is not that ideas taught in the school will merely add up to a sense of holy design. Rather, the students themselves become in the school, like the “poor people of Judea,” the seeds of the “planting of the Kingdom of Heaven.” In other words, Fuller recasts the school's project as political theology. Her equation of a liberated and united Europe with the Kingdom of Heaven" along with her claim that the students will become to "modern Europe, the leaven that leavens the whole mass" reflect the Mazzini's own complex investment in a theologically inflected transnational politics. Mazzini would later claim in an article in the third volume of The People's Journal (1847):
We are all Cosmopolites, if by Cosmopolitanism is understood the brotherhood of all, love for all and the destruction of barriers which separate the peoples by giving them opposite interests.
Fuller's shift to a belief in an international political identity might also have led to her decision not to include in her Tribune letter any reference to the speech she gave at the school. Her speech at the school's anniversary prize-giving, as reported in The People's Journal, in Janurary 1847, identified and celebrated the supposed national traits of the German, English and Italian nations. Fuller's Tribune letter, by contrast, seems to identify the Mazzini's school as a transnational European project.
Megan Marshall. Margaret Fuller: A New American Life. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
John Matteson. Lives of Margaret Fuller. W. W. Norton & Co., 2012
Written by William Bond