The Library of America launches a blog


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The Library of America, the nonprofit publishing house dedicated to creating an in-print library of editions of America’s greatest works, launched its first blog Friday. Called Reader’s Almanac, it focuses on joining the current online discussions that touch on the works and authors in the publisher’s catalog, such as William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman.

And also Edgar Allen Poe. The blog posts part of a Poe essay about Margaret Fuller, a leading transcendentalist who held her own with Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1840, Fuller, a writer and editor, was the first woman allowed access to Harvard’s library. Poe found her both attractive and, it seems, intimidating.


She is of the medium height; nothing remarkable about the figure; a profusion of lustrous light hair; eyes a bluish gray, full of fire; capacious forehead; the mouth when in repose indicates profound sensibility, capacity for affection, for love — when moved by a slight smile, it becomes even beautiful in the intensity of this expression; but the upper lip, as if impelled by the action of involuntary muscles, habitually uplifts itself, conveying the impression of a sneer.

Fuller became first female European correspondent for the New York Tribune, getting caught up -- politically and romantically -- in the revolution in Italy. She returned to America with Giovanni Ossoli and their infant son, but never made it home. The captain of their ship was felled by smallpox, and an inexperienced first mate crashed the ship in the middle of the night, just 100 yards from New York’s Fire Island. Although most on the boat survived, Fuller and her family did not, and despite Thoreau’s efforts to find them, their bodies were never recovered. It was a sad and sudden end for this prominent female intellectual, one that sounds almost like it belongs in a story by Edgar Allen Poe.

-- Carolyn Kellogg