Margaret Fuller on Mary Howitt’s Marriage

Bust of William and Mary Howitt at Nottingham Castle from BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/nottingham/content/image_galleries/statues_and_busts_gallery.shtml?7)

So this is a really small contribution (if it can even be called that), but not long ago we read excerpts of Fuller’s Woman in the Nineteenth Century¬†in my American Romanticism class. Fuller discusses various forms of interactions between men and women, and spends a decent chunk of time discussing marriage. Fuller stresses the importance of equality in a marriage; both men and women need the ability to grow, spiritually and intellectually. She develops four “tiers” of marriage, based on the level of equality between husband and wife. The lowest is “household partnership,” followed by “mutual idolatry,” then “intellectual companionship,” and lastly, “religious union” (Fuller 60, 69). As the anthology’s introduction on Mary Howitt states, Fuller specifically mentions the marriage between Mary and William Howitt, and classifies their marriage as an intellectual companionship. I found this really interesting and thought I would share the full passage:

“These are all instances of marriage as intellectual companionship. The parties meet mind to mind, and a mutual trust is produced, which can buckler them against a million. They work together for a common purpose, and, in all these instances, with the same implement, — the pen. The pen and the writing-desk furnish forth as naturally the retirement of Woman as of Man.

A pleasing, expression, in this kind, is afforded by the union in the names of the Howitts. William and Mary Howitt we heard named together for years, supposing them to be brother and sister; the equality of labors and reputation, even so, was auspicious; more so, now we find them man and wife. In his late work on Germany, Howitt mentions his wife, with pride, as one among the constellation of distinguished English-women, and in a graceful, simple manner. And still we contemplate with pleasure the partnership in literature and affection between the Howitts, –the congenial pursuits and productions– the pedestrian tours wherein the married pair showed that marriage, on a wide enough basis, does not destroy the ‘inexhaustible’ entertainment which lovers find in one another’s company.” (67)

Definitely a different type of marriage compared to the other poets we’ve read this semester!

Works Cited

Fuller, Margaret. Woman in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Greeley & McElrath, 1845. 60-69. Print.

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