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Caroline Sturgis Tappan, 1818-1888

Perry Miller

From The American Transcendentalists (Doubleday, 1957)

The younger of the Sturgis sisters, Caroline managed to be both the intimate friend of Margaret Fuller and the special confidante of Emerson (all of them subscribing to the same exalted conception of "Friendship"), as well as a serious correspondent of the elder Henry James. [She and Emerson had a lenthy correspondence based on Bettina von Arnim's Goethe's Correspondence with a Child.] The novelist Henry James knew her as she graced the Newport scene in 1861, after many happy years in Europe: she wa fascinating to him as a lovely survivor "of that young band of the ardent and uplifted" which, as James made out, had found "its prime inspirer in Emerson and become more familiarly, if a shade less authentically, vocal in Margaret Fuller." Young James was struck with how easily Caroline could display "a delicate and casual irreverence," how unafraid she was of anything to which she had been vicariously exposed. There is possibly no higher or more accurate tribute to the fine courage with which Transcendentalism fired its adherents.

Caroline Tappan was never afraid either of Margaret Fuller or Emerson. She sailed superbly through their little tempests, and in passing, graceful creature that she was, let fall her simplifications of the ardent and uplifted creed. [page 275]

Selected Poems by Caroline Sturgis Tappan

The Magician's Showbox. Story.