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Margaret Fuller (1810-50) was the only woman to be included in the Concord circl e of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry

David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The autho r of the groundbreaking "Woman in the Nineteenth Century" and a war corresponden t for the New York Tribune, Fuller returned home from her adventures in Italy on ly to drown 250 yards from the shore of her native land. She is a natural choice for biographers wanting to latch onto both a serious and sensational subject -and several biographers have done so in recent years. But as John Matteson shows in "The Lives of Margaret Fuller," it was not always so. By the early 20th century, Fuller had been largely forgotten. Even academics -- who can keep a reputation alive by teaching writers into the literary canon -- ignored her because she was a one-book author, and because much of her impact derived from a charismatic personality so powerful that when she died Emerson s aid he had lost his audience. Right after her death her fellow writers assembled a volume devoted to her memor y that was a surprise bestseller, eclipsed only by the publication of "Uncle Tom 's Cabin" in 1852. But the kind of mostly pious, inspirational tributes that led to the proliferation of Margaret Fuller clubs in the decades after her death ha d played itself out by the 1920s, when scholars of all kinds were canonizing gre at writers, not great personalities. Flash forward 50 years to the 1970s, with the revival of the women's movement an d the desire in academia to revise the canon to give voice to the writings of wo men the male-dominated academy had discounted. Suddenly Fuller's writing and cul tural influence became empowering -- to use a favorite academic word. And the cu lmination of this trend is surely Matteson's masterful biography, with chapter t itles that emphasize the reasons his protean subject is likely to remain in the forefront of efforts to explore and dissect the American psyche: "Prodigy," "Mis fit," "Apostle," "Conversationalist," "Ecstatic Editor," "Seeker of Utopia," "Ad vocate," "Lover and Critic," "Internationalist," "Inamorata," "Revolutionary," " Victim." Pulitzer Prize winner Matteson expresses his significant debts to other biograph ers who have emphasized many of the "lives" that Fuller led as she was quite con sciously breaking the mold her society wished to construct for women. His writin g seems to derive palpable energy from Fuller's own dynamism. He does not downpl ay her arrogance and other faults, but in the end he discovers a Fuller that is startlingly modern in her contradictions and commitments.