Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women
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In a fresh, modern take on the remarkable Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Reisen's vivid biography explores the author's life in the context of her works, many of which are to some extent autobiographical. Although Alcott secretly wrote pulp fiction, harbored radical abolitionist views, and served as a Civil War nurse, her novels went on to sell more copies than those of Herman Melville and Henry James. Stories and details culled from Alcott's journals, together with revealing letters to family, friends, and publishers, plus recollections of her famous contemporaries provide the basis for this lively account of the author's classic rags-to-riches tale. In Louisa May Alcott, the extraordinary woman behind the beloved American classic Little Women is revealed as never before.
came running from Orchard House to find their hero “wandering about in his night clothes, old coat & no hose,” his “dear bald head lightly covered with his best hat, & an old pair of rubbers wobbling on his Platonic feet.” While the town’s volunteer firemen took charge, May and Louisa managed to save most of the library’s valuable books and manuscripts, and carried them home to dry out while the owners, surveying the wreckage on the front lawn, took the whole thing “very coolly & in a truly
important…entire satisfaction”: SJM to RWE, 22 December 1844, Lexington, MA, HAP. “happiest years”: LMA, “Recollections” in An Intimate Anthology, 6. “Mr. Emerson…cheap as dirt”: AMA to SJM, 8 June 1845, Family Letters, 1828–61. “a citizen of the town”: Clara Gowing, “From The Alcotts as I Knew Them (1909),” Shealy, in Alcott in Her Own Time, 134. “On the opposite side”: Ibid. “Though comparatively disregarded now” “he was pledged…Nature cannot spare him”: Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Or,
were paid less than factory workers, at seventeen Bronson took and passed the exam for his teaching certificate. When he was not given the post he hoped for, he became a Yankee peddler, first within his native Connecticut and later throughout the South. Bronson, now a pilgrim-peddler, followed a path of learning. The Quakers of Albemarle Sound, North Carolina, instilled in him a belief in a direct personal relationship with God, a conviction of man’s great intellectual and moral possibilities,
disappoint. Louisa’s first letter home showed her curiosity excited by everything new: the elegant fittings of their carpeted railroad carriage, the “burly guard with badges all over him looking like a horse in a silverplated harness,” the “pretty sceneries [that] May would have been wild to stop and sketch,” and the calm order of the English landscape. She also liked the pace of life: “Nothing was abrupt, nobody in a hurry, and nowhere did you see the desperately go ahead style of life that we
if I were a steeple. ‘And all as tall as you?’” Apart from the fact that Fuller seemed to expect her to write the entire monthly Merry’s Museum magazine, she happily turned out wholesome tales for his audience and lurid fiction for Frank Leslie’s. “Perilous Play,” one of Louisa Alcott’s most daring and personally revealing stories, was the last thriller she wrote. For a decade she had published as many as seven or eight “blood and thunder” tales a year, mostly anonymously but sometimes under a