Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
LIFE, LETTERS AND JOURNALS
By LOUISA MAY ALCOTT
EDITED BY EDNAH D. CHENEY (1898)
Louisa May Alcott is universally recognized as the greatest and most
popular story-teller for children in her generation. She has known the
way to the hearts of young people, not only in her own class, or even
country, but in every condition of life, and in many foreign lands.
Plato says, "Beware of those who teach fables to children;" and it is
impossible to estimate the influence which the popular writer of
fiction has over the audience he wins to listen to his tales. The
preacher, the teacher, the didactic writer find their audience in
hours of strength, with critical faculties all alive, to question
their propositions and refute their arguments. The novelist comes to
us in the intervals of recreation and relaxation, and by his seductive
powers of imagination and sentiment takes possession of the fancy and
the heart before judgment and reason are aroused to defend the
citadel. It well becomes us, then, who would guard young minds from
subtle temptations, to study the character of those works which charm
and delight the children.
Of no author can it be more truly said than of Louisa Alcott that her
works are a revelation of herself. She rarely sought for the material
of her stories in old chronicles, or foreign adventures. Her capital
was her own life and experiences and those of others directly about
her; and her own well-remembered girlish frolics and fancies were sure
to find responsive enjoyment in the minds of other girls.
It is therefore impossible to understand Miss Alcott's works fully
without a knowledge of her own life and experiences. By inheritance
and education she had rich and peculiar gifts; and her life was one of
rare advantages, as well as of trying difficulties. Herself of the
most true and frank nature, she has given us the opportunity of
knowing her without disguise; and it is thus that I shall try to
portray her, showing what influences acted upon her through life, and
how faithfully and fully she performed whatever duties circumstances
laid upon her. Fortunately I can let her speak mainly for herself.
Miss Alcott revised her journals at different times during her later
life, striking out what was too personal for other eyes than her own,
and destroying a great deal which would doubtless have proved very
The small number of letters given will undoubtedly be a
disappointment. Miss Alcott wished to have most of her letters
destroyed, and her sister respected her wishes. She was not a
voluminous correspondent; she did not encourage many intimacies, and
she seldom wrote letters except to her family, unless in reference to
some purpose she had strongly at heart. Writing was her constant
occupation, and she was not tempted to indulge in it as a recreation.
Her letters are brief, and strictly to the point, but always
characteristic in feeling and expression; and, even at the risk of the
repetition of matter contained in her journals or her books, I shall
give copious extracts from such as have come into my hands.
E. D. C.
JAMAICA PLAIN, Mass., 1889.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I. GENEALOGY AND PARENTAGE 11
II. CHILDHOOD 16
III. FRUITLANDS 32
IV. THE SENTIMENTAL PERIOD 56
V. AUTHORSHIP 75
VI. THE YEAR OF GOOD LUCK 110
VII. "HOSPITAL SKETCHES" 136
VIII. EUROPE, AND "LITTLE WOMEN" 170
IX. EUROPE 204
X. FAMILY CHANGES 263
XI. LAST YEARS 329
XII. CONCLUSION 387
PORTRAIT OF MISS ALCOTT "Frontispiece"
Photogravure by A. W. Elson & Co., from a photograph by
Notman (negative destroyed), taken in 1883. The facsimile
of her writing is an extract from a letter to her
publisher, written from her hospital retreat a few weeks
previous to her death.
ORCHARD HOUSE ("APPLE SLUMP"), CONCORD,
MASS., THE HOME OF THE ALCOTTS, 1858 TO
Engraved by John Andrew & Son Co., from a photograph.
PORTRAIT OF MISS ALCOTT 140
Photogravure by A. W. Elson & Co., from a photograph
taken just previous to her going to Washington as a hospital
nurse, in 1862.
FAC-SIMILE OF MISS ALCOTT'S WRITING 362
Extract from a letter to her publisher, January, 1886.
FAC-SIMILE OF PREFACE TO THE NEW EDITION OF
"A MODERN MEPHISTOPHELES," NOW FIRST
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT.
GENEALOGY AND PARENTAGE.
TO LOUISA MAY ALCOTT.
BY HER FATHER.
When I remember with what buoyant heart,
Midst war's alarms and woes of civil strife,
In youthful eagerness thou didst depart,
At peril of thy safety, peace, and life,
To nurse the wounded soldier, swathe the dead,--
How piercèd soon by fever's poisoned dart,
And brought unconscious home, with wildered head,
Thou ever since 'mid langour and dull pain,
To conquer fortune, cherish kindred dear,
Hast with grave studies vexed a sprightly brain,
In myriad households kindled love and cheer,
Ne'er from thyself by Fame's loud trump beguiled,
Sounding in this and the farther hemisphere,--
I press thee to my heart as Duty's faithful child.
Louisa Alcott was the second child of Amos Bronson and Abba May
Alcott. This name was spelled Alcocke in English history. About 1616 a
coat-of-arms was granted to Thomas Alcocke of Silbertoft, in the
county of Leicester. The device represents three cocks, emblematic of
watchfulness; and the motto is "Semper Vigilans".
The first of the name appearing in English history is John Alcocke of
Beverley, Yorkshire, of whom Fuller gives an account in his Worthies
Thomas and George Alcocke were the first of the name among the
settlers in New England. The name is frequently found in the records
of Dorchester and Roxbury, and has passed through successive changes
to its present form.
The name of Bronson came from Mr. Alcott's maternal grandfather, the
sturdy Capt. Amos Bronson of Plymouth, Conn. "His ancestors on both
sides had been substantial people of respectable position in England,
and were connected with the founders and governors of the chief New
England colonies. At the time of Mr. Alcott's birth they had become
simple farmers, reaping a scanty living from their small farms in
Amos Bronson Alcott, the father of Louisa, was born Nov. 29, 1799, at
the foot of Spindle Hill, in the region called New Connecticut. He has
himself given in simple verse the story of his quaint rustic life in
his boyhood, and Louisa has reproduced it in her story of "Eli's
Education" (in the Spinning-Wheel Stories), which gives a very true
account of his youthful life and adventures. He derived his refined,
gentle nature from his mother, who had faith in her son, and who lived
to see him the accomplished scholar he had vowed to become in his
boyhood. Although brought up in these rustic surroundings, his manners
were always those of a true gentleman. The name of the little mountain
town afterward became Wolcott, and Louisa records in her journal a
pilgrimage made thither in after years.
Louisa Alcott's mother was a daughter of Col. Joseph May of Boston.
This family is so well known that it is hardly necessary to repeat its
genealogy here. She was a sister of Samuel J. May, for many years
pastor of the Unitarian church at Syracuse, who was so tenderly
beloved by men of all religious persuasions in his home, and so widely
known and respected for his courage and zeal in the Antislavery cause,
as well as for his many philanthropic labors.
Mrs. Alcott's mother was Dorothy Sewall, a descendant of that family
already distinguished in the annals of the Massachusetts colony, and
which has lost nothing of its reputation for ability and virtue in its
Mrs. Alcott inherited in large measure the traits which distinguished
her family. She was a woman of large stature, fine physique, and
overflowing life. Her temper was as quick and warm as her affections,
but she was full of broad unselfish generosity. Her untiring energies
were constantly employed, not only for the benefit of her family, but
for all around her. She had a fine mind, and if she did not have
large opportunities for scholastic instruction, she always enjoyed the
benefit of intellectual society and converse with noble minds. She
loved expression in writing, and her letters are full of wit and
humor, keen criticism, and noble moral sentiments. Marriage with an
idealist, who had no means of support, brought her many trials and
privations. She bore them heroically, never wavering in affection for
her husband or in devotion to her children. If the quick, impatient
temper sometimes relieved itself in hasty speech, the action was
always large and unselfish.
It will be apparent from Louisa's life that she inherited the traits
of both her parents, and that the uncommon powers of mind and heart
that distinguished her were not accidental, but the accumulated result
of the lives of generations of strong and noble men and women.
She was well born.
"Mr. Alcott to Colonel May."
GERMANTOWN, Nov. 29, 1832.
DEAR SIR,--It is with great pleasure that I announce to you the
"birth of a second daughter". She was born at half-past 12 this
morning, on my birthday (33), and is a very fine healthful child,
much more so than Anna was at birth,--has a fine foundation for
health and energy of character. Abba is very comfortable, and
will soon be restored to the discharge of those domestic and
maternal duties in which she takes so much delight, and in the
performance of which she furnishes so excellent a model for
imitation. Those only who have seen her in those relations, much
as there is in her general character to admire and esteem, can
form a true estimate of her personal worth and uncommon devotion
of heart. She was formed for domestic sentiment rather than the
gaze and heartlessness of what is falsely called "society." Abba
inclines to call the babe "Louisa May",--a name to her full of
every association connected with amiable benevolence and exalted
worth. I hope its "present possessor" may rise to equal
attainment, and deserve a place in the estimation of society.
With Abba's and Anna's and Louisa's regards, allow me to assure
you of the sincerity with which I am
A. BRONSON ALCOTT.
The children who lived to maturity were--
ANNA BRONSON ALCOTT,
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT,
ELIZABETH SEWALL ALCOTT,
ABBA MAY ALCOTT.
 For further particulars of the Alcott genealogy, see "New
Connecticut," a poem by A. B. Alcott, published in 1887. I am also
indebted to Mr. F. B. Sanborn's valuable paper read at the memorial
service at Concord in 1888.
 For particulars of the genealogy of the May families, see "A
Genealogy of the Descendants of John May," who came from England to
Roxbury in America, 1640.
 For the Sewall family, see "Drake's History of Boston," or fuller
accounts in the Sewall Papers published by the Massachusetts
TO THE FIRST ROBIN.
Welcome, welcome, little stranger,
Fear no harm, and fear no danger;
We are glad to see you here,
For you sing "Sweet Spring is near."
Now the white snow melts away;
Now the flowers blossom gay:
Come dear bird and build your nest,
For we love our robin best.
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT.
Mr. Alcott had removed to Germantown, Penn, to take charge of a
school, and here Louisa was born, Nov. 29, 1832. She was the second
daughter, and was welcomed with the same pride and affection as her
elder sister had been. We have this pleasant little glimpse of her
when she was hardly a month old, from the pen of one of her mother's
friends. Even at that extremely early age love saw the signs of more
than usual intelligence, and friends as well as fond parents looked
forward to a promising career.
"Extract from a Letter by Miss Donaldson."
GERMANTOWN, PENN., Dec. 16, 1832.
I have a dear little pet in Mrs. Alcott's little Louisa. It is
the prettiest, best little thing in the world. You will wonder to
hear me call anything so young pretty, but it is really so in an
uncommon degree; it has a fair complexion, dark bright eyes, long
dark hair, a high forehead, and altogether a countenance of more
than usual intelligence.
The mother is such a delightful woman that it is a cordial to my
heart whenever I go to see her. I went in to see her for a few
moments the evening we received your letter, and I think I never
saw her in better spirits; and truly, if goodness and integrity
can insure felicity, she deserves to be happy.
The earliest anecdote remembered of Louisa is this: When the family
went from Philadelphia to Boston by steamer, the two little girls were
nicely dressed in clean nankeen frocks for the voyage; but they had
not been long on board before the lively Louisa was missing, and after
a long search she was brought up from the engine-room, where her eager
curiosity had carried her, and where she was having a beautiful time,
with "plenty of dirt."
The family removed to Boston in 1834, and Mr. Alcott opened his famous
school in Masonic Temple. Louisa was too young to attend the school
except as an occasional visitor; but she found plenty of interest and
amusement for herself in playing on the Common, making friends with
every child she met, and on one occasion falling into the Frog Pond.
She has given a very lively picture of this period of her life in
"Poppy's Pranks," that vivacious young person being a picture of
herself, not at all exaggerated.
The family lived successively in Front Street, Cottage Place, and
Beach Street during the six succeeding years in Boston. They
occasionally passed some weeks at Scituate during the summer, which
the children heartily enjoyed.
Mrs. Hawthorne gives a little anecdote which shows how the child's
heart was blossoming in this family sunshine: "One morning in Front
Street, at the breakfast table, Louisa suddenly broke silence, with a
sunny smile saying, 'I love everybody in "dis" whole world.'"
Two children were born during this residence in Boston. Elizabeth was
named for Mr. Alcott's assistant in his school,--Miss E. P. Peabody,
since so widely known and beloved by all friends of education. A boy
was born only to die. The little body was laid reverently away in the
lot of Colonel May in the old burial-ground on the Common, and the
children were taught to speak with tenderness of their "baby brother."
When Louisa was about seven years old she made a visit to friends in
Providence. Miss C. writes of her: "She is a beautiful little girl to
look upon, and I love her affectionate manners. I think she is more
like her mother than either of the others." As is usually the case,
Louisa's journal, which she began at this early age, speaks more fully
of her struggles and difficulties than of the bright, sunny moods
which made her attractive. A little letter carefully printed and sent
home during this visit is preserved. In it she says she is not happy;
and she did have one trying experience there, to which she refers in
"My Boys." Seeing some poor children who she thought were hungry, she
took food from the house without asking permission, and carried it to
them, and was afterward very much astonished and grieved at being
reprimanded instead of praised for the deed. Miss C. says: "She has
had several spells of feeling sad; but a walk or a talk soon dispels
all gloom. She was half moody when she wrote her letter; but now she
is gay as a lark. She loves to play out of doors, and sometimes she is
not inclined to stay in when it is unpleasant." In her sketches of "My
Boys" she describes two of her companions here, not forgetting the
kindness of the one and the mischievousness of the other.
Although the family were quite comfortable during the time of Mr.
Alcott's teaching in Boston, yet the children wearied of their
extremely simple diet of plain boiled rice without sugar, and graham
meal without butter or molasses. An old friend who could not eat the
bountiful rations provided for her at the United States Hotel, used to
save her piece of pie or cake for the Alcott children. Louisa often
took it home to the others in a bandbox which she brought for the
This friend was absent in Europe many years, and returned to find the
name of Louisa Alcott famous. When she met the authoress on the street
she was eagerly greeted. "Why, I did not think you would remember me!"
said the old lady. "Do you think I shall ever forget that bandbox?"
was the instant reply.
In 1840, Mr. Alcott's school having proved unsuccessful, the family
removed to Concord, Mass., and took a cottage which is described in
"Little Women" as "Meg's first home," although Anna never lived there
after her marriage. It was a pleasant house, with a garden full of
trees, and best of all a large barn, in which the children could have
free range and act out all the plays with which their little heads
were teeming. Of course it was a delightful change from the city for
the children, and here they passed two very happy years, for they were
too young to understand the cares which pressed upon the hearts of
their parents. Life was full of interest. One cold morning they found
in the garden a little half-starved bird; and having warmed and fed
it, Louisa was inspired to write a pretty poem to "The Robin." The
fond mother was so delighted that she said to her, "You will grow up a
Shakspeare!" From the lessons of her father she had formed the habit
of writing freely, but this is the first recorded instance of her
attempting to express her feelings in verse.
From the influences of such parentage as I have described, the family
life in which Louisa was brought up became wholly unique.
If the father had to give up his cherished projects of a school
modelled after his ideas, he could at least conduct the education of
his own children; and he did so with the most tender devotion. Even
when they were infants he took a great deal of personal care of them,
and loved to put the little ones to bed and use the "children's hour"
to instil into their hearts lessons of love and wisdom. He was full of
fun too, and would lie on the floor and frolic with them, making
compasses of his long legs with which to draw letters and diagrams. No
shade of fear mingled with the children's reverent recognition of his
superior spiritual life. So their hearts lay open to him, and he was
able to help them in their troubles.
He taught them much by writing; and we have many specimens of their
lists of words to be spelled, written, and understood. The lessons at
Scituate were often in the garden, and their father always drew their
attention to Nature and her beautiful forms and meanings. Little
symbolical pictures helped to illustrate his lessons, and he sometimes
made drawings himself. Here is an example of lessons. A quaint little
picture represents one child playing on a harp, another drawing an
arrow. It is inscribed--
Two passions strong divide our life,--
Meek, gentle love, or boisterous strife.
Below the child playing the harp is--
Below the shooter is--
Another leaflet is--
Have some then,
Christmas Eve, December, 1840.
* * * * *
Beauty or Duty,--
loves Anna best?
A letter beautifully printed by her father for Louisa (1839) speaks to
her of conscience, and she adds to it this note: "L. began early, it
seems, to wrestle with her conscience." The children were always
required to keep their journals regularly, and although these were
open to the inspection of father and mother, they were very frank, and
really recorded their struggles and desires. The mother had the habit
of writing little notes to the children when she wished to call their
attention to any fault or peculiarity. Louisa preserved many of them,
["Extracts" from letters from Mother, received during these early
years. I preserve them to show the ever tender, watchful help she
gave to the child who caused her the most anxiety, yet seemed to
be the nearest to her heart till the end.--L. M. A.]
No. 1.--MY DEAR LITTLE GIRL,--Will you accept this doll from me
on your seventh birthday? She will be a quiet playmate for my
active Louisa for seven years more. Be a kind mamma, and love her
for my sake.
BEACH STREET, BOSTON, 1839.
"From her Mother."
COTTAGE IN CONCORD.
DEAR DAUGHTER,--Your tenth birthday has arrived. May it be a
happy one, and on each returning birthday may you feel new
strength and resolution to be gentle with sisters, obedient to
parents, loving to every one, and happy in yourself.
I give you the pencil-case I promised, for I have observed that
you are fond of writing, and wish to encourage the habit.
Go on trying, dear, and each day it will be easier to be and do
good. You must help yourself, for the cause of your little
troubles is in yourself; and patience and courage age only will
make you what mother prays to see you,--her good and happy girl.
DEAR LOUY,--I enclose a picture for you which I always liked very
much, for I imagined that you might be just such an industrious
daughter and I such a feeble but loving mother, looking to your
labor for my daily bread.
Keep it for my sake and your own, for you and I always liked to
be grouped together.
The lines I wrote under the picture in my journal:--
I hope that soon, dear mother,
You and I may be
In the quiet room my fancy
Has so often made for thee,--
The pleasant, sunny chamber,
The cushioned easy-chair,
The book laid for your reading,
The vase of flowers fair;
The desk beside the window
Where the sun shines warm and bright:
And there in ease and quiet
The promised book you write;
While I sit close beside you,
Content at last to see
That you can rest, dear mother,
And I can cherish thee.
[The dream came true, and for the last ten years of her life
Marmee sat in peace, with every wish granted, even to the
"grouping together;" for she died in my arms.--L. M. A.]
A passage in Louisa's story of "Little Men" (p. 268) describes one of
their childish plays. They "made believe" their minds were little
round rooms in which the soul lived, and in which good or bad things
were preserved. This play was never forgotten in after life, and the
girls often looked into their little rooms for comfort or guidance in
trial or temptation.
Louisa was very fond of animals, as is abundantly shown in her
stories. She never had the happiness of owning many pets, except cats,
and these were the delight of the household. The children played all
manner of plays with them, tended them in sickness, buried them with
funeral honors, and Louisa has embalmed their memory in the story of
"The Seven Black Cats" in "Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag."
Dolls were an equal source of pleasure. The imaginative children
hardly recognized them as manufactured articles, but endowed them with
life and feeling. Louisa put her dolls through every experience of
life; they were fed, educated, punished, rewarded, nursed, and even
hung and buried, and then resurrected in her stories. The account of
the "Sacrifice of the Dolls" to the exacting Kitty Mouse in "Little
Men" delights all children by its mixture of pathetic earnestness and
playfulness. It is taken from the experience of another family of
Miss Alcott twice says that she never went to any school but her
father's; but there were some slight exceptions to this rule. She went
a few months to a little district school in Still River Village. This
was a genuine old-fashioned school, from which she took the hint of
the frolics in "Under the Lilacs." Miss Ford also kept a little school
in Mr. Emerson's barn, to which the children went; and Mary Russell
had a school, which Louisa attended when eight or nine years old.
These circumstances, however, had small influence in her education.
During this period of life in Concord, which was so happy to the
children, the mother's heart was full of anxious care. She however
entered into all their childish pleasures, and her watchful care over
their moral growth is shown by her letters and by Louisa's journals.
The youngest child, Abba May, who was born in the cottage, became the
pet of the family and the special care of the oldest sister, Anna.
Louisa's childish journal gives us many hints of this happy life. She
revised these journals in later years, adding significant comments
which are full of interest. She designed them to have place in her
autobiography, which she hoped to write.
From three different sources--her journals, an article written for
publication, and a manuscript prepared for a friend,--we give her own
account of these childish years. She has not followed the order of
events strictly, and it has not been possible, therefore, to avoid all
repetition; but they give the spirit of her early life, and clearly
show the kind of education she received from her father and from the
circumstances around her.
"Sketch of Childhood, by herself."
One of my earliest recollections is of playing with books in my
father's study,--building houses and bridges of the big
dictionaries and diaries, looking at pictures, pretending to
read, and scribbling on blank pages whenever pen or pencil could
be found. Many of these first attempts at authorship still remain
in Bacon's Essays, Plutarch's Lives, and other works of a serious
nature, my infant taste being for solid literature, apparently.
On one occasion we built a high tower round baby Lizzie as she
sat playing with her toys on the floor, and being attracted by
something out-of-doors, forgot our little prisoner. A search was
made, and patient baby at last discovered curled up and fast
asleep in her dungeon cell, out of which she emerged so rosy and
smiling after her nap that we were forgiven for our carelessness.
Another memory is of my fourth birthday, which was celebrated at
my father's school-room in Masonic Temple. All the children were
there. I wore a crown of flowers, and stood upon a table to
dispense cakes to each child as the procession marched past. By
some oversight the cakes fell short, and I saw that if I gave
away the last one I should have none. As I was queen of the
revel, I felt that I ought to have it, and held on to it tightly
till my mother said,--
"It is always better to give away than to keep the nice things;
so I know my Louy will not let the little friend go without."
The little friend received the dear plummy cake, and I a kiss and
my first lesson in the sweetness of self-denial,--a lesson which
my dear mother beautifully illustrated all her long and noble
Running away was one of the delights of my early days; and I
still enjoy sudden flights out of the nest to look about this
very interesting world, and then go back to report.
On one of these occasions I passed a varied day with some Irish
children, who hospitably shared their cold potatoes, salt-fish,
and crusts with me as we revelled in the ash-heaps which then
adorned the waste lands where the Albany Depot now stands. A trip
to the Common cheered the afternoon, but as dusk set in and my
friends deserted me, I felt that home was a nice place after all,
and tried to find it. I dimly remember watching a lamp-lighter as
I sat to rest on some doorsteps in Bedford Street, where a big
dog welcomed me so kindly that I fell asleep with my head
pillowed on his curly back, and was found there by the
town-crier, whom my distracted parents had sent in search of me.
His bell and proclamation of the loss of "a little girl, six
years old, in a pink frock, white hat, and new green shoes," woke
me up, and a small voice answered out of the darkness,--
"Why, dat's me!"
Being with difficulty torn from my four-footed friend, I was
carried to the crier's house, and there feasted sumptuously on
bread-and-molasses in a tin plate with the alphabet round it. But
my fun ended next day when I was tied to the arm of the sofa to
repent at leisure.
I became an Abolitionist at a very early age, but have never been
able to decide whether I was made so by seeing the portrait of
George Thompson hidden under a bed in our house during the
Garrison riot, and going to comfort "the poor man who had been
good to the slaves," or because I was saved from drowning in the
Frog Pond some years later by a colored boy. However that may be,
the conversion was genuine; and my greatest pride is in the fact
that I lived to know the brave men and women who did so much for
the cause, and that I had a very small share in the war which put
an end to a great wrong.
Another recollection of her childhood was of a "contraband" hidden in
the oven, which must have made her sense of the horrors of slavery
I never went to school except to my father or such governesses as
from time to time came into the family. Schools then were not
what they are now; so we had lessons each morning in the study.
And very happy hours they were to us, for my father taught in the
wise way which unfolds what lies in the child's nature, as a
flower blooms, rather than crammed it, like a Strasburg goose,
with more than it could digest. I never liked arithmetic nor
grammar, and dodged those branches on all occasions; but reading,
writing, composition, history, and geography I enjoyed, as well
as the stories read to us with a skill peculiarly his own.
"Pilgrim's Progress," Krummacher's "Parables," Miss Edgeworth,
and the best of the dear old fairy tales made the reading hour
the pleasantest of our day. On Sundays we had a simple service of
Bible stories, hymns, and conversation about the state of our
little consciences and the conduct of our childish lives which
never will be forgotten.
Walks each morning round the Common while in the city, and long
tramps over hill and dale when our home was in the country, were
a part of our education, as well as every sort of housework,--for
which I have always been very grateful, since such knowledge
makes one independent in these days of domestic tribulation with
the "help" who are too often only hindrances.
Needle-work began early, and at ten my skilful sister made a
linen shirt beautifully; while at twelve I set up as a doll's
dressmaker, with my sign out and wonderful models in my window.
All the children employed me, and my turbans were the rage at one
time, to the great dismay of the neighbors' hens, who were hotly
hunted down, that I might tweak out their downiest feathers to
adorn the dolls' headgear.
Active exercise was my delight, from the time when a child of six
I drove my hoop round the Common without stopping, to the days
when I did my twenty miles in five hours and went to a party in
I always thought I must have been a deer or a horse in some
former state, because it was such a joy to run. No boy could be
my friend till I had beaten him in a race, and no girl if she
refused to climb trees, leap fences, and be a tomboy.
My wise mother, anxious to give me a strong body to support a
lively brain, turned me loose in the country and let me run wild,
learning of Nature what no books can teach, and being led,--as
those who truly love her seldom fail to be,--
"Through Nature up to Nature's God."
I remember running over the hills just at dawn one summer
morning, and pausing to rest in the silent woods, saw, through an
arch of trees, the sun rise over river, hill, and wide green
meadows as I never saw it before.
Something born of the lovely hour, a happy mood, and the
unfolding aspirations of a child's soul seemed to bring me very
near to God; and in the hush of that morning hour I always felt
that I "got religion," as the phrase goes. A new and vital sense
of His presence, tender and sustaining as a father's arms, came
to me then, never to change through forty years of life's
vicissitudes, but to grow stronger for the sharp discipline of
poverty and pain, sorrow and success.
Those Concord days were the happiest of my life, for we had
charming playmates in the little Emersons, Channings, Hawthornes,
and Goodwins, with the illustrious parents and their friends to
enjoy our pranks and share our excursions.
Plays in the barn were a favorite amusement, and we dramatized
the fairy tales in great style. Our giant came tumbling off a
loft when Jack cut down the squash-vine running up a ladder to
represent the immortal bean. Cinderella rolled away in a vast
pumpkin, and a long black pudding was lowered by invisible hands
to fasten itself on the nose of the woman who wasted her three
Pilgrims journeyed over the hill with scrip and staff and
cockle-shells in their hats; fairies held their pretty revels
among the whispering birches, and strawberry parties in the
rustic arbor were honored by poets and philosophers, who fed us
on their wit and wisdom while the little maids served more mortal
 Written at eight years of age.
A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell,
And very hard I find the task
Of governing it well;
For passion tempts and troubles me,
A wayward will misleads,
And selfishness its shadow casts
On all my words and deeds.
How can I learn to rule myself,
To be the child I should,
Honest and brave, nor ever tire
Of trying to be good?
How can I keep a sunny soul
To shine along life's way?
How can I tune my little heart
To sweetly sing all day?
Dear Father, help me with the love
That casteth out my fear,
Teach me to lean on thee, and feel
That thou art very near,
That no temptation is unseen,
No childish grief too small,
Since thou, with patience infinite,
Doth soothe and comfort all.
I do not ask for any crown
But that which all may win,
Nor seek to conquer any world
Except the one within.
Be thou my guide until I find,
Led by a tender hand,
Thy happy kingdom in "myself",
And dare to take command.
In 1842 Mr. Alcott went to England. His mind was very much exercised
at this time with plans for organized social life on a higher plane,
and he found like-minded friends in England who gave him sympathy and
encouragement. He had for some years advocated a strictly vegetarian
diet, to which his family consented from deference to him;
consequently the children never tasted meat till they came to
maturity. On his return from England he was accompanied by friends who
were ready to unite with him in the practical realization of their
social theories. Mr. Lane resided for some months in the Alcott family
at Concord, and gave instruction to the children. Although he does not
appear to have won their hearts, they yet reaped much intellectual
advantage from his lessons, as he was an accomplished scholar.
In 1843 this company of enthusiasts secured a farm in the town of
Harvard, near Concord, which with trusting hope they named Fruitlands.
Mrs. Alcott did not share in all the peculiar ideas of her husband and
his friends, but she was so utterly devoted to him that she was ready
to help him in carrying out his plans, however little they commended
themselves to her better judgment.
She alludes very briefly to the experiment in her diary, for the
experience was too bitter to dwell upon. She could not relieve her
feelings by bringing out the comic side, as her daughter did. Louisa's
account of this colony, as given in her story called "Transcendental
Wild Oats," is very close to the facts; and the mingling of pathos and
humor, the reverence and ridicule with which she alternately treats
the personages and the notions of those engaged in the scheme, make a
rich and delightful tale. It was written many years later, and gives
the picture as she looked back upon it, the absurdities coming out in
strong relief, while she sees also the grand, misty outlines of the
high thoughts so poorly realized. This story was published in the
"Independent," Dec. 8, 1873, and may now be found in her collected
works ("Silver Pitchers," p. 79).
Fortunately we have also her journal written at the time, which shows
what education the experience of this strange life brought to the
child of ten or eleven years old.
The following extract from Mr. Emerson proves that this plan of life
looked fair and pleasing to his eye, although he was never tempted to
join in it. He was evidently not unconscious of the inadequacy of the
means adopted to the end proposed, but he rejoiced in any endeavor
after high ideal life.
JULY, 8, 1843.
"Journal."--The sun and the evening sky do not look calmer than
Alcott and his family at Fruitlands. They seemed to have arrived
at the fact,--to have got rid of the show, and so to be serene.
Their manners and behavior in the house and in the field were
those of superior men,--of men at rest. What had they to conceal?
What had they to exhibit? And it seemed so high an attainment
that I thought--as often before, so now more, because they had a
fit home, or the picture was fitly framed--that these men ought
to be maintained in their place by the country for its culture.
Young men and young maidens, old men and women, should visit them
and be inspired. I think there is as much merit in beautiful
manners as in hard work. I will not prejudge them successful.
They look well in July; we will see them in December. I know they
are better for themselves than as partners. One can easily see
that they have yet to settle several things. Their saying that
things are clear, and they sane, does not make them so. If they
will in very deed be lovers, and not selfish; if they will serve
the town of Harvard, and make their neighbors feel them as
benefactors wherever they touch them,--they are as safe as the
"Early Diary kept at Fruitlands", 1843.
"Ten Years Old."
"September 1st."--I rose at five and had my bath. I love cold
water! Then we had our singing-lesson with Mr. Lane. After
breakfast I washed dishes, and ran on the hill till nine, and had
some thoughts,--it was so beautiful up there. Did my
lessons,--wrote and spelt and did sums; and Mr. Lane read a
story, "The Judicious Father": How a rich girl told a poor girl
not to look over the fence at the flowers, and was cross to her
because she was unhappy. The father heard her do it, and made the
girls change clothes. The poor one was glad to do it, and he told
her to keep them. But the rich one was very sad; for she had to
wear the old ones a week, and after that she was good to shabby
girls. I liked it very much, and I shall be kind to poor people.
Father asked us what was God's noblest work. Anna said "men", but
I said "babies". Men are often bad; babies never are. We had a
long talk, and I felt better after it, and "cleared up".
We had bread and fruit for dinner. I read and walked and played
till supper-time. We sung in the evening. As I went to bed the
moon came up very brightly and looked at me. I felt sad because I
have been cross to-day, and did not mind Mother. I cried, and
then I felt better, and said that piece from Mrs. Sigourney, "I
must not tease my mother." I get to sleep saying poetry,--I know
a great deal.
"Thursday, 14th."--Mr. Parker Pillsbury came, and we talked about
the poor slaves. I had a music lesson with Miss F. I hate her,
she is so fussy. I ran in the wind and played be a horse, and had
a lovely time in the woods with Anna and Lizzie. We were fairies,
and made gowns and paper wings. I "flied" the highest of all. In
the evening they talked about travelling. I thought about Father
going to England, and said this piece of poetry I found in
"When I left thy shores, O Naxos,
Not a tear in sorrow fell;
Not a sigh or faltered accent
Told my bosom's struggling swell."
It rained when I went to bed, and made a pretty noise on the
"Sunday, 24th."--Father and Mr. Lane have gone to N. H. to
preach. It was very lovely.... Anna and I got supper. In the eve
I read "Vicar of Wakefield." I was cross to-day, and I cried when
I went to bed. I made good resolutions, and felt better in my
heart. If I only "kept" all I make, I should be the best girl in
the world. But I don't, and so am very bad.
[Poor little sinner! "She says the same at fifty."--L. M. A.]
"October 8th."--When I woke up, the first thought I got was,
"It's Mother's birthday: I must be very good." I ran and wished
her a happy birthday, and gave her my kiss. After breakfast we
gave her our presents. I had a moss cross and a piece of poetry
We did not have any school, and played in the woods and got red
leaves. In the evening we danced and sung, and I read a story
about "Contentment." I wish I was rich, I was good, and we were
all a happy family this day.
"Thursday, 12th."--After lessons I ironed. We all went to the
barn and husked corn. It was good fun. We worked till eight
o'clock and had lamps. Mr. Russell came. Mother and Lizzie are
going to Boston. I shall be very lonely without dear little
Betty, and no one will be as good to me as mother. I read in
Plutarch. I made a verse about sunset:--
Softly doth the sun descend
To his couch behind the hill,
Then, oh, then, I love to sit
On mossy banks beside the rill.
Anna thought it was very fine; but I didn't like it very well.
"Friday, Nov. 2nd."--Anna and I did the work. In the evening Mr.
Lane asked us, "What is man?" These were our answers: A human
being; an animal with a mind; a creature; a body; a soul and a
mind. After a long talk we went to bed very tired.
[No wonder, after doing the work and worrying their little wits
with such lessons.--L. M. A.]
A sample of the vegetarian wafers we used at Fruitlands:--
and sweet repose.
Animal food and
Pluck your body
from the orchard;
do not snatch it
from the shamble.
Without flesh diet
there could be no
Apollo eats no
flesh and has no
beard; his voice is
Snuff is no less snuff
though accepted from
a gold box.
"Tuesday, 20th."--I rose at five, and after breakfast washed the
dishes, and then helped mother work. Miss F. is gone, and Anna in
Boston with Cousin Louisa. I took care of Abby (May) in the
afternoon. In the evening I made some pretty things for my dolly.
Father and Mr. L. had a talk, and father asked us if "we" saw any
reason for us to separate. Mother wanted to, she is so tired. I
like it, but not the school part or Mr. L.
Eleven years old. "Thursday, 29th."--It was Father's and my
birthday. We had some nice presents. We played in the snow before
school. Mother read "Rosamond" when we sewed. Father asked us in
the eve what fault troubled us most. I said my bad temper.
I told mother I liked to have her write in my book. She said she
would put in more, and she wrote this to help me:--
DEAR LOUY,--Your handwriting improves very fast. Take pains and
do not be in a hurry. I like to have you make observations about
our conversations and your own thoughts. It helps you to express
them and to understand your little self. Remember, dear girl,
that a diary should be an epitome of your life. May it be a
record of pure thought and good actions, then you will indeed be
the precious child of your loving mother.
"December 10th."--I did my lessons, and walked in the afternoon.
Father read to us in dear Pilgrim's Progress. Mr. L. was in
Boston, and we were glad. In the eve father and mother and Anna
and I had a long talk. I was very unhappy, and we all cried. Anna
and I cried in bed, and I prayed God to keep us all together.
[Little Lu began early to feel the family cares and peculiar
trials.--L. M. A.]
I liked the verses Christian sung and will put them in:--
"This place has been our second stage,
Here we have heard and seen
Those good things that from age to age
To others hid have been.
"They move me for to watch and pray,
To strive to be sincere,
To take my cross up day by day,
And serve the Lord with fear."
[The appropriateness of the song at this time was much greater
than the child saw. She never forgot this experience, and her
little cross began to grow heavier from this hour.--L. M. A.]
CONCORD, "Sunday".--We all went into the woods to get moss for
the "arbor" Father is making for "Mr. Emerson". I miss Anna so
much. I made two verses for her:--
Sister, dear, when you are lonely,
Longing for your distant home,
And the images of loved ones
Warmly to your heart shall come,
Then, mid tender thoughts and fancies,
Let one fond voice say to thee,
"Ever when your heart is heavy,
Anna, dear, then think of me."
Think how we two have together
Journeyed onward day by day,
Joys and sorrows ever sharing,
While the swift years roll away.
Then may all the sunny hours
Of our youth rise up to thee,
And when your heart is light and happy,
Anna, dear, then think of me.
[Poetry began to flow about this time in a thin but copious
stream.--L. M. A.]
"Wednesday."--Read Martin Luther. A long letter from Anna. She
sends me a picture of Jenny Lind, the great singer. She must be a
happy girl. I should like to be famous as she is. Anna is very
happy; and I don't miss her as much as I shall by and by in the
I wrote in my Imagination Book, and enjoyed it very much. Life is
pleasanter than it used to be, and I don't care about dying any
more. Had a splendid run, and got a box of cones to burn. Sat and
heard the pines sing a long time. Read Miss Bremer's "Home" in
the eve. Had good dreams, and woke now and then to think, and
watch the moon. I had a pleasant time with my mind, for it was
[Moods began early.--L. M. A.]
"January, 1845, Friday."--Did my lessons, and in the P.M. mother
read "Kenilworth" to us while we sewed. It is splendid! I got
angry and called Anna mean. Father told me to look out the word
in the Dic., and it meant "base," "contemptible." I was so
ashamed to have called my dear sister that, and I cried over my
bad tongue and temper.
We have had a lovely day. All the trees were covered with ice,
and it shone like diamonds or fairy palaces. I made a piece of
poetry about winter:--
The stormy winter's come at last,
With snow and rain and bitter blast;
Ponds and brooks are frozen o'er,
We cannot sail there any more.
The little birds are flown away
To warmer climes than ours;
They'll come no more till gentle May
Calls them back with flowers.
Oh, then the darling birds will sing
From their neat nests in the trees.
All creatures wake to welcome Spring,
And flowers dance in the breeze.
With patience wait till winter is o'er,
And all lovely things return;
Of every season try the more
Some knowledge or virtue to learn.
[A moral is tacked on even to the early poems.--L. M. A.]
I read "Philothea," by Mrs. Child. I found this that I liked
in it. Plato said:--
"When I hear a note of music I can at once strike its chord. Even
as surely is there everlasting harmony between the soul of man
and the invisible forms of creation. If there were no innocent
hearts there would be no white lilies.... I often think flowers
are the angel's alphabet whereby they write on hills and fields
mysterious and beautiful lessons for us to feel and learn."
[Well done, twelve-year-old! Plato, the father's delight, had a
charm for the little girl also.--L. M. A.]
"Wednesday."--I am so cross I wish I had never been born.
"Thursday."--Read the "Heart of Mid-Lothian," and had a very
happy day. Miss Ford gave us a botany lesson in the woods. I am
always good there. In the evening Miss Ford told us about the
bones in our bodies, and how they get out of order. I must be
careful of mine, I climb and jump and run so much.
I found this note from dear mother in my journal:--
MY DEAREST LOUY,--I often peep into your diary, hoping to see
some record of more happy days. "Hope, and keep busy," dear
daughter, and in all perplexity or trouble come freely to your
DEAR MOTHER,--You "shall" see more happy days, and I "will" come
to you with my worries, for you are the best woman in the world.
L. M. A.
"A Sample of our Lessons."
"What virtues do you wish more of?" asks Mr. L.
"What vices less of?"
Love of cats.
MR. L. L.
How can you get what you need? By trying.
How do you try? By resolution and perseverance.
How gain love? By gentleness.
What is gentleness? Kindness, patience, and care for other
Who has it? Father and Anna.
Who means to have it? Louisa, if she can.
[She never got it.--L. M. A.]
Write a sentence about anything. "I hope it will rain; the garden
What are the elements of "hope"? Expectation, desire, faith.
What are the elements in "wish"? Desire.
What is the difference between faith and hope? "Faith can believe
without seeing; hope is not sure, but tries to have faith when it
What are the most valuable kinds of self-denial? Appetite,
How is self-denial of temper known? If I control my temper, I am
respectful and gentle, and every one sees it.
What is the result of this self-denial? Every one loves me, and I
Why use self-denial? For the good of myself and others.
How shall we learn this self-denial? By resolving, and then
What then do you mean to do? To resolve and try.
[Here the record of these lessons ends, and poor little
Alcibiades went to work and tried till fifty, but without any
very great success, in spite of all the help Socrates and Plato
gave her.--L. M. A.]
"Tuesday."--More people coming to live with us; I wish we could
be together, and no one else. I don't see who is to clothe and
feed us all, when we are so poor now. I was very dismal, and then
went to walk and made a poem.
Silent and sad,
When all are glad,
And the earth is dressed in flowers;
When the gay birds sing
Till the forests ring,
As they rest in woodland bowers.
Oh, why these tears,
And these idle fears
For what may come to-morrow?
The birds find food
From God so good,
And the flowers know no sorrow.
If He clothes these
And the leafy trees,
Will He not cherish thee?
Why doubt His care;
It is everywhere,
Though the way we may not see.
Then why be sad
When all are glad,
And the world is full of flowers?
With the gay birds sing,
Make life all Spring,
And smile through the darkest hours.
Louisa Alcott grew up so naturally in a healthy religious atmosphere
that she breathed and worked in it without analysis or question. She
had not suffered from ecclesiastical tyranny or sectarian bigotry,
and needed not to expend any time or strength in combating them. She
does not appear to have suffered from doubt or questioning, but to
have gone on her way fighting all the real evils that were presented
to her, trusting in a sure power of right, and confident of victory.
CONCORD, "Thursday."--I had an early run in the woods before the
dew was off the grass. The moss was like velvet, and as I ran
under the arches of yellow and red leaves I sang for joy, my
heart was so bright and the world so beautiful. I stopped at the
end of the walk and saw the sunshine out over the wide "Virginia
It seemed like going through a dark life or grave into heaven
beyond. A very strange and solemn feeling came over me as I stood
there, with no sound but the rustle of the pines, no one near me,
and the sun so glorious, as for me alone. It seemed as if I
"felt" God as I never did before, and I prayed in my heart that I
might keep that happy sense of nearness all my life.
[I have, for I most sincerely think that the little girl "got
religion" that day in the wood when dear mother Nature led her to
God.--L. M. A., 1885.]
One of Louisa's strongest desires at this time was for a room of her
own, where she might have the solitude she craved to dream her dreams
and work out her fancies. These sweet little notes and an extract from
her journal show how this desire was felt and gratified.
DEAREST MOTHER,--I have tried to be more contented, and I think I
have been more so. I have been thinking about my little room,
which I suppose I never shall have. I should want to be there
about all the time, and I should go there and sing and think.
But I'll be contented
With what I have got;
Of folly repented,
Then sweet is my lot.
From your trying daughter,
MY DEAR LOUISA,--Your note gave me so much delight that I cannot
close my eyes without first thanking you, dear, for making me so
happy, and blessing God who gave you this tender love for your
I have observed all day your patience with baby, your obedience
to me, and your kindness to all.
Go on "trying," my child; God will give you strength and courage,
and help you fill each day with words and deeds of love. I shall
lay this on your pillow, put a warm kiss on your lips, and say a
little prayer over you in your sleep.
MY LOUY,--I was grieved at your selfish behavior this morning,
but also greatly pleased to find you bore so meekly Father's
reproof for it. That is the way, dear; if you find you are wrong,
take the discipline sweetly, and do so no more. It is not to be
expected that children should always do right; but oh, how lovely
to see a child penitent and patient when the passion is over.
I thought a little prayer as I looked at you, and said in my
heart, "Dear God, sustain my child in this moment of trial, that
no hasty word, no cruel look, no angry action may add to her
fault." And you were helped. I know that you will have a happy
day after the storm and the gentle shower; keep quiet, read,
walk, but do not talk much till all is peace again.
DEAR,--I am glad you put your heart in the right place; for I am
sure all true strength comes from above. Continue to feel that
God is "near" you, dear child, and He never will forsake you in a
weak moment. Write me always when you feel that I can help you;
for, though God is near, Mother never forgets you, and your
refuge is her arms.
Patience, dear, will give us content, if nothing else. Be assured
the little room you long for will come, if it is necessary to
your peace and well-being. Till then try to be happy with the
good things you have. They are many,--more perhaps than we
deserve, after our frequent complaints and discontent.
Be cheerful, my Louy, and all will be gayer for your laugh, and
all good and lovely things will be given to you when you deserve
I am a busy woman, but never can forget the calls of my children.
DEAREST,--I am sure you have lived very near to God "to-day", you
have been so good and happy. Let each day be like this, and life
will become a sweet song for you and all who love you,--none so
much as your
"Thirteen Years Old."
"March, 1846."--I have at last got the little room I have wanted
so long, and am very happy about it. It does me good to be
alone, and Mother has made it very pretty and neat for me. My
work-basket and desk are by the window, and my closet is full of
dried herbs that smell very nice. The door that opens into the
garden will be very pretty in summer, and I can run off to the
woods when I like.
I have made a plan for my life, as I am in my teens and no more a
child. I am old for my age, and don't care much for girl's
things. People think I'm wild and queer; but Mother understands
and helps me. I have not told any one about my plan; but I'm
going to "be" good. I've made so many resolutions, and written
sad notes, and cried over my sins, and it doesn't seem to do any
good! Now I'm going to "work really", for I feel a true desire to
improve, and be a help and comfort, not a care and sorrow, to my
"Fifteen Years Old."
"Sunday, Oct. 9, 1847."--I have been reading to-day Bettine's
correspondence with Goethe.
She calls herself a child, and writes about the lovely things she
saw and heard, and felt and did. I liked it much.
[First taste of Goethe. Three years later R. W. E. gave me
"Wilhelm Meister," and from that day Goethe has been my chief
idol.--L. M. A., 1885.]
The experiment at Fruitlands was (outwardly) an utter failure, and had
exhausted Mr. Alcott's resources of mind, body, and estate. Louisa has
not exaggerated the collapse which followed. But the brave, loving
mother could not give way to despondency, for she had her young to
care for. After a few days Mr. Alcott rose from his despair, and
listened to her counsel. They lived a short time at Still River, and
then returned to Concord; but not to the happy little cottage.
Mr. Alcott sought such work as he could find to do with his hands; but
it was scanty and insufficient. Mrs. Alcott subdued her proud heart to
the necessity of seeking help from friends. They had a few rooms in
the house of a kind neighbor, who welcomed them to her house, in
addition to her own large family; and there they struggled with the
poverty which Louisa for the first time fully realized.
Yet her journal says little of the hardships they endured, but is full
of her mental and moral struggles. It was characteristic of this
family that they never were conquered by their surroundings. Mr.
Alcott might retire into sad and silent musing, Mrs. Alcott's warm,
quick temper, might burst out into flame, the children might be
quarrelsome or noisy; but their ideal of life always remained high,
fresh, and ennobling. Their souls always "knew their destiny divine,"
and believed that they would find fitting expression in life some
time. "Chill penury" could not repress "their noble rage," nor freeze
"the genial current" of their souls.
The children escaped from the privations of daily life into a world of
romance, and in the plays in the old barn revelled in luxury and
splendor. This dramatic tendency was very strong in Louisa, and she
never outgrew it. It took various shapes and colors, and at one time
threatened to dominate her life.
The education of the children was certainly desultory and
insufficient; but it was inspiring, and brought out their powers. They
learned to feel and to think justly, and to express their thoughts and
feelings freely and forcibly, if they did not know well the rules of
grammar and rhetoric. Mr. Alcott always loved the study of language,
and became a master of it; while Mrs. Alcott had a rich and
well-chosen vocabulary, gained from the intelligent companions of her
youth and the best literature, which she read freely. Mr. Alcott made
great use of the study of language in his teaching, and often employed
the definition of a word to convey a lesson or a rebuke. The children
were encouraged, and even required, to keep their journals regularly,
and to write letters. Their efforts at poetry or the drama were not
laughed at, but treasured by their parents as indications of progress.
Mr. Alcott's records of his own theory and practice in the education
of children are full of valuable suggestion, and much yet remains
buried in his journals. The girls had full freedom to act out their
natures, with little fear of ridicule or criticism. An innate sense of
dignity and modesty kept them from abusing this liberty; and perhaps
nowhere in the world could it have been more safely indulged than in
the simple life of Concord, whose very atmosphere seemed then filled
with a spiritual presence which made life free, pure, and serene.
Louisa gives this interesting anecdote of their life at that time:--
People wondered at our frolics, but enjoyed them, and droll
stories are still told of the adventures of those days. Mr.
Emerson and Margaret Fuller were visiting my parents one
afternoon, and the conversation having turned to the ever
interesting subject of education, Miss Fuller said:--
"Well, Mr. Alcott, you have been able to carry out your methods
in your own family, and I should like to see your model
She did in a few moments, for as the guests stood on the
door-steps a wild uproar approached, and round the corner of the
house came a wheelbarrow holding baby May arrayed as a queen; I
was the horse, bitted and bridled, and driven by my elder sister
Anna; while Lizzie played dog, and barked as loud as her gentle
All were shouting and wild with fun, which, however, came to a
sudden end as we espied the stately group before us; for my foot
tripped, and down we all went in a laughing heap; while my mother
put a climax to the joke by saying, with a dramatic wave of the
"Here are the model children, Miss Fuller."
They were undoubtedly very satisfactory to Miss Fuller, who partook
largely of the educational views of that time, and who loved to tell
anecdotes of this family. One of the sisters writes in her diary: "She
"said" prayers; but I think my resolutions to be good are prayers."
In 1841 Colonel May, Mrs. Alcott's father, died and left her a small
amount of property. Mrs. Alcott decided to purchase with this a house
in Concord, and the addition of five hundred dollars from Mr. Emerson,
who was always the good Providence of the family, enabled her in 1845
to buy the place in Concord known as Hillside. This house is on the
road to Lexington, about one third of a mile from Mr. Emerson's home.
It was afterward occupied by Mr. Hawthorne.
In this house the girlish life of Louisa was passed, which she has
represented so fully in "Little Women," and of which she speaks in her
journal as the happiest time of her life. Yet she was not unmindful of
the anxiety of her parents; and the determined purpose to retrieve the
fortunes of the family and to give to her mother the comfort and ease
which she had never known in her married life became the constant
motive of her conduct. It is in the light of this purpose alone that
her character and her subsequent career can be fully understood. She
naturally thought of teaching as her work, and had for a short time a
little school in the barn for Mr. Emerson's children and others.
It was indeed a great comfort to be sure of the house over their
heads, but there were still six mouths to be fed, six bodies to be
clothed, and four young, eager minds to be educated. Concord offered
very little opportunity for such work as either Mr. or Mrs. Alcott
could do, and at last even the mother's brave heart broke down. She
was painfully anxious about the support of her household. A friend
passing through Concord called upon her, and Mrs. Alcott could not
hide the traces of tears on her face. "Abby Alcott, what does this
mean?" said the visitor, with determined kindness. The poor mother
opened her heart to her friend, and told the story of their privations
"Come to Boston, and I will find you employment," said the friend.
The family removed to Boston in 1848, and Mrs. Alcott became a visitor
to the poor in the employ of one or more benevolent societies, and
finally kept an intelligence office. Her whole heart went into her
work; and the children, as well as the mother, learned many valuable
lessons from it. Her reports of her work are said to have been very
interesting, and full of valuable suggestion.
Mr. Alcott began to hold conversations in West Street. He attracted a
small circle of thoughtful men and women about him, who delighted in
the height of his aspirations and the originality of his thoughts. It
was congenial occupation for him, and thus added to the happiness of
the family, though very little to its pecuniary resources. His price
of admission was small, and he freely invited any one who would enjoy
the meetings although unable to pay for them. He was a great and
helpful influence to young minds. Besides the morally pure and
spiritually elevated atmosphere of thought to which they were
introduced by him, they found a great intellectual advantage in the
acquaintance with ancient poets and philosophers, into whose life he
had entered sympathetically. His peculiar theories of temperament and
diet never failed to call out discussion and opposition. One of my
earliest recollections of Louisa is on one of these occasions, when he
was emphasizing his doctrine that a vegetable diet would produce
unruffled sweetness of temper and disposition. I heard a voice behind
me saying to her neighbor: "I don't know about that. I've never eaten
any meat, and I'm awful cross and irritable very often."
On her fourteenth birthday her mother wrote her the following poem,
with a present of a pen. It was a prophetic gift, and well used by the
Oh, may this pen your muse inspire,
When wrapt in pure poetic fire,
To write some sweet, some thrilling verse;
A song of love or sorrow's lay,
Or duty's clear but tedious way
In brighter hope rehearse.
Oh, let your strain be soft and high,
Of crosses here, of crowns beyond the sky;
Truth guide your pen, inspire your theme,
And from each note joy's music stream.
[Original, I think. I have tried to obey.--L. M. A., 1885.]
In a sketch written for a friend, Louisa gives this account of the
parents' influence on the children:--
When cautious friends asked mother how she dared to have such
outcasts among her girls, she always answered, with an expression
of confidence which did much to keep us safe, "I can trust my
daughters, and this is the best way to teach them how to shun
these sins and comfort these sorrows. They cannot escape the
knowledge of them; better gain this under their father's roof and
their mother's care, and so be protected by these experiences
when their turn comes to face the world and its temptations."
Once we carried our breakfast to a starving family; once lent our
whole dinner to a neighbor suddenly taken unprepared by
distinguished guests. Another time, one snowy Saturday night,
when our wood was very low, a poor child came to beg a little, as
the baby was sick and the father on a spree with all his wages.
My mother hesitated at first, as we also had a baby. Very cold
weather was upon us, and a Sunday to be got through before more
wood could be had. My father said, "Give half our stock, and
trust in Providence; the weather will moderate, or wood will
come." Mother laughed, and answered in her cheery way, "Well,
their need is greater than ours, and if our half gives out we can
go to bed and tell stories." So a generous half went to the poor
neighbor, and a little later in the eve, while the storm still
raged and we were about to cover our fire to keep it, a knock
came, and a farmer who usually supplied us appeared, saying
anxiously, "I started for Boston with a load of wood, but it
drifts so I want to go home. Wouldn't you like to have me drop
the wood here; it would accommodate me, and you needn't hurry
about paying for it." "Yes," said Father; and as the man went off
he turned to Mother with a look that much impressed us children
with his gifts as a seer, "Didn't I tell you wood would come if
the weather did not moderate?" Mother's motto was "Hope, and keep
busy," and one of her sayings, "Cast your bread upon the waters,
and after many days it will come back buttered."
 Emerson in Concord. By Edward Waldo Emerson.
 "Philothea" was the delight of girls. The young Alcotts made a
dramatic version of it, which they acted under the trees. Louisa made
a magnificent Aspasia, which was a part much to her fancy. Mrs. Child
was a very dear friend of Mrs. Alcott, and her daughters knew her
THE SENTIMENTAL PERIOD.
A SONG FROM THE SUDS.
Queen of my tub, I merrily sing,
While the white foam rises high,
And sturdily wash, and rinse, and wring,
And fasten the clothes to dry;
Then out in the free fresh air they swing,
Under the sunny sky.
I wish we could wash from our hearts and our souls
The stains of the week away,
And let water and air by their magic make
Ourselves as pure as they;
Then on the earth there would be indeed
A glorious washing-day!
Along the path of a useful life
Will heart's-ease ever bloom;
The busy mind has no time to think
Of sorrow, or care, or gloom;
And anxious thoughts may be swept away
As we busily wield a broom.
I am glad a task to me is given
To labor at day by day;
For it brings me health, and strength, and hope,
And I cheerfully learn to say,--
"Head, you may think; heart, you may feel;
But hand, you shall work alway!"
The period of free, happy childhood was necessarily short, and at
about the age of fifteen Louisa Alcott began to feel the pressure of
thoughts and duties which made life a more solemn matter. In spite of
the overflowing fun which appears in her books, her nature was very
serious, and she could not cast aside care lightly. So many varying
tendencies existed in her character that she must have struggled with
many doubts and questions before finding the true path. But she always
kept the pole-star of right strictly in view, and never failed in
truth to that duty which seemed to her nearest and most imperative. If
she erred in judgment, she did not err in conscientious fidelity.
Her mother's rules for her guidance were--
Love your neighbor.
Do the duty which lies nearest you.
She never lost sight of these instructions.
I will introduce this period in her own words, as written later for
the use of a friend.
My romantic period began at fifteen, when I fell to writing
poetry, keeping a heart-journal, and wandering by moonlight
instead of sleeping quietly. About that time, in browsing over
Mr. Emerson's library, I found Goethe's "Correspondence with a
Child," and at once was fired with a desire to be a Bettine,
making my father's friend my Goethe. So I wrote letters to him,
but never sent them; sat in a tall cherry-tree at midnight,
singing to the moon till the owls scared me to bed; left wild
flowers on the doorstep of my "Master," and sung Mignon's song
under his window in very bad German.
Not till many years later did I tell "my" Goethe of this early
romance and the part he played in it. He was much amused, and
begged for his letters, kindly saying he felt honored to be so
worshipped. The letters were burnt long ago, but Emerson remained
my "Master" while he lived, doing more for me,--as for many
another,--than he knew, by the simple beauty of his life, the
truth and wisdom of his books, the example of a great, good man,
untempted and unspoiled by the world which he made better while
in it, and left richer and nobler when he went.
The trials of life began about this time, and happy childhood
ended. One of the most memorable days of my life is a certain
gloomy November afternoon, when we had been holding a family
council as to ways and means. In summer we lived much as the
birds did, on our fruit and bread and milk; the sun was our fire,
the sky our roof, and Nature's plenty made us forget that such a
thing as poverty existed.
In 1850 she heads her diary "The Sentimental Period." She was then
seventeen years old, but her diary gives no hint of the sentimental
notions that often fill the heads of young girls at that period. The
experiences of Jo with her charming young neighbor in "Little Women"
do not represent hers at all.
One bit of romance was suggested by Goethe's "Correspondence with a
Child." It may be difficult for readers of to-day to understand the
fascination which this book exercised upon young minds of the last
generation, yet it is certain that it led more than one young girl to
form an ideal attachment to a man far older than herself, but full of
nobility and intellectual greatness. Theodore Parker said of letters
addressed to him by a young New Hampshire girl, "They are as good as
Bettine's without the lies." This mingling of idealism and
hero-worship was strongly characteristic of that transcendental period
when women, having little solid education and less industrial
employment, were full of noble aspirations and longings for fuller and
freer life, which must find expression in some way.
The young woman of to-day, wearing waterproof and india-rubber boots,
skating, driving, and bicycling, studying chemistry in the laboratory,
exhibiting her pictures in open competition, adopting a profession
without opposition, and living single without fear of reproach, has
less time for fancies and more regard for facts.
Miss Alcott was safe in choosing her idol. Worship of Emerson could
only refine and elevate her thoughts, and her intimate acquaintance
with his beautiful home chastened her idolatry into pure reverent
friendship which never failed her. She kept her worship to herself,
and never sent him the letters in which she poured out the longings
and raptures which filled her girlish heart.
Her diary, which was revised by herself in later years, tells the
story of this period quite fully. The details may seem trifling, but
they help to illustrate this important formative period of her life.
THE SENTIMENTAL PERIOD.
BOSTON, "May, 1850."--So long a time has passed since I kept a
journal that I hardly know how to begin. Since coming to the city
I don't seem to have thought much, for the bustle and dirt and
change send all lovely images and restful feelings away. Among my
hills and woods I had fine free times alone, and though my
thoughts were silly, I daresay, they helped to keep me happy and
good. I see now what Nature did for me, and my "romantic tastes,"
as people called that love of solitude and out-of-door life,
taught me much.
This summer, like the last, we shall spend in a large house
(Uncle May's, Atkinson Street), with many comforts about us which
we shall enjoy, and in the autumn I hope I shall have something
to show that the time has not been wasted. Seventeen years have I
lived, and yet so little do I know, and so much remains to be
done before I begin to be what I desire,--a truly good and useful
In looking over our journals, Father says, "Anna's is about other
people, Louisa's about herself." That is true, for I don't "talk"
about myself; yet must always think of the wilful, moody girl I
try to manage, and in my journal I write of her to see how she
gets on. Anna is so good she need not take care of herself, and
can enjoy other people. If I look in my glass, I try to keep down
vanity about my long hair, my well-shaped head, and my good nose.
In the street I try not to covet fine things. My quick tongue is
always getting me into trouble, and my moodiness makes it hard to
be cheerful when I think how poor we are, how much worry it is to
live, and how many things I long to do I never can.
So every day is a battle, and I'm so tired I don't want to live;
only it's cowardly to die till you have done something.
I can't talk to any one but Mother about my troubles, and she has
so many now to bear I try not to add any more. I know God is
always ready to hear, but heaven's so far away in the city, and
I so heavy I can't fly up to find Him.
Written in the diary.
Oh, when the heart is full of fears
And the way seems dim to heaven,
When the sorrow and the care of years
Peace from the heart has driven,--
Then, through the mist of falling tears,
Look up and be forgiven.
Forgiven for the lack of faith
That made all dark to thee,
Let conscience o'er thy wayward soul
Have fullest mastery:
Hope on, fight on, and thou shalt win
A noble victory.
Though thou art weary and forlorn,
Let not thy heart's peace go;
Though the riches of this world are gone,
And thy lot is care and woe,
Faint not, but journey hourly on:
True wealth is not below.
Through all the darkness still look up:
Let virtue be thy guide;
Take thy draught from sorrow's cup,
Yet trustfully abide;
Let not temptation vanquish thee,
And the Father will provide.
[We had small-pox in the family this summer, caught from some
poor immigrants whom mother took into our garden and fed one day.
We girls had it lightly, but Father and Mother were very ill, and
we had a curious time of exile, danger, and trouble. No doctors,
and all got well.--L. M. A.]
"July", 1850.--Anna is gone to L. after the varioloid. She is to
help Mrs. ---- with her baby. I had to take A.'s school of twenty
in Canton Street. I like it better than I thought, though it's
very hard to be patient with the children sometimes. They seem
happy, and learn fast; so I am encouraged, though at first it was
very hard, and I missed Anna so much I used to cry over my dinner
and be very blue. I guess this is the teaching I need; for as a
"school-marm" I must behave myself and guard my tongue and temper
carefully, and set an example of sweet manners.
I found one of mother's notes in my journal, so like those she
used to write me when she had more time. It always encourages me;
and I wish some one would write as helpfully to her, for she
needs cheering up with all the care she has. I often think what a
hard life she has had since she married,--so full of wandering
and all sorts of worry! so different from her early easy days,
the youngest and most petted of her family. I think she is a very
brave, good woman; and my dream is to have a lovely, quiet home
for her, with no debts or troubles to burden her. But I'm afraid
she will be in heaven before I can do it. Anna, too, she is
feeble and homesick, and I miss her dreadfully; for she is my
conscience, always true and just and good. She must have a good
time in a nice little home of her own some day, as we often plan.
But waiting is so "hard"!
"August", 1850.--School is hard work, and I feel as though I
should like to run away from it. But my children get on; so I
travel up every day, and do my best.
I get very little time to write or think; for my working days
have begun, and when school is over Anna wants me; so I have no
quiet. I think a little solitude every day is good for me. In
the quiet I see my faults, and try to mend them; but, deary me, I
don't get on at all.
I used to imagine my mind a room in confusion, and I was to put
it in order; so I swept out useless thoughts and dusted foolish
fancies away, and furnished it with good resolutions and began
again. But cobwebs get in. I'm not a good housekeeper, and never
get my room in nice order. I once wrote a poem about it when I
was fourteen, and called it "My Little Kingdom." It is still hard
to rule it, and always will be I think.
Reading Miss Bremer and Hawthorne. The "Scarlet Letter" is my
favorite. Mother likes Miss B. better, as more wholesome. I fancy
"lurid" things, if true and strong also.
Anna wants to be an actress, and so do I. We could make plenty of
money perhaps, and it is a very gay life. Mother says we are too
young, and must wait. A. acts often splendidly. I like tragic
plays, and shall be a Siddons if I can. We get up fine ones, and
make harps, castles, armor, dresses, water-falls, and thunder,
and have great fun.
It was at this period of her life that she was violently attacked by a
mania for the stage, and the greater part of her leisure time was
given to writing and enacting dramas. Her older sister, Anna, had the
same taste, and assisted her in carrying out all her plans. A family
of great talent with whom they were intimate joined with them, and
their mother always allowed them to have all the private theatricals
they wished to perform.
Some of these early plays are preserved in manuscripts as she wrote
them. They are written in stilted, melodramatic style, full of
highstrung sentiments of loyalty, honor and devotion, with the most
improbable incidents and violent devices, and without a touch of
common life or the slightest flavor of humor. The idea of
self-sacrifice always comes into them; but they are thoroughly
girlish. It is so that girls dream and feel before they know life at
all. Their hearts are full of vague, restless longings, and they seek
some vent for the repressed energies of their natures away from the
prosaic realities of the present. While Louisa sat sewing the tedious
seams of her daily task what a relief it was to let her imagination
run riot among the wildest and most exciting scenes. Of course she had
a "Bandit's Bride" among her plays. "The Captive of Castile; or, The
Moorish Maiden's Vow," is preserved entire, and is a good specimen of
these girlish efforts. It is full of surprises and concealments, and
the denouement is as unnatural as could well be imagined. The dialogue
is often bright and forcible, and the sentiments always lofty, and we
have no doubt it seemed very grand to the youthful audience. It is
taken from her reading, with no touch of her own life in it. This is
not the same play described with such a ludicrous finale in "Little
Women," although the heroine bears the same favorite name of Zara. Her
own early amusement was, however, fully in her mind when she wrote
that scene, which is true to fact.
A friend and relative of the family living in Roxbury, Dr. Windship,
was much interested in the development of Louisa's dramatic talent.
The girls always enjoyed delightful visits at his house. He tried to
help the young dramatist to public success, and writes to her
I have offered to Mr. Barry of the Boston Theatre Louisa's "Prima
Donnas." He is very much pleased with it just as it is, and will
bring it out this season in good style. He thinks it will have a
Mrs. Barry and Mrs. Wood consented to take the principal characters.
But from some difficulty in the arrangements "The Rival Prima Donnas"
was not produced. One great pleasure was gained, however, as Mr. Barry
gave her a free pass to the theatre, which proved a source of constant
refreshment and delight.
Of course Louisa was eager to go on to the stage herself. She had
indeed extraordinary dramatic power, and could at any time quickly
transform herself into Hamlet, and recite a scene with tragic effect.
But the careful mother knew better than the girl the trials and
dangers of the profession, and dissuaded her from it. She also knew
how little such youthful facility of expression indicates the power
which will make a great actress. Louisa has reproduced her dramatic
experience in "Work," which gives a picture faithful in spirit and in
many of its details to this phase of her life. She here indicates a
knowledge of her own limitation of talent. "Christie's gala" was a
part quite after her own heart.
A farce, called "Nat Batchelor's Pleasure Trip; or, The Trials of a
Good-natured Man," was brought out at the Howard Athenaeum. The papers
of the day said of it: "It is a creditable first attempt at dramatic
composition, and received frequent applause." Another critic says: "It
proved a full success." This performance, however, took place in
1860,--a later period than that of which I am now speaking.
An incident which occurred at this representation probably suggested
scenes which recur in "Work" and other of Miss Alcott's stories.
Quite a hit was made by a little girl, a Miss Jones, who, having
to speak but a few lines, spoke them so well that upon her exit
she received the rare compliment of an enthusiastic recall from
the audience, despite the fact that "some necessary question of
the play was then to be considered." For the time being she
certainly was the sensation of the piece.
Miss Alcott had in Dr. Windship a kind and judicious helper in her
dramatic undertakings, with whom she kept up a correspondence under
the names of Beaumont and Fletcher.
In 1851 Louisa had an experience which she has reproduced in her story
called "How I Went Out to Service." Her mother's work among the poor
of Boston led to her being applied to for employment, and at one time
she kept a regular intelligence office. A gentleman came to her
seeking a companion for his aged father and sister, who was to do only
light work, and to be treated with the greatest respect and kindness.
As Mrs. Alcott did not readily think of any who would fill the place,
the impulsive Louisa suggested, "Why couldn't I go, Mother?" She went,
and had two months of disappointment and painful experience which she
never forgot. She wrote out the story which was published later,
called "How I Went Out to Service."
The story has an important lesson for those who condemn severely young
girls who prefer the more independent life of the factory or shop to
what is considered the safety and comfort of service in families. If a
girl like Louisa Alcott, belonging to a well-known, highly esteemed
family, and herself commanding respect by her abilities and character,
could be treated with such indignity by a family in which no one would
have feared to place her, how much may not a poor unfriended girl be
called upon to endure!
1851.--We went to a meeting, and heard splendid speaking from
Phillips, Channing, and others. People were much excited, and
cheered "Shadrack and liberty," groaned for "Webster and
slavery," and made a great noise. I felt ready to do
anything,--fight or work, hoot or cry,--and laid plans to free
Simms. I shall be horribly ashamed of my country if this thing
happens and the slave is taken back.
[He was.--L. M. A.]
1852.--"High Street, Boston."--After the small-pox summer, we
went to a house in High Street. Mother opened an intelligence
office, which grew out of her city missionary work and a desire
to find places for good girls. It was not fit work for her, but
it paid; and she always did what came to her in the way of duty
or charity, and let pride, taste, and comfort suffer for love's
Anna and I taught; Lizzie was our little housekeeper,--our angel
in a cellar kitchen; May went to school; father wrote and talked
when he could get classes or conversations. Our poor little home
had much love and happiness in it, and was a shelter for lost
girls, abused wives, friendless children, and weak or wicked men.
Father and Mother had no money to give, but gave them time,
sympathy, help; and if blessings would make them rich, they would
be millionnaires. This is practical Christianity.
My first story was printed, and $5 paid for it. It was written in
Concord when I was sixteen. Great rubbish! Read it aloud to
sisters, and when they praised it, not knowing the author, I
proudly announced her name.
Made a resolution to read fewer novels, and those only of the
best. List of books I like:--
Carlyle's French Revolution and Miscellanies.
Hero and Hero-Worship.
Goethe's poems, plays, and novels.
Paradise Lost and Comus.
Madame de Staël.
Uncle Tom's Cabin.
In "Little Women" (p. 174), she has told a story which has usually
been supposed to represent her first success in literature; but she
has transferred the incident from her sister to her own
representative, Jo. It was the quiet Anna who had secretly written a
story and fastened it inside of a newspaper. She read it to her mother
and sisters, as described in the book, and was very much delighted
with their approbation and astonishment.
1853.--In January I started a little school,--E. W., W. A., two
L's, two H's,--about a dozen in our parlor. In May, when my
school closed, I went to L. as second girl. I needed the change,
could do the wash, and was glad to earn my $2 a week. Home in
October with $34 for my wages. After two days' rest, began school
again with ten children. Anna went to Syracuse to teach; Father
to the West to try his luck,--so poor, so hopeful, so serene. God
be with him! Mother had several boarders, and May got on well at
school. Betty was still the home bird, and had a little romance
Pleasant letters from Father and Anna. A hard year. Summer
distasteful and lonely; winter tiresome with school and people I
didn't like. I miss Anna, my one bosom friend and comforter.
1854.--"Pinckney Street."--I have neglected my journal for
months, so must write it up. School for me month after month.
Mother busy with boarders and sewing. Father doing as well as a
philosopher can in a money-loving world. Anna at S.
I earned a good deal by sewing in the evening when my day's work
In February Father came home. Paid his way, but no more. A
dramatic scene when he arrived in the night. We were waked by
hearing the bell. Mother flew down, crying "My husband!" We
rushed after, and five white figures embraced the half-frozen
wanderer who came in hungry, tired, cold, and disappointed, but
smiling bravely and as serene as ever. We fed and warmed and
brooded over him, longing to ask if he had made any money; but no
one did till little May said, after he had told all the pleasant
things, "Well, did people pay you?" Then, with a queer look, he
opened his pocket-book and showed one dollar, saying with a smile
that made our eyes fill, "Only that! My overcoat was stolen, and
I had to buy a shawl. Many promises were not kept, and travelling
is costly; but I have opened the way, and another year shall do
I shall never forget how beautifully Mother answered him, though
the dear, hopeful soul had built much on his success; but with a
beaming face she kissed him, saying, "I call that doing "very
well". Since you are safely home, dear, we don't ask anything
Anna and I choked down our tears, and took a little lesson in
real love which we never forgot, nor the look that the tired man
and the tender woman gave one another. It was half tragic and
comic, for Father was very dirty and sleepy, and Mother in a big
nightcap and funny old jacket.
[I began to see the strong contrasts and the fun and follies in
every-day life about this time.--L. M. A.]
Anna came home in March. Kept our school all summer. I got
"Flower Fables" ready to print.
Louisa also tried service with a relative in the country for a short
time, but teaching, sewing, and writing were her principal occupations
during this residence in Boston.
These seven years, from Louisa's sixteenth to her twenty-third year,
might be called an apprenticeship to life. She tried various paths,
and learned to know herself and the world about her, although she was
not even yet certain of success in the way which finally opened before
her and led her so successfully to the accomplishment of her
life-purpose. She tried teaching, without satisfaction to herself or
perhaps to others. The kind of education she had herself received
fitted her admirably to understand and influence children, but not to
carry on the routine of a school. Sewing was her resource when nothing
else offered, but it is almost pitiful to think of her as confined to
such work when great powers were lying dormant in her mind. Still,
Margaret Fuller said that a year of enforced quiet in the country
devoted mainly to sewing was very useful to her, since she reviewed
and examined the treasures laid up in her memory; and doubtless Louisa
Alcott thought out many a story which afterward delighted the world
while her fingers busily plied the needle. Yet it was a great
deliverance when she first found that the products of her brain would
bring in the needed money for family support.
"L. in Boston to A. in Syracuse."
DEAREST NAN,--I was so glad to hear from you, and hear that all
I am grubbing away as usual, trying to get money enough to buy
Mother a nice warm shawl. I have eleven dollars, all my own
earnings,--five for a story, and four for the pile of sewing I
did for the ladies of Dr. Gray's society, to give him as a
... I got a crimson ribbon for a bonnet for May, and I took my
straw and fixed it nicely with some little duds I had. Her old
one has haunted me all winter, and I want her to look neat. She
is so graceful and pretty and loves beauty so much, it is hard
for her to be poor and wear other people's ugly things. You and I
have learned not to mind "much"; but when I think of her I long
to dash out and buy the finest hat the limited sum of ten dollars
can procure. She says so sweetly in one of her letters: "It is
hard sometimes to see other people have so many nice things and I
so few; but I try not to be envious, but contented with my poor
clothes, and cheerful about it." I hope the little dear will like
the bonnet and the frills I made her and some bows I fixed over
from bright ribbons L. W. threw away. I get half my rarities from
her rag-bag, and she doesn't know her own rags when fixed over. I
hope I shall live to see the dear child in silk and lace, with
plenty of pictures and "bottles of cream," Europe, and all she
For our good little Betty, who is wearing all the old gowns we
left, I shall soon be able to buy a new one, and send it with my
blessing to the cheerful saint. She writes me the funniest notes,
and tries to keep the old folks warm and make the lonely house in
the snowbanks cosey and bright.
To Father I shall send new neckties and some paper; then he will
be happy, and can keep on with the beloved diaries though the
Don't laugh at my plans; I'll carry them out, if I go to service
to do it. Seeing so much money flying about, I long to honestly
get a little and make my dear family more comfortable. I feel
weak-minded when I think of all they need and the little I can
Now about you: Keep the money you have earned by so many tears
and sacrifices, and clothe yourself; for it makes me mad to know
that my good little lass is going round in shabby things, and
being looked down upon by people who are not worthy to touch her
patched shoes or the hem of her ragged old gowns. Make yourself
tidy, and if any is left over send it to Mother; for there are
always many things needed at home, though they won't tell us. I
only wish I too by any amount of weeping and homesickness could
earn as much. But my mite won't come amiss; and if tears can add
to its value, I've shed my quart,--first, over the book not
coming out; for that was a sad blow, and I waited so long it was
dreadful when my castle in the air came tumbling about my ears.
Pride made me laugh in public; but I wailed in private, and no
one knew it. The folks at home think I rather enjoyed it, for I
wrote a jolly letter. But my visit was spoiled; and now I'm
digging away for dear life, that I may not have come entirely in
vain. I didn't mean to groan about it; but my lass and I must
tell some one our trials, and so it becomes easy to confide in
one another. I never let Mother know how unhappy you were in S.
till Uncle wrote.
My doings are not much this week. I sent a little tale to the
"Gazette," and Clapp asked H. W. if five dollars would be enough.
Cousin H. said yes, and gave it to me, with kind words and a nice
parcel of paper, saying in his funny way, "Now, Lu, the door is
open, go in and win." So I shall try to do it. Then cousin L. W.
said Mr. B. had got my play, and told her that if Mrs. B. liked
it as well, it must be clever, and if it didn't cost too much, he
would bring it out by and by. Say nothing about it yet. Dr. W.
tells me Mr. F. is very sick; so the farce cannot be acted yet.
But the Doctor is set on its coming out, and we have fun about
it. H. W. takes me often to the theatre when L. is done with me.
I read to her all the P.M. often, as she is poorly, and in that
way I pay my debt to them.
I'm writing another story for Clapp. I want more fives, and mean
to have them too.
Uncle wrote that you were Dr. W.'s pet teacher, and every one
loved you dearly. But if you are not well, don't stay. Come home,
and be cuddled by your old
OUR ANGEL IN THE HOUSE.
Sitting patient in the shadow
Till the blessed light shall come,
A serene and saintly presence
Sanctifies our troubled home.
Earthly joys and hopes and sorrows
Break like ripples on the strand
Of the deep and solemn river,
Where her willing feet now stand.
O my sister, passing from me
Out of human care and strife,
Leave me as a gift those virtues
Which have beautified your life.
Dear, bequeath me that great patience
Which has power to sustain
A cheerful, uncomplaining spirit
In its prison-house of pain.
Give me--for I need it sorely--
Of that courage, wise and sweet,
Which has made the path of duty
Green beneath your willing feet.
Give me that unselfish nature
That with charity divine
Can pardon wrong for love's dear sake,--
Meek heart, forgive me mine!
Thus our parting daily loseth
Something of its bitter pain,
And while learning this hard lesson
My great loss becomes my gain;
For the touch of grief will render
My wild nature more serene,
Give to life new aspirations,
A new trust in the unseen.
Henceforth safe across the river
I shall see forevermore
A beloved household spirit
Waiting for me on the shore;
Hope and faith, born of my sorrow,
Guardian angels shall become;
And the sister gone before me
By their hands shall lead me home.
When only twenty-two years old Miss Alcott began her career of
authorship by launching a little flower bark, which floated gaily on
the stream. She had always written poems, plays, and stories for her
own and her friends' pleasure, and now she gathered up some tales she
had written for Mr. Emerson's daughter, and published them under the
name of "Flower Fables." She received the small amount of thirty-two
dollars for the book; but it gave her the great satisfaction of having
earned it by work that she loved, and which she could do well. She
began to have applications for stories from the papers; but as yet
sewing and teaching paid better than writing. While she sewed her
brain was busy with plans of poems, plays, and tales, which she made
use of at a later period.
The following letter to her mother shows how closely she associated
her with this early success:--
20 PINCKNEY STREET, BOSTON, Dec. 25, 1854. (With "Flower
DEAR MOTHER,--Into your Christmas stocking I have put my
"first-born," knowing that you will accept it with all its
faults (for grandmothers are always kind), and look upon it
merely as an earnest of what I may yet do; for, with so much to
cheer me on, I hope to pass in time from fairies and fables to
men and realities.
Whatever beauty or poetry is to be found in my little book is
owing to your interest in and encouragement of all my efforts
from the first to the last; and if ever I do anything to be proud
of, my greatest happiness will be that I can thank you for that,
as I may do for all the good there is in me; and I shall be
content to write if it gives you pleasure.
Jo is fussing about;
My lamp is going out.
To dear mother, with many kind wishes for a happy New Year and
I am ever your loving daughter
This letter shows that she had already begun to see that she must
study not only fairies and fancies, but men and realities; and she now
began to observe life, not in books, but as it went on around her. In
the intense excitement of the anti-slavery struggles of that period
she might well learn how full of dramatic situations and the elements
of both tragedy and comedy real human life is. She says: "I began to
see the strong contrasts and fun and frolic in every day life about
this time." She also considered her reading, and tried to make it more
thorough and profitable; and she did not "waste even "ink" on poems
and fancies," but planned stories, that everything might help toward
her great object of earning support for her family.
In June, 1855, Miss Alcott went to Walpole, N. H., where she had a
free life among the hills for a few months. It must have been a great
refreshment to her after the winter's work in the city. In July the
family followed her thither, and occupied a small house. The country
life and joy soon began to find expression, and she wrote a little
story called "King Goldenrod," which she says "ought to be fresh and
true," as written at that beautiful time and place. But this pleasant
country life was for a short season only; and in chill November she
set out for the city, with brave heart and scanty outfit, to seek her
fortune once more. While still continuing to sew as a means of
livelihood, she began to try a great variety of literary ventures. She
wrote notices of books for the papers, and at one time got five
dollars for a story, besides twelve dollars for sewing. The following
year the publishers began to find out the value of her work, and to
call for more stories. Even her poems were accepted. Little Nell was
then the favorite heroine of Dickens, and Louisa's poem on that
subject was published in the "Courier." Although she at first enjoyed
the beautiful scenery of Walpole, she found the dull little town did
not offer her the opportunities for work that she needed; and leaving
her family there, she came down to Boston to seek her fortune, and
went to the well-known boarding-house of Mrs. David Reed on Chauncey
Street. The happy home which she had here during the winter is
represented as Mrs. Kirke's house in "Little Women," and Jo's garret
is the sky-parlor in which she lived and wrote. She had a rich
winter, hearing many of the finest lectures, and enjoying her free
pass to the theatre. One of her greatest helps, however, was the
friendship of Theodore Parker, who took great interest in her
struggles, and wisely strengthened and encouraged her. She loved to go
to his Sunday evening receptions, and sit quietly watching the varied
company who collected there; and a word or pressure of the hand from
her host was enough to cheer her for the whole week. She has
gratefully recorded this influence in her sketch of Mr. Power in
"Work;" but she has not given to that delineation the striking
personality of her subject which we should have expected of her. She
then perhaps looked up to him too much to take note of the rich
elements of wit and humor in his nature, and has painted him wholly
seriously, and with a colorless brush.
"Twenty-two Years Old."
PINCKNEY STREET, BOSTON, "Jan." 1, 1855.--The principal event of
the winter is the appearance of my book "Flower Fables." An
edition of sixteen hundred. It has sold very well, and people
seem to like it. I feel quite proud that the little tales that I
wrote for Ellen E. when I was sixteen should now bring money and
I will put in some of the notices as "varieties." Mothers are
always foolish over their first-born.
Miss Wealthy Stevens paid for the book, and I received $32.
[A pleasing contrast to the receipts of six months only in 1886,
being $8000 for the sale of books, and no new one; but I was
prouder over the $32 than the $8000.--L. M. A., 1886.]
"April", 1855.--I am in the garret with my papers round me, and a
pile of apples to eat while I write my journal, plan stories, and
enjoy the patter of rain on the roof, in peace and quiet.
[Jo in the garret.--L. M. A.]
Being behindhand, as usual, I'll make note of the main events up
to date, for I don't waste ink in poetry and pages of rubbish
now. I've begun to "live", and have no time for sentimental
In October I began my school; Father talked, Mother looked after
her boarders, and tried to help everybody. Anna was in Syracuse
teaching Mrs. S----'s children.
My book came out; and people began to think that topsey-turvey
Louisa would amount to something after all, since she could do so
well as housemaid, teacher, seamstress, and story-teller. Perhaps
In February I wrote a story for which C. paid $5, and asked for
In March I wrote a farce for W. Warren, and Dr. W. offered it to
him; but W. W. was too busy.
Also began another tale, but found little time to work on it,
with school, sewing, and house-work. My winter's earnings are,--
School, one quarter $50
if I am ever paid.
A busy and a pleasant winter, because, though hard at times, I do
seem to be getting on a little; and that encourages me.
Have heard Lowell and Hedge lecture, acted in plays, and thanks
to our rag-money and good cousin H., have been to the theatre
several times,--always my great joy.
Summer plans are yet unsettled. Father wants to go to England:
not a wise idea, I think. We shall probably stay here, and A. and
I go into the country as governesses. It's a queer way to live,
but dramatic, and I rather like it; for we never know what is to
come next. We are real "Micawbers," and always "ready for a
I have planned another Christmas book, and hope to be able to
1855.--Cousin L. W. asks me to pass the summer at Walpole with
her. If I can get no teaching, I shall go; for I long for the
hills, and can write my fairy tales there.
I delivered my burlesque lecture on "Woman, and Her Position; by
Oronthy Bluggage," last evening at Deacon G.'s. Had a merry time,
and was asked by Mr. W. to do it at H. for money. Read "Hamlet"
at our club,--my favorite play. Saw Mrs. W. H. Smith about the
farce; says she will do it at her benefit.
"May."--Father went to C. to talk with Mr. Emerson about the
England trip. I am to go to Walpole. I have made my own gowns,
and had money enough to fit up the girls. So glad to be
[I wonder if $40 fitted up the whole family. Perhaps so, as my
wardrobe was made up of old clothes from cousins and friends.--L.
WALPOLE, N. H., "June, 1855".--Pleasant journey and a kind
welcome. Lovely place, high among the hills. So glad to run and
skip in the woods and up the splendid ravine. Shall write here, I
Helped cousin L. in her garden; and the smell of the fresh earth
and the touch of green leaves did me good.
Mr. T. came and praised my first book, so I felt much inspired to
go and do another. I remember him at Scituate years ago, when he
was a young ship-builder and I a curly-haired hoyden of five or
Up at five, and had a lovely run in the ravine, seeing the woods
wake. Planned a little tale which ought to be fresh and true, as
it came at that hour and place,--"King Goldenrod." Have lively
days,--writing in A.M., driving in P.M., and fun in eve. My visit
is doing me much good.
"July, 1855."--Read "Hyperion." On the 16th the family came to
live in Mr. W.'s house rent free. No better plan offered, and we
were all tired of the city. Here Father can have a garden; Mother
can rest and be near her good niece; the children have freedom
and fine air; and A. and I can go from here to our teaching,
wherever it may be.
Busy and happy times as we settle in the little house in the lane
near by my dear ravine,--plays, picnics, pleasant people, and
good neighbors. Fanny Kemble came up, Mrs. Kirkland and others,
and Dr. Bellows is the gayest of the gay. We acted the
"Jacobite," "Rivals," and "Bonnycastles," to an audience of a
hundred, and were noticed in the Boston papers. H. T. was our
manager, and Dr. B., D. D., our dramatic director. Anna was the
star, her acting being really very fine. I did "Mrs. Malaprop,"
"Widow Pottle," and the old ladies.
Finished fairy book in September. Anna had an offer from Dr.
Wilbur of Syracuse to teach at the great idiot asylum. She
disliked it, but decided to go. Poor dear! so beauty-loving,
timid, and tender. It is a hard trial; but she is so
self-sacrificing she tries to like it because it is duty.
"October."--A. to Syracuse. May illustrated my book, and tales
called "Christmas Elves." Better than "Flower Fables." Now I must
try to sell it.
[Innocent Louisa, to think that a Christmas book could be sold in
October.--L. M. A.]
"November."--Decided to seek my fortune; so, with my little trunk
of home-made clothes, $20 earned by stories sent to the
"Gazette," and my MSS., I set forth with Mother's blessing one
rainy day in the dullest month in the year.
[My birth-month; always to be a memorable one.--L. M. A.]
Found it too late to do anything with the book, so put it away
and tried for teaching, sewing, or any honest work. Won't go home
to sit idle while I have a head and pair of hands.
"December."--H. and L. W. very kind, and my dear cousins the
Sewalls take me in. I sew for Mollie and others, and write
stories. C. gave me books to notice. Heard Thackeray. Anxious
times; Anna very home-sick. Walpole very cold and dull now the
summer butterflies have gone. Got $5 for a tale and $12 for
sewing; sent home a Christmas-box to cheer the dear souls in the
"January, 1856."--C. paid $6 for "A Sister's Trial," gave me more
books to notice, and wants more tales.
[Should think he would at that price.--L. M. A.]
Sewed for L. W. Sewall and others. Mr. J. M. Field took my farce
to Mobile to bring out; Mr. Barry of the Boston Theatre has the
Heard Curtis lecture. Began a book for summer,--"Beach Bubbles."
Mr. F. of the "Courier" printed a poem of mine on "Little Nell."
Got $10 for "Bertha," and saw great yellow placards stuck up
announcing it. Acted at the W.'s.
"March."--Got $10 for "Genevieve." Prices go up, as people like
the tales and ask who wrote them. Finished "Twelve Bubbles."
Sewed a great deal, and got very tired; one job for Mr. G. of a
dozen pillow-cases, one dozen sheets, six fine cambric neckties,
and two dozen handkerchiefs, at which I had to work all one night
to get them done, as they were a gift to him. I got only $4.
Sewing won't make my fortune; but I can plan my stories while I
work, and then scribble 'em down on Sundays.
Poem on "Little Paul;" Curtis's lecture on "Dickens" made it go
well. Hear Emerson on "England."
"May."--Anna came on her way home, sick and worn out; the work
was too much for her. We had some happy days visiting about.
Could not dispose of B. B. in book form, but C. took them for his
paper. Mr. Field died, so the farce fell through there. Altered
the play for Mrs. Barrow to bring out next winter.
"June, 1856."--Home, to find dear Betty very ill with
scarlet-fever caught from some poor children Mother nursed when
they fell sick, living over a cellar where pigs had been kept.
The landlord (a deacon) would not clean the place till Mother
threatened to sue him for allowing a nuisance. Too late to save
two of the poor babies or Lizzie and May from the fever.
[L. never recovered, but died of it two years later.--L. M. A.]
An anxious time. I nursed, did house-work, and wrote a story a
month through the summer.
Dr. Bellows and Father had Sunday eve conversations.
"October."--Pleasant letters from Father, who went on a tour to
N. Y., Philadelphia, and Boston.
Made plans to go to Boston for the winter, as there is nothing to
do here, and there I can support myself and help the family. C.
offers 10 dollars a month, and perhaps more. L. W., M. S., and
others, have plenty of sewing; the play "may" come out, and Mrs.
R. will give me a sky-parlor for $3 a week, with fire and board.
I sew for her also.
If I can get A. L. to governess I shall be all right.
I was born with a boy's spirit under my bib and tucker. I "can't
wait" when I "can work"; so I took my little talent in my hand
and forced the world again, braver than before and wiser for my
[Jo in N. Y.--L. M. A.]
I don't often pray in words; but when I set out that day with all
my worldly goods in the little old trunk, my own earnings ($25)
in my pocket, and much hope and resolution in my soul, my heart
was very full, and I said to the Lord, "Help us all, and keep us
for one another," as I never said it before, while I looked back
at the dear faces watching me, so full of love and hope and
BOSTON, "November, 1856". "Mrs. David Reed's."--I find my little
room up in the attic very cosey, and a house full of boarders
very amusing to study. Mrs. Reed very kind. Fly round and take C.
his stories. Go to see Mrs. L. about A. Don't want me. A blow,
but I cheer up and hunt for sewing. Go to hear Parker, and he
does me good. Asks me to come Sunday evenings to his house. I did
go there, and met Phillips, Garrison, Hedge, and other great men,
and sit in my corner weekly, staring and enjoying myself.
When I went Mr. Parker said, "God bless you, Louisa; come again;"
and the grasp of his hand gave me courage to face another anxious
"November 3d."--Wrote all the morning. In the P.M. went to see
the Sumner reception as he comes home after the Brooks affair. I
saw him pass up Beacon Street, pale and feeble, but smiling and
bowing. I rushed to Hancock Street, and was in time to see him
bring his proud old mother to the window when the crowd gave
three cheers for her. I cheered too, and was very much excited.
Mr. Parker met him somewhere before the ceremony began, and the
above P. cheered like a boy; and Sumner laughed and nodded as his
friend pranced and shouted, bareheaded and beaming.
My kind cousin, L. W., got tickets for a course of lectures on
"Italian Literature," and seeing my old cloak sent me a new one,
with other needful and pretty things such as girls love to have.
I shall never forget how kind she has always been to me.
"November 5th."--Went with H. W. to see Manager Barry about the
everlasting play which is always coming out but never comes. We
went all over the great new theatre, and I danced a jig on the
immense stage. Mr. B. was very kind, and gave me a pass to come
whenever I liked. This was such richness I didn't care if the
play was burnt on the spot, and went home full of joy. In the eve
I saw La Grange as Norma, and felt as if I knew all about that
place. Quite stage-struck, and imagined myself in her place, with
white robes and oak-leaf crown.
"November 6th."--Sewed happily on my job of twelve sheets for H.
W., and put lots of good will into the work after his kindness to
Walked to Roxbury to see cousin Dr. W. about the play and tell
the fine news. Rode home in the new cars, and found them very
In the eve went to teach at Warren Street Chapel Charity School.
I'll help as I am helped, if I can. Mother says no one so poor he
can't do a little for some one poorer yet.
"Sunday."--Heard Parker on "Individuality of Character," and
liked it much. In the eve I went to his house. Mrs. Howe was
there, and Sumner and others. I sat in my usual corner, but Mr.
P. came up and said, in that cordial way of his, "Well, child,
how goes it?" "Pretty well, sir." "That's brave;" and with his
warm hand-shake he went on, leaving me both proud and happy,
though I have my trials. He is like a great fire where all can
come and be warmed and comforted. Bless him!
Had a talk at tea about him, and fought for him when W. R. said
he was not a Christian. He is my "sort"; for though he may lack
reverence for other people's God, he works bravely for his own,
and turns his back on no one who needs help, as some of the pious
"Monday, 14th."--May came full of expectation and joy to visit
good aunt B. and study drawing. We walked about and had a good
home talk, then my girl went off to Auntie's to begin what I hope
will be a pleasant and profitable winter. She needs help to
develop her talent, and I can't give it to her.
Went to see Forrest as Othello. It is funny to see how attentive
all the once cool gentlemen are to Miss Alcott now she has a pass
to the new theatre.
"November 29th."--My birthday. Felt forlorn so far from home.
Wrote all day. Seem to be getting on slowly, so should be
contented. To a little party at the B.'s in the eve. May looked
very pretty, and seemed to be a favorite. The boys teased me
about being an authoress, and I said I'd be famous yet. Will if I
can, but something else may be better for me.
Found a pretty pin from Father and a nice letter when I got home.
Mr. H. brought them with letters from Mother and Betty, so I went
to bed happy.
"December."--Busy with Christmas and New Year's tales. Heard a
good lecture by E. P. Whipple on "Courage." Thought I needed it,
being rather tired of living like a spider;--spinning my brains
out for money.
Wrote a story, "The Cross on the Church Tower," suggested by the
tower before my window.
Called on Mrs. L., and she asked me to come and teach A. for
three hours each day. Just what I wanted; and the children's
welcome was very pretty and comforting to "Our Olly," as they
Now board is all safe, and something over for home, if stories
and sewing fail. I don't do much, but can send little comforts to
Mother and Betty, and keep May neat.
"December 18th."--Begin with A. L., in Beacon Street. I taught C.
when we lived in High Street, A. in Pinckney Street, and now Al.;
so I seem to be an institution and a success, since I can start
the boy, teach one girl, and take care of the little invalid. It
is hard work, but I can do it; and am glad to sit in a large,
fine room part of each day, after my sky-parlor, which has
nothing pretty in it, and only the gray tower and blue sky
outside as I sit at the window writing. I love luxury, but
freedom and independence better.
"To her Father, written from Mrs. Reed's."
BOSTON, Nov. 29, 1856.
DEAREST FATHER,--Your little parcel was very welcome to me as I
sat alone in my room, with snow falling fast outside, and a few
tears in (for birthdays are dismal times to me); and the fine
letter, the pretty gift, and, most of all, the loving thought so
kindly taken for your old absent daughter, made the cold, dark
day as warm and bright as summer to me.
And now, with the birthday pin upon my bosom, many thanks on my
lips, and a whole heart full of love for its giver, I will tell
you a little about my doings, stupid as they will seem after your
own grand proceedings. How I wish I could be with you, enjoying
what I have always longed for,--fine people, fine amusements, and
fine books. But as I can't, I am glad you are; for I love to see
your name first among the lecturers, to hear it kindly spoken of
in papers and inquired about by good people here,--to say nothing
of the delight and pride I take in seeing you at last filling the
place you are so fitted for, and which you have waited for so
long and patiently. If the New Yorkers raise a statue to the
modern Plato, it will be a wise and highly creditable action.
* * * * *
I am very well and very happy. Things go smoothly, and I think I
shall come out right, and prove that though an "Alcott" I "can"
support myself. I like the independent feeling; and though not an
easy life, it is a free one, and I enjoy it. I can't do much with
my hands; so I will make a battering-ram of my head and make a
way through this rough-and-tumble world. I have very pleasant
lectures to amuse my evenings,--Professor Gajani on "Italian
Reformers," the Mercantile Library course, Whipple, Beecher, and
others, and, best of all, a free pass at the Boston Theatre. I
saw Mr. Barry, and he gave it to me with many kind speeches, and
promises to bring out the play very soon. I hope he will.
My farce is in the hands of Mrs. W. H. Smith, who acts at Laura
Keene's theatre in New York. She took it, saying she would bring
it out there. If you see or hear anything about it, let me know.
I want something doing. My mornings are spent in writing. C.
takes one a month, and I am to see Mr. B., who may take some of
In the afternoons I walk and visit my hundred relations, who are
all kind and friendly, and seem interested in our various
Sunday evenings I go to Parker's parlor, and there meet Phillips,
Garrison, Scherb, Sanborn, and many other pleasant people. All
talk, and I sit in a corner listening, and wishing a certain
placid gray-haired gentleman was there talking too. Mrs. Parker
calls on me, reads my stories, and is very good to me. Theodore
asks Louisa "how her worthy parents do," and is otherwise very
friendly to the large, bashful girl who adorns his parlor
Abby is preparing for a busy and, I hope, a profitable winter.
She has music lessons already, French and drawing in store, and,
if her eyes hold out, will keep her word and become what none of
us can be, "an accomplished Alcott." Now, dear Father, I shall
hope to hear from you occasionally, and will gladly answer all
epistles from the Plato whose parlor parish is becoming quite
famous. I got the "Tribune," but not the letter, and shall look
it up. I have been meaning to write, but did not know where you
Good-by, and a happy birthday from your ever loving child,
"Twenty-four Years Old."
"January, 1857."--Had my first new silk dress from good little L.
W.,--very fine; and I felt as if all the Hancocks and Quincys
beheld me as I went to two parties in it on New Year's eve.
A busy, happy month,--taught, wrote, sewed, read aloud to the
"little mother," and went often to the theatre; heard good
lectures; and enjoyed my Parker evenings very much.
Father came to see me on his way home; little money; had had a
good time, and was asked to come again. Why don't rich people who
enjoy his talk pay for it? Philosophers are always poor, and too
modest to pass round their own hats.
Sent by him a good bundle to the poor Forlornites among the
ten-foot drifts in W.
"February."--Ran home as a valentine on the 14th.
"March."--Have several irons in the fire now, and try to keep 'em
"April."--May did a crayon head of Mother with Mrs. Murdock; very
good likeness. All of us as proud as peacocks of our "little
Heard Mrs. Butler read; very fine.
"May."--Left the L.'s with my thirty-three dollars, glad to rest.
May went home with her picture, happy in her winter's work and
Father had three talks at W. F. Channing's. Good
company,--Emerson, Mrs. Howe, and the rest.
Saw young Booth in Brutus, and liked him better than his father;
went about and rested after my labors; glad to be with Father,
who enjoyed Boston and friends.
Home on the 10th, passing Sunday at the Emerson's. I have done
what I planned,--supported myself, written eight stories, taught
four months, earned a hundred dollars, and sent money home.
"June."--All happy together. My dear Nan was with me, and we had
good times. Betty was feeble, but seemed to cheer up for a time.
The long, cold, lonely winter has been too hard for the frail
creature, and we are all anxious about her. I fear she may slip
away; for she never seemed to care much for this world beyond
So gradually the day seemed to be coming to which Louisa had long
looked forward. She found that she could be independent, could help
her family, and even indulge some of her own tastes.
About this time Miss Alcott mentions a young friend who died in her
arms, and speaks of going to console the sister in her loneliness.
This shows how warmly her heart beat for others while her head was so
busy with her ambitious plans. She speaks also of the hint of a new
story called "The Cost of an Idea." She never lost sight of this plan,
but did not carry it out. Her father's life and character were in her
mind, and she longed to portray the conflict between his high ideal
and the practical difficulties of his life; but it was an impossible
subject. The Fruitlands episode was told in "Transcendental Wild
Oats," and his early life in "Elis's Education." But although her
admiration and affection for him are abundantly shown in her journals,
she never perhaps understood him so thoroughly that she could
adequately portray his personality; neither could she do justice to
all related to him without trenching upon the privacy due to sacred
[Illustration: ORCHARD HOUSE, CONCORD, MASS. Home of the Alcott
A great shadow fell over Louisa's heart and life from the increasing
illness of her dear younger sister Elizabeth. This young girl was
tenderly beloved by all the family, and was indeed as pure,
refined, and holy as she is represented as Beth in "Little Women."
Her decay was very gradual, and she was so patient and sweet that the
sad time of anxiety was a very precious one in remembrance.
This sickness added to the pecuniary burdens of the family, and eight
years afterward Louisa paid the bill of the physician who attended her
In October, 1857, the family removed again to Concord, and Louisa
remained at home to assist in the care of the beloved invalid. They
lived a few months in a part of a house which they hired until the
Orchard House, which they had bought, was ready for them. Here the
dear sister's life came to a close.
This was the first break in the household, and the mother's heart
never fully recovered from it. Louisa accepted death with strong,
sweet wisdom. It never seemed to have any terror for her.
In July they took possession of the Orchard House, which was hereafter
the permanent residence of the family. This was a picturesque old
house on the side of a hill, with an orchard of apple-trees. It was
not far from Mr. Emerson's, and within walking distance of the
village, yet very quiet and rural. Mr. Alcott had his library, and was
always very happy there; but Louisa's heart never clung to it.
The engagement of the elder sister was a very exciting event to
Louisa, who did not like having the old sisterly relation broken in
upon; but everything was so genuine and true in the love of the newly
betrothed pair that she could not help accepting the change as a
blessing to her sister and taking the new brother into her heart. The
entries in her journal show that the picture she has drawn in "Little
Women" of this noble man is from life, and not exaggerated.
Louisa went to Boston for a visit, and again had hopes of going on to
the stage; but an accident prevented it; and she returned to Concord
and her writing, working off her disappointment in a story called
"Only an Actress."
Among her experiences at this time was an offer of marriage, about
which she consulted her mother, telling her that she did not care for
the lover very much. The wise mother saved her from the impulse to
self-sacrifice, which might have led her to accept a position which
would have given help to the family.
Although this was not the only instance of offers of marriage, more or
less advantageous, made to her, Louisa had no inclination toward
matrimony. Her heart was bound up in her family, and she could hardly
contemplate her own interests as separate from theirs. She loved
activity, freedom, and independence. She could not cherish illusions
tenderly; and she always said that she got tired of everybody, and
felt sure that she should of her husband if she married. She never
wished to make her heroines marry, and the love story is the part of
her books for which she cared least. She yielded to the desire of the
public, who will not accept life without a recognition of this great
joy in it. Still it must be acknowledged that she has sometimes
painted very sweet and natural love scenes, although more often in
quaint and homely guise than in the fashion of ancient romance. "King
of Clubs and Queen of Hearts" is very prettily told; and "Mrs.
Todger's Teapot" is true to that quiet, earnest affection which does
not pass away with youth.
The writing went on, and she received five, six, or ten dollars apiece
for her stories; but she did not yet venture to give up the sewing and
teaching, which was still the sure reliance.
Her younger sister now began to exercise her talent, and illustrated a
little book of Louisa's called "Christmas Elves," which she says is
better than "Flower Fables."
Read Charlotte Bronté's life. A very interesting, but sad one. So
full of talent; and after working long, just as success, love,
and happiness come, she dies.
Wonder if I shall ever be famous enough for people to care to
read my story and struggles. I can't be a C. B., but I may do a
little something yet.
"July."--Grandma Alcott came to visit us. A sweet old lady; and I
am glad to know her, and see where Father got his nature.
Eighty-four; yet very smart, industrious, and wise. A house needs
a grandma in it.
As we sat talking over Father's boyhood, I never realized so
plainly before how much he has done for himself. His early life
sounded like a pretty old romance, and Mother added the love
I got a hint for a story; and some day will do it, and call it
"The Cost of an Idea." Spindle Hill, Temple School, Fruitlands,
Boston, and Concord, would make fine chapters. The trials and
triumphs of the Pathetic Family would make a capital book; may I
live to do it.
"August."--A sad, anxious month. Betty worse; Mother takes her
to the seashore. Father decides to go back to Concord; he is
never happy far from Emerson, the one true friend who loves and
understands and helps him.
"September."--An old house near R. W. E.'s is bought with
Mother's money, and we propose to move. Mother in Boston with
poor Betty, who is failing fast. Anna and I have a hard time
"October."--Move to Concord. Take half a house in town till
spring, when the old one is to be made ready.
Find dear Betty a shadow, but sweet and patient always. Fit up a
nice room for her, and hope home and love and care may keep her.
People kind and friendly, and the old place looks pleasant,
though I never want to live in it.
"November."--Father goes West, taking Grandma home. We settle
down to our winter, whatever it is to be. Lizzie seems better,
and we have some plays. Sanborn's school makes things lively, and
we act a good deal.
Twenty-five this month. I feel my quarter of a century rather
heavy on my shoulders just now. I lead two lives. One seems gay
with plays, etc., the other very sad,--in Betty's room; for
though she wishes us to act, and loves to see us get ready, the
shadow is there, and Mother and I see it. Betty loves to have me
with her; and I am with her at night, for Mother needs rest.
Betty says she feels "strong" when I am near. So glad to be of
"December."--Some fine plays for charity.
"January, 1858."--Lizzie much worse; Dr. G. says there is no
hope. A hard thing to hear; but if she is only to suffer, I pray
she may go soon. She was glad to know she was to "get well," as
she called it, and we tried to bear it bravely for her sake. We
gave up plays; Father came home; and Anna took the housekeeping,
so that Mother and I could devote ourselves to her. Sad, quiet
days in her room, and strange nights keeping up the fire and
watching the dear little shadow try to wile away the long
sleepless hours without troubling me. She sews, reads, sings
softly, and lies looking at the fire,--so sweet and patient and
so worn, my heart is broken to see the change. I wrote some lines
one night on "Our Angel in the House."
[Jo and Beth.--L. M. A.]
"February."--A mild month; Betty very comfortable, and we hope a
Dear Betty is slipping away, and every hour is too precious to
waste, so I'll keep my lamentations over Nan's [affairs] till
this duty is over.
Lizzie makes little things, and drops them out of windows to the
school-children, smiling to see their surprise. In the night she
tells me to be Mrs. Gamp, when I give her her lunch, and tries to
be gay that I may keep up. Dear little saint! I shall be better
all my life for these sad hours with you.
"March 14th."--My dear Beth died at three this morning, after two
years of patient pain. Last week she put her work away, saying
the needle was "too heavy," and having given us her few
possessions, made ready for the parting in her own simple, quiet
way. For two days she suffered much, begging for ether, though
its effect was gone. Tuesday she lay in Father's arms, and called
us round her, smiling contentedly as she said, "All here!" I
think she bid us good-by then, as she held our hands and kissed
us tenderly. Saturday she slept, and at midnight became
unconscious, quietly breathing her life away till three; then,
with one last look of the beautiful eyes, she was gone.
A curious thing happened, and I will tell it here, for Dr. G.
said it was a fact. A few moments after the last breath came, as
Mother and I sat silently watching the shadow fall on the dear
little face, I saw a light mist rise from the body, and float up
and vanish in the air. Mother's eyes followed mine, and when I
said, "What did you see?" she described the same light mist. Dr.
G. said it was the life departing visibly.
For the last time we dressed her in her usual cap and gown, and
laid her on her bed,--at rest at last. What she had suffered was
seen in the face; for at twenty-three she looked like a woman of
forty, so worn was she, and all her pretty hair gone.
On Monday Dr. Huntington read the Chapel service, and we sang her
favorite hymn. Mr. Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Sanborn, and John
Pratt, carried her out of the old home to the new one at Sleepy
Hollow chosen by herself. So the first break comes, and I know
what death means,--a liberator for her, a teacher for us.
"April."--Came to occupy one wing of Hawthorne's house (once
ours) while the new one was being repaired. Father, Mother, and I
kept house together; May being in Boston, Anna at Pratt Farm,
and, for the first time, Lizzie absent. I don't miss her as I
expected to do, for she seems nearer and dearer than before; and
I am glad to know she is safe from pain and age in some world
where her innocent soul must be happy.
Death never seemed terrible to me, and now is beautiful; so I
cannot fear it, but find it friendly and wonderful.
"May."--A lonely month with all the girls gone, and Father and
Mother absorbed in the old house, which I don't care about, not
On the 7th of April, Anna came walking in to tell us she was
engaged to John Pratt; so another sister is gone. J. is a model
son and brother,--a true man,--full of fine possibilities, but so
modest one does not see it at once. He is handsome, healthy, and
happy; just home from the West, and so full of love he is
pleasant to look at.
I moaned in private over my great loss, and said I'd never
forgive J. for taking Anna from me; but I shall if he makes her
happy, and turn to little May for my comfort.
[Now that John is dead, I can truly say we all had cause to bless
the day he came into the family; for we gained a son and brother,
and Anna the best husband ever known.
For ten years he made her home a little heaven of love and peace;
and when he died he left her the legacy of a beautiful life, and
an honest name to his little sons.--L. M. A., 1873.]
"June."--The girls came home, and I went to visit L. W. in
Boston. Saw Charlotte Cushman, and had a stage-struck fit. Dr. W.
asked Barry to let me act at his theatre, and he agreed. I was to
do Widow Pottle, as the dress was a good disguise and I knew the
part well. It was all a secret, and I had hopes of trying a new
life; the old one being so changed now, I felt as if I must find
interest in something absorbing. But Mr. B. broke his leg, so I
had to give it up; and when it was known, the dear, respectable
relations were horrified at the idea. I'll try again by-and-by,
and see if I have the gift. Perhaps it is acting, not writing,
I'm meant for. Nature must have a vent somehow.
"July."--Went into the new house and began to settle. Father is
happy; Mother glad to be at rest; Anna is in bliss with her
gentle John; and May busy over her pictures. I have plans
simmering, but must sweep and dust and wash my dish-pans a while
longer till I see my way.
Worked off my stage fever in writing a story, and felt better;
also a moral tale, and got twenty-five dollars, which pieced up
our summer gowns and bonnets all round. The inside of my head can
at least cover the outside.
"August."--Much company to see the new house. All seem to be glad
that the wandering family is anchored at last. We won't move
again for twenty years if I can help it. The old people need an
abiding place; and now that death and love have taken two of us
away, I can, I hope, soon manage to care for the remaining four.
The weeklies will all take stories; and I can simmer novels while
I do my housework, so see my way to a little money, and perhaps
more by-and-by if I ever make a hit.
Probably owing to the excitement of grief for her sister's death, and
sympathy in Anna's happy betrothal, Louisa became in October more
discouraged than she had ever been, and went to Boston in search of
work. As she walked over the mill dam the running stream brought the
thought of the River of Death, which would end all troubles. It was
but a momentary impulse, and the brave young heart rallied to the
thought, "There is work for me, and I'll have it!" Her journal
narrates how Mr. Parker helped her through this period of anxiety. She
was all ready to go to Lancaster, to hard drudgery at sewing, when her
old place as governess was again offered to her, and her own support
"October."--Went to Boston on my usual hunt for employment, as I
am not needed at home and seem to be the only bread-winner just
* * * * *
My fit of despair was soon over, for it seemed so cowardly to run
away before the battle was over I couldn't do it. So I said
firmly, "There "is" work for me, and I'll have it," and went home
resolved to take Fate by the throat and shake a living out of
Sunday Mr. Parker preached a sermon on "Laborious Young Women."
Just what I needed; for it said: "Trust your fellow-beings, and
let them help you. Don't be too proud to ask, and accept the
humblest work till you can find the task you want."
"I will," said I, and went to Mr. P.'s. He was out; but I told
Mrs. P. my wants, and she kindly said Theodore and Hannah would
be sure to have something for me. As I went home I met Mrs. L.,
who had not wanted me, as Alice went to school. She asked if I
was engaged, and said A. did not do well, and she thought perhaps
they would like me back. I was rejoiced, and went home feeling
that the tide had begun to turn. Next day came Miss H. S. to
offer me a place at the Girls' Reform School at Lancaster, to sew
ten hours a day, make and mend. I said I'd go, as I could do
anything with a needle; but added, if Mrs. L. wants me I'd rather
"Of course you had. Take it if it comes, and if not, try my
work." I promised and waited. That eve, when my bag was packed
and all was ready for Lancaster, came a note from Mrs. L.
offering the old salary and the old place. I sang for joy, and
next day early posted off to Miss S. She was glad and shook
hands, saying, "It was a test, my dear, and you stood it. When I
told Mr. P. that you would go, he said, 'That is a true girl;
Louisa will succeed.'"
I was very proud and happy; for these things are tests of
character as well as courage, and I covet the respect of such
true people as Mr. P. and Miss S.
So away to my little girl with a bright heart! for with tales,
and sewing for Mary, which pays my board, there I am fixed for
the winter and my cares over. Thank the Lord!
She now found publishers eager for her stories, and went on writing
for them. She was encouraged by E. P. Whipple's praise of "Mark
Field's Mistake," and by earning thirty dollars, most of which she
Earned thirty dollars; sent twenty home. Heard Curtis, Parker,
Higginson, and Mrs. Dall lecture. See Booth's Hamlet, and my
ideal done at last.
My twenty-sixth birthday on the 29th. Some sweet letters from
home, and a ring of A.'s and J.'s hair as a peace-offering. A
quiet day, with many thoughts and memories.
The past year has brought us the first death and betrothal,--two
events that change my life. I can see that these experiences have
taken a deep hold, and changed or developed me. Lizzie helps me
spiritually, and a little success makes me more self-reliant. Now
that Mother is too tired to be wearied with my moods, I have to
manage them alone, and am learning that work of head and hand is
my salvation when disappointment or weariness burden and darken
In my sorrow I think I instinctively came nearer to God, and
found comfort in the knowledge that he was sure to help when
nothing else could.
A great grief has taught me more than any minister, and when
feeling most alone I find refuge in the Almighty Friend. If this
is experiencing religion I have done it; but I think it is only
the lesson one must learn as it comes, and I am glad to know it.
After my fit of despair I seem to be braver and more cheerful,
and grub away with a good heart. Hope it will last, for I need
all the courage and comfort I can get.
I feel as if I could write better now,--more truly of things I
have felt and therefore "know". I hope I shall yet do my great
book, for that seems to be my work, and I am growing up to it. I
even think of trying the "Atlantic." There 's ambition for you!
I'm sure some of the stories are very flat. If Mr. L. takes the
one Father carried to him, I shall think I can do something.
"December."--Father started on his tour West full of hope. Dear
man! How happy he will be if people will only listen to and "pay"
for his wisdom.
May came to B. and stayed with me while she took drawing lessons.
Christmas at home. Write an Indian story.
"January", 1859.--Send a parcel home to Marmee and Nan.
Mother very ill. Home to nurse her for a week. Wonder if I ought
not to be a nurse, as I seem to have a gift for it. Lizzie, L.
W., and Mother all say so; and I like it. If I couldn't write or
act I'd try it. May yet. $21 from L.; $15 home.
* * * * *
Some day I'll do my best, and get well paid for it.
[$3,000 for a short serial in 1876. True prophet.--L. M. A.]
Wrote a sequel to "Mark Field." Had a queer time over it, getting
up at night to write it, being too full to sleep.
"March."--"Mark" was a success, and much praised. So I found the
divine afflatus did descend. Busy life teaching, writing, sewing,
getting all I can from lectures, books, and good people. Life is
my college. May I graduate well, and earn some honors!
"April."--May went home after a happy winter at the School of
Design, where she did finely, and was pronounced full of promise.
Mr. T. said good things of her, and we were very proud. No doubt
now what she is to be, if we can only keep her along.
I went home also, being done with A., who went out of town early.
Won't teach any more if I can help it; don't like it; and if I
can get writing enough can do much better.
I have done more than I hoped. Supported myself, helped May, and
sent something home. Not borrowed a penny, and had only five
dollars given me. So my third campaign ends well.
"May."--Took care of L. W., who was ill. Walked from C. to B. one
day, twenty miles, in five hours, and went to a party in the
evening. Not very tired. Well done for a vegetable production!
"June."--Took two children to board and teach. A busy month, as
Anna was in B.
"September."--Great State Encampment here. Town full of soldiers,
with military fuss and feathers. I like a camp, and long for a
war, to see how it all seems. I can't fight, but I can nurse.
[Prophetic again.--L. M. A.]
"October", 1859.--May did a fine copy of Emerson's Endymion
Mother sixty. God bless the dear, brave woman!
Good news of Parker in Florence,--my beloved minister and friend.
To him and R. W. E. I owe much of my education. May I be a worthy
pupil of such men!
"November."--Hurrah! My story was accepted; and Lowell asked if
it was not a translation from the German, it was so unlike most
tales. I felt much set up, and my fifty dollars will be very
happy money. People seem to think it a great thing to get into
the "Atlantic;" but I've not been pegging away all these years in
vain, and may yet have books and publishers and a fortune of my
own. Success has gone to my head, and I wander a little.
Twenty-seven years old, and very happy.
The Harper's Ferry tragedy makes this a memorable month. Glad I
have lived to see the Antislavery movement and this last heroic
act in it. Wish I could do my part in it.
"December", 1859.--The execution of Saint John the Just took
place on the second. A meeting at the hall, and all Concord was
there. Emerson, Thoreau, Father, and Sanborn spoke, and all
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