Thanksgiving memories from one of Abba Alcott’s best friends, and an interesting parallel with Little Men

Lydia_Maria_Child

Lydia Maria Child

One of Abigail Alcott’s best friends was author and abolitionist Lydia Maria Child. A successful children’s author in the mid 1800s, Child is best known for a poem about Thanksgiving, part of which is set to music:

Here is an image from her three volume book called Flowers for Children, of the first few stanzas:

lydia marie child thanksgiving 1844

You can read the entire poem here.

Didactic tales for children by Lydia Maria Child

juvenile miscellanyUndoubtedly the Alcott children had to have read Child’s works since the families were so friendly with each other. Flowers for Children, a collection of Child’s favorite stories and best known articles from her successful juvenile magazine, The Juvenile Miscellany, contain moralistic stories for children. Didactic tales for youngsters were the norm for the day and Louisa was influenced by them in her own writing for children.

Could this story have influenced Little Men?

christ child and the poor childrenIn reading the first story, “The Christ-Child and the Poor Children,” I was struck by the many similarities between this story and Little Men. “The Christ-Child and the Poor Children” is the story of a group of very poor and disadvantaged children, some of whom are turning to crime. Heinrich and his little sister Gertrude come from a dysfunctional family where the father is a mean drunk and the mother taken to fits of insanity. Wolfgang is the neighborhood bully. We encounter the Christ-Child at Christmastime when Heinrich and Gertrude receive a rare gift of money; they purchase apples, nuts and green boughs to create a Christmas tree. Gertrude offers thanks to the Christ-Child for providing the means. Unfortunately, Wolfgang spoils everything by stealing the apples and nuts from the children.

The gift of money had been provided by an older man who runs a home for orphans with his wife. Eventually the three children become a part of that home, working at trades to earn their keep and contributing to the family home. Heinrich and Gertrude’s parents eventually join them. Wolfgang struggles with trying to resist his formerly evil ways and falls from grace on numerous occasions, only to be forgiven and taken back by the community. Eventually he reforms his life.

Interesting parallels

littlemen03I’m sure already you can see the similarities between this story and Little Men. For me,

  • Heinrich reminded me of Nat. Both are sensitive boys.
  • Gertrude resembled Bess in appearance but reminded me more of Daisy because of her eternal optimism and innocence.
  • I instantly thought of both Dan and Jack when introduced to Wolfgang: Dan because of Wolfgang’s physical build and willfulness and Jack because of what he did (he stole Tommy’s money and let Dan lie about it to protect Nat) and because of his contrition.
  • “Father” and “Mother” in the story instantly brought to mind Professor Bhaer and Mrs. Jo. The god-like quality of “Father” made me think of Bronson. Plumfield was not unlike this home for orphans.
  • The camaraderie of the poor children smacked of all the boys at Plumfield along with Daisy and Nan.

Undoubtedly, stories like “The Christ-Child and the Poor Children” were a common part of the reading diet of the Alcott children. It just struck me as amusing that the very first story I pick up mirrors Little Men in so many ways.

Many of you are far more knowledgeable than I am about the
didactic literature of Louisa’s time, and the influences on and origins
of Little Men -
What other stories might have influenced Louisa May Alcott in her writing of juvenile tales (besides her own)?

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Susan’s ebook, “Game Changer” is now available From the Garret – download for free!

An Old-Fashioned Louisa May Alcott Thanksgiving

From Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag comes “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving,” one of many charming short stories Louisa May Alcott wrote after the success of
Little Women.

Story summary

It’s a simple story of a time long ago and far away (very early 19th century), starring a country family in New Hampshire, “poor in money, but rich in land and love …” Familiar themes but I never grow tired of them, especially when the world today is so full of uncertainty and misery.

Takes you to another time

I never was a fan of descriptive writing, wishing instead for the plot line to simply proceed. This story’s descriptions however, folded me into its time and place such that the Bassett farmhouse was a home I truly wanted to visit and live in, even for a short time:

“The big kitchen was a jolly place just now, for in the great fireplace roared a cheerful fire; on the walls hung garlands of dried apples, onions, and corn; up a loft from the beams shone crook-necked squashes, juicy hams, and dried venison . . . Savory smells were in the air; on the crane hung steaming kettles; and down among the red embers copper saucepans simmered, all suggestive of some approaching feast.”

Dinner with the Bassetts

The story line is simple: Mother and Father are called away suddenly the day before Thanksgiving because Grandma was “failin’ fast,” leaving their 8 children behind. The oldest girls, Tilly and Prue, decide to finish the dinner though they had never made a turkey with stuffing before, nor had they ever cooked plum pudding. All doesn’t turn out perfectly (after all, young inexperienced girls in the kitchen can lead to disaster) but at the end of the day, everyone is happy, warm and fed. And the cooks have much to laugh about.

Personal reflection

The Bassetts are certainly the portrait of an ideal family (rather like the more modern-day Cleavers) with all 8 children getting on well with each other. Everyone is happy and healthy. We all know that moments like this were likely few and far between (and still are).

But in this messy, modern world of broken homes, people out of work, threats looming from abroad, and traditional values seemingly trashed, I found “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” to be the perfect escapist pleasure.

It doesn’t need analysis nor critique – it’s just meant to be enjoyed.

Memories

The copy I have of Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag belonged to my mother and dates back to 1929 (with those exquisite 1920s illustrations). As I turned the pages, I thought of my mother turning those same pages while allowing her active imagination to plant her in the midst of the Bassett family and home. She may not be with me anymore but she lives in my heart, my memories, and in her beloved books which now grace my shelves.

You can read “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” in its entirety on Google Books.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Click to Tweet & ShareAn Old-Fashioned Louisa May Alcott Thanksgiving http://wp.me/p125Rp-Cp

Are you passionate about Louisa May Alcott too?
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Susan’s ebook, “Game Changer” is now available From the Garret – download for free!


Are you passionate about Louisa May Alcott too?
Send an email to louisamayalcottismypassion@gmail.com
to subscribe, and never miss a post!
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An exciting first! The announcement of a novel about May Alcott by Jeannine Atkins

susanwbailey:

This is big news – the first of its kind – a novel about May Alcott! And from one of our readers, Jeannine Atkins, author of several books including her most recent, Views from a Window Seat and Becoming Little Women (see previous post). Congratulations, Jeannine, we can hardly wait!

jeannine atkins books

Originally posted on Views from a Window Seat:

I’m in full dream-come-true mode as I announce that LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE: A NOVEL OF MAY ALCOTT will be published by She Writes Press in fall 2015.

My fascination with the youngest Alcott sister began when I was a girl playing Little Women with two friends and my older sister, who claimed the role of Jo March. I also wanted to get my hands ink-stained and eat apples in a garret, but I didn’t see what was so wrong with liking clothes or handsome boys, too. As years passed and I learned about point of view, I wondered how much the portrait of May changed to Amy in Little Women was developed from the lens of an older sister, who might have been jealous of an independent girl who didn’t feel as strong a need to please their parents.

The many writers of nineteenth century Concord gave me plenty…

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Wayside, and Thoreau, as you’ve never seen them before; and some news

I came across two fascinating blog posts today that shed a new light on cherished Alcott/Concord lore.

Walden's Shore Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century ScienceThoreau and rocks

First of all, the Thoreau Society is running an interview with author Robert M. Thorson where he reveals something entire new about Thoreau.. It was discovered during his research for his book, Walden’s Shore: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Science about Thoreau, the self-taught physical scientist.

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Robert M. Thorson

Check out his discovery here.

Wayside or Orchard House?

Little Women‘s numerous readers know that Orchard House is the physical setting for the story of the March sisters. But do they know that next-door Wayside is where the action actually took place? (I know you do!)

Artist Joyce Pyka has been painting a folk art version of The Wayside, visualizing it as the home of the March sisters. She has a delightful blog post showing the progress of her work plus drawings of each sister. Remarking on Louisa May Alcott’s  extensive knowledgeable about flowers, she discusses those preferred by each sister and depicts them in the painting.

Here is how the painting appears so far:

Be sure and visit her blogpost to see a larger version of the painting and read about her progress. The drawings of the sisters are adorable!

Prints will be available when the painting is completed. It will be made available at http://pyka-joyce.artistwebsites.com/galleries.html  under her Folk Art Gallery.

News and Upcoming Posts

I am thisclose to finishing my first book and will be submitting it to the publisher around December 1. I will finally have some free time! I thank you for your patience with the scarcity of posts.

rose in bloomI wanted to announce that I am currently reading Rose in Bloom, have written my first post, and will begin posting as I get further into the book. I want to makes sure I post on a regular basis on this book since in the past I haven’t always been so faithful. I am very much enjoying Rose in Bloom so far and look forward to discussing it with you all.

 

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Louisa May Alcott Society call for papers for 2015 ALA conference in Boston

American Literature Association 26th Annual Conference Boston May 21-24, 2015

Louisa May Alcott Society (Contact Christine Doyle)
contact email: 

“Transatlantic Alcott”

little women abroad2Louisa May Alcott’s status as a quintessentially American writer notwithstanding, literature and life on the other side of “the pond” interested her immensely. Her favorite writers included Dickens, Bronte, Goethe, Schiller, de Stael; admiration for their work surely added fuel to her own “burning” genius. New Englander though she was, she took not one but two European tours, producing sketches as well as fiction in response to the experiences.

Even in the most American of her novels, Little Women, several chapters take place in Europe, where Amy and Laurie visit many places Louisa experienced on her first European tour in 1865-66.

  • What does Alcott’s writing show about her reading of Europe and European writers? In what ways does she embrace them? Reject them? Re-shape them to her particular artistic temperament and to the American experience?
  • How does she make use of the personal experiences garnered in her travels in Europe, in her non-fiction sketches such as Shawl Straps, and in her fiction (The Inheritance, A Long Fatal Love Chase, the thrillers generally) as well?
  • How might themes in her work be considered to be in dialogue with English and European writers, or with other American writers (Hawthorne, Twain, James) who were looking transatlantically themselves?

One hundred fifty years after Louisa May Alcott (like Amy) first “sailed away to find the old world,” can we consider her Americanness in a broader, more international context?

Send one-page abstracts (approx 300 words) by January 19, 2015, to Christine Doyle (doylec@ccsu.edu).

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A Puritan Hero

Featured Image -- 6790

susanwbailey:

Here’s one of those fascinating stories about Orchard House to be featured in the upcoming documentary by someone who should know (pssst! 5 days to go on the Kickstarter campaign – help Orchard House meet its goal: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/632439913/orchard-house
Amy’s book, Flight of the Sparrow is wonderful (see previous post); be sure and pick it up on Amazon.com.

Originally posted on Collisions:

Orchard House snowAbout a decade ago, I worked for a few years at the Orchard House Museum in Concord, Massachusetts.  Best known as the home of Louisa May Alcott and the place where she wrote the classic novel, Little Women, the house has an impressive history of its own.  When I was there the 300-year-old building, renovated by Bronson Alcott in the 1850’s, was in the midst of a massive preservation project, so I had the opportunity to see, up-close, some of the details of the colonial construction.  Ever since, I’ve been fascinated not just by how historical houses are decorated, but how they’re constructed.

At that time, I was finishing work on my novel, Mr. Emerson’s Wife, about the Transcendental circle in19th century Concord.  Little did I know that a few years later, I’d encounter the house again, as I researched a 17th-century Concord lawyer for my new novel,

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Part four of 4-part interview: Meet filmmaker and producer Justin King and hear his passion for Orchard House

In part three of this interview about Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, we meet the documentary’s producer and filmmaker, Justin King. Hear his motivation for making this film:

I wish to thank WCOM-FM for granting permission to rebroadcast this interview. It originally aired on October 1st on the “Courage Cocktail” hosted by Lee Anne McClymont.

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Host Lee Ann McClymont wrote a lovely sonnet to Louisa which I will close with. Thank you for your support of the campaign!

Louisa’s Dream

Kindred sister, in thy grace,
Help me birth a gentler race.
Place inside the meaning clear
Through our voice disband the fear.
Ford our way through wide and narrow
Guide our vision through bone and marrow
Still the noise and ply your craft
With sound and vision restore the draft
Till eventide the sea must rush
Let moonbeams sweetly whisper “hush.”
The end is near for family’s lost
In time suspended hope’s only cost
Restore the pledge to live in light
Godspeed your craft
With fortress might!

Sweetwood-Spring 2009
Hillsborough, North Carolina

Remember to #PledgeYourLove at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/632439913/orchard-house

And please, share these posts with everyone you know who loves Little Women and Louisa May Alcott!

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Part three of 4-part interview: Jan Turnquist recounts a fascinating story of a pilgrimage to Orchard House

little women in koreanIn part three of this interview about Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Executive Director Jan Turnquist shares a poignant story of a pilgrim visiting Orchard House from the other side of the world and how Little Women impacted this visitor:

I wish to thank WCOM-FM for granting permission to rebroadcast this interview. It originally aired on October 1st on the “Courage Cocktail” hosted by Lee Anne McClymont.

KickstarterBanner-1 560

Remember to #PledgeYourLove at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/632439913/orchard-house

And please, share these posts with everyone you know who loves Little Women and Louisa May Alcott!

louisa may alcott for widgetAre you passionate about Louisa May Alcott too?
Subscribe to the email list and never miss a post!
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Part two of 4-part interview: Jan Turnquist talks about Bronson’s education and the support Louisa received from her parents

" . . . I press thee to my heart, as Duty's faithful child."

” . . . I press thee to my heart, as Duty’s faithful child.”

In part two of this interview about Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Executive Director Jan Turnquist reveals how Bronson Alcott received his education and how important his love of learning was to Louisa’s development as a writer:

I wish to thank WCOM-FM for granting permission to rebroadcast this interview. It originally aired on October 1st on the Courage Cocktail Radio Show, WCOM LP. 

KickstarterBanner-1 560

Remember to #PledgeYourLove at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/632439913/orchard-house

And please, share these posts with everyone you know who loves Little Women and Louisa May Alcott!

louisa may alcott for widgetAre you passionate about Louisa May Alcott too?
Subscribe to the email list and never miss a post!
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