See a letter written by Louisa to her publisher regarding a sequel to Little Women

In conjunction with an exhibit at the Houghton Library at Harvard University entitled  Louisa May Alcott: Family Life & Publishing Ventures, Alcott scholars Daniel Shealy and Joel Myerson contributed a post to Houghton’s blog called “You’ve Got Mail” (highlighting various letters from Houghton’s vast collection) regarding a sequel to Little Women.

Here’s a tease. Be sure and click on the link to see the actual letter written by Louisa to Thomas Niles, her publisher.

You’ve Got Mail: Little Women II: Wedding Marches

Because Little Women is embedded in the American mind as a classic children’s book, readers often forget that Louisa May Alcott always viewed herself as a professional author who wrote in order to make money, much of which went to help support her parents and sisters, and later, nephews and a niece. Between 1868, when Little Women was published, and 1886, when Alcott recorded her last royalty statement, she received $103,375 from her publisher, Roberts Brothers. During that same stretch they printed 846,291 copies of her books, and between 1868 and 1898, when the firm was bought by Little, Brown, and Company, they printed 597,827 copies of Little Women in all its various formats. In comparison, Henry James earned $58,503 during the same period, and Herman Melville was paid, from all American and British sales of his books, $10,444.33 during his entire lifetime.

Click here to see the letter and the rest of the article.

Thanks to Two Nerdy History Girls: Breakfast Links: Week of May 21, 2012
By Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott for the tip!

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Beautiful Little Women book covers

Check out all the beautiful book covers of Little Women from its publication to the present – quite a collection. Nice summary too, here’s a tease:

 The Reference Guide to American Literature describes the creation of the book(s) in this way: “Alcott’s purpose in writing Little Women was not to create a nostalgic portrait of an idyllic childhood, though the book is often read as such. She wrote it to make money.” Horn Book’s article “Introduction to the Centennial Edition of Little Women” by Cornelia Meigs goes into a bit more detail on the matter. “In September, 1867, [Alcott] mentions in her diary that Mr. Thomas Niles of Roberts Brothers had asked her for a book for girls. It seems to have been somewhat of a shot in the dark even for him; for her it was even more unpromising than that. She agreed to try, but linked the task so little that she did not go on with it. Other and easier-seeming undertakings were allowed to come in the way and in May, 1867, she sent her father to Mr. Niles to ask him if he would not be interested in a fairy book. Thomas Niles answered firmly that he wanted a book for girls.” And so, dear reader, she did.

Click here to see the covers and read the rest. Thanks to Jeannine for the tip!

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Let’s celebrate! Scenes from Orchard House’s Centennial

You knew I couldn’t stay away and I didn’t! It was a picture-perfect day and I have lots of photos to share.

The house tour was done differently with a guide in every room which allotted lots of time for questions. :-) I was even able to identify the species of owl that May painted on Louisa’s fireplace. Watch the slide show for the reveal.

Pssst, a secret!  There is yet another new book out on Louisa, I found out from one of the tour guides. Not telling yet but I do have a copy to read … more to come, including an interview with the author.

Enjoy your virtual celebration of Orchard House’s 100th birthday!

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Beth March as a doll

I received a wonderful email from the mother of Amelie Lasker, the young actress who portrayed Beth March in the Concord Players’ production of Little Women this past May (see past post for more on this play). She shared with me the sweet remembrance given to each March sister cast member, created by the costumers Pat Kane, Kathy Booth, Susie Appel and Tracy Wall. The doll is wearing the costume worn by Amelie in the first act of the play. The doll is even holding a kitten! Here’s a picture her husband Gary took – what a wonderful keepsake!

Photo by Gary Lasker

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Happy Birthday, Orchard House!

Today marks the official 100th birthday of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House as a museum. On May 17th, Carrie Hoyle (my maiden name, not sure if we’re related), secretary of the Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association sent a letter to John Alcott Pratt, son of Anna and adopted heir of Louisa, inviting him to Orchard House for its official opening.

Authentic homestead

As noted on the Orchard House website, no major structural changes were made to the house after the Alcotts vacated it, and approximately 80% of the furnishings are theirs. It makes for a very authentic tour experience, especially with different drawings and paintings on walls throughout the house by artist sister May.

Birthday activities

If you’re lucky enough to live near Concord, there are festivities taking place all weekend long at the museum including vintage dancers, 19th century children’s toys and games, silhouette artist, apple press/cider making, thematic tours, 1912 living history portrayers, birthday cake and popular 1912 refreshments. May27 activities also include a Centennial Legislative Proclamation and Postal Stamp Cancellation Ceremony.

Take a tour

If you can’t make it to Orchard House, you can take a virtual tour of each room!

The celebration continues

There are other events taking place in June including an exhibit of Annie Leibovitz’s photos from her book, Pilgrimage . Be sure and visit the Orchard House website to download a complete calendar of events.

My first visit and the aunt who changed my life

Here’s a picture of my first visit to Orchard House in 1963 when I was 7 (I’m the kid with the pigtails). My Aunt Petty (in the back row) gave me the children’s bio, The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard which started this whole love affair with Louisa. :-) Thanks Aunt Petty!

Front row: My brother Tommy, me, my sister Chris
Back row: cousin Diane, Aunt Petty, Uncle Harold, my mom

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Today in Alcott history …

The American Literary Blog reports:

  • The first of what became four installments of Hospital Sketches was published in the magazine Boston Commonwealth on May 22, 1863.
  • Later, in book form, it carried the subtitle “An Army Nurse’s True Account of Her Experiences During the Civil War.”
  • The author, Louisa May Alcott, had spent about six weeks volunteering at a Union hospital outside of Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. Her letters home were the basis of the book.

You can read the rest of the post here.

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Be sure and check out Twitter and Facebook links – good stuff!

I found some great stuff today which I posted on Facebook and Twitter:

Click on the Facebook and Twitter icons to check these out!

           

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Louisa May Alcott Summer Reading Challenge – What I’m reading

2012 Summer reading challenge hosted at www.inthebookcase.blogspot.comThe In The Bookcase blog is holding a Louisa May Alcott summer reading challenge so you know I have to participate! :-)

Here’s what I plan on reading:

1. Finish my re-read of Little Women
(and Little Women (Norton Critical Edition) edited by Gregory Eiselein and Anne K. Phillips)

2. Finish my re-read of Louisa May Alcott:
A Biography
* by Madeleine B. Stern
(Also Old Books, Rare Friends: Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion by Madeline B. Stern and Leona Rostenberg since Leona’s discovering of Louisa’s alter ego, A. M.  Barnard, was made while Madeline was researching her biography)

3. Finish Eight Cousins

4. Read Work: A Story of Experience

5. At least start Louisa M. Alcott, Her Life, Letters and Journals,
edited by Ednah Cheney

Come and do this with me!

Just click on the picture above to find out more about this challenge. It’s really easy and should make for a nice summer. And, it’s a very appropriate way to celebrate the centennial of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House as a museum. :-)

What do you plan on reading?

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Companion volume to Marmee and Louisa includes newly discovered private writings

As mentioned in a previous post, a new dual biography on Louisa and her mother is coming out in November called Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother by Eve LaPlante. LaPlante’s website indicates that previously undiscovered private papers were found which form the basis of her book. These papers are being made available through a companion volume called My Heart is Boundless Writings of Abigail May Alcott, Louisa’s Mother.

The description on Amazon.com reads as follows:

Edited by award-winning biographer Eve LaPlante, a collection of the letters and diaries of Louisa May Alcott’s mother, Abigail—a forward-thinking feminist whose advice and example profoundly shaped her famous daughter

In this riveting compilation of Abigail May Alcott’s previously undiscovered and unexplored private writings, biographer Eve LaPlante annotates the letters, poems, recipes, and diaries of the real-life inspiration behind “Marmee” of Little Women, one of the most famous mother figures in American literature.

This companion volume to LaPlante’s groundbreaking Marmee & Louisa covers everything from writing (Abigail’s own ambitions as well as her daughter’s) to family life and the expectations of society. Full of wit and charm, Abigail’s private letters offer a moving, intimate portrait of a woman intellectually ahead of her time who found herself trapped in an unrewarding marriage and who would transfer her wisdom and ambition to her talented daughters, Louisa most of all.

In beautiful prose (a biographer once pointed out that “In some ways, Abby was a better writer than her more famous daughter”), this fantastic new collection lays bare the unparalleled love that Abigail held for her family, in the process restoring a powerful female voice too long lost to history.

As indicated by one of our readers, LaPlante will be featured at the Orchard House Summer Conversational Series taking place July 15-19.

I’ll be there, how about you?

The excitement grows … :-)

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Little Women on the stage – a Concord Players’ tradition

Julius and Nancy Gluck

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of seeing the Concord Players‘ historic production of Little Women with one of you! Nancy Gluck of the Silver Threads blog along with her lovely husband were spending the weekend in Concord (she is preparing a 5-part series on Louisa May Alcott for her adult education class). We thought it would be most appropriate to meet for the first time while seeing Little Women and we had a wonderful time kabitzing.

Louisa May Alcott and her sister Anna helped found the Concord Players (once known as the Concord Dramatic Union) in 1856; when introducing the play, Michael Govang (John Brooke) referred to Louisa as their “patron saint.”

Bronson Alcott Pratt portraying Mr. March in 1932 in Concord’s production of Little Women.

Since 1932, the Concord Players have staged Little Women every ten years (with the exception of 1942, because of the war). It began in 1932 as a way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Louisa’s birth. Two cast members were direct descendants of Anna – Louisa Alcott Kussin (Meg) and Bronson Alcott Pratt (Father).

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Orchard House as a museum, making this year’s production historic.

A direct descendant of the family was in the ensemble (Louisa Alcott Yamartino) who is co-owner of fritz & gigi, The Children’s Shop in Concord with her sister, Karen. According to the program, “the business is run by a third generation of the family and is celebrating 75 years in business this year.” Louisa is the great, great, granddaughter of Anna.

The play was written by a local, David Fielding Smith, and features Jo acting as both narrator and character. The quick pacing and energetic performances made this play a joy to watch.

Beth and Jo at the seashore.

Casting on the  most part was perfect. Nicole Dunn took the part of Jo and perfectly embodied Jo’s spirit. I truly could feel Jo’s love for her sisters, her buoyancy and joy for life and writing, and the desperation when Amy fell through the ice, and Beth caught scarlet fever. The scene between her and Beth at the seashore brought tears to my eyes.

It is interesting to note that Dunn had never read Little Women although she had seen the 1994 film (read an interview with her here). She was Jo and I will forever think of her whenever I read Little Women.

David N. Rogers took the part of Laurie. I wasn’t quite sure about him until the pivotal scene between Laurie and Jo when Jo tells her boy that she doesn’t love him. Here Rogers shown, exploding with deeply felt passion.

Marmee reads a letter from Father to the girls.

Jan Turnquist, the executive director of Orchard House, revived her role as Marmee. Jan is such an integral part of Louisa’s continuing legacy that it seemed very fitting to have her there as Marmee.

Kimberly Rochette‘s Meg and Amelie Lasker‘s Beth were both perfect. My only disappointment was the choice for Amy (Molly Weinberg) as the portrayal was somewhat two-dimensional. I had a hard time accepting the actress especially when Amy became an adult. There was no chemistry between her and Laurie.

I wish the part of Professor Bhaer had been larger because the actor, Julio Gomez, was terrific. Michael Govang was very good as John Brooke and Marcella Fischer provided comic relief as Aunt March.

Knowing how connected the Concord Players is with town, Louisa’s ancestors and her history made this production extra special.

Nancy secured us seats in the third row giving me a perfect position to capture the play on film. Enjoy the slide show!

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The Concord Players also produced a promotional video with background and scenes:

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