Some of those treasures included Anna’s childhood diaries.
Anna is an engaging writer
While Lizzie’s writings read more like lists, Anna’s read like little stories.
Anna was very faithful about keeping her journal and lamented if she missed a day. Sometimes she missed several, and she’d lament about that.
Scenes from her past
What particularly struck me were the scenes she described, opening little windows into the past. Here she describes a walk with Lizzie:
from Boston, Wednesday, October 23, 1839 - “I had a pleasant walk on the Common with Elizabeth and the Rufoellis this morning We played hide behind the trees. The leaves were fallen, and were brown and yellow.” (MS Am 1130.9 (24), Alcott Pratt collection, Houghton Library).
This description of a trip from Boston to Scituate on the stage was colorful:
from Scituate to Boston, Wednesday, Septmber 28, 1838 – “The stage came for us this morning and took us and all our baggage. There were a good many passengers inside and on the top. We saw some Indian women at Hingham near where the Steam Boat stops. They had long hair and loose gowns and rings in their ears. One of them was making a basket. It was pleasant sailing in the steam boat. I was glad when we got to our house in Boston, and saw the Russells and the Duttons. Everything seemed strange to me about the house. We played in the garret with Elizabeth and Mary Russell, as we used to before we went to Scituate.” (Ibid)
Visits with the relatives
from Scituate, Thursday, September 12, 1838 “We went to a Pic Nic on Afranipit this afternoon, Father, mother, Uncle Samuel, Aunt Lucretia and Louisa went with me, It was four or five miles. The tables were in a grove near the road, and spread with cakes, apples, peaches, melons, raisins and other good things, I liked the music. Uncle Samuel made a short speech to the people. They stood still to hear him. In the evening we played and told stories at Uncle Samuel’s. We came home in the dark. Father carried Elizabeth in his arms.”(Ibid)
Fodder for stories
It occurred to me as a writer that Anna’s stories and descriptions set up great scenes. I could definitely see a children’s writer especially making good use of these sources.
Handwriting tells its own story
Anna’s handwriting, like Lizzie’s, is very neat and consistent. Lizzie’s letters are upright while Anna’s slant; her handwriting flows more easily than Lizzie’s.
Anna’s journals are beckoning me back for further study.
A final note
My three days with Louisa May Alcott were a dream come true. The sense of fellowship created during those conversations at Orchard House was tremendously satisfying and the visit to Houghton was the perfect follow-up. I look forward to my vacation at Christmastime to visit the library again, and to see Orchard House adorned for the holidays.
A lasting memento
I have to share with you my thrilling memento from my days with Louisa: a personal autograph in my copy of Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father from John Matteson. He is aware of the work done here at Louisa May Alcott is My Passion and offered a wonderful word of encouragement.
You can imagine it took a while for my feet to touch the ground after reading this:
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