Continuing to trace the steps of Little Women: Madeleine B. Stern’s brilliant analysis, part three: Can you tell what’s real and what is made up?

Little Women  has been called autobiographical because Louisa May Alcott used so many episodes from her own childhood and that of her family to create the story. But where does fact end and fiction begin? Or does it even work like that?

Stern says, “Fact was embedded in fiction, and a domestic novel begun in which the local and the universal were married, in which adolescents were clothed in flesh and blood.”

True or False?

play and amy and joLet’s have a little quiz, True or False – is the following a real episode or fiction? Warning: the answer isn’t always black and white so pick True if it’s more black than white and False if the opposite.

Copy the entire list and then put TRUE or FALSE after the statement and we’ll compare notes.

  1. Hannah the servant
  2. The Christmas play (“The Witches’ Curse, an Operatic Tragedy)
  3. Amy burns Jo’s manuscript
  4. Marmee’s temper
  5. Amy falling through the ice
  6. Jo pinching Meg’s papered locks before the ball
  7. Meg being dressed up as a doll at Annie Moffat’s
  8. Amy bewailing her pickled limes
  9. Beth receiving the piano from Mr. Lawrence
  10. Mr. March’s illness
  11. Jo sells her hair.
  12. Beth wasted away and died peacefully.
  13. Jo published her first story, “The Rival Painters.”
  14. Amy writes her own will.
  15. Jo rejects Laurie’s love.

Answers in the next post. Good luck!

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Questions, questions … (part one)

Before I begin, thank you for your part in the extraordinarily successful launch of my new blog, Be As One: A Single Flow … The stats were encouraging and that’s a massive understatement! Thank you.

Involvement in my new blog dampened my passion for Louisa but only temporarily. It only takes reading a page or two in a biography to fuel the fire back up again.

A question

I am so enjoying reading Madeleine Stern’s Louisa May Alcott: A Biography slowly, just a few pages at a time because of the amount of information within. Reading between the lines, I always come up with questions. After reading only six pages yesterday (pages 164-170), I came up with a couple that I hope you can answer.

Women authors and how they approached writing

Here’s the first question: Did other famous women authors such as Jane Austen and Edith Wharton approach writing the way Louisa did, as a business?

From potboilers to children’s stories

Stern suggests the thought process Louisa went through before accepting the job as editor of a children’s magazine, Merry’s Museum. She had little or no experience writing literature for children (with the exception of Flower Fables and The Rose Family). How could “A. M. Barnard,” the potboiler author edit a magazine for children?

The build-up

The owner of Merry’s Museum in rolling out the new and improved version of the magazine touted his new editor as “the brilliant author of Hospital Sketches, who had hardly an equal and who had no superior as a writer for youth in the country.”

He had high expectations and Louisa would live up to them.

What was Louisa thinking?

Stern writes,

Perhaps the editorial work would extend her skill in writing and selecting material. It would at least give her a public that, with the exception of Flower Fables, her stories had never known. Children might prove fruitful critics, and possibly she might be able to combine her editorial responsibilities with writing for Mr. Niles [of Robert Brothers – she had already received his request to write a book for girls]. Five hundred dollars a year would be welcome at the Orchard House. Besides, Louisa would have the opportunity of living in Boston to be nearer Mr. Fuller’s office on Washington Street [he is the owner of Merry’s Museum]. Washington Street had marked many a milestone in her varied literary career as “A. M. Barnard” and L. M. Alcott. Perhaps another milestone would be reached. (pg. 164, Louisa May Alcott A Biography)

Learning her trade

Her work on Merry’s Museum showed Louisa that she could learn to write for children and mastered the formula. It gave her the confidence to embark on Little Women.

All business

Stern presents Louisa as a hard-headed business woman with mercenary designs. Many have lamented how she did not want to write Little Women but she did, for the money. And that’s not all bad.

Great instincts

Louisa had an instinct for business even though she had no experience in the business world, nor did she actually known many in that world. Yet she made very smart decisions with regards to writing, trying any genre she could, hoping she would find the one she’d eventually master.

Mastery

Little Women proved that she could; she became The Children’s Friend.

I find it quite interesting that she seemed to know all the right decisions to make in order to make her “business” of writing successful.

And that’s why I posed the question of whether or not other successful women authors of that time and before, had approached writing in this way.

I admit that I am not well-read beyond Louisa May Alcott so I’d love to know, from you, about these other women and how they made a go of their writing.

In the next post, I’m going to pose the second question question regarding younger sister May, prompted by a single line in Madeleine Stern’s book.

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Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge Update

2012 Summer reading challenge hosted at www.inthebookcase.blogspot.comHow are you doing on the Louisa May Alcott Summer Reading Challenge? I’ve been pecking away at the Little Women re-read along with a re-read of Louisa May Alcott: A Biography by Madeleine Stern. I’ve been keeping a casual reading journal for the latter and I’ll share some from that.

Still the best biography

Louisa May Alcott A Biography still stands for me as the definitive biography on Louisa. It was originally published in 1950 and updated in 1996.

Stern doesn’t waste a line – each one is pregnant with information! Yet, as dense as this book is, it doesn’t read as dry or scholarly, but more like a novel, and from the point of view of Louisa.

Reading from different perspectives

The first time I read this book I felt like I got into Louisa’s head and heart, living her life with her. I felt very sad when the book was done because the visit was too. But it was immensely satisfying.

This time I see it a new way. Stern’s thrust for the biography is Louisa the writer.  Every single event in her life revolves around how she can write about it. As an apprentice writer, I find this book to be an amazing teaching tool .

Here’s some examples of how Stern interpreted events as fodder for writing:

Life at Hillside

Stern describes the family’s life at Hillside as the culmination of so many of the things that fed Louisa’s happier writing. Little Women, which was based on part on that life, is a shining example.

Hillside had given Louisa a foundation of  stability to lean on for comfort during the leaner times, and fodder to draw upon for future stories.

Reading leads to doubt

Stern describes a crisis of confidence on young Louisa’s part as she read more and more of Emerson’s books from his library. She saw her limitations and stopped writing in her journal. Abba steps in to encourage her with a note in her journal:

“I’m sure your life has many fine passages well worth revealing and to me they are always precious … Do write a little each day, dear, but if a line, to show me how bravely you begin the battle, how patiently you wait for the rewards sure to come when the victory is nobly won.”

Turning the common into the extraordinary

Stern maps out Louisa’s influences, from Thoreau for Flower Fables to the Music Hall and divas Madame Sontag and Jenny Lind for The Rival Prima Donnas, written for The Saturday Evening Gazette. She writes, “surely no experience was too unimportant to serve as grist for the author’s mill …”

In her twenties, Louisa was leading a fairly uneventful life of hard work, mostly doing things she didn’t want to do. Such a grind could snuff out the inner life but not so with Louisa. Sterns writes of Louisa’s life fueling her ambition all the more: she meant to earn her living as a writer and therefore never missed an opportunity to develop life into a story.

It shows that you can lead a common life and still pull out the uncommon insights that turn these things into the extraordinary. You just need to have the eyes to see. Louisa excelled at that skill.

That’s my update for now. Are you participating in the challenge and if so, what are you reading?

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Louisa May Alcott’s summer retreat

A trip to a warehouse bookstore in the middle of nowhere produced a great find! I had just about given up the hope of finding something interesting until this book caught my eye:  Nonquitt A Summer Album, 1872-1985, edited by Anne M. Lyell.

What is so significant about Nonquitt? This is where Louisa May Alcott spent her summers in the last years of her life. This book was such a great find because of new pictures of Louisa, her nephews, the cottage she rented and the summer home she eventually purchased.

The book devoted a short chapter (chapter 9, pages 94-97 – all references come from these pages unless otherwise noted.) to Louisa with anecdotal stories of her summers in the southeastern Massachusetts seacoast town near New Bedford.

What brought Louisa May Alcott to Nonquitt?

Recollections from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian suggest that Louisa came to visit the family and fell in love with Nonquitt. He writes:

“I was spending a summer at Nonquitt and she came to visit a friend. I walked over to the cottage and sat an hour with her on the veranda. She was tall, rather rustic looking, dressed in black silk, her shoulders a little bent, her checks somewhat thin, her big, black eyes sparkling now and then with humor or irony.”

Louisa was in her late forties at the time, obviously showing the ravages of her constant battle with her health. Remembering how vibrant she once was, it is sad to read how much her poor health had aged her.

Renting the first cottage

Louisa rented a house in 1881, sharing it with her niece, then 2-year-old Lulu (daughter of younger sister May who had passed away soon after childbirth). Her older sister Anna also summered at the cottage with her two teenage sons, Fred and John.

Anna’s memories

Anna writes, “I went to Nonquit[t] where Louisa had a cottage, a lovely green paradise which offers everything one can wish. Here I rested, and for fun got up theatricals (as usual), charades, etc., and grew quite young and festive, and enjoyed my lark so much I didn’t not want to come home . . . we [Louisa and Anna] take turns and so keep our boys there eight or ten weeks.” (pg. 141, The Alcotts As I Knew Them by Clara Gowing, e-book version).

Still in love with the theatre

Louisa, Anna and sons Fred and John took active part in the summer theatricals (Fred and John are shown in the above picture). Having never outgrown her love of the theatre, Louisa wrote and rewrote scripts and took on the jobs of coach, scenery designer and stage manager.

Summer paradise

Louisa rarely did any serious writing while summering in Nonquit. Mostly she took great pleasure in watching her little niece, Lulu:

“My poppet is a picture of health, vigor and delightful naughtiness. She runs wild in this fine place with some twenty other children to play with – nice babies, well-bred, and with pleasant mammas for me to gossip with.” (from a letter to a friend, 1882)

The Pied Piper of Nonquitt

An anecdote from the New Bedford newspaper speaks of Louisa often out walking with her red parasol in hand, followed by a group of children (she was, of course the famous “Miss Alcott” by this time). The newspaper goes on to say:

“There seemed to be a certain magnetism about her that drew the little ones to her, and it was a familiar sight to see the famous writer seated on her porch, or on a rock on the beach, a dozen or more children grouped around her, while she told children’s stories to them . . . Then when a demand would be made for the retelling of some one particular story, she would purposely change some character or some situation in it. The children would immediately correct her, and tell to her in their own way, the stories she had previously related to them.”

Always writing . . .

Even though Louisa came to vacation in Nonquitt, she could never stop writing. She contributed several short stories to the local paper, the Nonquitt Breeze.

Buying her piece of paradise

In 1883, Louisa purchased her own property,a cottage at the northeast corner of Narragansett and Central Avenue (presently called Old Wharf Road). She recorded in her journal on June 24:

“To Nonquitt with Lulu and K. and John (Pratt), Fixed my house, and enjoyed the rest and quiet immensely. Lulu wild with joy at the freedom . . .” In July she wrote, “Restful days in my little house, which is cool and quiet, and without the curse of a kitchen to spoil it . . .”

Louisa took her meals at the local hotel.

Failing health

By the end of 1885, Louisa was troubled by vertigo and rheumatism. It was then that she began to destroy letters and journals that she didn’t want prying eyes to see.

June of 1886 was her last visit to Nonquitt before poor health settled in. In a letter to Mary Mapes Dodge (friend, and editor of St. Nichoas Magazine where many of her books had been serialized), Louisa writes:

“Lu and I go to Nonquitt next week; and after a few days rest, I will fire up the old engine and see if it will run a short distance without a break-down.”

She fought against her ill health and finished her last book, Jo’s Boys.

The fate of Louisa’s cottage

In 1888, Louisa died and the nephew she adopted, John Pratt Alcott, inherited the Nonquitt house. In 1907 it was sold to John’s brother Fred who added on to the house.

In 1945 it was moved one block and is owned as of 1987 by Daniel Strohmeier.

The store where I found the book

So where did I find this book?

The store is known as the Book Bear in West Brookfield, MA. They are decidedly old-fashioned, not accepting credit cards and not doing email! They do have a website (click on the name) so you can get an idea of what they have.

I definitely will be visiting again soon!

Nonquitt A Summer Album, 1872-1985 is available online through Amazon and other outlets (the link leads to Amazon). I look forward to reading the rest of this fascinating book.


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Louisa May Alcott Goes to War (from the Weider History Group)

Eager to support the North, the budding author volunteered for a fledgling corps of female nurses

By Robert Sattelmeyer
Published Online: January 30, 2012
historynet.com

For generations of Americans, Louisa May Alcott has been revered as the author of Little Women (1868), the semi-autobiographical novel about four sisters living in Concord, Massachusetts, while their father served in the Civil War. In Little Women and its equally popular sequels, Alcott was clearly the model for her heroine, Jo March, the rebellious tomboy who grows up to be a writer. It’s no surprise, therefore, that she is chiefly remembered today as the author of children’s books. The real Louisa May Alcott was a much more complex and interesting figure. To earn a living she penned—under a pseudonym—lurid and even racy stories with titles like “Pauline’s Peril and Punishment” for popular magazines. In addition, she wrote serious novels for adults. But she was also a lifelong advocate for social reform, championing abolitionism as well as women’s rights. Perhaps the least well-known aspect of her surprising career is that she volunteered to serve as a nurse in the Civil War. She nearly died from a disease she contracted during that period, and she later wrote one of the first memoirs to draw the public’s attention to conditions in the military hospitals and chronicle the suffering endured by wounded soldiers . . .

Click here to continue reading http://www.historynet.com/louisa-may-alcott-goes-to-war.htm


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Referrals in Louisa’s journal to Little Women

Following up on Jillian’s post, I thought it would be fun to look back on journal entries that Louisa made that directly correlate with Little Women. I found these in Little Women (Norton Critical Edition) edited by Gregory Eiselein and Anne K. Phillips; the page citations come from this book. Note the comments Louisa makes after some of the entries.

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.] p. 411

October 1856

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. [William Warland Clapp, editor of the Saturday Evening Gazette - he paid Louisa ten dollars for "The Rival Prima Donnas" and published several other stories] 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 can sew for her also.

from GRAPHIC CLASSICS, focusing on the work of Louisa May Alcott, edited by Tom Pomplun and published by Eureka Productions.

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 failures.

[Jo in N. Y. -- L. M. A.] p. 411
*Louisa was supposed to have a play produced for the stage in Boston (I believe it was “The Rival Prima Donnas” but the producer died suddenly).

May 1868

Father saw Mr. Niles about a fairy book. Mr. N. Wants a girls’ story, and I begin “Little Women.” Marmee, Anna, and May all approve my plan. So I plod away, though I don’t enjoy this sort of thing. Never liked girls or knew many, except my sisters; but our queer plays and experiences may prove interesting, though I doubt it.

[Good joke. -- L. M. A.] p. 413

August 1868

Roberts Bros. made an offer for the story, but at the same time advised me to keep the copyright; so I shall.

[An honest publisher and a lucky author, for the copyright made her fortune, and the "dull book" was the first golden egg ofnthe ugly duckling. 1885. -- L. M. A.] p. 413

August 26, 1868

Proof of whole book came. It reads better than I expected. Not a bit sensational, but simple and true, for we really lived most of it; and if it succeeds that will be the reason for it. Mr. N. likes it better now, and says some girls who have read the manuscripts say it is “splendid!” As it is for them, they are the best critics, so I should be satisfied. p. 413


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Louisa May Alcott’s Christmas Stories – “Bertie’s Box” in real life

I just picked up an e-book of Christmas stories by Louisa May Alcott from Barnes & Noble called Christmas Tales and Stories (have to love e-books for the convenience, especially since I wanted to start reading right away).

“Bertie’s Box” – setting up the story

It includes an introduction by the editor, Laura Ciolkowski. She begins with the following journal entry from Louisa which leads perfectly into the first story:

“A poor woman in Ill. writes me to send her children some Xmas gifts, being too poor & ill to get any. They asked her to write to Santa Claus & she wrote to me. Sent a box & made a story about it. $100.” (1881)

Ciolkowski writes, “this anecdote of a famous author and a poor woman’s Christmas wish became the kernel of the story, “Bertie’s Box,” first published in 1884 in the January issue of Harper’s Young People.”

Running themes

She maintains that this and other stories “embod[y] the literay and personal themes that consistently commanded Alcott’s attention and that invariably found their way into her holiday fiction: rising and falling fortunes; the moral obligation of hard work and honest labor; sympathy for others and a ‘practical Christianity’ that was linked not to institutionalized religion or to material wealth, but to a willingness to help those in need.”

Dickensian influences . . .

Charles Dickens’ classic  A Christmas Carol opened up a market for Christmas stories which years later, the ever-practical Louisa was happy to fill (at an average price of $100 per story, I can see why!). An avid admirer of  Dickens (she often memorized whole chapters of his books), she shared with him his keen sense of the marketplace.

 . . . and family influences

Ciolkowski suggests that Bronson’s total lack of sense and persistent “idleness” fueled Louisa’s own abilities as a hard-headed business woman. Her mother’s example of “practical Christianity” certainly figured in as well.

On to the story . . .

“Bertie’s Box,” based upon that request from the poor woman, reflected an incident in my life which I’ll relate in a moment.

In the story, Mrs. Field, who heads a charitable organization, receives a letter from a Mrs. Adams, requesting gifts for her children as she was without a husband, was poor, and was ill. Mrs. Field’s’ son Bertie got right into the spirit of the request, pulling together the “bestest of the best” as his mother had taught him, and assembled them into a box. The box was sent to Mrs. Adams who was able to supply her Johnny, Jimmy and Baby with a glorious Christmas, uplifted by hope and love.

My favorite line in the story describes how Mrs. Adams felt after she had laid out the gifts she received on Christmas Eve night as her children slept: “when her lamp went out after an hour of real Christmas work and a touching letter to Mrs. Field, she crept to bed with Baby cuddled close to a glad and grateful heart.”

A modern day “Bertie’s Box” tale

I remembered four grateful hearts several years ago when my children were 12 and 9. Back then money was tight. We lived in a small condo at the time and I had finished all the Christmas shopping and stored the gifts in the basement locker of our building, mainly to keep them from prying eyes.

To my horror, a week before Christmas, someone broke open the lock and stole all the Christmas presents! I despaired, not knowing how everything could be replaced.

But I shouldn’t have.

My children had obviously told friends about what had happened and within days, the schools responded. Meredith went to a small Catholic school and the classes took up a collection and gave us a very generous donation.

Stephen’s teacher instructed all the students to each buy a gift to give to Stephen that he could open Christmas morning under the tree.

“Bertie’s Box” reminded me in a rush of the deep gratitude we all felt at the generosity of others on our behalf. And like Mrs. Adams, no material gift could ever match the knowledge of being loved by so many.

I always sing “O Holy Night” on Christmas morning at my church. You can imagine how much that song meant to me that particular year!
p.s. you can listen to my rendition of “O Holy Night” here (my husband is playing the guitar):


These values never go out of style and never should. That’s what Christmas is truly about and this is why Louisa’s work is timeless.

Do you have a “Bertie’s Box” tale?

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Magazine Alert!

The Atlantic’s special commemorative Civil War issue

There’s a  Barnes & Noble on the way home that I’ll be visiting . . . :-)

UPDATE

Here is a wonderful article from NPR about The Atlantic and this particular issue. I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t realize that among the Atlantic’s founders were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. I must have read that in my travels and it just went over my head!


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A Long Fatal Love Chase is definitely a “guilty pleasure”

A while back I got a recommendation from a reader’s blog, A Thing Called Joe, regarding one of Louisa’s potboilers, a book so sensational that her publisher, James R. Elliot of The Flag of Our Union refused to run with it! It was meant to be serialized in the magazine like so many of her other “blood and thunder” tales but this story was just too hot to handle.

That story is The Long Fatal Love Chase and the story behind this book is as interesting as the book itself.

First, the book

I rarely read fiction as I find real life a lot more interesting.  And I never read gothic fiction. I have avoided Louisa’s potboilers because of that very fact. But if they all read like A Long Fatal Love Chase, then I am in for some really fun reading!

It’s no wonder this book was rejected as “too sensational” – it’s got everything:

  • an obsessive lover who stalks his prey
  • a deal with the devil
  • a strong, independent woman
  • a tempted Roman Catholic priest
  • a mental asylum
  • twists and turns!
  • murder!
  • deceit!
  • mystery!
  • suspense!
  • and even . . . virtue!

This book is a page-turner and I couldn’t wait to see how it turned out.  It is tight and fast-paced. Just as it begins to feel predictable, Louisa would throw the curve ball. I thought of many scenarios for the ending and didn’t even come close!

Characters

  • Rosamond Vivian is the strong, independent woman although this independence is only hinted at in the beginning. As the story opens, she is a discontented, lonely 18 year old woman living on an island with her bitter grandfather. She is aching for escape, for fun, for adventure. Of course she is beautiful. In her despair she says, I often feel as if I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom.” Enter . . .
  • Phillip Tempest, handsome, resembling the image of  Mephistopheles that hangs on the wall. He lives on a yacht and travels the world, and to Rosamond, he is irresistible. He also heartless with no moral compass.
  • Father Ignatius, also handsome, is the opposite of Tempest in uprightness and virtue. Once a courageous warrior, he seeks to protect Rosamond for a myriad of reasons.

There is a host of minor characters including a mysterious “other woman,” a young boy with strong ties to Tempest, an actress, a mother superior, a police chief, and many more.

Drawing by May Alcott Nieriker

Setting

The story is set in Europe beginning in England, and spreading out to Italy, France and beyond. Written just after Louisa returned from her first trip to Europe (where she took care of invalid Anna Weld, and met her “Laurie,” Ladislas Wisniewski), the story is rich with scenes from the many places in Europe that she visited. You might even say that love was fresh on her mind as she wrote about Tempest and Rosamond’s first year together.

Not to give the story away . . .

And I won’t. You will have to read A Long Fatal Love Chase to find out what happens.

Suffice it to say though, this story could almost have been written today. Louisa again shows herself to be a modern thinker, willing to break out of the box and challenge the reader.

In 1852, a strong woman character like Rosamond was controversial in and of itself. A Long Fatal Love Chase, among many things, shows the desperate situation of women trapped in bad relationships. There were not a lot of options. Rosamond, however, is resourceful, creative and clever, always coming up with something when all options seemed off the table.

Story behind the story

The story behind A Long Fatal Love Chase is pretty remarkable unto itself.

As mentioned previously, the story was considered “too sensational” (and too long) even for an A. M. Barnard story.

After returning from Europe, Louisa was asked to write a story of 24 installments for serialization in The Flag of Our Nation. She wrote it in haste (292 pages in 2 months!) with the familiar motive of meeting the never-ending financial needs of her family. The original title was A Modern Mephistopheles, or The Fatal Love Chase*.

After the rejection, she sought to tone down and shorten the story, retitling it Fair Rosamond. It was rejected again and she put the manuscript away.

Then what happened?

Fair Rosamond ended up in the Houghton Library at Harvard.

The original manuscript was auctioned off in 1994 by the Alcott family descendants for nearly $50,000, to a rare book dealer, Kent Bicknell, headmaster of the Sant Bani School in Sanbornton, New Hampshire. He made the crack that he paid “more than his annual salary but less than $50,000.”

Bicknell undoubtedly felt like the luckiest man on earth, especially after reading the manuscript.  After carefully restoring it, he sold the publication rights to Random House in 1995, receiving an advance of $1.5 million.

He gave 25% to Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, 25% back to the Alcott family, and 25% to his school. He still walked away with a fair sum of money. Nice gamble!

A Long Fatal Love Chase (as it was finally named by Random House) became a best-seller and is still in publication today, proving yet again the timelessness of Louisa May Alcott.

Critics gave it very favorable reviews and scholars dug in for analysis, extracting in particular the many feminist themes.

(information for the story of A Long Fatal Love Chase came from Wikipedia)

Some final thoughts

I don’t think of virtue when I think of potboilers but Louisa could hardly get away from her inner self and her upbringing. She balanced off the obvious evil of Tempest with Father Ignatius (and gave Catholics a fair shake, considering her known prejudice against Catholicism).

This was one of my favorite sections from the book, detailing an encounter between Rosamond and Fr. Ignatius:

She told him rapidly, for now she clung to this one faithful heart with a child’s confidence, forgetting for a time that he loved her and remembering only that he was “true as steel; firm as a rock.” He listened, detected the secret weakness of the girl’s love, and resolved to save her from it if he could. He had drawn her out of the  moonlight into the little room and still holding the hands that unconsciously clung to him he said, imploringly, “My child, never go back to this man. I know him and if I dared sully your innocence with such knowledge I would tell you the history of his life. You love him still and struggle against your love, feeling that it will undo you. He knows this and he will tempt you by every lure he can devise, every deceit he can employ. Sorrow and sin will surely follow if you yield; happiness never can be yours with him; doubt, remorse and self-reproach will kill love, and a time will come when you will find that in gaining a brief joy you have lost your peace forever. Oh, Agatha [aka Rosamond], be warned in time, do not listen to your own weak heart but to the conscience that nothing can bribe or silence. Child! child! You must be saved, listen to me and let me keep your white soul fit for heaven.

A pivotal moment in the story.

Read!

Find a nice hot tub. Or a fireplace. Or a cozy bed with a cat wrapped around your feet. Grab this book and enjoy a great winter’s read!

Have you read this book? What did you think? Did it surprise you?

*Louisa did end up using the title A Modern Mephistopheles, for another book in a Faustian vein. At the request of Thomas Niles, she wrote it for the author No-Name series for Roberts Brothers (and no one at the time could guess it was hers which gave her great pleasure :-))


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