Answers to the Little Women quiz; information needed on a late 19th-century British version of Little Women

Results of True/False Quiz

beth playing pianoI see some of you tried the True/False quiz of what was real and what was made up in Little Women. No one got 100% but you were very close! Here are the answers:

  1. Hannah the servant FALSE – The Alcotts could not afford any servants in those days
  2. The Christmas play (“The Witches’ Curse, an Operatic Tragedy) TRUE – this play is actually a composite of actual plays written and performed by Louisa and Anna.
  3. Amy burns Jo’s manuscript FALSE
  4. Marmee’s temper TRUE
  5. Amy falling through the ice FALSE
  6. Jo pinching Meg’s papered locks before the ball FALSE
  7. Meg being dressed up as a doll at Annie Moffat’s FALSE
  8. Amy bewailing her pickled limes TRUE
  9. Beth receiving the piano from Mr. Lawrence TRUE – in Harriet Reisen’s book Louisa May Alcott The Woman Behind Little Women, Lizzie received a piano as a gift in Walpole, NH when she was twenty from Dr. Henry Whitney Bellows (see chapter 9 in the book)
  10. Mr. March’s illness FALSE – Louisa was writing about her own illness her Civil War nursing stint
  11. Jo sells her hair. FALSE but it was based on something true, that Louisa had all her hair cut off during her illness after the Civil War
  12. Beth wasted away and died peacefully. FALSE Lizzie (aka Beth) did waste away but she was in tremendous pain, was often quite anxious, and even went through a spell where she rejected her family and wanted to be left alone (Anna said in a letter that Lizzie had called her “horrid.”)
  13. Jo published her first story, “The Rival Painters.” TRUE
  14. Amy writes her own will. TRUE? Not sure on this one (I know, I shouldn’t have included it if I didn’t know the answer!)
  15. Jo rejects Laurie’s love. FALSE

LIttle Women, British volume, 1898

Here are some pictures from an exquisite British version of Little Women which even includes the dedication to the reader on a lovely sticker.  The only thing I can be sure of is that the illustrations are done by Frank T. Merrill, who illustrated the American version,  copyright of 1880 and renewed by Louisa’s adopted son John Pratt in 1896. Note that the text had been edited for this version, leaving out some of the slang and smoothing out some of the language.

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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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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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