The more I read of Caroline Ticknor’s May Alcott A Memoir, the more I like May Alcott Nieriker (and Ticknor obviously did too). I just read a section in Ticknor’s book where May was in London with friends and wanted to go rowing. Apparently in that day and age, it was not proper for well-bread ladies to go rowing by themselves in public, but only in private near their homes. I love how May enjoyed bucking the tide, and doing it with a sense of humor:
(from pages 115-116 May Alcott A Memoir by Caroline Ticknor, talking about taking row boat out on the river by herself)
“Then it was that the full audacity of my project dawned upon the party, for having explained that I proposed being skipper, coxswain, oarsman, all in one, horror fell upon all my friends. With the utmost politeness they explained that though ladies rowed in England, it was always in the chaste seclusion of ‘Papa’s grounds’, or some more retired portion of the river than that now before us.
But the boating fever was on me, and I could no more keep from the water than a Newfoundland dog. With a naughty satisfaction in asserting my Yankee independence, I boldly replied to their gentle hints and kindly advice:
‘Very well: if you don’t like to go, I’ll go alone, for a row in the Rose I must have, in remembrance of my own boat and the quiet river at home.’
Resolutely stepping in, and feathering my oars in my most scientific manner, I pulled vigorously up the stream, with true Harvard stroke, as nearly as one of the uninitiated can hope to come to.
Wasn’t it lovely? And didn’t I enjoy the exercise? For after weeks of painting, my arms positively reveled in a study pull, and got it too, as the current was strong and all England looking on. Yes, utterly regardless of the chaff of the boys, the dismay of my lady friends, and the amusement of gentlemen ditto, I heartily enjoyed the brief trip.”
She had that ‘can do’ attitude that I see in a couple of my friends, and that I love so much.
She was also sweet and giving. I enjoyed how she created paintings to give to the Emersons for their home, especially as to how she used the color scheme of a particular room for a painting for Lydia Emerson. Very thoughtful, and much appreciated, as seen by their thank you notes in the book (pg. 118-119).
May carried out a microcosm of her dream of creating a place where less fortunate people could partake in the beauty of art through her art studio in Concord center.
Yup. I would have loved being friends with May Alcott Nieriker!