I am getting close to the end of Caroline Ticknor’s memoir on May and am beginning to dread the end. I think one of the things so captivated me about May’s story was her tragic end. It just seemed so sudden, so random. She was so robust and healthy; her life was pretty much perfect all the way until the last 6 weeks. Then she was gone.
I also find it a big ironic that May so bitterly regretted not being with her mother when she died and yet Louisa hesitated to go to be with May when she was failing. It was hard reading how distraught May was about her mother’s death and how much she missed grieving with kin (even the best of friends don’t replace family). Yet she never went back. Her focus on her art was strong indeed and while there may have been a selfish motive in all of it, I do believe she also thought it would be the best way to honor her mother’s life by doing her best with her vocation.
I love reading about her romance and marriage to Ernest Nieriker, though it is tinged with sadness because of what I found out about him after her death in Harriet Reisen’s book, Louisa May Alcott, the Woman Behind Little Women. May had asked that Louisa raise their child Lulu, but when Louisa died, Ernest wanted her back. Unfortunately the motives for her return were dubious as she was given a large inheritance from her Aunt Louisa. The whole scene got rather ugly. Greed and disagreements over money can break up the best families.
I’d like to think that Ernest did truly love May when she was alive but it’s too bad it ended up as it did. I’m almost sorry to have learned about those matters.