Stories by Louisa May Alcott in St. Nicholas Magazine

I went searching for Christmas stories penned by Louisa and my search led me to Mary Mapes Dodge’s St. Nicholas Magazine, Volume XXX. This link will send you to Google books where you can read the entire volume online or download it as a PDF (777 pages worth!). Google Books is just amazing!

Mary Mapes Dodge wrote Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates and it was a big seller at the time that Louisa wrote Little Women. Harriet Reisen in her book, Louisa May Alcott The Woman Behind Little Women, she notes that Thomas Niles, who as you know, urged Louisa to write this book along with her father Bronson, hoped that Little Women would be the cash cow that Hans Brinker and other works for children such as Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick series and the “Oliver Optic” series of books had been for rival publishers. (page 213 of Louisa May Alcott The Woman Behind Little Women).

All I originally was looking for were Christmas stories. Instead I found two charming stories, published after Louisa’s death in November of 1902 and January of 1903. One of them, “Lu Sing” was written for the Lulu’s Library series.  Here the young people’s magazine announces these discoveries:

You will notice that Anna’s son Frederick was responsible for presenting the stories for publication and even wrote an introduction to “Lu Sing” which greatly enhances the enjoyment of this story if you are looking for autobiographical references:

“Lu Sing” was such a charming story and I particularly loved the way that Louisa described herself (“Ah Wee”) and sister Anna (“Ah Nah”). Both names were taken from Lulu’s way of pronouncing “Aunt Louisa” and “Aunt Anna.” Louisa’s wry sense of humor was very evident in that portion of the story which you can read beginning on page 128 if you read it in Google  Books, or pg. 202 if you download the PDF file and read it there.

Louisa masks the autobiographical elements (including the fact that Lulu was a regular hellion and not academically inclined) behind a clever backdrop of Chinese culture in the latter part of the 19th century. I remember hearing about this story and how baffled I was that Louisa could write a story about a place she had never visited. Obviously she ‘visited’ China in her reading because there were many fascinating details, such as how the Chinese punished their children for bad behavior (placing them in a willow cage in the river with water up to the neck, and keeping the child there until the child agreed to behave), and how they sent up a prayer by flying a kite (so appropriate when I think of Louisa as a young girl, racing in the meadows behind Hillside, flying kites to work off her boundless energy).

The story is richly illustrated. It’s fun seeing “Ah Wee” and “Ah Nah” portrayed as old Chinese women!

The story had the typical ‘moral pap for the young’  theme that Louisa was so well known for but her imagination amazes me, considering the fact that she was old and sick at the time. Writing still provided that escape from the harsh reality that she often lived in.

In my next post I’ll write about the other story called “The Eagle in the Dove’s Nest.” In the meantime, check out this fascinating magazine on Google Books. What a rich treasury it offers in short stories, puzzles, illustrations, letters from readers, science and nature articles, and the like. There are also pages and pages of advertising. It’s such a terrific snapshot of early 20th century offerings for children.

Like I said before, Google  Books is awesome!


6 Replies to “Stories by Louisa May Alcott in St. Nicholas Magazine”

  1. Thanks for posting these! I thought I had found all of the St. Nicholas stories on Google Books, but I missed these, probably because they were published so long after her death. Two steps closer to collecting all her stuff!

    1. I’m delighted that I could present something that a serious collector doesn’t have. 🙂 (My husband is a serious collector of Beatle paraphernalia so I know what a thrill it is to find something new!). How much stuff do you have? I’ve been slowly collecting biographies over the years (and I recently found out that the out of print bio by Katharine Anthony that I picked up at a Concord antique store turned out to be a good find) and have just recently gone on a buying binge to amass more stuff like her journals and letters, and more stories. I have my mom’s copies of Little Women and Aunt Jo’s Scrap Bag but I foolishly threw out a while back her copy of An Old Fashioned Girl. I could kick myself – I can still see the beautiful cover so clearly!

  2. I don’t know that I can really be considered that serious a collector, but I am driving my family nuts with this. Most of what I’ve got is on my Kindle so far, and I’m trying to decide how much work I want to put into using OCR software to convert some of these PDF documents. I don’t have any physical copies of the books, except for a few that I purchased for my kids before I became obsessed myself. I’ve dropped hints to my husband that it would be neat to own some old editions of the books for my birthday, but we’ll see how much work he wants to put into finding them.

    I have about 100 documents in my kindle, though some are duplicates…I can’t resist downloading new versions if they are illustrated.

  3. ooh a story I don’t have! I adore St. Nicholas magazine but to get my hands on a copy means more money than I have. I love Google books. I guess I had better push my dad to get his iPad soon so I can read all the books and stories without making my neck sore.

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