Between my trip to the Worcester library and the new Nook, I have been buried! Tons of reading all at once (which means tons of notetaking, and tons of fun!). As I come up for air, I wanted to share with you some new rather old books I found.
A treasure trove from the library
I want to first say again how much I appreciate librarians! The ladies at the Worcester Public Library went above and beyond the call of duty and gave me a treasure trove! I had asked for a couple of books that dated back to the early 1900s (which meant they were in the basement). When I arrived at the desk to pick them up, one woman came over apologetically, explaining that she couldn’t find one of the books I’d requested, but would I mind these? She had 2 other books in addition to the one I asked for, and these books had flown under the radar, not even being mentioned in the library’s catalog. I knew I had struck gold!
These books were by neighbors and near contemporaries of the Alcotts and their anecdotal stories make for entertaining and insightful reading. I was longing to read the perspective of people who had actually lived during the period (or shortly thereafter). Contemporaries offer a unique point of view since they were a part of the period. A random sentence here and there from such a source can open up new avenues to explore.
So here’s what those wonderful ladies gave to me:
First there was The Alcotts as I Knew Them by Clara Gowing (available in epub and PDF format at Google Books). Miss Gowing was a neighbor of the Alcotts and around the same age as Louisa. They first met in their twenties.
Here is a short biography (more like a reference letter) of Miss Gowing.
This book was full of reminiscences of events large and small in the life of the Alcotts. The scene depicted on the cover shows Louisa leaping the fence of Orchard House to see an artist friend who is sketching the homestead. Obviously Louisa’s physical prowess made quite the impression!
Bronson’s reforms laid out
I have long desired a simplified version of Bronson Alcott’s educational reforms and this book provided it. It was like Bronson for dummies and I needed that! I’ll be posting on this chapter soon.
The elder sister comes out
Most every member of the family was given their own chapter (with the exception of Elizabeth). So it was a welcome surprise to read a chapter devoted to Louisa’s older sister Anna. Even though Anna followed the more traditional path of women in the 19th century, she was still gifted with many of the same talents as Louisa, but with a quiet and tranquil personality. I’ve often thought she was worthy of more study. More than one author has commented that Anna actually had a greater writing talent than Louisa but lacked the drive and ambition. I will write about my findings from this chapter also in a future post.
More tidbits about Lizzie
I wish a chapter had been dedicated to Elizabeth but I was happy to see that yet again, that same enticing tidbit came up regarding a possible short-lived romance ended by parental disapproval. I hope to be able to find out more about that romance and perhaps why her parents disapproved. Lizzie lived and died by her parents so their approval must have been so important to her. I can only imagine the fallout considering her sensitive nature.
The best part? The book was short with large type and I whipped through it at breakneck speed. It was nice to be able to read like that for a change.
In my next post, I will describe the other book those lovely ladies at the Worcester Public Library gifted me with. I still have to finish it and should soon, if I could just stop taking notes!
Whoever thought research could be this much fun? 🙂
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