Don’t miss the special exhibit of rare artifacts at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House

On Thursday I toured Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. I was anxious to see the artifacts pictured in The Annotated Little Women, edited by John Matteson and took a vacation day to see them as November can get swallowed up in holiday preparations.

If you live anywhere near Concord and can get to this exhibit, do so. The artifacts are on display only through the month of November.

from "Recollections of Louisa May Alcott" by Maria S. Porter

from “Recollections of Louisa May Alcott” by Maria S. Porter

I made a complete list of the artifacts on display. I wish I could show you pictures but taking photos is prohibited at Orchard House; you will need to get a copy of The Annotated Little Women.

Here goes:

In the kitchen:

  • First editions of Hospital Sketches and Little Women
  • Original photos of the Hosmer cottage known as Dove Cote and Orchard House (the one with the unique fence built by Bronson).

In the dining room:

  • A quote from Louisa, handwritten, circa 1869
  • An autographed dance fan including the autographs of Louisa, May and Ellen Emerson.

In the parlor:

  • Three Pickwick Club badges
  • A display dedicated to Anna and John including the original marriage certificate and photographs

In Louisa’s room:

  • Louisa’s homeopathic medicine kit (including a list of ailments treated by the medicines)
  • A lock of Louisa’s hair
  • Sketches of Louisa by May, one familiar (“The Golden Goose”), one not (she has a cat at her feet)
  • A photo of Alf Whitman sitting on the half moon desk
  • Original versions of publicity photos of Louisa circa 1870, 1875, 1880, and two from 1887.
  • An ad for Little Men
  • A sculpture by Daniel Chester French of two owls cuddling–this artifact was acquired just three weeks ago.

In May’s room:

  • Tracings May did of drawings by John Flaxman circa 1857; she then copied the tracings around the moldings of the windows
  • Original watercolor of Ernest Nieriker by May in their Meuden salon – the color was especially brilliant.
  • Original photograph of Alice Bartlett and May.

In the hallway under Lulu’s portrait:

  • An original copy of Studying Art Abroad and How to Do It Cheaply by May Alcott Nieriker

In Bronson and Abba’s room:

  • Lizzie’s sewing kit, given to her by her father on her twenty-first birthday in 1856, It was surprisingly compact and featured a lovely inscription by Bronson.
  • A little book of Abba’s “Recipes and Simple Remedies” plus two original photos, one I had not seen before taken in 1850 but it is so small that it would be impossible to reproduce. The other was familiar, circa 1858.
  • Sketches of Frederick Pratt by May, one on a rocking horse and the other, playing Lizzie’s melodeon.
  • Small photos of John Pratt as a baby and toddler
  • Original photo of Lulu in the carriage

The best was saved for last–in Bronson’s study:

  • May’s original sketch of Bronson
  • Various original photos of Bronson
  • Original lithograph of the Temple School in Boston
  • And a display containing:
  • A lock of Lizzie’s hair with a tiny inscribed note in her perfect penmanship
  • Another lock of Lizzie’s combined with a lock of Bronson’s
  • Lizzie’s New Testament, an exquisite tiny book which originally belonged to Bronson–he gave it to Lizzie and then it was bequeathed to May.
  • Bronson’s copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress, also a tiny book (though a little bigger than the New Testament and a lot thicker) with beautiful engraving

I was grateful for being in a small group so that I could examine each artifact freely. My only wish is for the lighting to have been better as it was a cloudy day and I wanted to see every detail (how I wish I had had my super duper reading glasses!).

I must say that all the different artifacts belonging to Lizzie that were given to her by her father (and especially the two locks of hair entwined) told me much about the special relationship between Bronson and his Psyche.

Don’t miss this great exhibit!

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Wonderful audio series on YouTube by The Barrow bookstore in Concord

Looking for a first edition volume of Jo’s Boys? Perhaps you’ve been searching for works done by friends of the Concord authors or biographers whose books are hard to find. Maybe you want an older copy of Walden by Thoreau or Nature by Emerson. For antique books by the Concord authors, The Barrow Bookstore in Concord, MA has the best collection. Books are right by the door of the shop, making titles super easy to find.

the barrow

Recently The Barrow has created a YouTube channel called the Barrow Bookstore Audio Series: readings of short stories and works by Concord Authors and beyond. Here are some sample videos:

Having trouble sleeping? Try this one:

How about this one, perfect for Halloween:

There are many more by a variety of Concord authors.

Book signings

little woman in blueThe Barrow also hosts book signings. This Saturday, October 17, Jeannine Atkins, author of Little Woman in Blue will be doing a book signing at 4:30.

Concord has many treasures; I certainly count The Barrow among them.

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Yet another big announcement, and you can be a part of it!

I’ve been sitting on some pretty exciting news.

Along with the release of River of Grace this October, I also have another book in the works, commissioned by a different publisher. And this one is all about Louisa May Alcott! The book will be launched in January of 2016.

louisa cover

The publisher is ACTA; this book is part of a series known as the Literary Portals to Prayer. The idea is to feature passages from the classics and pair them with bible verses which will then stimulate prayer and meditation. The bible verses come from a modern translation of the bible known as The Message. Authors such as Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, William Shakespeare, Hans Christian Anderson, Jane Austen and Elizabeth McGaskell will be featured, along with Louisa May Alcott.

The invitation to write this book came directly as a result of Louisa May Alcott is My Passion. YOU made this possible and I am so grateful.

I am presently combing through Louisa May Alcott’s books and journals to find the perfect fifty passages to complete my volume in this series.

And this is where you come in.

Many of you know Louisa’s canon far better than I do. I am making inroads but we all know how prolific Louisa was!

I could really use your help!

I would eagerly welcome your suggestions on passages for use in the Louisa May Alcott Literary Portal to Prayer.

Please post your suggestion through your comment, or send me an email at louisamayalcottismypassion@gmail.com with your passage(s).

If I use your passage, I will credit and thank you by name in the introduction I will write for the book!

The rules are simple:

  • The passage must contain between 73 and 275 words; poetry is definitely welcome and cannot exceed 30 lines.
  • The passage must contain some kind of spiritual theme, i.e. love of God, welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, personal growth, a personal revelation, etc. The religious nature of the passage does not have to be overt; we want the passage to stimulate thought and inspire ponderance.
  • Cite the the name of the work and chapter number and name, and cut and paste the passage into your comment or email.
  • Deadline for submission is Monday, August 31. Post your passage(s) through your comment, or send me an email at louisamayalcottismypassion@gmail.com with your passage(s).
  • First come, first serve. If duplicate passages are suggested, the first person who suggests it will be the owner of that passage.

I would particularly welcome passages from Louisa’s short stories from Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag, Lulu’s Library, other compilations, or any stories published in St. Nicholas magazine. I don’t have the time to go through all of her short stories but should it be a specialty of yours, I would welcome your submissions.

Thinking about reading this weekend or over your vacation? Find some passages and send them along. I am eager to see your suggestions!

Please share this around with your friends on Facebook and Twitter:

All submissions are welcome. Cut and paste this into your Facebook page or click to tweet & share:

Know of a quote from #LouisaMayAlcott relating to spirituality? Help out @susanbailey and be part of a new book. http://wp.me/p125Rp-1T1

And thank you again for your support of this blog which has resulted in this opportunity.

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Louisa May Alcott loved cats and so do I – Helping out cats, kittens and people with a special book

cover croppedSince Louisa May Alcott loved cats (and I love Louisa), I wanted to share with you a book I recently self-published known as The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One on sale now for $19.95 to raise funds for an extraordinary no-kill cat shelter known as Purrfect Pals. Before encountering Purrfect Pals I would have thought that supporting a cat shelter was a frivolous thing; shouldn’t my efforts go towards helping humans instead?

It turns out Purrfect Pals does help humans, and here’s how.

Two years ago I “met” John Bartlett online. He is a volunteer for Purrfect Pals having fostered 43 litters of kittens. Nearly 200 kittens and mother cats have found permanent homes as a result of his efforts.

A friend alerted me to the live kitten cam John had on Livestream and after my first visit, I was hooked. Over the span of several weeks I could watch newborn babies grow to healthy and beautiful kittens ready to take on the world.

640 critter room memory book banner2

It was fun watching them grow from squirmy little sausages with pencil point tales to the fur balls of fun. Imagine watching little kittens working their tiny paws back and forth in rapid succession as they nursed from their mother … envision little spitfires “zooming” around the room, leaping, tumbling and snuggling … I couldn’t stop watching.

Offering joy and comfort

I enjoy watching the kitten cam for a good laugh or just to get away for a spell from all the bad news in the world. At first the draw was the kittens but soon it became the community—thousands of people from around the world tuning in to watch kittens, chat together, share their life stories and offer comfort to other members who needed it. Along with the comical remarks about the kittens (kitten lovers have a great sense of humor) were stories of chronic illness, unemployment and other matters that isolate people from their world. Some community members are homebound and the live kitten cam community became a lifeline for them, filling their days with smiles and love.

640 critter room memory book banner1

Why The Critter Room Memory Book?

Tears are shed on adoption day as the kittens go off to their new homes. We’re all thrilled and yet we miss them. That’s when I came up with the idea of The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One, a scrapbook full of pictures of kittens along with fan fiction, art and commentary on how the Critter Room community is a microcosm for how the world could work when we could but adopt a common cause.

Prison outreach

prison-programFoster Dad John helps kittens find homes and his cam gives joy to people in need. But there’s more. Purrfect Pals has a prison outreach program called Prison-Foster where inmates are given semi-feral kittens to socialize and to love so that they can then be adopted. That’s when I knew I wanted to support this wonderful organization.

I would hope Louisa would be pleased.

In support of Purrfect Pals

If you would like to support Purrfect Pals in their work, you can purchase The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One, and all royalties go to Purrfect Pals. For every $19.95 you spend, Purrfect Pals makes $10.35. Makes a great gift!

How to double your donation

critter room memory book box art2Another great way to help is to “double” your donation by purchasing books for Purrfect Pals to sell during their adoption events. Their address is 230 McRae Rd NE, Arlington, WA 98223 in care of Executive Director Connie Gabelein.

You can find out more about Foster Dad John and The Critter Room by visiting the Facebook page.

Thanks for your support!

Louisa’s poem in tribute to her cat

A Lament For S. B. Pat Paw

We mourn the loss of our little pet,
And sigh o’er her hapless fate,
For never more by the fire she’ll sit,
Nor play by the old green gate.

The little grave where her infant sleeps
Is ‘neath the chestnut tree.
But o’er her grave we may not weep,
We know not where it may be.

Her empty bed, her idle ball,
Will never see her more;
No gentle tap, no loving purr
Is heard at the parlor door.

Another cat comes after her mice,
A cat with a dirty face,
But she does not hunt as our darling did,
Nor play with her airy grace.

Her stealthy paws tread the very hall
Where Snowball used to play,
But she only spits at the dogs our pet
So gallantly drove away.

She is useful and mild, and does her best,
But she is not fair to see,
And we cannot give her your place dear,
Nor worship her as we worship thee.

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Honoring our mothers on Mother’s Day as Louisa honored her Marmee

To Mother

littlewomen00alcoiala_0025I hope that soon,
00 indentdear mother,
You and I may be
In the quiet room my fancy
Has so often made for thee, –
The pleasant, sunny
00 indentchamber,
The cushioned easy-chair,
The book laid for your
00 indentreading,
The vase of flowers fair;
The desk beside the window
Where the sun shines warm
00 indentand bright :
And there in ease and quiet
The promised book you
00 indentwrite;
While I sit close beside you,
Content at last to see
That you can rest,
00 indentdear mother,
And I can cherish thee.

[Louisa later added: “The dream came true, and for the last ten years of her life Marmee sat in peace, with every wish granted, even to the ‘grouping together;’ for she died in my arms.”]

Source: Louisa May Alcott Her Girlhood Diary, edited and compiled by Cary Ryan

May we as daughters
care for our mothers as Louisa did.

May we as mothers be as fortunate as Abba
in having Louisa as a daughter.

In a sentence, can you describe the legacy your mother left you?

Louisa’s poetic tribute to her mother reveals beautiful insights on death

I have long maintained that Louisa’s most poignant writing revolves around death as evidenced in Beth March’s passing in Little Women and John Suhre’s noble death in Hospital Sketches.

Recently I found a blog post on the SevenPonds site that states so eloquently the very thoughts I’ve harbored about Louisa’s insights into death – that it is not a hopeless end but is in fact, a beautiful new beginning.

Here is a teaser from that blog post:

from the cover of Marmee and Louisa by Eve LaPlante

As its name suggests, “Transfiguration,” by Louisa May Alcott, is about change, and specifically change for the better. The poem was written about Alcott’s mother after her death, and it’s filled with so much love and admiration that one can’t help but feel better about death after reading it. The poem shows a sincere reverence for death, viewing it as an improvement on life. The first stanza makes this point perfectly clear:

Mysterious death! who in a single hour
Life’s gold can so refine.
And by thy art divine
Change mortal weakness to immortal power! (1-4)

Click to read the article in its entirety

Click to Tweet & Share: Louisa’s moving poetic tribute to her mother bestows hope, meaning and beauty on the shadow of death http://wp.me/p125Rp-1bJ

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Susan’s ebook, “Game Changer” is now available From the Garret – download for free!

Louisa may be most revealing through her poetry

Think the best way to “know” Louisa is through her stories? Some think her poetry is more revealing.

I discovered a wonderful post exploring Louisa’s poetry by teacher and writer KarenTBTEN on Squidoo. She opens her post with the following:

Who was Louisa May Alcott? In the introduction to The Poems of Louisa May Alcott, Robert Nelsen suggests that her poetry may provide more insight than her fiction. One reason is that her fiction was often driven by financial necessity.

Louisa May Alcott was a prolific writer. She used her talent to support not only herself but family members. She even financed her youngest sister’s education. In the time before Little Women, she wrote thrillers under a pen name.

Much of Alcott’s poetry, on the other hand, is personal. She wrote it for the same reason that many individuals do: to express feelings about her life, her loved ones, her spiritual beliefs. Some of her poems were given as gifts or tokens of affection. Some were included within works of prose — not just children’s books, but popular adult fare like thrillers.

Karen highlights 3 poems that give us a glimpse into the inner Louisa. She includes links to the poems and in some cases, has provided an audio recording:

Image credit: bluebirdsandteapots, Flickr CC (Attribution, Share Alike License)

Veiled Autobiography: The Lay of a Golden Goose

“Long ago in a poultry yard/ One dull November morn…”

“The Lay of a Golden Goose” may describe a world inhabited by talking geese, ducks, and other birds, but it is an autobiographical poem. Louisa was the November-born gosling. She was the goose that was jeered for trying to fly, but did go on to lay a golden egg …

Click here to continue reading

Thoreau’s Flute

Henry David Thoreau was friend to Louisa May Alcott’s father Bronson and also to young Louisa. She accompanied him on nature walks when she was but a child. She held him in very high regard up to the time he died — when she was about 30 — and afterward …

Click here to continue reading

In the Garret

Louisa and her three real life sisters were as close as the girls who grew into women in the acclaimed Little Women. The four girls are summed in their real and fictional forms in two different versions of “In the Garret”. The first describes Nan (aka Anna) , Lu, Bess (who was often called Lizzie), and May; the second and much better known version describes Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy …

Click here to continue reading

My thanks for Karen for sharing her post with us!

Click to Tweet & ShareLouisa May Alcott reveals her innermost self through her poetry http://wp.me/p125Rp-18k

Are you passionate about Louisa May Alcott too?
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Susan’s ebook, “Game Changer” is now available From the Garret – download for free!