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Alcott

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ALCOTT, Louisa May, American novelist, daughter of A. B. Alcott : b. Germantown, Pa., 29 Nov. 1832; d. Boston, Mass., 6 March two days after her father. She was two years old when her parents moved to Boston; eight when they went to Concord. Her father was her chief teacher, on the system of his famous infant schools; as the latter developed no other geniuses, probably nature was responsible for hers. Thoreau also taught her for a time. She had always creative facility and sense of liter ary form, and began writing in early youth; at first for pleasure, then at 16 for periodicals to help support the struggling family, whose main stay she continued all her life, her father's su periorities not being of the money-making or der. But for many years afterward she groped for her true field, starting with sensational stories of no permanent merit. For 10 years she was a school-teacher. In 1862 she went to Washington as a war hospital nurse and wrote letters thence to her mother and sisters; on her return in 1863 she recast these into a volume entitled 'Hospital Sketches,' as the easiest available literary capital, not suspecting that she had found her kingdom. In these was first re vealed her peculiar power of sketching common place people and scenes in all their common placeness, yet by the play of genial humor and rare selective art making them as charming as the best creations of the fancy. The success of these stimulated the publication of 'Little (written 1867, after return from a year's European trip for impaired health, pub lished 1868), which sold 60,000 copies the first year, and which still remains one of the best copyrights in American literature. It raised her at once and justly to one of the front places in American authorship, and remains the one work of hers the world would much regret losing. In formal art it has no merits; there is no struc ture and no climax, merely detached scenes of an uneventful life; little delicacy of touch, though there are passages of much tenderness and pathos; but the healthy sense and stereo scopic lifelikeness make it rather an addition to people's actual experiences than their memories of fiction; and the girls, despite the blunt por trayal of surface faults and even over-harsh lack of idealization, are loved like sisters by millions. It is the world-photograph of the

New England home and the American girL This was her great opportunity; her own fam ily and friends to and adorn, with scant need for imagination, of which she had little, or plot, in which she was very deficient. After this, with the necessity of inventing a set story, and her personal life mostly wrought into her previous work, her limitations were strongly apparent : An Old-Fashioned Girl (1869), 'Little Men' (1871) and a series of later ju veniles, though only less popular with the young than 'Little Women,' add nothing to her real reputation. They are also deformed by two unwholesome qualities: one derived from her father,— representing grown people mainly as vexatious interferences with children's enjoy ment and the latter as quite capable of teaching wisdom to their elders; the other a proof how much feminine craving lay underneath her spinster life,— making love-sentiment a sauce to everything from the kindergarten up, and the world one vast scene of But these pot-boilers had a higher motive and result than most money-earning, for they enabled her father to live his serene life. She adopted at different times a son of her sister, Mrs. John Pratt and the orphaned daughter of her artist sister, Mme. Nieriken ; and kept house for them and her father in vigorous New England fashion, caring for the latter like a baby. Fatigue and excitement during his last hours laid her low with a fatal brain fever. Besides the books above mentioned she pub fished 'Flower Fables or Fairy Tales' (1855) ; 'Moods' (1864, revised 1881) ; a series, 'Aunt Jo's Scrap Bag' (1871-82) ; 'Work, a Story of Experience' (1873) ; 'Eight Cousins' (1874) ; (Rose in Bloom' (1876) ; 'Silver Pitchers' (1876) ; 'Under the Lilacs' (1878) ; and Jill) (1880) ; 'Proverb Stories' (1882) ; Stories' (1884) ; 'Lulu's Library' (1885).