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LOUISA MAY ALCOTT by Madeleine B. Stern

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT

From Blood and Thunder to Hearth and Home

By Madeleine B. Stern

Pub Date: May 8th, 1998
ISBN: 1-55553-349-3

paper 1-55553-348-5 A collection of recycled essays and articles rather reverentially stressing the “Concord Scheherazade’s” development as a writer and a feminist. “Concord Scheherazade” is a description that Alcott herself would have eschewed as an example of “fine writing” best left to adolescents and amateurs. Stylistic quibbles aside, Stern (A Double Life, 1988) and her associate, Leona Rostenberg, who is also represented in this study, were the two who recovered the early “blood and thunder” writings of Alcott, published in tabloids like the Saturday Evening Gazette and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, and collected and republished by Stern in the 1970s and ’80s. Stern, also the author of an Alcott biography, defends those early sensational stories as the workshop in which Alcott learned to develop character, to plot, and to please her readers. The essays in this volume were published between 1943 and 1995, but are arranged to follow Alcott’s life from her teenage passion for the theater to her enthusiastic support for women’s suffrage in the years before she died. Included is an article detailing Alcott’s reflections on her own writing, including letters to several of her publishers. Many of the essays offer repetitive information about the writing and publication of the early stories and Alcott’s post—Little Women career as author and editor of young people’s fiction. One chapter reports on the results of a phrenological reading that Alcott had done on a trip to New York, which showed her to have “strong passions . . . great powers of observation . . . great vitality,” among other positive attributes. Another chapter includes some of her feminist writings for Lucy Stone’s Woman’s Journal, one letter signed, “most heartily yours for woman suffrage and all other reforms.” Best suited for the libraries of those already Alcott buffs and collectors—all others would do better to explore Alcott by dipping once more into the adventures of Little Women’s Jo March, her alter ego.