Cover image for The early stories of Louisa May Alcott, 1852-1860
The early stories of Louisa May Alcott, 1852-1860
Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888.
Uniform Title:
Short stories. Selections
Publication Information:
New York : Ironweed Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
367 pages ; 21 cm.
Rival painters : a tale of Rome -- Masked marriage -- Rival prima donnas -- Little seed -- A New Year's blessing -- Sisters' trial -- Little Genevieve -- Bertha -- Mabel's May Day -- Lady and the woman -- Ruth's secret -- Cross on the church tower -- Agatha's confession -- Little sunbeam -- Marion Earle; or, Only an actress! -- Mark Field's mistake -- Mark Field's success -- Monk's island : a legend of the Rhine -- Love and self-love.
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Since the republication of her thrillers, Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) has enjoyed a broad resurgence of interest, shedding the limitations of her erstwhile reputation as a children's author. Despite the renewed interest, still very little is known about the stories Alcott wrote during the formative years of her career. Only one story from that period, The Cross on the Church Tower, was reprinted in her lifetime, and since then, just six other stories have been collected.The Early Stories of Louisa May Alcott, 1852-1860 comprehensively restores to print her earliest published stories, bridging a major bibliographic gap that exists between her first book, Flower Fables (1855), and her second, Hospital Sketches (1863). Comprising nineteen stories, this landmark collection traces the emergence of one of America's greatest writers -- from her earliest contributions (The Rival Painters, The Masked Marriage) to her mature stories (The Monk's Island, Love and Self-Love). The stories appeared in mass-market gazettes -- Olive Branch, Dodge's Literary Museum, Saturday Evening Gazette, American Union, and The Atlantic Monthly -- which proliferated in the mid-nineteenth century and played a pivotal role in the development of popular fiction.During this period, Alcott experimented with a variety of genres: romance, juvenile literature, horror, and domestic drama. Contained in this collection are the earliest examples of her thrillers (The Rival Prima Donnas, Mabel's May Day, Agatha's Confession) and of her archetypal feminist heroine, made famous in the incarnation of Jo March. Her early stories anticipate such later masterpieces as Moods (1865, 1882), Little Women (1868,1869), Little Men (1871), and A Modern Mephistopheles (1877) and affirm her special place in the pantheon of American literature.With an Introduction by the noted scholar and author Monika Elbert of Montclair State University.

Author Notes

Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1832. Two years later, she moved with her family to Boston and in 1840 to Concord, which was to remain her family home for the rest of her life. Her father, Bronson Alcott, was a transcendentalist and friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Alcott early realized that her father could not be counted on as sole support of his family, and so she sacrificed much of her own pleasure to earn money by sewing, teaching, and churning out potboilers. Her reputation was established with Hospital Sketches (1863), which was an account of her work as a volunteer nurse in Washington, D.C.

Alcott's first works were written for children, including her best-known Little Women (1868--69) and Little Men: Life at Plumfield with Jo's Boys (1871). Moods (1864), a "passionate conflict," was written for adults. Alcott's writing eventually became the family's main source of income.

Throughout her life, Alcott continued to produce highly popular and idealistic literature for children. An Old-Fashioned Girl (1870), Eight Cousins (1875), Rose in Bloom (1876), Under the Lilacs (1878), and Jack and Jill (1881) enjoyed wide popularity. At the same time, her adult fiction, such as the autobiographical novel Work: A Story of Experience (1873) and A Modern Mephistopheles (1877), a story based on the Faust legend, shows her deeper concern with such social issues as education, prison reform, and women's suffrage. She realistically depicts the problems of adolescents and working women, the difficulties of relationships between men and women, and the values of the single woman's life.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The overtly moral works of two past masters are brought back to life, extending our appreciation of their oeuvres and places in history. The reclamation of Alcott's lost works and attendant recognition of her status as a trailblazing writer and social critic has been one of the past decade's most noteworthy literary events. Her thrillers have been republished, and now 19 of her earliest stories, penned for popular magazines when she was in her twenties, have been similarly rescued. These tales reflect her fascination with the grotesque and the sensational as well as her remarkably modern feminism. In tales such as "The Lady and the Woman" and "Ruth's Secret," for instance, Alcott subverts the conventions of melodrama to portray strong, independent heroines who win love and transform lives, not with feminine wiles but by virtue of their intelligence, fortitude, generosity, and compassion. Translator Sekirin writes that on his deathbed Tolstoy asked for the Bible, Shakespeare's collected works, and his own The Circle of Reading, a two-volume work of spiritual edification. The first half, A Calendar of Wisdom (published in English in 1997), consists of daily inspirations. The second contains short stories, both retellings and his own originals, meant for Sunday readings. Translated here for the first time, Tolstoy's dramas of the abuse of privilege and the testing of faith, guilt, and redemption are told with his signature clarity and resonance. In "Kornei Vasiliev," a rich man assaults his wife and daughter in a jealous rage, condemning himself to a life of remorse. In the unforgettable title story, two imprisoned revolutionaries discover the truth about their beliefs. So powerful and unsparing are Tolstoy's tales and the spirituality they embody, they were censored by both the czarists and the Soviets. Their radiance remains undiminished. --Donna Seaman

Library Journal Review

In yet another addition to the growing body of Louisa May Alcott's work, Ironweed follows The Poems of Louisa May Alcott (LJ 2/15/00) with these 19 previously uncollected stories, which chronicle the development of Alcott's early career as a writer. Though her earliest efforts, like "The Rival Painters: A Tale of Rome" and "The Masked Marriage," are patterned on the sentimental romances of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe, they contain glimpses of the creative genius behind her most popular later works. Alcott's more mature stories, like "Bertha," "The Lady and the Woman," and "The Sisters' Trial," demonstrate the growing influence of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Margaret Fuller. Monika Elbert's (English, Montclair State Univ.) helpful introduction sets each story in its cultural context. Recommended for large public libraries.--Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.