Friday, June 15, 2012

The Inspiring Journal of Louisa May Alcott

Recently, I moved a ton of books from my den into my writing. In the process of moving, I came across book I've had for many years. Revisiting it gave me a new appreciation for the author of LITTLE WOMEN, Louisa May Alcott.

The journals consist of her diary entries from the time she was eleven years old until four days before her death. She was what I consider a "true" writer. A person who is born to tell stories. Despite hardships, setbacks, rejection, criticism, they continue to write because this is who they were born to be.

Here are a few excerpts from her journals, which most writers can relate to.

March 1846 (age 13) I have at last got the little room I have wanted so long and am very happy about it. It does me good to be alone and Mother made it very pretty and neat.

1852  My first story was printed and $5 paid for it.

Jan 1855 The principal event of the winter is the appearance of my book, "Flower Fables." I will put in some of the notices as "varieties." Mothers are always foolish over their first-born. Paid $32

May 1862 Mr Fields did say "Stick to your teaching, you can't write." Being willful, I said, "I won't teach and I can write, and I'll prove it."

November 1864  Proof began to come and the chapters seemed small, stupid and no more my own in print. I felt very much afraid that I'd ventured too much and should be sorry for it. But Emerson said, "that what is true for your own private heart is true for others."   (Love that remark)

Feb 1865  Being tired of novels I soon dropped it & fell back on rubbishy tales, for they pay best and I can't afford to starve on praise when sensation stories are written in half the time & keep the family cozy.

Sept 1866 Went to the wedding and had a dull time. Ticknor added to my worries by sending word the manuscript of the fairy tales was lost.

April 1870 A happy month for I felt well for the first time in 2 years. I knew it wouldn't last but enjoyed it while it did. Little Men was out the day I arrived. 50,000 copies sold before it was out.

Oct 1872 Went to a room on Allston Street. I can't work at home, and need to be alone to spin like a spider.

Jan 1874 When I had the youth I had no money, now I have the money, I have no time and when I get time, if I ever do, I shall have no health to enjoy life.

Jan 1875 Fame is an expensive luxury. I can do without it. I asked for bread and got a stone in the shape of a pedestal.

July 1876 Get an idea and start "Rose in Bloom," though I hate sequels.

May 1877 Felt very well and began to hope I had outlived the neuralgic worries and nervous woes born of the hospital fever and hard years following.

Dec 1884 Began again on "Jo's Boys" as Niles wants a new book very much and I am tired of being idle. Wrote 2 hours for 3 days, then had a violent attack of vertigo and was ill for a week. Head won't bear work yet.

Mar 1886 A little better. Dr says I may write next week and get my heard free from stories that haunt me and keep me awake. Wise man.

July 1886 Finish "Jo's Boys" ...much rejoicing over new book.

Jan 1887 Sick day. Lay quietly and lived in my mind where I can generally find amusement for myself...Lay late and forgot my woes in my story. A happy world to go into when the real one is too dull or hard.

Dec 31, 1887 Thank the Lord for all his mercies. A hard year, but over now.

Feb 27, 1888 Wrote on "Sylvester."

March 2, 1888 (Her last entry) Better in mind but food a little uneasy. Write letters. Sew. Write a little. Lulu to come.  (Louisa died the following Tuesday)

Louisa was born in 1832 and died in 1888 at the age of 55, probably of lupus-type disease. She grew up in a cottage in Massachusetts and was the second of four daughters. She had an independent streak and she never married. Louisa worked as a seamstress and a teacher as well as a writer to help out her family financially. Her father, an educator, was never able to support his family. Some of her early education was provided by Henry David Thoreau. She also received instruction from Hawthorne, Emerson and Margaret Fuller, who were family friends.

Her journals give a glimpse into her life, which was not an easy one. I related to her struggle to work at her regular jobs as a teacher and seamstress while writing, too. Plus, as the years passed, her health declined. She contracted typhoid fever while working as a nurse during the Civil War. Later on, it has been determined that she possible had an auto-immune disease that eventually killed her.

Her journals, which she wanted destroyed after her death, were wisely preserved and such an inspiration to read now. I bow to her!

Patricia Preston


Susan Bailey said...

There are a couple of new books coming out this November by Eve LaPlante who is related to Abba Alcott (Marmee) - she has discovered new personal papers of Abba and has written a book about Louisa May and her mother and the influence of her mother on her life and writing. Should prove to be a great read! It's cool to "hear" the voices of these fascinating people.

BTW, I blog about Louisa if you'd like to visit:

Patricia Preston said...

Thanks, Susan. Will check out your blog!