Friday, November 7, 2014

Louisa May Alcott Published First Short Story - November 11, 1852

This week (November 7 – November 13) in English literary history – Margaret Mitchell was born (November 8, 1900); Bram Stoker was born (November 8, 1847); Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five was burned (November 10, 1973); Louisa May Alcott published her first short story (November 11, 1852); Robert Louis Stevenson was born (November 13, 1850). 

Highlighted Story of the Week -  

On November 11, 1852, the Saturday Evening Gazette published the short story "The Rival Painters: A Story of Rome," by Louisa May Alcott, who will later write the beloved children's book Little Women (1868). Alcott, the second of four daughters, was born on November 29, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania but spent most of her life in Concord, Massachusetts. Her father, Bronson, was close friends with Transcendentalist thinkers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, whose progressive attitudes toward education and social issues left a strong mark on Louisa. Her father started a school based on Transcendentalist teachings, but after six years it failed, and he was unable to support the family and, afterward, Louisa dedicated most of her life to supporting them. After the publication of her first story, she made a living off sentimental and melodramatic stories for more than two decades.

In 1862 she went to work as a nurse for Union troops in the Civil War until typhoid fever broke her health. She turned her experiences into Hospital Sketches (1863), which established her reputation as a serious literary writer. Looking for a bestseller, a publisher asked Alcott to write a book for girls. Although reluctant at first, Alcott finally agreed and poured her best talent into the work. The first volume of the serialized novel Little Women was an immediate success, and she began writing a chapter a day to finish the second. Her subsequent children's fiction, including Little Men (1871), An Old-fashioned Girl (1870), Eight Cousins (1875), and Jo's Boys (1886), while not as popular as Little Women, are still enjoyed today. She also wrote many short stories for adults. She became a strong supporter of women's issues and spent most of her life caring for her family financially, emotionally, and physically. Her father died on March 4, 1888, and she followed him just two days later. 

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in English Literary History.” 

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the gold medal winning Literary Legends of the British Isles (2012) and America’s Literary Legends (2015). Visit Michael’s website for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:

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