I could barely believe my luck when I located a new magazine that featured a newly published and incomplete work by Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women. I was sold on this Strand Magazine and anxiously started reading her Aunt Nellie’s Diary when I got home.
It is an account of Aunt Nellie’s observations of her orphaned niece, Annie Ellerton and her friend, Isabel Loving. She notices how the two young women interact with each other while they visit her home. She has warm and protective feelings towards Annie who is amiable, unassuming and possesses a warm heart.
Isabel, however, causes Aunt Nellie quite a bit of discomfort because she sees a darker, competitive spirit. When the dashing Edward Clifford, enters the picture, Isabel’s need for attention becomes even more apparent because he is more drawn to Annie.
The short piece reminded me of the two stepsisters in Wives and Daughters by the British author, Elizabeth Gaskell. There is the lighter cheerful Molly and her beautiful but deceptive stepsister, Cynthia. whose secret liaisons almost cost the unsuspecting Molly her reputation in their small town. Both novels were written in the mid-1800’s when life moved much slower. Onlookers had more time to observe and watch every nuance and choice that people made in their daily lives. The authors lived on different sides of the pond, but human nature is the same.
Though Louisa May Alcott did not finish Aunt Nellie’s Diary, I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting her writings again. As it closed, I can see the naïve Annie headed for trouble as she harbors a secret about Isabel’s ties to a Mr. Herbert Ainslie. Life!
Lynn M. May 23, 2020
From: Boston and Beyond: Tyre & Phoenix
Phoenix saw the large brown clapboard-type structure and the colorful sign let her know that she had arrived at the home of Alcott family. It was not quite time for the tour to begin so she went into the bookstore and made a few purchases.
She went out into the garden and sat on an empty bench. Fortunately for her, she was alone. The flowers were in bloom and she breathed deeply as she concentrated on writing a quick message to her mother on a pretty postcard that she had bought. She knew that this card would mean a lot to her mother because she used to read parts of Little Women to Phoenix when she was growing up. Those visions of the family stayed with Phoenix and though she liked all of the girls, she most identified with the spunky Jo.
Phoenix’s time in this peaceful space helped her to envision what life must have been like during that era. She checked her watch after a while and saw that it was time for the tour. She entered The Orchard House and stood in a group of about seven tourists.
There was a piano in the living room and Phoenix imagined an amiable family that functioned in myriad ways. The girls had active imaginations and often put on plays and dressed in costumes. The docent showed them the couch where Louisa May wrote.
She was said to be temperamental and when she did not want to be disturbed, she sat the couch pillow up in a certain position and others knew not to speak to her. She would write for eight to nine hours non-stop and when one hand was tired, she used the other one. As it turned out, her writings sold and she became the family breadwinner though it later took its toll on her health.
Lynn M. July 19, 2017