My inner critic, Zelda weighed in against this choice of topic. For one, I am not a die-hard fan of Little Women. I liked the book well enough when I read it years ago, but I didn't fall head over heels in love with the book. Same goes for the recent PBS series, which I watched and enjoyed, but which would not make my best ever list. Also, Zelda opined, it is rude and braggadocios to in any way compare yourself to a member of the literary canon when you so clearly are not of the same caliber.
Point taken. But there are similarities to my writing and Alcott's. Her words would likely be called 'women's fiction' today, because they are intimate portraits of family life. I like those themes and consider myself a 'women's fiction' writer.
While touring the house, I felt a sort of kindred spirit with Louisa, who never really thought her writing, or her looks, or anything about her was monumental. In fact , Alcott's publisher did not think Little Women was anything special and Louisa agreed. It took the publisher's 14-year-old niece, who read the manuscript and fell in love with, to convince both Louisa and the publisher to go ahead with the project. A good decision, it turns out, as it brought both fame and fortune to Louisa May Alcott's door.
Raised by parents who were strong believers in the greater good, she had little use for personal gain and used her money to support her family, taking no more than necessary for herself. Sadly, she was not in good health when fortune came her way. After contracting typhoid fever during a stay in Washington DC, where she worked as a nurse to treat the wounded during the Civil War, she was treated with calomel. This was standard treatment at the time, but the medication contained mercury and it was later surmised that her continued ill health was due to mercury poisoning.
By most accounts, she didn't care much for fame either. When reporters and such came knocking on the door of Alcott's Orchard House, she often said she was the maid and that Miss Alcott was not receiving visitors. A portrait of Alcott hangs in the house's parlor. When Louisa first saw the painting, she suggested it be hung behind the door.
Of course, beyond the words she put to the page, we can't know Alcott's thoughts. But from what I learned, I find they mirror my own and those of many writers I know. There is a need to write, even as you understand that whatever you write will likely not be earth shattering or brilliant. You write anyway, because the act of writing is so much more important than the promise of fame or fortune. And who knows? Like Louisa, fame and fortune might find you and catch you unawares.