So there’s this woman. Spinster. Devoted daughter. Dies within a few days of her father. They’re comfortably off. More than comfortably off, actually, but that wasn’t always the case.
She worked for twenty years as a jobbing writer. She became quite good and even started advising new writers. She made enough money to get by and enjoyed it all anyway. A bit like me, really, and some of you.
Then she wrote the breakthrough novel. With that and the two that came after, she made a fortune. She invested in the railways and became seriously rich. So much so, that when one of the tenants whose house she’d mortgaged couldn’t keep up with the repayments she told her solicitor to leave them in peace. You can afford to be generous, I guess, when you don’t have to worry about money and work feels more like a hobby.
Now this novel: a lot of people say it was all about her, really. Maybe, maybe not, but she was, you know, writing what she knew, like they tell us to. And one of the main characters – the sister who is possibly the one most like her –skives off from her chores to read a book that the adults around her don’t quite approve of. You’d never guess what it was. Only Charles Dickens’ Dombey and Son.
Just goes to show, doesn’t it? Same old, same old, coming around and going around, over and over. And both of them books still in print now. Never say die, I say.
Louisa May Alcott (1832 -1888) wrote Little Women in 1868. She was born in Germantown and died in Boston. She also wrote under the pen name A.M. Barnard.