Louisa May Alcott writes that the "great American novel is yet to be written, & I haven't had a try at it. Can't die till I have"Louisa May Alcott Autograph Letter Signed "L. M. A." Also signed "L. M. A." in the body of the letter. Four pages, 4.5" x 7", n.p., October 12, 1886, to "Kinsman." Two years before her death, the author of Little Women writes about the "Marchs," her attempt at writing "The great American novel," and her satisfaction with her most recent novel. In part:
"Thanks for your very kind letter & the interest you take in the Marchs both on & off the stage. They are done with as public characters, but 'Mrs Jo' will probably continue to . . . [illegible] till her real 'boys' are settled, & her family cared for as far as she can do it this side of Jordan.
The great American novel is yet to be written, & I haven't had a try at it. Can't die till I have, & often think I've got a fine plot, but don't get time & health to work it out.
I am very thankful for the good . . . [illegible] which after the hard up hill tug, comes to make all so happy & comfortable. A few more years of health to do & to enjoy certain things in would be very pleasant & I hope to have them. But if I don't I should still feel that the price paid for the comfort of others was not too much, since there is a beautiful compensation in all things, & even pain can teach much if taken in the right spirit. Thirty years of perfect health was a good chore[?] & I should be satisfied with it. Only I'm not. . . .
We are all settled in winter quarters. The boys doing well. Lulu blooming like a rose. Anna a model house mother to us all, Father happy in his twilight world, & L. M. A. contented with the little chore which has turned out so well.
With much love I am yrs ever [signed] L. M. A."
Louisa May Alcott gained fame in the late 1860s with the publication of Little Women, a story about the lives of four Massachusetts' sisters - Meg, Jo (referred to as "Mrs. Jo" in this letter), Beth, and Amy March - based on Alcott's own childhood family. The author continued the story with Little Men (1871) and, finally, Jo's Boys, and How They Turned Out, her final book about the March family which was published the year Alcott wrote this letter. According to the final sentence in this letter, Alcott was satisfied with her work: "L. M. A. contented with the little chore which has turned out so well."
Alcott likely wrote this letter from a large home she was leasing in the fashionable Boston neighborhood of Beacon Hill, where she was caring for her father, who had suffered a stroke a few years earlier, and for her young niece, Lulu. (Alcott based the character "Amy" in Little Women on her sister Abigail May Alcott who died in 1879 while giving birth to Louisa May "Lulu" Nieriker.) Anna, who is also referred to in this letter, was the eldest Alcott sister and the model for "Meg" in Little Women. She and her two sons were also staying in Louisa's home.
As mentioned in the letter, chronic health problems plagued the author during her final years. Though she wishes for "A few more years of health to do & to enjoy certain things," she wouldn't receive them. Two months after writing this letter, she suffered a health break down and spent much of 1887 convalescing in a bed at a nearby nursing home. She died in March 1888 of a stroke. This letter is moderately toned with minor foxing. From the Judith Kaplan Women's History Collection.
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