Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Louisa May Alcott and Charles Dickens

Dickens' influence of writers didn't just end at his little sphere of "Dickensian" London, oh no. He influenced writers the world over. One such writer lived in a little brown house in Concord, Massachusetts. Today you can visit Orchard House, because it is a museum honoring the one and only Louisa May Alcott. Louisa May Alcott is best known for her true classic, Little Women, following the trials of the March sisters and loosely based on Alcott's own life. While she was a prolific writer, this would be the book she is forever known for. Growing up in Concord she was surrounded by many famous American authors, but it was Dickens who she admired the most, one might even say hero worshipped.

In the category of art imitating life, the "Pickwick Club" Louisa and her sisters formed, likewise did Jo and her sisters, to hold meetings on rainy days, was based of Dickens' novel, The Pickwick Papers. All the girls would imitate a character from the book at their meetings. They even produced a newsletter, The Pickwick Portfolio, in which they all wrote and edited stories in the early 1850s. Louisa and her sisters also dramatized and acted all Dickens' works, instilling in Louisa a life long love of the theatre, which Dickens also held.

When Louisa travelled to Europe, she wrote a small piece called “A Dickens Day,” wherein she recounted her sightseeing of all the places Dickens immortalized in his writing while she was in London. Yet, where his writing inspired her, finally seeing the man was a disappointment. When she was in London in 1966, she got to see him and was let down, to say the least. But it wasn't until Dickens came to America on a lecture circuit with the likes of Thackeray that Louisa saw him again and let forth her feelings of the than 55 year old man: "heard dickens and was disappointed, old dandy." But that was nothing to her further criticism when she said "youth and comeliness where gone, but the foppishness remained, and the red-faced man, with false teeth, and the voice of a worn-out actor, had his scanty grey hair curled... there was nothing genuine about him."

So, sadly, the great writer didn't live up to Louisa's expectations, but we still have to thank Dickens for inspiring her to be one of the great writers of all time, their names ranked amongst the greatest together.


I read Little Women when I was 9 years old and remember being enthralled by it. I read it in Italian then. Now it's time to pick up a copy in English and maybe try something else written by Louisa May Alcott.
I was completely ignorant to the fact that she was influenced by Dickens.
Thank you for another instructive post! :D

If you read it originally in Italian, you might have only read half the book. Overseas, and originally in the US, the book now known as Little Women was two books, Little Women and Good Wives. Overseas they rarely combine them... so perhaps you have much to look forward to...

I loved that piece, "A Dickens Day" - enjoyed seeing Louisa as a rabid fan. As a rabid fan and lifelong student of Louisa, I remember all the times I visited Orchard House, enjoying it as almost a spiritual pilgrimage. Luckily I was never disappointed. It's too bad she was! But I doubt it did anything to dampen her enthusiasm of Dickens' works.

I blog on Louisa May Alcott if you'd like to stop by for a visit:

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