The New York Times/Louisa M. Alcott Dead
|←The New York Times||Louisa M. Alcott Dead
The Authoress Dies on the Day of Her Father's Funeral (1888)
|March 7, 1888, Obituary of Louisa M. Alcott.|
BOSTON, Mass., March 6.--Miss Louisa M. Alcott died this morning. Coming so soon after the death of her father the suddenly announced decease of Miss Alcott brings a double sorrow to the many friends of the family, while the loss of this talented writer will be felt far and wide among the many readers of her favorite books. For a long time Miss Alcott had been ill, suffering from nervous prostration. Last Autumn she appeared to be improving and went to the Highlands to reside with Dr. Rhoda A. Lawrence. She drove from there into town to visit her father on Thursday last, and caught a cold, which on Saturday settled on the base of the brain and developed spinal meningitis. She died at the Highlands early this morning. Miss Alcott was born on her father's birthday, and it is singular that she should have followed him so soon to the grave.
At the Alcott mansion this morning, within a few hours of the death of the daughter who had solaced his decline, the remains of the venerable A. Bronson Alcott were placed beneath her draped portrait, while words of sympathy were spoken by those who had loved him through half a century's association. The casket was environed with smilax and wreaths of ivy, violets, and white wild roses. There was present a company of notable men and women who represented the philanthropic causes for which the deceased had labored and through which they had been joined. There were the Rev. Dr. Cyrus A. Bartol, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mrs. Edna D. Cheney, Messrs. F. B. Sanborn, Samuel E. Sewell, Frederick May, George May, John May, Mrs. George B. Bradford, Walter Blanchard, Walton Richardson, Mrs. John May, Prof. Shackford, the Rev. J. S. Bush, the Rev. Dr. E. G. Porter, Maria Porter, Col. Henry Stone, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, Dr. Emerson, Mrs. Allen Emerson, President Warren, Dr. H. I. Bowditch, Dr. M. Green, and others, representing both the earlier and later phases of Mr. Alcott's career. The service was very simple. It was conducted by the Rev. Cyrus A. Bartol. The body was taken to Concord by train this afternoon and buried in the family lot.
Miss Alcott's life was in its beginning one of poverty, struggles, vicissitudes, and discouraging experiences. Fame, honor, and a comfortable fortune came in its later years. There was probably no writer among women better loved by the young than she. Her fame rested chiefly on her first successful story, "Little Women," and it was that story that endeared her to so many hundred thousands in this country and Europe alike. Its merit lay in its pretty pictures of the simple home life of the author and her little sisters. "An Old-Fashioned Girl" and "Little Men" which followed were nearly equal successes, and though she was the author of nearly a score of other books her fame will rest chiefly on the three named.
She was born at Germantown, Penn., Nov. 29, 1832, two years after her father, A. Bronson Alcott, had married Miss May, a descendant of the Quincy and Sewell families of Boston. It is a noteworthy fact in connection with her life and death that Miss Alcott and her father were born on the same day of the month, and that they died within 24 hours of one another. The parents of the authoress removed to Boston when their daughter was 2 years old, and in Boston and its immediate vicinity she made her home ever after. She was educated as a school teacher under the tutelage of her father and Henry D. Thoreau. In early life, too, she had the advantage of an acquaintance with Emerson, Whittier, Garrison, Sumner, Theodore Parker, the Hawthornes, Phillips, Margaret Fuller, Julia Ward Howe, and others of that brilliant band of writers and thinkers who resided near the Alcotts. These people had much to do with forming her character and giving the particular bent to her thoughts which is noticeable in the more serious of her writings.
When about 16 years old Miss Alcott began teaching a private school in Boston. Though very successful in this field, she did not like the work, preferring authorship to it, so teaching was abandoned for sketch and short story writing. When the civil war broke out she was one of the army of noble women who went to the front to engage in service as a nurse in hospitals. She was assigned to the Georgetown Hospital near Washington and served until she broke down under a severe attack of typhoid fever, from the results of which she never fully recovered. It was from her letters written to her mother and sisters during her months of service that her book called "Hospital Sketches" was compiled. After being obliged to give up hospital work Miss Alcott made a trip to Europe in company with an invalid friend, being gone about a year. This trip was made in 1865, and gave her an opportunity to form acquaintances with many of the literary workers of the Old World, with whom, as with those on this side of the ocean, she was always popular. "Little Women" was prepared after her return to Boston, and with it came fame and fortune. Secure in the constancy of a good income, she devoted her life to the care of her father and mother, the latter dying in 1877. Mr. Alcott was stricken with paralysis in 1882, and since that time and up to that of her own fatal illness, she was his constant and loving nurse.
Miss Alcott once aspired to be an actress and had perfected arrangements for her first appearance. Its untimely discovery by her friends prevented her appearance as a professional, and so saved her to literature. Thereafter she was content to appear as an amateur in performances for the benefit of the Sanitary Commission. She was the author of a farce called "Ned Batchelder's Adventures" which was produced at the then fashionable Howard Athenaeum. She also wrote a romantic drama, "The Rival Prima Donnas," which was accepted by Manager Barry of the Boston Theatre. There was a quarrel among the actresses as to the distribution of the characters, and Miss Alcott recalled the manuscript and burned it up, much to Mr. Barry's disgust. That is the story of her brief connection with the stage, but she was very fond of dramatic performances, and a constant theatre-goer all the later years of her life.