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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Louisa M. Alcott

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Here were gifted men and women with whom the philosopher could feel at home, and rest. Here lived Emerson, in the two-story drab house, with horsechestnut-trees in front of it. Here lived Thoreau, near his beautiful Walden Lake, a restful place, with no sound save, perchance, the dipping of an oar or the note of a bird, which the lonely man loved so well. Here he built his house, twelve feet square, and lived for two years and a half, giving to the world what he desired others to give,--his inner self. Here was his bean-field, where he "used to hoe from five o'clock in the morning till noon," and made, as he said, an intimate acquaintance with weeds, and a pecuniary profit of eight dollars seventy-one and one-half cents! Here, too, was Hawthorne, "who," as Oliver Wendell Holmes says, "brooded himself into a dream-peopled solitude."

Here Mr. Alcott could live with little expense and teach his four daughters. Louisa, the eldest, was an active, enthusiastic child, getting into little troubles from her frankness and lack of policy, but making friends with her generous heart. Who can ever forget Jo in Little Women, who was really Louisa, the girl who, when reproved for whistling by Amy, the art-loving sister, says: "I hate affected, niminy-piminy chits! I'm not a young lady; and if turning up my hair makes me one, I'll wear it in two tails till I'm twenty. I hate to think I've got to grow up, and be Miss March, and wear long gowns, and look as prim as a china-aster! Its bad enough to be a girl, anyway, when I like boy's games and work and manners!"

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At fifteen, "Jo was very tall, thin, and brown, and reminded one of a colt; for she never seemed to know what to do with her long limbs, which were very much in her way. She had a decided mouth, a comical nose, and sharp, gray eyes, which appeared to see everything, and were by turns fierce or funny or thoughtful. Her long, thick hair was her one beauty, but it was usually bundled into a net to be out of her way. Round shoulders had Jo, and big hands and feet, a fly-away look to her clothes, and the uncomfortable appearance of a girl who was rapidly shooting up into a woman, and didn't like it."

The four sisters lived a merry life in the Concord haunts, notwithstanding their scanty means. Now, at the dear mother's suggestion, they ate bread and milk for breakfast, that they might carry their nicely prepared meal to a poor woman, with six children, who called them Engel-kinder, much to Louisa's delight. Now they improvised a stage, and produced real plays, while the neighbors looked in and enjoyed the fun.

Louisa was especially fond of reading Shakespeare, Goethe, Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Miss Edgeworth, and George Sand. As early as eight years of age she wrote a poem of eight lines, To a Robin, which her mother carefully preserved, telling her that "if she kept on in this hopeful way, she might be a second Shakespeare in time." Blessings on those people who have a kind smile or a word of encouragement as we struggle up the hard hills of life!

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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