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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Louisa M. Alcott

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"Do you ever regret that you came, when you lie here suffering so much?"

"Never, ma'am; I haven't helped a great deal, but I've shown I was willing to give my life, and perhaps I've got to.... This is my first battle; do they think it's going to be my last?"

"I'm afraid they do, John."

He seemed startled at first, but desired Miss Alcott to write the letter to Jack, because he could best tell the sad news to the mother. With a sigh, John said, "I hope the answer will come in time for me to see it."

Two days later Miss Alcott was sent for. John stretched out both hands as he said, "I knew you'd come. I guess I'm moving on, ma'am." Then clasping her hand so close that the death marks remained long upon it, he slept the final sleep. An hour later John's letter came, and putting it in his hand, Miss Alcott kissed the dead brow of the Virginia blacksmith, for his aged mother's sake, and buried him in the government lot.

The noble teacher after a while became ill from overwork, and was obliged to return home, soon writing her book, Hospital Sketches, published in 1865. This year, needing rest and change, she went to Europe as companion to an invalid lady, spending a year in Germany, Switzerland, Paris, and London. In the latter city she met Jean Ingelow, Frances Power Cobbe, John Stuart Mill, George Lewes, and others, who had known of the brilliant Concord coterie. Such persons did not ask if Miss Alcott were rich, nor did they care.

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In 1868 her father took several of her more recent stories to Roberts Brothers to see about their publication in book form. Mr. Thomas Niles, a member of the firm, a man of refinement and good judgment, said: "We do not care just now for volumes of collected stories. Will not your daughter write us a new book consisting of a single story for girls?"

Miss Alcott feared she could not do it, and set herself to write Little Women, to show the publishers that she could not write a story for girls. But she did not succeed in convincing them or the world of her inability. In two months the first part was finished, and published October, 1868. It was a natural, graphic story of her three sisters and herself in that simple Concord home. How we, who are grown-up children, read with interest about the "Lawrence boy," especially if we had boys of our own, and sympathized with the little girl who wrote Miss Alcott, "I have cried quarts over Beth's sickness. If you don't have her marry Laurie in the second part, I shall never forgive you, and none of the girls in our school will ever read any more of your books. Do! do! have her, please."

The second part appeared in April, 1869, and Miss Alcott found herself famous. The "pile of blotted manuscript" had "placed the name of March upon the roll of fame." Some of us could not be reconciled to dear Jo's marriage with the German professor, and their school at Plumfield, when Laurie loved her so tenderly. "We cried over Beth, and felt how strangely like most young housekeepers was Meg. How the tired teacher, and tender-hearted nurse for the soldiers must have rejoiced at her success! "This year," she wrote her publishers, "after toiling so many years along the uphill road, always a hard one to women writers, it is peculiarly grateful to me to find the way growing easier at last, with pleasant little surprises blossoming on either side, and the rough places made smooth."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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