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Louisa M. Alcott

Louisa May Alcott’s Letter of Advice to a Young Writer. (Lit Hub)


Emily Temple's March 6, 2019 article in Lit Hub set me straight! It seems Alcott disliked her publisher A. K. Loring and was forced to have Jo marry her professor at the end of Little Women against her wishes.

Temple writes:

"This was not the book Alcott set out to write. While writing the book that would make her a household name for generations, she (L.M.A.) remarked in her journal,

I plod away, though I don’t enjoy this sort of thing. Never liked girls, or knew many, except my sisters.” 

Well, she fooled everyone. The book was a huge hit. . ."

––and Emily Temple includes Alcott's reply to a fan:


My Dear Miss Churchill,

I can only say to you as I do to the many young writers who ask for advice—There is no easy road to successful authorship; it has to be earned by long & patient labor, many disappointments, uncertainties & trials. Success is often a lucky accident, coming to those who may not deserve it, while others who do have to wait & hope till they have earned it. This is the best sort & the most enduring.

I worked for twenty years poorly paid, little known, & quite without any ambition but to eke out a living, as I chose to support myself & began to do it at sixteen. This long drill was of use, & when I wrote Hospital Sketches by the beds of my soldier boys in the shape of letters home I had no idea that I was taking the first step toward what is called fame. It nearly cost my life but I discovered the secret of winning the ear & touching the heart of the public by simply telling the comic & pathetic incidents of life.

Little Women was written when I was ill, & to prove that I could not write books for girls. The publisher thought it flat, so did I, & neither hoped much for or from it. We found out our mistake, & since then, though I do not enjoy writing “moral tales” for the young, I do it because it pays well.

But the success I value most was making my dear mother happy in her last years & taking care of my family. The rest soon grows wearisome & seems very poor beside the comfort of being an earthly Providence to those we love......


Thanks, Emily Temple––

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