Sunday, May 19, 2013

Rerun: Henry and Louisa

Some weeks ago, in an attempt to discourage a scammer,
I deleted an old  post I'd like to restore today, because it contains a sentence you need to see:
For 99 cents I downloaded the complete works of  Louisa May Alcott to my Kindle, to see how it all strikes me 75 years after I first read those novels.
Rose in Bloom is a sequel, what today we'd probably call Young Adult fiction.  In it, Louisa gives one of the Eight Cousins a very Victorian death and marries off several others.  At one point, to demonstrate a young couple's moral compatibility, she has them discussing inspirational authors.  Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Thoreau, Emerson.  I’m thinking that’s a typical Victorian canon, and then I pull up short.  Wait a minute -- when Louisa May Alcott was a child, Thoreau took her and her sisters on nature walks!   As a worshipful teenager, she left wildflower bouquets on Emerson’s doorstep. For some reason it gives me the shivers to see the mature author letting her characters discuss them as dead authors.
          Characters in this novel are given to long prissy speeches.  I started skipping a lot, wondering why I was bothering to finish the book, and then I found out why.  The narrator steps out of the story to say this about her old friend Henry David: 

“Thoreau, who, having made a perfect pencil, gave up the business and took to writing books with the sort of indelible ink which grows clearer with time.” 

That gem of a sentence is buried in an obscure Victorian novel, and I don't know who'll ever get to see it. Just had to share it with you here.

The Cabin, drawn by Thoreau's sister Sophia


  1. fascinating! what is it about thoreau that attracts the spammers!!??

  2. Thank you, that is a wonderful line. Deserves to be...I was going to say "better known," but "known" is the word.