I honestly do not know how many times I’ve read Little Women. It must be getting close to ten times, and I’m currently listening to an audio version in my car, which is also very good. I’ve read Invincible Lousia— a Newbery award-winning biography of Louisa May; Little Men; Big Guy, Little Women, which is a rather amusing book about a girl who is obsessed with Little Women, and then four girls move in next door to her who are almost identical to the characters; and I attempted to read A Modern Mephistopheles— Louisa May’s take on the Faust story after she claimed she was sick of writing “Moral pap for the young.”
The Alcott family moved around a lot. Bronson Alcott was a noted transcendentalist and educational reformer, neither of which paid any money at all, so it fell on the women to earn as much as they could. He started the Concord School of Philosophy in the backyard of Orchard House, and it still stands today. We tried to go in, but Skidmore College has reserved it for the day to host a lecture on the Great War. After we asked, we were told that we could stay for the lecture if we wanted. We opted out, but Jewish Friend snagged a nice leather bookmark of which she was inordinately proud.
The tour of Orchard House was top notch. Our tour guide spoke in a clear resonant tone and knew her stuff. She answered questions thoroughly, was approachable, and engaged us as tour participants rather than just talking at us. The tour begins with a video of an actress pretending to be Louisa May, which I thought would be really lame and stupid. It honestly wasn’t that bad. She provided a biographical sketch that wouldn’t have fit into the house tour very well, and didn’t do that stupid faux English accent that so many people do when they’re imitating 1800s folk.
This same actress, or a different one, may also make appearances at the Colonial Inn, just down the road. The bartender told us that some chick pretending to be Louisa May shows up there from 12-5 on Sundays and parades around offering answers to questions and posing for photographs. We didn’t see her, but I’m intrigued by this notion, and I think it would be hilarious if they had a second person there pretending to be Thoreau reading in the parlor, and then he and Louisa May had strident showy conversations.
I can dream.
The Alcott women were just as fascinating as the men, well, man. They were all very similar to their characters from the book. May Alcott “Amy” was a success full artist, and her drawings can be found all over the walls of the house. She was also six feet tall and married a man 15 years younger than she– well done, May. Beth was so painfully shy that she would knit mittens for the neighborhood children, but was too scared to actually hand them out. Instead she left them on the front steps. Anna Alcott “Meg”, was the pretty one, just like the book, and never actually lived in Orchard House, though she was married in the parlor.
I love Orchard House. I want to go back.