Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. Alcott wrote the books over several months at the request of her publisher. Following the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy—the novel details their passage from childhood to womanhood and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters.

Little Women was an immediate commercial and critical success with readers demanding to know more about the characters. Alcott quickly completed a second volume (entitled Good Wives in the United Kingdom, although this name originated from the publisher and not from Alcott). It was also successful. The two volumes were issued in 1880 as a single novel entitled Little Women.

Alcott famously didn’t want to write Little Women. She was busy with lurid potboilers when a publisher asked her to write a book for girls. Claiming the only girls she knew were her sisters, she wrote about them, but she didn’t like it. She called it “moral pap for the young”. Its success amazed her, and put her under pressure; while she’d planned for Jo to be “a literary spinster” like her, so many readers wrote demanding she get married that, Alcott told a friend, “I didn’t dare to refuse and out of perversity went and made a funny match for her.” No wonder an ending written under pressure and “out of perversity” feels wrong.

Happy 150th Birthday.

David Isaacson