The end of this Louisa May Alcott story may disappoint you

An unpublished piece by Louisa May Alcott, the author best known for her novel “Little Women,” is now available in print for the first time.

The piece, “Aunt Nellie’s Diary”, is one of Alcott’s early works. He wrote it by hand in a newspaper in 1849, when he was only 17 years old.

The story offers a new insight into the imagination of a writer who was prolific even as a teenager. At the time, Alcott lived in a Boston basement with his family, and they were struggling to stay afloat.

And even then, his prose was impressive, said Daniel Shealy, an English professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and an academic at Alcott.

“She already had the skills and imagination that a professional writer would need,” he said. “We can see her ability to give wonderful characterizations, and her ability to trace her story and pace it in a way that keeps the reader interested.”

“Aunt Nellie’s Diary” is in the latest issue of The Strand Magazine, a quarterly literary magazine based in Birmingham, Michigan. The magazine has previously uncovered pieces by Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, and John Steinbeck.

Andrew F. Gulli, Strand’s editor-in-chief, said Alcott’s manuscript came from the Houghton Library, a repository for rare books and manuscripts at Harvard University. “When I read it, I was thinking, ‘Wow, what maturity,'” said Mr. Gulli.

The story takes the form of a diary written by Aunt Nellie, a 40-year-old woman who lives in a place called Ferndale. She has three young men under her wing: her orphan niece, Annie; Annie’s friend Isabel; and a family friend, Edward.

All three youngsters fit neatly into archetypal roles. Edward is charming and kind. Annie is sweet and innocent. Isabel is witty and resourceful.

Annie and Isabel seem to see Edward as a potential love interest. (This relationship structure, a triangle of affection, would be reviewed in many of Alcott’s later works.)

At one point in history, the girls attend a costume ball in disguise as Night and Morning. “Elizabeth, in a black robe and veil covered in silver stars and a crescent in her dark hair, had a splendid night, a little too cold and haughty but still very beautiful,” wrote Alcott, like Nellie. “Annie, dressed in snow white, with a pale pink veil and a dewy crown of buds, was as beautiful a morning as always dawned in Ferndale.”

Orphans like Annie, a sincere and calm heroine, often appear in Alcott’s work, said Harriet Reisen, author of “The Woman Behind the Little Women.”

“She had distinguished relatives and was from an old and established family,” Reisen said of Alcott. “I think this orphan thing had to do with having these wealthy relatives who couldn’t give her what she needed.”

Alcott’s work did not always borrow inspiration from his own life. She wrote dark and sensational poems, fairy tales, romances, and thrillers.

And then “Little Women” appeared, a novel about four sisters that was published in two volumes, in 1868 and 1869. Since then it has become an American classic and has been adapted for the big screen several times, most recently by Greta Gerwig last year. .

But Mrs. Alcott seemed to have mixed feelings about the novel; Later she joked that she was tired of writing “moral porridge for young people.” At times, she gravitated toward darker subjects like murder, scandal, and drug addiction. “I think my natural ambition is creepy style,” he once said in an interview.

Mr. Gulli was delighted to find the “Nellie” manuscript, but was slightly disappointed. Alcott did not finish the story. The piece is abruptly cut, mid-sentence: “I begged her and prayed that she …”

But Mr. Gulli saw an opportunity in those ellipses. He said the magazine would have a contest, inviting would-be writers to submit submissions to finish the story. The winner’s version, he said, will appear in a later issue.

But even with the abrupt ending, the “Nellie” manuscript is valuable because many of Alcott’s other magazines were destroyed, either by herself or by members of her family at her request, Professor Shealy said.

“While it leaves us with questions, I think it is still important because it is a job that shows us the early stages of Alcott’s career,” said Professor Shealy. “We don’t have much of that.”