Thursday, April 21, 2011

orchard house

Spring is here! To celebrate, I ventured out and saw something that has been long on my "to do" list. I went to Orchard House!

Orchard House? What is that, you ask? Does this help?

Yes, it was the home of Louisa May Alcott, the author of one of my most memorable childhood books, Little Women!

I live only 40 minutes away from this historical site, but until this spring I had never visited. Now I no longer have to hang my head in shame.

It was a great fun. I admit don't love Little Women as much as I love Anne of Green Gables (my trip to PEI does still rank a bit higher) but it was rather awe-inspiring to be walking through the same rooms where such classic literature had been written.

They didn't allow any photos to be taken in the house, but in the gift shop they did sell..Graces! To be honest, I'm not sure what these were, exactly.

And I did get to peek into the Concord School of Philosophy, established by Mr. Alcott who had some good ideas (like schools should have recess) and some wacky ones (like trying to exist on only plants that reached to the sky--so it went beyond vegan, no potatoes or carrots--the family had to almost starve before he gave that one up):
But of course it was Louisa May and the parallels of her life and Little Women that interested me the most. Our guide was quite knowledgeable and everything she told us was fascinating.

For example, all the characters of Little Women were based on Louisa May's family. However, she changed all the names (even her own for, of course Jo was based on herself) except for Beth. Beth had already died when Louisa wrote Little Women and she couldn't bear to write her differently. She wanted the character of Beth to be as exactly as she remembered her sister, name and all.

The other thing I found gratifying was the real life story of the character of Amy, based on Louisa's sister May. I've had issues with Amy, (probably because I felt she was the sister I had the most in common with) and it was nice to hear that all the money and effort that the family poured into May's art education was not in vain.

She never became a great master artist of her own name (the first edition of Little Women was illustrated by her but received negative reviews), but she was the teacher and the key reason that Daniel Chester French became an artist and sculptor. According to the guide, everyone thought Daniel Chester French was a loser but May stepped in and said he was an artist and taught him...the tools he used to sculpt Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial were the ones May Alcott gave to him.
Pretty neat, huh?

All in all, it was a great time and the perfect way to spend a spring day! Go if you have the chance.

Now I'm off to reread my copy of Little Women...