A new collection of writings, believed to be authored by Louisa May Alcott, has been discovered by a researcher.
A scholar has discovered a collection of tales and verses that he suspects were penned under a fake name by the writer of Little Women, Louisa May Alcott.
In 2021, Max Chapnick, a scholar from the United States, came across a tale called “The Phantom” while pursuing his PhD. The story is attributed to Alcott and was included in her list of works, but had not been discovered until then.
Chapnick searched various online databases of periodicals for The Phantom and stumbled upon a story with the correct title. However, the author was listed as “EH Gould” and he initially disregarded it. However, later that evening, he had a revelation and considered the possibility that it could be another pseudonym used by the author.
Chapnick carefully reviewed the story and came to the realization that there were many indications suggesting that it was written by Alcott. The writing style closely resembled Alcott’s and the plot was a parody of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. According to Chapnick, Alcott was a fan of Dickens and had been involved in numerous dramatizations of his works.
After that, he discovered additional tales written by Gould that had hints: the protagonist’s surname is Alcott; the name of a factual essay is The Wayside, which was also the name of the house in Massachusetts where she resided.
The scholar has identified a total of seven short stories, five poems, and one non-fiction work that he believes may have been written by Alcott using the pen name Gould in the late 1850s and early 1860s. Alcott was already known for using pseudonyms, such as writing gothic sensation novels under the name AM Barnard.
It is probable that the stories were written by Alcott, but Chapnick made it clear that there is a chance they were not. There is no definitive evidence, and he did not find any mentions of the Gould name in Alcott’s letters.
The stories written by Gould are exploratory and have a less refined quality compared to Alcott’s later pieces. They also include gothic and melodramatic elements, along with sentimental aspects. These stories were originally published in a newspaper called Boston Olive Branch.
Chapnick, now a postdoctoral teaching associate in English at Northeastern University, expressed excitement about working on Louisa and the endless possibilities that lie ahead. There are still undiscovered stories mentioned in Alcott’s lists and letters waiting to be uncovered.
He shared, “I enjoy being a member of this diverse group of Alcott investigators. I hope to encourage others to participate and ask, ‘Is this related to Alcott or not?’. I want to inspire more people to explore the archives.”
Alcott passed away at the age of 55 in 1888. Her most famous work is the 1868 novel Little Women and its follow-ups Good Wives, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys. Little Women has been made into a film seven times, with the most recent adaptation by Greta Gerwig in 2019, known for directing Ladybird and Barbie.
An early and unfinished story of Alcott’s, Aunt Nellie’s Diary, was published for the first time in 2020 by the Strand magazine, which called for writers to put themselves forward to finish the narrative.