A Story by Any Other Author . . . | God's World News

A Story by Any Other Author . . .

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    A selection of Louisa May Alcott books are archived at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. Researcher Max Chapnick believes he has found additional stories and poems written by Alcott under pseudonyms. (AP/Charles Krupa)
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    “The Phantom” attributed to E.H. Gould may have been written by Louisa May Alcott. (AP/Charles Krupa)
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    Max Chapnick poses at the American Antiquarian Society, a national research library of pre-20th century American history and culture, in Worcester, Massachusetts. (AP/Charles Krupa)
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    Louisa May Alcott was a prolific writer. (Public domain)
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    Visitors look at the desk where author Louisa May Alcott sat while writing the book Little Women at Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts. (AP/Steven Senne)
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Little Women is Louisa May Alcott’s best-known work. Recent research uncovered a trove of possible Alcott writings very different from the tale of the four March sisters. Could the author have been more prolific than previously thought?

Researcher Max Chapnick believes he’s discovered at least 13 never-before-attributed Alcott stories and poems. The writings appeared in newspapers under various pseudonyms in the 1850s-60s.

At that time, female writers often used pen names. Scholars already knew Alcott published as A.M. Barnard, Flora Fairfield, and Tribulation Periwinkle.

Chapnick speculates that a young Alcott may have wanted to protect her family’s reputation. He further believes “she had an inkling that she would be a famous writer, and she didn’t want her [writing] experimentation to get in the way of her future career.”

Initially, Chapnick searched for a story titled “The Phantom.” Alcott had listed such a story among her works. But no one had ever found it.

He discovered a story bearing that title at the Massachusetts American Antiquarian Society. However, the author was “E.H. Gould,” so he initially accepted that it wasn’t Alcott’s.

Then he read it again.

The style seemed like hers. The date was right. It’s also a spoof of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Alcott “loved Dickens,” Chapnick says.

The publishing date was around the time Alcott would have published similar stories. “The Phantom” appeared in The Olive Branch, a newspaper to which she submitted writing.

Searching both digital and physical archives, Chapnick found more possible Alcott works. Many contained clues, like the name “Alcott” or “Wayside,” the Alcott family home.

Just as writers often leave traces of themselves in their works, God designed in evidence of authorship throughout the Bible and the created world. He allows believers to see His glory in both His creation and throughout His inspired word. (John 1:14, Romans 1:20)

Gregory Eiselein, president of the Louisa May Alcott Society, was initially skeptical about Chapnick’s claims. He now believes Chapnick’s discoveries are Alcott’s.

“She reworked and reused names and situations and details and expressions, and we have a good, broad base from which to [compare texts],” says Alcott scholar Anne Phillips.

Chapnick is torn about a final answer regarding the newfound works. “It would be great to find out,” he says. “But not knowing is also very interesting.”

Either way, Chapnick predicts more Alcott discoveries. “There’s a letter where she references having already published in three newspapers, and nobody has those stories,” he says. “I feel very confident that there are more stories out there that somebody else will find in the future.”

Why? Writers reveal themselves through their writings. Anyone genuinely searching for God in the Bible will find Him.

For more about Louisa May Alcott, see Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs in our Recommended Reading. 

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