Louisa May Alcott, the author of “Little Women,” may have written more works than readers were aware of, thanks to a scholar who made an interesting discovery.
Max Chapnick, a postdoctoral teaching associate at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, believes he found roughly 20 stories and poems written by Louisa May Alcott under her own name and under pseudonyms, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The literature is believed to have been written in the late 1850s and early 1960s.
One of the supposed pseudonyms is E.H. Gould, who is credited with writing a story about Alcott’s Concord, Massachusetts, home as well as a ghost story similar to Charles Dickens’ beloved novel “A Christmas Carol.”
Chapnick also found poems written under the name “Flora Fairfield,” a known pseudonym of Alcott’s, the AP reported.
“It’s saying she’s really like … she’s hustling, right? She’s publishing a lot,” Chapnick shared with the AP while visiting the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts – a national research library of pre-20th century American history and culture.
While there, Chapnick also came across the first edition of “Little Women.”
The classic novel about the four March sisters was originally published in two installments in 1868-1969.
Chapnick found the additional stories while doing research on “spiritualism and mesmerism,” the AP stated.
“As he scrolled through digitized newspapers from the American Antiquarian Society, he found a story titled ‘The Phantom.’ After seeing the name Gould at the end of the story, he initially dismissed it as Alcott’s story,” the news source continued.
Chapnick went back and discovered possible clues in the writing, including Alcott’s name appearing in the story.
He also realized it was written during the time when she was publishing other stories and was featured in the “Olive Branch,” a newspaper that had published other Alcott works, Chapnick told the AP.
Chapnick reportedly found more stories written under the name Gould, but admits that any sort of “definitive proof” of Alcott’s authorship is inconclusive.
“There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence to indicate that this is probably her,” Chapnick said.
“I don’t think that there’s definitive evidence either way yet. I’m interested in gathering more of it.”
Chapnick reached out to Gregory Eiselein, president of the Louis May Alcott Society, to share his suspicions.
“Over my more than thirty-year career as a literary scholar, I’ve received a variety of inquiries, emails, and manuscripts that propose the discovery of a new story by Louisa Alcott,” Eiselein, who is a professor at Kansas State University, shared with the AP via email.
“Typically, they turn out to be a known, though not famous, text, or a story re-printed under a new title for a different newspaper or magazine,” Eiselein added.
Eiselein has now come to believe that Chapnick did find new stories written by Alcott, which sheds light on her early career.
“What stands out to me is the impressive range and variety of styles in Alcott’s early published works,” Eiselein said.
“She writes sentimental poetry, thrilling supernatural stories, reform-minded non-fiction, work for children, work for adults, and more. It’s also fascinating to see how Alcott uses, experiments with, and transforms the literary formulas popular in the 1850s.”
Anne Phillips, another Alcott scholar at Kansas State University, found Chapnick’s research to offer a “compelling case” that these were in fact Alcott’s writings, the AP wrote.
The American author has been reviewed for decades by a variety of scholars who have noticed the distinctive voice in her writing, and have connected the style to more possible pseudonyms.
It was not uncommon for female authors in the 19th century to use a pseudonym.
“She might not have wanted them to know she was writing trashy stories about sex and ghosts and whatever,” Chapnick stated.
“I think she was canny,” he added.
“She had an inkling that she would be a famous writer and she was trying to experiment and she didn’t want her experimentation to get in the way of her future career. So she was writing under a pseudonym to sort of like protect her future reputation.”
Chapnick said he hopes the collection helps him find more Alcott writings under other pseudonyms.
“The detective work is fun. The not knowing is kind of fun. I both wish and don’t wish that there would be a smoking gun, if that makes sense,” Chapnick continued.
“It would be great to find out one way or the other, but not knowing is also very interesting.”