Allcox, Alcott and May
AMOS BRONSON ALCOTT AND ABIGAIL MAY WERE MARRIED after an unhurried engagement on Sunday, May 23, 1830, at King’s Chapel on Tremont Street, Germantown Pennsylvania, the outskirts even then of Philadelphia. Bronson noted the day in his journal writing:
[Most] Agreeable to preceding expectation, I was this day married by Rev. Mr. Greenwood, at King’s Chapel. Passed the evening at Col. May’s, and came to Mrs. Newell’s, my place of board, with my friend, Miss Abigail May, after the civilities of the evening.The story of Louisa May Alcott and her father, John Matteson. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., c. 2007
Bronson’s father did not attend, as the year before his father, Joseph Alcox, had died at the age of fifty-seven. Bronson and Abba’s (Abigail’s nickname) first daughter born March 15, 1831, named Anna after Bronson’s mother. Their second daughter was born on November 29th, 1832. They named her for Abigail’s recently departed sister, Mrs. Samuel Greeve, Louisa May. They were to have 4 daughters in total.
Susan Cheever’s biography, American Bloomsbury, tells us that had an unrequited love for Henry David Thoreau, 15 years old than she. Cheever implies that Louisa May never married, if not him, then no one and he had sights on another, Ellen Sewall, who married another, the Reverend Joseph Osgood.
Thoreau’s first love poem was written to Luoy (her nickname) Alcott, but Cheever believes that these were “platonic” loves of a teacher to a student. She is probably right as his second love poem was to Edmund Sewall, Ellen’s brother. By the time Alcott realized that this relationship would not culminate, she had waited too long and was an old maid; Neptune blinds us to the reality of the situation because it too unsympathetic and cold to accept.
Miss Dix first appeared in our pages in the article on North Carolina. Here she enters as the country’s first supervisor of nursing for the Civil War. Upon her appointment, Dorothea called out to all maiden women between the ages of 35 and 56 to become nurses and help in the Civil War effort; Louisa replied yes. While by 1860 she had a modicum of success for her short stories, but was unsatisfied and wanted something momentous and grand — she thought a full-length novel should be her next undertaking.
Louisa, though, had no grand plot for her novel and she thought the War effort may give her some further stories and experiences — an idea no different from the young boys who go off to fight in the Great Adventure. Alas, that did not work out too well. She contracted typhoid fever early on, and with no penicillin yet discovered, was forced to return home along with a newly acquired addiction to morphine.
It was several years before Louisa recovered from the fever, and when she did, it was like arising from a long-needed sleep for she felt a surge of inspiration in the spring of 1868 and began to write Little Women, a four hundred page manuscript. Her publisher, Thomas Niles of Roberts Bros., thought it dull. She complained of her sorrow to her pen pal, Emily (pen pals at 26 Sagittarius 08 in the fourth house opposite her Midheaven in Gemini) Dickinson, who told her to send it to her publisher; good tip, it worked.
The Neptune connection
Louisa has Neptune at 25 Capricorn 12 in the fifth house ([HS] A Tibetan Mandala, as one must have a singular focus and strength to open doorways into world’s purpose. This scenario doubles up on her creativity showering over into her environment via music, gardening and art (all highlighted by the sisters in Little Women but Jo who has no feminine crafts to her name but writing). Neptune here gives Louisa the desire to be noticed for herself, and her creative abilities, and hence her desire for a larger scale work.
The fifth house also deals with children, and here in a fantastic children’s world, in an almost too perfect household where no one is scolded or disciplined, but are free spirits that grow up to be lovely angels. If one reads her Little Men and Women stories carefully, there are lots of hints of both the boys and the girls are undisciplined and run wild.
Louisa herself said she was when young like “a wild horse” which Uranus rules, and Jo gets the same reprimand from Laurie’s patron that her father admonished on her to curtail her ways, but in both cases the advice goes unheeded. In Jo’s case, Laurie looks again — there are four sisters — and with his Uncle’s watchful eye chose again. Perhaps looking at her chart, her life and works, she felt that wild heedlessness of her youth turned Thoreau away. Whether it is in the Little Women book or movie, it is a hard scene to swallow.
No doubt Thoreau’s rejection and her dependence on morphine played into the Neptune-Drug connection more than what is healthy. Like a bird in a springtime mating ritual, she displayed her wares, flouted her talents only to fail. Birds have short lives and an instinctual understanding of place; human beings are not so lucky and for Louisa with her Neptune placed in the house of love and creativity it was a heavy blow. Perhaps like the lover in Phaedrus, who fell into madness, morphine softened the blow and through helped her create a beautiful world, so idyllic that no matter how far one is from 19th Century New England, one longs for it like the mythic White Christmas.