Louisa May Alcott’s best known novel, Little Women, was an “overnight success” for its author, who had put in years of effort before success seemed to “suddenly” arrive. She cranked out thrillers, gothic novels, plays, sketches, and more than eighty articles before penning the autobiographical (if highly idealized) novel that cemented her name and reputation for time immemorial. To think how reluctant she was to write this “girl’s story.” But once it was in print and making its readers happy, even she was sold on it.
Here’s a selection of illustrations by Frank T. Merrill from the 1896 edition Little Women (first published in 1868). These are but a fraction of the 200 illustrations in total. You can see this edition in its entirety on Project Gutenberg.
You know an author has become a cultural icon when they’re depicted on a postage stamp (or set of stamps). And this is doubly true when books or characters they’ve created are honored on stamps. “Queen of Crime” Agatha Christie postage stamps are the subject of a triple-honor treatment, with her portrait gracing a number of stamps from various countries, along with her iconic characters and even her books. Let’s take a look: Read More→
A number of classic women authors were known for their penchant for male clothing. And in pretty much all of the instances we’ll see here, it’s not merely cross-dressing for fun and comfort, but an expression of the duality of their nature. It’s no longer unusual for women to wear pants or man-tailored jackets, of course. But in the context of the time and place in which the following authors lived, it was an act of rebellion, a statement of identity, an acknowledgment of a dual nature, or all three.
One of the earliest and best-known adopters of male garb, George Sand (1804 – 1876) did so for comfort (she loved traveling, and trousers were more practical than crinolines) and to make a statement. Similarly, she was famed (and mocked) for her public cigar-smoking, and never went far without her hookah. Read More→
On January 28, 2013, the Royal Mail of Britain celebrated the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen with a set of six postage stamps. While it wasn’t her first novel — that honor goes to Sense and Sensibility — it might be argued that it’s her most beloved. But her other novels received the “royal” treatment equally, and included the four that rounded out her set of six: Emma, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey (there were two unfinished novel as well, Sanditon and The Watsons, in addition to a posthumously published early work, Lady Susan).
When the stamps were issues, a spokesman for the postal system was quoted as saying: “When you think of great British authors, Jane Austen inevitably comes to mind. Her novels have contributed immeasurably to British culture over the last two centuries.” Artist Angela Barrett illustrated the set of stamps, which, even in such diminutive form, display an immense amount of detail. Read More→
At one of the library sales I frequent in my quest for classics by women authors, I came upon Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin’s by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This confused me; wasn’t this the story always known as A Little Princess? It turns out that Sara Crewe is an earlier version of what became the classic. It was serialized in St. Nicholas magazine in 1887, then collected into a novella, published in 1888 by Charles Scribner’s Sons.
In 1905, the expanded story was published for all time as we best know it, titled A Little Princess. And since then, the story has been performed on stage, filmed in several versions, and is consistently named one of the top novels for children of all time. Here are a few illustrations from the 1888 edition; artist unknown. Read More→