Monday, March 24, 2008

"The Good Wives" by Louisa May Alcott

I know that the majority of us are familiar with Louisa May Alcott's book "Little Women." But did you know she wrote a sequel to it called "The Good Wives?"

I highly recommend this book, especially if you liked the first one. You can even read it for free online at Bibliomania. It picks up with the girls at the point of Meg's wedding. It is such a good read, full of homemaking inspiration.

It treats the husband as head of the family as a given:

"To outsiders the five energetic women seemed to rule the house, and so they did in many things, but the quiet scholar, sitting among his books, was still the head of the family, the household conscience, anchor, and comforter, for to him the busy, anxious women always turned in troublous times, finding him, in the truest sense of those sacred words, husband and father."

Meg's upcoming wedding is at the forefront at the beginning of the book:

Meg had spent the time in working as well as waiting, growing womanly in character, wise in housewifely arts, and prettier than ever, for love is a great beautifier. She had her girlish ambitions and hopes, and felt some disappointment at the humble way in which the new life must begin. Ned Moffat had just married Sallie Gardiner, and Meg couldn't help contrasting their fine house and carriage, many gifts, and splendid outfit with her own, and secretly wishing she could have the same. But somehow envy and discontent soon vanished when she thought of all the patient love and labor John had put into the little home awaiting her, and when they sat together in the twilight, talking over their small plans, the future always grew so beautiful and bright that she forgot Sallie's splendor and felt herself the richest, happiest girl in Christendom."

John had set up a small house for them and the ladies gave it the name "Dovecoat." All the March females were aflutter making everything "just so" so that when John and Meg retired to the house after the wedding festivities, it would, indeed be a home. Here are some of my favorite passages:

"It was a tiny house, with a little garden behind and a lawn about as big as a pocket handkerchief in the front. Here Meg meant to have a fountain, shrubbery, and a profusion of lovely flowers, though just at present the fountain was represented by a weather-beaten urn, very like a dilapidated slopbowl, the shrubbery consisted of several young larches, undecided whether to live or die, and the profusion of flowers was merely hinted by regiments of sticks to show where seeds were planted. But inside, it was altogether charming, and the happy bride saw no fault from garret to cellar. To be sure, the hall was so narrow it was fortunate that they had no piano, for one never could have been got in whole, the dining room was so small that six people were a tight fit, and the kitchen stairs seemed built for the express purpose of precipitating both servants and china pell-mell into the coalbin. But once get used to these slight blemishes and nothing could be more complete, for good sense and good taste had presided over the furnishing, and the result was highly satisfactory. There were no marble-topped tables, long mirrors, or lace curtains in the little parlor, but simple furniture, plenty of books, a fine picture or two, a stand of flowers in the bay window, and, scattered all about, the pretty gifts which came from friendly hands and were the fairer for the loving messages they brought."

I love the part about "good sense and good taste had presided over the furnishing, and the result was highly satisfactory." A simple lesson we should all keep in mind.

They even discuss the difference in being a wife to a poor man like Meg's John as opposed to Sallie Moffat's rich husband:

"If she only had a servant or two it would be all right," said Amy, coming out of the parlor, where she had been trying to decide whether the bronze Mercury looked best on the whatnot or the mantlepiece.

"Mother and I have talked that over, and I have made up my mind to try her way first. There will be so little to do that with Lotty to run my errands and help me here and there, I shall only have enough work to keep me from getting lazy or homesick," answered Meg tranquilly"

Marmie answered,"Sallie isn't a poor man's wife, and many maids are in keeping with her fine establishment. Meg and John begin humbly, but I have a feeling that there will be quite as much happiness in the little house as in the big on. It's a great mistake for young girls like Meg to leave themselves nothing to do but dress, give orders, and gossip. When I was first married, I used to long for my new clothes to wear out or get torn, so that I might have the pleasure of mending them, for I got heartily sick of doing fancywork and tending my pocket handkerchief.

What wonderful advice is packed into that small paragraph!

This next is one of my favorite passages. It is the one I always remember when thinking of this book. It has stayed with me since I first read this book almost ten years ago.

"Do you know I like this room most of all in my baby house," added Meg, a minute after, as they went upstairs and she looked into her well-stored linen closet.

"That's a housewifely taste which I am glad to see. I had a young friend who set up housekeeping with six sheets, but she had finger bowls for company and that satisfied her," said Mrs. March, patting the damask tablecloths, with a truly feminine appreciation of their fineness.

"I haven't a single finger bowl, but this is a set-out that will last me all my days, Hannah says." And Meg looked quite contented, as well she might."

I heartily recommend this book to all ladies, young and old alike, but most especially to young wives. It is a treasure trove of womanly advice, much if not most of which is very much applicable to the life of Christian wife and mother.

May the Lord bless each of you as you attend to the quiet pleasures of your home!


Michele @ Cherish the Home said...

I am in the last part of Little Women right now, this being my first time to read it.

Thank you for sharing the excerpts, this is a book I shall try and read soon.

Many Blessings,

Rhonda said...

My "Little Women" which I love, came with both, as part one and part two.
It continues to be one of the "greats" and still a challenge to be "little women"

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

Your artwork is beautiful. I too have a problem working with blogger, but I have too much material on it now to remove it all and use another service. I hope they get their problems straightened out soon.

Sandra said...

I found your blog a few days ago and had time this morning to read through your posts. What a lovely blog! I really enjoyed all your posts. Do you mind if a post a link to you at my blog?

I really enjoyed Little Women but didn't know about this sequel. Thank you...I'll definitely read it. :o)

Charity said...

Thanks for sharing! I've read Jo's Boys and Little Men, but hadn't heard of this story!

Jenn said...

I didn't know about this book either, thanks for sharing the free reading source! I am sending off a letter to you for the morning pickup. ;-)

Georgene G. said...

I never read "Little Women" but I watched the movie.:-) Is there any mention of God in these books?I can't remember if they were a godly family or not. Just curious.

Anonymous said...

Georgene G, yes, there is a strong religious theme in the books. Their father was a pastor/clergyman, if I recall correctly. I believe that in Little Women he is serving as an army chaplain during the civil war.