March 6, 2012

Alcott: shall find time to die some day

On his deathbed, Bronson Alcott pulled his daughter Louisa May Alcott close to him and whispered, "I am going up. Come with me." She responded, "I wish I could." He died three days later at the age of 88. That same day, unaware her father had already passed on, Louisa wrote that death is not a terrible thing when it comes "in the likeness of a friend." As for her own life, she wrote:

I am promised twenty years of health. I don't want so many, & have no idea I shall see them. But as I don't live for myself I hold on for others, and shall find time to die some day, I hope.

Two days later, on March 6, 1888, Bronson Alcott's funeral was held in Louisburg Square in Boston; the minister was a minor transcendentalist named Cyrus Bartol. His body was then laid to rest in his grave at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.

Louisa May Alcott did not attend her father's funeral. The day of her father's death, she complained of a headache and began to feel feverish. She went to sleep before falling into a coma. Before sunrise on the morning of Bronson's funeral, Louisa May Alcott died. She was 55. Two days later, she was buried just a few plots to the left of her father, whose birthday she shared. Her final book, Comic Tragedies, was published posthumously a few years later. The book collected short plays she had written with her sister, Anna Alcott Pratt, the last surviving of the Little Women (like that novel, she used the name "Meg"). Included in one of those plays was a short poem:

Faded flowers, faded flowers,
   They are all now left to cherish;
For the hopes and joys of my young life's spring
   I have seen so darkly perish.

Cold, ah, cold, in the lone, dark grave,
   My murdered love lies low,
And death alone can bring sure rest
   To this broken heart's deep woe.

Faded flowers, faded flowers,
   They are all now left to cherish;
For ah, his dear hand gathered them,
   And my love can never perish.

*The information from this post is mainly from the Pulitzer Prize-winning dual biography Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father (2008) by John Matteson. I also recommend Harriet Reisen's Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women (2009).


  1. Thank you... It's a fairly beautiful (and beautifully sad) story!

  2. I always get adept when I read about their deaths...