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Alcott, Louisa May.

Kitty's Class Day: A Stitch in Time Saves Nine.


Alcott, Louisa May. Kitty's Class Day: A Stitch in Time Saves Nine. Boston: Loring, 1868.
12mo.; printed wrappers, 12 pages; foxed and wrinkled but a sound copy printed on heavy paper. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
First edition; printing B (sequence possible); in the B state of the wrappers, without priority. BAL 154. A short story issued in "Loring's Tales of the Day" series, a newsstand pulp publication for which Alcott wrote three stories in 1868: "Kitty's Class Day," was preceded by "Moods" and "Hospital Sketches." All three stories-owing to their cheap format and ephemeral nature-are among her scarcest books.
Alcott, responsible for the financial support of her family, achieved a measure of success with her periodical writing. Her journals suggest that the composition of these pithy tales was not especially taxing for her, and she was frequently paid in advance-although the rather tame, family-oriented stories she published in Loring's series and other magazines paid less than the sensational thrillers which appeared pseudonymously, sometimes for as much as $50-$75, in Frank Leslie's tabloid publications. Alcott biographer Madeleine Stern discusses this period of the writer's career:
In August 1863, having recently recuperated from a severe illness sustained when she served as an army nurse in the Civil War, she was more aware than ever of the need for contributions to the family treasury. Her account of her experience at the Union Hotel Hospital had been well received as it appeared serially in the pages of the Boston Commonwealth. But neither the serialization nor the subsequent book appearance of Hospital Sketches would add appreciably to the Alcott coffers. Sensational stories paid better. (Introduction, The Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott, 5)
Loring's series, in which "A Stitch in Time" and one of the "Hospital Sketches" appeared, boasted "bright, pithy, and piquant books, that serve to while away an idle hour with pleasure and profit." They were advertised as especially "delightful…to Railroad Travellers" (rear panel). The concluding paragraph of "A Stitch in Time" is sufficient to support this as the general character of the entire piece:
When Miss Smith and Miss Jones called a few days after to tell her that Mr. Fletcher was going abroad, the amiable creatures were entirely routed by finding Jack there in a most unmistakable situation. He blandly wished Horace "bon voyage," and regretted that he wouldn't be there to the wedding in October. Kitty devoted herself to blushing beautifully, and darning endless rents in a short daisy muslin skirt, "which I intend to wear a great deal, because Jack likes it, and so do I," she said, with a demure look at her lover, who laughed as if that was the best joke of the season. (12)
In contrast, the better-paying thrillers "reveled in narratives whose themes were 'deceit, sin, death,' and whose heroines were 'forceful, independent, sexually demanding, and don't do housework'" (Stern, 4). Alcott would eventually reconcile the two sides of her "literary double life"-her anonymously published lurid stories were not uncovered until the 1970s-in Little Women and its companion novels, which were still years away. Through stories like "A Stitch in Time" she developed the writing style which would dominate her New England narratives; but she offered a glimpse of the more sordid side of her literary career in that of her heroine, Jo March, who supports her family and her more serious writing endeavors similarly, by generating pulp fiction.

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