As soon as she went to her room, [Jo] got out her papers, and carefully re-read every one of her stories… . “They are trash, and will soon be worse than trash if I go on; for each is more sensational than the last. I’ve gone blindly on, hurting myself and other people, for the sake of money;—I know it’s so—for I can’t read this stuff in sober earnest without being horribly ashamed of it; and what should I do if they were seen at home, or Mr. Bhaer got hold of them?”
—Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Could Louisa May Alcott really have worried that her writings were trash? Could she have felt that they were just sensational rubbish produced for pelf? Was it possible that the author of Little Women: or, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (1868–69)—that...

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