'Aunt Nellie’s Diary,' An Unfinished Story by Louisa May Alcott, Is Being Published for the First Time

Louisa May Alcott in 1870, when she was nearly Aunt Nellie's age.
Louisa May Alcott in 1870, when she was nearly Aunt Nellie's age.
Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

In 1849—nearly two decades before the release of Little Women—a teenaged Louisa May Alcott wrote “Aunt Nellie’s Diary,” an unfinished story that The Strand Magazine managing editor Andrew Gulli found buried in Harvard University’s Houghton Library archives earlier this year. It will be published for the first time ever in the spring edition of the magazine.

The 9000-word tale unfolds through a series of diary entries written by Aunt Nellie, an unmarried 40-year-old woman who watches as her orphaned niece, Annie Ellerton, competes with her friend, Isabel Loving, for the affections of a warm-hearted young gentleman named Edward Clifford. Annie’s somewhat shy nature is sharply contrasted by Isabel’s lively wit and “fine gay manner,” which Nellie fears may “conceal a cold unfeeling heart.”

An illustration of the amorous Mr. Clifford with his two admirers from Louisa May Alcott's 'Aunt Nellie's Diary.'Jeffrey McKeever

The protagonist’s shrewd observations about human nature (“How often are we deceived by a bright exterior, little dreaming of the darkness within,” for example) are all the more impressive when you consider just how young Alcott was when she wrote them.

“When I found out from noted Alcott scholar Dan Shealy that Alcott was 17 when she wrote this, I was so surprised. Here was someone who managed to get into the psychology of someone much older than her,” Gulli tells Mental Floss. “She created a character who was independent and way ahead of her time.”

If that description seems evocative of another, more well-known Alcott character, it’s not a coincidence—Gulli thinks Aunt Nelly “definitely has echoes of Jo March."

Unfortunately, we’ll never know exactly how Alcott intended to conclude the story; it cuts off in the middle of a sentence, with various loose ends left untied. The Strand Magazine is planning to ask readers to submit their own endings, though details of the initiative haven’t been announced yet.

To read “Aunt Nellie’s Diary,” you can order a copy of The Strand Magazine for $10 here.

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A New Book by J.R.R. Tolkien Contains Previously Unpublished Essays About Middle-Earth

J.R.R. Tolkien photographed circa the 1940s.
J.R.R. Tolkien photographed circa the 1940s.
Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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It has been more than 80 years since J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit first appeared in bookstores in 1937—followed by The Lord of the Rings trilogy during the mid-1950s—and the enthusiasm for all things Middle-earth doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon. While the premiere date for Amazon’s prequel TV series hasn’t been announced yet, another important date in 2021 has: June 24.

On that day, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) will release The Nature of Middle-earth, a book of heretofore unpublished writings by Tolkien himself. (HarperCollins will publish an identical edition in the UK.) As avid fans likely already know, this won’t be the first supplemental Middle-earth material in existence. Tolkien wrote prolifically about his fantasy world, and much of his other content was published posthumously—most notably The Silmarillion, an extensive collection of stories edited by Tolkien’s son, Christopher. As literary executor of his father’s estate, Christopher Tolkien edited and oversaw the release of most Tolkien works until his death at age 95 in January of this year.

Time to solve the mystery of which Middle-earthers can grow facial hair.Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

According to Gizmodo, The Nature of Middle-earth was edited by NASA computer engineer Carl F. Hostetter, who also happens to be a venerated Tolkien scholar and the head of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship (E.L.F., for short). HMH revealed in a press release that this latest compilation will contain previously unknown details about “Elvish immortality and reincarnation,” “the Powers of Valar,” “the lands and beasts of Númenor,” and “the geography of the Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor.” It will also reportedly clear up the confusion over which races (and sexes) can grow beards in Middle-earth, a topic that crops up on internet message boards with surprising frequency.

U.S. residents can pre-order The Nature of Middle-earth from Amazon now for $24.

[h/t Gizmodo]