This, we suppose, inclines the hearts of young readers to her. They know that in her they have a friend who understands and sympathizes with their difficulties. It is true that in her hands even naughty, tiresome children are amenable to reason and good example; but then she has the making of her own pattern parents and guardians, who seem to understand, as by some magic, how to throw light into the dark corners and crooked windings of the children's hearts, and to find out the best way to put them to rights.
Older readers, who have to take things as they find them, and make the best of their own unwritten difficulties and unsolved problems, can at least profit by studying the spirit in which Alcott works in the little allotment she has appropriated in the morning-land of childhood; and they will rejoice in the bright and cheerful view of life and its duties with which she always closes her stories, even when she has been obliged to inflict the sorrows and perplexities of its harder lessons upon her beloved little men and women as they grow up. Her stories are thoroughly healthy, full of high-spirited fun and humor, even when she is teaching some extra hard task which must be learned and accomplished.
'The Eight Cousins' consist of a clan of seven boys, all of different ages and dispositions, and in different stages of what maiden aunts and old servants designate as 'being rampageous.' The eighth cousin is a charming little girl, an orphan, who plays the part of fairy princess and good angel to the boys, who worship her, wonder at her, tease her, and obey her, while she, in her turn, under the wise guidance of' Uncle Alec,' her guardian, grows out of a puny, sickly, over-taught little girl at a boarding-school into a healthy, happy, sensible, and well-educated little maiden, able to hold her own and enforce respect, as well as hearty love, upon her unruly subjects.
The influence for good of a gentle little mortal girl upon the rough and not by any means perfect specimens of the 'superior sex' is true to life, and Alcott works out the problem of woman's real mission in its elementary state not only with tact and skill, but with advantage to the story, which is exceedingly entertaining. The boys are American boys, though they call themselves the 'Clan Campbell,' and wear kilts, and dance the Highland Fling; but boy nature is much the same at the bottom all the world over.
'Uncle Alec' preaches his doctrines about female upbringing, and raises his voice and his example against the specially American defects in the education and training of girls.
There is another excellence in this book. Although there are seven boy-cousins, one or two of whom are quite men in their own eyes; and although there is a lovely fascinating little girl, who grows up to be a charming young lady, there is not one breath of precocious sentiment; and the frank, healthy, cousinly clement is not disturbed by a single hint of love or lovers to come hereafter and this we take to be an example which might be followed with great advantage in many stories for the young, which are neither more nor less than diminutive and diluted novels.
'The Eight Cousins' is an entertaining and healthy story.
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About the Author
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) was an American novelist and poet best known as the author of the novel Little Women and its sequels Little Men and Jo's Boys. Raised by her transcendentalist parents, she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Little Women is loosely based on Alcott's childhood experiences with her three sisters.